Flying the flag for Uganda.

November 1, 2015

A while ago, I was in an internet cafe getting some paperwork done. In the midst of it, an old Mzungu man walked in in a bit of a state. He needed to get a document to someone in the UK and he needed to do it yesterday.

So, the nice lady at the front desk scanned his document and then emailed it for him. Because he had interrupted my transaction, with my permission – respect for one’s elders and all that – I guess he felt compelled to share with me what the fuss was about.

The pensions authority in the UK had written him in June, asking him to send them his bank details (he retired here) so they could wire him his ka-pension. The letter reached him today hence his kavuuyo.

I advised him to go up the street to Aramex and open an account so in future his mail would arrive on time. It would cost him a bit more but he’d never have to rely on the empathy of strangers again.

While I waited for my stuff to be finished, we got into conversation. He was convinced that I had lived in his country (which I have but that’s besides the point) because “I was helpful like his countrymen”.

… I politely disagreed, pointing out that Ugandans are helpful! He must just be hanging out with the wrong ones … then we went into a bit of a back and forth, him dissing Ugandan mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, just about everyone in the service industry and me trying to defend all of us. Then he said this, and I paraphrase,

 “… The pensions guys in the UK ‘followed’ him up to UG and asked him for his bank details so they can give him his money. In UG, even if you personally trek to the Ministry of Public Service for months, nay, years, someone will still conspire to steal your pension. Lord forbid that after retirement you move to Kagera village in Kisoro! …” That Kisoro bit is mine but you get the point.

What could I say?

 Then I left the cafe and crossed the road to the car. Guess what, the attendant hadn’t ticketed me and when I asked how many parking tickets I owed him, he instead asked whether I didn’t have any money to give him. Kale imagine, I’ve just spent 30 minutes of my life assuring this Mzungu that we are not all thugs trying to reap where we have not sowed and here is this jackass trying to rip off his employer!

After giving him a proper earful, I drove to his company office and reported him. Then I called the pensioner, and accepted his offer of a drink to smooth over my ruffled Ugandan feathers.


Flying the flag for Uganda.


My wife is not a fussy person most of the time but she has turned into a total stranger, food wise.

The first, and really the biggest, sign that things were not right-side up was when she suddenly announced that there would be no eating of meat and related products. She couldn’t stand the scent of it cooking. For most people that is not remarkable but in my wife’s case this news created the sort of shock I would feel if our Parliament were to vote tomorrow to reduce its size and restore presidential term limits. She comes from a clan of people known for their prowess at eating meat. For example, it had long been the family custom that after Sunday service we would stop by a supermarket for a pack of bacon and sausages and proceed to the parents’ house for breakfast at which the bacon took very prominent centre stage. And now, I was supposed to simply consign our stock of it to the freezer indefinitely. Surely, no greater love have I felt than that I would give up my meat with nary a second thought.

I was tempted to indulge my desire for meat elsewhere but the story came to mind of a neighbour who on his way home to Jinja bought, and ate, a piece of roast chicken at a truck stop in Mabira forest only to throw it all up upon entering his house. The shame of his young children excitedly pointing out the contents of his vomit was enough to cure him of the desire to do any more roadside eating.

The other crazy thing she’s been doing is snacking on chilli-flavoured Corntops (a promise to buy her some was part of how I got permission to visit the barber after an enforced period of Afro growing). They are a type of puffy crisp made out of maize and stocked in abundance at the new supermarket that she now favours, having thrown out the place we’ve been shopping at for years. Corntops are quite tasty and I have on occasion been known to favour a packet or two.

Now, that my wife is enjoying her Corntops would be rather unremarkable except for the fact that she is allergic to maize. Yes, quite violently allergic, to the point that she has been hospitalised in the past for mistakenly eating some. We’ve got Kenyan neighbours and whenever we visit for dinner, we are favoured with a dish of mukimo, a mash of Irish potatoes, butter, peas, celery and fresh maize kernels. We’ve mastered the art of surreptitiously picking out the maize and scooping it onto my plate so she won’t have an allergic attack because, truth be told, mukimo is quite tasty.
And now here she is feasting on Corntops and I have no idea how to stop her.