Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Accent

Our capital city, Kampala, has issues. While KCCA director, Jennifer Musisi and The Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago are throwing their toys out of the pram over who has the final say in running Kampala, it’s just dawned on me that as a resident, time will come when we find that every square inch of the city has been seized.

Do you know the entrance to State House Nakasero – the one opposite Sheraton Hotel’s main gate? Until M7 came to power in 1986, you could walk down that road, past the Army Officers Mess, peer into the iron grilled gates of State House and end up at All Saints Church. And apart from the army men at The Officers Mess, the two or three guards who manned the State House gates wouldn’t even bother you.
However today, that road is blocked. Also try walking past that entrance and see what happens. Dare you sneeze? Lanky PGB Guard with Paul Kagame Features will want to take you down!

And there are the Americans. On the road outside their embassy in Nsambya and their depot in Bugolobi, they have thrown a ring of concrete blocks around the buildings. But they didn’t stop at that. They also erected signs which read: ‘No Stopping’ and ‘No standing’ among others. Really, the Americans are telling us what we can and can’t do in our own city? Why don’t they just close up shop and go back to DC?! Perhaps I shouldn’t have had a spat at them because come Monday morning, there is a good chance that the ambassador will instruct whoever it is that handles visas to blacklist me.

Does anybody also remember those days when you could freely walk into City Square or is it Constitutional Square in front of the High court, lay on the grass and read your book while having a sandwich or a cold soda? Well you can’t anymore because the square has been cordoned off and has been turned into a siesta field for Anti Riot Police. By the way, which of the two names is the right one for the square? Could it be that Constitutional Square is the upper half of the square and City Square the lower half?

Anyway, in less than 400 words, I have managed to antagonise Jennifer Musisi, Erias Lukwago, State House, Paul Kagame, Lanky PGB Guard with Paul Kagame Features, the Americans and Police. I suppose it’s quite a feat that not even Kizza Besigye has been able to pull off.

Getting back to today’s cowardly tales. They are a number of white expatriate men living and working in Uganda. Some of them have what I would class as legitimate jobs and others are seemingly doing ‘this’ or ‘that’ as in menial jobs. And usually White Expatriate Man doing This or That has a failed marriage and children who he has abandoned back home.

When White Expatriate Man doing This or That comes to Uganda, as far as women are concerned, they want to have the Nubian experience. They want to feel and sooth the ebony skin of our sisters. Whilst there is nothing wrong with interracial dating, one thing White Expatriate Man doing This or That all have in common, is that they don’t have high ambitions. They don’t want a graduate sister. Rather, they pick up our ‘discards’ and by discards, I mean our sisters who fallen wayside and ended up as prostitutes in Kabalagala and Kansanga and beyond.

Of course once Discarded Sister has hooked herself White Expatriate Man doing This or That and who in his native country would be classed a ‘bum’ or a ‘loser’, Discarded Sister automatically thinks she has made and will want to flash her new status at the earliest opportunity.

So I am chilling with White Expatriate Man doing This or That. He’s a Swede who I met at a Kampala Casino party a few years ago. I couldn’t understand why he was at the party because he was so unkempt and looked like he had spent the past four weeks trying to find his way out of the depths of Mabira forest. His teeth – the few that he had were mangled and stained yellow and black that not even brushing them with Jik would have whitened them. And his body odour was interesting – it was hard to make it if he smelt like Kampala Meat Packers or the inside of a pit latrine.
Like I said, I was chilling with him – under duress I might add when the tranquillity of the Sunday afternoon is broken by a shrill of: “Baby, baby, honey”. At first the accent was difficult to place. Was it American? No. British? No. Australian? No. It sounded closer to home - Matugga perhaps or even Ku Biri on Gayaza road. But it had a distinct bite. And when she said ‘baby’ for the fourth time, it finally dawned on me where I had heard the accent before. Kabalagala!
Discarded Sister had acquired herself an accent which she thought was befitting of her status now that she was hanging off the arms of White Expatriate doing This and That.

When I was introduced to her, I didn’t know what to say because I was not sure if she said ‘hello’ or something else. Discarded Sister twanged that even her man found it difficult to grasp what she was trying to say. When she ordered us drinks, this is how the conversation went.

Discarded Sister: “????????????? Tusker?” (all I managed to get out of it was Tusker).
TB: “Have you heard the MTN advert on radio when the girl goes “hello my name is Stella” in a very forced twang?”
Discarded Sister: “????????MTN????????Tusker??????Cold? (again all I managed to pick out was MTN, Tusker and cold).
TB: (A safe bet would be just to answer yes.) “Yes”.
The cold Tusker is served and the conversation resumes.
Discarded Sister: “?????????????????”
White Expatriate Man doing This or That: “Half the time I can’t bloody understand what she is saying. I don’t understand why she just can’t speak English, though I am not even sure if she knows how to speak it. I just end up saying ‘yes’ most of the time.
TB: “I can feel you. But if you can’t understand her, then how do you communicate?”
White Expatriate Man doing This or That: “Ah, that is the easy part because my conversation usually has to do with sex and her conversation usually has to do with my wallet.”
TB: “Hmmm.”
Discarded Sister: “Let???????Muzungu???????Money?????Can go home.”
TB: “Er, you have lost me there.”
White Expatriate Man doing This or That: “She said if I don’t want to give her money, I should go home with my Muzungu friends.”

There is a lull in the conversation so I start downing my Tusker with ambitions of fleeing. I am half way through the bottle and through the corner of my left eye, I see White Expatriate Man doing This or That get up and only to return with another bottle for me.

The lull in the conversation is broken by yet another shrill and in the same accent that Discarded Sister has. It’s another Discarded Sister hanging off the arms of yet another White Expatriate Man doing This or That. As the men talk, Discarded Sisters and perhaps feeling that getting a sore throat might be a possibility if they don’t stop faking whatever accent it is that they are trying to fake, decide to switch to Luganda.

Hmm, this is interesting so I think to myself. There is not a trace of a foreign accent when they speak in Luganda, and, their Luganda is so crisp and fresh that I deduce it must be a ‘Ku Biri’ accent.
Discarded Sister (now jazzing in Luganda): “Gwe TB, I hope you are not going to write about us. People here are scared of you but anyway when I read the magazine I don’t understand what you are writing about so I look at the pictures in fashion police.”
TB: “Starting with pictures is good. It is important not to get ahead of yourself.”
Discarded Sister (this time in English and without her fake accent): “Wat-eee? (what) TB you speak like a Muzungu and I am not getting you.”

Eh, now check this. Discarded Sister is trying to accuse me of faking an English accent. I think it is time to make a run for it! See you all next Sunday assuming Jennifer Musisi, Erias Lukwago, State House, Paul Kagame, Lanky PGB Guard with Paul Kagame Features, the Americans and Police have not sent out hit squads to get me.