Claire’s trip week 16
4th January to 11th January
She said that if the police stop you and threaten to give you a fine then really they are wanting a bribe but cannot directly ask for it as it is illegal.
Although last year has only just ended and the New Year just begun new experiences have already been evident and with vengeance! Last year ended with me being stopped by the police while trying to get home after going out with Veronica, known as Ronnie, for the day. I was flagged down by the police at Nakawa (said Nac –cow –a) so I obediently pulled over where she asked to see my papers. I handed these over but then she wanted to know about the driving permit and so I tried to explain, but after ages I decided to give up as there was definitely a language barrier. I think, that so she did not have to lose face she said ‘I will give you paper’. After asking what I was meant have done wrong she told me I had gone through a red light. Neither Ronnie nor I had seen the traffic light and so asked where it was and she vaguely waved her hand down the road and said ‘Down there’. We were not in a place to argue about it so I said if I had done wrong and she needed to give me paper then that was fine. She had a pad of paper on which she could write out the offense. She turned it over and said that it was 100//= fine for ‘being inconsiderate to other drivers’. Anyway this debt went on for what seemed a long time but was probably only about 15 minutes or so. Back and forth ‘Shall I give you paper? Do you want paper?’ In the end I got back in the car and waited until she had stopped arguing with herself. In the end, as it was New Year, she decided not to ‘Give me paper!’ and I was allowed to drive away. However, it did rattle me for a bit and was glad to get home where I felt safer.
The first day back at work I was waiting for my lift when I got a text from Donald to say that he could not pick me up, so I walked back home and decided to drive the car to work as I still have until the weekend. I was allowed to enter the main gate of the university as the security guard waved me through but when I got to the piece of rope which goes across the road the two ‘security guards’ who guard this rope all day every day, stopped me. He looked all around the car and then asked if I had water. I said ‘yes’ and he said ‘Give me water’. I was feeling a bit niffed, as it was my daily supply of water and I knew I couldn’t get any more at work, but handed it over anyway.
When I got to work I was just explaining the situations to Generous and she burst out laughing. She said that if the police stop you and threaten to give you a fine then really they are wanting a bribe but cannot directly ask for it as it is illegal. That is apparently why it took so long and when she realised I did not understand then she had to let me go because there were no grounds for her giving me a fine. The police are corrupt and she was possibly worried II was going to report her so she gave in. So being genuinely naïve and stupid pays off sometimes. Apparently when a security guard asks for water it is code for ‘Give me money’. Well I said if they ask for water, water is what they will get!
We had been warned by VSO, that bribery and corruption was rife, and had done training on it, but I had not personally encountered it before. This time of year apparently it’s worse because people have spent all their money at Christmas and New Year and are now broke so try to get more money by whatever means they can, but not from me apparently!!!
I don’t think I told you that the chicken I pass everyday on my walk to Tusky’s had 10 chicks just before Christmas. They were very tiny and very furry like little ‘fuzzy plums’ walking about and now they are much more independent and brave and the poor mother hen is having a job trying to keep them together. They look like feathery avocados now! Anyway, I had just reached the main road and had crossed to the middle and waiting politely in the middle of the road, trying not to get squished from behind, waiting for 4 bodas to pass, when a ‘young’ man lightly touched my arm and said ‘come, come, come’. I have never been helped across the road before! Am I now officially a muzee muzungu?
I have also realised on very important and necessary fact which will save me a lot of embarrassment, that men here are like rhinos; they only every turn their back on you if they are going to pee. I know this does not seem a very important thing or necessary to know, but it will make such a difference to my everyday life as still get quite embarrassed by this act.
A new year’s resolution! At New Year while I still had the car I decided to go and get three large bottles of water and I decided to crack the secret code of how to buy it. I felt like I was on a secret mission, an uncover detective! This has been worrying me as I only seem to get it right if I take Donald with me and like the ‘fuzzy avocados’ I have to be independent and brave. The bottles with rings which go round following the circumference of the bottle are 6000//= each and are fillable and you have to return the empty bottle. The bottles which have lines which radiant out from the cap down to the edge of the bottle are 7,200//= and you do not have to take the empty bottle back as these are recyclable, not refillable and the bottles which have lines which radiant from the cap down to the edge of the bottle but swoop round in a curving sort of shape are 25,000//= a bottle and are not recyclable or refillable. Yes, got it at last!!! But why would anyone buy these??? Well, I suppose I did to be begin with once anyway!!!!!
My lovely vegetable lady has got a new business ploy. Last year it was ‘I give you bonus?’ but this year is ‘I want you to give me Christmas, buy a soda!’ which of course I did. I wonder if this will turn into ‘Make my day, buy a …..’It will be interesting to see how this develops. Good business tactics though!
I have just had a rather nasty lunchtime surprise. As usual I was working through my lunch hour when I got up and reached for my sandwiches which were cream cheese with coarse black pepper and tomato, Um yummy!!! I had put them in a square plastic tub with a fitting lid this morning and so was not suspecting anything gross. Not concentrating I took a bite and out of the corner of my eye I saw a herd of looked like the bits of pepper, having had a conference and deciding to march out of my sandwich at the first opportunity. However on closer inspection, this herd was what I want to describe as microscopic animals, which of course they weren’t, otherwise I won’t have been able to see them! They were tiny, so tiny, about the third of the size of an ant or smaller and dark brown or black. They were everywhere, in the box, in the sandwich, and when I took the top of the box escaped all over my desk and are now having some sort of party running up and under my computer keys and up my arms to my neck. So gross!! I tried squashing them in my sandwich so I could not see them, but it was the thought of them, still being there even though I had squashed them. Still I have crisps so I’ll eat them, but what are they?? My mission now is to find out if I bought them with me from home, as extra protein! Or whether they are here at work and got in during the morning when I wasn’t looking. I now have the psychological itches! After work I asked my friendly oracle, Donald, what these horrid little things were and he said they were ‘called obusiisi (said o see see) and they like sweet things and walk in straight lines’. He said ‘they would not disorganise my stomach or what’. ‘They like cheese and will surround it seriously, Ah!’ Apparently there are ‘other kinds, bigger ones that live on the road and cross it, cutting you. They are the size of ‘… ‘a cat’’ I ventured, ‘no’ … ‘a goat’, ‘no’. ‘I am looking in my head to find it but it is not coming’ so I as yet do not know what size the other sort are! Just as well I think! I like sharing but there is a limit!
I have had the plumber in twice this week already. This has been a new experience try to communicate with workmen. I know I had a table made but I was the one giving the instructions, but is totally out of my control and we have encountered several cultural differences. He seems to be a nice guy, but so very very thin. He came to mend the shower Laura uses as very little water was coming out of the head. It would started like shower but then disintegrated into a miserable dribble of water. First of all arrived when I was in the middle of a two day power cut and he refused to be given the lantern. After leaning on the wall for about 10 minutes in the dark with an adjustable spanner in his hand he said I had to pay him. I then contacted the landlady, which he was not keen about, to find out why it was my responsibility, but it was just another example of trying to get money after Christmas. Trying to understand the situation, plumbing not being my forte at the best of times, he told me ‘don’t use hot only this one cold’. This was not what I wanted and said so, very nicely of course so he rang the landlady who said she would come but didn’t and so after about thirty minutes and 20 cups of tea with four spoonfuls of sugar in each mug he left. He then returned. That was Friday but he returned with the landlady, Rose, on Sunday night and they decided that they would change it for a shower stick (a shower on a pole rather than a hand held one). Last night Monday he returned again to fix the shower stick but again only a miserable cold dribble of water came out. He was there for about three hours when Rose turned up who also was not satisfied with this dribble of cold water and went next door to check the water pressure in their shower, but had disconnected the heater as they couldn’t afford to heat the water. On her return she decided to put this shower stick in my bathroom. I was alarmed as I have water which can be hot and comes out fairly well under the circumstances, but thankfully it didn’t work there either, so they are coming back on Thursday to cut off a bit of the shower stick to make it shorter and replace with a bit of PVC pipe. If I have understood correctly the shower will be fixed to the wall between 3 and half and 4 feet from the floor. Even a munchkin would be too tall!!! It does mean that I am going to be too tall for something though which is good, but how useable will be shower be? When asking the landlady this she said ‘I don’t like to be defeated and if it works it doesn’t matter if it’s not useable’. Definitely a cultural difference here I think!! Actually this explains a lot and understand more about some of the strange things I have seen and had to use. I find it all quite funny really, because all seems so surreal, but that’s life here.
One amazing and good thing, but worrying and sad of how it came about, is that we now have a light bulb on the stairs which we have never had before. It was like walking into the belly of a whale when you returned home after dark, but now we have light, but it was only because Rose nearly fell down the stairs which was worrying and sad, but we have light. Hooray!!!
Well, I think nothing will surprise me ever again as my journey to Tuskys was fraught with things going on. Firstly, I was stopped by a lady who I had met once ages ago and she wanted me to put her in touch with a butterfly farm in the UK. She took my number because she wants me to go to tea, presumably to discuss butterflies! After the drainage ditch over which I have to jump or stretch, there is a small hut which I am not sure whether is a house or a shop, it may be both. It is about 2 metres by about 1 metre. There is one small window to the left of the door which displays various samosas in vearying states of decay. On one of the short sides away from the road is a lean-to shelter under which the ‘grubby’ men and sometimes a less ‘grubby’ women sit and talk and cook their meals. The procedure goes like this, I start! ’Good Morning, How are you?’ ‘Hello, we’re fine. How are you? ‘I’m fine thank you’ but all takes place while I keep walking. That is the end of it, unless they are there later then the whole thing is repeated, but today… oh, dear! The conversation was had but… this new not grubby and quite good looking man said after the initial greeting ‘And how are you, hey’, in a sort of lilting sort of way and I should have ignored it, but stupidly I turned round. By now he was on his feet and wanting to shake hands. Being even more stupid I retraced my steps and shook hands with him. I felt like a princess who had been grabbed by a frog who was trying his last ditch attempt at being kissed. The more I tried to release my hand the more he held on, staring into my eyes. Uncomfortable or what! By this time I was stunned and a little shocked if I’m honest, and my mind was racing like a Formula One racing car in over drive, as to what I could do without making a scene. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the ‘grubby’ men looking at us which didn’t help matters and he had sort of glinting eyes!!! I decided the best tactic was to be very British and polite, but by now I had lost the plot of the conversation, I had been too busy hatching an escape plan, because when I came too so to speak, I heard him say’ How can I contact you?’ ‘Oh, you can’t I’m very busy.’ ‘Will I see you again’ and stupidly, because I always have to tell the truth which is a real down fall in situations like this, I said’ Oh, yes I often come this way’. Although my feet are small they were now well and truly wedged in my mouth! ‘Oh, yes you are small and pretty and ……’ ‘Well,’ I said’ I must get along to work now or I will be late.’ Oh, we will meet again and then we can chew’. No knowing and being even less interested in any chewing I tried to forcibly remove my hand which he then grabbed back again and kissed. I was right he was a frog after all, but sadly for him will never be a prince!! I am now going to avoid the short cut and walk up the road for a while until he has either forgotten or has gone.
Despite everything I am happy and sort of feel at home here, but I have realised there are two sounds and one treat that makes life even better. The two sounds are the swooshing sound that ‘skpye’ makes as it connects to the outside world and the beautiful sound of deafening silence, when it rings in your ears, as Ntinda, in the part where I live, is very noisy several nights a week. This is because I found out that I live very near one dance hall and not too far from another one and a brothel masquerading as a ‘women- only hotel’, but why this should be noisy I have no idea. The treat is listening to the Archers Omnibus on ‘itunes’ every week while I knit, without a rug over my knees, I might add. It’s funny what just adds a little something to life, isn’t it. When I was still in the UK it was the Alpacas which I named Enie, Meanie, Miny and Mo!
Love as always Claire