Revelations – days 66 to 68

Posted on May 11, 2012


Blimey what a crazy couple of days, I’m not even sure where to start. People I was sceptical about have surprised me and those I thought I could rely have disappointed me.

First Revelation:

My “new Boda friends” Musindi and Mukaali are one such example and they are now in my bad books. I honestly was taken aback by the generosity of them coming to welcome me to the town and buying me a soda, but I should have seen it coming, altruism is rare in the West and rarer still in Uganda.

After a successful first day of interviewing, (which I will get to) I was hit with the bombshell that ruined my breakfast the next morning

“How is my dear friend Asha?”asked Musindi as he sauntered down the steps of the B&B onto the veranda. The niceties were quickly out-of-the-way in all of 10 minutes when the real reason for his visit became apparent: he wanted more money. There’s a bleedin’ surprise.

What really narks me off more than anything is that he had more than a week to re-consider the price negotiated which is a fair one. I’m not into ripping people off and I’d like to think I’m a generous soul who would have rewarded both of them with a bonus at the end of the three weeks.

He should know how far the journey is, he lives in the area. The point of getting someone from Budongo involved was so that the Boda man would be a trusted and reliable individual. Now it turns out the cost of fuel for my journey has gone up. So I listened and calculated what budget I had to work with. So I laid another offer on the table, a small increment but more than I should be paying. Was he happy? Was he f@ck. That was it I lost the plot. Without expletives just a change of tone, a raised voice and a look of thunder, I made it very clear I was hopping mad (The Northerner can vouch how nasty my temper can be when pushed).

I’ve since been on the blower to Zephyr, who is a gem, and has told me not to worry. But I have made up my mind about what to do. It reminds me of the Aesop Fable The Man with The Golden Goose.

<I digress for those unfamiliar with the tale>

One day good fortune blessed a poor man by giving him a goose which laid golden eggs. He went from being a poor and miserable man to a better-off happier man. But he became greedy and wanted a more luxurious lifestyle and became dissatisfied that the goose only laid one golden egg per day. So he reasoned that perhaps the entire inside of the goose was also made of gold and decided to slaughter it, excuse the pun, to make a killing. Knife, chopping block, dead bird – he ended up with nothing!

……Which I’m afraid is where my “new friends” will find themselves. They have upset me so much I am no longer interested in giving them guaranteed 3-weeks’ work. I’ve worked out that the public taxis, mattatus go to Biiso, ok it’ll take an hour each way and they pick up everyone and their dog along the way but it’s cheaper than what I am being charged. I don’t like being taken for a ride (sorry I’m not intending to pun on purpose).

Second Revelation:

On the road down to the lake there is a police check point. The first journey I made last week in a car I was waved through. But this week I have been stopped twice a day and every time there is hassle and the casual conversation of payment for passage. I’ve pleaded poverty as a student, said I’m married and  answered every question with a question. So far so good but it’s so disappointing that bribery is everywhere even in law enforcement.

Third Revelation:

The journey to Piida is not walking distance. But yesterday I had no choice. The chain on the motorbike fell off on the way home as we hit a patch of mud. It was 5pm and the rain clouds were gathering and lightening was beginning to strike over the hills.

I dismounted: “I’m footing it,” I said to Mukaali taking off my helmet.

He looked alarmed: “Wait, wait, I’ll try to get help.”

“Mukaali, it’s five o’clock, there is lightening over there,” I said pointing. “I am not waiting for you to fanny around only to have you say to me we have to walk back in the dark and then the heavens open,” I argued.

I slung my rucksack on my back and off I trotted. I began thinking this is Karma. The money they have squeezed out of me will now have to spent repairing the bike – ha!

I calculated that it was about 10k back to the B&B up and down hills. It was hot but thankfully not a midday sun and the journey was not impossible after the training in the Budongo Forest –  piece of cake. I enjoyed the walk after doing very little exercise this week, although I was sweating like a beast. The children living in huts either side of the roads popped up like Prairie Dogs in amazement. The stood barefoot by the sides of the muddy banks which flank the road pointing and laughing. Not only is it unusual to see a Muzungu in these parts but even more unusual to see one “footing it”.

I got back to the B&B in one piece, without any hassle from the Check Point Charlie crew and before the rain – result!

Fourth Revelation:

I may have been too quick to judge my field assistant who has come up trumps this week. He has met every challenge I have given him and has been easy to work with. The villagers have been cautious about me but once the Tanna charm was switched on they began to open up. I have also given everyone a 1kg bag of sugar for taking up an hour of their time. A sweetener (yes I know!) but also it’s seen as a luxury item here as not everyone can afford it. The whole family also benefits from this too, which puts me in people’s good books and it’s nice to spread a bit of joy.

Fifth Revelation:

The villagers believe in finite resource. They do not think that the lake will dry up from over fishing nor do they believe that Cordia will become extinct in the future if it continues to disappear at this rate. No amount of debate or reasoning will change their attitude.

So what is happening in Butiaba? The really nitty-gritty is revealed in my next post.