Monday, January 30, 2012

Mr. Ugly

It is said that all children look beautiful and in my life of looking at children, I should say that I agree with that assertion. Well I agreed with it until I had drinks with a friend of a friend. We were discussing a project that he wanted me to be involved in when the kaboozi switched to children. He was in his element because the following day, his daughter would be celebrating her first birthday. And with that, he whipped out his wallet and showed me a picture of his beloved Mabel.

Looking at the picture, I wanted to say: “Oh isn’t she beautiful and sweet” but I couldn’t. You see Mabel was far from being sweet and beautiful. She was ugly, terrifyingly ugly that the person who took the photograph must have had a hard time. I tried to force out sweet and kind words about his Mable but they wouldn’t spew out.

Instead I choked, coughed, excused myself and took myself outside for more than a dose of fresh air. What went wrong with Friend of A Friend? He has the looks and though I have never met his wifey, I am told she is a stunner.

Then there is and ha! And I mean a real ha! I can’t mention who I am talking about because she will kill me so let’s call her Pretie Nasuna for arguments sake. When Pretie was born, her parents took a gamble and named her Pretie and fortunately for her and everybody round her, Pretie bloomed into the vivacious and good looking lady that she is today.

I shudder at the thought that thankfully Friend of A Friend did not name his daughter Pretie for with the way her eyes are positioned on her face, things are going to be tight for her and modelling for Sylvia Owori, Santa Anzo or being an usher is unlikely to happen.

But looks are relative so I thought. Many people say that FDC leader Kizza Besigye does not have the looks but yet he managed to snare a very good looking Winne Byanyima from a man who not only has better looks than he (Besigye), but he also has dime, a private jet and a country as some of his ‘assets’.

Then there is that chap who figures himself to be a fashion icon because he always dons a white robe and cap and whom I gather is the head the Catholic Church – Pope Benedict XVI, that is what they call him. By the way, can I enquire, on his days off, does he wear Calvin Klein jeans, a sweat-shirt with words that read: “I am the Pope”, put his feet up and watch a movie with his pals who wear the red robes?

Getting back, Benedict XVI sadly has not been blessed with good looks. The Pope before him was better looking but this one. If you saw him down a dark alleyway in the Vatican late at night, the most natural instinct would be to turn round and flee. I know I would.

So it was back in the day when I still worked as a producer and director with WBS. At that time WBS was still a new station and the programmes it screened were way ahead of the stuff that the then UTV screened.

On a Thursday morning, two gentlemen walked into the office from a company called Abbitex Promotions, who had ideas of doing a show at Nakivubo Stadium. They were at WBS because they wanted coverage. Not a problem so Elvis Sekyanzi who was then Executive Director said.

And what was the Abbitex Promotions show all about? They wanted to find out who was the ugliest man in Uganda. Adverts filled the screens on a daily and urged men who had not been blessed with good looks to come forward and take part.

To be quite honest, I didn’t think the show would take off but it did and on a hot Saturday night the show went ahead. But I had issues. I was scheduled to work at the show and for the people who didn’t know I worked at WBS, what would they think or say when I walked into the stadium?

I stood across the road from the gates to the stadium and scanned the vicinity just to make sure that there was nobody that I knew and when I thought the coast was clear, I made a run for the gates.

I was almost through, when I felt a grip on my arm and when I turned round, the conversation that I had with Affande Asuman Mugenyi who was then Police PRO went along these lines.

Mugenyi: “Bukumunhe, I was wondering if you were going to show.”
TB: “Affande, I am not here to take part in the show. I am here to work.”
Mugenyi: “That is what everybody is saying!”

Out of Mugenyi’s clutches I headed deep into the heart of the stadium and as I walked, men were shouting out at me, shouting out words along the lines of: “Gwe musajja, tolina chanci, fasi yo ekyaali nungi (you man, you have no chance, your face is still good). Excuse me?

When I looked at the men who thought I was the competition, it was obvious as to why they were telling me I had no chance. These men had facial features that defied normal reckoning. There was also the probability that if their mothers had not disowned them, then the village elders had given them their marching orders. It was sad and scary!

As the show progressed, men who were uglier than the ones I had previously seen, came up on stage and just like that, the moderator dismissed them for he said, and this time I am not going to bother with the Luganda translation because it consumes too much of my time in trying to get the grammar right, he said: “Get off my stage. We are looking for men who are ugly! Do you hear me, men who are ugly!”

Just after 11:30pm, the competition had whittled down to three men but I didn’t think the three men looked ugly. Rather they looked deformed.

And when Ssebabi was eventually crowned winner, a huge cheer went up for he truly deserved to be crowned winner. Has anybody seen the movies Elephant Man and say Nightmare on Elm Street? Ssebabi resembled a cross between them. One side of his head was not rounded and looked liked it had been hammered in with a sledge hammer!

As we left the stadium, some men like the man who seemingly had one of his eyes up where his eyebrow was supposed to have been, was cursing and thought he should have at least made it to the semi-finals. Then there was the chap whose nostrils didn’t look like nostrils for they were as big as PVC water drainage pipes. So large they were that it was a shame the he didn’t get the chance to show off his trick.

Ssebabi, so I later found out lives on Masaka Road, owns a shop and guess what, he is married too. Better still for him, of his children that I have seen, his daughter is good looking as is his wife though I am not too sure if she married him after he picked up his winner’s cheque.

So to Friend of A Friend, if Benedict XVI with his ugly looks can scale the highest ranks of the church and become Pope, Besigye can head FDC and Ssebabi can snare a beautiful woman, then there is hope for your beloved Mabel. And to Pretie Nasuna, she got the best deal because her looks carried forward and on to her children. However, a question begs. Will the good looks stop with her children? We have fifteen or so years to find out. I am a patient man.

Friday, January 27, 2012

It Was A Friday

It was a Friday. Normally I would like to have some sort of a lie-in on Friday’s but, the local neighbourhood Imam has so clearly ruled that out for a 5:00am, he is bellowing out on the loud speaker as he calls his fellow Moslems to prayers. I have got a funny feeling that he must be in cahoots with UMEME because they – UMEME never load shed at that hour. Would I have a case for noise pollution? I will make it a point of calling in on NEMA during the course of the week.

Robert Kabushenga, who is New Vision Group CEO, has called a strategy meeting so an e-mail from Beatrice, his personal assistant tells me. As we settle into the meeting, Kabushenga gives us his spiel and with ideas bouncing off just about everybody in the room, I hear that all too familiar sound of a phone vibrating.
Of course I had to be nosey and looked around to see whose phone it was, but with the vibrations seemingly so loud, it had to be Ernest Bazanye’s since he was sitting next to me. But it wasn’t Bazanye’s. It was mine and the text message read: “Leaving for K-Palm Island at 12:00pm. Are you falling in?”

Am I falling in?? Was the message sender on crack cocaine?? Of course I am falling in! It’s a Friday and what an excellent way to start the weekend!

But I had to first contend with Kabushenga and get his meeting out of the way. By my reckoning, we would be done just before midday which would give me ample time to make it Ggaba, hop onto the boat and be on K-Palm Island within 40 minutes.

Except, that that didn’t happen. Kabushenga was in a buoyant mood. The meeting went on and every half-hour that it went on, Nokia would again vibrate reminding me of the departure time. 12:00pm came and passed with no sign of the meeting about to end. At this point, my mind was no longer on the meeting but on a cold Club beer, pork and oldies music that awaited us once we got to K-Palm.

This is it. I boldly thrust my arm into the air with every intention of telling Kabushenga about the cold Club beer, the pork and the oldies music but when he swivelled round and asked me to go ahead and speak, it was cold feet that I got. I mumbled something and sank back into my seat while Nokia sent me another reminder.

At 1:30pm the meeting finally ended and like a church service that has come to an end, you don’t just make a mad dash to your car. You first make small chit chat outside the church with Pastor and his entourage before you bust and in this case, there was a need to make small chit chat with Kabushenga and Group Editor-in-Chief.
Chit chat out of the way and it was a mad dash across town and by the grace of god, Fuso Truck that was hurtling towards us and carrying Shell fuel didn’t ram into us as it swerved to avoid a pothole.

The boat ride was bliss. The beer was cold, the weather excellent except that there was a bit of a stiff breeze that made it next to impossible to light my Sportsman cigarette. By the way the I think the people at BAT are at last beginning to feel me because these days, they do put in enough glue to hold the packet together. So Solomon and Willo, I no longer carry a tube of super glue to make emergency repairs. Thanks.

K-Palm was bliss. It was everything that was expected of being on an island and chilling while a good number of people are stuck in a stuffy office back in town. The beers were exceptionally chilled, the pork and the fish way above par.

But all good things come to an end. We had to head back. One of the cardinal rules of going to an island and consuming beer is to make sure that you go to the toilet and pee before you clamber back into the boat. Even if you don’t feel like having a pee, you still go, ‘flop him out’, clench your butt cheeks and force life – force those droplets of susu out of him.

Except that I didn’t do that. I thought I was hard. Halfway through the journey back, the urge to do susu was very much alive and real. I squirmed in my seat, I held by breath and I bit on my lower lip. It was agonizing, but at last we made it back to the mainland.

From the pier to the nearest toilets involved a ten minute walk and with a bladder about to explode, there is no way I could have made it even if I had legged it. Time for plan B. The nearby boundary wall would suffice. The wall appeared to be a popular spot for emergency susu because splashed in white paint were the words: Tofuka wano. Fine sh50,000. (Don’t pee here. Fine sh50,000. Casing the area, there is not a soul in sight and out he flops and I do my thing. I am half way through, when I hear him shout. “Gwe, gwe, tofuka awao, genda mu toilet. Askari, askari waliwo afuka ku kisenge!” (You, you, don’t pee there. Go to the toilet. Askari, askari, there is somebody peeing on the wall).

I hadn’t quiet finished but I hurriedly put him away and melted into the dark. Having survived a 50k ‘lynching’, the next port of call was to Kansanga and to deliver Mike, back into the safe custody of his in-laws, Peter and Mrs. Mulira but more importantly, his wife Olga. Peter Mulira belongs to a dying breed of people who are a cut above the rest of us. Alumni of this breed of people would include Justice Sam Wambuzi, Dr. Martin Aliker and John Nagenda for example. They expose finesse, class, eloquence and style amongst many other qualities that most of us will never master.

And all of a sudden he pulls it out and lays it on the kitchen table. It’s a Mont Blanc. Not roller ball but fountain. Okay so Simon Kaheru of SMS Media, NSSF MD, Richard Byarugaba, Oscar Mulira, Wambuzi, Charles Mbire, Aliker and Nagenda would know what I am talking about here. A Mont Blanc, is perhaps one of the finest pens ever made. They are literally handcrafted, write like silk and can smell like Halle Berry’s bosom once she has applied her perfumes. That is a Mont Blanc!

I contemplate stealing it, but Peter won’t let it out of his sight and for the five minutes that he excused himself, Mrs. Mulira made sure she focused her eyes on it. By the way Mrs. Mulira, thank you for the supper.

So I leave minus the coveted Mont Blanc and it is off to The Woods with Oscar in tow. The Woods attracts a crowd who would like to define themselves as being young, successful and on the climb up the ladder in their respective fields.

If they are all that, then why would one of them decide to pinch my Nokia from the bar? I mean it was not an iPod or some fancy phone that costs well above the one brick mark. I mean it was cheap Nokia that retails for less that sh150k in Tim Lwanga’s MTN shop in Kabalagala. Perhaps they stole it for the airtime? Hmm, let me see. I think I had less than sh250 on it.

So that was Friday. I almost got flattened and possibly burnt to death by Fuso Truck carrying fuel, Askari almost slapped a 50k fine on me for peeing by the wall, I almost stole a coveted Mont Blanc pen from the home of one of Uganda’s most respected lawyers – Peter Mulira and to cap it all, Nokia was stolen.

The funny thing about not having a phone, is that I feel like I have gone back in time to the pre-cell phone era. Remember when we used to go to Starcom on Entebbe road to make calls? That’s me now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Men In Uniform

I have a certain admiration for some men who wear uniform and make that uniform look good on them as well as respecting it. I deem Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta to be one of the smartest men in army uniform alongside his colleague Lt. Gen Katumba Wamala. I have met both Wamala and Katumba and in my opinion, they are both honourable men.

You see two years ago, an army Captain decided to ram his pick-up into my car and make a run for it. I in turn followed him all the way to his house. There, Army Captain duly assured me of his status in the army and promptly ordered his bodyguards to give me ‘six of the best’.

Of course I didn’t take it lying down. Well I had to take the canes lying down but the following day, I did report the matter to Koreta who wasted no time in having Army Captain apprehended.

While the top brass of the army – or indeed the police may have their heads firmly screwed on, it is the underlings, their juniors who need to be taught a thing or two on how to respect the uniform that they are wearing.

On New Year’s Eve, I lent a hand in the organising of the street jam at Club Silk. The Street Jam just like any concert in Kampala attracts a whole host of security personnel. They range from LDUs, police, traffic, JATT, anti-terrorism, PGB, Black Mamba’s and so on. Some men even turned up claiming that they have been sent by State House. When I sought to enquire what interest State House would have in The Street Jam, the answer given always goes along the lines of: “orders from above.”

Yeah right! Getting back, I stop this man at one of the entrance and in the most humble of voices I ask him where on earth he thinks he is going. At that he looks at me in disbelief and here is the conversation.

So Called Policeman: “My friend do you think that what you are doing is right? Do you know who I am?”

TB: “That is why I stopped you to find out who you are.”

So-Called Policeman: “I am here on the highest authority, that of Kale Kayahura so don’t disturb or bother me.”

TB: “I do know Affende and I can bet that he does not know you or even seen you before. I am of the opinion that while you may be a police officer, you have not been sent by Kayahura and you have just turned up to enjoy a free show.

So-Called Policeman: “Do you know I can have you arrested for interfering in police work?”

And with that he pushed past me and into the venue. I let him be. Then he turns up. Not So-Called policeman, but the man himself – Affande Kayahura. Of course all the junior ranks who were lounging about suddenly looked busy. Others scattered while So-Called Policeman stood on the fringes. But if Kayahura had sent him, why would he be hanging on the fringes. Should he be not briefing him?

As Kayehura walkined through the venue, he spotted me and came over for a chat and our conversation went along these lines.

TB: “Good evening Affande. I trust you had a good Christmas? Oh, congratulation on being elevated to rank of Lt. Gen.

Kayehura: “Thank you Timothy. I hope the show goes well and without incident tonight.”

TB: “I am sure it will. By the way Affande, that man over there, he says he is here on your authority and that you personally sent him.”

At this point he turns round to look in the direction that i am pointing and just in time to see So-Called Policeman take to his heels up by New Vision before disappearing.

Ha, I was right! An hour or so after Kayehura had left, So-Called Policeman returns, rather humbled and wanting to know what I had told Kayhura. Putting him into his place, I told him that I had asked Kayahura if he had heard of you and if he has sent you too.

With that a worried look came over his face and it was followed by a confession. He did admit that he wanted to watch the show for free and that he was sorry for misleading me. The fact that he apologised was enough for me. Enjoy the show I said as I walked off.

Then there is another. He claimed to be some sort of undercover operative and duly produced an ID card. But there was something suspicious about him, almost as suspicious as So-Called Policeman that necessitated an investigation.

This time Undercover operative claimed to have been sent by John Ngaruye Ndunungutse who is the Director - CT, in the police force. What the Director CT does was not apparent to me. Secondly I had never heard of JNN (I have had to abbreviate his name down from John Ngaruye Ndunungutse for three reasons. 1. It takes me five minutes to type out his name 2. I do have the faintest idea of how to start pronouncing his name and 3. The Kaspersky anti-virus on my computer sprung into action and suggested I power down lest the name was some virus of sorts.

I did power down just to be on the safe side. As I tussled it out with Undercover Operative, So-Called Policeman came out of nowhere and to my aid. Here is the brief conversation.

So-Called Policeman: “You man, you say you have been sent by JNN? To do what?

Undercover Policeman: “Don’t get involved in my duties.”

And with that, a major augment kicks off which ends when Undercover Policeman walks off while hurling threats and abuse. Seeing it is the last day of the year, I don’t have the gas to argue so I let him be and as I do so, sirens start wailing. It is the bomb squad who have turned up in their latest vans and cars that look like something out the movie Die Hard. Men dressed in black and carrying assault rifles and pistols strapped to their hips were all over the place and at the helm was a casually dressed man I had never seen before.

He turns out to be JNN and while I had never met him, he on the other hand does know me and makes a beeline in my direction. Here is the conversation.

JNN: “Mr. Bukumunhe, you are here? I wonder what you are going to write about this time.”

TB: “Funny you should say that JNN, because I already have a few ideas that have come from your men. By any chance did so send that undercover policeman?”

Well before I could finish my sentence, I saw Undercover Policeman making a not so dignified and hurried walk to the exits.

Ha, Just as I thought. Another low ranking policeman claiming to have been sent by his superiors. Alas, they picked the around day and the wrong function because TB was so much around. The real pity about these quack policemen especially those who are undercover, when you challenge them and ask them to produce their Ids – or are they called warrant cards, they believe they are above the law and will not show them to you. And when you persist, they threaten you with arrest. If only there were more people like Koreta in the police force or indeed in the army and the other branches of the security organs it just might be possible to us wanainchi to seek redress.

At the Street Jam I was lucky that I knew Kayhura and JNN otherwise a number of policemen would have walked their families into the show without having paid a dime and they would have been the first people to complain if things had gone wrong.
I may have ruffled a few feathers within the police with this article so to keep them on my side, I have this to say: “Wama Kayhura, once again congratulations on your promotion. Just in case I run into problems with your boys, is there a secure line I can call you on? You can send it by e-mail and my address is listed below. Thanks Affande! Ps. Any chance of an invitation to your being promoted party?”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Value For Money

How do we know that we are getting value for money? Is the car that we buy from the bond value for money or do we down the road regret we had bought the car?
The first car I bought in Uganda was a Honda, a Honda Vigor and from the bond. Suffice to say that is was a car not just off the ship from Dubai or Japan, but one that had been driven around in Kampala for a while until Owner had decided to sell it off.

I am a person who, when it comes to cars, I am driven by design rather than things like fuel consumption or say spare parts. With money in the bank, it was time to get a new ride and with hindsight, I should have done some research, but didn’t. I walked into the first bond that I came across, saw the Honda in the corner and decided that, that was what I wanted. I think Salesman read me like a book and I played right into his hands. When he saw me looking at the Honda, he was quick to point out that it was not for sale.

Not for sale? Did he know who he was talking to? Did he not know that it was me – me THE Timothy Bukumunhe? I should have unleashed a tumbavu on him except then, I didn’t know what the word tumbavu stood for let alone that it existed. So I assured him that I would not settle for anything less and it was the Honda or nothing. He tried showing me a Toyota Kabina but I wasn’t interested.

All of a sudden, he broke down and caved in. “Okay take it” he said and in a flash I was off to the bank and two hours later, I had the Honda plus log book. Honda was my pride and joy and even better, whenever I went into town, I didn’t see anybody with a Honda save for New Vision CEO, Robert Kabushenga who then, had a silver Honda Inspire and it looked very much like mine.

Then some fool deiced to knock off my wing mirror. Not a problem really for all I had to do was to head down to Kisseka Market to get a replacement. Except that Kisseka Market, was not flush with Honda spare parts. However, the man tending to my needs assured me he could find one. He did find one except that it was not a Honda wing mirror but that of some Toyota car.

Next to ‘disturb me’ as we Ugandans are so fond of saying was the clutch plate. The clutch plate became an issue and my mechanic at the time, scoured Kampala looking for one but bleak. As I pondered wondering what to do, I looked back and asked myself if I had gotten value for money when I bought the Honda. I hadn’t and it was then that I realized that Salesman had played me. Then and unknown to me, there were no Honda parts in Uganda – unless you ordered for them from abroad. It got to a point when the car packed up and died in the garage for a lack of spare parts.

With frustration building up in me, I told Mechanic to put it on the market. Weeks went by and when the call came through. Some lady had seen it and wanted it. When I met Lady, it was obvious she didn’t know much about cars and like me, she liked its design. Picking a leaf from Salesman who had sold it to me, I tossed her about until we agreed on a price that was very attractive. And with that, I told Mechanic to do emergency repairs that when she went for a test drive, all would be okay.

The following day she did and had brought her brother in tow. He gave it the all clear, I got my dime from her and she got the Honda and log book. Three days later, her brother calls to complain. My retort?

TB: “But Chief, you took the car for a spin and you had no issues with it. Now you want your money back?!!

Brother: “But my mechanic tells me it is not worth the money we paid. It has so many issues.”

TB: “I am sorry, but I can’t help you. I sold you the car on an ‘as is basis’”.

When I bought the car, I didn’t get value for money. The people who bought the car from me didn’t get value for their money and I suspect that whomever they sold it to, didn’t get their money’s worth either.

The people in the airline business will tell you that the most expensive airline route in the world is the forty-five minute hop between Entebbe and Jomo Kenyatta airports. The next most expensive route which, is equally a shot hop is between Spain and Gibraltar. That said, Kenya Airways will do – or rather has done everything it can possibly to do to make sure it is the premier carrier between Entebbe and Jomo Kenyatta. And with a fee of almost $400 (sh900) for a forty-five minute plane ride, they are laughing all the way to the bank

And so I find myself on the 5:00am flight to Nairobi. The 5:00am flight is Businessman’s flight except that I am not going on business but to Seychelles on holiday. And seeing that I am going on holiday, when the drinks cart came round, I told Cabin Crew that it would be beer that I would be drinking and not coffee.
That statement startled it her that she sought higher authority from Chief Purser – read Head Cabin Crew. Chief Purser was against the idea of booze but when I assured him that I paid my dime, he reluctantly relented.

Do you know that the sound a can of beer makes when it is being popped opens is very distinctive? It was so distinctive that Businessmen were all looking round to see who was catching at such an early hour.

Four minutes after the first can was popped, I was popping another open (I know because Cabin Crew said: “Oh my God, it’s only been four minutes since I gave you the first can!”). And I told her: “Cabin Crew, I have to get value for my money so stop fluffing about and get me a four pack!”

She dithered but when she saw the sneer that I gave her, four cans duly appeared. Let’s do some math’s here. A can of beer costs about sh8,000 on average. I popped open eight cans so that would be sh32,000 while I paid over $400 for my ticket. Then there is Chief Purser telling me that I can’t have any more beer because it is a morning flight.

Hello, hello! I paid my dime and if I want to drink eight cups of coffee between Nairobi and Jomo Kenyatta I would have done just that! If I wanted eight cans plus of beer, it is my prerogative because I paid for them! Not so?
Our dime is our dime and when we spend it we want to get value for our money and I really don’t like being ripped off by airlines or car bond dealers.

As I close, I was ripped off last week. You remember the sandals issue where I had to walk home barefooted? The sandals were brand new, but only lasted a couple of hours. And yes the itch I had between my toes did turn out to be jiggers. According to House Help who performed the vital keyhole surgery with the aid of a torn plucked from an orange tree, he extracted two jiggers from my toes. And judging by the way he smiled when I slapped 10k into this hands, he did get value for the 10min ‘surgery’ that he performed!

The Malfunction

Any drycleaners will tell that that if you wear the trousers of your suit more often than the jacket, when it is time to have the pants cleaned, take both the pants and the jacket even if the jacket is clean. The reason behind this rationale is so that both the jacket and trousers fade at the same pace. Okay, so this intro does not make sense but as you read on, it will.

I am not a man for sandals. I feel sandals don’t make sense especially in this dusty city of ours. But recently, I was given a pair and seeing that it was a Sunday, I thought I would give them a chance. So I took a stroll round the neighbourhood and I felt kind of good especially with the breeze blowing between my toes but irritated at some of the small stones that find their way into the sandals.

As I continued to walk my left sandal started to behave sluggish – like it was sick and tired of being dragged through the dusty streets of the neighbourhood. It was falling back and was not moving in line with the scandal on my other foot. Looking down, I saw the problem. The stem (the bit that goes between your big toe and the next toe) had snapped. But how could it have snapped. They were new sandals, straight out of a kaveera. But then again, does anything that comes out of a kaveera mean that it is brand new and something worthy? In this case it didn’t because the sandals were manufactured by those small men from the Far East and who have ‘slits’ for eyes. The Chinese that is.

So here comes the problem. I am more than an hour’s walk away from home and one of my sandals has snapped. Do I walk back home wearing one sandal while holding the other in my arm or do I follow the dry cleaning rule and remove both sandals and walk back home barefooted?

I opted for the first but it only brought me more problems with one foot being higher that the other. Secondly, everybody who drove or walked past me looked at me like I was some kind of mulalu (lunatic). So I went in for Plan B and walked barefooted. Again, more problems. Everybody who drove or walked past me thought I was more than a mulalu and that I had been given new scandals for Christmas but didn’t want them to get dirty so I took them off and opted to walk barefooted!
Worse still, I got a phone call from my mother and the conversation went along these lines.

TB's MUM: Son, are you okay?”

TB: “Yes I am.”

TB’s MUM: “Are you sure?”

TB: “Yes I am. Why?”

TBs MUM: “A friend just told me that they saw you walking in town with no shoes on.”

I explained to her the best I could as to what had happened and while she listened, she nevertheless sent me some dime to buy new ones. Meanwhile I have an itch between one of my toes and I am terrified that I might have jiggers and that if I go to IHK and tell them my problem, it will spread round town like wildfire. Anyway as I type I am not certain if it is indeed jiggers or something else. And I wouldn’t even know if they are jiggers seeing that I have never had jiggers before. I will let you know the outcome next week.

Broken sandals and jiggers aside, Uganda still has a very poor service industry. Over the Christmas period I was lucky to be invited to Sesse Islands for a couple of days. We were booked into Pearl Gardens Beach and from the moment we checked in, there were issues.

In the bar as I placed an order for a Tusker Malt Larger – yes I am back on Tusker, when the beer was served, it came with no glass. When I asked for one, the conversation went along these lines.

WAITRESS: “But sir, the glasses are over.”

TB: “What do you mean they are over? I want a glass!”

WAITRESS: “But sir, if you had come early, I could have given you a glass!”

At this point there was a need to do a time check. The clock on the wall read 8:10 as did the one on my cell phone. I should also point out that it was 8:10 AM and not 8:10 PM! When Waitress was talking about me coming early to secure a glass, what time did she want me to start catching? At 5:00AM?! It turns out that all the glasses were in the dining room and that I would have to wait until breakfast was over before she could get me one. I let it slide.

Secondly, my room did not have a mirror and I duly informed reception about it. They promised to have one put there. Hours later and there was still no mirror so I reminded Receptionist who once again promised to solve the problem.

The following day there was still no mirror and once again Receptionist promised to fix it. By chance, I happened to pop round the room when Maintenance Man was trying to hang it up. But there was a problem. While it was a mirror, it was not a whole mirror. It was part of what used be a whole mirror. In fact, it was more of a strip. Obviously there was a need to have an exchange of words with Maintenance Man and the frosty kaboozi went as follows.

TB: “What is this?”
To my question, Maintenance Man retorted with a look on his face that read: What the f**k do you think it is?

TB: “I asked you, what is that you are putting up?”
MAINTAINANCE MAN: “A mirror?”

TB: “Be serious! That is not a mirror. That is a broken mirror!”
MAINTAINANCE MAN: “The mirror was broken by a guest sometime back. Now I don’t know what you want me to do. Do I take it back?”

TB: “I asked for a mirror and not a strip of a mirror! You can take it back!”

And just like that he unscrewed the strip of a mirror from the wall and he is gone. But I can hear him in conversation outside the room and he is telling his colleague that: “That man in room 12 is funny. He has been complaining that he has no mirror in his room and when I give him one he says he wants a real mirror. Kati Charlie wange, maybe I am mistaken but is this not a real mirror? Look, I can even see my reflection in it so it must be a real mirror not so?”

He went on to add that he is sick and tired of the people who come down from Kampala. Be’yita ba lordi (they think highly of themselves) mbu because they came from Kampala. We have bazungu’s who come from America and they do not complain the way people from Kampala complain. Even if you told the muzungu that rooms were fully booked and that if he wished, he could sleep in the gardens, he wouldn’t complain. All he would ask you for is a blanket. Tumbavu!”

Tumbavu?! Anybody who is an avid reader of my cowardly tales will tell you that I have a monopoly on the word, tumbavu. It is me who is supposed to say tumbavu and with that, I was out of the door unleashing a torrent of tumbavu’s while Maintenance Man hurriedly picked up his tool kit, strip of a mirror and fled towards Kalangala town and to the police station – no doubt to tell Affande that there is a lunatic from Kampala running amok on the island.

There is more to the story, but the itch between my toes is getting worse that I have to stop and give it a good scratch. I wonder if it is indeed jiggers? By the way, how do they get rid of them? Will I have to fund raise for surgery to be carried out in South Africa? Later.

The Irritant

So it is Jan 1st, 2012. Big deal! If anything, today for many will be, the most depressing day of 2012. You see sometime during the evening, reality is going to set in that after weeks of having a blast and a party and all in the name of the Christmas holiday, tomorrow we have to get up early and go to work. Work, what is that? I had forgotten all about work. I probably don’t even know where my ID is let alone remembering how to get there or what it is exactly that I did there.

December apart from being The Silly Season was also a season when deals seemingly went down. One Sunday morning last November when 20,000 runners gave up their sleep all in the aim of taking part in the MTN Kampala Marathon, though the tycoon Charles Mbire was there, he wasn’t there to run. He had deals to attend to and spent the best part of the marathon in one of the hospitality tents in a huddle with a number of people at which it was all smiles when they got up to leave.

Then I bumped into Godfrey Kirumira at Kabira Country Club with Sudhir Ruparelia. What were they discussing? I did try walking by their table a number of times but got shooed away whenever they saw me approach. And what was Swivel’s Oscar Mulira discussing with a certain George Murimi, who according to my Kenyan sources is a financial mullah in Kenya and West Africa at Le Chateau early one evening? Casino mogul, Bob Kabonero was also in the thick of things at The Pyramids with people who looked like investors.

That got me thinking. Does this mean that the rest of us who were not huddled in meeting’s will end up getting the mawolu (left over’s) of the deals? Or will we simply end up reading about them in the business section of New Vision sometime this week?

What the heck I thought to myself and just got back to my ribs which, was to be the start of a depressing pre-Christmas. You see the previous night I had fantasized about eating spare ribs. In my ribs dream, a near naked Halle Berry had sauntered in along with a scantily clad Kelly Rowland but they were not doing it for me. It was the ribs that took centre stage. And the following morning as I drifted out of slumber while still trying to fight off the seductive attentions of Ms. Berry and Ms. Rowland I reached for the phone and placed a call to the pork joint except that it did not go through because I had no airtime.

Airtime is now loaded, the call is placed and the order made. Three hours later, I am in Soya. I think I have got a good seat for I can see the stage and the Ggaba highway. When the ribs are served, I didn’t bother to wash my hands seeing I had had a shower three hours earlier and as I was going to be eating alone surely the medical people would have no issue with it. Or would they?

The first bite I took, I simply spat straight back out onto the kalai (metal plate) because it was piping hot and much to the amusement of a couple sitting across from me. But I am not easily defeated and figure if I blow on it a couple of times, it will cool the rib down. I do just that, then take another bite and what the f**K, again I have to spit it out because it is still too hot. This time, Couple sitting across from me openly laugh. “Tumbavu” I say to them under my breath.

After a while of drooling at the ribs and still unleashing more expletives that have gone way beyond just tumbavu at the Couple, with some hesitation, pick up the rib and sink in my teeth and that was it. The rib had finally cooled down to mouth temperature. I wanted to ravage it, tear it to shreds but took my time. I savoured the first rib. In fact I did more than just that. I caressed it, we had mouth foreplay and just when it was too much to take any further, I swallowed it. Yalabi! It was something else. It was heaven.

So I sit back and content like a cat that is tossing a mouse that it has just caught when I see an irritant alighting from a taxi. I say ‘irritant’ because he is one of those people who turns up just at the wrong time, joins you and even before he has said a word, his fingers are in the kalai and picking up juiciest of the pork ribs.
Frantically I look round and there are no free tables. In fact there is nowhere to hide because everybody was huddled over a plate of ribs and seemingly into making deals. I pulled my cap down and looked the other way but alas, it was too late. The Irritant had clocked me.

Time for Plan B. As much as I would have loved to take my time with the remaining ribs, it was important to get them down my throat before The Irritant got to my table. I practically choked the second rib down my throat that Couple across from me thought I had bad table manners or what the Baganda would say, omululu. This time I sneered at them and let out an audible tumbavu which I shouldn’t have wasted my time on because it ate into vital seconds and by then, The Irritant was literally sitting down.

At this point there were four ribs left including two succulent ones which I was saving for last. Just as The Irritants fingers started to reach out, his cellphone went off. He looked at his phone, excused himself and walked away to take the call.
While he was away, I went for Plan C. I have a number of Asian friends like Akhilesh Malik, Prabhat and Ajit who all work for Speke Resort Munyonyo. And in my time hanging out with them, they have taught me to eat chillies and while I am not in their league, I can nevertheless hold my own.

The chilli was sent for and going way overboard, the ribs were more than doused in it. When The Irritant came back, the conversation went along these lines.

The irritant: “Eh, TB, can you imagine my fool of a brother calls me when you are all alone devouring a kalai of ribs?”

TB: “It’s a shame the conversation didn’t go on any longer.”

The Irritant: “Ha TB, you are a very funny man. Is that so you could eat the ribs alone?”

In the most depressed tone, I answer in the affirmative as I watch his teeth slice into the ribs. There is a look of satisfaction on his face then he starts to contort and with his eyes watering, he drops the rest of the rib back into the kalai while gasping at his throat.

The conversation is resumed once he regains himself.

The Irritant: “Eh TB, did you use the entire kamulali tree on the ribs? You man, I was dying!”

TB:
“Kyoka The Irritant, I put on just a little.”

The Irritant: “It’s too much. You will have to eat them alone.”
Those words were music to my ears. The dancing girls came out, in the background I could hear Michael Jackson’s Beat It and somewhere in the corner of my mind there was Kelly Rowland who was still scantily dressed and a near naked Halle Berry battling it out to see you I would go home with after I am done with the ribs.

Feeling smart I bite into the ribs. Somewhere into the fourth chew I am overcome. I break out into a sweat. Seconds later my mouth is on fire and all through my body is a burning sensation. But The Irritant is looking at me and I can’t give him that satisfaction so I force life. How I held back the tears I’ll never know but I did manage to finish the ribs.

That night as I lay in bed and waited for the near naked Halle Berry to come into my dreams, my stomach rumbled that I spent close to an hour on the toilet as my rear let out ‘fire’ - if you get my drift.

I have now thrown Soya out because of The Irritant and it won’t hurt me for I have discovered a new pork joint opposite Engen petrol station at Bunga trading centre and the beer too, is cheap – sh2,500. And please people, if you know The Irritant, please, please, don’t tell him I have moved to Bunga for my pork.

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