Wednesday, 17 December 2014

2.00 am solicitation on Kampala’s streets

I often write on issues affecting the every day Ugandan, from topics to do with transportation, revenue and DMV (Driving Permit registration) as well as cultural experiences.   

However this time allow me to share my thoughts on a completely different topic. This is one that is not spoken much on and yet can be experienced in the early hours of the morning on our streets within Kampala city and notably Kabalagala suburbs.
One such night we rushed to Entebbe international airport at 9:00 pm to pick a family member who was scheduled to arrive on a flight coming in at 1:00 am. We were both excited and anxious to make it on time because we did not want to arrive late and make her sit in the airport waiting area after such a long flight. Luckily we beat the Entebbe road traffic mayhem and arrived 10 minutes to her arrival time. We rushed to the arrival area only to get there and check the screen and see ‘1 HOUR DELAY,’ for the specific flight she was on.  A little frustrated that we had an hour to kill at Entebbe airport, but we were relieved that we were there and so we resorted to 
looking for a way to occupy our time. However, that one hour in the Entebbe International airport waiting area is another escapade of its own for an entirely different blog. 

After the hour, there was an additional delay for check out since a Kenya Airways flight arrived just before hers but we eventually hit the road heading to Kampala shortly after 1:00 am. The better part of the journey went without incident until we got to the city center around Sheraton Hotel and down the road along Fairway hotel. As we got here my sister who we picked from the airport noticed pedestrians on the side walk about 100 meters apart in dark colours almost disappearing into the background given how dark Kampala streets are at night at 2:00 am.

My sister from abroad: ‘What are these people doing by the side of the road this late at night?’

Me: ‘Which ones?’

My sister from abroad: ‘These ones ehh.. ehhh but look at what they are wearing? That one over there is literally naked.’

Me: ‘They are ladies of the night.’

My sister from abroad: ‘So they just stand here and parade themselves at the side of the road scantily clad with their underwear showing?’

My sister driving: ‘Yup!’

My sister from abroad: ‘Eh... look at this one he has stopped right in front of one. What is he doing?’  she said as she pointed at the vehicle a couple of meters ahead of us.

Now I pulled forward from my seat where I had comfortably reclined to get a better view of what she was pointing at. My other sister who was driving slowed down since the driver ahead of us had come to a complete stop right in front of one of these ladies at the side of the road.

Me: ‘Talking to her,’ I said innocently.

My sister driving: ‘He is soliciting for her services.’

My sister from abroad: ‘When did this start on the streets of Kampala? Is it even legal?’

Me: ‘No it is not but it continues to happen.’

We slowed down as we continued to approach the Golf course round about due to the Subaru right in front of us whose occupant was having a conversation with one of the ladies. He did not seem bothered by us approaching until we were within 40 meters when our front lights hit his vehicle and cast its  light against his number plate and we could also confirm that it was a gentleman driving. Before we could indicate to over take him on the side he backed away from the curb of the side walk and sped off much to our surprise. It did not make sense initially for the first few seconds and then it did and we all began to laugh in the car with the exception of my sister from abroad.

My sister from abroad: ‘Ehh now where is he running, who chased him?’ she said.

This was owing to the fact that the Subaru driver had sped off and in a bid to create some distance between us and him since I assume he was embarrassed to be seen soliciting a prostitute. As my other sister and I continued to laugh, we slowly passed by the lady of the night he had been chatting up only for her to hurl insults at us.

Me: ‘I wonder where he is flying off to now,’ I said as I giggled and pulled up my window expectant that a random object may be thrown at me from the lady of the night.

My sister driving: ‘Let’s see how far he will run away from us,’ she said as she accelerated and ensued in a chase.

The occupant of the Subaru pulled on to Acacia Avenue flying almost as if we were on a race track. We eventually caught up to him between DFCU Acacia branch and Bubbles Pub where he slowed down due to the multitude of night owls (revelers) who were looking parking.  As he pulled to the left side of the street looking for parking, we got alongside him on the right and as we passed by him I pulled down my window to get a better look.

When I caught sight of him I was rather happy to find that his window (the driver’s side) was pulled all the way down so I whispered, ‘hello rally driver.’

My sister from abroad on the other hand was too shocked by the entire experience but managed to shout out of her window, ‘Go back we were not chasing you, go back.’

The expression on his face was priceless after which we sped off with us all laughing hysterically. Now I completely agree with the statement – nothing good happens after midnight and in our case 2.30 am.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Kwanjula somewhere close to the Malaba border

After I thought that I was done with all my functions for this year, I was surprised by yet another where I had to travel to Malaba close to the border to escort a close family friend for introduction to his girl’s family. 

I expected nothing less than excitement and fan fare but the start of the day was proving to be much less entertaining.

We arrived at the home of his fianc├ęs parents, only to be told that they needed a few minutes to prepare for us. A few minutes turned out to be approximately 20 minutes to half an hour before we were welcomed and ushered in. The entire time we were in line I wondered to myself why brides are always frantic before their grooms arrive because we had been called not less than 5 times before our arrival. We were told we were late only to arrive just 15 minutes short of the scheduled time and then they were not. Anyway I digress, so we walked in and waited to be told to take our seats only for a lady bearing an official tag to tell us to sit down.

Me: ‘Are you sure?’

Lady Official: ‘Yes, you can sit down.’

So we sat down but not even 10 seconds passed before I felt a tag at the arm of my busuti by one of the people in our party.  

Best man: ‘We have not been told to sit down.’

I obliged but was rather annoyed at these Kwajula tests and antics that I had completely forgotten about probably owing to overload of events I have already attended this year as well as the drive from Kampala early that morning. The program commenced albeit rather slowly with a few tunes being churned out by the DJ as the first group of girls came to greet. The sad thing is that the entire time the group of girls was walking to their places to greet us the music kept skipping and this happened over and over. 

This happened so much so that after greeting the girls sat on the mat in front of us for about 15 minutes as we waited for their microphone to be turned on or the mishap with the music to be sorted out. After an awkward silence and patient wait, a loud thud was heard as the tune “gamba ku jeniffer’ strummed away for a couple of seconds before it was abruptly cut off only to be replaced with ‘Sitya loss song’ the new equally inappropriate one.

DJ madness aside, we decided to enjoy the day no matter what followed but nothing prepared us for this. There was a cultural troop that came to entertain us in dance and song and we were delighted to soak up as much of the local culture as we could. As the dancers came around the corner of the host’s tent, we were happy and clapped in unison to show our gratitude but the clapping died down as we took notice of the last dancer. It was a gentleman in a skirt (probably with a pair of shorts underneath) and a spaghetti top with a bra underneath.
Most of you may be wondering ‘How did you know that he had a bra underneath the spaghetti top?’

My response; ‘Because the black top was ill fitting and the white bra was peeping through the top.’

Now if any of you thought this was the highlight of the day, then you do not know what you missed when you did not tag along for this event. The accompanying crew continued to play their instruments as the dancers danced off behind the tent from which they came since the DJ’s equipment had failed to recover the entire day. So as we enjoyed listening to the xylophone and flute which were punctuated by a male vocalist we could not understand, we lost interest as we broke up into groups and began to converse amongst ourselves.

A while later at the climax of this musical piece, we were startled to hear the vocalist scream loudly saying, ‘I miss you, I care for you, I welcome you...’

We began to shout in response at every pause but nothing prepared us for his final lines.
Male vocalist: ‘I love you, I want you, I touch you....’

At this point all the old men who had escorted the groom responded ehhhh and the vocalist continued to escalate these intimate sentiments in song.

Male vocalist: ‘I kiss you, I touch you....’

Here every one visitor and host alike burst out in laughter as some even stood to give the gentleman a hand clap as he ended his piece. All the girls rose from the mat from whence they had been greeting; blushing and I can confidently say that there was not a dry eye in the audience from the roars of laughter.   

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The other side of the Ugandan taxi driver.

Every one of us is thankful for the sacrifice that our parents made to ensure that we attained a good education to support the living and lifestyle that we enjoy today. However, don’t think that everyone has the same dreams to go through school and go into traditional employment system of 8am to 5 pm daily.

 I have run into factory workers who read Shakespeare literature on their down time and are finalizing with their thesis in order to graduate from the university. The taxi driver who is well educated, uses Whatsapp and owns 5 taxis at the local stage. Do not think that the taxi driver you are sitting next to in the front seat of that often filthy car is illiterate and has no hope and dreams of his own, you will be greatly surprised.

Here is one such encounter that will changed the way you approach people.

Me: ‘Wasuzotya sebo,’ I said to the driver as I jumped into the front seat next to him. (How did you sleep – Also means good morning)

Taxi Driver: ‘Bulungi mwana, how are you.’ (Fine thank you, girl)

I could only afford to grin in shock at the seamless transition from Luganda (local language commonly used by the majority of the population in Uganda) to English. I was wearing a pair of jeans that day so I assume he felt it suitable to adapt his use of language to suit this chance encounter.

After about 400 meters, I felt my phone vibrate and pulled it out to take a call and respond to a few emails before safely returning it back to my bag.

Taxi Driver: ‘Mwana, ehh simu yo enyuma.’ (Eh, your phone looks nice)

Me: ‘Webale okusima.’ (Thank you for appreciating.) At this point I tightened hold at the straps of my hand bag because I had become paranoid that he may hit me senseless and make off with it. I know a few of you must be laughing, but you cannot blame me for being paranoid after all the horror stories I have heard.

Taxi Driver: ‘So what do I do to also get a phone like yours?’

Me: ‘You work very hard.’

Taxi Driver: ‘Eh!” I smiled as he responded because of the face he made as he responded.
A few minutes later I was about to alight when with no warning I heard him say..

Taxi Driver: ‘Kale mwana, let me go and work have so I can also have some swagger.’ (Okay girl…)

This did not entirely change my perceptions of taxi drivers but allowed me to remember that they are also human beings who seek to enjoy the finer things in life and not all are ill mannered and crass.

Then on another completely different occasion, I stood at a bust stop waiting to be picked up by a colleague for a meeting, only for a couple of taxis to pull up in front of me.

Conductor 1: ‘Nyabo ogenda?’ (Madam are you heading in our direction/ are you going?’

Conductor 2: ‘Sister yanguwako tugende mu towuni.’ (Sister hurry up so that we can go to town.)

Me: ‘Neda sebo,’ (No, sir) I swiftly responded as I shook my head from side to side and stayed firmly planted where I was. A few passenger jumped out of the taxi as I continued to typed away on my screen.

Conductor 2: ‘Ahh tumuleke nanti ali ku Facebook.’ (Ah let’s leave her she is on Facebook)
I could not help but smile as I keyed away on my phone waiting patiently for my ride to arrive while the rest of the passengers began to peep through their windows to catch sight of me as the taxi sped off.

So as you go about your business remember to take each person as they present themselves and don’t throw around blanket judgments, you really never know who may actually surprise you.  

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Sex talk over dinner

When hunger strikes, each one of us heads to the nearest place where we can find something to eat or we go to our favorite restaurant. I was recently introduced to a restaurant in Ntinda which has good local food and I decided to go back myself the following week.

It was a regular but draining day which ended with me passing by the restaurant to get a meal on my way home. I made my order for food and waited quietly as I checked out the day’s news online as I sat down in a corner and waited patiently.

As I waited for my meal, 2 of the waiters from the restaurant moved away from the main seating area next to me since I was in the least occupied corner. I ignored them as they sat down and a very engaging conversation of their campus escapades ensued.

Waiter 1: ‘Eh man naye when will this sem end, am fed up of this course work.’ (To mean when is the university semester coming to an end.)

Waiter 2: ‘I know mwana, ahh this is when I miss my ex that Shorty was a’ight.’ (To mean his girl friend was alright/ cool.)

My food was finally delivered by another waiter but even this did not cause them to let up their conversation, they only paused but for a moment.

Waiter 1: ‘Which one?’

Waiter 2: ‘The small, dark slender one – she is not really hot but ehh... it was regular.’

Waiter 1: ‘What do you mean?’

Waiter 2: ‘The lay and it was cost effective.’

At the sound of that I nearly raised my head with a stern look on my face - but then I remembered that I was not a part of this conversation so I let this go as I quietly ate my meal.

Waiter 2: ‘..... I would not spend much on her, actually it was just my fare to her hostel and I would gerrit. She was easy.’ 

Waiter 1: ‘Really, are you still hanging out with that Shorty.’

Waiter 2: ‘Nooo, but this is the time when I wish I was.’

Waiter 1: ‘Braa you need to pass me dem digits, I need to get me some.’(To mean friend you need to give me her digits.’

It was at this point that a party of 3 walked in and were ushered into the main sitting area so the lead waiter who served me earlier, motioned the other waiters to seat the guests. This and only this got these lads to stand up and go about their work which they were supposed to be doing in the first place. That is beside the point though in this case, the moral of today’s tale is what exactly are students going to the university for these days.

Leaving the massacre of the English language aside for this moment, I thought to myself – does this girl (so called Shorty) value herself? By the time she is in hostel she must be a private student who receives allowance from her parents who assume she is away at university busy focusing on her studies. What they would do if they knew what she was doing and who she was surrounding herself with. It is never too early to teach your children how to value and surround themselves with people of substance.

When the waiters moved away and I had finished my meal, I called the lead waiter and paid for my meal but had a side bar with him on the unbecoming conduct of his staff. He apologized for their misconduct and promised to have a discussion with the young lads; however it is safe to say that I have never been served by any of them.

I guess voicing your concerns does get you a kick in the behind well; I am comfortable with that too.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Day 7/7 Traditional Ceremony Humor

The times have changed since we were young but then again some things remain the same. In this case the former is true as we enjoyed the comfort of our tightly packed seats at a recent traditional wedding ceremony. We had only been settled and started the festivities of the dance between both the spokesmen, when the clergy man present was called upon to say a prayer for the day’s events. 

That in itself was no problem but when the clergy man flanked by his assistant concluded the prayer and brought out 2 baskets to collect offertory – that was a shock for me.

Sister: ‘Who collects offertory at a kwanjula?’

Me: ‘I do not know.’

Sister: ‘Have you ever seen this happen before?’

Me: ‘The prayer yes, the offertory no.’

Murmurs went on through our tent but as we were the guests, not wanting to seem rude we complied and went on with the ceremony. It went on up until the point where the spokesman on the brides side excused the sheikh who had to go and lead prayer in a nearby mosque and so some Muslims from our tent rose up quickly  and non hesitantly to join him only to return about an hour and a half later. It is an understatement for me to say that they missed the most important aspects of the entire event.

But what took the cake was when the spokesman made these remarks in the heat of the moment albeit attempting to sound funny after 6 / 7 groups had already come out to greet us as is customary in a Kiganda traditional marriage ceremony.

Brides Spokesman: ‘Owaye let these young girls go to the house so that the next group of important people can come out.’

Grooms Spokesman: ‘But before they leave let me thank them for having good manners and welcoming guests.’

Queue music and the 20 something girls danced off beaming from ear to ear as the next batch prepared themselves to come out and face us in the middle of the courtyard.

Brides Spokesman: ‘Eh but let me wait and see whether you will also give this next group gifts after all this is group 7, but then again muko looks like a mugaga.’

The whole time these words were leaving his mouth I was in shock and my mouth fell open because the entire time leading up to this point he had been making subtle hints to issues regarding the grooms financial muscle. Forgive me if this does not bother you; but what purpose was this event set up to serve if not to unite 2 families and officially hand over the girl to her suitor. I did not think this was an opportunity to milk your guests for every last coin they came with.

After all the gifts were waiting to be exchanged, the live cow’s presence was yet to be verified and a tree of remembrance planted; it was time to have a meal. We waited patiently as the spokesman laid out the order in which we were to queue up for our meal. Nothing was out of the ordinary at that point aside from what the DJ played when the instruction was given for us to head to our serving point.

DJ: ‘Hello the foods is now available, but please avoid the sausage rolls,’ was played over the sound system

My and sister and I burst out into laughter and could not wait to check and see if there was indeed any sausage roll or sausage  based aspect of the meal. I am sorry to say we were disappointed.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Day 6/7 Kwanjulas bring out the best and worst in people

I know you must be wondering why I am writing quite a number of my tales on kwanjulas (traditional marriage celebrations) but it is to give you a well rounded view of what actually happens away from the spotlight. 

The behind the scenes stories of the most annoying and hilarious conversations that people do not often share after the fact.

So on a normal sunny day after a great deal of hustle and bustle getting ready for a kwanjula, we set off in high spirits and arrived about an hour and 15 minutes later than expected;  but to my surprise we were not fined. After a long and drawn out dialogue between the omwogezi's (spokesmen), we were ushered to our seats.

We made a bee line for them only to attempt to get seated in an orderly manner but it proved quite difficult and uncomfortable. The chairs had been staked so close together we barely had room to get through the seats and sit down. Also the fact that this situation was made only even more dire with tables fitted within our sitting tent that was expected to sit about 100 people. The table had taken up space for probably 15 – 20 people so we were all squashed like sardines in a tightly wrapped package.

Sitting arrangements aside I was unfortunate to sit behind a lady who decided to travel with her infant to this event, all I can say is that the day was quite the experience. Initially we arrived and waited to be asked to sit down by the spokesman from the girl’s side but as soon as we were granted permission it all began. I was the one in charge of handling the flower for identifying the bride as is now an unwritten tradition in our family. The lady with a child handed him over and began fussing about where the flower should be put and all.

Lady: ‘Muteke kimuli wansi,’ she said in a bossy tone. (Put the flower down)

My sister and I looked at her stunned at ho w she all of a sudden was giving us instructions at this point but decided to be polite about it all. There was no need to fuss.

Lady: ‘Kiteke wansi,’ she repeated a couple of seconds later in a very insistent tone.  

Now at this point the 3 of us were still standing while the rest of our team was seated because we were waiting for her to pull her chair forward and sit down so that we could follow suit but she was fussing about something so trivial. So the next time she turned around I tugged at my sister’s hand and urged her to sit down as we set the heavy flower on the table next to us.
As though on queue the lady turned around and began to eye us shifting and turning from side to side and could not sit still in one position.

Lady: ‘Mukatadee awoo,’ (you have placed it there) she said in a tone that made it seem to be a question but was instructive as well.

Me: ‘Ehhh nyabo!’ (Yes madam)

Lady: ‘Naye bagenda kilaba, mukateke wansi.’(But they are going to see it)

Me: ‘Nkatekewa, (where do I put it?) I responded as I directed her gaze to the space that remained between my sister while all this time I was asking myself what all this fuss was about.

Lady: ‘Kabera bulungi nga okitadde wansi.’ (It is nice when you hide it down)

Me: ‘ Ehh, I responded politely but did not lift a finger to move the flower anywhere else.

 I silently thought to myself, why the fuss after all they already saw the flower when I walked in past their tent as I headed to my seat. My sister only shook her head and smiled as she watched the staring match that ensued between the lady and I.

Moments later it was something else; in the midst of all the activity she began to move her chair further and further behind until a point where she almost maimed my leg with that of her chair about 5 times. The 5th time I shot out my hand and shoved her chair forward instinctively and continued to pay attention to what the Omwogezi (spokesman) was saying. Kindly understand, I was not picking a fight but neither was I going to entertain this silliness and trivialities any longer.

About an hour and a half later we were taken to serve food and my sister and I decided to go among the last because we did not want to stand in line for a long time. Now she on the other hand went in the first batch and so returned to her seat when we were heading to the serving area. When we got back her chair was back to back with mine and my sister could not get to her seat that was on the other side of mine.

She looked stunned as we stood over the lady who was demolishing her luwombo and chattering on with her company for about 2minutes. When I realised she had not noticed our presence, I asked my sister to excuse me and step aside and I dealt with the issue.

Me: ‘Nyabo, katuyite ko.’ (Madam, could you let us pass.)

The lady finished her piece of chicken before she got up and excused us and I made sure that before she sat down I intentionally moved her chair forward so that I could actually sit down. The moral of this story is when you are in Rome do as the Romans do but when you are at war pull out your gun and get ready to shoot.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Day 5/7 The policewoman who pulled me over 3 times

Driving on Ugandan roads can prove to be quite the hustle and it is not for the fainthearted. Having gone to  a local driving school with a senior citizen as my instructor, I was fortunate to be thrown into the deep end right from the get go and was  taken on to Jinja road right on day one. So you would be right to say that I am quite comfortable on Ugandan roads and no conductor, truck driver or trailer will ever bully me on the road.

However, one group of people we often forget to take into account are our angelic custodians of the law dressed in white.  I was fortunate to be charged with the task of dropping my nieces and nephews to and from school for a period of a week while my sister was away and I grew accustomed to using the road less travelled from Kamwokya market to where it connects to Bukoto stage near Bemuga near Kabira country club. 

On the first occasion as I drove down the hill into the valley riddled with garages and washing bays, at about the midway point I was pulled over by a female police officer.

I indicated and exited the main road to the side and once I had parked I let down the co drivers’ window. The children were at the back and jolted out of their seats wondering why we had come to a halt far off from the super market where we usually got their snacks.

Niece: ‘Why are we stopping?’

Me: ‘Because the police woman has asked us to stop.’

Niece: ‘But where is she I cannot see her?’

Me: ‘Sit up and look ahead there, do you see her?’

Niece: ‘Uh hmm.’

As she approached me boy was I happy that I had sorted out my driving permit woes a couple of months earlier and now I was fully covered.

Police officer: ‘How are you madam?’

Me: ‘Fine thank you officer.’

Police officer: ‘Are we okay?’

Me: ‘Yes we are.’

She walked to the front of the car to check and make sure that my third party insurance was not expired and walked back to my side of the window.

Police officer: ‘Okay, can I see your driving permit?’ she said in a firm tone with a straight face almost in a bid to intimidate me.

Me: ‘No problem, officer,’ I said as I reached into my hand bag and handed her my permit to look at.

For about half a minute she mauled over it back and front and as she examined the details her 
face changed from the stern look to a more pleasant and almost cheeky smile.

Police officer: ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ she said as I looked at her beaming face with a feeling gratification for that brief moment of doubt she had was no more than prejudice.

Me: ‘Thank you officer.’

This routine occurred a day after the same and was pretty typical and I was beginning to look forward to it. Unfortunately for me I did not see the officer for a day but then when I was beginning to think that she had been moved to a new location, there she was moving in my direction with her hand up. This time the children had a fun filled day of school and activities so they had all passed out in the back seat.

Police officer: ‘Alloh how are you madam?’

Me: ‘Fine thank you.’
Police officer: ‘Eh mama, can I please have a look at your permit?’
Me: ‘Yes, officer I said as I smiled brightly.’
I was tempted to let this whole process go on as usual but when I was pulling out my driving permit I asked I decided to quiz her as to why she constantly pulled me over the entire week.

Me: ‘But officer, I said politely’

Police officer: ‘Yes, what is it. You do not have your permit.’

Me: ‘No I have it.’

Police officer: ‘So what is it, soo....’

Me: ‘Officer, I only wanted to know why you would pull me over 3 times in the same week.’

Police officer: ‘Ehhhh is it so, ehhh ..’

As she was pausing attempting to recollect her failing memory I decided to assist her expedite the process.

Me: ‘Officer, you do not remember me passing here with these children this week.’
She paused for a second and then leaned forward and peered through the glass of the rear window for confirmation before bursting into a smile.

Police officer: ‘Ehh mama it is you sorry.’

Me: ‘But officer why do you stop me every time.’

Police officer: ‘Nanti you look like you are small.’

Me: ‘Smalll...’ I said with a confused look on my face.
Police officer: ‘Yes, too small to drive.’

Me: ‘Small .... ehhh, ohhhh too young to drive.’

Police officer: ‘Yes madam, but now it is okay, you take the children are very tired ehhh you take them home safely.’

Me: ‘Thank you officer,’ i said in response as i placed my permit back into my wallet.

As I indicated and pulled back onto the main road I thought to myself, it so difficult to get a rapid response from police at a crime scene but when it comes to the traffic police I am being pulled over for looking too young to be driving. Isn’t this a case of misplaced vigilance and resources Uganda police?

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Day 4/7 The craft of being an Omwogezi

Every event has its perks and draw backs and one of the few perks to enjoy from a traditional wedding ceremony (Okwanjulo) is the spokesmen (Omwogezi). 

There is the manner in which they entertain the guests while sticking to the schedule and making even the most persistent of requests seem coy as child’s play and bearable. 

I have been fortunate to attend about 4 traditional marriage ceremonies this year for family members in a span of 3 months, yes 3 months so I am on quite the over load.
At one of them I was fortunate to be on the guest side of the muko (groom) and when we arrived; we were paraded in front of the guests for about 15minutes up until our spokesman delivered 3 bible readings and answered a series of local dialect idioms to the satisfaction of his counterpart on the opposite side. This trend dragged on for the better part of the function until it got to point of the identification of the bride where I suppose he could not take it anymore and out of the blue he began to cough.

Spokesman: ‘Eh, sorry so what was I saying,’ he muttered on as he coughed violently.

Our spokesman: ‘Ah you asked the senga (the bride’s aunt who usually identifies the groom) if she knows us and if she knows why we are here.’

Spokesman: ‘But you have not loosened my tongue,’ he uttered softly as he continued with the program.

Our spokesman dispatched his assistant hastily to bring 1 gourd of the local brew known as Tonto that we had brought with us to oil the spokesman’s wheel. At the back of my head I was thinking, couldn't he simply say he wanted the alcohol so we could move forward? But no he had to be all theatrical and cough violently over and over as if he was short of breathe and about to pass out.

There is also another aspect that bothered me – the fact that that they advertise their services to the public in the middle of the most intimate point of the function whether it be the exchange of the engagement ring or in between the parents speeches.

Spokesman: ‘Announcement, announcement I would like to inform you that if you that if you would like to hire me I belong to the ..... group. To contact us on our services for functions, please take down this number so that we can assist you.’  ‘Now please let me clarify this - do not call me a week to the function because you may not fit into my calendar schedule because you know very well this is a very busy time of the year for functions.’ 

‘This is so that you do not say I let you down or I disappointed you and ruined your function; you know we have to do this properly so call me about a moth to the function so I can check my book. But if I cannot handle your function, we are many in the company and I can get you someone else who is available and will make sure that you have a very enjoyable function.’

I thought to myself, wow this man is very bold and self assured to say this in front of about 300 people. But with no notice and with only a pause he continues only a moment later with his line of conversation.

Spokesman: ‘So I can perform at traditional marriage functions, graduations, parties and everything of that nature.’ ‘I can do it all, but wait ......,’ he said as he paused briefly.

‘When it comes to funerals, I do not take part. I say this because I have been asked by a couple of people to officiate and I have failed to accept it is the only function I do not perform at.’

Now when I heard this I thought to myself, this sure is a performance from the coughing to the bible reading and idioms it was all an act and much as we are a very animated bunch of people how much is too much. Is there a point where we draw the line because in this instance, the traditional marriage ceremony went over the designated time? 

This was because he took too long badgering us for local brew which we had already brought, to competing with his fellow spokes person from our side to see who was technically better at performing at these functions.
I thought to myself what happened to the small, quiet visits to the girl’s home to have an intimate understanding of the values from where your better half originates. 
Or I am too traditional and spoiling all the glitz and fun fare involved in today’s display of affection at these events.

I am open to your opinions.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Day 3/7 The rise of the taxi stage manager

For all of us who have used private means of transport at one time or the other know how painful a process it can be. From the long waiting periods at the stage while the taxi or bus fill up to full capacity, or the noise from the shrill voice of the conductor calling out the route he intends to take as you sit silently baking in the African heat. Nothing can be worse than a half empty taxi especially when you have to urgently get to a meeting or that life changing appointment.

With all that in mind, there is this disease that has crept up with the registration of taxi and boda boda drivers and riders respectively at their resident stage. The disease is the rise of stage managers. I asked myself; what do they manage, how do they earn a living, why are they necessary and who really benefits from their presence. However, in my opinion they are a more of a menace than a necessity and I will back my opinion with an example.

There was this day when I boarded a Wandegeya bound taxi from Kiwatule and as we approached the Ntinda stage, the conductor got weary and began to grumble audibly to the driver as pulled into the parking area.  Frankly I did not understand what the fuss was about until a fat and smelly gentleman approached our taxi from the official stage and leaned into the window as he held the passenger door shut. As I sat in the front seat next to the door he held a 3 minute conversation with the driver about how he was misbehaving and not conforming to the rules. 

I leaned out of my window to confirm that the driver had indeed parked off the road and not in a bad spot; he had indicated on exiting the main road and was waiting in queue for his turn to pick up passengers. After all it was not his fault that a passenger had walked up to his taxi and asked to get in leaving all the rest in line.

Conductor: ‘Gwe man lwaki ondemeza okukola (But you man, why are you preventing me from working)

Stage Manager: ‘Sirika njogere ne mukulu wo. (Keep quiet, I am talking to the big man/ boss– to imply the driver as he was more senior in age than the conductor.)

Conductor: ‘Vayo, kati kyo gambe ntino nze siri mukulu?’ (So what you are saying is that I am not mature enough to have a conversation with you?)

Stage Manager: ‘Mpa byange tukole fena.’ (Give me what belong to me and we all work.’

Driver: ‘Naye gwe kati oganye omuntu omu okuyingiri mumotoka.’ (But also you, now you have refused to let only 1 person get into the taxi,’ he said politely.

Before he could even finish his statement, the stage managers enforcer flew from the taxi that was parked ahead of us to where we parked and right into the middle of this conversation. Without knowing what was going on he began to thumb the side of the taxi with full force like a rabid dog with his fists.

Enforcer: ‘Tuwe sente za fe.’ (Give us our money.)

It was only when he said this that it finally made sense; the stage manager has to be paid by the taxi drivers - almost something similar to a stage affiliation fee of sorts so that they can operate here. Now remember this is early in the morning and we were all in a hurry to get to town and go about our business. So after wasting an additional 10 minutes and reversing and moving forward continuously, when it was clear that this situation was not being resolved or going anywhere I began to exit the front seat only for the manager to push my door shut.

Stage Manager: ‘Ahh neda nyabo mugenda, bera steady’ (No madam, you are leaving relax.)

Driver: ‘Kwata ezo, said the driver calmly.’ (Get that)

 I was about to give him a piece of my mind when I saw a 5,000 shilling note in the drivers hand being issued to the stage manager and then in a flip  of a second, we were welcomed into the fold.

Stage Manager: ‘Kati oterede! Wandegeya, Kamapala Road ne Park enkadde. (Now you have shaped up! Wandegeya, Kampala Road and the old park), he called out. He did this as he flung the passenger door open and ushered people in speedily. His personality flipped as distinctly as night and day and we were off in a jiffy.

After a brief moment of reflection it dawned on me, all these positions that continue to creep up at stages and in government ministries with 2 0r even 3 people carrying out the same work, it is a problem that cuts across all levels of society in Uganda. It is an evil that exists even at the level of a taxi driver and boda boda man at his stage – Uganda we need to change and fix this.

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