Friday, December 08, 2006


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lunch for two = 85 cents

there's two levels for cost of living in uganda, the expat cost and the ugandan cost. if you're an expat living the expat lifestyle, it ain't cheap. kampala has it all - movie theater, haute cuisine ethnic-specialty restaurants, clubs, pubs, shops, technology - and it can all be yours if you're willing to pay the (hefty) price. an illustrative short list:
dinner for two at the local sushi restaurant = $60
ikea poang chair = $335 (retail $79 in the u.s.)
parmesan cheese = $8.90 for 200 g
box of muesli = $6.65
petrol = $1.32 per liter = $4.99 per gallon
2-bdrm apt = $750-$2500

these prices are unfathomable when compared to the outrageously low cost of living for a local ugandan whose day-to-day expenses could include:
matatu ride into town = $0.25
newspaper = $0.55
500 ml coca cola = $0.45
fresh avocado = $0.05
branch of bananas (not just a bunch, but the whole "fist") = $6
of course, you have to look at these prices with a grain of salt that is an excruciatingly high unemployment rate coupled with an average daily wage of approximately $3.50. also to consider is that this "grain of salt" effectively prices 95% of ugandans out of the expat market.

if you put an expat salary with the ugandan cost of living, you can seriously live cheap. phil and i live somewhere in between. we can't survive on matooke every meal (a typical ugandan will eat 1 kilo of matooke/bananas a day) and admittedly enjoy our semi-regular cappuccinos. we're not willing to spend $6.65 on subpar muesli, though, and make our own granola as an alternative. when we splurge on sushi for a friend's birthday, we counterbalance with lunch for two from the local restaurant next door for $0.85. rice and beans and chapati for 85 cents. you can't beat that.

as international staff, my employer pays for most everything: flight to/from, rent, utilities, car, phone. no major monthly expenses, 85 cent lunches, and we'd be doing unbelievably well on saving for a down payment on a house when we moved back to the states if it weren't for all our travels and tourism, which ain't cheap either. for example...
round-trip ticket u.s. to uganda = $1950 (we bought two)
permits to track gorillas in rwanda = $375 per person (we just bought two)
but, when your best friend gets married and your sister has her first baby, how can you not fly home? and, when you live in uganda, the pearl of africa of all places, how can you not travel?

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