Monday, 19 May 2014

Taxi mayhem Sudanese style

There was recent legislation by KCCA banning taxis from parking in certain areas in the city center of Kampala. Taxis that used to have stages around the City square have been forced to find room in the Old taxi park and I must say the city did seem a great deal less congested.  However, I did not think ahead as to what the effects would be or better still how the taxi drivers and their significant others – conductors would respond to all of this new change. 

So today I will focus on an incident that gave me a glimpse of what could go wrong and it took place a week after the regulation was passed while on a taxi ride plying the Kamwokya - Jinja road route.

The taxi I was in was ¾ full and 2 full bodied dark chocolate females flagged us down along Wandegeya traffic lights and squeezed themselves through the doors managing to get past me to the last seats available at the back. The ladies spoke a dialect that was quite foreign to me, not that I assume to understand all the languages within Uganda, but this one was nothing I had ever had before and it is only after a while that I saw one of the ladies face art on her forehead that I realized they must be from Sudan. I did not think much of their entrance and ignored them for the most part since there was no cause for alarm right up to our decent around CPS to the city square when they wanted to get out of the taxi. Now while on Buganda road, the conductor had asked the entire taxi full of passengers whether anyone was coming out and he received no response. I wondered why he had asked us  so early then I recalled that the City square stage had been removed and we would therefore not be able to make a stopover.

Sudanese women: “……. “ (Chattering on in their local dialect intoxicating the taxi with it)

Conductor: “Waliwo omuntu agenda okuvayo?”

Taxi: …… (No response)

Conductor: “Wereza ku sente oba onovayo ku square … owaye wereza kubanga temugenda okuvayo ku square kubanga ebintu bichuse tewali stage wano.” (Hand over your taxi fare if you intend to get out at the city square … please we are not stopping at the square because thing have changed there is no stage here it was moved)

I was rather annoyed at how insistent the conductor was about us paying our fare early enough and I did not understand why until one of the ladies spoke up after uttering nothing in the English dialect their entire duration of the ride.

Sudanese woman: “Stage!” she said this right in the middle of the city square.

With no other taxi parked there, the driver did not look like he was up to taking chances that would warrant a run in with the law so he did not stop. By law I mean one of our very own traffic policemen or women clad in their signature whites for uniform that can be seen from a mile away; as they were stationed at blind spots the entire stretch between the City Square and Post Office that day. I thought to myself are these women kidding, can’t they see how many taxis had been pulled to the side and were being fined by the police or chased after for the offence by often plain cloth KCCA officials.  As this went on I was snapped out of my mental rants by an even more agitated voice;

Sudanese woman: “Stage, are you deaf! Why can’t you stop?”

Conductor: “Nanti mubadde mu manyi ntino nabadde musiru nga mbabuzo ani avayo!” (Huh so you thought I was stupid when I asked who was coming out ahead at this stage)

Sudanese woman: “* %@/?^ ,” she went off in Sudanese and sadly none of us understood her.
Conductor: “…...” (He remained in silence as he looked straight outside the window with no response)

This continued until we got to the Total opposite Uganda House where he finally got the driver to stop since he had found parking and was tired of the yelling from within the taxi by Sudanese woman.

Sudanese woman: “What is wrong with you are you mad, why you don’t stop?”

Conductor: “…..” (silence)

Sudanese woman: “ So you want to take us to your home ehh, you think all of us are from your home ehhh!”

Conductor: “Ah lekera awo oku lekana nyo.” (Ah stop making so much noise.)

Sudanese woman:  “What are you saying? Me I just want to get out, I do not know what is wrong with you – you arrogant banyankoles! You think all of us speak your language.

Conductor: “Munyankole who is dat – I tell you to give me moneys if you want get out at square. You quiet.”

Driver: “… mu dinka atabuse, ” he said as he laughed while peering through his rear view mirror from time to time to catch a bit of the action. (The Dinka lady is agitated)

Sudanese woman: “Do you think we all come from Nyankole – ahhh “* %@/?^, open I want to get out  now.”(She said this as she began to get out of her seat while the taxi was still in motion.

Conductor: “Owaye, sirika – me nyankole sha ndi musota. (Goodness keep quiet – me  a Munyankole no, I am from the Snake clan.)

Her travel companion was flustered but silent while she on the other hand almost seemed ready to fly through the windows that seemed miniature in relation to her size. As the door finally flung open and she stormed out  she said “so have you taken me home?” We all bust out in laughter and I personally think that the conductor learnt a crucial lesson that day ; one that he should not take things for granted and two not everyone knows or understands Luganda (the local dialect that he spoke). 

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Nigerian movie loving Bartender

From an earlier post you all remember Prime Hotel – the one that locked us out and one where we woke up to loud music from housekeeping. So on realizing that our accommodation arrangements with Prime Hotel were not going to work we checked out and began the search for another option while we were still in Tororo. 

We had started making calls to other family members for any advice where we could stay while in town when I caught sight of a new sign post at the side of the road just before the 
Total station seated next to the highway heading to Malaba. This is the highway off of which you can find Rock Hotel – the one with the red circular beds.  

I convinced my family to turn off the road and follow the path all the way around to a gate with ample security that led to a well manicured lawn with a close knit room setting. From the outside the neat and orderly nature of the establishment caught our attention and we decided to give it a try and boy were we pleasantly surprised. After a brief while at the spacious and unfurnished reception we checked in and ordered for lunch where we all met at the partly open dining. Now this place called Green Meadows is very new so much so that they have not even officially opened but the rooms are spacious with personalized towels, it is quiet since it is a distance from the main road away from the noise. Except for early in the morning when the trucks hit the humps on the Malaba bound highway. So as I took all the fresh air in and stood outside my room I decided that I would hold out on making a decision until I had tasted the food so we all headed to lunch. (In picture -Green Meadows Tororo)

Cousin 1: “So what is on your menu?”

Sister 1: “Could we have a menu?”

Waiter: “Sorry, we do not have a menu yet.”

Sister 2: “So how are we supposed to order?”

Waiter: “I can tell you what we have and then you decide and I tell the chef to prepare it for you.”

Cousin 2: “But why don’t you have a menu?”

Waiter: “We are new and have not even officially opened so we do not have a menu set yet.”

We were a bit surprised but made our orders anyway and much to our amazement, the food was quite good with a sizable piece of chicken and the stew was full of body and tasteful. Our only negative comment was that the food portions were not regular and it was hard to tell the cost before eating since there were no menus.

Sister: “So how much is the meal?”

Waiter: “Your meal costs 18,000 madam.”

Cousin 2: “And mine?

Waiter: “It costs 18,000 madam.”

Cousin 2: “So is every plate at the same price like a buffet setting?"

Waiter: “No madam.”

Sister 2: “But you said each of our orders costs 18,000.”

Waiter: “Yes madam, because anything involving chicken costs 18,000.”

Cousin 2: “hihihi involving”

Sister 1: “What about items involving vegetables,” she teased.

Cousin 1: “Involving chicken, that is a good one.”

With all this going on I smiled to myself as this conversation reminded me of the only lunch we had at Prime Hotel for a day earlier.

Prime Hotel
Sister 1: “So can we order some food, where is your menu? But we are very hungry so we hope that it is not going to take long to get our orders out.”

Waitress: “Here is the menu, but then since you want in a hurry you order chicken and chips.”
Sister 2: “But if I do not want chicken and chips!”

Waitress: “Then there are other things on the menu to order.”

Cousin 1: “So can we have something from your burger or salad section.”

Waitress: “We do not have burgers.”

Cousin: “But it is on the menu! Ahh, what about local food with some chicken.”

Waitress: “That one will take 40 minutes and you said you are in hurry, so order chicken and chips.”

Sister: “Well it looks like all that is on the menu is chicken and chips so let’s order that.”

As we waited for our orders, we flagged the waitress and asked for some soft drinks not thinking that this request would be any trouble.

Sister: “Can we order drinks – say Mountain Dew, Mirinda Apple and Water.”

Waitress: “Okay! She said as she walked away in the direction of the bar tender who was in plain sight a few feet away from us watching the screen at the bar above his head behind him.

Waitress: “Get me, Mountain …”

Bartender: “We do not have soda,” he responded even before she was all the way into our drink order.

Waitress: “What do you have?”

Bartender: “Beer!” he said without even turning away from the screen.

Meanwhile we were wondering why the waitress was taking ages to get soft drinks as we waited for our meal. Eventually she made her way across the dinning and back to our table with this response.

Waitress: “I am sorry all we have for you is the mineral water but the other orders are not there.”

Sister: “Hhhmm but you have 2 whole fridges!”

Waitress: “Am sorry madam that is all we have.”

Sister 2: “Okay get me my mineral water.”

Sister 1: “Alright, do you have any soft drinks available.”

Waitress: “Let me check with the bartender,” she said as she turned around and asked him right in front of us.”

Waitress: “Sebo, toyina awo soda?” (Sir, you do not have any sodas at all?) she asked as she implored him to check.

He waited for the scene dialogue to end and that is when I realized that the Nigerian movie had finally come to an end and he turned around for the first time since we had taken our seats at the restaurant.

Bartender: “I have a Sprite.”

Waitress: “There is a Sprite.”

Sister 1: “hhmmm we will have that.”

With a grin on my face and chuckles all around the table, we received our meal and soft drink and ate in silence and shock taking in what had transpired a few moments ago - at how unbothered the bar tender seemed after ignoring us – paying customers. After lunch when I walked past him to the sink next to his bar station I peered behind the bar counter and saw a fully stocked fridge with beers with an identical one next to it utterly empty it nearly seemed whipped down. Then it hit me, this is proof that attests to the fact that Uganda is indeed at the top of the list of highest alcohol consumers in our region. So I guess in my opinion the bar tender may have actually gotten his priorities straight – from his point of view but in my book I do not trust any bartender who is smitten by Nigerian movies.

I am just saying, no offence intended. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The hotel that locked out its guests – Prime Hotel Tororo

After having a disappointing affair as I highlighted in my previous post at Rock hotel Tororo which had dismal service and poorly maintained facilities; my family and I sought after the most popular and highly recommended option by friends, family and the locals – Prime Hotel. The receptionist at Prime Hotel welcomed us warmly and I was hoping that we were finally on a roll and would receive good service here on out since we had travelled a long way on traffic riddled roads all the way to Tororo.

On arrival, we quickly checked in and grabbed a quick bite at the Prime Hotel restaurant where we had our own dramatic encounter with their Nigerian movie loving bar tender but that is a story for another day. After our meal we headed off to our much cherished and little known Paya village deep inside Tororo, however on our exit we made sure to inform the receptionist that we would return that night.

2:45am (early the next morning)
We attempted to wrap up all we had to do in the village so that we could get back to town early enough to get some rest but we failed to and it was not for lack of trying as we were so unfortunate to have a family member with a medical emergency.  Eventually we did get back to Prime Hotel just short of 3:00am and we hooted at the gate and after a brief 3 – 5 minute wait the security guard unlocked the padlock at the gate and let us in and we headed to the parking area and straight to the front entrance that lead to the lobby. 

The security guard locked the gate behind us and then hurried off to the back of the hotel, we assumed to alert someone so that we would be let in and we could finally get some rest. We were already stunned that they would lock out their guests but as if that was not enough, they did not even leave any one on call to open for us when the 5 of us got back.

My sister 1: “Eh why is the place so dark?”

Cousin Brother: “It looks like everyone is asleep.”

Cousin Sister: “These guys actually locked up and turned everything off.”

When we got to the glass door we waited patiently as we realized that it was locked and the reception was pitch black. In addition to that, the security lights outside the front door were turned off so we stood in the dark as the guard patiently waited with us for what seemed to take forever. After about 10 minutes, a lady came to the door without keys and attempted to open it but it did not budge.

3:00 am
Me: “She does not look like she knows about our arrangements since she is definitely not from the day shift.

My sister 2: “Surely, they must have informed her, we did check in after all.”

Me: “At least the gate man remembered us.”

On realizing that it was locked with a key, the lady disappeared to the back of the reception area to search for the keys and she returned after about 2 minutes and once again attempted to open the door. She seemed to get it open but did not turn the key all the way so the door would start to slide open and then jam.

3:02 am
Cousin Sister: “Looks like we are going to sleep out here hahaha”

Me: “Eh so does she work here?”

Cousin Brother: “So what happed when there are guests who traveled late and are looking for lodging in the middle of the night, they would not admit them?”

Me: “At least now we know that there is no provision for the night shift.”

After some serious foot miles between the front door and the reception counter she finally got the door open and we walked in.

Sister 1: “Hello, we would like to make arrangements for an extra room since we have an extra person.”

Night Lady: “Okay, let me check what is available”

This took her about 5 minutes of confusion until the receptionist we had checked in with earlier on in the day was summoned and she expedited the process. For this we were immensely grateful as we did not want to spend the few hours until morning in the lobby.

Cousin Brother: “So I need the additional room we talked about since the rest had already checked in during the day.”

Day Receptionist: “Alright!” (Within a minute she handed over his key and he waited for us to finish making morning arrangements)

Sister 1: “We will also need to sleep in a little longer given the time we are going to bed now. What time does breakfast close?”

Day Receptionist: “Breakfast is between 8 and 10 am.”

Sister 1: “Can you extend that to 11am for us?”

Night Lady: “Breakfast ends at 10 am. You will have to come down eat and then go back.”
Sister 2: “We may not be awake at that time.”

Day Receptionist: “I can inform the chef early in the morning to make an exception for you.”

Sister 1: “Also please inform housekeeping not to disturb us until we are down for breakfast as we really need to get some rest.”

Day Receptionist: “Okay madam.”

Sister 1: “I hope they will be quiet, not like the last time I stayed here about a month ago when they were making noise at 7 am.”

Day Receptionist: “No we informed them.”

Me: “So breakfast at 11 am.”
Night Lady: “So you are how many?”

We all looked at her stunned; after all this was the lady who had left us at the front door in the cold for about 30 minutes in total as she could not make out the key for the front door. After her hostility on our request for an extension to the time for breakfast this was my cousin’s breaking point and she could not take any more.

Cousin Sister: Eh… hmmm” (She burst out laughing as she could not contain this response from the evidently half asleep lady who must have still been half asleep)

Cousin Brother: “What! I am going to bed. I cannot take this anymore.”

Cousin Sister: “Hhhm sub - prime.”

My other sister and I as well as my other cousin all laughed as we walked away and left my sister laboring to put her point across lest we woke up to no breakfast.

Lady: “So you are how many?”

Sister 1: “We are 5.”

Let me just say, that night was the one and only night we spent at Prime Hotel as in the morning about 7.30am we were awoken to a loud screeching sound. It was a radio dialed to one of our local Ugandan radio stations (often known by the name cockroach from our high school days) playing loud gospel music and accompanied by the voice of the cleaning lady outside our doors in the hallway. That was the worst sleep we had on our entire trip.

Only in Tororo.

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