Kampala to Juba; Living Dangerously

I looked up and noticed she had been staring at me. She was acknowledging the presence of the hottest man in the restaurant. So I returned the favour. I always do. And she was exceptionally hot. Almost light skinned with coffee brown eyes and a natural Afro; there was a quiet contentedness about her, almost lady-like that instantly struck me as admirable. It hit me for a moment that I was not in Nairobi.

She was sitting a table away from me, facing me directly, and enjoying her Pepsi, wearing a sunny disposition even though the clouds had ominously covered the sun. Our eyes locked the second time and this time she looked away quickly pretending that I was obstructing her from seeing what was behind my rather big head. I decided to act cheeky by getting my head out of the way, nudging her to have a better view. She didn’t find that funny. Neither did I find it funny the fact that she didn’t smile for my effort.

She sipped her Pepsi, and boy! What I saw was pure class! She made Pepsi, a very ordinary drink look like it is the best wine, straight from the best Spanish vineyard. My beer was getting bitter and sour by the minute. I had succumbed to a good billboard at Jinja on my way and had vowed to taste the famous Nile beer when in Kampala; here is how the billboard read:

“HERE IS TO MEN WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE:”
(Then a photo of three men, the successful corporate types, smartly dressed, holding beers in their hands having a very hearty laugh and a cheerful moment. Totally natural you wouldn’t believe it is was a pose. Then the following word)
“RICHARD: RADIO PRESENTER. NATHAN:BANKER. PHILIP: IT GURU”

CONSISTENT. TRUSTED. ADMIRED.
(Then the slogan of the beer)
YOU HAVE EARNED IT!

Any beer drinker would be swayed by that. Now here I was in a Kampala suburb regretting my gullibility. But the beautiful lady across the table was ensuring that there is silver in every cloud lining or how does that proverb go like once again?

Our eyes locked the third time and I knew we were game. As the rule states: Once it is normal. Twice coincidence. But thrice, a man got to do something. Her eyes were beckoning but with a cautionary ‘don’t screw the chance’ look.

I gathered some beer courage and walked up to her table and sat directly facing her. I looked deeply into her eyes. They looked sexy, seductive, erotic and lovely. To cap it all, she didn’t look in any way slutty, given the natural predisposition of such eyes.

“I know I have no right to interrupt your own sweet company and even worse I am a Kenyan and I don’t even know whether the laws of the land permit strange men to interrupt beautiful women sipping their Pepsi alone?

Completely disarmed, she laughed and smiling, she said,

“I don’t really mind and there is no law against handsome men interrupting beautiful women having their Pepsi.”

There in lay the trap. I couldn’t tell whether she was being sarcastic or she meant what she was saying. Her answer had taken me by surprise and totally blown the winds out of my sails. I laughed.

“I am Sila, Kenyan. Journalist, on a brief visit to Kampala.”

“I am Lucy, student at Makerere University.”

“You studying what? What level?”

“Literature, third year.”

“Oooh, that is sexy. I studied literature in my undergrad.”

By the way it feels good to throw in that undergrad word in a conversation once you have finished your Bachelors.

“What is so sexy about literature?”

At that point I sensed that my small talk was about to hit the wall.

“Well, I thought if you taking it at such an advanced level you are an enthusiast. Besides, don’t you find Shakespeare quite a genius?”

“I beg your pardon. He sucks.”

It is considered literary blasphemy if you speak badly of Shakespeare and I couldn’t further participate in such a profanity. That is outright sacrilege.

“I can tell you are waiting for your boyfriend here.”

“Why?”

“Well, this place looks typically male. See, no good ambiance that befits your persona. That is a pit latrine over there and a pool table…It is junglish, ”

“You sound a clever guy.”

I rubbed my nose and scratched my eyebrow. That is the male equivalent of blushing. Like beautiful women who don’t know exactly how to take in a good a compliment, most intelligent men are often shy when they are complimented, especially by beautiful women.

“Does he look like he can punch my face into pulp?”

“Actually, he can. He is a jealousy one.”
“Any man would do that. Any man dating you must be justifiably jealousy. But I come from a community of warriors. Can I show you my war tattoo?”

Actually, I have one. It is a spot above my right armpit. I have managed to convince many people that it is war initiation testimonial. I always thank my elder sister for it. That hot porridge she poured on me was actually a blessing in disguise. Meanwhile,  on the speakers, Akon and Shontelle were sticking on each other. How Akon is a musician totally escapes me.

“Yes,show it to me.”

I started taking off my shirt and she held my arm… “I was kidding…come on. You such a joker!”

“Why are you guys always insecure? Is it that you don’t trust us?

“We don’t trust your judgment, like you are feeling my vibe here as you wait for your boyfriend and I can easily lure you away from him right now.”(Actually, I didn’t tell her this but instead).

“We are all different and you can’t lump us all of us together. Now might you steal me your number or Facebook Profile and I get the hell out of here before he shows up.”

She gave me her number and immediately accepted my Facebook friend request. She looked quite responsive. The type that can fund herself to Nairobi and make a weekend worthwhile and my male friends would never trust my word on how we met. It will sound like a fairy tale. I made a diary entry about it.

“Ever been to Nairobi?”

“Nope.”

“Would you like to visit?”

“Yeah.”

“Consider yourself my guest very soon.”
*****
I walk back to my table, and my South Sudanese buddies are laughing rather loudly in Dinka. I am in a Linguistic exile since my friends are sharing what I presume to be boyish heroic exploits in Dinka. It is drawing rapturous and throaty laughter. I can only enjoy my miserable company with the insufferable Nile beer which tastes like it is Pilsner that has been added some bitter herbs that grow near Lake Magadi and some good amount of lemon juice. It is 5.6% alcohol and I notice if I stick with it, I will be high in no time and waste a lifetime opportunity.

I ask for another typically Ugandan beer. They recommend Bell. Wherever they get their beer names? The waitress brings one and I notice it is 4 %. The waitress, I notice by the way, is blessed with ASSets. I take the first sip and I realize that it tastes like premature honey. A bitter version of Malta Guinness and I conclude that Ugandans don’t have beer. I immediately order water. I gallop very fast and I now realize why these Sudes had stuck with Tusker Malt. I hate Tusker Malt. It reminds me a part of my life that I have now learnt to forget. Luckily, good old Tusker was available, in its old, fat bottle. I ordered three even though sleep was really weighing on my eyes and it was time to be alarmed about mixing my mixing liquor.

They tell me that the establishment is run by a Kisii. They call him and he comes over.

He is handsome. Exceptionally. I am not gay but the gentleman is the type that makes any woman say almost unconsciously ‘eish! He is hot.’ He is tall, almost my height, may be an inch shorter and light skinned and has that likable, baby-face. The kind that aunts and female relatives always bemoan at his funeral should he die young. His handsomeness had some touch of femininity, the kind that can make a father be worried. Well shaven, with a very black moustache; he had the consciousness of a peacock about his looks.

He looks the type that the father most likely had doubts about his abilities; academic or otherwise. The type that male friends disprove off because of his meticulous approach to personal hygiene. You know the type that can’t lay a pair of compass askew in the Oxford Mathematical set. The type that uses very white vests and hankies. The type that goes on to marry a not so attractive woman to chagrin of everyone, especially the beautiful exes that he dropped.

He is wearing brown fitting corduroy trouser and yellow-brown stripped polo T-Shirt. Beware of men with fitting pants. He comes over and cautiously stands at a distance, I am sure searching for the appropriate language to light up the conversation.

I break the ice by greeting him in mother tongue. To which he responds in fluently but in controlled fashion. I hate these pricks who think speaking in mother-tongue degrades them. We get through the introduction in about 2 minutes and 37 seconds. He tells me that he is from Kitale, even though his ancestral home is near my home. I think he perceives me simplistically and walks away, pretending to be busy managing his hotel. Or he senses that I am about to ask for a free beer. Actually, I wanted a free beer.

He then takes a proprietary pose outside the restaurant, listening keenly to some petrified chap who I reckon be one of his servants. I can tell that the concern on his face is exaggerated, possibly because of my presence. One can always detect some unnatural behavior. From then on, his look, the way he talks to the servants and all mannerisms are dictated by my presence.

Ever been hosted by a chick at her place for the first time? You know that instant she comes back from the kitchen then pretends to be studying something that is out of place in the sitting room. Then she walks and stares at something on the wall-a photo or anything hanging on the wall- giving you her backside, the ass cleverly accentuated.  You sense that she is not being natural, but maybe she is unconscious about it and you are just imagining stuff. At that moment even if you spanked her, she won’t really mind. It will be taken as a compliment. That is about the time, she will bring that vibe about moving house or buying something for her house. That is how the gentleman was behaving. I decided to go for a power nap to stop witnessing the unraveling farce.

Three hours later we are off some place called Nakulabye or whatever the name for supper and liquor. Only Ugandans have local names for suburbs. I find that repulsive. Imagine if all places in Nairobi had names like Waithaka, Githurai, Syokimau and such. We have at least the Hurlingham, the Donholms to save face.

We settle at a place called Pork Point and Mading, our loaded host orders some Tusker Malt and the table is greener than the Amazon forest. Some good Lingala is on the screen. It transports me back in time to the 90s. Etar Major by Extra Musica is booming. Now that was a timeless monster of a hit by all means. It transcends class, title, race and anything in between. Extra Musica brought Swag to Lingala, with their American fashion and excellent dancing styles. The music made me nostalgic of the days of LokassaYaMbongo, BallouCanta, Shimita, Yondo Sister, Saladin, Dali kimoko, Ngoufou Man, Freddie Majungwa, the whole Sokouss era.

My goodness, how I am not a veteran radio presenter in the mould of Fred Obachi Machoka or Benard Otieno escapes me. I used to and still do hold a near encyclopedic knowledge on music. Anyway, Mading is a pool addict and we let him play as we recollect on the good days when Kanda Bongo Man used to kick ass.

At 10 pm, he opts to take us to Ground Zero. A club in central Kampala, in some unfinished building that is only thronged by youthful men and the obvious odd female. The place reeks off unbridled masculinity but the DJ is on some 90s and early 2000 hip hop. Quite OK, only that he mixes the old and the new rather inappropriately. I take time to digest some of those clips that I have never had time to check on YouTube.

After a couple of drinks, we check out of the place and he buys the famous roadside chicken for us that is specially prepared and Kampala is known for. There are also some thinly shredded cabbage that looks crunchy.Only that I am so full of Tusker Malt that I can’t even chew gum to save my life or breath. We walk back the one kilometer or so to the hostel, kill off the night in anticipation of the journey to Juba, the following day.

Easter Sunday
After a generally lazy day, we watch Arsenal put Man City in its place and that Arteta goal lights up my life like a lightening bolt. Few things are so sensational than Arsenal beating someone like Man City up. Especially, if Nasri and Clichy are playing over there.

We take the bus to Juba at exactly 10 pm and it takes off from Kampala. And boy, Ugandans and Sudanese are decidedly black. I feel racially challenged in this situation. The bus is like the Citi Hoppa. No comfortable seat and we are squeezed three of us in the same seat. The woman sitting by the window looks extremely innocent and the type least likely to cause any trouble, regardless of her station in life.

It is going to be a bumpy ride. Almost 300 KM of Tarmac to Gulu and some murramed 250 KM to the South Sudan border. For the tarmacked road there is nothing unusual, other than that funny feeling that you are traveling back in time. It is adventurous and you will need your faith. If you have heard about what Kony can do up on the North of Uganda, you get the feeling. We get to Gulu and I soon discover that riding a bus on rough road is neither sexy nor adventurous. It is dangerous. That is what I call living dangerously.

Our driver was driving like there was a beautiful mistress waiting for him naked on the other end. My Safaricom network was still mysteriously on, even though I couldn’t make a call. Calls made earlier and messages as far as two days earlier, started streaming in and I knew that I am in deed traveling back in time. And those in Kenya must be two days ahead of us.

Then we got to a point where it had rained rendering the roads impassable and there was a long haul of tracks packed. The sky was clear and the moon illuminated the landscape, rather romantically. The kind of place you can kiss Gabriel Union. Or Kelly Rowland. I couldn’t tell what time it was, day or month. And worst of all: The year. It looked some odd July night in 1967, though. The place looked abandoned and deserted.

There were women and children; I gathered they were from the Acholi community. What were they doing out at such an odd hour? There were guys trying to push a vehicle out of the sticky, predictably loamy soil. If you ever listened to that viral Ugandan FuriFuri condition on the internet about some truck that lost control and caused some accident, that is how Ugandans talk. And that woman actually airs the Ugandan version of Bull’s Eye for NTV Uganda called Point Blank. Ugandan English is humorous in the very least.

If you are already not worn down by this, I should mention the best Acholi export was OkotP’Bitek. The true literary genius of Africa. He of the Song of Lawino fame. Long live his soul and he is immortalized in his enduring literary works. At this point I feel like Okot himself. And could easily relate where his genius came from.

Then this tall man is fuming that Museveni has abandoned the North completely. He claims that other places are having it better than the North. From the way he is talking, if he met Museveni in some dark alley, he will make him scream his mother’s name the loudest before chopping off his manhood. His voice, tone, mood, demeanor all bespeak a certain hatred I have never witnessed. Then he tells us that we are lucky that Kony has moved further into the forest. That otherwise, he will torch all the vehicles and chase us into the forest, those abducted will be tattooed, ears and limbs cut and made to serve in his camp.

That sounds like a death knell but I take comfort from the fact that we are many and if it was taking off, I might not be Usain Bolt, but I can beat a few guys in running. It is quite chilling listening to his account how he was once forced to run for his dear life for nearly 150KM throughout the whole night and day to the nearest town. He still doesn’t know what could have happened to the rest. Through some magic alchemy, somehow the trucks offer to give way a little and the buses are able to maneuver their way and we get off and at exactly 6 am we are at the Ugandan side of the border. After clearance, it is another one hour into the Sudan border but thankfully it is tarmacked.

At the Sudanese border, we get a clearance but it takes almost three hours to finish the whole process and we take off, but not after a security round up that nets up some 10 guys without a visa from the bus. The South Sudanese don’t suffer fools gladly. As we cruise through the unfinished, newly tarmacked road, you can sense that it is a new country with plenty to catch up with.

Six hours later we get into Gumbo in the outskirts of Juba, where we alight and get to our guest house. I am smelling like a pig that has been dead for nearly week. It is so hot and I am sweating profusely. It is a quite a bad welcome. Then as I step out of the bus, the first person I encounter is Cyprian; my former high school and University friend. A former crush once told me it is a small world. Now I believed. He is here briefly for some business deals. So I am. Bet he will be great company.

My host gives me an algae infested Jerri can and shows me the way to the bathroom. I am normally averse to cold water but on this day it is welcome relief. It is hot. As I take off the clothes, I realize they had traced themselves over the body. Little Joe Wood seemed bewildered and overwhelmed by the heat. He looked like a crumpled, overripe banana.

I woke him up and looking up, he asked me;

“Is this how you treat your loved one?”

I ‘shout’ him down,

“You need to understand, I am tryna get money for yah so that I can afford you something good, so you have no choice,”

“Ohh no, but I had you ask about ‘em call girls and about IT while you are here,”

I replied, “I bet you also heard it right if I try any mischief here, I will be taken back in a coffin, so you lay low, I will make everything alright.”

That is Little Joe for you. Always eavesdropping my conversations. Silly young boy. And his slang…

After the shower, there are very rude flies to deal with. It is so hot that I sweat while taking a shower and no sooner I place my towel down than I start sweating all over again. What strikes me immediately is that in spite of the heat guys are having sex.

Is it perversion? Is it poverty? Come on! It is hot and there are mini-earthquakes from the shanty establishment that is our boarding. And here they moan like it is part of the package. My host is shocked at my shock and naïveté. Then he takes me out for some cold afternoon beer. Actually, guys here only take Tusker. He buys lunch that consists rice and ground nut soup. Ugandans serve 90 % carbohydrates. No wonder the hideous skwembes.

I drink to my fill and it is only my first day. The following day we are on the job and I am nursing a serious hangover. At night I am on some Excel programme compiling some report in my room and the noise coming from the next room is disturbing. NKT! How unfair can life be?

Here I am busy trying to compile some report and some nigga is getting it and can’t do it quietly. I make a mental note to check on the woman who took me back to my days in campus and the SEXILING.

In deed I saw her and I wondered how much she charges for that extra moan. It is a booming business for those who trade fleshy and Ugandans are leading over here followed closely by Kenyans.

Anyway, I have enjoyed my visit to Khartoum before the brief war interrupted. They have only roads over there but kids don’t go to school anyway. The Nile boat ride gave me a new idea for a honeymoon, should there be a change of mind in the future. And recently a friend opened a beer with a romantic ring. Never thought there would be a more suitable use of that silly thing on the finger.

I have exceeded my personal word limit ladies and gentlemen. Sorry for such a boring read, I resume to my normal ranting on men and women as soon as I next week. I have missed Nairobi. And guys take it from me, in spite of the jams, the weaves, men in skinny jeans, the chips funga culture and anything that irks anyone, Nairobi is the New York of Eastern Africa. No contest.

I am now back. Great things coming…

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15 thoughts on “Kampala to Juba; Living Dangerously

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