Monday, May 28, 2012

Out With The Rasta's

Unless you get to grips with the meanings of the words used below, you will not understand what today’s cowardly tale is all about
All the while dem depon on di bashment – Partying all the time
Cool running’s – a greeting, things are going smoothly
Ganja - Herb
Hose – Penis. In this case, when Rasta said “mi kyaan lock me hose off, he was saying he can’t keep it inside his pants
Irie – Everything is alright
Jah – Jah Rastafari Haile Selassie I, King of kings, lord of lords, conquering lion of Judah
Jesum piece – An expression of aggravation
Ku pon dis – Look at this
Me check it deep, I have to know if it is casco – I checked it out to make sure it is for real.
Me man bashy – My man is cool
Mi nuh kya – I don’t care
Naa badda mi – Don’t bother me
Rude Bwoy – A tough person
Wa a gwaan – What’s going on  
We gwaan hab a bashment time – We are going to have a good time
Haile Selassie, at one point used to rule Ethiopia in the 70s until, a chap with a girl’s (hmm!) name called Miriam Mengistu, decided enough was enough and that he wanted to rule. But seeing that Selassie was royalty and he, Mengistu, was a mere plebe with no royal connections, the only way he was going to rule was to depose Selassie.
He did just that and took Selassie and his family out into rural Ethiopia where his goons butchered them to death.
But if Mengistu thought that putting Selassie to death would be the end of the chapter, he had another thing coming. The Rasta revolution caught fire because, and so Google tells me, men and women who don’t comb their hair and grow dreadlocks began to worship him en-masse.
My first interaction with Rasta’s was in a rundown bar in Whitechapel, a suburb in London. I really shouldn’t have been in that pub for I stood out like a sore thumb. Everybody had dreadlocks, wore a big red, green and yellow floppy hats, smoked but they were not smoking cigarettes but ganja, which, is contraband.
And when they spoke, though they spoke English – well I think they were speaking English, it was hard to comprehend exactly what, that they were saying.
Dale, a West Indian friend, had asked me to meet him there and that when I got to the bar, I should ask for Steve who would tell me where he (Dale) was. At the bar and still in my suit from work, I leant over and the conversation that followed went along these lines.
TB: “Excuse me, I am looking for somebody called Steve.”      
Barman: “Cool running’s.”
TB: “Er, I was looking for Steve?”
Barman: “Steve? Steve, all the while dem depon on di bashment with the rest in the back.”
And with that he was off to sort out a larger than large lady who at the top of her voice was screaming, “naa badda mi” to a portly man.
So I got myself a beer and tried to mingle. But it was hard to mingle and blend into a crowd that could understand each other, had dreadlocks, smoked ganja, knew what the word Jah stood for while I, wore a suit, carried a briefcase and had short hair.
Dale eventually turned up so I never got to meet Steve and into a back room we went where, the air was so thick with ganja smoke, the music was thumping, and the babes danced in a way that would make the censor board at Channel O and MTV freak out.
As we walked in, a Rasta whose dreads went way down and past his butt came up to us. After the introductions – at least I think they were introductions, he put his massive arms round my shoulders and said: “We gwaan hab a bashment time.”
Taking our seats, Rasta Whose Dreads Went Way Down and Past His Butt pointed out a sista in the corner and who was obviously vexed. He laughed as he told us, she “in bun ka im bun whole heap a herb.”
Yeah whatever you say Rasta Whose Dreads Went Way Down and Past His Butt.
Fast forward to Uganda. Kabalagala is on fire. Years back, it was Capital Pub that was making a nuisance of itself but, today, it is De Posh where, revellers spill out at 7:00am when most of us are doing the school run.
But further down the road from De Posh and on the same side of the road as De Posh, is another bar the belts out Reggae music and like De Posh, it does not close until about 8:00am in the morning.
I think it is called Reggae bar and one Thursday night and on my way home, curiosity got the better of me. I had to give it the once over. I had feelings of nostalgia. I wanted to remember the time I spent in the rundown pub in London where I didn’t understand a word that was being said. You see, when me check it deep, I have to know if it is casco.
The music was thumped at a high decibel, that if you didn’t hold on to your glass, the vibrations would move it all over the bar.
I sat at the bar, placed my order, and started looking around. Rasta next to me held out his fist and so did I. Once we had done with the fist thing, the thumped his chest twice than said: “wa a gwaan?”
Wa a gwaan is term I had heard before from the likes of The Firebase Crew and in an fruitless effort to be as enterprising as he was, I blurted out my response – irie as I pointed at my Club beer. He smiled and looked away after giving me the once over.
And before you start thinking it, no, I was not wearing a suit nor was I carrying a briefcase. 
Behind us, a Rasta had pressed his groin deep into that of a petite girl who he had pinned up against the wall while telling Rasta Friend who was looking on “mi kyaan lock me hose off.
Having settled in and looking deeper into the bar, there seemingly was a VIP area. Of course I had to be in it for after all, I am TB not so?
So I took myself there and only to be stopped at the door by Burly Rasta who gave me a ‘jesum piece’ look. Here is the conversation that we had.
TB: “Am TB, do you mind stepping aside so I can get in?”
Burly Rasta:Mi nuh kya who you are!”
TB: “Whatever, but can I go in for five minutes just to have a look around?”
Burly Rasta pointing to a sign on the wall: “Ku pon dis”
The sign read ‘private’. Just as I am about to walk away, the Rasta I met at the bar turns up, taps Burly Rasta on the shoulder and says: “Mi man bashy”.
In the back room, dope was the order of the day. In fact there was no need to buy a splif because it was cheaper to inhale the second hand smoke.
Then the melee broke out. Tall Lanky Rasta came out of nowhere and threw a punch at Shorter Rasta. Of course Shorter Rasta didn’t take it lying down. He hit back by throwing the contents of his glass over Tall Lanky Rasta then kicked him in the groin.
Just as he was about to kick him again, he stopped, looked over and gave me his cellphone to hold. Once the battering was done he was out of there.
If that was trouble, Tall Lanky Rasta’s friends came in with Burly Bouncer. What they figured is seeing Shorter Rasta had given me his phone to hold, we must have been friends. Burly Bouncer then gestured for me to come forward, while shouting out: “Step rude Bwoy, step.” 
I didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that if I stepped towards him I was going to get a hiding. But I am no rocket scientist and I did step towards him.
The first hollow punch to my stomach brought out the Club beer that I had earlier on. The second brought up the three succulent pork ribs that Kityo in Soya, had made for me.
Just as he was about to throw another punch the lights in my head came flickering on. I had graduated and become a rocket scientist! With my newly acquired knowledge, I fled while dribbling Club beer and pork ribs all over the floor.    

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dealing With Management

A few Friday’s ago, I was at Emin Pasha for dinner and while I rate their food amongst the best there is in Kampala, this time round, Chef was not firing on all six cylinders.
The food was wanting – may be because it was a new menu which he had yet to get to grips with and maybe because Mike O’Rourke, the manager, had moved on? Nevertheless, there was Qwela Band who provided entertainment and distraction from a dinner that was wanting.
Qwela are a talented band – or is it group and it was nice to see that they had some ladies in the horn section playing instruments that are traditionally associated with men.
One of their songs and though I didn’t get the gist of it, had a chorus along the lines of “Okello, Okello…” Interestingly enough, the dentist, Dr. Martin Okello and who was on the adjoining table beamed and presumed rightfully or otherwise that the song was about him. I should have asked them before I left.
Anyway, I hadn’t been that side of town - Nakasero, Kisimenti, in a while and the City Oil gas station complete with coffee shop on Acacia Avenue, took me by surprise. But aya, aya aya, the Aya Brothers Hilton hotel is far from completion! If I recall, was it not supposed to have been completed in time for CHOGM?
Well perhaps they have a different management style from the owners of the City Oil complex.
Talking of management styles, in the early days of Peter Sematimba’s Super FM, I paid him a curtsey visit and it was something else. The sales department was empty, chairs were tucked behind desks and the desks too, were devoid of paper, empty cups of coffee – basically everything save for a laptop. And for a radio station, there was silence. Nobody shouted, or laughed like they do in Owino market. And nobody walked while holding on to the walls. It was organised and that was his management style.
When I asked if he has people working for him, he said he did but in his management style, when you go out into the field, you leave a tidy desk like it is in a furniture showroom.
Up in his office, everything was in place as it should be because it is Peter ‘supa dupa’ Sematimba that we are talking about here.
When the coffee that was sent for arrived, it came in a mug with no saucer and of course after a couple of sips, some of the coffee dribbled down the side of my mug and onto his desk where it left a stain.
On his part, Sematimba exercised considerable restraint for given the opportunity, he would have leapt across the desk and handed me a saucer before the dribble hit his desk. I could tell that Sematimba wanted to do something and say something but he had to tread carefully in case he offended or embarrassed me so he went in for plan B.
His plan B? He suggested that we go and have our coffee out on the balcony. But at some point, he excused himself for five minutes.
Done with coffee, we returned to the inner sanctum of his office and when we sat down, I noticed that the ring of dribble of coffee was no longer there. Further, while we were out on the balcony Tea Girl had not been in the office. So how did my offending ring of coffee dribble disappear? Ah, in the five minutes when excused himself, he must have wiped it away.
In my working experience, I have worked for American’s, English, Ugandan’s, Asian’s and Orthodox Jews and all of them have a different management style.
One Asian firm that I worked for, the way they did things was something new to me. I am a coffee person. Coffee gives me an adrenaline rush that in the mornings, I need two to three consecutive cups to get me going. In the afternoons, two suffice. But there was something that niggled. Tea Girl was always happy to give me the first cup of coffee but when it came to giving me the rest, she was always on the edge, and apprehensive.
In due course, I found out why when I opened my mail to see a communiqué from HR. This is what she had to say:
“Dear Mr. Bukumunhe, it has come to our attention that you consume almost ten cups of coffee a day. Please note that you are only entitled to two cups – one in the morning, another in the afternoon. With sugar, please do not exceed two spoons.” 
Okay so I hadn’t met the lady from HR and I presumed it was a joke e-mail that she sends out to all new employees. I was going to reply but with hindsight, I first touched base with Tea Girl and this was the conversation.
TB: “Tea Girl, how many cups of coffee are we allowed?”
Tea Girl: Munange, I have been trying to tell you. You are only allowed one in the morning and another in the afternoon.”
TB: “You are joking, you must be joking. So are you the one who gives them the information?”
Tea Girl: “Ah, it is not me but that other Asian man, the tall one who sits in the corner.”
I had been meaning to ask who Tall Asian Man is and what he does for the company. You see, Tall Asian Man hardly used to say a word. He would walk round the office with a small note book occasionally making notes or peering over your computer to see what you are doing.
And when I would return from lunch he would be waiting for me at the door and record the time I came back. You see I hadn’t realised that we were only allowed a 30 minute lunch break instead of the customary one hour hence the reason why so many people had lunch at their desks. I just thought that they didn’t like going out.
Tall Asian Man was the office spy. He would make note of the number of sugars we took per cup. He would also make note of the amount of water that we drank even though every Monday, the company got two free big bottles for the cooler. And if you popped out of the office to make a private call or go to buy airtime, again it was noted. So Tall Asian Man notes and so what?
Well when it came to pay day, the pay slip looked like an itemised receipt from Uchumi and Natkumatt, and when I looked at my payslip, I saw the deductions that were made by accounts with the help of Tall Asian Man.
More than two spoons of sugar per cup of coffee: -5k
Drinking more than two cups of coffee:  -5k
Exceeding allocated lunch break: -10k
Okay I do see many HR mangers reading this and wondering why I am moaning for every company has rules and regulations. Yes, they all have rules and regulations but not draconian rules.
When one colleague who like me, is a coffee freak came in with his own coffee and sugar, Management had no problems with it. Except that at the end of the month, on his payslip there was a deduction made for the electricity he used to boil the hot water for his coffee!
It was so bad that at the end of the month many employees, especially junior employees were giving back to the company almost a quarter of their pay.
When, I got wacked for almost half my pay that was it for me. I had to move on and I did. But I did pop round a few months later just to say hello and save for Tea Girl and Tall Asian Man, the rest of the faces were new. This is what Tea Girl had to say.
Tea Girl: “People have been working for free and that is why they left. This month if I get more than 50k, I will be lucky.”
TB: “Things must be tight.”
Tea Girl: “Can you lend me 5k for transi.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

When Theives Come Knocking

It is a horrible prospect being robbed. I guess it is even worse when your house is broken into in the dead of the night when you are sound asleep.


Let’s call them Raymond and Susan. Raymond and Susan moved into a house in Naalya and seeing that it was a Friday, they took the day off from work. By the time they were done moving, it was 9:00pm. Though wacked they were still able to sum up enough energy to go out.

They hit Boda Boda and swung by Ange Noir. On the way home, they sailed through Just Kicking and Cayenne for a night cap and it was close to 4:00am when they got home.

When they walked into the house, they were greeted by a bare living room. Of course it would be a bare living room for they had just moved in and had yet to unpack.

But where were all the boxes of unpacked household items? The living room was bare as was the dining room and the bedrooms too. According to the police who turned up on Saturday afternoon to ‘investigate’, they implied that the couple were at fault for they had not unpacked.

“You made it easier for the goons. If you had unpacked before you went out, it would have been harder for them but, seeing everything was still in boxes, they parked their truck and loaded up” so the Affande is alleged to have told Raymond.

At least Raymond and his better half didn’t have to face Goons. Muloodi and his family were fast asleep with Goons struck and made off with his car while Henry didn’t even know he had been robbed until he came down for breakfast the following day.

When Goons came to my house, to be honest, I was shocked. It’s one of those things that I always heard in the checkout queue at Nakumatt, or overheard in the bank or via an e-mail that has been doing the rounds that by the time I scroll past two pages of address and got down to the message and realised I didn’t know the people who had been robbed, it was never my issue. In my theory, Goons don’t break into my house but into somebody else’s

It was a shade past 3:30am when I awoke and all thirsty. I lay in bed for a while before heading to the kitchen for a glass of juice but, as I passed the living room and peered in, something was not kosher.

The curtains had been pulled back and the windows wide open. And out on the veranda, there was somebody couched and who I assumed was House-ee. But what, would House-ee be doing out on the veranda at 3:30am and why, were the curtains drawn back and the windows wide open?

Looking round the living room, I noticed the Toshiba TV set was no longer there as was the DVD player and the surround system. The early morning sleep that was still in me vanished in a flash along with any thought of a glass of juice. Goons had broken in.

Funny thing was I was at a loss of what to do or shout out. What do I shout? Should it be in Luganda and along the lines of: “muyambe ababbi bayingidde” (help me, thieves have broken in) or, opt to shout in English. Perhaps I should have let out nddulu’s, as seems to be the norm? Pause for thought, I couldn’t figure out the English version of nddulu.

I wail the kyalo (the hood) up with “muyambe ababbi bayingidde” but with my customary tumbavu and backed it up with a stream of expletives that the censor board in Sunday Vision would have no doubt deleted. Going off topic, in one of my cowardly tales the censor board once tried to delete the word ‘pussy’. Yet we all know pussy is a young cat. Hmm, I wonder what they think pussy means!

Getting back, I startled Goon who, made for the fence where he suddenly stopped, swirled round and faced me with a menacing face. I too stopped and but instead of showing a menacing face, I squirmed. And then he made his utterances’, and they were utterances’ I will never forget.

Goon: “So we broke into your house but do you think there is any need for you to be making so much noise for the kyalo?”

With that, he was over the fence and had vanished into the shrubbery.

Was Goon on crack? He breaks into my crib and now has the guile to accuse me of being melodramatic and waking up the neighbours?! It is my house that he was breaking into and taking what was not his! Of course I had every right to be melodramatic! Not so?!

When the dust settled – well not exactly the dust but when my screams and expletives settled, the household was by now awake including some of the neighbours. It was time to assess the losses.

Goon hadn’t been working alone. He must have had two other Goons. What they had done is to pile everything by the fence and then ferry them over. There was everything from clothes, shoes, books and all. But crucially, the only thing they had managed to get over the fence was, Toshiba television set.

A few weeks ago, I was helping out at Club Silk’s Street Jam and manning one of the entrance gates. At Street Jam, album launches and concerts when it comes to money, I am very careful. I don’t go with big notes but low denomination notes like 1k and sh500 coins. And whenever I need to buy something, I take myself to a secluded spot, peel of the exact money I need and go buy whatever it is that I am going to buy.

That way, I minimise the risks of being pick pocketed because Goon has not seen which pocket I am getting the dime from. Now Robert is a security expert from South Africa and works for the security firm that provided security. Robert had his phone dangling off his belt – something that I warned him about.

But seeing that he knew he was a security expert from South Africa, I guess he knew best – until that is, he looked down and the phone was no longer there. Yeah Robert, you may be an expert back in South Africa, but here in Uganda, you are dealing with a different kind of Goon.

Getting back, whenever I required a drink, I would take and lock myself in the toilet, extract 3k, put the bundle away and head off to the bar.

It is a process that has always worked well for me and this time round, there was nothing to worry about. I made frequent trips to the bar and all was seemingly going well until at one point I went back to the washrooms to get dime and it was gone.

How they did it, I don’t know but they did get my dime. However, spare a thought for a chap who shares his first name with that of a Luganda FM station.

Hard to believe but, this is a true story. Our Chap had his dime safely tucked in the front pocket of his tight jeans and went on a night out on the town. However, and in the wee hours of the morning and after buying a drink in a popular Kabalagala night spot, Goon struck. I am not sure if it were the same goon who decided to do his shopping in my house, but using a sharp object, he cut a small slit just below the pocket of Our Chap’s jeans and made off with his dime.

And Our Chap did not feel or notice a thing until he went to buy another drink.

But I can’t end this week’s cowardly tale without and assurance of sorts so here is a message for Goon who stole my dime at Street Jam: The most you got out of me was 6k. However, the real dime was hidden in the elastic band lining of my underwear. I bet you didn’t think about that then did you? And I hope that if you used the 6k to buy muchomo, you not only chocked but got food poisoning too.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Trip To Arua

Back then, the little I knew about Arua was that it was far. It was a long distance away, it was in the sticks, it was in oblivion, it was in the black hole and it was on the other side of Uganda.


Apart from Arua being a long distance away and in the sticks, in oblivion, in the black hole and being on the other side of Uganda, I didn’t know anybody who came from Arua. If that was not bad enough, I didn’t even know what people from Arua were called – Aruan’s?

Then, Erik van Veen was new in town. He was doing everything he could in promoting a company called MTN and part of his grand plan, was to have a launch party in every significant town in the land and Arua was one of them.

There was also that most horrible chap called Joseph Kony, who was doing a savage and different kind of promoting. His promotions were to inflict terror, pain, and havoc on our brothers and sisters up north and he also made it extremely difficult for people travelling up north, for once you crossed Karma Falls, it was bunkenke all the way up to Arua.

To make things even worse, the road between Karuma and Arua had no tarmac, and every mile of so, UPDF soldiers were deployed to thwart any Kony ambush.

Van Veen didn’t give a hoot about there not being tarmac between Karuma and Arua. And he didn’t give a damn about Kony either. He had a mission: To put Uganda on the telecommunications grid, to enable the people up north to communicate people in the west and people in the west to communicate with people in the south and people in the south, to communicate with the people in the east.

To cut a long story short, Van Veen wanted Uganda to jazz, to bang kb, to talk and to vybe. And we wanted to do just that because MTN made communicating easier and cheap unlike those chaps from Celtel, who had made it a thing for the rich.

When the invitation to go to Arua landed, I was committed. I was going, just like I went to Moroto in last week’s cowardly tales.

At MTN Towers on a cold Thursday morning we assembled for the yellow bus ride to Arua and invitees list was impressive enough.

Radio One’s RS Elvis, John Nsimbe of Daily Monitor, Capital FM’s Alex Ndawula, Kalunge Kabuye from New Vision, Tilly Muwonge and Chris Eritu of WBS, ‘Barbra’ Natty Dread, Philip Besiimere and Patrick ‘OPP’ Oyulu amongst others.

Anjelica Arden who was in charge made sure that as we boarded, a liquid breakfast was on hand. And the liquid breakfast? Numerous creates of Bell, Nile, Club, Red Top and ESB beers. She had also thoughtfully threw in some buweera’s of water (you have to understand that in those days, the likes of Vero, Rwenzori, Highland, Wava, and Aqua Sipi bottle water did not exist.

We had breakfast all the way to Karuma Falls. The conversations that were running were good, full of humour and sometimes, full of downright blatant lies. But who cared for we were off to Arua and to a town most of us had never been to.

In those days, when you got to Karuma, there was a wait while the UPDF foot patrols made sure that the road from the falls to Arua was safe and devoid of Kony.

Once we got the all clear we set off. As soon as we started seeing wreckage of buses, trucks and cars that had succumbed to earlier Kony ambushes, the conversations that were once full of humour and downright lies ceased to be and the bus went into a silent mode.

And on one bend, when we spotted a group of soldiers in ragtag uniforms squatting in the shrubbery, that was it. We all turned to god.

OPP wept, Kabuye was babbling to himself. RS Elvis held onto his crotch for dear life like there was a probability that the contents would get shot or hacked off.

I on the other hand displayed exceptional bravery that even I found surprising. I joined OPP in weeping, except that my weeping was audible.

Getting to Arua was a relief. We had survived Kony and we had to celebrate. That we did for the next couple of days.

The day before our return to Kampala, Van Veen threw us a mega party in Pacific Hotel that went on into the wee hours of the morning. The party was the talk of town that the ladies of the night from The DRC crossed the border to get in on the action.

Some found clients while other had to trek back empty handed. But was all seemingly well for those who got clients?

In the morning as we all clambered on the bus and nursing sever hangovers, there was no sign of trouble looming ahead. Well that was until we got to an impromptu road block on the outskirts of town.

A combination of police and UPDF troops flagged the bus down. As we all peered out of the windows looking for information, we saw a young lady in the midst of Police and UPDF and who was in a state of distress.

Led by Police, they brought her onto the bus and the conversation that followed went along these lines:

Affande: “One of you boys has been naughty. If you feel you have anything to confess or that you are the guilty party please come forward.”

There was silence.

Affande once again repeated himself and again, it was met by a wall of silence. It was only when he started to walk down the aisle with the Young Woman that I felt the urge to confess. You see the previous evening, I briefly left the party to get some air and while outside the hotel, I felt like having a pee.

Rather than going back into the hotel and using the toilets there, I went round the corner and peed on a wall of a house next to the hotel. Yes I know it was a daft thing to do, but at the time and with a few beers down me, it seemed perfectly ok.

But really, why should I confess to Affande. Let me harden so I thought to myself. And I did just that. As Affande and Young Woman encroached further down the aisle, she stopped, lifted up her hand and pointed. The conversation that followed went along these lines.

Young Woman: “Affande, there he is, that one.”

Affande: “Are you sure he is the one?”

TB (under my breath): “I only peed on the wall but is it grounds for arrest?”

Young Woman: “Affande, I swear it is him. He refused to pay me after sex and even stole my knickers.”

Eh, now from just peeing on the wall I am supposed to have laid her and stolen her knickers too? This is going too far. However, just as I was about to stand up and protest my innocence, Young Woman and Affande walked straight past me and to the back where a young man was trying to hide under the seats.

The Young Man who was a contractor with MTN was hauled down the bus and a quick search of his belongings revealed he did indeed have Young Woman’s knickers. With that he was arrested and taken off the bus.

It was not until we got to Kampala that I felt relieved. Not because we had once again survived Kony but because nobody had reported me for peeing on their wall and thus no arrest would be forth coming.

But pause for a thought. Why would Young Man steal the knickers of a prostitute? Was it some kind of trophy to brag to his friends in Kampala? Young Man, if you are reading this, drop me a line for I would like to know how it all ended. Cheers!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Overnight in Pian Upe

Travelling within Europe is an easy affair. They have an excellent rail, road, sea and air network and in England where I lived for a number of years, getting from one corner of the British Isles to the other was a far simpler affair than getting from Kampala in the south to Moroto in northern Uganda.


But we never felt that the system was good enough for, we used to complain. If British Rail was late by five minutes, there would be a storm of complaints. If Eurostar, the high speed train that hurtles from London to Paris left two minutes behind schedule, again voices would be raised.

On one occasion when I was travelling from London to Amsterdam, Ryan Air was running an hour behind schedule. And of course, everybody complained. I didn’t, because Heathrow is a vast airport with a good number of duty free shops and of course loads of pubs.

With that, why would I complain? I mean, I would if I was delayed at Entebbe Airport where a beer in the only bar/cafeteria in the departure lounge is close to 6k, and duty free shops – if at all they can be called duty free shops, are more expensive than ordinary shops in Jo’burg, London or New York.

One thing I learnt about the Brits, whilst they will always be the first to complain, sometimes their complaints, need to be questioned.

A few years ago, a story on Sky News went along these lines. It was the height of the summer holidays and the trains were full as families headed off from London to the coastal towns. In one carriage, Teenage Couple got caught up in lust and rather than wait till they got to their hotel room, they decided to have sex right there – in a carriage full of kids running up and down, grandparents, mums and dads – the works.

Guess what, nobody complained. Nobody raised eyebrows and nobody relocated their kids to another carriage and out of view of the amorous love makers.

However, once the couple were done and had tidied themselves up, they lit up to smoke and, that’s when all hell broke loose! Everybody complained. Grand Ma and Grand Pa went livid while Mum and Dad spat fire for not only were Teenage Couple smoking in front of the kids, it was also a ‘No Smoking’ carriage.

Hmm, let’s pause there. Love making in a train and in full view of other passengers and smoking in a no smoking carriage, which one offends most?

So I am back in Uganda and decide to spend two months travelling round the country. And my preferred mode of travel? Train.

At the train station on Jinja Road, I find Fat Mama tucked into her lunch – fish, groundnut sauce, matooke and sweet potatoes.

Let’s pause again. As I do my proof reading, I am trying to figure out what contribution Fat Mama’s lunch has done to enrich this cowardly tale. Do you feel the way I do?

Anyway, Fat Mama barely glanced at my travel itinerary. Rather, she laughed and in the process, spewed out driblets of groundnut sauce onto my neatly typed out travel plans. Here is the conversation that followed.

Fat Mama: “You want to go to Moroto, Kabale, Kitgum and Fort Portal by train?”

TB: “Yeah, that’s the idea. What I need is the train time table and perhaps you could advise on the best travel options?”

Fat Mama: “When did you last see a train?”

TB: “You have lost me.”

Fat Mama: “There are no trains here.”

TB: “I think you have misunderstood me. I don’t want to travel today, perhaps mid next week?”

Fat Mama: “Like I said, there are no trains.”

It took a while to figure out what she was on about so plan B came into play: A commuter taxi.

My first trip was to Moroto. I don’t know why I choose Moroto – perhaps because it was so far up north and if my parents found out I was headed there and in the days when Joseph Kony was still doing his bizarre thing of cutting off lips and ears, it was bound to give them a heart attack.

It was a real adventure going up to Moroto by taxi and a far cry from travelling in an air-conditioned train, hurtling down a smooth four lane motorway or, flying with Ryan Air like I used to when I was still in England. This was a katogo – an overloaded taxi with everything short of a herd of goats.

One thing I discovered about travelling in a taxi with animals especially chickens and turkeys, is that they hardly make a sound. They simply bury their heads in their wings and keep mum. But what they will do is pupu en-mass and dios pupu at that, because it dribbled down the length of the taxi and messed up my bags.

The taxi of course, had its issues from numerous punctures to overheating to simply coming to a stop for no apparent reason. Again, I was not bothered because it was an adventure and I had never experienced anything like this in my life.

That was until the taxi decided it would go no further. We were near a small town called Pian Upe when it died so we had to walk a mile or so to get there. With my rucksack smeared with chicken and turkey dios of pupu slung on my back, we walked to Pian Upe where we were to spend the night and hopefully resume the journey the following day assuming the taxi had been repaired.

For a town seemingly no bigger than Kabalagala and in the middle of nowhere, it was bustling but only because it was playing host to a teacher’s conference and that meant every lodge was booked out.

No amount of grovelling could get me a room in a lodge and I say lodge, because Pian Upe only has lodges. Exasperated, I sat in the dimly lit reception of the best lodge and pondered my next move which came in the form of one of the teachers – a male teacher, who offered to share his room with me.

I would have ‘embraced’ him but there was a question that had to be answered before I accepted his offer. What was his sexual orientation? It was only when I saw his hands tear at the thighs of a more than ample woman that, I agreed.

Supper in Pian Upe was a delight. It was the first time that I had eaten rubber chicken for no matter how many times I chewed on it, it just never broke down. In the end it was a case of simply ripping chunks off the bone, swallowing them whole and drinking water to ease passage down my throat.

After the rubber chicken experience, I settled down to some beers with Male Teacher and Ample Thigh-ed Woman. It was nice talking to them for they gave me a history of Pian Upe including Moroto where, I was hopefully headed the following day.

And as the night wore on and the beers took their toll, Male Teacher lent over to me and whispered: “Can you wait a while before you come to the room? I need to take of Ample Thigh-ed Woman first.”

I couldn’t argue for he was doing me a favour. And so I sat in the bar drinking warmer than room temperature Bell beer as the clock ticked on. 11:00pm became midnight which became 1:00am. 1:00am became 2:00am and it was around 3:00am when he finally emerged all sexually satisfied and calling me to sleep.

While he had a bed, management of the lodge had laid out a mattress for me on the floor and it was no thicker than the latest I-Pad from Apple.

Worse, the pillow case was so stained that I had to cover it up with a t-shirt and as for the sheets, short of regurgitating my un-chewed and undigested rubber chicken at the thought of what stains might be on them, when I stretched out my legs, the sheets tore because they were so old and worn.

By the way, I did eventually figure out what contribution Fat Mama’s lunch had to the article. It boosted the word count.

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