City panorama: Sampling Kigali Vs Kampala

My names is... no, I won’t tell you my name. Some of the things I’m going to say here might not auger with some people. I need this anonymity for some sanctuary. So you can call me Sally. Yes, Sally sounds nice; as nice as taking an evening walk down the streets of Kigali knowing well that no boda boda (that’s how taxi-motos are called in Kampala) will ride on the pavement and knock you for dead.
Kampal: A rolex maker in a typical dingy setting Kampala, a street on rainy day. Above is a neat Kigali street.
Kampal: A rolex maker in a typical dingy setting Kampala, a street on rainy day. Above is a neat Kigali street.

My names is... no, I won’t tell you my name. Some of the things I’m going to say here might not auger with some people. I need this anonymity for some sanctuary. So you can call me Sally. Yes, Sally sounds nice; as nice as taking an evening walk down the streets of Kigali knowing well that no boda boda (that’s how taxi-motos are called in Kampala) will ride on the pavement and knock you for dead.

I came to Kigali in March for a holiday. I take it that six months in this city is enough for me to sample lots of experiences and weigh them against what I know of Kampala, a city I was born and bred in. I had heard a lot about what the two cities have in common, but coming here has informed my understanding that beyond the Letter K, Kigali and Kampala are like Russia and the US.

Yesterday, some motorist was driving while texting. He nearly drove onto the pavement. In Kampala, a motorist who pulls up by the street to answer a call of two minutes will be interrupted by screeching sounds as three to four boda bodas or another vehicle rams into the stationary one.

The congestion in Kampala makes for its own world, but it has the goodies. Like you can buy anything anytime in Kampala while jogging. All you need is the money. Everything goes on the streets, including the most annoying characters of preachers.

So here I was, hungry and yawning, one evening, two weeks after I crossed the Gatuna border post. “Is there a place I can get rolex?” I had asked my host. She looked at me with cold eyes. She didn’t even know what rolex is. What kind of a city is that? I’ve been to Nairobi and seen rolex and boda bodas (motos) behaving very much like our guys in Kampala, yet here this host didn’t know what rolex is.

Later, I patched it up with some Ugandans on Facebook and this teacher from Busoga, eastern Uganda–where rolex was invented–told me that there is no rolex in this city. No wonder the lot of Rwandans can’t run the marathon. Only Ugandans and Kenyans who endure ‘tolerance foods’ know the art of the gruelling marathon.

Anyway, I should confess that I only recently learned how to use cheques. Those are things only the Sudhirs and organisations know how to sign in Kampala. In fact, there are companies there that don’t use cheques whatsoever. Here, the other day I paid for stuff in Nakumatt with a cheque.

While I really love the motos here for their effectiveness, use of safety helmets and not cheating passengers, I have a serious grudge with these guys. There was this day I went to immigration offices in Kacyiru. The moto guy didn’t have change for my Rwf2,000, so he started flagging down his colleagues and requesting for change... in the end, I had to buy airtime because even the chaps who were vending airtime refused to help this hapless moto guy.

I thought it was a one-off. On my way back, a similar story again. I later found out that the motos don’t care about change. In Kampala, there is a lot of ‘brotherhood’ and a boda boda man will stop to just offer change to another. But if you think the gestures in Kampala are worth celebrating, wait until they show you their true colours.

No boda boda will give back your change unless you demand it. They are pathetic cheats and vibing chicks is their A-game.

The other day, some Rwandan friend took me to the club in KBC. I think it’s called Planet or something like that. It was while there that I learnt we were in red light district. I was very disappointed but I decided that fate could have given me a reason to ‘browse’ that night life.

According to this guy, the Rwandan ‘call girls’ are romantic, whatever he really means by that! But in his own words, “they will do it as if you are lovers, and not cheat you of your money, you pay 10k and have a full night’s blast.”

And in Kampala?

I’m only a lady; I can even claim to be a virgin, but from what the guys I told to get me the angle in the noisy city say, you have to ‘beep’ the girls for your hard-earned 20K. “They tell you to hurry and finish because you are not the only customer,” my Kampala friend, a journalist, said to my inquiries.

To be continued...

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