Friday, February 24, 2012

Going AWOL

I’ve got a bone to pick with that Ernest Bazanye fellow of the Bad Idea fame and who peddles his ramblings on the second last page of this, your favourite Sunday Magazine.

You see Baz, as they call him in the small confines of Sunday Vision, wafted into a dream that I was having after a night of clubbing in Silk Lounge. How he got into the dream remains a mystery and thankfully in the dream, it had nothing to do with what a certain pastor of a Rubaga based miracle centre church is alleged to have sexually done to a number of men – or where they young boys?

In the dream the prolific writer that he is, Baz wrote about me kissing some lady. There is nothing wrong with that, except that, he wrote it in Luganda and the Luganda translation of kissing is not entirely the best. He wrote: “nabalaybe nga beekomba” and further down in the article he added: “yamusunye omumwa”.Charles Sendi who is my resident Luganda translator tells me that putting those words into English would translate as follows. ‘I saw them licking each other’ and ‘he pinched her on the mouth’. Eek, Baz and all along I thought we were friends?!

Enough of Baz. I have known Ronald Safari since he started work at Serena Hotel in the food and beverage department and Sean Christian while he was head chef at Emin Pasha. I put Safari, Christian in the same league as Godfrey Gyagenda of Kampala Sheraton Hotel and Akilesh Malik of Speke Resort Munyonyo. Undoubtedly they are the best in their field. They know what they are doing and when it comes to execution, as long as they are there to tend to your needs, nothing goes wrong.

As most of you well know, I like my food. I like rich foods and I will seek out the best culinary chefs that Uganda has to offer and sample their kitchen delights. And I will also seek out the best food and beverage managers, the ones who I know will pamper the living daylights out of me. And it was in Boda Boda on a Thursday night that I settled in for the BBQ night – and by that, I mean a 7 hour affair in which Safari and Christian did their thing. Yalabi, talk about slavering, that was me throughout the night at the food. I wonder if Gyagenda will go one step better when I am next at the Sheraton – and I guess I would have to pick a day when presidential advisor John Nagenda is not dining there for when he is, the hotel practically comes to a stop and revolves round him.

But it got me thinking about both Safari and Christian. They left their previous employments at the end of January and ended up in Boda Boda but how exactly did they leave their last jobs? Okay I know they were not fired but it is common practise among people who work in the food industry, the house help and a number of blue collar workers that when they get tired of the job that they are doing and are moving on, they don’t tell the employer.

In Soya where I tend to go for pork, the staff turnover is ballistic. Just as you start to get used to say Susan, Mabel or John, they are gone. When you enquire as to what happened to them, the answer is always: “Yagenda. Kirabika yakoowa” (they went. It looks like they were tired of the job.)

When House Help want to quit, they wait until you give them leave and once they are out of the gate, that’s the last you will ever hear of them. Godfrey Kivumbi who is the Creative Director at Silk Events knows a thing or two about staff who never come back for he says: “I hired a young chap as a graphics editor. He started work just before lunch and diligently worked the day out. When he was going home, he thanked me for giving him the job and even asked about his work schedule for the following day. And then he was off home and it was the last time I ever saw or heard of him. Was it too hard a task for him to tell me that I can’t hack the job?”

A few years ago I spent the night on the back of a police pick up. No, I was not arrested but was doing a story on them. It was to be a two night affair. The evening started off well. We raced all over town from CPS after a briefing down to Gayaza Road and the across town to Kireka to apprehend a number of thieves who I might add we actually caught red handed trying to steal a generator from the home of a Korean expatriate. Then there were the car accidents we had to deal with along with petty domestic squabbles. All that happened before midnight.

After midnight the night sort of settled and the cold came in. It was the real cold and when you are on the back of a pick-up and racing all over town, the cold gets to you. In fact it actually gnaws at you as it sends shivers down every opening that your jacket or jeans have not covered. And then the sleep hits you and as the sleep and cold are doing their thing, there is this struggle to stay on the back of the pick-up.

Matthias Mugisha who was my photographer was having a hard time. I was doing so baldy and it got to a point that I really hated Simon Kaheru who was then Deputy Editor at Sunday Vision for barking the assignment into me.

When morning hit, it was more than a relief and when we clambered off the pick-up back at CPS, we made small chat with Police as well as getting a brief about our next assignment later that night.

We listened intently except that I was not listening intently. There was no way that I was going back on the police pick-up. One night was enough. All I had to do was to tell them that but I didn’t. Rather and just like House Help, Waitress or Waiter who don’t tell their employers that they quitting the job, I too didn’t tell Police that I had had enough.

That evening and an hour before I was due to report for ‘duty’, I switched my phone off – again which is something that House Help, Waiter or Waitress do.

The following day when I switched it back on, a flood of messages filtered through including one from Katumba Wamala who then headed the police force. The message was simple enough. “Tim, if you were unable to make the second night, all you had to do was to tell us. We would have understood.” Whilst there is a need to apologise to affande Wamala for my going AWOL even though the incident happened almost seven years ago, can somebody please tell me why House Help, Waiter or Waitress leave their jobs without at least telling us that they are never coming back?

And to my friends Manzi, Paulo, Willo, Dorc, Muzee and all, they left Miki’s without saying a word and now they have left Monot without saying a word either so maybe the leaving without saying good bye is not just a Waitress, House Help or Waiter thing. It is also a white collar thing. Now that’s got me thinking, when M7 fled the jungles of Luweero for Sweden when it was all too apparent that the war was on the verge of being lost, did he tell the rest of his fighters that he was off and was not coming back? Affande’s Salim, Muhwezi, Kutesa and the rest of the group of 26, perhaps you enlighten me?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sarah - The Waitress

It is one of those questions we all ask ourselves. How do we know when we have been stood up? Is it after five minutes or an hour perhaps? Early this year, I bumped into Lillian Barenzi and seeing it was at Shell Bugolobi, it was hardly the place to catch up – well unless you have a thing for inhaling fuel fumes to give you a high.

So we agreed to meet the following evening to paint the town red. Numbers were exchanged – well she took my number and that was that. The following day I was dressed and ready by 8:30pm and in full battle fatigues with a red beret just in case she decided to wear hers and intimidate the life out me. 8:30pm came and went and so did 9:00pm along with load shedding. Then it was 10:00pm, 11:00pm, 1:00am and somewhere in between 2:00am and 3:00am I fell asleep. It was only when Umeme switched the power back on at 6:15am and as I wiped away more than just a drool of malusu that had slithered out of the corner of my mouth and down the back of my neck and onto the sofa that it finally dawned on me. Barenzi had stood me up. Hmm, I must have been really patient.

Now let’s get into the succulent pork chops of today’s cowardly tales. Anybody who lives in Bunga and beyond will no doubt have heard of a place called Soya. Soya is the hub of Bunga, where all the supermarkets are, the bars and of course the place to eat pork. And there is a man called Nadduli who I am told practically owns Bunga, and there is a very lovely lady called Madame Nampeera who owns a beer outlet and there is the equally vivacious Julie who owns a bar called Julie’s. And let’s not forget Kityo, the master of roasting pork – though I don’t know how he manages to pull it off bearing in mind the number of tot packs of Royal Vodka that he sucks on daily.

While the bars in Soya pull in a big crowd every evening, one thing they have not done is to work on their toilets and their staff. I would dare say that if anybody wants to see the worst toilets past Kansanga, you will find them in Soya. The one toilet block is a mess. Since it was built, it has never been cleaned. The stench of susu is unbelievable. Worse still, the toilets are universal – the act as both a urinal and showers too! Thankfully, Madame Nampeera has her own and very clean toilets for her customers.

I know Julie is going to be more than a trifle upset at this, but a good number of us are fed up with one of her staff. To save her blushes let me change her name and call her – hmm, let’s see – Ah, I think Sarah will do. I don’t know how she does it, but Sarah has the ability to walk in slow motion. Forget about Michael Jackson when he used to do the ‘Moonwalk’. Sarah is in a class of her own. Her slow motion walk is so good that when she sets off from the bar to serve you, you can actually rush into town, have a haircut, pop into Nakumatt for a spot of shopping, drop it off at home and be back at your table before Sarah arrives to take your order.

Okay so the first time she set off from the bar to serve me in slow motion, I actually got up went to the bar, got served there and was back in my seat before she arrived. When she eventually got to me, she had this scowl about her face that I practically leapt out of my seat and sought refuge under the table. It was like she has come to hiss, to vent out her anger on me as well as throwing in a few slaps here and there. The conversation went along these lines.

Sarah: (Nothing came out of her mouth. Not even hello.)
TB: “May I have a Club please?”
Sarah: “Club?” and said with a puzzled look.
TB: “Yes a Club beer.”
Sarah: (Silence and still with a puzzled look and now a scowl on her face.)
TB: “Is there a problem?”
Sarah: “Club?”

At this point I was at a loss for words until a Good Samaritan on the adjoining table stepped in and offered his services.

Good Samaritan: “TB you are saying it all wrong. You have to say the word Club in Luganda and not English.”
TB: “Eh, this is a first for me. How do you say Club beer in Luganda?”
Good Samaritan: (And practically barking at her) “Gwe Sarah, genda oleete Club-uu.”

At that, the puzzled look from Sarah’s face melted away and she turned on her heels to once again slow motion her way back to the bar and back. With hindsight I should have ordered two beers to save time but I didn’t.

Two weeks later and on another visit, Sarah was still in her element. She still had the slow motion thing about her and the scowl about her face so I took it upon myself to throw at her some words of encouragement and to be nice to her and to tell her that if she wrote down the orders, she would be able to make one trip to and from the bar instead of the current five that she does.

You see, her first trip is to take your order. The second trip is to come back and ask you what you ordered because she’s forgotten. The third trip is to bring you your beer, the fourth to bring the glass and the fifth to bring the opener.

When I told her about writing things down, the scowl turned menacing and if I were to guess what she would have spewed out of her mouth had she decided to do it, it would have been along these lines: “Oli stupid-ee! Do you know how to even work in a bar? You just sit there and drink beer and now you want to tell me how to do my job? Stupid-ee!”

Thank god she didn’t spew out the words. Later on, I had a polite word with her boss Julie and kindly asked to find a way of telling her never to serve me. I don’t know if my message was passed on, but judging by the looks I now get, it might have but in a more rounded form.

That form so I suspect, was along the lines of ‘pull up your socks because customers are complaining about you.’

Has there been any change in Sarah? Bleak. Because as they say just because you go to school and onto university and have been scoring straight A’s, it does not mean you will be successful. And like they say, there are some people who fall out of the safety net and our Sarah is one of them. She is beyond redemption and dare I say that if anybody took her to London, New York or Tokyo, the pace at which people walk would simply give her a heart attack.

But then again, I think she is comfortable in her own little world and indeed there are many people who are not bothered that she never smiles but scowl’s, that it takes forever to get a word out of her and that it will be an eternity before you get served.

And in saying that, maybe the problem lies with me. Maybe I am being too difficult? Maybe I have not taken the time to try and understand her and most probably she dislikes the hell out me? Hmm, that is a real possibility.

While Sarah slow mowed her way to get my Club-uu beer, a txt message from Phado fell in which brought a smile to my face. He has been blessed with a baby boy. Congratulations Phado! Ops, I think Sarah has misinterpreted my smile for she is smiling at me. I think I better get out of here. See you all next Sunday.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's All About Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's Time To Declare War On The Scroungers!

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