Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Ugandan lady who stole my seat on the bus from Kenya.


Last December, I enjoyed the opportunity to travel back from Kenya to Uganda using the night bus from 6:00 pm – 6:00.  I was dreading the trip back given how tiring I knew it would make me, but all I could do was walk up the stairs to get into the bus’ VIP section. 

As I did, I was greeted by a light skinned mature aged lady munching away at a chicken wing of her take out. I was puzzled because I was sure she was in my seat so I turned around and asked the person I was travelling with for confirmation.

Me: ‘Hey, which seats are we in?’ I asked as I turned around to face him.

Travel Companion: ‘The 2 front seats on the left hand side of the VIP section.’

Me: ‘Okay, well we have company.’

Travel Companion: ‘What do you mean?’ he said in response as he peered over my shoulder as the conductor nudged us forward so we could depart.

Mature aged Lady: ‘Eh negomba ekyenyanja,’ she shouted across the aisle oblivious to our presence. She was shouting to a younger gentleman we later found out was her travelling companion.

Conductor: ‘Eh bwana twendekazi, we have to go Kampala,’ he said in a bid to hasten our footsteps so we could get seated and leave Nairobi.

Travel Companion: ‘Nyabo you are in our seat, look at our tickets. Can you please move to your seat?’

She ignored us for the most part and the conductor got tired of waiting for us to get seated so he closed the door and signaled to the driver to hit the road.

Travel Companion: ‘Madam, we really need to take our seats we paid for VIP for a reason.’

Mature aged Lady: ‘Mubere wali ne mulinda male enkoko yange,’ she said in response with not so much as a look in our direction.

In that instance as she said those words I smiled and thought, even when you are miles away from home a Ugandan will always be and act like a Ugandan.  Even though they may not necessarily look like Ugandans and you least expect to run into them.

Now at this point we had been standing in the aisle for about 3 minutes, looking like fools as we waited for her to get up and move into her seat. At this very instance, the bus flew out of the parking area and we nearly toppled over so I asked my travel companion to take her official seat across the aisle as I sat next to her and waited for this to get sorted out. It took the lady about 20 minutes to finish her meal as my travel companion could be heard grumbling audibly in the distance.

Travel Companion: ‘I do not understand why we get seat numbers if they cannot be enforced by the bus company.’

Me: ‘Calm down.’

Travel Companion: ‘Conductor, why do I pay for a VIP seat if I am not going to enjoy it?’

He looked in my travel companion’s direction for a moment but then turned away and headed to the back to begin to serve the snacks to the rest of the passengers.

Travel Companion: ‘I am not using Simba coach again.’

Me: ‘Let it go.’

The ladies travel companion (the younger male) seated across the aisle next to my travel companion responded ‘Let her finish her food and then she will move, she told you she will move.’ This was said in a luganda accent.

Travel Companion: ‘Yes but this discomfort could have been avoided.’

Mature aged Lady: ‘Eh nkuse!” she said as she jumped out of the seat next to me and I excused her as she exchanged seats with my travel companion about 30 minutes after we hit the road.
I was glad that my pal could now take his seat next to me, we could chat and watch a movie, but one thing the old lady did not tell me when she moved was that she had left me the fried carcass of her chicken at my feet. I was annoyed but decided that I should be thankful enough that she had finally moved to her seat and I was now able to charge my phone using the socket just below my widow.

It is safe to say the rest of my journey back home was smooth sailing.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Late bar chit chat with a Kenyan lawyer

Recently while on my trip to Kenya late last year, I had the opportunity to enjoy a little bit of the night life that the country had to offer when I visited Picolina in South B with a few friends. I am usually a stay at home and watch a movie kind of girl, but this time I decided to enjoy as much of Kenya as I could since my trip was very brief. 

On the last night of my trip in Kenya, my friends and host convinced me to go out to eat some by Nyama choma at Picolina a nearby pub.

 I settled for the roast goat with a soft drink as I enjoyed the loud music being played over multiple speakers. As I sat on the outside at the counter overlooking the parking area, I enjoyed the company of my solely male escort of 3 for 3 hours.

The night seemed to be going very well up until the latest member of our party arrived rather late and began to cause mayhem.  This is owing to the fact that he had consumed a little too much alcohol and he was not one to handle his liquor. He nearly caused a fight as 2 of my friends from my company of 3 who had taken me out; moved him aside and attempted to calm him down as the other broke up the fight.   

As all this was going on, I was left unattended for about 30 minutes which gave an older gentleman seated at the extreme end of the bar an opportunity to talk to me. He was no younger than 36 or 37 and walked right up to me taking the seat previously occupied by one of my friends.  

Older Gentleman: "Hello, I am Paul," said the tall medium build man wearing a brown leather jacket,  light cream dress with a pair of dark fitted jeans .

Me: "Hello Paul," I said without even looking in his direction. 

Older Gentleman: “I have waited patiently to talk to you all evening, but you had many small boys around you and I did not want to be rude." 

Me: "Really, why?"  I responded politely as I struggled to hold back a grin owing to his referral of my company as young boys. 

Older Gentleman: "I appreciate the way you carry yourself.  It takes a very confident woman to keep her hair short and not cover her face in make up in this day and age." 

Me: "Thank you." 

Older Gentleman: "It is a vice that all these woman of today who do not appreciate their true African beauty with weaves and hair extensions in odd colours they purchase for thousands of shillings." 

Me: "Thank you for the compliment," I said as I looked away in the direction of my friends who were still attempting to calm down their sottish counterpart. 

Older Gentleman: " I did not mean to be to forward but I want to bring you to back to Kenya." 

Me:  "Hihihi, and who said I am not in Kenya," I said as I let out a hearty chuckle. 

Older Gentleman: "You do not seem like you are Kenyan. I can tell after all - I am Kenyan." 

Me: "I need to get back to my friends." 

Older Gentleman: "My apologies for keeping you but it seems they are still quite busy at the moment. So if you don't mind I can keep you company as they finish," he said this as he pointed in their direction. 

At this point, I could see my friends grabbing the drunken Ugandan fellow (the late comer of our party) and holding him back from another Kenyan man. 

Older Gentleman: "That is the problem of keeping company of young boys. They are very immature and I don't see how they will keep you engaged." "Well I did not officially introduce myself; I am Paul a lawyer here in Kenya.  I live here but work across East Africa and you what do you do? " 

Me: "It is a pleasure, I am in marketing." 

Older Gentleman: "You sound Ugandan!  I was in Ugandan a year and a half ago for the NSSF case and will be back next week to pick up my payment." "You see the government of Uganda owes me 25,000 US Dollars for the case that they lost against me."  

We then discussed the politics surrounding the appointment of the new NSSF chairman and board as well as the Ugandan procurement process and political scene for a couple of minutes much to his delight. 

Older Gentleman: "Beauty and brains - that is a very difficult combination to find.  Your friends seem to be making headway; I would very much like to continue this discussion with you at leisure with no interruptions. Here is my card give me a call, when do you leave?"

Me: "Tomorrow evening with a couple of friends."

Older Gentleman: "Too bad we were only getting acquainted, but if you could reconsider and leave a day later …."

Me: "No I really need to get back to some work Monday morning before I break off for the Christmas holiday."

Older Gentleman: "Okay but I would have really loved to show you around. Listen, why don’t  you stay an extra night so I can show you around Nairobi. I will fly you out on Monday morning - my treat."

Me: "Thank you that is a very generous offer but I really need to travel back with my party."

Older Gentleman: "Alright if you insist, well could you call me tomorrow before you leave?"

Me: "Okay."

Older Gentleman: "Do you have a Kenyan number I can take down or …," he said as I cut him off.

Me: "Yes, but my Safaricom line network is terrible at my hotel, it has issues with the connection. Give me yours and I will give you a call."

Older Gentleman: "Here is my card. I look forward to chatting with you tomorrow and seeing you when I come to Kampala next week. You could show me around."

Me: "Okay have a good evening."

As soon as I turned away he got up, paid for his tab and left for his Range Rover which was parked in the VIP section near the exit and he quickly drove away. My company came back to our seating area and sat down to order drinks after over 40 minutes, I thought to myself what a very blunt and confident man and then in 5 minutes I decided  it was time for me to leave to get a good night’s sleep. None of my friends had any idea what had happened over those 40 minutes aside from the waiter who was smiling at m from across the room since he had watched the whole thing.

Oh Kenya, you really got me thinking.








Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Kenyan bartender’s exotic bride.

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?’

Me: ‘No.’

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.’

Me: ‘Why?’

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.

Me: ‘Yes.’

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.