After exhausting the locally available restaurant options and gorging ourselves on free wireless at the Speke Resort in Munyonyo, a friend and I decided to spend one afternoon of our three-day weekend (Happy Ugandan Independence Day!) at Didi’s World, an amusement park in Kansanga.
From the outside, Didi’s looks quite inviting, festooned with dual portraits of Mickey Mouse-as-Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks. It’s not until you pass through the metal gates that it begins to resemble less a great place to take the kids and more Funland, home of sleezy mobs and bloodthirsty carnies.
The entrance hall is decorated with the requisite photo of Museveni (no surprises there) and a picture of a white man swathed in regally sparkling robes (what?). Upon inquiry, my friend and I learned the man was none other than British citizen/Imam of the Shi’a Imami Ismaili Muslims/enthusiastic horsebreeder/philanthropic developer Aga Khan IV. Ah.
Question answered, we purchased our admission bracelets for 5000 shillings (approximately $2.75) and forged ahead. The inside of the park was where the Funland-ness started to truly shine through: the six or seven rides were all eerily silent, and the only other visitors were a group of south Asian men, one of whom sported a mesh shirt and alternated between leering at and coming dangerously close to vomiting on us.
Slightly daunted but still wanting to make the best of our afternoon excursion, we hurried onto a pirate ship before we lost our courage. The first couple of back-and-forth sways were manageable, but then the operator stopped the ship to let on Mesh Shirt Man and his companions. We did the awkward, “Hello, how are you, we’re the only people here, isn’t that somewhat odd, haha” nod and then tried our best to ignore each other for the rest of the ride.
This was unfortunately not to be, as Mesh Shirt Man began making uncomfortable faces each time his end of the ship swung into the air. By the fifteenth pass, he was clutching his stomach and grimacing fiercely, leaning over the metal restraining bar and arranging himself so that his vomit, should he vomit, would land right in our laps.
My increasingly nervous friend and I clutched our own restraining bar, scooting to opposite edges of the ship to give Mesh Shirt Man’s vomit as wide a berth as possible. When the ride finally began to slow, we breathed a silent prayer of thanks and ran down the escape ramp to safety.
At this point, my traveling companion was ready to go. I was determined, however, to make full use of our entrance fee, and foolishly insisted that we go on one more ride: the relatively innocuous-looking MonoRail, a three-car train on a small round track in the middle of the park. He gallantly agreed to accompany me, and we ascended a flight of rickety stairs to enter our car. I deserve full blame for what happened next.
The second the rather lethargic operator closed the hatch, we realized that what I had hoped would be a pleasant, relaxing trip around the park was actually more akin to, say, a daytrip through the stage of hell reserved for Bored Idiot Expats Who Should Have Known Better Than to Spend an Afternoon at Didi’s World. The hot, stuffy car circled around and around as we grew more and more claustrophobic. The tinted windows offered nothing more than a hazy view of the top of the restrooms, and the operator was oblivious to our polite requests to, after our first trip around, “Stop, please, we’re finished,” and then, after our third beastly revolution, “For god’s sake, STOP! WE WANT OUT!”
We stumbled out of Didi’s World an unpleasant shade of pale green under our sunburned skin, desperately in need of water and vowing never again to visit an amusement park. Next weekend I’m staying in the village.