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The secret life of Kampala

The haggling, the sweet endearments, the lugambo…

Kampala City: To a newbie, Kampala is everything at once. It is the disorganisation, the reckless boda-bodas, the big food portions, the Subaru adrenaline,  adult-kids like Car-soon-bar, it’s the slayers with disjointed lashes, it’s the upcoming artistes of Makindye, it is the potholes of Salama. Yet, beyond all this madness, we all live a shared life. The secret life of Kampala.

Our Mondays start with dread. They’re a stark reminder of a long week ahead. Our newspapers bombard us with headlines of money that’s grown legs out of the public coffers. As we prepare to spring out of our homes, the children come knocking; “Daddy, you haven’t yet paid for the trip. Mummy, teacher Precious told us to remind you about the swimming fees.” We catch ourselves in the process of unloading our frustration on the children.

They survive the frustration, but not the maid. We complain about the food waste. Why is she cooking all tribes of food at once? Why are they leaving pieces of soap everywhere? Meanwhile, our car is being blocked by that grumpy neighbour with a schedule known only to himself. We hope that today his schedule will align with the Monday morning gods. Otherwise, how are we to wake him up? To interrupt his sleep. We have all been passive aggressive with each other.

The hustle

We get into our cars and the fuel empty warning pops up. The last time Jajja came to address the nation on the issue, he blamed imperialism, and the inability of the African Kings and Chiefs to resist the Pinettis of this world. We hope that this empty tank does not surprise us. At least, let it make it to the next station.

As we join the main road, we must keep struggling to fix ourselves. The hustle is now in full gear. We hustle with bodabodas. Our roads cannot allow co-existence. Something or someone must make way. Our roads are not democratic. The space belongs to one of the three, a pothole, a bodaboda or a taxi. In that scuffle, there will always be a Gamba N’Ogu making the escape through the jam. We try to stand our ground; “not about to give way to him”, then he draws closer with his metallic guards. We swerve off. Now the anger is boiling. In that moment, we remember that we are yet to clear our last dues to the mechanic. Mavo, the mechanic must be suspecting we could escape one of these days. We sent him a whatsapp message just to reassure him. We ask him to resend the quotation. It is how we buy time in Uganda. You keep finding fault in your creditors’ statements.

Anyway, we’re now at work. Last Friday, we hoped we would be in a good space in the new week. We hoped to do some work on the weekend, prepare that outstanding report. But life happened. We remembered that problems no dey finish, so we used the weekend to enjoy ourselves. Now we must cook up some lies for that meeting. And then, a miracle happens, there’s no quorum? Or no, the Managing Partner is away on a personal engagement, and the meeting can’t continue. We celebrate with a cup of coffee, as we tap onto the marrieds’ breakfast box. He’s just been on a call with Madam, little does Madam know that we are the ones eating her man’s breakfast. At least, he gets to return an empty box. Shouldn’t she draw some satisfaction from that?

Lunch, a mindset

Lunch is here. Lunch is here. We escape into our work. We are not about to join the Tashas in that conversation about a Haven of Stones. Who even goes to eat food at such a Haven? We conjure up our poverty excuses. The thing about poverty, it teaches you to despise what you can’t have. You come up with stupid justifications. “Kale imagine those rich people have sleepless nights. Anti you know they had to make funny sacrifices to get the money.” We decry those who drive brand new cars. “It’s good to buy a second-hand car. Such a car is used on the roads and has been tried and tested,” we tell our friends.

The fundraising

As we are putting our lives to order. A request to be added to a third wedding group is here! Goodness, people and weddings. Why is everyone in Kampala entitled to another person’s money? For this request, we are pissed. It’s from that OB with whom we never exchanged a word in school. He’s resurrected just in time. In the Family group, there’s also a fundraiser for the next ‘lumbe.’ There are splinter groups aka ‘Kiwaayis.’ The ones who subscribe to Ssenga Malangala are opposed to the date of the Lumbe. They say there are better priorities. That the village house should be renovated before anything. “The last funeral, we were all left in shame, let’s complete the house before hosting people for a lumbe.” But Kojja Walusimbi is opposed. He says the lumbe is what’s holding the family blessings. Apparently, the ancestors are not happy. Anyway, Phaneroo? Worship Harvest? Zoe Fellowship? It’s as though everyone has become a prophet, and everyone is making trips to heaven.

Complementary chop

Tiwa is here. We start sketching for a complimentary ticket. Do Ugandans ever buy tickets? Or do we know someone who knows someone that works with a company providing the tents? Anyway, that ka-girl Sheila with her Chop life. We secretly hate that we love her. One day, we hope we can get a chance to also Kulumya our fellow broke people. We keep making attempts at our Whatsapp status updates. We keep trying to prove we’ve made it. No, hun! Those who have made it have no need of making it known to others. Wealth is silent. Poverty is loud! Kale, Kale, we promise ourselves to try harder. But then we can’t make out the difference between harder and faster? Life in Kampala has left each of us bipolar. We are all faking it!

 Twitter: ortegatalks

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