Last Sunday, I wrote about the fear of Ebola and how the fingers have become paranoid during such times. I narrated to you how Aggrey and I used to walk around Kigali with so much confidence way back in the mid 90s. We used to be seen walking majestically due to the fact that we were loaded with hand gloves. We had been obliged to put on hand gloves in order to cope with the compulsory handshake.
But as days passed by, our hitherto fearful fingers began to regain confidence. Aggrey and I tried to convince ourselves that whenever you go to Rome, you do what other Romans do. That is why we slowly abandoned the use of hand gloves as they also proved to chew into our meager budgets. So we started to practice live handshakes and discarded those gloves. Within a short time, Aggrey and I had gotten used to serious handshakes. We shook hands with the shopkeeper whenever we entered to buy a loaf of bread. We shook his hands again when we left the shop. That was the order of the day.
To-date the habit of handshaking has lingered on. However, some people have devised new ways of exchanging pleasantries. These days, people have been concentrating on Rasta-like gestures. The Rastas use clenched fists as a sign of friendship and solidarity. With clenched fists, there is little chance of being contaminated by the dreaded disease. However, there appears to be another habit that folks have failed to do away with – sharing local booze. This they do with the use of the same straw or the same glass.
With pleas from the Ministry of Health, the men in yellow have joined in the race. They have been seen out there in the suburbs combating this threat. They know where to search. These are places where you would find elderly men sitting in large groups passing around a shiny calabash full of local brew. You would find an elderly man sucking up the potent drink as the dirty old straw dangled freely into the calabash. With his eyes closed in sheer pleasure, the old man would be taking in several liters before passing it over to the next person. And in the process no one would rule out possibilities of passing around any funny disease.
When I discovered that the men in yellow were indeed hunting for such watering holes, my heart skipped a beat. This is because I suddenly remembered how Aggrey and I had survived such diseases over a decade ago. We survived by the grace of God. For us, we never shared a calabash of local brew by using the same straw. No way! For us, we used to share a tough liquor which hailed from the slopes of snow capped Mountain Rwenzori. This serious liquor is popularly referred to as UG. Its other name is Waragi.
So when Aggrey and I thought of wetting our throats, we would go visit our immediate neighbor at the Kiyovu of the poor. If your memory serves you well, you will recall that our neighbor was always referred to as Mr. Waraje. He had earned this name due to the fact that whenever he guzzled enough UG, he would start singing praises for that serious drink. He would start singing; “UG Waraje, UG Waraje…”
Anyways, whenever Aggrey and I got into the spirit of tasting some of that UG, we would go cajole Mr. Waraje who would then take us to Béa’s joint. Here we would join another gang of UG consumers. As I mentioned before, we never used a straw and a calabash. Instead we used a funny looking tin which had always seen better days. Usually, the tin would be an ex-blue band metallic tin. Since the poor section of Kiyovu could not afford real glasses, the barmaids would head for the nearest dustbins and proceed to pick a nice selection of old used tins. Then the barmaids would clean them up and proceed to put the tins into the desired shapes.
That is why Béa would pick up a stone and start hammering the tins. She would hammer them until the tins developed deep dents. When we asked Béa as to why she served us the liquor in spoilt and dented tins, she told us that those dents were meant to serve as a cup handle. She argued that those dents were supposed to provide space for our fingers to clutch tightly lest the tin would drop down. But after secret investigations by Aggrey, we received the truth. Apparently, Béa banged those tins so that whenever she measured our dose of UG, the tin would appear to be full up whereas in the actual sense the tin would be holding half of our usual dose. Talk about economizing!