Sunday, April 22, 2012

Amuka, The Nigerian Girl

The late George Kakoma is perhaps one of the few Ugandan’s whose work will never get slammed. Well at least, I have never heard anybody saying anything bad about the anthem so he must have done a good job.

People have invented things and continue to invent but I am still baffled by a Chinese invention which, continues to baffle me to-date. The chopstick.

Google tells me that chopsticks were invented as early as 1766 BCE but when Chinaman figured he could put two sticks together and scoop up rice with it, did it ever occur to him that if put a couple more sticks together and called it the fork, it would have made life that much easier for him? One thing that Chinaman forgot to tell us is which chopstick is the fork and which is the knife.

A few years ago, I was in South Africa on a DStv sponsored trip to the Big Brother house. The trip to the house was more than a trip to the house because we were also going to spend the night and under Big Brother conditions.

At these events, DStv invite media from participating countries and since Big Brother is big in West Africa, especially Nigeria the biggest media contingent comes from that region.

I was the first to arrive at OR Tambo International Airport in Jo’burg and had a one hour wait for the girl from Nigeria before proceeding on to the Holiday Inn Hotel in Sandton.

When Nigerian Girl emerged from customs under his breath, the driver who was assigned to pick us up said under his breath: “Oh no, not her again.” Nigerian Girl wore what I presumed to have been a headscarf except, it looked like she had stacked ten plus pineapples on her head. Her outfit while colourful and bright drew attention and when she spoke, it was hard to figure if that was the normal way she spoke or she was in an argument.

Nigerian Girl was in her element. Passengers round her scattered when they saw her approach and Porter was not having a good time as he lugged around her luggage for the four day trip. She had two huge metal trunks, a large suitcase and a handbag – well at least that’s what she claimed it was but to Driver, Porter and I, it was more of a huge rucksack.

At the car as I went for the front seat, she barked out in Pidgin English: "Allo, me Amuka no sit in back seat! Me Amuka sit in the front seat even in Abuja.” With her ten pineapples-of-a headscarf, she clambered into the front seat and off we headed to the Holiday Inn.

On previous visits to South Africa I had gotten to know Sandy and she is an amiable and chirpy lass who, is in-charge of public relations at Dstv. She is always at the hotel to meet us and after asking the usual questions about our flights, she hands out the programme for the following day. This time it was a two sheet document and barely had I gotten past the first three lines and there was already a complaint and not from me I might add. The one sided conversation in Pidgin English between Nigerian Girl and Sandy went along these lines.

Nigerian Girl: “Me no be ready at 8:00am now. Me need my sleep!”
Sandy: “But...” (that’s is all she managed before she was cut off).
Nigerian Girl: “We leave at 9:30am now.”
Sandy: (she is speechless)
Nigerian Girl: “Me I go shopping now. Sandy you show me the shops?”

I now understood why Driver said what he had said when we were still at the airport. Leaving Sandy to deal with Nigerian Girl and by now whose pineapples-of-a-headscarf was not looking as good as it ought to be, I hit my room, had a shower and dozed off.

That evening we went to Mandela Square for dinner. Usually DStv take us to some of the finest steak houses and as Kalungi Kabuye will testify, there is not steak house in Kampala that can match the ones they have in Jo’burg. And I was saddened when we passed the steak houses and ended up in a Chinese restaurant. Okay, there was nothing wrong with the Chinese restaurant but I just wanted a steak.

Nigerian Girl had changed her outfit as well as her headgear. She was no longer a headscarf of ten pineapples on her head but twenty watermelons which meant, the seats on either side of her had to be left vacant.

Is there any need to tell you who had issues with the menu? Nigerian Girl. She whined about everything from the service, to what she was going to eat. Then she started bitching about this and that. When she was done with bitching, she threw her toys out of the pram. And when the food was served, all hell broke loose. In her opinion the pork ribs were not pork but from some wild animal. The chicken was not chicken but rat and the prawns were not prawns but fish entrails. She was hard work.

So she settled for noodles and rice and when she saw the chop sticks, she went ballistic and once again in Pidgin English, the conversation she had with our table and which was loud enough to be heard by everybody in the restaurant, the people outside the restaurant and possibly the people back in Abuja went along these lines:

Nigerian Girl: “Me no China person. Me Amuka no eat dog, cat. Me eat proper food, me eat obegusi, ewedu and akara. Amuka wants knives and forks – not chopsticks.”

Everybody in the restaurant, the people outside the restaurant and possibly the people back in Abuja: Silence, sheer silence!

Waiter scurried off to the kitchen, scurried back and laid a knife and fork out on the table and probably scurried to the manager’s office and tendered his resignation then scurried to OR Tambo International Airport and took the first flight back to Beijing!

We had all had enough of Nigerian Girl and it was still only hours into the four day trip. To make things even worse, we were going to be locked up in the Big Brother house with her.

On day two of the trip, we were all in the bus at 8:00am except...you know who. Numerous calls were made from reception to her room and when she eventually sauntered down with edebe (metal tin) of bananas for a headscarf she had the audacity to go off and have some breakfast as well!

When we eventually got to the Big Brother house and the doors were slammed and locked, the movie Nightmare on Elm Street suddenly became a movie that you could show to a group of five-year old kids. We were going to be in our own real life version of Nightmare with Nigerian Girl – Season One. And it was going to have a R18 rating and in the top left corner of the screen would be the words VSNL (violence, sex, nudity, strong language).

We had no kind words for Nigerian Girl when we left the house the following day. I still have no kind words for her and if I won a holiday to Hawaii and found she was going to be there, I would be much better off spending the weekend hurling insults at Al Queadea and Al Shabab Mogadishu.

The last I saw of Nigerian Girl was her walking through the concourse at OR Tambo International Airport and people parting to give her way much like waters of The Red Sea parted when Jesus walked across. I am not sure what was more intimidating – her voice that everybody in the airport, the people outside the airport and possibly the people back in Abuja could hear or her headscarf that this time made her look like she was carrying sugar cane.

And by the way Nigerian Girl, just in case you are reading this on by blog, at the time, I didn’t have the guts to tell you but let me tell it to you straight. Obegusi, ewedu and akara sound like diseases that would be on a United Nations World Health Organisation list.

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