Thursday, 19 December 2013

4:00 am visitor


I often write about humorous aspects of life that I chance upon on my travels or amusing discoveries I make while making my way in this world. But allow me to steer away from this for this moment to tell you a tale that amused, shocked and frightened all in one go.

11:55pm

It was a night like no other as I watched my favorite cooking show as women do while lying on the couch as I sipped a cup of strong tea to ready me for sleep only that I did not get that far. Feeling too tired to get myself to bed I decided to nap for a while on the sofa as I bargained with my will to muster up the energy to carry me to bed.  I was soon out like a baby from a warm shower on a bottle after being hyper active for the entire day.

3:59am

In the thick of the night I came to consciousness for a brief couple of seconds to turn in the sofa in which I now lay only to pick up sounds in the background. For a moment, a part of thought I was hearing things as they were so low they were almost inaudible to pick up. My brain quickly started to filter out every single sound in the entire house allocating to whichever home appliance may still be on or item such as fridge, phone, TV, door squeaking you get the point. Only that this time the TV was off as I had turned it off before I dozed off, the doors were all locked as I had grown accustomed to doing so that did not squeak in the night and my mobile phone was on silent.

I became even more attentive and listened to all the sounds outside trying to convince myself that I was hearing things and I should go back to sleep. Only that this time when I isolated all the other sounds I could hear silent screeching from outside, my paranoia kicked in and I tip toed to the window as if  not to scare whatever and whoever was outside. I honestly did not think I would find anything as I first looked at my car right outside the window and it seemed pretty intact only for my gut feeling to kick in as I went to the extreme end and took a look in the direction of my neighbor next doors’ car. I did it almost as an afterthought while I was pulling away from the window only to be shocked at what my eyes had come across.

4:02pm

There was a lean framed young man in fitting clothes comprising of a yellow shirt with a maroon sweater and navy blue skinny jeans peering through the glass of his car. I was so stunned by his boldness because there was a security light just above him. All I could muster at the time was to hit the window violently so that he was made aware that I had seen him but I did not utter a word since I am not the uber- feminine type who ululate and scream. He ducked to get cover and disappeared from sight as he waited it out until an hour later when I was asleep - or so he thought.

I waited for the inhabitants of the house and car I was defending to come out and walk around and aid me in ensuring that we show our presence so that the thief/ thieves would not come back but no one did.

But owing to my adrenaline boost, I could not go back to my sleep that was so rudely interrupted by him at 3:00am. I transferred my duvet from the room and laid it out on the living room carpet and waited to make sure that he indeed was gone.

5:10pm

Again I hear the little almost nonexistent sounds I had heard once that were now all too familiar and yet still easy to miss. I walked silently to the window and peeked through once again only this time what I saw was a little different but more dramatic. The lean gentleman of the night had found his way to the inside of the car and was in the passenger seat with a flash light busy at work. My adrenaline turned to rage at how impudent this lad was - he really had the nerve to actually come back a second time. Now this time I hit the window so hard I thought I would break through the glass and this time I screamed.

Me: “Gwe! Gwe!”

Thief: …… (Continues to flash his light in the car as he attempts to continue work both quickly and silently)

I do not think he heard me so I stepped it up a notch as I was a bit of a distance away from him and the fact that he was in a car did not help.

Me: Eh gwe mumotoka, nkulaba

Thief: “………….”  (He looked in the general direction of the voice he was hearing for a few seconds and then began to exit the car)

Me: “Vamumotoka gwe, gwe, gwe, nkulaba ngenda okuyita polisi bakutwale.”

Now this threat would have been very non-threatening aside from the fact that we have a police post about 250 meters from our house, so I can see why he ran off.

Thief: “…………”

5:22am

The thief exited the car and closed the door rather gently as if not to wake its owners who were dead asleep and then he covered his face with his hand and passed under the window from which I watched him and run behind the house. Had I not heard a thud a few seconds later I would not have been a little reassured that he had scaled the over the back wall and run off. I did call the police and they instructed the police post closest to us to come to check it out, they never did.

7:00am
I lay awake up until daylight and woke up my neighbors’ so that they could check and access the damage done the previous night since they did not even come out to support me when I was chasing away a thug from making off with their car parts. I was shocked at how calm she was almost frustrated and defeated at the thought that she had yet another part to replace and said my husband will replace it. She has been robbed before and it was actually when she had a guard around so she fired him, so it poses the question – how safe are we this festive season if they policemen at these police posts cannot even care for their respective zones and divisions.

Must we first loose our lives!

6:00pm


PS: I am still waiting for the police to come and check out the scene of the crime, let’s hope that they do sometime this year or I may have a thief sleeping right next to my window pretty soon.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Campuser meets Office Lobby

Many a time i have sat in a company lobby waiting my turn to see a friend, an employee or even a   manager, but never have i been so disgusted as i was today. I walked into the lobby past the seating area which was rather full; straight to the front desk at the reception  to get some assistance from the pleasant and polite admin lady.

Me: "Hello, good morning"

Receptionist: "Good morning to you!" (In a very professional manner)

Me: "i am here to see ........."

Receptionist: "He has not come in as yet, but you can wait or come back later."

Me: "No problem i will wait, thank you."

As i walked to take a seat i realized that there was nowhere to sit in the main area so i resorted to sitting on one of the stools along the wall that seemed more decorative than functional. However, i did ask the receptionist before i sat down as to whether that was fine and she said it was ok.

There were 3 young ladies seated on 2 sofa sets with their hand bags turned inside out as they frantically scribbled on sheets of paper in front of them. They conferred  one to another from time to time comparing notes about what they were doing to make sure they were on the same page, i ignored them for the next  4 or so minutes until another lady came to meet them from within the office pool area. She flew past me to them and spoke in hushed tones but was visibly agitated asking them one thing then another as she brushed aside on sheet of paper then another as if searching for a hidden diamond beneath it all.

She finally threw all caution to the wind and spoke in a relatively elevated tone, enough for me to make out what it was she was saying.

Young Office Lady: "You where is your passport photo, naye  gwe tobera fala!" (in an excited but agitated tone)

Friend 1: "Here,  ahhh let me look for it in my bag."

As she further dug into different compartments of her hand bag for that which had suddenly gone missing in between all the clutter strewn across half of the seat that she shared with the other young lady - a friend i presumed.

Young Office Lady: "Get it and also finish up your application letter.. banange you have to hurry so i can take  them and slip them into the pile."

Friend 1 : "Ok ok  here everything is."

The young office lady took a few documents from her and hurried off but returned in a few minutes after noticing that she had forgotten an academic testimonial and also needed to collect other 2 ladies documents for submission. With her constant scurrying around it was hard not to  notice them in the waiting area as half whispered and giggled

Friend 2: "Take mine i have finished with the letter."

Young Office Lady: "Where have you been, you are so late?"

5 minutes later the door opens and another of the 3 musketeers walks in with a very relaxed demeanor and with a white envelope in hand.I realized that i was not  the only one who had noticed all this activity but no one seemed to mind as they went about their business and caused a mini traffic jam to the kitchen in a bid to get their mid-morning coffee. My mouth dropped open in shock for in that second it all came to me.

Friend 3: "I got lost but i have everything all together i am also done and take Mary's as well."

Young Office Lady: "Did you do CV, Transcript, Application Letter,..."

Friend 3: "I do not need a letter but i have everything else."

Then the bickering started as she argued with the young office lady about whether she really needed to write a letter of application to attach to the accompanying documents. Eventually the young office lady won and the 3rd friend quickly scribbled down a letter without much thought or care within 5 minutes.  The young office lady must have been an employee of the establishment and these 3 other friends of hers were fresh out of  the university looking for employment as well. All the hush scurrying around was because their friend must have had inside information a job opening and was getting their CV's and document submitted by the famous - back door approach.

As i was deep in thought i was nudged in the arm by the 2nd friend who had stretched to ask me a question.

Friend 2: "Ah.......... good morning."

Me: "Good morning to you!"

Friend 2: "Do you know what this place is called?"

Me: "Sil......."

Friend 2: "Silico.."

Me: "No Sil....., they are................"(As i repeated the name to her once more and explained what it was they did exactly)

Friend 2: " Ehh....., I have heard about them. I hope i get."


This young lady had indeed submitted her CV and other documents only 15 minutes ago for a position in this organization and yet she did not even know what it was called. After my meeting I walked out through the very same lobby and found all 3 still waiting to get audience of some sort with another party for an interview i presumed or something of the like - but i was shocked. All that came to mind was, i wonder what my children will learn when they go to the university and i passed all of them on my way out as they went back to their smart phones and tweeted and face booked away.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Tales of a Ugandan Taxi Passenger - 5

Today I was swayed into boarding on taxi over another and really for me it was not really a choice anyway as I went for the one that was ¾ full since I did not have the patience to wait much longer at the stage. Only 2 minutes into the journey the taxi began to act rather odd making gyrating movements from side to side in the same manner of a chameleon when it is in motion. I peered in between the bar separating the front (drivers area) from the back seating area of the taxi and I could see a very calm driver who had his hands full. As he battled with the gear box changing from gear to gear trying to maneuver through minimal traffic to try and make it about 30 meters to the closest fuel station.  Then tragedy came upon us when a passenger said the words that all of us dreaded in that moment.

Lady Passenger: Masawo! (Stop right ahead sir)

Which means right ahead to imply that she needed the driver to find parking so that she could alight right ahead and yet we were still 250 meters from the fuel station.

Conductor: Masowa wa, wano kyenyini oba….? (Where exactly)

Lady Passenger: Wano sebo! (Here sir)

To my surprise the driver came to a gradual halt and the lady jumped off as I began to cross my fingers for him as I was worried that the taxi would not start and I was in deed correct. As the driver turned the key in the ignition, the engine coughed as it fought against all hope to try to will itself back to life for but a little less than 200 meters we had left to arrive at the fueling station. Now usually passengers would begin to hurl insults at both driver and conductor as to why they are not responsible enough to fuel up when they need to. In this case however, the passengers one after another began to giggle under their breath in order not to get attention of their neighbors but after a minute or two they could not hold it anymore and burst into laughter. 

This was not because these unfortunate events were humorous but rather due to the frantic motions the driver made at the front of the taxi where he hit against his dash board and exerted immense force on his clutch, break and gas pedals simultaneously.

It must have been an art he mastered over the years as his hand flew from gear stick to dash board and he gyrated as if eh alone could shake the taxi back into motion. Honestly I did not think he would make it but eventually the taxi crawled along and we indeed got to the fuel station but it was the longest mile of that driver’s day only for me to watch him put 7,000 Uganda shillings of fuel.

He indeed had not learnt his lesson.

As I jumped out I was relieved to leave the rest of the unfortunate passengers in his hands hoping that they would get home eventually and not after any other ordeal. I jumped into another taxi that was heading in my direction and I was joined by a male passenger in the front as I sat down right next to the driver. I made myself comfortable for the ride and settled into my seat before I was rudely interrupted by my neighbors’ shrill jovial tone.

Male Passenger: “I hope you do not mind me eating next to you?”

Me: “Ahh no.”(My hesitation was due to his direct matter of fact tone and nature as he began to engage me in conversation.)

Male Passenger: “So have you been here long?”

Male Passenger: “About 10 minutes.”

Male Passenger:” Oh I hope you are not hungry because i am going to be mean and not share with you my food.” (As he ravaged his fried chicken from a kaveera while chewing with his mouth open as a child would)

Me: “I am fine, I have just eaten.”
Male Passenger: “Ok good, so now I can eat all this alone. It really tastes nice - you know how fried chicken from those machines tastes like – with the nebigenderako.” (As he was throwing the well cleaned bones outside the window one at a time)

Me: …… (Silence)

Male Passenger: “Ehhh wama you know…, nga you are quiet.”

Me: …. (As I mentally blocked him out for the rest of the conversation in a bid to remain with a glimpse of my sanity)

Male Passenger: Eh that was nice; let me put this here (he puts the kavera with the bigger bones he could not throw outside the window on the dash board in front of us as I wonder whether he will leave them there on his exit.)

Meanwhile all this time I sat quietly wondering how he would deal with the washing or sanitizing his hands after finishing his finger licking chicken. Sorry KFC for the reference but I am alluding to the manner in which he nearly mauled his fingers off in an attempt to suck out all the juice left from finishing his evening snack. I continued to avoid eye contact as I hoped this would keep him from engaging me in further meaningless conversation and I think he got the point for he mumbled something about asking me too many questions.

Male Passenger: “Am I making you talk too much? Ok let me keep quiet.”(To my relief the rest of his ride while he remained seated next to me passed without any conversation much to my relief)


Just before he jumped out I watched him run his hands through the decorative rug atop the dash board with no remorse or hesitation, fortunately it was dark enough and the driver was too busy soliciting for more passengers to notice. But I sat there stunned as I watched him jump out, thankful that it at least it was with whatever remains were left in his black kaveera as he walked off in the distance while we drove off and the smell of fried chicken lingered in the air. This Uganda I love is all i thought to myself as I made a mental not to touch anything that may have been touched by him as I exited the taxi 10 minutes later.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Tales of a Ugandan Taxi Passenger - 4


So I went to my taxi stage later than usual and I found just 1 taxi which I boarded without much thought only to find the passengers at the back grumbling. I asked around and I was informed that it was because the driver had been going back and forth for the last 15 minutes in a bid to fill up his taxi. I was one of the last passengers (or so I thought) until the door slide open one last time before we left and we were packed like tomatoes on the way to market for sale. Before I could wrap my head around the tempers that were further flaring, we set off as the conductor squeezed himself in but had nowhere to sit and resorted to hanging in the air as he clung to the bar that separates the back of the taxi from the front where the driver sits. The taxi cricketed on as if it would break down at any point and it is then that I looked around and realized how old it was both in the interior and out and the comments from the passengers kept coming to the conductor who wisely gave a deaf ear and did not utter a word. 

Passenger 1: (female) Sebo where are they going to sit? (In luganda)

Passenger 2: (male) why are you packing us in to the taxi we cannot even breathe (In luganda)


Passenger 3: (young impressionable male) Ate your taxi is old, what if you pack us and we break down due to over loading.
(‘Excess’ as it is commonly known - in luganda) All the cars on the road and even the bicycle peddler are passing by us. Will we arrive? 

I smiled to myself as the rest of the passengers chuckled under their breath and I waited to see how this would end. Meanwhile, a passenger had asked the conductor to stop at the next stage but to our shock this is what happened.

Passenger: (male) Conductor stage! (he screamed)

Conductor: no response….

Passenger: (male) Conductor wo ono funa parking - stage! (He screamed)

Conductor: Driver – parking (in a lazy tone)

The driver did not carry out the request and pretended not to hear him or the conductor and increased speed to a point I thought that the taxi would spilt in two and the bolts would pop out due to the pressure. He shot past the stage and took us to a stage further until the entire taxi began to bang on the sides of the taxi and yell at him in whatever manner they deemed fit. Now understand, this was late in the night at a spot where there were no people or establishments at the side of the road where the driver dropped him, what if he had been mugged- that is sentiment that all the passengers shared. He disembarked the taxi and went on his way and the lady passenger who had spoken early jeered him, thankfully this is what brought this episode to an end.

Then in a similar episode a lady in another taxi plying a completely different route, she asked the conductor to drop her off a certain point. However the driver being brighter than anyone else, he did not and stop and it went something like this. 

Female Passenger: Stage ku taawo ku mobile money kipande awoo, sente zo ziri awo ku mobile money. (She exclaimed and I thought to myself – this is not going to end well)
Her fare is on mobile money wow Ugandans really take everything to the very next level - give them an inch and they will take a mile.

Conductor: No response until minutes later -Stage sebo. (In a bored almost sleepy tone)

As the driver sped past the point where the elderly lady asked to jump off and went into a Shell Petrol station - I thought for fueling only to be surprised when he only went through for no apparent reason and still did not stop for the lady to jump off. She was quite erratic at this point screaming how the money for the fare was left behind.
Finally the conductor tells the driver to stop and he does and he stretches to the lady to pay fare for the trip, to which she shrugs and begins to grumble loudly.

Female passenger: Sebo nakugambye nti no njagadde okuvira wala nogana- nanti towulira, kati wano sirina omuntu wade kimu. Sente zo ziriwali mabega awo ku mobile money.

Conductor: Mamaa mpa sente zange ofulume twagala okugende.

Female passenger: Sirina sente sebo- tewali muntu gwe manyi wano okumpa sente, ate nkugambye.

This went on for about 3 minutes as the conductor refused to go back with her to fetch the money while the rest of us in the taxi wait- to which he declined. Then the most unexpected this occurred, a young lady between 25 and 30 years old offered to pay her 1,000 fare so we could go and she did right away. The conductor shamelessly collected the money and swung open the door for her to alight. The rest of the taxi passengers scolded the conductor for not listening to people when they ask to jump off- the classic case of thinking for your passengers.

What a week it was.


Disclaimer: I am a Luo from Uganda attempting to apply my skills to capture my escapades in Ugandan taxis as best as i can therefore do not persecute me for my inadequacy in Local dialect skills. 

Tales of a Ugandan Taxi Passenger - 3


Just when i thought my taxi experiences were becoming quite normal once again - is when I landed on a suicidal driver. I boarded a taxi that had only 2 passengers and quietly settled in to enjoy my ride; or so I thought. But as soon as we alighted I knew this was nothing but my own sentiment which the driver did not share for immediately he sped off almost leaving his conductor behind. If that was not enough he was also soliciting for passengers as we sped along at a break neck speed but was too impatient to wait at any stage for the taxi to fill up. In addition to that, he was very erratic and he run his mouth a great deal as he swerved back and forth in and out of the correct lane as if to overtake at very inappropriate locations such as corners or places of parking at stages. I say erratic because - I myself like to drive quite fast but driving fast does not mean drive stupid or have a death wish and this was the manner in which he was driving.

In one instance, there was a taxi parked on the opposite side of the road which had only 2 lanes and we were behind a relatively fast moving one. He decided to attempt to overtake at this point when we were going downhill and approaching a roundabout, the taxi ahead of us was picking up momentum and there was also the trailer that was over taking the taxi across the road parked at the bus stop. It beats my understanding how in his mind he thought that his taxi was as narrow in width as 2 boda bodas (local term to mean public pay motor cycle transport service common in Uganda) carrying passengers for that was the only space available, so he swung us back into our lane and we were thrown around like a set of pool balls which had been hit with a cue stick.

To add to this ordeal all the other passengers alighted mid journey and owing to his impatience, I remained the sole passenger for the rest of the ride (or so I thought). Then out of the blue, only 3 stages shy of my point of alighting, he informed me while making a U-turn at the roundabout that he would be dropping me off at that stage as he had made the executive decision to change his route with no consultation. This is due to the crowd of 6 individuals that had caught his eye across the road who were heading in the opposite direction. 

So as the taxi came to a screeching halt at the stage, I was asked for the full fare and given my marching orders as the new passengers shoved me aside in a bid to make their way into the taxi heading in the direction from which I had come. 


Then I thought to myself this is adequate motivation for me to work hard and smart and become my own transport provider - aka own my own car. It may take a couple of years but in the meantime i will keep these stories coming. Enjoy.

Tales of a Ugandan Taxi Passenger - 2


A few days ago as i was on my way home, I saw a mother with her 2 children ahead of me on a path heading to a taxi stage. I lost sight of her but after a few seconds as I went round the bend she seemed to disappear in thin air. I did not think much of it and brushed it aside for the moment as I darted across the road meandering between taxis and erratic public motor cycle riders locally known as boda boda during the evening rush hour. 

I boarded the taxi and at the corner of my eye just before I sat down in the back seat, I saw a figure in the shadows of the dark move. I did not know what it was but after a while of straining my eyes in the pitch black conditions on the outside of the taxi, I realized it was the lady only when she shouted at her son not to play in the trench filled with dirty water a stone’s throw from her. Then a boda boda man rode across the road from where our taxi was parked making a bee line for the very path I had once trodden only a minute ago behind her, his lights flashed right on her and she was now as clear as day. 

The rider had some trouble ascending the gentle incline for he was no at full speed and therefore for about 2 minutes he continued to flash his light right on her but she did not even flinch or show any embarrassment. At first it was unclear what she was doing staying motionless in one spot until i saw her struggle to pull something up but could not make out what it was as her long skirt was providing much needed cover. I did not understand why she was half her initial height but as I attempted to wrap my mind around that aspect she then grew in stature up to her full height. Then it hit me she was easing herself at the side of the road in plain sight behind no cover or shrubbery of any sort at the transition of dusk to dawn which would have been astonishing had it been daylight. 

She got up and grabbed her 2 boy’s hands and walked off to the road side and flagged another boda boda rider to a halt which she boarded and i watched her disappear into the distance. Then I thought back - this act while questionable and uncouth is almost acceptable for most men to engage in but this is not the case with women, it feels like double standards are being exhibited on this issue on a daily basis. But to be honest with you my opinion of this lady, this mother was never the same after what i witnessed that night at that road side; that is the impression that was imprinted on my mind as the driver sped off on my long journey home. 


I wonder whether your opinion is any different.

Tales of a Ugandan Taxi Passenger - 1


On one long taxi route when i went to visit a friend, our taxi conductor decided to stop at every stage to solicit for passengers. From 3 people to an entire taxi full but when it got to "excess passengers," one in particular got really riled up. We were at full capacity with the conductors row at 4 passengers and the next at 4 as well - 3 adults and a child; as well as the conductor hovering over the individuals closer to the door because he had nowhere to sit, but the fellow decided to stop again to pick up 2 more people. This was the beginning of all the trouble. 

Conductor: "Ba mama mugenda?" (as the taxi comes to a stop) 


Passenger 1: "Where are they going to sit, sebo also you kozesa amagezi." (The taxi door swings open as the 2 ladies at the side of the road approach only to see there is no space to sit, they decline and step back.)


Conductor: "Jangu mutule!" 


Passenger 1: "Batule wa sebo- nanti kati tutude nga nkoko ku lorry." 


Passenger 2: "Munyonyole - sebo oba ogenda okubasitula." (The entire taxi burst in laughter) 


Apparently the passengers had suggested that the conductor was planning to carry the 2 ladies - oku basititula (forgive my terrible luganda) because they were ladies and these 2 were rather full figured. Now to give you some back ground; the conductor had a habit of stopping at taxi stages and pleading with the female bystanders in particular, to come and board his taxi. (I am not exaggerating this fact.)


In one case, he called for the driver to stop and waited for a lady who was taking her time as she slowly walked on a small path leading to the by pass and then even longer as she lazily stood by the road side trying to cross. We waited for 6 minutes (yes i timed this because i was rather annoyed) as she did not confirm whether she was heading in our direction. Now someone like me who reads body language, could tell that her attention was on keeping the sun from her little baby's head and she did not even acknowledge our presence as the conductor yelled in her direction.


Conductor: Nyabo ogena, mama kanku nyambe osalowe kubo tugende." 


Therefore with this background you can understand why the entire taxi had just had enough. I am glad to confirm that due to the vigilance of the passengers we were not squashed like tomatoes as the 2 ladies did not board the taxi. The driver sped off with the conductor being barraged with comments as he was now the butt of all the jokes. 


Passenger 1: "So conductor - if the people at the side of the road were men would you have stopped?" "Were you going to carry them on your laps as you would have the 2 women." (he said while laughing) 


Passenger 2: "Eh- sebo carrying 2 women on your laps you can get away with but 2 men." 


Taxi passengers: "Ehhhhhhh ate awoooo!!!" (chorused different passengers with interjections of other accompanying remarks)


Passenger 1: "Conductor we will question you very seriously." 


Unfortunately i had to alight from the taxi but it had been a very entertaining ride and i am sure the conductor had learnt his lesson.