Short Story: Three Days in Kampala

Written by Faith Oneya

Day 1 :Apparently,you can tell if a woman is Kenyan from the way she sits on the boda boda-this ,of course,is theory according to Dickson the cab driver.

“Look at her !”, He points at the boda boda driving leisurely in front of us as we painfully make our way though Kampala city,a city crawling with the boda bodas.Boda Bodas make traffic rules here ;and break them at will.

“You can see the whole of her back and the ridge between her bumps are peeping out of her trousers;at least her bumps they know their place is solely in the confines of the trousers.It is very shameful.It is very easy to tell that that girl is Kenyan-a Ugandan lady would never dress like that!”

And Kampala is the morality King in East Africa?I wonder silently,as a newspaper vendor carries around phonographic material and passes them off as newspapers am talking about the porn like Onion,Red Pepper-now I ask you-what business would a newspaper called Onion have in reporting news?Of course the stories are majorly about “bonking” and “bonk mates”-I remind Dickson of this and he says;”That is not the point.”This is obviously an argument I will not win.

The video person-Yusuf , joins in the argument;
“Even in a club, you can tell the foreigners , from the way they shout and laugh,shout and laugh!”-Now if there ever was a point that was not a point,then it was his point.C’mon!

Later, the poor victim of discrimination alights, and turns out to be Rwandan.Not to be deterred, Yussuf concludes;
“They must have learnt from the Kenyan women.”

We are on our way to do some interviews in a place called Kajjansi,which is just on your way to Entebbe airport.A hawker shoves a small wrapped package in my face-am abit startled but Yusuff rises to the occasion and seizes the package,pays the bearer of the package then tears it open,spewing forth some roasted coffee beans;
“these are friendship beans!”-he announces,
“If we eat them together, it will be a sign of friendship that has just began!”

The beans are small,black,hard and look rather shriveled-eating them would be a true test of friendship.I take a timid bite-it tastes like sawdust.This feast obviously has cultural significance, and not being one to call curses upon myself,I say:”Yummy.”

“If I came to your father to ask for your hand in marriage,he will crack open a coffee bean to show that a friendship and kinship has begun.”

I decline an offer for more beans,citing a full stomach as the reason.One coffee bean at a time,please.

Day 2:I am now seated at the hotel restaurant with my colleague Petrol(She sternly warned me not to mention her anywhere in “those things that you write”I take threats like that seriously,especially if coming from a girl that grew up fighting her four brothers .So Petrol she will be.)

Petrol is loud,bold,big and beautiful.She also drinks like a fish and smokes like a chimney(Forgive the cliche)

The waiter,we call him Sebo here: He nods at everything we say.We are unsure if he understands English.Our fears are confirmed when he puts generous portions of soup in our fries!Our french fries were “souped”.I find it hilarious but Petrol is unamused.The waiter shakes his head all through the scolding Petrol gives him.Finally we decide to eat the soaked fries.

Day 3: Apparently ,I could pass for a Sudanese.This compliment comes courtesy of the Sudanese dude seated at the table next to us as we have our supper.I wonder vaguely if the pick-up lines ever worked beyond the borders of Sudan?

A few minutes later,he attacks us with;
“Will you please hold my sim card for me as I make my call from this other sim card?”-the request is odd enough to leave me dumbfounded-and he uses the split second of an opportunity to shove the SIM card into my hands.For some reason,Petrol finds this attack on my space amusing and giggles into her food.

“Kwa nini una-ignore huyu new-found boyfriend?”She asks.
I scowl at her- “Si unajua he is my father’s age!”

The man is undeterred and launches his next missile in Swahili.
“Sasa nyinyi ni wa-Kikuyu?”
His fluency in Swahili throws us abit,but we steadfastly ignore the man.And who said every Kenyan found in an East African country is automatically a Kikuyu!

He makes a final desperate plea;
“At least one of you should come join me at my table.Don’t be selfish,how can the two of you be seated there and am a man sitting alone.why do you leave me to suffer like this?”

and I thought Sudanese men had enough problems with civil wars and child sitting alone has joined the list of troubles!

Day 4:I am now on my way to the airport-the last time I was in Kampala ,I took a normal matatu to the airport,but word reached the big boss (Dickson blew the whistle on me )that I was putting company property at risk by boarding matatus in foreign countries(Laptop etc)

So Dickson has picked me up from my hotel and said that he was sent!That means I have to cough up money I could have saved!

There is a poster on an electricity pole that says “For Hip gain-call…”Hip gain?
there is a number given there-Next time I will call that number-it would make a good story!

We stop at a restaurant for the famed matoke-and spend about 80 bob on breakfast!For two people!Hows that for cheap!

Later,my seat mate introduces himself and asks my name,then he assures me that my name could pass for a Nigerian name?One Nationality at a time,please.I close my eyes and feign deep sleep…


Author: Faith Oneya

Lover of the written and spoken word.

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