Pareto Efficient

In search of pareto improvements

Day #6: Going off the Script

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I traveled to Uganda with a singular question: Are COUPONGOOD‘s microfinance loans working?

All of the loan recipients are in the south near Kampala, Mukono and Jinja because of its stability, infrastructure and proximity to Kampala, the seat of power.  So, logic says I should spend my time meeting loan recipients there.

One twist…I’ve heard so much about a northern town of Gulu and I’ve made some friends that live there.  One has offered to show me around if I’d like to come.  Hmm…

  • Not much microfinance going on up there
  • The State Department advises against traveling to Gulu
  • My father’s only request “Please don’t go to Gulu”

Yeah.  I think I’ll go to Gulu.  Let’s mix it up a bit.

Good luck to me.

We were late.  This wasn’t good.  The only option that could get us to the bus in time was boda boda.  Problem: My friend had several extremely large bags and a drum.  No matter, we piled on the back of two bodas and hung on for dear life as we zipped in and out of rush hour traffic in Kampala.

Post Bus

8:10 am: We arrived at the Post Office just in time.  The Post Bus is the preferred mode of transpo to Gulu because it leaves on time and the drivers don’t harass you as much as those at the Bus Park.  One-way to Gulu was around $8, a bargain for a 6 hour bus ride.

Quite Culture

I was struck by how quiet everyone was.  People weren’t talking, babies were silent.  Everyone was just sitting peacefully together.  My friend and I were the only people talking on the whole bus — leave it to the muzungus to break the silence – ha.

Slums

Very quickly we transitioned from the paved roads to dirt roads and the slums.  It was already very different from what I had seen in the other parts of town.

Slums only 5 minutes from downtown Kampala

Slums only 5 minutes from downtown Kampala

Huts

The country side was sprinkled with little curcular huts with thatch roofs.  So interesting, I didn’t expect to see huts this close to Kampala.  I figured they only existed in the bush.  Wish I had pics of it, but the camera died.

Street Vendors

Entpreneurial activity was in full swing at the bus stops en route.  Dozens of street vendors were hawking various foods and bottled water.  Their energy was amazing, I picked out 3 kids who could’ve been superstar salespeople in the US.  You can just see it — their delicate mix of drive, empathy and aggression.  Cool.

Pee time

We also stoped for a communal “short call”.  Everyone, men and women, pile out of the bus and pee in the bushes along side the road.  What’s a “long call”, you ask?  Ha.

Bleeding

I was just remarking about the high quality of the dirt roads when the driver hit a pot hole at what must have been 45 mph.  Being in the back of the bus, we were all launched into the ceiling.  Babies and children sitting in their mothers laps were catapulted forward into other seats and, since my armrest was broken, I gashed my arm on a piece of jagged metal.  That’s cool, just sitting there bleeding on a bus.  No big deal.  These people are tough, though.  None of the kids cried.  They just quietly walked back to their mothers.  In fact, nobody said anything about it at all.  Amazing.

It looks sterile, nothing to worry about, right?

It looks sterile, nothing to worry about, right?

Hotel Florida

We arrived in 5 1/2 hours — record time.  The Hotel Florida gave me the best room, called the St. John Paul (with whom I share a birthdate).  It was $20/night and it had a view of downtown Gulu.  Very nice indeed.

Hotel Florida balcony

Hotel Florida balcony

Bird

Bird's eye view of the Gulu market

Well, I’m here.  Tomorrow I’ll reignite my quest for fast internet 🙂

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Written by thetyson

October 13, 2008 at 8:44 pm

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