Home Isn't Home Anymore

Part 3 of 3: Yes, I've Changed

Mornings in Zanzibar
We had only two weeks left to our holiday but still loads of things to do.  We still had to meet up with my friends, visit Murchison falls national park and have a little break in Zanzibar. I’d scheduled the heck out of those two weeks, which was a very silly thing to do. See, Uganda is slow and with most people, each day is planned that very morning. There is no hurry in Africa, which is a bitch if you are pressed for time.
Engaged and planning a wedding in the Czech Republic, we’d started the process of acquiring a Single-status certificate from Uganda 5 months before our trip. It should have been ready by the time we got there, but then, an eternally thirsty guy happened. The civil servant working on it wanted ‘tea’ to energize him into doing what the government pays him to do and once we paid the tea, he came up with more reasons why more tea was needed – facilitation, to lubricate the signatories and lawyers etc. Had it not been for the patience and help of my relative who’d made those numerous office trips, wasting hundreds of work hours in the process, I’d have told the public servant to shove it and given up. Even after all the tea was paid, it still wasn’t a sure thing we’d get it before our flight back. The ‘big guy’ with the stamp was out of office – all the time. We got that certificate the day before our flight back after paying yet more last minute tea. It was a cheerless document printed on plain A4 paper with 3-4 sentences, a stamp and one signature.

Then, I was to meet this lawyer who’d presided over a family land sell and who’d helped ‘disappear’ my share of the proceeds. He’d sworn he’d had no hand in it and had pledged to walk me through the sale process and point out which ‘uncle’ had taken my share. I have no living uncles. I went to his office with another lawyer in tow but of course, he wasn’t in. For two hours, he responded to each of our 5 calls in the same way, “I’ll be there in 5 minutes.” We gave up. He called the next day to reschedule. I told him what I thought about his work ethic and had planned to remain cordial until he accused me of not being patient enough. I hung up on him – I don’t remember ever doing that to anybody.

My patience worn thin, I simply wasn’t up to playing old me.

Take for instance my reaction when a friend called 20 minutes late, to cancel a meet up she’d set up and for which I’d gone to great lengths to accommodate. I’d already met with her twice but she’d wanted a final lunch. I loved her, so I cancelled a crafts market tour and made time. I arrived 15 minutes early and waited 35 minutes before the call came. The only explanation I got was that she was home and it wasn’t possible to make it to the city center. Would tomorrow be possible? Oh, was I livid! By God, it wasn’t like it’d been a last minute thing. We’d scheduled this two days earlier! The Ugandan thing to do and which I’d have previously done would have been to say it was all right and reschedule. I didn’t. I also failed to hide my displeasure and probably took on a new label – snob

….and probably a penny pincher. How?

I went to lunch with another girlfriend and declined to chip in when tipping the waitress. Terrible, right? I’ll explain. The waitress was a grump. She’d offered no smile and our plates of food had been unceremoniously dumped on the table. I needed more ketchup but dared not ask. To round the experience off, my girlfriend had spent more than half the time at the next table, seated with and chatting to another friend of hers – a work colleague she saw everyday. Tip time (tips were goodwill), my girlfriend pointed out that she’d picked up tipping from me. I responded saying, I wasn’t tipping for the sake of it anymore. The tip had to be deserved and the overall experience mattered too.  End of.

Then there’s the night I possibly embarrassed my whole group of friends. Since I’d been the one to arrange the group outing, I offered to cover slightly more than half the bill and each would chip in to cover the rest. When the bill was presented, I asked to tally the consumption (food and drinks) against the bill (a common practice everywhere, but Uganda) and asked to talk to the waiter when the bill didn’t match our consumption. He’d padded it with drinks nobody remembered ordering. This is something that is routinely done and ignored in Kampala’s hangouts. People don’t want to be seen arguing over the cost of just a few extra drinks they didn’t order and they’ll let the proactive bill-padders get away with it.  It’s like a secret tip but to me, it was thievery however small. Of course, the waiter insisted the drinks had been consumed, I couldn’t prove they hadn’t and I could see my friends becoming uneasy…I gave up the fight. That chewed me up for a bit.

Again, I’ll explain…since I came to Europe, I have not been given free drinks, meals or treats save for special day gifts and communal snacks. Most celebrations held at a restaurant mean you pay for what you consume or at least, for your plate of food. Money is hard to come by and one must work hard for every penny. No friend or relative is going to be so overwhelmed with happiness at bumping into you on the street that they’ll give you money just because they haven’t seen you in a while. Nothing is for free.

I wasn’t a penny pincher all through though…I took something small for each of my friends, different things, some more than others. Some appreciated and others didn’t. One went as far as go online to check out the pricing of what I’d got them. Collectively, I dug deep into my pockets to make that happen but of course, separately; a bar of chocolate is just that…nothing much. Friends have since dropped off…blame the distance and whatever else, but the core friends have stayed. I love you guys. You know who you are.  


Part 1 of 2: The Old Me

Part 2 of 2: My Paradise...or Not


  1. I hear you. There are things back home that make you want to punch someone in the face when you have been out here especially. But for me, the joy I feel being home kinda makes up for those 'little' things.

    1. Yes, the joy does make up for it...a little (for me)...I don't go often and would like to have hustle free visits...you know, all those avoidable things not happening...

  2. Going through lines of Ughanda experience and life makes me wonder: is Ughanda √Āfrica? Are all African nations as such? As someone who is never visited any African land this is a bit unsettling

    1. Of course, Uganda isn't Africa (sigh) but it's representative of the general African mannerisms. If you travel across Africa (you should try it...it'd be a wonderful experience), you'll find that though people speak different languages and have different cultures, the fundamental beliefs and mannerisms are the same. For instance, you'll find that across Africa, looking an elder straight in the eyes is regarded as insolence. An elder is anyone older, who one should automatically respect.

  3. After My visit last christmas! Yes i have changed too!