In Kampala


No one ever complains

Try greeting your average Kampalan and listen out for their response.

“Jebale ssebo”

“Kale ssebo. Naawe jebale.”

“So how are things?”

Things can be anything from work, family, health to the plot of land our ssebo is developing somewhere on Gayaza Road.

“Oh, I can’t complain.”

Ask the same of a matronly woman reporting to work in her sensible low-heeled shoes and skirt-suit.

“We are not complaining.”

Can’t they complain? Is there a device that erases complaints as soon as they rise to the lips of our saintly Kampalans? Or do they merely choose not to complain? Surely this must be the reason Ugandans were ranked the happiest lot in the East African region!


Patience is a virtue

I live in a  peri-urban area. The most external skirt of the outskirts of Kampala.  An area where land is readily available and where people are building like nobody’s business. Anyway, what this all means is that the homes are quite scattered. We are lucky to be close to a main road that is in fairly good condition, plied by the mabati-like taxis that characterize Kampala. So what happens is that when you chance upon a taxi with only about 5 of the 14 seats occupied, you will have to wait till it gets full. The only problem is that there are no people to fill it. So our dedicated taxi driver will reverse a full half kilometre into a feeder road hoping to find passengers to fill the empty seats.  The conductor will do his best to convince every pedestrian he meets on the way to join them in this excursion to town- men, women, children and even the seemingly insane.

“Madam ogenda?” he will bellow at someone who is so far off in the distance they appear like a speck of dust to the naked eye. He will then instruct the driver to reverse to where this speck of dust person is. Sometimes, you find that the person had not indicated any interest in going to town. Ah well, they shrug and drive back to the main road, only to stop at the next little trading centre to bellow for ten or fifteen minutes more for passengers.

“Wandegeya Kampala Paaka nkadde”

And the fares:

Ntinda lusanvu ( when particularly desperate), Kamwokya lukumi mu bitano, Wandegeya-Kampala nkumi bbiri”

All this time the 5 passengers inside have maintained a studious silence and are staring off into space or are plugged in to their phones and ipods. After a few more minutes of this fruitless bellowing someone might get agitated and start making as if to leave the taxi. The driver will quickly zoom on to avoid losing the precious passenger and all will be well again.

Nobody is complaining and everybody is very patient.


People are on their way coming

If you ever go for an appointment in Kampala and fail to find the person you were to meet there, don’t worry because he/she is on his/her way coming, as the person’s colleagues will be quick to assure you.

Someone travelling from Lira to your office might not tell you exactly where they are but be assured that they are on their way coming.

Your date will be leaving home and closing the gate behind her when she tells you ever so sweetly “I’m on my way coming.”

They might be late and might make you late and inconvenience you but you be patient, and don’t complain. After all didn’t they tell you they are on their way coming?


Sauce is eaten with a fork and knife

No self-respecting Ugandan will have a main meal like rice, posho, or matooke without an accompanying sauce. They even make fun of Kenyans and their apparent love for ‘dry’ foods- food without enough sauce like ugali, kachumbari and nyama. However, no self-respecting eating joint in Kampala will let you have a spoon to eat that meal with, despite its drippy sauce component. Somewhere in the evolution of their culture the Ugandans decided that only children and the infirm are allowed to use spoons to eat their food with. If, for example, you go down to Wandegeya and try asking for a spoon so that you can dig into your meal you will be met with blank stares and much shaking of the head. “No, we don’t have spoons.”  I have of late been contemplating carrying a spoon in my handbag so I can eat like a normal person, instead of always leaving that untouched puddle of sauce in my plate that I just know a spoon would have easily scooped up.

I’m sorry my non-Ugandan friend, you will have to learn how to use a fork and knife to take your sauce.  


One thought on “In Kampala

  1. Ha ha ha ha ha…… true, true and true! You just got to love this City. I so feel you about the spoon bit. At Chillies they serve you chapati with beef ‘sauce’ and then give you a fork!! At Shaka Zulu Restaurant those sides of MUBS, they have spoons alright, but they are the size of a ladle!

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