As I enjoyed my trip to Kenya a week before Christmas, little did I know that it would be such an education on how different people are and how varied their culture is. It does not matter how close they live to each other, there is a yearning to experience another person’s way of life. One such experience was the one I had while at the Bounty hotel somewhere in Nairobi - South B, where I stayed for the entire duration of my visit.
I did not leave my room for most of my stay while at the hotel but decided to the morning of my departure. The hotel bartender was very chatty and this was equally matched with his outgoing nature that I took no notice of until the day I was leaving for Kampala. On this occasion, I decided to come down for breakfast and sat right in front of his bar area to watch some news on the screen adjacent to his area. I made my order for breakfast and decided to go the full nine yards which was toast, African tea, sausage, omelette, fruit salad and fresh juice. Little did I know how interesting this conversation would be but then again what did I expect; since I had heard the tales of how bartenders know everyone’s secrets. So I assume it takes a good one to entertain guests and keep them as regulars at a particular bar.
Bartender: ‘Hello, I have seen you around here?’
Me: ‘No I usually have my breakfast in my room and I am not one for alcohol so I have not visited your bar section.’
Bartender: ‘Oh really, you don’t drink alcohol.’
Me: ‘No that’s why I am usually seated on the other side at the food court.’
Bartender: ‘Yes, that is where I saw you. Well you do not sound like you are from here?’
Bartender: ‘Are you from Uganda?’
Me: ‘Why would you think that?’
Bartender: ‘Ugandan ladies dress nicely and look nice.’
Me: ‘Yes I am but you already seem biased with your love for Ugandan women.’
Bartender: ‘Yes I want a woman from Uganda.’
Bartender: ‘For that exotic feel that she is not form here (Nairobi or Kenya).’
Me: ‘Hihihi, so what is the difference I thought a woman is a woman anywhere?’
As I asked this my Kenyan guide (friend) arrived in time to take me around for some last minute shopping before I was scheduled to leave for Kampala.
Kenyan Guide: ‘Good morning, I hope you slept well. He should tell you the real reason why he wants a Ugandan woman.’
Now my Kenyan friend is the one who recommended the hotel so he was very familiar with the staff and was a regular at the bar especially with his ardent love for Tusker.
Bartender: ‘Hihihi they look nice, don’t you see your friend.’
Kenyan Guide: ‘No bwana, the real reason you told me about the last time we talked. Didn’t you say you want a ganda.’
Me: ‘Oh you mean a Muganda why?’
Bartender: ‘Because they are very well behaved and she will kneel down for me when I get home.’
I could not help myself and burst out laughing when I heard this, I had waited patiently for some grand well orchestrated answer only to receive this one. At the end of the day all he wanted was respect and submission and those are aspects he felt he could not find in a Kenyan woman.
Me: ‘Well, yes they do kneel down out of respect – but those are the ones brought up in a traditional setting. But I must warn you there will be need for you to have a traditional marriage ceremony and that will cost you.’
Bartender: ‘Oh akina bride price?’
Me: ‘Yes. For the Baganda/ Ganda it is things like vegetables, traditional dresses and gifts customary to their culture. Occasionally the father of the bride will ask for one high priced item like a fridge or sofa set.’
Bartender: ‘Oh okay so that is about 50,000 bob (Kenyan shilling) max.’
Me: ‘Yes about or higher,’ I responded after quickly doing the math.
Bartender: ‘So are you a Ganda?’
Me: ‘No I am a Ugandan Luo.’
Bartender: ‘Luo!’ he responded while almost screaming for the entire bar.
Bartender: ‘So do you speak Kiswahili or your mother tongue fluently?’
Me: ‘I do not speak Kiswahili, but I do speak my mother tongue fluently and can understand a bit of Kenyan Luo.’
From that point onwards, the conversation went on in Luo much to the disappointment of my Kenyan tour guide/ pal who is not Luo.
Kenyan Guide: ‘Eh atti now you are speaking Luo ehh so I am not part of the conversation ehh.’
His complaints fell on deaf ears as the bartender continued with our conversation like he was not even there.
Bartender: ‘I will be visiting Uganda in June; I need someone to show me around.’
Me: ‘I am not much of a party animal but I can get you someone to show you around.’
Bartender: ‘So are you available? I do not see a ring on your hand?’
Me: ‘No I am not available, I responded as is smiled.
Bartender: ‘Okay then you can get me your younger sister?’
Me: ‘Nope all my sisters are married anyway and I am the last born.’ ‘I also believe a man should look for his own woman,’ I said as I stood up and excused myself since I had to check out with my bags.
The bartender grinned as I got up from my seat and extended his hand in a hand shake as he wished me a safe trip back home.