Sunday, 19 July 2009

How Uganda works

It's the day before the Gandas leave for England. Gandalady is running errands all over town. Her list of duties includes collecting Emma's new passport, having only realised the old one had expired two days previously. In the car on the way to the British High Commission, her phone rings. She comes to a junction on a quiet road, indicates, feebly pulls over and answers the call. Behind her is a pick-up crammed with police. One of them jumps out and taps on the window.

Policeman: Madam! Stop there! (points to parking space over the road, waving arms around excitedly)
Gandalady: Umm... Oh? me? My phone? How silly of me. Sir, I am so sorry, very sorry. Please, I won't do it again. Please let me go, I have a thousand things to do. (She pulls over as instructed. The pick-up pulls in front, blocking her in. All the policeman, about a dozen of them, stare at her. Some of them are armed. The first policeman comes back to the driver's side of Gandalady's car.)
Policeman: (righteously indignant) You were driving like an unprofessional! If I take you to court now for being dangerous, am I wrong?
Gandalady: No. Not at all. You would not be wrong. I was not thinking. Sorry. I will not do it again. Forgive me. Pause. Can I go?
Policeman: (enjoying G's discomfort) No, it is not OK! Give me your papers.
Gandalady hands over her driving licence. Policeman pulls out Cath Kidston style flowery note book and starts writing down details. Other police watch intently.
Policeman, uninvited, gets into Gandalady's car on the passenger side.
Policeman: (lowers voice). You see madam, it is like this, today I am out with the big man. Three stars! So I must do my duty. I must confiscate your phone. 400,000 shillings fine. And then you must come to court, where they serve 6 months to 1 year for dangerous driving. What do you say?
Gandalady: Please, sir. I cannot let you have my phone. I need my phone, I am travelling tomorrow. What is the fine? Let me pay the fine. Gandalady reaches for her purse.
Policeman: (hisses aggressively) You put that money away! We go there first (points to spot a few metres away from the pick-up. Gandalady obliges.)
Gandalady: What is the fine? Let me pay it.
Policeman: We go to police station first. Then the court must decide, if it is prison or what.
Gandalady: I can't...
Policeman: Just give me 100, 000.
Gandalady hands over the money. I will give you a million shillings just to get out of my car and go away.
Policeman: (shoving notes in his pockets) Go now, if you make trouble for me I will take away your vehicle and get you in prison.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

A small problem

We have moved.

I am sitting in my living room on the house on the hill, looking out over Lake Victoria. Four days in and we have just about unpacked. I say 'we': actually Gandaman did all the leg work. I sat around, staring catatonically at the boxes as he unpacked, mumbling about "exhaustion."

I am a very reluctant packer, and an even more reluctant un-packer. G-man likes his house a home, with books on shelves and photos and nice lighting. I am at heart, still a student: give me a saucepan and some teabags and I am pretty happy. Everything else we need will creep out as I need it, or so I reason.

I was surprised at some of the items that had managed to make it to the new place - a plastic doll's severed leg, various tupperware boxes with no lids, some broken plastic wallets, unplaceable foreign coins. And yet, I had managed to leave behind some very vital personal property: no less than my entire underwear drawer!

Imagine my consternation on Friday morning when I discovered the absence of my precious smalls. Followed by the despair as I handwashed my remaining pair in Johnson's Baby Wash, the washing powder having similarly disappeared. Then the acute embarressment of calling the new tenant at our old house and the new boss at Medair to try and locate their whereabouts. "Hi! How are you? Yes, sorry to bother you, but..have you seen?.."

To add insult to injury, these were not any ragged old things: they were almost new, specially ordered from England. Decent bras and pants are about the only thing you can not get here. Balsamic vinegar? Check. Brand new DVD player? Yup. Marmite? Technically yes, though the arabic script is a little unnerving and it doesn't taste the same as back home. But undies? Only if you like polyester blends from China in pastel shades.

Then we got the call yesterday: the contract cleaners had picked them up (the contract cleaners!) and discreetly put them in a plastic bag, which was subsequently taken to the Medair office. I sneaked in earlier today and removed them, carefully not making eye contact with any of the staff.

It's great to be reunited with my er, 'items', but I am also saddened that I no longer have an excuse to run amok on my yearly pilgrimage to Marks and Spencers.* Though actually, I think I will anyway.

* we fly to the UK on Friday for 6 weeks - yay!!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

News! News!

We have a house and I have a job and we are staying in Uganda!

After much to-ing and fro-ing, we are moving into the house on the hill: the one with the spectacular view and beautiful creepers and guest house and veggie patch. And I took the job at Banana Boat! At last, Gandaman gets to realise his dream of being a househusband, although he is also sniffing around for a part-time job in case the dream becomes a nightmare.

It's all go round here: we are signing contracts and transferring money, doing inventories, thinking about work permits, booking flights. From time to time we remember we have children to attend to. We have to move in before we go to the UK on 17th July.

Worm update: Emma took it to school today for her show-n-tell. A powerful health promotion message there!

And here is a photo of our girls, because even though we've barely had five minutes with each other of late, they are still dreamy. As in all photos, I am looking a little rough: