Dark green forests and plantations, rolling hillsides dotted with the metallic roof tops of local sugar cane farms and homesteads. Uneven tarmac, and battered shop awnings displaying adverts from bygone eras for hot chocolate, soap powders and cigarette brands. School children, immaculately dressed, walking hand in hand along the roadside, taxis, bicycles and spluttering trucks whirling inches past them.
I could be back in Uganda 15 years ago, but in fact am in the Philippines city of Davao.
It is the largest city in the world in terms of sheer geography, but where I am, more towards the outskirts, you do not feel much of the effects of urban sprawl, and the comparables here with the sights and sounds recalled from time spent in Africa are striking.
The tropical latitude shared by the Philippines and the part of East Africa that I know best, mean that from the moment you step off the plane in Davao (located in the south of the country, an hour and a half flight from its capital, Manila, in the north) you experience the uplifting smell of equatorial life, its warmth, moisture and its connections with nature. A permanent background noise of birdsong and grasshopper symphony follow you about, day and night. Continue reading