Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kamuli, What Went Wrong?

My media career has enabled me to transgress the world and Uganda from as far north as Koboko to Kisoro in the south, to Tororo in the east and Kasese in the west but for some reason, one place I had never been to is Kamuli, a mere spit away from Jinja.

Prior to my visit, I was green on Kamuli save for knowing it’s home to Rebecca Kadaga, Father Grimes’s Namasagali College, the work town of Dr. John Akii-Bua, an off spring of the late John Akii-Bua and that it’s the jigger capital of Uganda.

Kamuli is idle and operates in slow motion. Ask Kamuli-ans a question and they give you a lifeless three minute stare before a response is forthcoming. There was also the need to speak slowly and in kindergarten monosyllables to be understood. A conversation I had with Waitress went along these lines.

TB: “Nyabo, do you serve beer?”

Waitress: “Let me go and check.”

She does just that and returns confirming they do have beer. A Nile Gold is ordered and off she goes in slow-mo and twenty minutes later this is what happened.

Waitress: “It is not there.”

TB: “What is not there?”

Waitress: “The beer is not there.”

TB: “Nile Gold or the beer?”

Waitress: “Let me go back and check.”

It turns out that they did have Nile Gold but seeing that Kamuli-ans drink Eagle, Pilsner, Nile and Club, she assumed Nile Gold was Tusker Malt but with a different name because it’s in a green bottle. Hmm! I could literally see the Umeme in her head flicking on her brain like a fluorescent light tube does in a dilapidated hospital when I showed her the difference between the two bottles. Bless her.

At some point I am out of airtime so I kindly ask her to pop to the shops and buy me 10k worth of airtime. She does and once again in slow-mo, I watch her spend ten minutes crossing the road to the airtime outlet, followed by a 20-minute conversation with Outlet Owner and another 10-minutes crossing back to the bar.

And yes, she did remember what took her to the outlet, but there was something that was not quite right. She came back with wads of airtime cards. I told her that she had made a mistake and bought more than 10k. Picking up the wads, she went through each of them then gave me a puzzled look. “Naye ssebo, it is 10k” she says.

Taking the wad of cards from her, I see they are all sh500 denominations. Justifiably there was need to hurl abuse at her but I held back the tumbavu and bit my tongue. All I could do was ask why she didn’t buy a single 10k card but there was no answer in the offering.

I later find that Kamuli is not an affluent town and people don’t buy 10k or 20k airtime. The demand is for sh500 and sh1,000, and Waitress bought me sh500 cards because that is what she is used to. Asking her to load the airtime, she freaked out saying she can’t load airtime onto a television (my IPad). Alas, Kamuli is not yet in the touch screen phone era.

Driving back into Kampala, it dawned on me that I had been scratching away at my fingers - which threw me into a panic. Is it a jigger itch that’s necessitates a Mulago hospital surgeon to remove them or am I making a meal out of it? Better be safe than sorry. Kesho I am off to Mulago and by-the-way, I have only managed to load sh1,500 of the airtime as I type.