Sunday, 30 March 2014

Boda boda men are handy and imbeciles all at once.

Have you ever been pressed for time and need to get somewhere urgently? Everyone knows how that feels and has experienced this in one way or another while doing business within Kampala. Whether it is to rush a child to school, get to an important business meeting, or for those studying who need to make that mad dash to get into an exam on time, no one can prepare you for this kind of Boda boda man.

As I was in a mad dash to get to a 10:00am interview, I employed the services of a much needed boda boda man from a stage nearby. I assumed that since I had not been to the given location for the interview before, although I had Goggled it – I thought it would not hurt to get on a boda boda since they usually know the correct directions to many places within Kampala. 

Little did I know that there could be a possibility that this boda boda man and I were in the same boat in the sense that both he and I did not know the actual location where we were going. This was because of the enthusiasm with which he nearly ruptured my ear drum when he hooted at me and screeched to a halt when I flagged him down.


Me: “Boda!” (Motorbike man)

Boda boda man: “Sister, honey ogenda?” (Sister, honey are you going?)

Me: “Ye sebo njagala kugenda ku Kisozi Complex, omanyi yo?” (Yes sir, I want to go to Kisozi Complex. Do you know where it is?)

Boda boda man: “Ehhh nyabo manyi wo.” (Yes madam, I know where it is)

Me:  “Kale sebo tugende. Naye  ndi ku bwangu.” (Okay sir, let’s go but I am in a hurry.)

Boda boda man: “Kale mwana okitegera!” (Alright chic - you understand. This was in slang to imply he understands what I am saying.)


A part of me was amused by this gentleman’s Rastafarian references in his language and I hoped this would make for an interesting ride. Little did I know that this ride would be amusing for other reasons altogether and you may want to stay around to see why.

The ride went without incident for the most part except for when we went up the steep incline from Wandegeya heading Buganda road, the boda boda began to cough and freeze as it thrust us forward every other second. Then with no warning the rider pulled to the side of the road and the boda boda’s engine came to an unexpected halt (For Ugandan’s the phrase is it died).


Me:  “Kiki ekibadewo sebo? (What happened sir?)

Boda boda man: “Honey, kiri easy nyo. Kati vayo ko ndabe. (Honey take it easy. First get off the motorbike and I have a look.)

Me:  “Ogambye ntino tuli bulungi, naye kati ogamba ntino onjagala okuvayo?” (You said that we are okay, now you are telling me you want me to get off the motorbike?)

Boda boda man: “Ojakuvayo nga dakika emu netugenda.” (You will only get off for one minute and then we will leave.)

Me: “Naye sebo, ndi ku bwangu naye kilabika ntino gwe oliku mizanyo.” (But sir, I am in a hurry and yet it seems you are playing games.)

So I get off the bike a disgruntled customer and step to the side as then the rider took a hold of the motorbike handles and tilted the entire bike to the side all the way until it was lying flat on the ground. Then it finally hit me, he had not run out of fuel in his motorbike and I thought to myself this surely was the worst possible time for this to happen. I started to look from one side of the road to the other in case I needed to flag down another boda boda man to get me where I was going so that I could leave this comedian and be on own.


Just when I was about to raise my hand to flag down an oncoming boda boda man, I heard the revving of his bike as it came to life and my Rastafarian rider finally spoke up.

Boda boda man: “Nalo…, Honey nakugambye tuli bulungi.” (Rastafarian exclamation, honey I told you that we are okay.)

Me: “Eh, kale sebo naye ndi late kati. Kansubire ntino pikipiki yo tegenda okufira kukubo….” (Eh, okay sir but I am very late. Let me hope that your motorbike is not going to die on the way…. )

Boda boda man: “Neda mwana ndi steady, tokilaba?” (No girl I am steady, don’t you see it?)

He cut me off before I could get a full sentence in and I decided it was better I left it that way since he was now quickly picking up speed on Buganda road and swerving past motor vehicles on the  road in reckless abandon as he chanted some Bobi Wine song playing in the background. I felt that needed more of my attention than the episode that had only transpired a few brief moments earlier. 

We approached a cross road that we were supposed to turn down at to the right, only for him to pause briefly and then speed straight ahead as if we were heading to the city centre. I quickly tapped him on his shoulder and said,

Me: “Sebo, ojukira bwetugenda….? Nakugambye Kisozi house, kati ogenda wa..?” (Sebo, you remember when we were going..? I told you we were going to Kisozi house, so where are you going now…?”

Boda boda man: “Ehhh mbadde nerabide.” (I had forgotten.)
Me: “Kale dayo tu kirire wansi nga tugenda ku KPC.” (Okay go back and then head down the road as if you are going to KPC.)


Within a few seconds we were at our final junction and I assumed that the Rasta man had finally gotten the handle on his spats of madness but I would continue to be surprised. For once again he past the point speeding and was heading straight for Kampala road as if  that was where I was going - I tapped him firmly on the shoulder this time as I asked.

Me: “Sebo, manyi bwetu genda.” (Sir, do you know where we are going?)

Boda boda man: “Bade manyo ntino ogende okungamba, Anti oli pilot!” (I thought you were going to show me, after all you are the pilot.)


With that statement from him I almost went into a rage as I checked my phone screen and watched my clock strike 10:00am exactly.

Me: “Stage, yimirira awo.” (Stage stop there)

Boda boda man: “Wa wenyini mwana?”(Where exactly girl)

Me: “Maso awo.” (Right there ahead)

Boda boda man: “Mukubo!” (In the middle of the road?)

Me: “Eh awo!”(Yes there!)

Before he could even come to a full halt, I jumped off the back of the motorbike and I was already holding out his 3,000 UGX shillings for the fare.

Boda boda man: “Eh honey, lwaki tompa tano?” (Eh honey, why don’t  you give me 5,000UGX shillings instead?)

Me: “Tano! Eyaki, nga tomanyi wetugenda. Sebo kwata sente - oyagala sente oba toyagala?” (5,000UGX shillings! What for when you did not know where we were going – do you want the money or not?)

I dropped the notes from my hand as I turned to walk away, his hand quickly shot out to receive it while he grumbled the whole time.

Boda boda man: “Eh naye mwana onsede nyo, naye njakuleka nanti oli honey nyo.” (Eh but girl you have cheated me anyway you are such a honey)

Me: ….. (No response as I was too distracted by how late I was)

Monday, 24 March 2014

Taxi conductor who spoke English

On a rather uneventful evening as I hustled to get into one of the only available taxis at the stage, I did not think much would occur on such a fine night as this. But little did I know that comedy run throughout every sphere of our Ugandan society as I was about to see with a very animated conductor.

As I sat down, I realized that the conductor announce every couple of meters before  each stage and ask the entire taxi which was now full of passengers whether there was anyone coming out. He did it very loudly and in such an insistent manner that I was rather annoyed that he would disturb what little silence was left after the sounds of the radio and chatter of the other passengers who were going on and on about some football match.

Conductor: “Stage waliwo avayo, waliwo avayo….”  (Is there anyone coming out at the stage, anyone?) Then he paused as if for better effect and he stared at the back of the taxi before turning off the light in the mid area.

Now when I say turn off I mean disconnecting of the live wires with his bare hands like you would in a physics lab as we were all taught during experiments, every Ugandan understands what I mean. Nearly every taxi has a bulb in the middle section of the taxi but no switch; so the often sweat covered conductor leans over the passengers to reconnect the wires for bulb to come on so as to make sure to give the correct change back to his passengers during the trip.

Conductor: “Tewali omuntu avayo ku stage?” (There is no one coming out at the next stage?)

Passenger with Accent: “Ku kalitusi” (I am alighting right ahead by the Eucalyptus tree)

However I must inform you that given the outside traffic and the sound of our taxi radio, the passengers’ tone was rather low and with the heavy British accent I was sure he was not heard. For even I had to strain my ears to hear him and I still thought I had been mistaken probably due to my fatigue that night.

Conductor: “Hhmmmm” (He continued humming to himself)
This was as the driver continued to speed away until the passenger who was alighting realized that we were about to pass his stage.

Passenger with Accent: “Conductor ku Kalitusi, …(As he let a  jeer slip his lips I guess owing to the annoyance he felt for the conductor not being more attentive)

Passenger: “Waliwo avayo sebo.” (There is someone coming out.)

 Passenger with Accent: “Towulidde conductor, .nvayo! ……Ehh STOP!”
“Are you deaf, my goodness” (He yelled this time.) (Haven’t you heard conductor. I am coming out…..Eh STOP! )

Conductor: “Eh kati waliwo avayo, nababuza ko, nga musirise. Owaye nga tulabye wano mu Kampala.” (So now there is someone coming out, huh! I asked and you kept quiet, my goodness as we have suffered here in Kampala)

Passenger: “Muyambe, agambye nti no avayo, naye tomuwilidde.” (Help him and stop, he did say he was alighting but you did not hear him.)

Conductor: “Driver waliwo avayo nga tamunyi kuyogera nga mwana.” (Driver there is someone coming out but they do not know how to talk like a child.)

Now all this would have been pretty standard for a trip in a taxi but for the gentleman’s British accent, so even before I turned to look in his direction I only assumed it was a foreigner. But alas I received a rather good shock, for when I caught sight of him it was a chocolate brown colored Ugandan man of a rather mature age – it is safe to say over 45years.

Passenger with Accent: “So you wanted to take me all the way to Ntinda, I do not know what is wrong with you young people.”

Conductor: “I say get out, get out for you – you keep quiet. Kampala not easy – Kampala si mwangu” (Kampala is not simple)

He said this as the driver pulled to a stop and the conductor gave him his change - better known in Uganda as balance as he walked back to where he was supposed to alight in the first place. The rest of us kept silent during this entire ordeal until this point….

Conductor: “If you cannot manage Kampala go back to your village.” (As he jumped back into the taxi and the driver sped off)

Taxi Passengers: We all burst out into laughter at different intervals right up to the last stop in Ntinda.

It is so funny how I laughed so hard that day I forgot all my stress and fatigue and I must have looked like a fool when I got into my next taxi. Not just me but the bunch of us who had alighted at the Ntinda stage from that previous taxi, all I was thinking at the time was - Only in Uganda.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The country visits town

On this particular occasion I jumped into the front seat of the taxi next to a full figured lady who took up most of the space only to grudgingly give up half of my seat for me to occupy. The entire journey she was engrossed in her smart phone and did not even say hello and from time to time peered through the window at street signs and the loud noises coming from outside the taxi. 

I did not understand how she found everything in this dusty and jam riddled city interesting or inviting to the point of leering over me to peek outside the window. Yes I know that the sight of the young campus lady with 6 -7 inch heels struggling to remain vertical to the ground all in a bid to look smashing while braving our pot holed riddled streets is nice but also quite commonplace. In addition to her cheating me out of half of my seat, another thing that made me amused was how extremely rude she was the entire duration of her journey and there was no difference when she alighted from the taxi.

Neighbor: Maso awo! (I am alighting right ahead)

Me: Silence.

 (Before the taxi even comes to a standstill she stands up while the taxi is still in motion and steadies herself to alight even before we pulled to the side to find parking)
 Neighbor: Nvayo! (I am coming out) She said in an extremely rude manner.

Me: Eh, kale nyabo (Eh, okay madam) As she stepped on my freshly cleaned suede pumps but my politeness would not allow me to cause a scene in a taxi that early in the morning as I was sure that I would be receiving an apology soon enough. 

To my surprise, I received none.
 I eventually jumped out of that taxi when it had reached the last stage of the route it plied daily and into the back seat of another between a gentleman (on the left at the window seat) and a petite lady (on the right at the window seat). Little did I know that they were together as the entire time I sat between the two of them no word was uttered. But the first thing I noticed about the lady was that she also refused to extend to sit at the extreme end next to the window she was avoiding the sun. So I suffered at the expense of the sun and as not squashed between hers and the more mature gentleman. It is at this time that I was extremely happy that I was average size and not overweight for I would have surely paid for it by gasping for air as I attempted to suck in my excess weight to no consequence.

This suffering continued for the next 15 minutes until the next stage where the taxi conductor decided to waste our time feigning vigilance in looking for passengers to fill up the taxi while in reality he was flirting with the food ladies at the stage of the Nakawa taxi park. I noticed a growing agitation from the mature gentleman on my left and eventually with no warning he flew out of his seat and gestured with his hand to the lady on my right to get out as he disembarked the taxi and went to the conductor to finalize payment for their trip. Only then did I look in the direction of the lady seated next to me, wondering if I needed to excuse her in case she needed to get out of the taxi but she did not move an inch so I assumed I had misread the mature gentleman’s body language.  He stood with his back facing the taxi, received his change (commonly known as balance) and began to walk off in the direction of a taxi that seemed to have more hope of departing faster from the bus park than ours was since he was in a hurry.

With the alighting of the mature gentleman, the rest of the taxi grew agitated by the conductor who did not seem to want to leave the park and yet most of the passengers were in a rush to get to their early Sunday morning service. I thought nothing of it and made myself comfortable since I now had ample wiggle room with the gentleman’s exit only for the conductor to jump in and the driver began to pull into the main road. Now at this time the mature man had not gotten very far when he heard the engine of the taxi start he was settling down into a taxi ahead of us that was leaving the park now. Startled to see his taxi door shut, he frantically looked outside the window into our taxi as if he had lost something. He was half standing and half seated at this point and violently opened the window and shouted in our direction to the younger lady seated next to me who was in a daze staring at a young lady in a tight dress. She snapped out of her trance and started to shout in a dialect that I was not familiar with as she shot out of her seat and attempted to squeeze herself through the window to exit the taxi. 

I was amazed and it is only then that I realized that she was in a separate taxi from her companion who was already leaving the park. I shouted to the conductor to stop the taxi as I calmed her down and hastily informed the conductor to stop the other taxi just ahead of us and all this time she was between the window and attempting to climb over me like a caged animal that was scared for dear life.

The taxi eventually came to a halt and the gentleman stepped out and lost his seat since he now required one for himself and her and there was only one slot left. He was evidently mad and verbally expressed it as he threw his hands in the air and scolded her as we drove off and went on our way. 

As I looked at her I could see fear in her eyes and a part of me was sad with her and in that moment it all made sense. It was her first time to come to the city and she did not exactly have the best guide, she was both frightened and excited by everything she had seen. I only hoped that this experience would not scare her for the rest of her stay in Kampala. Then it dawned on me, I had no better way to express this intriguing encounter other than this was the time that the country visited the town.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Long hair or no hair.

I often thought that the more an individual was educated that the rate of his idiotic utterances would gravely decline, however it seems to be the contrary. 

As you all know  I recently cut my hair short after 8 years and have been privy a great deal of banter from the general public but never did I expect the same kind of ridicule from any of my educated peers.

Colleague: (pulls me aside away from everyone) “Joyce, I always wanted to ask you from the first time I saw you walk into the room.”

Me: “Why?”                             
Colleague: “Your hair.”

Me: “What about my hair?”

Colleague: “I mean its short, why would you cut off all your hair? I mean look at all the ladies in this room with their long hair. Or did you want to stand out.”

Me: “Because I wanted to and I needed a break from it.”

Colleague: “Break! But hair is the crowning glory of a woman it is what makes a woman come to life.”

Me: “There is more to a woman than just her hair look at it from that point of view.”

Colleague: “So why did you really cut your hair?”

Me: “Because I needed to let myself breathe from all the strain of chemicals, 3 - 4 hour long plaiting and un-plaiting sessions. Oh and my hair was long shoulder length and thick so I would spend an extra hour in the dryer. Did you know that we literally pay people to inflict pain on us to look good?”

Colleague: (A grin crossed his lips) “Okay but at least you look good in the process.”
Me: “Oh so why do you keep your hair short?”

Colleague: “In my case when my hair grows long it browns and is curly and uncontrollable.”

Me: “When it is long it is thick and nice and pretty awesome but don’t I get to choose whether or not I keep my hair short as well.”

Colleague: “Yes but women are supposed to have long hair.”

Me: “Where is that written down as law, a woman should not keep her hair sort, yada yada yada …….. that is not a reason. I mean older women for instance cut their hair as they grow older to look younger. That is a reason.”

Colleague: “Oh so is that it, do you want to look younger?"

Me: “I have no need to look young.”

Colleague: “Oh so is that you want to stand out or no you want attention.”

I did not response I simply smiled and walked away because I had to stop myself from speaking my mind and do not worry it would not have been anything pleasant.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Haircut Bewildered

Once upon a time I used to have a cascading mane that fell a few inches below my shoulders; yes my shoulders - which I grew and maintained for over 8 years but I finally grew weary of. Mid lastyear I began a journey of gradual reduction of my hair until I finally let go of it all with but a nights notice. Now this was a decision I took as an individual and at the time I did not realize what immediate or adverse effects it would have had on me.

So as I walked out of the salon a few meters from my work place and the boda boda men at the stage nearest to my office began to whistle and call me names, names that I was very unaccustomed to. Inasmuch as we all know that more often than not boda boda men are often ill mannered; I was still taken aback by it all and the conversation went something like this.

(4 Boda boda men seated in a circle at a kiosk adjacent to their stage)

Boda man 1: “Ehhh sweetie, student olotya jangu nkutwale.” (Eh sweetie, student how are you come and I take you on a ride to where you want to go.) He said this as he whistled amidst ongoing muffled conversations between his other counterparts.

Me: “Neda sebo, sigenda!” (No sir, I am not going.)

Boda man 2: “Ehh naye ofanana bulungi sister, owaye campuser nange netaga omuwala.” (Eh but you look realy nice sister, goodness campuser as I need a girl.)

Me: No response.

Boda Boda man 1: “Nga todamu sweetie.” (Why aren’t you responding?)

Chairman (also another boda boda man): “Owaye omukazi muleke temumumanyi ntino akola kumi ne wano ate tali size yo ali size yange.” (Goodness leave the lady don’t you know that she works near here and she is not your size style/ class but mine)

The rest of the boda boda men halted their conversation and burst out into laughter as I hastily made off in order not to further entertain or indulge their idleness.  But there was yet another occasion when I was left utterly shocked at the boldness of taxi drivers. As I took my usual seat in the front next to the driver on a taxi that was Kiwatule bound, when I got around Bukoto I realized I needed to jump out in Ntinda to grab a bite at Tuskys Supermarket. The driver noticed that I had paid my fare to the conductor and yet I had specifically asked for a taxi heading towards Kiwatule.

Driver: “Mwana nga oyagala okuvayo nga tona tuka gwogenda?” (Hot girl, as you want to alight from the taxi before getting to where you want to go?)

Me: “Silence.” (After badgering me for a while I decided to fold and respond) “Nkyali Ntinda okukola shopping ku Tuskys.”

Driver: “Kale njakulinda ko. Naye linda ko mpakinze bulungi nga tonavayo.” (Okay, I will wait for you a while but wait until I park properly before you alight.)

Me: “Kale sebo.” (Okay Sir!)

Driver: “Baby ojaku yanguwa ko tujakulinda kubanga njagala okwogera nawe sweetie.” (Baby you will hurry up right because I want to talk to you.)

Me: “Ngenda okuyanguwa, naye mugende njakusanga taxi endala.” (Yes I am going to hurry, but you can go I will get another taxi that is heading my way.)

Driver: “Neda mukwano, nanti nkugambye ntino tukyakwogera.” (No friend, you see I told you we we still talk.)

I paused for a while before I leaped out of the front taxi door and made a bee line for the entrance for of Tuskys supermarket. As I waited in line and I pondered how bold this taxi man had been to out rightly approach me with no warning at all. Then I wondered whether this gentleman would for whatever bizarre reason honor his inappropriate suggestion he had just made. So I rushed out and looked in the direction where I had left the taxi parked, the driver and his conductor for one reason or the other had decided to change their route to go back to town but to my surprise I caught him peering through his side window in the direction of the entrance. He actually wanted to wait to finish the conversation that he had started with me and I was startled at how bold this lad was.  I ducked of course and went on my way – for those of you who were wondering.

Then it dawned on me nothing this extreme had ever happened to me so it must all be owing to the new hair cut and within 2 months I had one of the most awkward encounters with a middle aged man of about 6feet 2inches (I know this because I am 5 feet 8 inches). I was wearing a pair of straight cut blue jeans, a long sleeved collared shirt with buttons running all the way down the front, cuffs at my wrists and I was carrying a back pack that day. The middle aged man entered the front seating area of the taxi before me and sat next to the driver but I noticed him stealing side glances at me the entire stretch of the journey. As I began to rummage through my back pocket for change to pay the conductor, he mustered up the guts to engage me in conversation.

Middle aged man: “Excuse me; I have to ask are you male or a female.”

I paused for 3-5 seconds owing to how tired I was given that I had just been through a 4 hour weekend class so I was in no mood to be conversational.)

Me: “Female!” (I paid the conductor and called out to the driver) “Stage, Parking, owaye driver maso awo.” (This is because the driver had zoned out and was not paying attention to me now leaning in front of this gentleman shouting at him to stop.)

Middle aged man: (after an awkward pause) “No offence intended.”

Me: (I jumped out of the taxi slammed the door and as I looked at him I responded) “No!”

Now dear Ugandans, I know that last week the Anti homosexuality bill was signed by our dear president but to use this as an excuse for insulting people (random strangers) in public places because of your ignorance, it is unacceptable. When you find a young stylish lady in a boyfriend style shirt and a pair of jeans and a back pack it does not mean that she is lesbian or bisexual and it is totally moronic to run your mouth and ask her that as well. In my defense I have a bust; I had pierced ears with silver cross design ear pins and flat ballets pumps all of which are obviously associated with the female gender. So the next time you seek to insult me with your illiteracy on all things fashion – beware I will definitely tell you off and yes a fashionable young lady can rock short hair.

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