Madhuri Vijay ’09 was one of 40 national recipients of a $28,000 fellowship from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation. The grant supports a year of independent study and travel outside the United States to research a topic of the student’s choosing. Vijay, who hails from Bangalore, India, is currently using her fellowship to visit different parts of the world and explore the lives of Indians like herself who have left their motherland behind. This is the second installment in a four-part series that will document her travels. Let’s say this is true. Two student researchers, Madhuri Vijay and Laila Zomorodian, working in different parts of Tanzania, are cyber-introduced by their mutual friend from home. After a lovely first date on the phone, they realize they are both planning to go to Uganda for their respective work. They decide to take their budding friendship one step further and meet in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. They travel separately, and their vastly different roads to Uganda epitomize the refrain of all world travelers: you can only plan to a certain extent. The travel gods have minds of their own; sometimes they smile kindly upon you, and other times, they’re just pissy. Madhuri, who is traveling first, flies from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, Tanzania, where she spends the day as a tourist, taking in the scenery and watching the sun set over Lake Victoria from a rooftop restaurant. Later in the evening, she boards an overnight ship crossing the lake. She makes friends with the girls in her compartment, watches the water for a while and then falls asleep. The ferry arrives at Bukoba early the next morning, and Madhuri and her new friends go to the bus stand, where they catch a bus to Kampala. After seven relatively comfortable hours, Madhuri arrives in Kampala, where a driver and a car are waiting to receive her. She texts Laila, who is about to get on her plane from Arusha to Mwanza: “Safe in Kampala. Ferry lots of fun. Bus easy. See you kesho.” Expecting to repeat Madhuri’s itinerary, Laila lands in Mwanza a day later, only to find that the ferry to Bukoba leaves every other day, and this was not her lucky day. She rushes to the bus stand to discover that the only bus to Kampala has departed 15 minutes prior. Stuck in Mwanza, she books a room at the cheapest hotel she can find, the Lake Hotel Limited, whose indeed limited facilities include a seatless toilet, a dripping tap and a door with a habit of locking her out. After an uncomfortable night in the Mwanza heat, Laila returns the next morning to the bus stand, only to be told that there is, in fact, no bus to Kampala. The furthest she can get, she’s advised, is to Mtwara – which to this day, we’re still not sure exists. Left with no choice, Laila gets on the bus, heading toward Uganda. At the border, however, the driver turns back around, ignoring Laila’s cries to “Shusha, shusha!” and she is forced to jump off the moving bus. At which point, she finds herself stranded at the border. She goes to the immigration office, buys her Ugandan visa and asks when the next bus to Kampala is leaving. The visa official looks blankly at her and says, in Swahili, “There is no bus to Kampala today.” He also mentions that there is a shanty guesthouse some ways away, but no ATM for her to withdraw Ugandan shillings. After Laila sheds a few tears, he grudgingly changes $30 into shillings for her. The sun is about to set, and Laila is contemplating the extent of the immigration officer’s generosity: how much room, after all, could a five foot tall girl take up on the floor of the immigration office? But she finally locates a taxi, already crammed with nine other people, and sharing the driver’s seat, hoping now only to get as close to Kampala as possible. The driver, who has said he will take Laila to a town called Masaka, apparently finds something better to do, because he changes his mind and dumps her near a daladala, telling her it will take her to Masaka instead. At this point, Laila’s phone service realizes she’s in a different country and promptly stops working. With no phone, very little money and a daladala driver who keeps asking to marry her, Laila’s trip is getting better and better. Realizing that the last thing she’d said to Madhuri was, “I’m going to take a taxi from the Ugandan border. I’ll call you from wherever I end up,” Laila figures she should try to get in touch with her friend. She asks to use a fellow passenger’s phone to send a local text message, but being devoid of any discernible compassion, he refuses. At Masaka, she gets off the daladala to hear a familiar line: there are no more buses – or taxis – to Kampala that day; she is going to have to spend the night there. Things begin to turn around when a Ugandan lady, the only person in the vicinity with a heart larger than a peanut, befriends her, offers her a phone and invites her to a friend’s place. They spend the night in the house of a German lady who keeps a duck and a cat for pets, and the next morning Laila gets on her third bus, this time actually bound for Kampala. From the bus stand in Kampala, she takes a bodaboda, or motorcycle taxi, and finally meets Madhuri in flesh and blood, 52 hours after she began her journey. Which, we feel compelled to point out, is probably longer than it takes to fly around the world… twice.