Sunday, 30 August 2015

Barber shop conversations.

By now, regular readers of my blog know that I wear my hair short and have been mistaken for an S.6 vacationist or campuser (University going student) by general folk and taxi touts alike. This new found status has led me to enjoy the privilege of listening to very engaging conversations and todays’ is no exception.

A father walked in for a haircut with 2 of his sons who were approximately 5 and 3 years old. As the 5 year old waited his turn he was such a ball of energy running around the shop and asking the oddest questions. Below is a snippet I will share with you to remind you all of the time when we were this age and when we asked the silliest of questions.

It makes me appreciate the responsibility that parents have in raising their children and in particular my mother who must have put up with as many questions as these. I know this because as long as I can remember I was asking her this or that and guests constantly told her I should take on journalism as my vocation when I grew up. So in today’s blog I genuinely identify with Josiah this inquisitive and charming young man who clearly knocked our socks off with his unexpected questions and comments.

The television was playing in the background and Josiah’s attention was caught by the voice of the announcer who used a word he was clearly not familiar with and so he asked...

Josiah: ‘What is okwewunya?

Father: ‘It is to wonder.’

Josiah: ‘What is to wonder?

Father: ‘You know to wonder, like to sit there and wonder what to do or what you want to say.’

This attempted explanation by his father alone made me giggle and appreciate the difference between women and men because had Josiah asked his mother, she would have been more descriptive and used it in a real life scenario that the 5year old could relate to.
Luckily for Josiah’s father, he has a low attention span so he quickly wandered off onto something else for a while until we heard the barber say.

Barber: ‘So what is your name?’
Josiah: ‘Josiah.’

Barber: ‘And your brother’s name?’

Josiah: ‘Jonathan.’

Barber: ‘But I remember you being called Alex.’
Josiah: ‘No I am Josiah.’

Now we all moved onto something else only to hear Josiah say,

Josiah: ‘and you, what is your name?’

Barber: ‘Ssalongo John,’ he responded as he smiled.

Josiah: ‘Ssalongo, what is that?’ he said as he looked pensively.

Barber: ‘Ssalongo means father of twins.’

Josiah: ‘And what is that?

Barber: ‘What is what?

Josiah: ‘What is twins?’

Barber: ‘Twins are 2 children that means I got 2 children at the same time.’

Josiah: ‘Eh how, so you had 2 children in your stomach?’

When he asked this I could not contain it anymore and burst into laughing and Josiah looked genuinely confused and wondered why the entire shop was laughing now.

Father: ‘No it is Ssalongo’s wife – the mummy who had the 2 children in her stomach.’

Josiah: ‘no that is not right, why were they 2? How come I was alone and Jonathan was alone?’

By this point all the barbers were hysterical with laughter and tearing up but Josiah was not going to let it go so his father came to the rescue and said those words that all fathers use when they feel challenged.

Father: ‘Josiah, you will ask mummy to explain when we get home.’

Friday, 21 August 2015

The 2015 Kampala Restaurant Week launch review.

From 2 – 13 June 2015, the pearl guide held the inaugural Kampala Restaurant Week which showcased titillating cuisine from 40 top participating restaurants at subsidised rates for the duration of the week. The prices ranged from 15,000 – 25,000 for casual and signature dishes respectively for the week. I must admit that this first of a kind event was conceptually both genius and refreshing for the marketer and food lover that I am.

So when I was invited to the Pearl Guide office along Kintu Road opposite Imperial Royale on Friday 15 May for the launch, I was thrilled to take part in the celebration of the finest food from the finest Ugandan restaurants. 

My e-invite via Twitter mentioned that this Nederburg sponsored event would begin at 6 and end at 8pm. Oh and before I forget, a thumbs up to the Pearl Guide as the organisers of the event for being in tune with the digital generation of today and utilising all tools available to promote all things wonderful to see, do and enjoy while in Uganda.

So as I made my way to the launch on that jam packed Friday afternoon that Ugandan streets are well known for, I was extremely excited to see how much further they would take this celebration of Ugandan cuisine. As I got to the entrance, I was asked for my name and identification which I graciously gave the lady with the list to cross check that I was actually on the invite list. She smiled when she found my name and ushered me to the lounge where she prompted me to take a selfie or photograph at their photo booth set up. I do not care much for photographs so I declined.

I was in the lounge by 6:10pm but to my disappointment the event did not start until 7:30p that evening and the organisers had only made arrangement for alcoholic refreshments for invitees with no allowance for those who preferred soft drinks. In as such this brief and interesting conversation ensued with one of the waiters serving at the event.

Me: ‘Hello, how are you?’

Waiter: ‘I am fine.’

Me: ‘I would like something to drink.’

Waiter: ‘Yes, will it be a white or a red,’ he politely said as he pointed at the wines displayed at the bar area.

Me: ‘No, no wine for me. Do you have something softer – soft drink perhaps like fresh juice?’

Waiter: ‘Yes, we have juice.’

Me: ‘Okay, please bring me a glass of a juice – preferably a fruit cocktail.’

Waiter: ‘Uhhm, juice is not on the house.’

Me: ‘Okay, that’s fine.’

Waiter: ‘You will have to pay 6,000 for it but the wine is on the house.’

Me: ‘That is fine, please bring me a glass of juice.’

Waiter: ‘Okay,’ he responded, and on delivery I paid for my drink.

Moral of the story with this particular conversation was that the waiter could not understand why I would want to pay for a glass of fresh fruit juice when there was an abundance of wine in circulation on the house. His confusion could clearly be read on his face every time he glanced in my direction from then on.

Many of you must be wondering why I would choose to write about this now especially since it transpired in mid – May. I was battling with whether to run it and criticise an evidently brilliant concept from a respectable and avid promoter of Uganda as a leading tourism destination or let it go and say nothing at all about ways this event could have been executed better of course punctuated with the fun loving personality of the Ugandan people. I chose to capture the latter which brings me to the rest of what transpired that day.

As serving of the food commenced, the crowd descended on the waiters who passed around with platters containing the 3 signature bites for tasting which were consumed in record time given the small quantity prepared for a crowd of approximately 40 people.

Me: ‘Waiter, what is the name of this dish you are serving.’

Waiter: ‘Ah, I do not know, but I can ask the chef’ he said with great hesitation.

Me: ‘Well, could you find out for me as I would be very grateful.’

Waiter: ‘For this one.’

Me: ‘No for all 3 dishes,’ I politely asked and as I completed my sentence he sped off in a bee line for the kitchen.

I was extremely surprised that a chef would send out waiters from his kitchen at an event such as this without them knowing what dishes they serving or the ingredients used to prepare them. 

But about 15 minutes later as this was still racking my brain, the MC run through the live tweets on the screen and saw my tweet and this question followed.

MC: ‘What are the names of the canapés served tonight?’ she asked as the party of 4 at my table discussed what exactly canapés were.

A Canapé is an appetizer consisting of a piece of bread or toast or a cracker topped with a savory spread but let’s just say as I thought this someone read my tweet and shot up their hand and instantly won a power bank.

Lady 1: ‘Canapés, what’s that?’

Lady 2: ‘Am guessing bitties.’

Lady 1: ‘Ohh the stuff we were eating.’

Lady 3: ‘Why didn't they simply say bites?’

The program was riddled with entertainment and giveaways, an abundant supply of the Nederburg brand of wines and some canapés with the alcohol food ratio at 3:1 which I found rather disturbing given that the core importance of the celebration was the food. That aside I assumed that at some point, our hosts would take the opportunity to highlight the way in which wines should be paired with canapés but I realised I was grossly over expectant. 

As I walked out of the event at 9:45pm with the fun fare and celebration still in full throttle I heard the MC say,
‘Guys, drink up! There is still wine and we need to finish all of it before we leave.’

Well for the food lovers like me out there who may be wondering, the food was finished within 20 minutes of commencement of serving that was about 8:20pm. Oh Ugandans but for the love of alcohol!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Children say the oddest things

Esella country hotel is located somewhere in Namugongo Kira off Mbogo road and it is here that my sisters and I took my nieces and nephews to enjoy swimming by their pool side. I expected this to be a typical swimming date with my sisters but nothing could have prepared me for the hilarious conversations that were exchanged between them. 

It reminded me of my own time as a child, of the joys of having no responsibility and being with family enjoying every excuse to celebrate a birthday, wedding, festive season and the list goes on and on. However not to digress, we got to the hotel at about 2:40pm and went straight to the reception to pay for the swimming session and to also inquire how busy the pool was.

My Sister: ‘Hello, we would like to pay for swimming. How busy is the pool?’

Receptionist: ‘Ahh...Not too busy.’

My Sister: ‘Are you sure?’

Receptionist: ‘Yes I am.’

With this confirmation, after tucking away our receipt we rushed off to the pool only to find 25 children already in it enjoying themselves. 

As my nephews and nieces changed into swim wear we got an opportunity to observe the mayhem. I thought to myself, if not busy is 25 children running around, splashing water out of the pool, diving in it from multiple points, then what does busy look like?

Given that we had already established rapport with the swimming instructor from earlier lessons we decided to stay and let the children have fun since there was no way they were going to have a structured lesson that day. Irrespective of this drama, by 5:30pm the pool only had 4 people in it 1 being an adult who barely did any swimming. The children who had thoroughly enjoyed themselves were now tired and in dire need of food which we ordered as we waited for them to shower and change.

The entire time the waiter gave us attitude and to add to that he made an error on our large order for 9 so he had to take one plate of food back which we reckon got him a scolding from the chef. We could tell this by the sluggishness and indifference he had from that time when it came to taking our orders that aside, nothing had prepared me for the conversation that my nieces engaged in while we ate.

Just to give you some background, my niece Bella is 7 years old and has a bubbly and outgoing personality while her sister Mary is 11 and is an introvert (she is quite the novel reader). Bella interrupts the adults’ conversation with an outburst.

Bella: ‘Eh my throat is hurting mummy.’
Bella: Here, no here,’ she said as she quickly pointed at her gullet.

Now seeming concerned with her daughters persistence, my sister began to examine her throat only for Bella to remove her hand and respond.

Bella: ‘eh… when is the food coming, my throat is hurting?

Mother: ‘let us be patient,’ responded her mother as she grinned once she finally realized that the pain in her daughter’s throat stemmed from her hunger.

Now the waiter I mentioned earlier, had informed us that our orders would take 20 minutes but we waited 40 minutes instead which was why Bella was so hungry that her mother had no choice but to distract her.

Motherahh but Bella, alright go watch your brother maybe your throat will stop hurting.'
But Bella was not having any of that and amply responded with a rebuttal.

Bellasomebody has spoilt the air."

Mother: ‘How?’

Bella: ‘bad air.’ (By this Bella meant, someone had passed air - farted)

Mary: ‘hahaha’

Bella: ‘I cannot stop talking.’

Mary: ‘Chatter box.’

Bella: ‘senior chatterbox.’

Mother: ‘Hey, let’s eat,’ she yelled to get these 2 sisters to let go of the bickering since the food had finally arrived.
15 minutes later.  
                                                        Bella: ‘Am full, take this food away.’

Mother: ‘Bella, you are eating like you are storing food for another day. Ehh’

Mary: ‘Are you going for the hunger games.’ (The entire table burst into laughter)

I was amazed and somewhat proud at the well selected and served rebuttal from my niece who is clearly a lover of all things literature. 

The rest of the adults at the table could not believe the madness unfolding between the children as we remembered how young and innocent they once were while reminiscing on our own childhoods. I enjoyed myself so much that when the bill finally arrived, even though it was wrong, nothing could wipe the smiles off our faces. 

We asked the evidently annoyed waiter to revise our bill without the double billing for the swimming and headed home smiling after payment.

Tips for Esella Country Hotel

Swimming: do not go on the weekend and especially when the school term is in recess. If you have flexible work schedule it is best to go in the afternoon during the week or make a reservation for an appropriate time.

Food: is on the pricy side for the usual dishes where a plate of fries goes for 10,000 and fries with chicken 20,000

The toilet floor was wet and dirty the time I was there especially given the number of children swimming that day. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Comic moments from my Uganda Funeral experiences

Everyone who lives in Uganda, knows that there are two times when you get to see long lost relatives you never visit or interact with on a daily basis except for the odd wedding and funeral. In my case, I have been unfortunate to attend between 6 - 8 funerals upcountry and I am only shy of 30. That aside it only occurred to me that not once have I given an account of the humorous side to this very somber and wretched time in everyone’s life.

In my youth, I paid little attention to these brief sparks of comic relief provided; because I was often overwhelmed with grief or too emotionally immature to comprehend the paradox in understanding that you can afford to smile during a comical outburst and still be sad during this grieving process. I was recently part of a committee that assisted to organize for the funeral of a friend and never did I expect that during this stressful and often depressing process, would it be punctuated with such comic relief from the church clergy of all people.

The funeral sermon was on the passage ‘there is a time for everything,’ which the clergy woman focused on intently but it got quite intriguing towards the end. I listened to it nonchalantly until I heard this statement from her.

Clergy woman: ‘There is a time for everything, to the widow this is the time to grieve. Please family members when you see her crying during this process let her grieve, do not tell her to guma (absorb/ harden).’  ‘Yes, it is like the men who are 40 years old and do not have children or are not yet married…’

Audience: ‘Hhmm,’ as grumbling ensued.
I quickly noticed the unwed men in the audience who were about that age, grumble and snicker with each other as the clergy woman continued to intensify on her message.

Clergy woman: ‘Do you plan on raising your children when you are 60 years old, or starting to build your family house at that time when you are old and toothless, when you do not even have energy to run around?’

If you thought that was intriguing, then nothing could beat the priest we found when we travelled upcountry to Butaleja to lay our dear friend to rest at his ancestral home. We never expected to listen to such a radical and candid clergy man. In an unusual scenario of events, the same priest was in charge of running the day’s program which I did not expect to be anything to write home about until we got to the middle of the program just before the service.

Priest: ‘You people, especially the politicians who I gave the opportunity to speak early on at the beginning of the program and refused or arrived late… I will not give you an opportunity to speak at all.’

Audience:  ‘Bagambe!’ (Tell them!) Someone in the audience yelled as the rest of us burst into laughter thinking this was the end of it but the man of God soldiered on.

Priest: ‘Why do you come to us only when it is election time? After elections you do not do anything during your term and then come back to us again. You waited until there were many people gathered and then you requested to speak? I do not care who you are but if you wanted to speak, you will have to pay 10,000 Ugx.’

‘Yes you will have to buy time!’ he yelled.

He continued with the program, only for 20 to 30 minutes later for a representative for the woman area Member of Parliament to approach the clergy man with the 10,000 Ugx shilling to buy time.

The actions of this representative angered the clergy man even more than before as he was not interested in the money being paid for the politician to speak, but rather the principle. Given the fact that they were not quick to pick up on this, they had sealed their fate and had made a wasted trip to the funeral for were not given a chance to speak to the audience. I was so impressed by this Anglican clergy man that when it came time for the sermon, I was all ears and he did not disappoint.

His sermon was on self-control and responsible living which I feel suited the tone of this funeral, however midway through his sermon; he pushed the envelope even further when he made these remarks to the audience.

Priest: ‘Why do you only call us when your people are dead? Why don’t you also call us when they are alive to celebrate good times?

To say this gentlemen was the highlight of my trip, aside from the road that crossed the bridge in Butaleja is an understatement.

(Photos courtesy of  Paul Mwirigi and myself)

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