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.  

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