Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Saying Goodbye Mali dadi Style

A few weeks ago, I find myself watching UBC news and the lead story has something to do with President Museveni flying out to South Africa for the Tripartite Summit.
What perturbs is that there was an entourage to see him off led by the Commissioner of Prisons, Robert Byabashaija and Minister Syida Bumba amongst others. They waved to him as he walked up the stairs to his jet and when it was airborne, they were still waving!

To Byabashaija and Ms. Bumba, you wasted your time for once the plane was airborne, President Museveni would have been unable to see you and I highly doubt he had his face pressed to the window and looking to see if he could see you, so that he could return your waves!

However, wait a minute, is the Uganda of today not a far cry from the pre-1986 Uganda? I also thought those things of seeing people off had died out? Well, whenever I fly out, they just drop me off - no fanfare, no hullabaloo.

When I was growing up and whenever somebody was flying out, going to the airport was a treat. Into the car we would all clamber with the front seat reserved for whomever it was that was flying out. And when I say we would all clamber into the car, ‘we’ involved grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, hanger on’s, people who happened to be visiting at the time and if there was space, House-ee would also squeeze herself in.

I am flying out and headed to Jo’burg for work and when I’m dropped off at the airport, it is a full house. Driver on seeing the crowd milling outside the departure terminal has the foresight to tell me that it looks like it will be a full flight - something that I am not too keen on. As I puff on my last Sporti cigarette across the road from the departure terminal, like diarrhoea, I see him being everywhere. Young Man is walking inside the terminal with a commanding swagger. He’s now back outside and he is talking to just about everybody there is to talk to and they are also desperately trying to talk to him though he brushes some of them off.

Perhaps he is a celebrity, but getting a closer look at him, his face does not register as one that I have seen in Have You Heard. In the meantime, he has started to sneer at me. No, tell a lie. He is looking at me with utter contempt.

I am back at the entrance to the departure terminal but I am not able to get in because Young Man’s people are blocking the entrance and my polite ‘excuse me’s’ are not washing with them. To make matters worse, his people have also taken on his utter contempt look as they cast their eyes at me.

I think it has something to do with what I am wearing – beach slippers, a faded pair of army shorts and a T-shirt that is due for retirement as a floor rag. He on the other hand, is dressed to the nines in a new suit with the makers label still sewn to the sleeve and was, probably bought the previous day. His shoes too, are new and he has a cowboy style belt with a buckle so big and dazzling with mali dadi flashing lights that if he came up behind you, you would think it was a police patrol pick up.
It was a struggle to get past his people. Once on the plane and in my seat, I am hope that the person who will sit to me is of sane mind and has flown before.

To my horror, my neighbour turns out to be Young Man. Standing my ground I give him an un-amused look. He returns my un-amused look by rolling his eyes. As we taxi to the runway, he tells me, “I see you don’t have any friends.” Asking how he came to that conclusion, he boasts of the three coasters mini buses full of family and friends that escorted him from his home in Najja to see him off. I keep mum.
He then asks if I am not embarrassed by flying out in beach slippers, shorts and a t-shirt yet, he has thrown on a new wardrobe. I give him a ‘what the f**k is your problem’ look.

When the drinks cart comes round, Stewardess deposits a four pack of Castle beer on my table. Young Man next to me who I find out is a first time flyer declines when offered a drink and dinner. In fact, he declines everything.

As I dine and the Castle beer quenches my thirst, I can see Young Man drooling at my chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce and watching enviously every time I pop open a Castle or Stewardess brings another four pack.

As we come in to land in Jo’burg, I lean over and whisper to him. “You must be hungry and thirsty? You know the food and drink are complimentary don’t you?” Alas, Young Man thought dinner and beer were for buying!

With that, he calls Stewardess and asks for dinner. “Sir, I am sorry. I can’t serve you because we are about to land,” she tells him.

His desperate face looks at me and under my breath I say, “Oli stupidi” (you are stupid). I also give him the same utter contempt look that he gave me at the airport when he saw nobody had come to see me off. For extra measure, I also swing him a ‘you villager – tumbavu!’ look because he also thought he was all IT in his new shoes, cowboy style belt with a buckle so big and dazzling with mali dadi flashing lights.

Who Is Charlie?

Two of the most famous people called Charlie, that easily spring to mind are the late actor, Charlie Chaplin and the comic book character, Charlie Brown. Other Charlie’s in relation to Uganda that pop up, are Charlie Case formerly of Just Kicking and 7, Cooper Road and the leggy Charlie (can’t remember her surname) who used to work in the visa section at the British High Commission when it was still on Parliamentary Avenue.

Apart from Charlie being a unisex name, it’s part of the phonetic alphabet – ‘C’ for Charlie. And that is all I knew about the name Charlie until I found myself in Nakivubo Stadium for the CBS show, E’kitoobero.

Nakivubo Stadium used to be our flagship stadium until Mandela Stadium was completed in the late 1990s. But for all its worth, since Nakivubo Stadium was completed in the 50s, the people who run the stadium have done an excellent job of letting it go to the dogs. The infamous Kirussia Stand has never been completed since work started on it in the 70s, the VIP block shows no signs of being a VIP block, the toilets are a joke and the electrical system is a huge fireball waiting to happen.

If you have not been for E’kitoobero or Kiggunda, these shows attract a crowd that is seemingly not of sane mind, for the things they get up to, defy normal rationale thinking. For example, why would women swoon into the stadium wearing blouses that can barely contain their mammary glands and why would they turn up in micro skirts?
From 6:00am when the gates opened up until 7:00pm, the crowd was well behaved. There was no fighting, the police cell by the main gate had yet to host any thieves and the police stood by - very idle and bored.

The crowd of course, had ideas. They were waiting for sunset and the start of the nocturnal activities. And indeed, the moment the dark that the Sunday night ushered in, the crowd was no longer well behaved.

The groping started – some of it consensual though the majority of it was not. Mammary glands were pinched, flicked and squeezed. Thighs were not exempt either. As long as there was exposed flesh, the men fuelled on cheap local brew were out to fill their lust.

It was 4:30am and I am standing by the control tower in the middle of the pitch. Looking into the crowd, I see him making his move, which has no fineness or tact to it – not that it mattered because the poor damsel was far too blazed to notice.
He started off by rubbing his groin into her butt, then trying to kiss her before landing his hands on her mammary glands. Damsel was in two minds. She ‘wanted it’ and rather interestingly enough, she was pushing him away but yet at the same time leading him on.

Fifteen minutes later I am on my way to the toilets – not the toilets themselves for as I mentioned earlier, they are in a bad state, but to the wall where everybody chose to pee.

Suddenly, he is in front of me. He was half dragging, half lifting the much blazed Damsel through the crowd. I ignore them to watch the police swoop in and arrest a would-be pickpocket before continuing my journey to the toilet wall. Behind the infamous Kirussia stand and heading to the wall, I spot them again. When he sees me approach, he stops and shouts out in Luganda, “Charlie, what is your problem?”
Obviously I ignore him and keep on walking towards them and the wall behind them. And the more I walk towards him, the more he shouts out, “Charlie, Charlie, what is your problem? Why can’t you go and find your own?” I figure Charlie must be his friend who is following behind me and look back.

But Charlie is not behind me. In fact, there is nobody within shouting distance – not that his shouts would have been heard over the booming music.

When he sees I am still heading towards him, he lets Damsel drop to dew strewn grass and comes up to confront me. I am taken by surprise and go into defence mode as I expect a melee to break out.

But he doesn’t want to fight. He wants to talk and throwing his arms about in despair, in Luganda, he says: “Charlie, there are many women about. I am sure you can find your own. Now you are following me and want to take mine? If you want her, take her. She is yours. Banange Charlie, toli (you are not) serious!”

Obviously he has me mistaken for somebody else. I tell him I am not Charlie, but Timothy. He is insistent. “Naye Charlie, please leave me alone. She is mine.” I too, am insistent that I am not Charlie and I figure he must be on crack. After all, why would he be calling me Charlie? I let him be and continue to the wall where I have a pee.

Hours later, I see him headed towards me shouting, “Charlie, Charlie!” and in the most aggressive manner. Rather than wait for him to attack me, I flee and seek refuge amongst the policemen who demand to know why I want to stand amongst them. They throw me out of their circle.

Frightened, on my own and about to start wailing for my mum, I am relieved when I see he has not followed me. Rather, he is talking to some chap and they are bonding and calling each other Charlie.

Backstage, I ask one of the stage crew who tells me that in Luganda, Charlie means, “friend, buddy, pal.” So much for my wailing for Mum for the whole of Nakivubo to hear!

Namuwongo's Flying Toilets

It was not only the long weekend, but also paradise weekend for the hoodlums, pickpockets and rapists.

That Friday was a public holiday – something to do with a number of people who were burnt alive by an irate former King of Buganda. I am not sure why he felt the need to roast them, but for what he did, people trek from as far away as Rwanda and Kenya. It’s an annual pilgrim simply because they want to see the site where the burning took place. That is sick and really, how morbid can the people who go there get?

With total confusion at Numugongo, it was bliss for Hoodlum, Pickpocket and Rapist. They live for this day when they take advantage of the innocent. Even better for them, the following day at Namboole Stadium was the match – Cranes vs. Guinea Bissau and wrapping it up, on Sunday at Nakivubo Stadium was CBS’ Ekitoobero. To say Hoodlum, Pickpocket and Rapist had a blast of a weekend would be an understatement. So how do I fit into all this I hear you cry?

Well the Thursday night was launch night for the new Tusker Larger bottle. More embarrassingly for me, I learned about the launch on the day itself. With no invitation card, I fired off a salvo of e-mails to the people who matter at UBL. Sedated with apologises, I was assured my card is on the way. It lands an hour later and with that, there was a need to take the rest of the day off. I go home for a long nap. I reckon that by the time I get to Silver Springs hotel at 7:00pm and ready to do some responsible drinking, I will be fresh.

A good day starts to turn sour the moment I hit Namuwongo. There is a mother-of-all-mothers-of a traffic jam that, nobody is going anywhere soon. As I sit idle in the jam, the minutes meanwhile tick away. I left home at 5:30pm and all off a sudden, its 7:15pm and ouch, I am still stuck in the jam!

Then there is some movement though frustratingly slow but at the Namuwongo railway junction, it is gridlock and my car also decides that it has had enough and simply will not start once the traffic starts moving again.

I am not worried for just in front of me, there are two cars that have also broken down. Assessing my problem, it appears that it has something to do with the battery – it’s gone flat. The owner of the car nearest to me has jump leads and he offers to help. However, when he gets his car going, he simply drives off. Should I have reported him to the police for breach of contract?

The railway crossing in Namuwongo is not the best place to break down at night. One, it is so dark, the stench of sewage is unbearable and three, you have to contend with ‘flying toilets’. The driver of the other car is willing to help but does not really want to because, it means dismantling his battery from its bed and he does not want to do that. As some form of condolence, he says, “things are tight” and off he drives into the night.

Some say he is weird. Others say he is not from this planet. While there is a mystery behind what to call him – some call him Mzee, Papi, MOD, or the Horseman. Those who really know him, they call him Anus and he is fortunate that Anus, is pronounced Arnu. However many insist on pronouncing it as Anus. I have placed an SOS call to him and now all I can do is to sit back and wait.

I am back at the car when three young teen girls walk past. As they do, they hurl black plastic bags into an open manhole but they miss. One of them says, “We have missed” but her friend simply tugs her along and I really do not give that much thought to what they were trying to discard.

As I wait for Anus to show, I sit in the car, then get out and walk, then lean by a billboard then walk back to the car and as I do, I am stepping on something soft. I also feel it move and can hear the rustle of a plastic bag.

Back at the car, I sit and wait and as I do, the sewage smell is somewhat stronger. In fact, it is so strong that the smell appears to be emanating from the car. My phone has a torch and when I flick it on, the light hits my shoes and I see the problem. In the dark, it appears that I have trodden onto the flying toilets that Teenage Girls were discarding and split the bag open. Now I have all its contents smeared on the under soles of my shoes. This is the last thing I need! I do my best to wipe the s**t off in the wet grass.

Anus has turned up in his BMW. However when he pops open his hood, we can’t find the battery. The Germans are trying to confuse us. They hid the battery in the boot and not put it in the engine compartment, as is the norm on all other cars. It confirms my suspicions. Germans may not be ‘wired’ properly.

We eventually get my car going and by the time we get to Silver Springs, the party is still kicking. However, for some strange reason, everybody who is standing close to me has their nose up in the air and sniffing away. I too sniff the air and its unpleasant. It’s a pupu smell and though I know very well where it is coming from, I am not going down as the culprit. I look round for somebody to blame.

Affection

In Uganda when it comes to affection – especially public displays of affection, we were prudish, reserved and embarrassed at the thought. Affection if it is to happen, should be done late at night after the kids have gone to sleep and in the confines of the master bedroom with the doors firmly bolted.

In Europe, affection is all over the place – on the trains, the buses, the underground, the sidewalks and even in the cafes and nobody looks, stares or gawps. They just let the couple get on with whatever it is that they are doing.

And I have to point out that affection is not limited to us humans for it also filters down to the animal kingdom though, they have the most morbid way of doing it. In the dog world for example, they show affection by sniffing at each other’s genitalia. The dog will sniff the bitches’ genitalia and not from a distance I might add, but right up close with its nose right on the wee wee area. And if you thought that was bad enough, the puppies too do it – and to their cousins, their parents and even their grandparents!

If that sort of behaviour happened in the human world, it would be a case of society having run mad. Seeing that The Phado is into dog breeding, he should know the answer. I called him and this is what he had to say: “They do it to determine the sex and also to see if the bitch is ready for a bout of sawa ya malavuu.” Let us leave it at that for the time being.

Getting back, in the public displays of affection, there are men who show each other affection. While they are not gay, they just feel the need to show affection. They have to hold your hand while walking and some even feel the need to put their arms round each other’s waists.

The main culprits of this kind of affection are security guards, Asian’s, petrol pump attendants and waiters. You see them walking down the road blissfully unaware that what they are doing is being frowned upon.

I am at the ATM and through the corner of my left eye I spot him coming towards me. Moses is from the depths of Bushenyi and who is unable to talk to you without holding some part of you – be it your waist, hands or even gently caressing your thigh. And for the record, Moses is married though whenever I see him, I think he might swing both ways if you get my drift.

The ATM is taking its time spewing out my dime that, I contemplate leaving the card in the machine to be gobbled up while I make a run for it and as far away from Moses as possible.

As I stand there dithering, Moses is on me. “Mr. Tim” he shouts out. “Long time brother” and with that his hand has already grabbed mine and is giving it a good squeeze. The ATM at this point has splattered out my dime and as we walk, he wants me to go into Nakumatt and talk as he shops. I try to tell him that I have a tight schedule and can’t afford the time but he up’s his offer with lunch at Javas. I accept. Am I that cheap?

Moses is the master. With one hand pushing the shopping cart, the other has a firm grip of my hand. By the time we get to the bakery, his arm is draped round my waist. And to my horror, in the bakery are a group of fine young ladies who give me suggestive looks until they spot Mosses’ arm round my waist. The suggestive looks quickly disappear and replaced by ones of disgust.

I try to reach out to them, to tell them that it is not what it looks like but they are on the move. An elderly woman with her teenage granddaughter also gives me a quizzical look as she covers Teenage Granddaughter’s eyes. It’s only when we get to the checkout counter that Moses gives me a breather and relents on my waist.
With the shopping in his car, we head to Java and rather than sitting across the table from me, Moses sits right next to me almost as if we are cajoled twins and with his hand on my thigh. Obviously, I try to move. Then I wriggle. Then I just get up and go to the washrooms. When I get back I pull out my chair to create some space between us but like the children’s game – musical chairs, Moses moves his chair along with mine and the hand is once again on my thigh.

I know what you are thinking here. Why didn’t I swing him a left or why didn’t I tell him that his hand is offending me? Yes I could have done all that but Moses is of my father’s generation and even if I had swung him a left or told him off, he wouldn’t have seen the fault with what he did because in Bushenyi where he grew up, men holding men by the waist is the norm. It is acceptable.

I did eventually tell him off because as I sliced through my medium rare steak, his hand had encroached further up my thigh and into my groin area, an area that is strictly reserved for female hands. As we left and said our goodbyes in the car park, Moses this time was rubbing my fingers as if he was a masseuse for all shoppers to see.

In the meantime, whoever you are who keeps on sending me suggestive messages with homosexual undertones, from 07**905 764, just because you may have seen Moses with his hand draped round my waist, I am NOT gay and I DO NOT find your txt messages entertaining or flattering so please stop it.

The Football Match

My knowledge of Ugandan football is very bleak that when there is talk of The Cranes, I can only name one player – Dennis Obua and the coach, Bobby Williamson. Like many, I know much more about the English Premier League, The Spanish La Liga and The German Bundesliga. If I were to hazard a guess as to why, I think, it is because they play a better football than our home grown teams plus the marketing people of DStv’s Supersport, have done a good job of ramming foreign football down our throats and more importantly, ‘society’ I feel has not yet accepted that we – the white collar workers that is, should be seen sitting in the Kirussia Stand at Nakivubo Stadium supporting say URA against KCC. Therefore, for the time being, local football will remain a blue-collar sport.

Enter MTN. MTN has done a good job of marketing Ugandan football especially the national team – The Cranes. In fact, they have a done a better job than the local football governing body FUFA and it is because of MTN that I have been able to attend some matches – the first when The Cranes played Liberia at Nakivubo and the second, when they played South Africa, at Mandela Stadium.

I harbour fond memories of both games especially the Liberia match because then, I was working with WBS television which, granted me leave to meet and interview the legendary George Weah, roam the entire pitch and as well as being able to stand in the centre circle as the toss was being done.

Now how many of you have done that and yes, do you think I am so bragging? I so am! But the bragging is justified because as I flaunted myself across the entire length of the pitch and as I flossed with George, out in the stands there were was shouting. Amongst the inaudible shouting, there were also faces of envy. In my own small world, I basked in the glory and strode through the pitch with such panache that Johnny Walker of the Johnny Walker whisky fame who began walking from Kilmarnock, Scotland where the whisky is brewed, to wherever he was walking to would have been envious.

With hindsight, I should not have walked towards the infamous Kirussia Stand but then, I didn’t know that Kirussia was an infamous stand where all the hooligans and lumpens converge and I only went there because in my own small world, that’s where my supposed fans were sitting. I say supposed fans because they were making the most noise.

It’s only when I got up close to them and their shouts became audible that I figured they were not fans nor were they calling me over to ask me about George.

Instead, a middle-aged man who had a face like the inside of a pit latrine called me over and when I got to him, he spat out: “Tumbavu!” While I so clearly heard what he had shouted out, I knew it was not directed at me for, I had done nothing wrong to warrant abuse. Leaning my head towards him, I said: “Pardon?”

The conversation that followed and in Luganda, went along these lines.

Face Like Inside of Pit Latrine: “Eh, chaps look at this tumbavu. Now he is saying pardoni (that is how pardon is pronounced in Luganda). Gwe who do you think you are?”

TB: “The last time I enquired about myself, I was Timothy Bukumunhe, just returned from a very long sojourn in London and now working for WBS. And you sir, if you don’t mind me asking, who might you be?”

Face Like Inside of Pit Latrine: “Eh, eh! It is speaking English like a muzungu. Let me assure you that I know English. You mani (man?) You are there showing off that you know Weah, even us, we know him.”

TB: “Splendid, then that make two of us. Tell me, where did you meet him?”
Face Like Inside of Pit Latrine: (Asking his friends) “Oba splendid mean whati (what?). “Gwe you justi (just?) go away with your WBS cameras. We paid our money to come here to watch Weah play football and not to see you walking all over the pitch like you own the stadium. Do you think that Wava and his WBS cameras own Nakivubo? Tumbavu, oli stupidi (stupid?).

With that, the best part of Kirussia Stand goes into an overdrive and starts hurling out the most vulgar of insult words. Startled, I stand there for a while trying to figure out how to direct my retort when my phone rings.

It’s a friendly voice – that of OPP who now lives in the Diaspora saying. “TB are you on crack? What are you doing at the Kirussia Stand? Get out of there before they lynch you.” With that, I gave them the finger followed by “tumbavu and f**k off”!
That move made them mad. In an instance, they were trying to break down the crowd safety fence and baying for my blood as I sauntered towards the VIP section.

Though I had gotten away with it, it was years later when The Cranes hosted Bafana Bafana at Namboole did events eventually catch up with me. As I walked into the stadium, two men came up to me asking how WBS was and I replied telling them that it is fine though I am no longer there. The two men then whispered to each other before one of them lunged forward and slapped me clean on the cheek. He then looked at me, then said: “For George Weah, Nakivubo Stadium – tumbavu and f**K off!” and calmly walked off. It took me a while but I eventually remembered who he was. It was Face Like Inside of Pit Latrine. Yesterday I was not at the Cranes match at Namboole lest he was there ready to slap me yet again.

Why Can't Ugandans Simply Resign Or Just Go Quietly?

Many years past, out of the blue I was subpoenaed to see Human Resource. My heart didn’t skip a beat and I took it in my stride seeing it wa...