Vaginas vs. Gear shifts

Due to the pressures and psychological inconveniences that Kampala holds, sometimes it is imperative to get the hell out. I betook my weary spirit to Ntoroko district in Western Uganda. The gwa is far. You pass Fort Portal, take the escarpment leading to Bundibugyo, branch off at Karugutu and drive for two more hours with the reward of viewing the Semliki wildlife on the way-kobe, warthogs and earth’s other lovely creatures.

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Something about nature does good to one’s soul, innit?

For one week I avoided the internet, work and most importantly-people. Alas, the time came for me to leave and that is when I learned that when it comes to public transport, Ugandans need to start slapping themselves into development instead of waiting for the president to promise it (over and over and over again).

I learned the earliest taxi would leave at 5.00 am sharp and made the appointment. 5.00 am found me sitting outside my cottage with my luggage admiring the blanket of the sky. After 20 minutes, hypothermia was imminent so I went back to bed. The driver called to say he was late because the taxi was not yet full.

When the taxi eventually came, really, I doubted his sanity. It was packed. I was unhappily squeezed into the last front seat (that ugly one where the conductor sits) and we set off. After a few more minutes we stopped again.

“We just have to add some more passengers”, explained conductor.

“Where?”, I asked curiously. “You’ve got five people seating in each row and me squashed here like a cabbage. Where do you intend to put these people?”

There were four men we had to find space for. After a long and public discussion by all of us about how they would fit (I kept shouting ‘Wait for another taxi!’), one man seated next to me said, “I know what to do! Let the girl sit on my lap and we can squeeze six people in a row instead of five”.

Come the fuck again? I looked around the taxi to identify the ‘girl’ who was going to sit on the man’s lap. Everyone else looked at me encouragingly.

Kiss my arse.

“No”, I said.

The passengers begged and wheedled and I didn’t even try to be polite.

“I’m not sitting on anyone’s lap! I’ve been waiting since 5.00 am for this shit? NO!”.

“Fine”, said conductor. “You get out and we’ll see where to put you later”.

I offered to sit on the roof of the taxi because at least I’d be alone. You can see how my standards were falling quite rapidly.

In the end, I was put in the front seat with the driver and two other passengers. I was made to place my legs on either side of the gear shift and off we went. I gave up on the sanctity of my body as every time the driver changed gears, my thigh or vagina was lightly caressed. I tried everything. Sitting straighter, leaning to the left and daydreaming. Still my private parts were having a hard time of it.

When we reached Karugutu, which branches off to Fort Portal, flesh and blood could bear it no longer. I clambered out of that taxi to the insults of the passengers.

“You think you’re too good to travel normally. You think you’re a muzungu! Yada yada yada”.

I took a boda the rest of the long way to Fort Portal which would have been pleasant if it were sunny. The rift valley is a gorgeous sight but it was early morning, it was freezing and I didn’t give a fuck about the hills being alive with the sound of music.

 

 

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Sincerely, don’t these ones just want to die?

In all my years of watching horror movies, I never understood why the old white men who ‘discovered’ Africa etc. were natural explorers. Traversing seas and forests they know nothing about and-unsurprisingly-getting killed by the natives of the land who didn’t wanna know their shit.

Eventually someone missing the good old days came up with an idea to remind the world about their roots through horror movies. These horror movies most often feature white people and it better stay that way. My ancestors don’t want us getting ideas.

There are the ones who take a road trip to a place none of them have ever been to 

These are usually college students who buy a map, play pinky-pinky-ponky, pick a spot and drive off into a deserted environment of all things for no justifiable reason.

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Wrong turn, bitches

The ones who ignore the person who thinks something is off 

There is always a sensible fellow who wants to go back post haste. This fellow usually has three or four stupid friends who tell him to not be such a sissy. Instead of sensible fellow walking back (I don’t care if it’s 1000 miles), he stays with the stupid friends so they can die in solidarity.

The ones who wander off to explore 

This usually happens in a forest. Someone wants to explore on their own. Thankfully they get what they deserve.

The ones who say ‘Let’s split up’ 

Are you mad? What’s wrong with you? What would possess you to think of that? Why would you want to-I can’t even.

The ones who decide to fight back against the evil 

I love these ones. If it’s a demonic business, they call a priest, they put crosses on the wall because pain and torture appeals to them. If it’s a guy with a chainsaw, instead of just leaving him in peace by driving to San Francisco they devise traps and means to kill him so that he doesn’t hurt anyone else. Is that chain murderer your responsibility? Haha.

The ones who know it’s unsafe but showers with a shower curtain 

Mwe. Alfred Hitchcock warned you about that shit back in 1960. I mean, a place has already given you a bad vibe. Everyone who’s ever watched horror movies knows you never ever shower with a shower curtain. In fact you don’t even bathe. If you must, go outside in the grass with a basin so that you can see who’s coming at you with the knife.

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No. Let them shower and die by curtain.

And lastly- there are the fools who investigates creepy eerie voices 

Someone hears weird voices and sounds and has the temerity to call out, “Who’s there?”. What the fuck do you mean who’s there? If you didn’t come with them, get the hell out!

The lettuce leaves on that plate

I don’t like it when people visit my country for a few months, days, weeks or minutes only for them to return to their homelands and wax rhetorical about the cultures and people when they haven’t fully integrated. When they don’t yet ’know us like that’.

Which is why I want to first throw this disclaimer out there: this story is by no means a reflection of the country that is Turkey and its people. I know easy going friendly Turkish people. Two to be precise.

But my first time through the Turkish airport, I think I arrived a few minutes after an evil villain had doused the place with a hormone labelled ‘Non-Turks fuck off’.

I was with a few Ugandans and upon entry two uniformed Turkish ladies receiving us as we arrived at the airport were asking to see our boarding passes from the flight we had disembarked from. One of my colleagues thought he was still in Uganda where jokes are a thing.

“But we’ve just got off the plane. Haha. Why ask for our boarding passes? How did we come to stand in front of you if we are doing so illegally? Hehe, hihi”.

The women didn’t smile. They glared actually. Our collective chuckles were silenced and as they waved us through one of the madams said, “Fucking asshole” loud enough to be heard.

Kyo. 

The airport looked a grand place for this tiny African. Sleek and alive, bustling with people and activity. I like to enjoy my maalo time alone so I decided to separate from my colleagues for the next few hours. I wanted a pharmacy and sought out several help desks. At the first one I stood in front of one lady and grinned brightly.

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“Hello! Where can I find a pharmacy?” 

She looked at me coldly and flicked her eyes to her colleague in the store next to her. My smile faltered but I kept it plastered on as I went to the next lady. She stared at me and then looked down at something she was working on. I stood for about half a minute before she looked up at me with impatience and spoke tartly.

“What do you want”. Full stop.

Kyo #2

Several help desks later the individual I wanted to buy medicine from over an intercom was also so terse that I decided my body could heal itself of its ailments.

I was hungry though. Delighted at the prospect of sampling the local fare I approached one restaurant. The food was arranged behind a glass screen and I stood for some time trying to figure out what everything was. I kept trying to get the attention of the cashier/owner but I swear it was as if I were invisible. People came and somehow with zero effort were able to purchase something as I hovered and in between them raising my hand and calling out, “Sir? Hello, Sir?”

When there was no one I stood still and looked at him curiously as he counted his money, put tea to boil etc. He looked at me eventually.

“What?”, he asked.

“What’s this?”, I pointed at a sandwich that looked interesting. He told me. I didn’t want it so I asked about another item. What I wanted him to do was spend a couple of minutes telling me what everything was but I could see it wasn’t going to fly. I didn’t want the second item either so I asked him about another plate.

“Order something or go”, he said.

Damn.

“Tea and those lettuce leaves on that plate”.

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I’ll experiment at my leisure elsewhere!

 

This is why you’ll find me these ends

A few years ago, an American friend invited a mixed crowd of Ugandans and Europeans to what she called ‘A whisky tasting’.

There were several arrays of bottles on the table which we were made to understand were special brands on their own. She then took us through the history of each bottle, the scent of the whisky, the aromas of each precious drop of liquid. Eventually a Ugandan man interrupted her.

“Listen”, he said. “This is what I see”. He begun to point at each bottle.

“That’s alcohol. That’s alcohol. That there is also alcohol. Can we now start drinking this alcohol!”

We laughed and the party begun. But there’s a lesson there. Ugandans love to drink but the appreciation of what they drink is somewhat lacking. Which is why – whether you like to hear the truth or not – we have an alcohol problem. We drink to get drunk.

I have categorised Ugandans into three drinking categories. The Responsible drinkers, the Irresponsible drinkers and the outright alcoholics.

Responsible drinkers 

These tend to have the discipline of the Queen of England. They have a brand of alcohol they like-gin and tonic, a particular beer or wine, and they stick to it. They also tend to stick to it responsibly without the sole intent of being unable to get back on their feet after a few minutes.

Irresponsible drinkers

I’m an irresponsible drinker, and that’s the truth. Whatever you put in front of me is what I’ll consume as long as it has ethanol. The irresponsible drinker is the guest who a concerned host tells, “I believe you drink wine. I’m so sorry but we only have poison”.

Bring it.

Outright alcoholics

You know yourselves and you should seek help. What makes Uganda a difficult country for the outright alcoholic is that all socialising revolves around alcohol. We don’t have picnic grounds to nibble on grapes or Blankets and Tea concerts.

Wanna become a responsible drinker socially?

Good luck with that. Uganda does not encourage that type of social progress. The alternatives for non-alcoholic drinks are the even more poisonous sodas, ridiculously expensive juices and mock-tails priced for one to need a savings account. The healthy stuff doesn’t come cheap. I am sick and tired of pots of tea (plain damn water mind you) costing 9,000 shillings at a cup and a half. In one special restaurant, a soda cost 4,000 shillings while the beer was 5,000.

The math, guys, the math.

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This is why you’ll find me these ends 

 

Where’s this fairy godmother at?

I loved watching Cinderella as a child. I loved the idea that even if I was an unwanted, un loved, unappreciated vagrant of a servant there existed a fairy godmother who would one day come and make all my dreams come true. When I was a young girl, those dreams involved giving me a nice pair of clothes and making me look real pretty for a Prince Charming whose face is is so irrelevant no one knows what it looks like.

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Coz life would be all about me, you jealous things

But honestly I’m starting to worry. I’m 33 years old and this godmother ain’t showing her face. I’ve passed the stage of wanting to be pretty, I’ve passed the stage of wanting a Prince Charming, I’ve even passed the stage of wanting other women to be jealous of me.

I need me some real shit. Fairy godmother; I know you’re old and have been napping but you need to come down here and make my dreams come true before my teeth fall out. You will find that my priorities have changed so you won’t find me sobbing in a bush. You’ll find me in a corporate boardroom working on a pitch to get someone to buy my latest brand of hair follicles. Our conversation may go somewhat like this.

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Lindsey! I’m so sorry I’m late. Now, what can we do about your clothes? 

Lindsey: Screw the clothes woman. I need you to give me the midas touch.

Fairy Godmother: Not a problem. Everything you want will turn into gold until midnight.

Lindsey: Madam, be serious. I want a permanent midas touch. I hustle the streets every day. The touch is needed paka last.

Fairy Godmother: But why can’t I give you a nice dress and carriage like in the good old days so the prince can think you’re in his league and want to marry you?

Lindsey: Princes, bah! I’ve been through dozens of the damn things. I want the money the princes have.

Fairy Godmother: Oh dear!

Lindsey: You can still give me the carriage if it’s big and impresses people so the midas touch is more effective.

Fairy Godmother: I’m afraid my skills are limited to romance, my precious. Don’t you want to give it another try dear?

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I don’t think you’re listening to me

Fairy Godmother: Humph! Well, there is this lady called Lakshmi. I hear she’s the Hindu goddess of wealth, health, fortune and prosperity. But those things are fleeting my dear. True happiness lies in-

Lindsey: Lakshmi you say?

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What’s your number, old friend?

Beware of your Uncles

I was standing by the roadside in my home area of Kitintale one day waiting for a taxi when a car pulled over with several men inside it.

“Hello!”, one elderly gentleman called out in Runyankore. “How are you, my child?”

The African habit of respecting one’s elders kicked in immediately.

“I’m fine Uncle”.

“How are mommy and daddy?”, he exclaimed enthusiastically.

I tried to place him in my memory which is very popular for being similar to that of a goldfish.

“They’re fine Uncle”.

“Are you going to Nakawa? I can give you a ride!”

I was late for work and here was a guardian uncle offering me a quick hop and a skip and a jump. I clambered in. I noticed though that they did not put me in a window seat. One man got out and I was made to sit in between three fellows. ‘Uncle’ was one of them. All in all I was in a car with five men I didn’t know.

In minutes they got down to business. ‘Uncle’ pulled out a black paper bag and begun speaking in Congolese all of a sudden. I don’t know what he was saying but it appeared he wanted me to buy these very precious ‘diamonds’ that he was shoving in my face.

I knew on the spot I’d made a terrible mistake getting into that car.

“I don’t have any money to buy your stones”, I politely said. ‘Uncle’ looked angry. His voice rose as he protested my poverty in more Congolese.

“I want to get out now”, I didn’t pretend not to be afraid. Timidly I asked over and over: “Please can I get out of the car?”

He stopped being friendly. He abused me long and loudly but the important thing is he let me out of the car.

Since that day I do not know how many uncles I have offended by telling them to their face I don’t know them and refusing any attempt at conversation.

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Better safe than sorry!

Have you ever tried to take 1k away from a drunkard?

It was around 3.00 am and I was in an Uber on my way home from the airport. As is the wont of the average Ugandan passenger, I struck up a conversation with him.

“How’s your day been Ssebbo?” I asked him.

“Not good. Not good at all”, he sighed, his face morose.

“What’s the matter?”, I queried further.

“Can you imagine that since 8.00 am I have only made 30,000 shillings?”

Reader, this is a paltry sum of money to justify more than a day of working.

“You think I don’t want to be in bed now?”, he continued. “But I can’t go home with only 30,000 shillings!”.

“I’m so sorry”, I said. “Maybe erm…tomorrow will be better”.

“I doubt it”, he said gloomily. “The weekends are the worst. People become extra stingy. The women complain that I have manipulated the app to increase the fare and the men pretend to be drunk so they don’t understand how much they have to pay”.

Suspecting that I and mine have been one of these cretins in the past, I hastened to beg him to have an open mind.

“Now that’s not fair”, said I, defender of the drunkards. “When one is tipsy their judgement is impaired. Maybe they are genuinely confused”.

“Get out of here!”, my driver barked. “Try to take 1k away from a drunkard and see if his maths doesn’t become better than a calculator”.

When you put it like that…