Friday, January 25, 2013

Things Are Tight

Things are tight, and a dime is hard to come by. The world over, we hear and read stories of banks collapsing, pensioners having lost their savings and companies going into administration.
And the situation is no different in Uganda. Last week Ssebagala and Sons was taken by one of the banks, cars are being impounded and houses auctioned off.
With that, there is a need to tighten our belts and to cut down on our spending especially when it comes to going out. For many people including me, the kafunda culture rules. I will trawl the city looking for that kafunda that serves the cheapest beer so I can save 1k or even sh500.
And if you trawl hard enough yes, you will find that kafunda willing to flog you a beer for sh2,700 or less. But it comes with a price. There will be no toilets, a melee breaks out every five minutes and the person sitting next to you will not have had a shower in five days and thus reeks far worse than a pit latrine.
I was in the arrivals lounge at Entebbe Airport recently and we sought to have a beer in Crane Cafeteria. A beer in Crane Cafeteria goes for sh8,000 which, makes it the most expensive place in Uganda to get a beer. It even beats Speke Resort Munyonyo, Serena and Sheraton hotels.
In my kafunda on Salamma Road, I can get a beer for sh2,700 but 8k at Crane Cafeteria, this prompted a call to Uganda Breweries, and the lady tells me that all beers run off the same production line and there is no difference between a beer that costs 8k and one that costs sh2,700.
So there is no difference in bottle and taste so why is Crane Cafeteria trying to sell me a beer at 8k? There has to be a reason, a reason that makes sense and a reason that validates the 8k pricing.
Was it the ambiance? Hell no! Did they have waitresses with big bosoms and in skimpy skirts? Nope. Is their beer chilled in a fridge that has a velvet lining with Diana Ross belting out the song: “It’s My House and I Live Here” whenever the door is opened? Bleak. So what was it then?
The answer came scurrying across the bar. I think it was Papa Cockroach who came first. He popped out of nowhere, surveyed the terrain then scurried down the length of the bar. Two minutes later and Mama Cockroach, Daughter and Son Cockroach whizzed across the bar leaving two cockroaches in their wake and who, I presumed were the frail Grandpapa and Grandmamma Cockroach.
I have three witnesses – LP and SCK plus Waiter who was unmoved. He didn’t bat an eyelid but merely took it in his stride for I guess he had seen it all before. Here is the conversation.
TB: “Chief, what is it with the cockroaches, are you not seeing what I am seeing?”
Waiter: (With a ‘what’s your beef look’?) “They will fumigate.”
TB: (With a tumbavu look) “Tumbavu, you want me to drink beer for 8k in a place that is rocking with more roaches than in the slums of Kisenyi?
Waiter swung me a ‘f**k you’ look that in a flash, we were down the road to a kafunda where a lass with ‘elephantiasis legs’ and a butt that dripped of ghee from the depths Ankole that ought to have had a sticker that read: ‘Danger - wide load’ served us beer for 3k!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Where Is My Christmas?

I have a strong affiliation with Bank of Uganda. Not because I work there, or bank there, but another Bukumunhe, my day that is, once worked there as Deputy Governor.
When dad left, I still maintained ties with the bank – through Governor Mutebile and to a lesser extent Deputy Governor Louis Kasekende and Sylvia Jjuko.
Pause there.
Last year in the run up to Christmas and the New Year, there was a phrase or is it a language that was echoed by mostly blue collar workers at just about every place that I went to. It was: “Where is my Christmas?” or “Where is my New Year?” In laymen speak, it means a gratuity and more importantly, a gratuity in the form of a cash payment.
Pump lady at Shell Bugolobi was the first to ask for ‘her Christmas’ and the conversation went along these lines.
Pump Lady: “Eh Mister, now what do we do?”
TB: “About what?”
Pump Lady: “It’s almost Christmas and I want to go to kyalo.”
TB: “Just in case you go before I next fill up, have a good holiday.”  
And for good measure I even threw in a bonus and told her to “greet those people for me…” But she wasn’t done so she explicitly asked for her Christmas.
I had seen it coming, so I meekly smiled. And while I was still smiling meekly, a lady drove up in a Mercedes Benz ML that had seemingly spent only two days out of the Spear Motors showroom, which gave me an opportunity to flee.
Getting back. Another affiliation that I have with Bank of Uganda is with Governor Mutebile’s driver and bodyguard. As far as I can remember, since he became Governor, Mutebile has had the same driver and police bodyguard.
At many of the functions that I attend and they are there, we talk, laugh and joke about. The two are not pompous but polite unlike the drivers and bodyguards of some cabinet ministers’ that I know of. And Governor’s Driver, I have to say, is that he is exceptionally pristine in his white uniform.
Our friendship is such that if I am in a position to help them out I will, and it is a gesture that they have always appreciated and never taken for granted.
Last Saturday at Jacob Oulanya’s wedding reception in Munyonyo we met yet again. Of course we laughed and talked about what the New Year held in store for us when all of a sudden, the dreaded topic reared its head and you don’t have to be a clairvoyant to guess what is coming next. “Where is my Christmas?”
But there was a twist. Governor’s Driver was not asking for Christmas. Rather, he was thanking me for all the help I have always afforded them and wanted to give me something small in appreciation. I told him there was no need to, but he was so insistence and would not take “no” for an answer.
And just like that, he whipped his hand into his back pocket and gave me my Christmas and I won’t tell you what it was.
If I didn’t accept it, he would have felt snubbed and let down. I accepted because it was a most genuine mark of respect that I had ever received from a blue collar worker. I was touched for when he handed over my Christmas, he was very sincere, humbled and very genuine. Not that I did not respect him before, he is somebody that I will forever hold in high esteem.          

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Idle Week

It’s been that kind of week, a week that seemingly had no purpose and one that ended on a tragic note.
I was idle and hooking up with a couple of friends, it got me thinking about common sense. When we placed our order for three drinks – two Club beers and a TML, the waitress that served us was totally devoid of common sense.
I was at the table alone when the drinks arrived and holding on to one Club, she asked if it was what I was going to drink. I told her “no”. So what does she do next? She grabs the other Club and again asks if it is what I am going to drink. Again, I tell her “no” which then leaves her with her next option. “Oh, so you are going to have the TML then” so she laments.
But Waitress, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if I have declined one Club, it is more than likely I won’t be having the second Club either.
Then the blue fly appeared out of nowhere. Well tell a lie, it must have appeared out of the pit latrine. And again that got me thinking.
Life is not fair not just for us humans but also in the animal kingdom too. I have read stories where cats and dogs get left a fortune when their owners pass on. And some animals eat and get looked after better that some humans do.
But what is in store for Blue Pit Latrine Fly? From the time it is born, its destiny is to hang out and feast on faeces in the worst pit latrines in the land. And when they tire of feasting on faeces, they make it a point of hovering on your glass or bottle and if not, they want to nibble on your pork as well.
Blue Pit Larine Fly came for our pork but the good thing we were done so it ended up nibbling on the scraps. I felt sorry for it. I really did the poor sod. As I looked at it, I thought of the rest of its family – its grandparents, parents, siblings, nephews, nieces and cousins and whether they know that they are the slime of the animal kingdom. And when they are down in the pit latrine which part of the s**t do they prefer? Yuck!
Moving on, back in the old days when it came to music and cassette tapes, I was used to brands like Memorex, TDK, and Sony. However when I returned to Uganda, I found out that people here didn’t use those brands. Rather, they used something called the Compact which, was just like any other tape. Today, tapes are a thing of the past but not for Fred.
Fred finally bought a ride – a Toyota kabina and I am happy for him. What I am not happy about is that he chose to flaunt his music which was not on a CD or on a flash disk but – wait for it, wait for it - on a Compact.
Ten minutes into the ride and there was a danger of the tape getting chewed so he hit the eject button slapped the Compact on the dash board a couple of times and then put it back into the tape deck.
It worked for a while but twenty minutes later it wasn’t. There was a gargling sound that Beyonce sounded like a ninety-four year old granny. And just like that, the tape got chewed up with Beyonce gargling out her last breath of life.
And for poor Fred, he spent the better part of the afternoon trying to remove the tape from the player.
Ending on a sad note, we all feel the grief that the Mulwana family is going through right now. James Mulwana, was a pillar and much respected. May his soul rest in peace.         

The Idle Week

It’s been that kind of week, a week that seemingly had no purpose and one that ended on a tragic note.
I was idle and hooking up with a couple of friends, it got me thinking about common sense. When we placed our order for three drinks – two Club beers and a TML, the waitress that served us was totally devoid of common sense.
I was at the table alone when the drinks arrived and holding on to one Club, she asked if it was what I was going to drink. I told her “no”. So what does she do next? She grabs the other Club and again asks if it is what I am going to drink. Again, I tell her “no” which then leaves her with her next option. “Oh, so you are going to have the TML then” so she laments.
But Waitress, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if I have declined one Club, it is more than likely I won’t be having the second Club either.
Then the blue fly appeared out of nowhere. Well tell a lie, it must have appeared out of the pit latrine. And again that got me thinking.
Life is not fair not just for us humans but also in the animal kingdom too. I have read stories where cats and dogs get left a fortune when their owners pass on. And some animals eat and get looked after better that some humans do.
But what is in store for Blue Pit Latrine Fly? From the time it is born, its destiny is to hang out and feast on faeces in the worst pit latrines in the land. And when they tire of feasting on faeces, they make it a point of hovering on your glass or bottle and if not, they want to nibble on your pork as well.
Blue Pit Larine Fly came for our pork but the good thing we were done so it ended up nibbling on the scraps. I felt sorry for it. I really did the poor sod. As I looked at it, I thought of the rest of its family – its grandparents, parents, siblings, nephews, nieces and cousins and whether they know that they are the slime of the animal kingdom. And when they are down in the pit latrine which part of the s**t do they prefer? Yuck!
Moving on, back in the old days when it came to music and cassette tapes, I was used to brands like Memorex, TDK, and Sony. However when I returned to Uganda, I found out that people here didn’t use those brands. Rather, they used something called the Compact which, was just like any other tape. Today, tapes are a thing of the past but not for Fred.
Fred finally bought a ride – a Toyota kabina and I am happy for him. What I am not happy about is that he chose to flaunt his music which was not on a CD or on a flash disk but – wait for it, wait for it - on a Compact.
Ten minutes into the ride and there was a danger of the tape getting chewed so he hit the eject button slapped the Compact on the dash board a couple of times and then put it back into the tape deck.
It worked for a while but twenty minutes later it wasn’t. There was a gargling sound that Beyonce sounded like a ninety-four year old granny. And just like that, the tape got chewed up with Beyonce gargling out her last breath of life.
And for poor Fred, he spent the better part of the afternoon trying to remove the tape from the player.
Ending on a sad note, we all feel the grief that the Mulwana family is going through right now. James Mulwana, was a pillar and much respected. May his soul rest in peace.         

The Idle Week

It’s been that kind of week, a week that seemingly had no purpose and one that ended on a tragic note.
I was idle and hooking up with a couple of friends, it got me thinking about common sense. When we placed our order for three drinks – two Club beers and a TML, the waitress that served us was totally devoid of common sense.
I was at the table alone when the drinks arrived and holding on to one Club, she asked if it was what I was going to drink. I told her “no”. So what does she do next? She grabs the other Club and again asks if it is what I am going to drink. Again, I tell her “no” which then leaves her with her next option. “Oh, so you are going to have the TML then” so she laments.
But Waitress, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if I have declined one Club, it is more than likely I won’t be having the second Club either.
Then the blue fly appeared out of nowhere. Well tell a lie, it must have appeared out of the pit latrine. And again that got me thinking.
Life is not fair not just for us humans but also in the animal kingdom too. I have read stories where cats and dogs get left a fortune when their owners pass on. And some animals eat and get looked after better that some humans do.
But what is in store for Blue Pit Latrine Fly? From the time it is born, its destiny is to hang out and feast on faeces in the worst pit latrines in the land. And when they tire of feasting on faeces, they make it a point of hovering on your glass or bottle and if not, they want to nibble on your pork as well.
Blue Pit Larine Fly came for our pork but the good thing we were done so it ended up nibbling on the scraps. I felt sorry for it. I really did the poor sod. As I looked at it, I thought of the rest of its family – its grandparents, parents, siblings, nephews, nieces and cousins and whether they know that they are the slime of the animal kingdom. And when they are down in the pit latrine which part of the s**t do they prefer? Yuck!
Moving on, back in the old days when it came to music and cassette tapes, I was used to brands like Memorex, TDK, and Sony. However when I returned to Uganda, I found out that people here didn’t use those brands. Rather, they used something called the Compact which, was just like any other tape. Today, tapes are a thing of the past but not for Fred.
Fred finally bought a ride – a Toyota kabina and I am happy for him. What I am not happy about is that he chose to flaunt his music which was not on a CD or on a flash disk but – wait for it, wait for it - on a Compact.
Ten minutes into the ride and there was a danger of the tape getting chewed so he hit the eject button slapped the Compact on the dash board a couple of times and then put it back into the tape deck.
It worked for a while but twenty minutes later it wasn’t. There was a gargling sound that Beyonce sounded like a ninety-four year old granny. And just like that, the tape got chewed up with Beyonce gargling out her last breath of life.
And for poor Fred, he spent the better part of the afternoon trying to remove the tape from the player.
Ending on a sad note, we all feel the grief that the Mulwana family is going through right now. James Mulwana, was a pillar and much respected. May his soul rest in peace.         

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Babba Musoga

I am a Musoga and a proud one at that. Many from Mbarara and beyond have always thought that I am one of them but how can I be? Okay, so I may have the height but the nose, it is not pointed or, is it?
The Basoga have always had divisions just like any other tribe has or is still having and while I am from Bugweri district, I am not too sure which other Musoga I am supposed to have beef with. Am I supposed to have beef with the Nabeta’s, the Batwala’s or say the Zikusooka’s?
I have travelled to almost every corner of Uganda but one place I have not really toured is Busoga. Well I have – mainstream Busoga that is – Jinja, Iganga, Busesa and of course Ibulanku which, dad put on the map.
Any town outside the ones I have mentioned are not mainstream Busoga as I found out when I went to a place called Nawanyago. I went but only because Nawanyago in pronunciation did not sound as unpleasant as Namabuga or Nakibungulla are.
I also took up the invitation because I wanted to see how the other Busoga live. Do they live like us? Do they have tarmac? Do they have DStv and have they heard of TML?
So it was into the Prado that we clambered and apart from the usual necessities, we packed mosquito repellent, anti-malaria tabs, plasters, bandages – well basically everything the chemist had to sell.
Getting to Nawanyago is simple enough. Hop over the dam, use the by-pass and at the round-about, rather than turning right to go to Bugembe, Iganga and beyond, just drive straight across and that road so I am told, eventually ends up in Kadaga town - Kamuli.
The first town we hit on that road was Mafubira. Mafubira is perhaps as big as Kansanga and there was nothing brilliant or exciting to say about it until I bought airtime for 20k.
The man in the kiosk, when I asked him, he was very positive that he had 20k airtime. So positive he was that I asked to scratch the security foil off the card while I went next door to buy a Coke.
Two minutes later and back at the kiosk, there was something amiss. Kiosk Man gave me booklet of airtime. Oh yes, 20k worth of airtime but in denominations of sh500!
I unleashed tumbavu on him but he didn’t quite get it, so I muttered mbuzi under my breath and then, spent the next two days loading airtime.
When we hit Nawanyago early in the evening, it looked like a decent town. They did have DStv, they did have colder than cold TML’s stacked up in a chest freezer but they also did have something that I had never heard before.
Well I thought I had heard it when we were in Mafubira but had dismissed it. Everybody in Nawanyago is called babba. If not, every sentence starts off with babba. So the conversation went along these lines.
TB: “Any chance of a TML?”
Barman:Babba, you want TML?”
Later that night…
TB: “What do you have to eat?”
Food Lady:Babba, you want some food?”
The following morning….
Chap at the gas station: “Babba, are you not feeling cold?”
Right from Mafubira to Kamuli, the key word is babba. If you don’t say babba before you spew out whatever it is that you have to say, don’t expect things to go smoothly.
Thank god I am not a babba Musoga. If I were, you would have to endure me starting off every sentence with babba and on that note, babba, see you next Sunday.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 2013

It has been a while since I last trawled through the city. The last time I did it was in a moment of madness on Christmas day. Seeing that we were in the festive season, was there really ant need to go into town especially at night when the city limits were crawling with police breathalyzer units?


I stayed in my hood for the best part of the holiday and thus, when January 2nd 2013 arrived, it was more of a shock when I had to go back to work.

I have to pass through Namuwongo to get into town, and the Namuwongo of December 2012 and the Namuwongo of 2013 were far different. Admittedly, Namuwongo is not the cleanest suburb there is in Kampala, but it is cleaner than Kyebando on Gayaza road and Dr. Ian Clark, under whose authority Namwongo falls, has tried to do a decent job in keeping it clean.

However, I drove through it, Namuwongo should surely be renamed ‘Plastic Bag’ city for it seems that just about every plastic bag that is handed out in this city will eventually float and find a place to gracefully die in Namuwongo. Perhaps people from other suburbs dump their plastic bags in Namuwongo because it is well known that there are not enough pit latrines so some people have to make do with using plastic bags? Hmm, I better clarify with Ian Clarke on that – he ought to have the figures.

The sober reality of ushering in a new year is that it is going to be another 365 days before we get to say ‘happy new year’ again. Last year and for some strange reason, I chose not to go out. I was in bed by 8:30pm and not with my usual TML for company but a big bottle of Coke and that was it. Somewhere round 11:00pm, I dozed off and I was awoken by what I thought were gunshots – they were fireworks and people making a racket!

It really peeved me off because I was trying to get some sleep and it was late – past midnight. And the blooming idiot outside my wall could not stop blowing his vuvuzela and shouting out ‘2013’ every two minutes.

That was it. I was out of bed, in my jeans and storming to open up the gate when common sense prevailed. Okay so he was making a racket while I was trying to catch some shut eye, and fireworks were going off all over the place and all because it was New Year’s Eve, but did that really necessitate I storm out of my gate and assure Vuvuzela Blower and his friends to relocate somewhere else?

It didn’t because I too have my own misdemeanors that tend to happen at 4:00am after a night out on the town. I have been ‘lost’ going home on a number of occasions and ended up at the wrong house, blared my horn and only when the gate swings open and there is some grumpy old man with a metal bar in his hands wanting to smash up my ride that I have gone ‘oops’ and sped off.

I think it might also be prudent to apologize to Grumpy Old Man and if you are reading this, can I buy you a beer or two? Drop me a line.

And here were are, 12 days into the start of the year and to be honest, I am not thinking about if the economy will change for the better, lower power tariffs or an improved infrastructure but when is the next public holiday and more importantly, I hope it falls on a week day – preferably on a Monday or Friday!

What A 2012 Christmass


Of course, I didn’t go to church on Christmas Day. Why would I when all I had to do was go the information superhighway and catch an hour’s service on LTV or one of the Christian channels on DStv?

Luckily enough for me, somebody at UMEME thought it a good idea to do a spot of load shedding and that was it. I was out of bed and in the ride while cruising town and looking for some action.

I ended up in a suburb that I have never been to – Kyebando. For the people who live in those suburbs, you really have to give yourselves a big pat on the back because you live in one the filthiest suburbs that Kampala City has!

There was rubbish strewn all over the roads – everything from matooke peelings to entrails, shoes and whatever filth people throw out of their windows.

This now necessitated a trip to the carwash not only to have the ride cleaned but to have the tires fumigated lest I took some germs back to the affluent and clean suburb that I live in.

I drove to Speke Resort Munyonyo thereafter and it was a nightmare! It appeared that everybody in Kampala and regardless of social status, wanted to be in the resort. Of course for the owner, Sudhir Ruparelia that is, wherever he was, he must have had a smile on his face because the sound of ‘ki-ching’ (the till opening and closing) sounded every few seconds.

And there was competition as to who went out and bought the best Christmas wear. I have to give up to Chap who wore a yellow jacket, a purple polka doted shirt and a black tie! What was he on? Even security gave him more than a once over but that did not perturb him for as far as he was concerned, he was in his element – he was an extra in the fashion movie PrĂȘt-a-Porter.

Speke Resort had a buffet that was fit for a king. I also felt a trifle unfair because while we feasted I felt guilty for the number of homeless I had passed on my drive through town and who would not be feasting on veal, turkey, the finest imported sea foods and the best deserts that Akilesh Malik and his staff came up with.

But what the heck, I could either wallow thinking about those who don’t have or I could fill my plate, waffle everything down and then spend the afternoon passing wind over a bottle of TML. I was not a hard decision to make. I filled my plate. I waffled everything down and I spent the afternoon passing wind over a number of bottles of TML.

And that was my Christmas – well not quite. I got played when I went to see a mechanic for air con gas for the ride.

When he turned up, Mechanic who had called him told him in Luganda something to this effect: “That one speaks English so you know what to do.”

Mechanic smiled and after doing a diagnosis he told me it would cost s120,000. What is that word I like using? Ah, tumbavu so I spat at him and assured him that just because I spoke in English, it does mean I don’t understand Luganda!

We eventually settled for 70k. I thought I had done well but it was Mechanic who had the last Christmas Day laugh. My air con now works so well except that it blows out hot air!

And with that, I guess I have to wish you all the best for 2013? Dam, people will think I have gone soft!



Who Stole Our Culture? Technology Did

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