"It’s almost ironic how this disease can decimate aspects of humanity, yet re-build people's core values simultaneously. In this rapidly developing world we live in, it’s almost like a reminder to slow down, not take things for granted and appreciate what we have around us, instead of always wanting more."
All the way from Kisoro, this postcard, courtesy of Ali Arrowsmith shares his insight to life in the South West of Uganda and the global crisis.
I’m good thanks, I’ve been living here working in the South West of Uganda for two months now and it’s been pretty non-stop up until now so, to be honest I’m kind of enjoying a bit of a break. Here, we have minimal cases and President Museveni and the government have taken more precautions than these European countries that have tens of thousands of cases, so I’m fairly relaxed, especially being so far from the city. The British embassy advised me to leave but why would I do that? I can’t think of many better places to be right now, it’s beautiful here.
How have you seen this affect your community?
At the start of last week, Museveni upped the restrictions and we now have a 7pm curfew, all public and private transport is banned nationwide and pretty much everything is closed apart from essential shops. Daily hand-to-mouth living is a big thing here, so naturally when you stop people from working - money dries up pretty quickly. Ugandans are lucky in that they have so much food growing around them they can’t go hungry. You can find people here living in poverty financially but still having access to Matoki, Maze Flower and Beans.
They also have this ‘by any means necessary’ attitude towards life. People are walking from the capital, Kampala, to here in Kisoro… it’s a 450km journey and it’s taking them nearly two weeks to complete, but they’re doing it. It’s crazy! You can’t find that kind of energy in people elsewhere. Even my barber was just here at my house doing a home visit for me and my friends, but yeah the community is definitely feeling the strain of COVID-19, but people here are very resilient and remain in high spirits.
Have you seen any silver linings from this experience?
Yeah, I think you have to take positives from the situation, otherwise you can become trapped in negativity. I think other than the obvious scenes of idiots fighting over toilet roll in supermarkets, people have been united in a way that the world has been struggling with for a long time. It’s almost ironic how this disease can decimate aspects of humanity, yet re-build people's core values simultaneously. In this rapidly developing world we live in, it’s almost like a reminder to slow down, not take things for granted and appreciate what we have around us, instead of always wanting more.
What are your top five essentials in isolation?
MTN Mobile Money for those data bundles and airtime packages. WiFi is a myth out here so if you want to stay connected then this is vital.
Photoshop & InDesign to work on those old rolls of film and start putting together old project ideas that I haven't got round to doing yet. I’ve also started learning how to edit video out here so having Premiere Pro has been essential.
Take-away from Serena Magadir, my favourite ‘local’ food spot in town. They serve everything buffet-style and I always go for Fried Fish Stew, Pepper Rice, Matoke, Bean Stew, Braised Pumpkin, Gee Nuts and Sautéed Vegetables.
Kuumba International ‘Ghana’ Incense sticks straight from their book shop in Tokyo, not looking forward to when these run out...
My ‘Kampala Hitmakerz’ Spotify playlist featuring all the sick music I've discovered since being out here.
What is your message to our global community?
Don’t read too much of the news and don’t believe everything you see online, otherwise you’re going to become trapped. Make sure you use this time to better yourself for the future, you’re never going to get this opportunity again, so you have to make the most of it. Rest, learn another language, cook good food, spend time with family, read new books, perfect your craft, take up a new skill, workout at home, rinse FIFA and Netflix. Whatever you need to do, just do it. But make sure you find a good balance between it all. Most importantly make sure you look after yourself and your family and stay safe - this virus is no joke.
Listen below to be transported to the streets of Kisoro with this carefully curated Spotify playlist by Ali.