Dennis Byaruhanga: Driver Extraordinaire

By Noreen O’Connor

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Dennis Byaruhanga (photo: Noreen O’Connor)

Entebbe, Uganda– Dennis Byaruhanga, who accompanied our group and drove our “coaster” for the entire month we were in Uganda, also became a teacher, and advisor and friend.

Dennis showed a bottomless store of patience, energy, and good humor as he navigated us through the Kampala’s busy streets, as well as the winding red dirt roads of rural Jinja and Masindi. Dennis is also an expert driver; we witnessed his driving skills in a variety of challenging conditions.

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Dennis and his children with Margarita Rose (photo: Noreen O’Connor)

A group of us stopped to reminisce about our time aboard Dennis’ coaster, and share a few moments we’ll remember:

  • When he heard that we were studying Swahili and Lusoga, Dennis decided to become our personal language tutor. He especially focused on the Lusoga greeting words “koodi” and “abeno” and the always amusing Swahili term “mzungu.”
  • One evening, we were stuck in traffic in Kampala for hours just getting from one side of town to another. While we watched traffic lights cycle through and waited in gridlock, Dennis turned up the music and turned the coaster into a dance party bus. Much to the amusement of passengers in other cars and vans around us, the bus was rocking for about 20 minutes until traffic cleared up.
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    Our “coaster” (photo: Noreen O’Connor)

    Returning from Soft Power’s Amagezi Center, which was located in a very rural area of Jinja, it began to rain extremely hard. The dirt road turned to liquid mud, as treacherous as any ice coating in the Poconos; the bus slipped back and forth on the road, between deep ditches. But Dennis steered the bus carefully through. When he finally reached the paved main road, he broke out into a wide smile.

  • In Masindi, some of the group saw Dennis in town one evening as they headed out to enjoy a dance club. When they invited him along, Dennis joined the group for a few moves on the dance floor before retiring to play some pool.
  • Dennis invited the group to his home in Kampala, where we met his children, admired his wedding photo and a framed portrait of his hero Nelson Mandela, and had a transnational bonding moment when Justin Bieber’s “Baby.”

One thought on “Dennis Byaruhanga: Driver Extraordinaire

  1. Driving in Africa is always a white knuckle affair. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chad, I remember how skilled the drivers were in weaving in and out of oncoming traffic, making us passengers wince a bit at so many “near-misses.” But the drivers never seemed to flinch. The old saying is that cats have nine lives. I think drivers in Africa may have ninety-nine.

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