Do what you want, my girl!

Published in the Daily Monitor: monitor.co.ug

I was in Mozambique and had returned to my hotel after a hard day of admiring beaches. For the first time I walked through the bar area and noted its prettiness. But all I wanted to do was pee really and I couldn’t wait to get to my room.

When I quit the toilet, there was this beautiful music playing. A piano located in a corner that I had not noticed now contained a Caucasian male whose fingers were gently coaxing tunes out of the machine.

“Now this is customer service”, thought I. “They just saw me going to the toilet and tried to find a way to keep me here by quickly summoning their resident player”

I strode to the bar, hopped onto a stool and ordered a drink while I let my thoughts disappear with the music from the piano. Just as I took the first sip of my drink though, the music stopped! The man got up and joined me at the bar.

“What are you doing here?”, I did not hide my resentment. “I only just sat in this bar ‘coz you were playing the piano”.

“You think I work here?” he gasped.

“Don’t you?”, I countered.

“I’m a guest too”, he was contrite. “I haven’t touched a piano in ten years. I wanted to know what it felt like again”.

My pain was real and it showed.

“Do you want me to go back?”, he asked.

“Would you mind?”

“No. If it would please you, I’ll go back and I’ll play for you”.

That was honestly one of the best nights of my life. Sitting at a bar, listening to piano music from someone who didn’t have to be there. Eventually I asked:

“Is it okay if I take a picture of you?”

He waved his hands in a magnificent flourish and said, “Do what you want my girl!”

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To the left, Handsome

On days when I am starved for the intimate companionship of a male stranger I go to our friend Tinder. I’m the type of gal who judges a man by his physical appearance. By that, I don’t mean attractiveness. I mean appearance.

Are you happy? Tick. Is it you always taking your own photos selfie-style to suggest you have no friends? X. Is there a dog in any of your pictures whose tail is wagging to show you won’t scream like a girl when my stupid one throws himself at you in exuberant greeting? Tick. That sort of thing.

One day my eyes landed on just the right sort of fellow. American I think. He was grinning all over his pictures and jumping into pools into others. Tick. So I went to his whatchamacallit where he tells us what he’s all about. I first smiled in happiness but by the time I was done reading, I’d swiped left without blinking.

There was nothing wrong with him. He just knew how to sieve out potential time wasters and man, he sieved me out with this profile:

I’m a globetrotter…

That’s how he started. Who doesn’t love a globetrotter? I mean, that’s why he’s in Uganda innit’?

I’ve been all over the world…

You see? Confirmation of being a globetrotter

I have a particular fondness for Europe…

Well, this is where he lost me really. I can’t afford Europe without a glucose guardian a.k.a Sugar Daddy.

I’m looking for someone Cosmopolitan…

And here it dawned on me that I may be illiterate. For the life of me I didn’t know what Cosmopolitan really meant. Something to do with Sex and the City? I couldn’t confirm I was Cosmopolitan.

I want someone willing to travel with me…

Sir, I’m African. It will take me years to be allowed into Europe for any summer

And a lady who’s interested in adventures

I suspected he and I had different ideas of what ‘adventure’ entails. It’s been my experience that while I’m thinking of an opulent hotel next to a beach and massages a lift away, the white guy is thinking of trekking through undiscovered bushes and camping next to murderous hippos. You think I’m lying?

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To the left, Ssebo!

What’s your grandmother’s name?

There are many fascinating aspects of African culture that kept me permanently curious as a child. The one I want to focus on is the notion that it’s disrespectful for a child to address their parents by their first name. This naturally evolved to it being absolutely immoral to even know your parents’ names. I nearly failed my pre-entry primary exams because of this fact.

“What is your mother’s name?” they asked the little darling that was me.

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The fuck should I know?

I wanted to cry. Not just because I didn’t know but because if the name somehow entered my sub-conscious and I uttered it, I was terrified of the punishment that would be meted out to me.

Fast forward to me being much much older and I’m applying for a travel document to go to my neighbour, Kenya. Banange, I suffered. I didn’t want my mother to know my ignorance when it came to who the hell my descendants were so I called my sister who is more serious.

But even she was stumped when it came to our grandparents and my mother’s phone was off when I tremblingly dialled it. Not to let a trifle like this bother me, I approached the desk of the immigration officer and blithely submitted the form. He blithely handed it back.

“What is this you’ve put on your grandmother’s name?” he inquired.

“Yaya”, I said.

“But that can’t be her name”, he growled. He had a long line of customers and little patience for fools like myself.

“That’s the name I know her by”.

“Listen,”, he started. “There are names we call our elders as children. Those are not their real names. Now, what is your grandmother’s real name?!”

“Well, the other one is called Kaka”, I offered.

“Just call your mother!”, he barked.

“I tried. Her phone is off”.

“But you young people are not ashamed”, he begun when I cut him off with a question of my own.

“What’s your grandmother’s name?”

Stunned, he stared at me for some heavy seconds until he said, shamefaced.

“I don’t know”.

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Humph

I wanted to submit my application for your love

Published in the Daily Monitor: monitor.co.ug

One day a boda boda rider enjoyed the benefit of my honesty as he took me to my home.

“So, me I’m a Muslim. You must be a Christian?”

“No”.

“Anglican?”

Time for the short cut.

“I don’t believe in religions”.

“WHAT? You don’t pray?”

“No”. I waited for the entertainment to begin.

“So what do you teach your children?”

Oh yeah, here it comes.

“I don’t have any children”, I said.

“You’re still young”, he consoled me. “They will come”.

“It’s not that they will come”, I gave him back his consolation. “It’s that I don’t want them right now”.

“How old are you?” He sounded worried.

“32”.

“But you woman!” he exclaimed. “What about a boyfriend?”

“Don’t have one either”.

“But at least you want one?”, he was worried again.

“Not at the moment, no”.

“I understand”, he consoled. “You must be suffering from heartbreak. He got another wife and she was mean to you?”

My turn.

“In your world you get other women and your wife stays with you?” I asked him.

“But of course!”, he said. “There are things that it’s okay for men to do and if the woman wants to keep her man she must accept”.

“And that’s why I shall remain single”, I told him. “What are you bringing your wives apart from stress? If she stays with you long enough, be sure she may even be having affairs of her own”

“Excuse me Madam”, he said. “I must look at you in the side mirror to see who I’m talking to properly”.

Grinning, I waved at him through said mirror.

“But what’s wrong with me getting other women?”, he pleaded.

“If your wife doesn’t mind, that’s fine”, I told him. “But YOU just told me that she accepts so she can keep you. So would you blame her if she has other men on the side too?”

He laughed.

“I had wanted to submit my application for your love when I first saw you”, he said. “But I can see you are not as nice as you look. You would make a very poor housewife”.

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Oh dear. Let me make my shelf comfortable

Lying in the name of the Lord

Published in the Daily Monitor: monitor.co.ug

I was in a taxi one day, doodling away on my smart phone like a typical addict when a fellow outside put his hand through the window and attempted to pull it from my hand. I’m an expert in these matters (having fought off such fiends twice already) so he walked away disappointed.

“You’re so lucky!”, the girl next to me said. “That’s how thieves messed me up on Thursday”.

I love a good tale of misfortune when it’s not mine so I asked her what had happened.

“They stole my bag with everything I owned!”

“Ng’olabye”, I sighed.

“Do you want to know it happened?”

If you insist.

“I was walking there near the taxi park when a man and woman approached me and said they wanted to pray for me”.

Hahahahaha.

“They told me that God had spoken to them, because they were born agains”.

Hihihihihihi.

“So me I said ‘Okay. Since you’re born agains, you can pray for me’. But they said I had to go inside some corridor so the public wouldn’t interrupt”.

Banange this girl was serious.

“I was going inside the corridor when the woman said they could not pray for me with my worldly goods. I had to leave the bag with her outside and only the man goes in to pray for me. What could I do? They said they were born agains”

This chick was officially a grade A moron.

“So I entered the corridor and bambi the man prayed very well. Then he told me to close my eyes and listen for the holy spirit. After some time I got tired and I asked him when I should stop listening. He didn’t answer”.

Oh, you dumb daft wonderful ignoramus.

“I opened my eyes and I was alone! Can you believe it? They had gone with my bag?!”

“No!”, I gasped and put my hands on my chest for effect. “Those LIARS!”

“It was so painful”, she finished. “To know that people are now willing to lie in the name of Jesus”.

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You must have a sexual dysfunction

One day I was in a public office waiting to speak to one of its important people. A man waiting with me decided to strike up a conversation. I know Ugandans are friendly but there is such a thing as pushing it. And boy, did this man push it. I like to make the most of bad situations so I’ll turn our amazing conversation into a story for you.

“Kukunda? So you’re a Munyankore!”

“Yes”

“lkjdsf;lakjdsf;lakjsdf;lakjdf;ljakdf”, he said.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand the language”, I told him.

“Ah. So you’re one of those who speak Luganda” he exclaimed, now saying “Aldkfja;lsdkfja;lkdsfj;alsdkjf”

“No. I don’t speak that either”.

“You don’t know Luganda or Runyankore?”

“No”.

“What kind of Ugandan are you?”, he asked.

“I’m the new age Kampalan kind”, I sighed.

“At least tell me you have a child”.

Because the next best thing to speaking local languages is to procreate with those who do?

“No”, I said through clenched teeth. “I don’t have a child”.

“Not even in the village?”

“What village?”, I exclaimed. “The villages where I don’t speak the languages? If I had a child, they’d be here with me!”

“Eh. Just go and marry a Muzungu”.

“What?!”

“I mean, look at your life”, he sneered. “You don’t speak any local language, you have no children, you’re even thin, you’re only fit for a Muzungu”.

“I assure you”, I smiled at the only opening he’d given me. “I’m glad I’m not fit for the likes of you!”.

“So you’re like a homosexual”, he continued.

Eh. This guy was special.

“I think you have a sexual dysfunction”, he started. I got up and looked for somewhere else to sit.

You can’t go around telling people you think they’re fake. One day you’ll meet someone with a bad day, a temper and a gun.

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Now to look for treatment for this sexual dysfunction…

So, how do you handle stress?

Published in the Daily Monitor: http://www.monitor.co.ug

As a bushy tailed twenty year old in job interviews, I used to grin brightly and say, “Really well. I’m really good at handling stress. You can throw any amount of stress at me and I’m your gal!”

It was true. You see, I was too young to understand what stress is.

Schoolwork stressful? Body image issues stressful? Your insignificant dreams not coming true stressful? If this constitutes stress for you, take some time to stand up and laugh at yourself. Laugh now ‘coz the real stress is being mailed to you from the outer galaxy as I write.

The first time I let my stress get the better of me, I walked into my then boss’s office and screamed bloody murder. I then fired myself. But innocent me still thought the following few months of unemployment were stressful. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy those benefits of youth and time. I mean, most of us can afford to be jobless at twenty-three, really.

You can use the time to ‘discover yourself’. You know those sweet lies from Hollywood movies and Tony Robbins. Discover yourself. You have potential. You can be anything you want. Follow your passions. Fist bump oyee.

I learned life had passions of its own in store for me. I got a few more jobs and the stress piled up as responsibilities grew. I shouted at a few more bosses but by the time I got to boss number – nope, not saying – I’d learned to keep my expletives civil.

By job number – nope again – I’d stopped lying in interviews.

“So, Lindsey, how do you handle stress?”

“Badly, guys. Very badly indeed”.

Eventually, I was asking for favours.

Banange, please don’t stress me. Life is hard enough”.

Soon I was volunteering stories of how badly I handle stress.

“There was this one event I organized and no one was respecting queues and the people were backward villagers who were pouring sodas in jerrycans and I just lost it and started beating everyone”.

I still remember the stares of wonder one panel of interviewers gave me (Nanti I told this story to three). One of them asked:

“Wasn’t there anything else you could have done in that scenario?”

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“Hell no”

Carry your own lemon to this restaurant

Kamanyiro is a dish many Ugandans are raised from birth to eat without complaint. I however, am the quarrelsome Madam who unleashes a volcanic eruption of vast chemical proportions if the kamanyiro is not taken back to the kitchen right quick.

My friend Melanie and I were treated to a particularly flavourless sampling of this kamaniryo when we stopped by a popular restaurant in Kisementi. We wanted to enjoy a bit of tea so we asked an attendant for one pot.

“And please give us a piece of lemon”, Melanie added.

“I’m sorry, that’s not allowed. If you want lemon, you have to order the herbal tea which comes in a glass”.

“But we don’t want the tea in a glass”, I said. “We just want the pot with a piece of lemon”.

“No. Sorry”.

“You can’t just give us a piece of lemon to put in the tea from the pot?”

“No. Sorry”.

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Fine. Bye, Lemon.

Irritated but not in the mood to quibble, we acquiesced. The attendant went and returned with only one tea cup. Those bu-little ones of the English.

“We’re two people”, Melanie and I said. “That’s why we ordered a pot. We thought you’d bring two cups with this pot”.

“I’m sorry, that’s not allowed”, said Attendant. “It’s one pot per person”.

“But we don’t want one pot per person! We want a cup per person so we ordered a pot. What we do with the second cup should be our concern as we shall pay for the pot, no?”.

“I’m sorry. It’s not allowed. You’ll have to speak to the manager”.

Temper control failure ignited.

“Bring them!”, I semi-shouted. “We shan’t be told that it’s compulsory to make an order we don’t want to make”.

Almost immediately I knew I was too old for this hogwash.

“You know what? I don’t want to have a conversation with anyone over this! I want you to go to the manager yourself, point at this table and say we want a second empty cup. If that’s not possible, then he or she can come over and we finally talk”.

Mama Nyabo. I dared them silently.

But the cup was brought so my fuss made an exit. Naye this business of restaurants putting staff in a position to annoy customers then they call a manager who looks good by ‘fixing’ the  mistake is officially out of my interest zone.

S’not right to make a customer beg for a piece of lemon and an empty cup.

This is a true story of how a pharmacist tried to kill me

Published in the Daily Monitor: http://www.monitor.co.ug

It may not surprise my regular readers to learn that I sometimes experience panic attacks. A friend once kindly told me I’m like a Chihuahua, shaking and quivering with permanent anxiety. Someone with my sensitivity to pretty much everything has to experience symptoms eventually.

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the hell you lookin’ at?

To resume.

One evening I was walking with a friend in town when one of these attacks came upon me. Quick as a flash, we bounded into the nearest pharmacy and asked for valium. I was very clear when I told the pharmacist to “Give me only two pills please”.

We only sell a whole strip and it’s 1,000 shillings”, she said.

That alone should have been a warning sign. I wasn’t buying sweets at a discount. But I congratulated myself upon finding a bargain and bought the strip. I swallowed my medicine and my friend and I proceeded to our event as I waited for my nerves to calm down.

They didn’t.

After an hour, I thought I was going to die, and I took more. Ten minutes after that, I was ready to climb the ceiling. I could hear my rapidly palpitating heartbeat pulsing out through my ears.

I checked the medicine again, and realized it wasn’t valium. It was something called Salbutamol. When I researched Salbutamol, here were the three main components to note:

One – it’s meant to treat asthma. Two – It causes rapid heartbeat acceleration. Three – It induces panic disorders.

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Great. Just great.

I did not sleep until 4.00 am that night. My limbs twitched, my body trembled and my heart threatened to burst out of my chest. When I told a friend what had happened the next day, she said:

Are you sure this pharmacist isn’t someone you’ve annoyed before who was exacting her revenge?”

You know what? That’s actually not impossible.

 

 

Comfortable, my behind

Published in the Daily Monitor: http://www.monitor.co.ug

I’d like to start off by saying this only happened to me once, and that does not mean ‘Comfort’ branded buses are to be distrusted. But ain’t no way I’m ever getting on one again.

I was travelling to the North and a friend said they’re the BEST buses to take. Humph. Ruhange wange, what was to happen to me.

You know how you can tell a driver is a buffoon who does not care about the souls he’s carrying on board? This driver was such a buffoon. I begun to suspect this buffoonery when he told me to ‘move over’ to make way for an extra passenger or two.

“On a long distance journey?”, I gaped at him. “You want to squeeze people on a long distance journey?”

Nawe, take away your kajanja!”, the other passengers protested. “We want to go.”.

I spoke to them in my version of French that begins with an F and ends with a U. In English I said: “Do you know overloading causes accidents? Do you know it also makes it difficult to escape if we do have an accident?”

They talked French back. Only one man said:

“The girl is right. You!” He turned to his neighbor, “You’re busy abusing her. Get off and give her your seat and she and I will not be squeezed”.

I sat next to him and noted that apart from our row, every other row was stuffed with an extra person or two. Shortly after we set off, I knew we were in trouble. The driver was speeding, but only I was panicking.

“Drive carefully, you moron!”, I shouted from my seat. The passengers shouted back at me for him.

About two hours in, I heard a strange sound. All of a sudden, I was blind. The back of the bus was engulfed in smoke. Were we on FIRE?

Oh, hell to the nah.

In Guiness Book record time, I tossed my luggage out the window, crawled over my frozen co-passenger and shoved my bum in his face. I then threw myself out after the luggage while the bus was still moving. I thank yoga for the flexibility with which I did it.

The bus screeched to a halt while I took a boda to the nearest lodge, ‘coz this gal was going back to Kampala the next day. No work or friend was worth my traumatized body continuing on.

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The driver overloaded our bus right at the taxi park where I had purchased my ticket. I have been made to understand that it is not abnormal. It should start being abnormal. As Ugandans, we should stop being content with mediocrity and start to demand excellence in customer service and welfare. If I pay for a seat, I pay for a seat, a whole seat and nothing but a seat AND do not expect to be bullied into discomfort so a bus company can make more money while risking our lives in the process.