Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is Einstein's Theory Right?

Supposedly, the Kardashians, are a global household name. They have to be because even Godfrey Kivumbi who is the chief editor at Silk Events has heard of them as has Barrack Obama and who according to his wife Michelle is not too keen on his daughters – Sasha and Malia watching their reality TV show. Whilst I have never seen the show, I did try calling up Mrs. M7 to find out if like Barrack Obama, M7 too is against his kids – Muhoozi, Natasha, Patience and Diana watching the show. She hasn’t gotten back to me. Perhaps she is busy in Karamoja? Or her Blackberry has issues?

The intro of the way, Albert Einstein once said: “Only two things are infinite. The universe and human stupidity and I am not sure about the former.” He has a point because today, there are things we do that simply defy human logic.

Take Minister Kahinda Otafire for example. Some years ago he got into a verbal onslaught with the late Mrs. Kuteesa at Fairway Hotel and sensing he was losing the argument, he pulled his Star pistol and held it to her head in a bid to gain the upper hand. Then there was Bright Young Man who shares his name with that of a local FM station and who got into an altercation at a popular Industrial Area nightclub. When he was thrown out, he walked to his 4x4 car, got in, revved it up and drove it through the main entrance and into the club! And finally, there was Young Man who was ditched by Girlfriend who used to work for a telecom company. Rather than just accepting he had been ditched, Young Man sold pictures of him and Girlfriend which by the way were very nude and very intimate to a local tabloid. Then he stole her Corsa car and torched it to a crisp on Owen Falls Dam if memory serves me correct.

Now Eritu is one of those people I have known since my days at WBS. He was a loyal and focused cameraman who worked alongside me when I was producing and directing Showtime Magazine. We were in Kabale and driving up the hill to White Horse Inn where we were to spend three nights. As we drove, we came up behind a prison’s pick-up transporting prisoners back to the goal. On the steep incline, the pick-up died which, was a godsend to one of the prisoners. He saw an opportunity, jumped off and slithered into the misty valley.

Prison Warder didn’t waste any time in cocking AK-47 and letting off a few rounds. Whether Prisoner was shot or not, that I don’t know.

Later in the evening, we were filming in a club called Earthquake when some soldier type chap came up demanding to know what we were doing. I wanted to assure and put him into his place but Eritu and suddenly no longer feeling weedy but ‘built up like Mike Tyson’ wanted to take him on. Above the Lucky Dube song ‘Ire’ that was belting out of the speakers and at such a decibel that it was next to impossible to hear yourself think or speak, you could make out the words “tumbavu, f**k, and malaya” as Eritu and Soldier Type Chap tussled it out.

I tried to restrain Eritu but the lanky chap from Teso wasn’t listening. Then things took a twist. “Just because you are from Kampala you think you can do what you want? Wait until you get outside” so Soldier Type Chap assured us. We laughed him off.
When it was time to go, there he was outside the club brandishing an AK-47. Upon seeing us, he let off a round of bullets. I cowardly disappeared back into the club and sought refuge behind the speakers and Eritu, the next time I saw him, was back at White Horse Inn. There he gave me a colourful story of how he stood his ground, assured Soldier Type Chap and called him every vile name under the sun. He Eritu, had triumphed.

But there was a glitch in his story. The following day and in my room, I was reviewing the material we had shot the previous day on a small monitor. Unknown to Eritu, he had the camera rolling as we exited Earthquake and rather than seeing footage of him standing his ground and assuring Soldier Type Chap and calling him every vile name under the sun, it was footage of a cowardly and distraught Eritu running for dear life and taking cover in a ditch with the camera facing him. With the sound of bullets being squeezed off ringing in the background, Eritu is seen weeping, begging for forgiveness and saying his last funeral rites.

It was 1989. Off The Old Kent Road in South London there used to be a club called Ziggy. While I had heard of it – well sort off, what I didn’t know is that it was a place for hardcore Rasta’s, it was a place where hardcore contraband drugs exchanged hands and it was an illegal club in a building marked for demolition.

I went there on a Friday and straight from work with Dale who while of West Indian origin, was not a Rasta. That Friday, Ziggy’s was steaming. Rasta’s were grinding their groins into women on the walls. ‘Splifs’ (ok dad, for your benefit, a splif means a ‘joint’. But then again do you know what a ‘joint’ is? Hmm, I am in a fix here. A joint or a splif is a rolled up cigarette that contains tobacco and a contraband drugs like cannabis or Moroccan Black) were being inhaled while heavy reggae music from the likes of Peter Tosh and Dennis Brown filled the air.

But I stood out. I stood out because I was wearing a work suit, didn’t have a Rasta hairstyle, and had no clue of what ‘Jah rastafari’ or ‘five-O’ meant. I think, I am not too sure, but I think Jah rastafari means God is great? ‘Five-O’ means police and is derived from the cult 70s TV series, Hawaii Five-O.

Getting back, at the bar I got strange looks from the barman when I declined a bottle of Red Stripe, the favoured beer drink for anybody who is a Rasta or anybody who came from the West Indies. Apart from that, they ‘body checked’ me and those guys could really body check to a point that it actually hurt my shoulders whenever they did it.

Feeling rather uncomfortable, I told Dale that I ought to leave. Dale was against it because as he said: “If you go now, hell will break out.” I should have listened but I didn’t.

Outside and with an autumn breeze blowing, I stood by the entrance trying to figure out what to do next. But I really didn’t have the time to figure out what to do next because Rasta Men did it for me. They surrounded, took me behind Elephant and Castle tube station where, the larger of the three Rasta Men produced a knife. On second thoughts, it was not a knife. Rather it looked like a machete, the sort of machetes that the men use to cut sugarcane at Kakira sugar plantation.

My first reaction? I was being mugged. My second reaction? I was being mugged. My third reaction? They want sodomise me then slice me up. Yes, am sure they wanted to do just that! I should have known better than to hangout in Elephant and Castle, an area that was notorious for drug related killings.

In thick West Indian accents they asked me a number of questions that were centred round my being a police informant. With a mouth filled with gold bling coated teeth, Rasta Man held up the machete of a knife and rifled through my pockets and seemingly satisfied, he chilled out on me.

As I walked to the mini cab office, I looked back at them. Did they really have to produce a machete and rough me up to find out if I was a police informant? Why did they not just ask me? Was it right for Otafire to pull out his Star pistol to take on a defenceless Mrs. Kutesa over a simple argument? Did Bright Young Man who shares his name with a local FM station really have to drive his 4x4 car into a nightclub because he was thrown out? And did Soldier Type chap have to let off an entire magazine of bullets on Eritu simply because we were filming in a club?

Einstein was correct when he said: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity and I am not sure about the latter.” If only Muhammad Gadaffi had heeded Einstein’s words, I suppose he would have been alive today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dealing With The Porn Merchant

I rarely go to town on a Sunday. I mean why would I? Perhaps being able to drive from Wandegeya to Shell Jinja Road in a matter of minutes because the roads are devoid of traffic? Better still, the pavements (if at all they can be called pavements because there are so many manholes that lack covers that it is much safer to walk on the congested roads than the pavements) are devoid of people who walk without plan or thought. You know the people who just stop dead in their tracks or the people who can’t walk in a straight line?

Anyway, this Sunday I find myself at Kassalina’s early in the evening. Kassalina’s, which is opposite the Post Office, must be a diehard haunt for the Baganda if the numerous pictures of the Buganda royal family that cover once section of the wall are anything to go by.

Going to the lower level, I place an order for a cold Club beer and a glass. The beer, when it is presented, is not exactly ice cold but will do. The glass on the other hand is a tankard but it is the smallest tankard I had set my eyes on. In fact, it looked more like spirits measurements glass than a beer tankard.
Obviously the Club beer that I am holding rejects the tankard. I ask for another glass and Waitress tells me the other glasses are strictly reserved for people drinking juice. Not one to give up, I insist that surely she must have a decent glass tucked away somewhere.

She does. When it lands on the bar counter, it’s a wine glass! I should have unleashed my standard one liner – “tumbavu!” on her, but I bite my tongue, let it slide and take my Club and myself to a seat as far away from her as possible.
Settling into a high table and contemplating drinking the Club from the bottle, I see him tumbling down the stairs clutching a batch of DVDs.

He makes a beeline for me and well before I have the chance to say ‘no’ to him, three DVDs are in my face. I glance at them and sensing that I am not interested, five more DVDs are unleashed followed by a commentary in Luganda about how they are action movies.

To sweeten the deal, out come other DVDs. “Kartooni e’za abaana” (cartoons for the kids). I must point out that my spoken or written Luganda is not all that and seeing that my vivacious editor, Esther can’t read Luganda she probably has no idea either if “kartooni e’za abaana” are words that exist in Luganda.

Then something strange happens. Tucked in between the kiddie’s movies, The Lion King and Snow White, he flips out four DVDs after first casing the room. When I look down at them, it takes me a while to figure what I am looking at. They are blue movies. Hardcore porn to be precise!

The covers were graphic – pictures of two naked women and a man doing imaginable sexual acts to each other. It was not for the faint hearted. Former minister Nsaba Buturo, would have passed out had he seen them as would the Pope, Nelson Mandela, Bad Black and even Saddam Hussein and Gadaffi had they still been alive.

According to DVD Hawker, two of the movies were filmed in Kigali and the other two in Kampala – Bwaise to be exact so he tells me. Sensing he has got my attention, he gives me a brief narrative on one of the movies and it is hard to believe that what he is telling me is actually on film.

I am sold, and decide to buy the lot. Before I go on, I have to insert a disclaimer here. ‘Timothy Bukumunhe bought the porn DVDs for purposes of research only. Should there be anybody out there doing research in the same field, please feel free to get in touch with me so I give you the said DVDs’.

Before I pay him, I berate him for having positioned the porn between The Lion King and Snow White. “Do you want to tarnish Snow White’s squeaky clean image?” It was followed up with the “tumbavu” that I was supposed to have unleashed on Waitress for offending me with a wine glass. Just to make sure the message had sunk in, I give him a slap on the back and send him scurrying off for a black plastic bag. What, did you expected me to have a Sunday afternoon stroll through town while clutching four porno DVDs? Hmm!

The DVDs packed into a black bag and with the Club done, I am on my way. But for some reason as I walk down to Nakumatt, everybody is ‘looking’ at me. Even the people in cars appear to slow down, peer at me and either shake their heads or wag their fingers.

I am so convinced that DVD Hawker went to Clock Tower and with the aid of a megaphone, blurted out how I had bought porn DVDs for the world to hear. I consider ditching them into KCCA or perhaps Parliaments compound but I hold on to them.

At Nakumatt I am rumbled. I have been in and out of Nakumatt a million times with CDs in a black plastic bag and the guard has never looks in my bag. This time he stops me and after running the metal detector over me, he not only peers into the black bag but also takes the DVDs out. Immediately Second Guard’s attention has been diverted from checking people to looking at the offending pornography that I was trying to smuggle into the store. Worse, a man out with his family catches sight of the DVD and mutters away to Wifey who turns round to give me a so not approving look.

“Chief” so I tell Guard, “Is all this necessary?” He retorts: “We have to check everything.”

My humiliation over I wander about the store while wondering what brought me here in the first place. I am in the DVD player section and when I look round I see Guard giving me a quizzical look. I think he thinks I am going to slot one of the DVDs into the player. Dazed and confused, I flee empty handed only to be stopped by Guard again – this time to make sure I have not swiped anything from the store.

A few days later I am sitting at my desk and though the office is full, I decide to watch the porno that was filmed in Bwaise. As I hear the DVD whirl into life, through the corner of my eye, I see some visitors who are being shown round the office. No need for them to interrupt my movie so I adjust my desk and screen and plug in some headphones.

But alas, I plugged the headphones into the wrong port terminal. The first two minutes of the movie was all about noise and noise of a sexual content and at a high volume. I saw the office freeze then saw Visitors giving me a nasty look. As all that was happening, I tried desperately to mute the volume but I couldn't get the cursor to stop on the mute button.

I went in for plan B – shut to computer off and pull the power cable out of the socket. But it took forever and a quick glance at the screen revealed some horrible things going on. Eventually the computer was switched off but for an agonizing 30 or so seconds, the office including Visitors looked at me with mouths agape. Of course they would, wouldn’t they?

Once the storm had passed in which numerous Sportsman cigarettes would have been smoked but for BAT not wanting to stock the old Sporti packs, I settled for two Club beers.

Back at my desk I turned on the PC and it started doing things it was not supposed to do. Seeking help from IT, they diagnosed the problem in a matter of minutes. The porn had given my PC a virus and it has since been taken away for repair.

That said, would anybody mind if I came over and I watched the DVDs from their crib –Barbie, Mzee, Willo, Dr. Muloodi, Paulo, Phado, what say you? I’ll bring the beers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sunday At Choma

In his circles, they call him Vero Paulo – not that that, is his real name. It’s Paulo Lukwago. However, whenever Vero Paulo is amongst friends, the best part of his conversation has to do with plugging mineral water. But then again, after office hours and in the madness of a drinking joint, who wants to talk about mineral water yet, there are other more interesting drinks to talk about and to quaff like, a black Johnnie Walker, Club or TML for example. But he persists and often gets his way.

Vero Paulo is also the ‘Chairman’ of his local kimeeza, a post he has held for five years. While there have been calls for him to step down, in his deluded self, it’s something he is not willing to consider. What were once whispers have now grown into open discontent that if does not go before Christmas, he’s bound to end up as sad and as pathetic as Muhammer Gadaffi was at the end of his life. Vero Paulo, if you are reading this, the writing is on the wall. GENDA!

It’s a Sunday and I am at Choma in Centenary Park. I normally don’t do the town thing but being a Sunday, I figure it will be empty which will allow me the freedom to read and do some writing without being disturbed. There is also the most appealing waft coming from the kitchen that I figure John Kulubya, who owns a large chunk of Kampala City has a chef who knows what he is doing.

Through the corner of my eye I see some activity at one of the tables. There are a couple of ladies all dressed in black. I can’t quite read what is emblazoned on their t-shirts so I will have to squint. I do just that. Ah, it says ‘Guinness’ so my reckoning is there is a promotion of sorts about to happen and I hope they don’t bother me.

Then he sees me. He comes striding over with a sense of purpose and once he is done with the pleasantries, he pulls up a chair. It’s Oscar Mulira, who is the Country Manager of Swivel, a marketing support services company, who launches into a thirty minute lecture about how marketing has changed in Uganda in the past twenty years and how over the next couple of years the competition amongst events, PR, marketing and advertising companies is going to be tight.

For listening to his lecture, he asks Marketing Girl to swing me four bottles of Guinness. “Christ!” so I think to myself. Perhaps I should not have been hasty in giving him that bored look. If I had looked chirpy enough, perhaps he would have told Marketing Girl to swing me round after round until I thought I had ‘done enough responsible drinking’ and took myself home.

With Oscar gone and a blank laptop screen staring at me and four cold Guinness beers chilling in the cooler, I give Oscar’s lecture some thought and that is when I see him.

No it’s not Oscar again. I know him as Alex and that is it. He’s not even a friend. On the flip side, he so thinks we are the best of friends just because we had been introduced. As he takes his seat, he looks up in my direction and then away. Phew, he hasn’t recognised me! Quickly I grab my stuff and head for a table behind some shrubbery.

From my new vantage point, I can see him but he can’t see me though, I do see him looking around wondering what happened to the person who only a few seconds ago was sitting across from him. And the fool just won’t let it rest. He even stands up and scratches head. Trust him to be nosey that he takes a walk round the small gardens in an attempt to smoke me out and he does smoke me out.

Content that he has tracked me down and seeing that he is idle, rather than drool at Oscar’s vivacious Marketing Girls, he is content on looking in my direction.
And the more he looks in my direction, the more it dawns on him that he knows me. His glee can hardly be contained. When he pulls up a chair, the kaboozi goes along these lines.

Alex: “Eh Timo, I thought I saw you and then all of a sudden you were gone. Were you trying to hide from me?
TB: (To myself): “What do you think?? Yes, I was so trying to hide from you! I came here to have time to myself and now that you are here, my day is ruined.”
Alex: “Timo, what’s happening over there? I see many girls wearing Guinness t-shirts.”
TB (Again to myself): “You fool, it is so obvious what they are doing! But seeing you asked a daft question, I will give you a daft answer. (This part I said out loud): They are preparing for Gadaffi’s vigil.”
Alex: “It seems I am in the right place.”

Alex is one of those people you want to avoid at all costs. He is unable to read the situation. Even when I got deeply involved in reading the foreign newspapers on-line, he pulled his chair round to have a better view of the screen. Frustrated, I simply closed down the laptop. But Alex was not done for he said: “Timo, now that you have finished reading your papers, let me check my mail and Facebook” and just like that, MY laptop was prized open and I could hear the motor purring as it powered into life.

I left Choma hurriedly, quickly gulping Oscar’s four beers for Aristoc. There I was sure the only people I would rub shoulders with would be the likes of Oscar Wilde, Jeffery Archer, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemmingway. Three of them are dead and Archer is somewhere in England and no, he does not have my cell number to bother me.
But Rita was also there – very much alive and she is an annoying version of Alex – like Alex was not annoying enough in his own right. And the moment she spotted me, she raced her short stubby legs that are so hairy, even the people at Gillette, the razor blade company, would balk at selling her their razors. This was the kaboozi.

TB: “You are lost. I have not seen you for a long time. Where have you been?”
TB: “Nowhere.”
Rita: “Whenever I call, you don’t pick up my calls. What’s up?”
TB: “Ah, I lost my phone.”
Rita: “Let me give you my number again.”

I give her a number that I made up but am not thinking because when I give her the number, I didn’t bank on her ringing the number to confirm. “TB” she says, “It was answered and was told I have the wrong number. Give me your phone yet you have your phone.”

I now have a sheepish ‘I want to crawl under a rock’ look on my face. And with that, my kabiriti is snatched out of my hand and she proceeds to save her number. She also calls it just to make sure it is saved and that her name shows up.

Since then, I get text messages along the line of “TB, how is there?” If not, “TB, what are you going to write about on Sunday?” I normally ignore her messages but seeing she’s asked what I am going to write about, I couldn’t resist telling her. “I have written about people who annoy and who we try to avoid. You see Rita, when we see them we do a u-turn, hide our faces or hide behind shopping aisles, cars and shrubbery.

And Rita, the funny thing about annoying people is that even when you don’t respond to their txts or calls, they still don’t get the message. Rather, it gives them the gas to send more txts and to call.” Her response was: “I am sure it is going to be an interesting read. Let me send House-ee to buy the papers.”

I may have goofed for normally I change people’s names to save them embarrassment but this time I have purposely used her real name (Rita), the day (Sunday) where we were (Aristoc) in a hope that she gets the message.

Next Sunday, I will let you know what went down. Did Rita get my sublime message? Is she vexed to an extent she will want to throw acid into my face? Or perhaps she will storm the Sunday Vision office and vent her anger on my editor, Esther Namugoji? What about Alex? What was his reaction? To be continued...

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.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Punching Bag

During the Idi Amin era, whenever there was talk of outside countries, the usual countries – England, America, France and Canada for example sprung to mind. But there were the other ‘unconventional’ ones like North Korea, China, Romania and Czechoslovakia which stole their way into the conversation and which we had little regard for. However, seeing Uganda Television had a broadcasting monopoly, they made it a tedious habit of screening hour upon hour of communist propaganda documentaries made by those countries.

At one point, I even thought The National Theatre was a Chinese Cultural Centre in Uganda for just about every square inch of wall space had pictures of Chairman Mao and something to do with his Cultural Revolution.

While today, China is viewed as suspicious by the western world, it is an economic power, a source of cheap imports and fake goods. A few weeks ago, when I asked people what they knew about China and the Chinese, they said: “Eyes with small slits, sweet and sour pork, no butts, small busts, road works and cheap goods which break down after two days.”

Regardless that they have eyes with small slits and they have no butts to sit on, the Chinese are here in Uganda and are diversifying from their traditional jobs of construction, road building and the food industry.

They have branched out into entertainment that to the best of my knowledge, the first Chinese pub-cum-nightclub, opened up a few weeks ago in Kansanga next to Al’s Bar. And knowing the Chinese, by the time we blink our big eyes, that solitary pub-cum-nightclub would have mushroomed into twenty or more by the end of the year and while they rake in the dime we will moan at the missed opportunities that their eyes with small slits saw and our big eyes missed.

Despite the large Chinese community in Uganda, of which I don’t have any as friends, the only contact I have with them is in eating their food.

Going back, Uganda was gearing up for CHOGM. Roads were being repaired; trees planted and new hotels were being built at a furious pace. While all that was going on, I was having lunch at Jeremy’s, the carwash between Clock Tower and the railway line on the approach road to Nsambya traffic lights. It was a Monday and Jeremy’s was relatively deserted.

Two Chinese men walked in and despite an abundance of seating, they choose to join me at my table. They also struck up a conversation, a conversation which went nowhere because they were speaking in Chinese and I was speaking in English and they couldn’t click was I was saying and neither could I click what they were saying.
But they were insistent on getting through to me that, whenever they asked what I thought was a question, they would first ‘hit’ me on the arm to get my attention. They hit me so many time times that by the time I was done with lunch, my arm was sore.

So the question begs, what is it with people who feel the need to ‘punch’ or ‘hit’ you whenever they talk to you? Can’t they just spit out whatever it is that they have to say and leave it at that without inflicting some form of grievous bodily harm?

Moses lives in my hood and whilst he is a nice chap, he finds it seeming impossible to talk to you without beating you up first. And during his conversations with you, he expects your total attention and that includes direct and unwavering eye contact. Dare you blink or look away he will punch you back to attention. Try and multitask – send a phone txt while listening to him, he will punch you till you stop sending the txt to listen to whatever it is that he is trying to tell you.

Worse, it transcends to driving too. As you drive and you are concentrated on the traffic ahead, if Moses is sitting in the front passenger seat he will punch your left arm to get your attention. If he is sitting behind you, then it’s your shoulders that he will hammer away at.

Then I met Rose. Rose, came across as a pleasant enough lady until I discovered her habit - pinching that is. When she first pinched me on my thigh, I thought she was coming on to me. “Hmm” I thought to myself, “a lady of ‘today’, a lady who knows what she wants and is not afraid to go out and get it.” Seeing that the pinch was not aggressive but subtle, why on earth would I not think she was coming onto me?
But she was far from coming onto me. She was doing it to get my attention and worse, the more Club beers that she drank, the more the pinches hurt. When she got up to go to the washrooms, I sought to exchange seats and put some space between her and I and lucky for me there was a taker who didn’t mind because he was smitten with her. However, when she returned to find I was no longer sitting next to her, she didn’t show any disappointment or ask questions. Back in her seat, whenever she wanted my attention, nonchalantly she leant over the person who was sandwiched between her and I and pinched me so hard that I squirmed.

Seeing that I have written this small excerpt on her, it has suddenly dawned on me that I have not seen her for a while. I wonder why?

Tired of being punched and pinched I sought help from people who have been in similar situations and their advice was straight forward. If they pinch, pinch them back. If they tap you, tap them back and if they punch you, punch back so they told me.

Let’s call him Moshe for the sake of it and to protect his identity. Well tell a lie. I am calling him Moshe to protect myself from him. I met Moshe through a friend of a friend and we had settled down to some drinks in a Namuwongo kafunda. I had the bottle of Vero water pressed to my lips when his elbow hit my arm. Of course there is no need to tell you what happened next and no, I did not swing him a left. I figured that like Moses and Rose, he was one of those people who had to hit you to get your attention. I let him be seeing that I really didn’t know him that well.
Then it happened a second, third and on the fourth time, that was it. The gloves were off and remembering what I had been told, whenever I wanted his (Moshe’s) attention, I would punch him on the thigh.

The first time I punched him, he gave me a quizzical look. To counter his quizzical look, I gave him a smirk. The second time I punched him, he had his beer glass in his hand that the jolt of the punch made him spill some beer. Now he was agitated and I was happy because I felt he now knew how I felt whenever he was doing it to me.
I was beginning to enjoy myself but when I went to punch him again, he was ready and waiting. He grabbed my fist before it hit his arm, gave it a bruising squeeze and with that, his ‘wires’ snapped and he unleashed a tirade that went along these lines: “Man, what the f**k is wrong with you?! Quit hitting me. Am I a punching bag? Jeez you have issues – style up!”

It turns out that Moshe was not punching me to get my attention. The bench that he was sitting on was so uncomfortable and coupled with an uneven floor, in trying to position himself into a good seating position, he had been inadvertently knocking my arm.

While I sulked and used the cold bottle of Vero Water as an ice pack to ease the pain inflicted on my fist, I was nevertheless comforted by his words – ‘“Man, what the f**k is wrong with you?! Quit hitting me. Am I a punching bag? Jeez you have issues – style up!”

Don’t say I haven’t warned you for if any of you feel the need to punch, pinch or tap me to get my attention as you talk to me, be ready for my verbal onslaught.

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...