Welcome to UG: The Squid Games series took us by storm and these games got everyone excited. But then, they opened one important question; “What if living in Uganda is itself a series of Squid Games?” What if we are all playing some zero-sum game and every day is a test of our ability to play these games. Here are some of the Ugandan Squid Games…
1. Driving in
1. Driving in Kampala
When it comes to driving in Kampala, only the smartest, the wisest, the resilient get to survive. Driving in Kampala is a maze. You must assume you are the most intelligent driver on the road. You must assume that everyone else is an amateur, completely clueless about their next step. A boda boda could pop out of anywhere, a phone thief could surprise you. When the traffic officer stops you, it could be for reasons you least expect. They simply make a random guess of a traffic offense and beat you into believing you are in the wrong. If you can drive in Kampala everyday for a whole year, then you are an Oh II-nam.
2. Driving on Salaama Road
Salaama Road is hell on earth. If you have driven on Salaama Road, you can drive anywhere in the world. If you imagined that every pothole on Salaama Road was a road grenade, then nobody would ever come out alive from driving on Salaama Road. Salaama Road does not have potholes. Potholes have Salaama Road.
3. Buying land in Uganda
Buying land in Uganda is playing Russian roulette. You never get to know the real owner. You are never certain you are the real buyer until five years have elapsed. A random owner can appear with a more genuine land title.
4. Finding your way out of ‘Owino’
St. Balikuddembe market, aka ‘Owino’, is a walk of wonders. Till today, no one in Uganda has ever entered and exited Owino through the same route. It is ultimately impossible. Worse still, finding the entrance is one thing, but finding an exit is another thing altogether. It is rumoured that the exit and entry points keep changing.
5. Haggling in Kampala
In Kampala, we do not haggle to get a better price, we haggle to clear doubts that we are not being cheated. Kampala traders do practice price discrimination. If you show up with eye glasses, and a tucked-in shirt, be certain your prices will be more than doubled. If you come off as clueless, once again, you will be cheated. Prices in Kampala swing between extremes. It is all about the buyer and their demeanor. Your body language determines the selling price.
6. Finding a job in Uganda
This game starts in secondary school, a lie is often told that if one pursued the path of sciences, then life would be sorted. With this in mind, students begin the games with the best combinations; PCB, PCM, name it all. The case is not any different at university, the advice is to suffer in the present while hoping for heaven upon graduation. Come graduation day, a random uncle shows up and makes a statement; “Mwana wangye, first thing on Monday morning, bring your CV to my office without fail.” If only most fresh graduates realised that these speeches are made under the influence. In Uganda, you can make grand promises and not fulfill them. Finally, the game gets upgraded to the application, the job interviews and finally the job itself. If you make it through the job interview, you probably won’t make it past the salary negotiations. If you do make it past the salary negotiations, you will probably never make it past the promotions.
7. Ugandan elections
Uganda is a special country. Regardless of the year, regardless of the prevailing circumstances, regardless of the political opponent, when it comes to the presidential election, the outcome is always constant. It is the hardest of squid games. The only way to win this Squid Game is to get the winner to compete against himself. Basically, you get a Museveni pitted against Kaguta and we see the winner. Short of this, this Squid Game seems predetermined.
8. Weddings, funerals
In Uganda, you never get excited about a wedding pledge until it is fulfilled. It is all a game. If you see your former schoolmates attending the wedding meeting, then that is your moment to make the mother of pledges. Assure everyone that transport will be catered for by Ortega and family. Watch everyone cheer you, watch your crush come to your side based on your new status.
In an instant of a pledge, you can attract a new kind of respect.
When it comes to funerals, not everyone who shows up is mourning with you. Some show up to gauge the state of your house, to see how their own village home measures up. In Uganda, people are trying to size themselves up against each other every single moment.
9. Ugandan documents
Have you tried getting your permit renewed? What about getting a land title? Have you gotten your passport? Wherever a Ugandan document is involved, rest assured you are required to set off some days to process your documents. Every time you get a Ugandan document, you must congratulate yourself. They never come easy. If you have a passport, if you have a permit, and all these are up-to-date, then you are among the best squid game players in Uganda.
10. Becoming rich in Uganda
Uganda is about perceptions. If you believe you are rich and convince the people around you that you are rich, then you are rich. People in Uganda never tell their complete story. A man earning Shs500,000 per month will have a billion-shilling mansion. People without a business to their name or at worst a job to their name drive the latest version of your dream car. In Uganda, you take motivational speeches with a pinch of salt. You cannot tell what is real and what is being faked. When it comes to money, everything is exaggerated in Uganda. Everyone claims their business has a high turnover, until URA knocks on the day and everyone is declaring nil on their tax returns.