I am seated with my thoughts and realizing that this is not the kind of view I could ever experience in Kampala. Could it be the winter keeping people away from walking the streets? Outside, the sky is grey, and the snow has been steadily piling up on my windowsill. From my studio apartment, I can see the tip of the castle covered in white. The roof of the other building, Haus 2 looks as if white rice has been poured on it. I am seated with my thoughts and realizing that this is not the kind of view I could ever experience in Kampala. In my Kampala apartment, when I look through the balcony sliding doors, I see other apartments; I see plants and trees, and flowers. Uganda has a way of making other green plants elsewhere look like they don’t know how to be green, as if their greenness is still evolving. For the most part, Kampala is always bright with a clear blue sky; it only gets grey when it is about to rain. When it rains, it does not joke. It pours down quite heavily, and sometimes the city floods.
This Akademie Schloss Solitude view, where snow gets down hard every day, where everything is covered in a blanket of white, where the sun is always shy to show her face, is far from the view I have been used to for the last one year and a few months since my return to Kampala. I am also curious to see how this Akademie view will change as we leap to spring and roll into summer. I look forward to writing about those changes.
Since I got here, I have had the privilege of interacting with other fellows, the staff at the Akademie Schloss Solitude. I have met one fellow who lived in Uganda for six months, I have learned that one of my former professors from Makerere University was once a fellow here in the 90s, I have had inspiring conversations, I have swum in multitudes of languages as most fellows are from all over the world.
My fellowship includes working with a theater company in downtown Stuttgart called Junges Ensemble Stuttgart (JES). I go to JES about 2-3 times a week, for meetings, to co-teach playwriting classes, to see shows, and to just observe what the theater is doing with the youth and young people.
One of the things I enjoy about going to downtown Stuttgart is that it gives me an opportunity to simply observe people. I should mention that this is my first time to live in Europe. I think living in Stuttgart has challenged almost every preconceived notion I had about living in any European city. What struck me when I first visited downtown Stuttgart was how few people there were on the streets. I remember turning to another fellow I was with and asking her whether she knew Stuttgart’s population. Later, I remarked to her that Stuttgart seems to be a very quiet and sparsely populated city. Could it be the winter keeping people away from walking the streets? I am still not sure. I will see how that changes when the seasons change.
There seemed to be a lot of space everywhere. There is no pushing or shoving. Everyone seems calm, and not at all in a hurry. I have also noticed the absence of police on the streets. Having lived in Kampala, New York City, and close to Los Angeles, and visited many other big cities within East Africa and elsewhere, my assumption of big cities has always been that police has to be visible but, not in Stuttgart. In fact, it was on my fourth visit into the city that I was finally able to see some police. Even then, I was surprised that they had no guns! How was it possible for the police to move about without totting guns! In the cities mentioned above, it is as if every corner you turn, every street you walk on has someone in some kind of uniform totting a gun. Actually, I don’t think I have seen a gun since I got here!
As I end this post, one thing that I have not stopped laughing at is how I mistook a bus stop sign for a hospital sign. You see, in Germany bus stops are marked with letter »H,« now in my »compressed« mind, I had always assumed that letter »H« stands for either a »Hospital« or a »Hotel.« The first time I saw a sign with an »H« at the Akademie, my mind immediately registered »HOSPITAL.« I thought to myself; »Oh how great! They have a Hospital nearby.« From a distance, I could see that there were other words written on the signpost. I thought that probably those were directions on how one can get to the hospital. I got closer; of course, everything was in German, and I could not make anything out of it. However, it was clear that the »H« had nothing to do with my »hospital« assumptions. I knew it stood for something completely different. I later got to know that it was a sign for a bus stop.
It now has stopped snowing; the sun is coming out, and beginning to melt the snow. I would not be surprised if it resumes snowing in the next one-hour or so.
I look forward to writing another post next month. In my next write up, I will be focusing on specific observations I have made at JES, mobile phone culture I have observed in Stuttgart, the pace of the city, and any other thing that my heart will be yearning to share.