Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's All About Culture

I am not trying to be rude here and on a Sunday at that, but the bitch lay on the carpet without a care in the world. It was a Corgi – I think and she was the pride and joy of its English master. I thought the sound of a Club beer being popped would rouse it but bleak. Instead another Corgi that was not a bitch came bundling out of nowhere and went straight to the bitch and started sniffing and licking at her in her genital region.

But really, don’t dogs have any shame or self control? Couldn’t they have gone to the kennels and done their thing there? Anyway once Male Corgi was done with sorting out Bitch Corgi, it comes over to me and attempts to lick me all over. I would have kicked the daylights out it but English Master was sitting in the living room across from me so that was a no go. So I simply stood up and went to vent my disgust at his pitiful garden.

Since 1986 when Museveni finally claimed the presidency after a six year battle, Uganda has seen a large influx of expatriates – South Africans, Indians, Pakistani’s, English, Americans, Congolese and a large number of West Africans. And each of these races has imported their own way of life, culture and ideals with them.

When it comes to the English, they are perhaps the most eccentric but they don’t come any more English than a gentleman called Craddock Williams. You could say that Williams is the quintessential Englishman abroad. He walks the walk, he talks the talk and better still, wherever you see him, he is always wearing his white Panama hat. So English he is, I am surprised that he was not cast in the movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice or Four weddings and A Funeral. Plus I have never been to his house so I don’t know if he has dogs and allows his dogs to do ‘bad manners’ in his living room when his guest is trying to quaff down a Club Beer. More on the English later.

I met Dominic at Speke Resort Munyonyo in October last year. I didn’t really mean to meet him or want to meet him, but I was propping up the bar and trying to watch the football match when he came and plonked himself next to me. Being males we of course looked at each other and did the sizing up thing. I was aghast that his neck and fingers were covered in bling and his choice of footwear? White shoes with silky white socks! Who still wears silky socks? They were an 80s thing - not so?

Half way into the first half of the match and Dominic is joined by a friend who had obviously vazed himself up in a bid to out dress Dominic. Perhaps it was for a reason and they were going the Clown Awards later that evening? Anyway, once Dominic and Friend started talking it was all over. The commentary from the match was drowned out, the waiters couldn’t hear themselves speak while the diners craned their necks to see what was going on.

But I bore the brunt of it all because I was sitting next to them. Okay so I was no longer watching the match but trying to listen to their conversation – a conversation I couldn’t understand because of their thick Nigerian accents. To cut a long story short, I was lured into their conversation and by the end of the match we were friends – as if. Well they felt that they were friends with me.

Some weeks after that fateful meeting, Dominic phones me up and invites me to a small gathering at his house on Salama Road: “Yes, just a small gathering to meet my brother who has just flown in from back home.” Heck why not, so I went.

A small gathering? Ha, going by the number of cars parked on the side of the road it was no small gathering. And one thing all the rides had in common, were the shiny bling wheel rims! But there was something wrong. At the gate to the crib, a small crowd had gathered. Kids, men and women from the neighbourhood were trying to peer through the cracks in the wall to get a look of what was going on. Voices were raised and it was all too obvious that an argument was taking place and an argument which, would be concluded with a melee going down.

This I had to see. But once inside the compound, there was no argument that I could see nor was there a melee about to break out. If anything, they were just talking, much like the way Dominic and Friend spoke when they were at Munyonyo except that this time, there were close to a hundred people all talking at the same time and all talking at an incredibly loud decibel that would no doubt attract the attention of the noise control people from NEMA.

But speaking at such as loud decibel is a Nigerian thing. It is part of their contribution, their import into Uganda. And when I asked Dominic in a whisper why one of his friends had so much bling in his mouth, he whispered back except that it was no whisper. Well he may have thought he was whispering, but his answer was loud enough for everybody to hear.

Then there are the Asians. I don’t know what part of India that they come from, but their contribution is in spitting. I have known Pradeep for close to ten years. He is a likeable fellow who taught me how to eat chillies but he and his cronies can spit. It is not just the one spit. It is spit after spit. In fact they spit more times in the space of half an hour than Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson or his entire squad would spit on the pitch in the course of a 90 minute football match.

So I find myself at Pradeep’s (and of course Pradeep is not his real name) house for the Diwali celebrations but I am not too sure if it is the Diwali celebrations or it is a spitting contest that I am attending because people are spitting all over the place.

There is that stuff that Indian’s like to chew specially after meals. It’s not tobacco, but whatever it is, it turns their teeth red. And after they have chewed it for a while, they spit it out.

Anyway, getting back, we are kicking the ball about when it flies over my head and onto the balcony. Rather than using my feet, I pick it up and for some strange reason, the ball is moist. In fact not moist but wet and slimy yet the grass is dry. It didn’t take me long to figure out why. So many people had spat in the garden and hence the slime on the ball. And it also answered a question about the Premier League and why footballers always wipe down the ball with their shirts just before a throw-in. It is because they have spat all over the pitch and turned it into a slime bowl.

Going back to English Master I was talking about at the start of this cowardly tale, most Ugandan’s don’t allow their bitches or dogs into their homes save for the ‘liberated’ Ugandans who have been living abroad. And no Ugandan – well at least the ones who I know and have dogs and bitches would tolerate the kind of behaviour that was displayed by English Master’s bitch and dog.

But while some cultures have enriched us Ugandan’s, I highly doubt that I will be going back to English Master’s house in a hurry – well as long as he still has his dogs, nor will I be going to Dominic’s house because I can’t deal with being ‘shouted’ at all in the name of a conversation and neither will I be going back to Pradeep’s house to watch a spitting contest and picking up a ball covered in slime.

So for the time being, let me deal with my own Ugandan culture of, men tugging at their crotches, men walking around with toothpicks in their mouths, men staring and sporting a long finger nail on their small finger and men saying: “Okay please and well done!”