Monday, 31 December 2012

South Africa's answer to bodabodas?

My friend Koeks (as in Koeksister, aka Janine) going for a spin on the farm.

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I've been taking a break from this blog while I've been in South Africa, but wanted to introduce you to South Africa's answers to bodas (well, it's the best option I can find).


Some of the terrain in KwaZulu-Natal covered on the bike. With all that sugar cane the area often reminds me of my home, Murwillumbah.
I've been riding these bikes with my friends on their farm in KwaZuu-Natal and on the beach at The Dolphin Coast since my first trip to South Africa in 1997 (albeit always as a passenger).

One Ugandan friend Brenda (hello Brenda!) pointed out that they look "more stable and grounded" than her country's popular motorbike taxis. But who doesn't enjoy the thrill of a good boda ride? 
Oh, and if you don't want to go on South Africa's answer to the boda these are always an option.

Here's to 2013 and more boda rides when I'm back in Kampala. But in the meantime here's a link to some bodas that made 2012 for me.


Aren't you meant to be in Dalston? There's too many to pick from, but here's one boda that made my year.


















Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Q: What two types of bodas should you always try to take?

Sizzling hot! Check out the riding gear!
A: According to my friend Liam (the same one who saw the 'Christmas Boda' with tinsel, I'm hoping he'll write for this blog at some stage) told me two weeks ago there's two types of bodas you should always pick. The first one is an old/older boda, because it means that they've survived this long, i.e. they've also presumably survived a lot of time on the road. The second is a Muslim boda, as the chances are they won't drink and drive. Well my friend Liam would have loved Hassan Guma,  27, a boda I met on my recent trip to Gulu while outside the town's Coffee Hut, a favorite haunt of mzungus (oh, and Brenda. Hello Brenda!) There are about 23 bodas at Hassan's stage in Olayoilong, Gulu town. Over a fanta (a favorite boda bevvy - see he doesn't drink and drive!) he told me about his job and his life:

"I started my job in 2005, due to the problem of the war that has taken place in northern Uganda. My family actually failed to get money for school fees so I started riding a bodaboda. I have a mother. My father died in 1991 when I was still young. I was surviving on my mother, she was the one taking care of me. After dropping out off school I stated riding bodas and made my own fate.

So in demand he calls himself Network Bussy 24/7.
  During the war my mother went into exile in Masindi District (in western Uganda) for five years. I came back to Gulu in 2002. I started off renting bodas. In 2011 I went and got a loan. I've finished paying the loan now. It was an amount of three million Ugandan shillings ($1,132 USD) and I paid 64,700 UGX every week for about 60 weeks. The person loaning it made a profit of 750,000 UGX. I'm happy that I own the bike.

With the boda there's no problem it is good. Most of these youths are living on bodas because there's not any work. You can make money actually if you have a good customer. If you do good things that people like you can make money. If you have a good day you can make 15,000 UGX. Someitmes we may get 10,000 UGX we may get 30,000 UGX. The price just keeps on jumping like that.

A Muslim boda is a good boda, who will get you there safely, according to a friend.
We carry business people that work in offices, local shops. I take Ugandans and mzungus (foreigners). During this Christmas season is a time when we make money. On Christmas Day there are very many bodas working but we don't charge the passengers more. We have enough customers at our stage.

Robberies are there. The thieves don't rob during daytime, they wait until night. I try to stop working at 7pm because of this. I had one problem in the past, that was 2009. A man stole my bike and I went to Kalangala  (on Bugala Island, the largest of the Ssese Islands) for 18 months as I was scared but when I came back I recovered the bike and had this man charged and taken to court.

Thanks to The Coffee Hut for bringing Hassan and I together. HELLO BRENDA!
Accidents are a problem. They're a very big problem. Most of our guys here they know how to ride, but the problems are roads. You find potholes and things like that. You find the roads like this and the customers fall down and blame the bodas that they're bad drivers yet it's the road who's the one that's bad.

We put on clothes according to the season. Nowadays sellers are coming here from Kampala so there's competition in the business. All the clothes come from Kampala and some of them we buy from Lira.  Now we're in the dry season. When you put on white clothes it's not good. It's about being clean and smart, because when you're dirty you won't get very many customers. They fear a bad smell when you're riding.

Turns out I wasn't the only girl on Hassan's bike.  At first glance I thought it was Kylie Minogue but it wasn't.

After riding a boda for seven years can now take care of my wife and family. I live in town. I'm making money from the boda, there's no other place where I can get money.

GET THE GULU LOOK

Red shirt 6,000, from the local markets. T-shirts can start at 3,000.

Trousers 4,000.

Shoes 5,000, made out of tyres and sold at the local markets.


ON SUNNIES I need them but they get broken after a two days and they're a little bit expensive.

ON HELMETS Helmets, with the traffic laws, are needed to be put on but we do feel the hotness of the helmet when we put it on.

















Thursday, 20 December 2012

Lamingtons. A double funeral. Paper beads. Highlights of my visit to The Mother City, Cape Town.

I'm getting off the topic of stylish bodas in this post (there's another one coming up soon on a Muslim driver from Gulu, though) as I'm in Cape Town and, well, I haven't found any bodas here. Although they do have a lot of good taxis here (which are quite orderly compared to Kampala's matatus) and this morning I got to be the co-conductor of one, sitting up the front next to the driver and helping collect the money (oddly enough, they came up ten cents short). I can now nearly count on both hands (yes despite coming up 10 cents short) the number of trips I've had to South Africa since I was 17. Although I've spent most of my visits in KwaZulu-Natal, my favorite place is probably Cape Town, which I've been to three times. It's one of my favorite cities, if not my number one (yes, even despite having most of my holiday savings swindled at the cash machine here in 2005, but we won't go into that). I always love rediscovering old places here and laughing at things I'd forgotten about, and finding new things to do. I always make sure to leave something for next time, as I know it's the one place I'll be back to. This is the first time I've visited South Africa around Christmas. Below, in pics, are the highlights of this trip.
JELLY TOTS. For as long as I can remember (or for about the past 15 years) following my first visit to SA I've had a saying, "Miss you lots and lots like jelly tots." Can't remember exactly who I picked this up from, but it definitely originates from SA. This pic of these jelly tots were taken on Robben Island. Only ZAR 9.50 each ($1.12 USD).
The view of Table Mountain from Robben Island. Breathtaking. Did I mention too that I wore a penguin dress (un-intentionally) to the island? I only realised this when I was sitting on the ferry. How topical. I decided to do an evening tour this time to get some different shots. According to one  tour I went on, if you want to annoy a South African you should say to them, "So when are you going to build a hotel on Table Mountain?"
If we go a bit closer it looks like...LAMINGTONS. In Cape Town. On my first day, too. Found in a supermarket at Woodstock, not far from where I was staying. Very impressed that the woman behind the counter knew what they were called. Lamington drive, South Africans?
LIKE ME THEY LOVE UGANDA, TOO, ESP ITS FASION. Or at least seem too. No sooner had I announced on Twitter to Ugandans that I was walking out the door wearing their paper beads to promote the country, when I was walking down Long Street and in the window of trendy boutique Mungo and Jemima, co-incidentally next to a Seafolly Australia bag, what do I see? PAPER BEADS.  Well South Africans are only human, aren't they?

With headlines like "Death at the Funeral! I'll die at husband's burial, she said - and did!" the South African Daily Sun is my new favorite newspaper. Hope they love a good funeral, that family. I particularly admire the paper's use of exclamation marks in every story e.g. "Mum's Last Supper! Woman Gunned Down in Kitchen." Makes the UK Sun and Take a Break etc look dull.
Forget lamingtons. The Sunday Times and Conde Nast Europe voted The Mount Nelson Hotel, or Nellie as it's affectionately known, as boasting the best high tea in the world, and after sampling it in 2009 I have to say they're right. (Oh, and their loos aren't bad, either). Didn't go for tea this time, but did have a sneaky G&T instead one evening. Hands up who knows why the hotel was painted pink? Here's a story I wrote after my first visit to the hotel. I love the seats in the Planet Bar, which Admiral Lord Nelson's portrait emblazoned on the back of them.
 I thought I'd miss seeing shoes on the side of the road, considering I can find them there anytime in Uganda... until I spotted his pile at the taxi station near Woodstock, not far from where I was staying. Dig the view, too.

Tomorrow I'm off to Mr Zuma's home province and although I don't know if I'll find any bodas there either, I'm sure it will be just as entertaining as CT.




















Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Is it a handbag or a 'manbag'? No, it's a bodabag.


Would you take this bag on a boda?


"Which handbag should I take on the bodas today?"

As a passenger, it's a question I've asked myself over and over, often on the same day.

With many dirt roads in Kampala, and bag-snatchers in operation (or so we're sometimes told) you may not want to be swinging your (fake) Fendi off the back of a motorbike down The Street of Death. Then what to carry? And should you carry a handbag at all? For a boda driver, I imagine this question becomes even more complicated. Should I carry a handbag or a manbag? (Going by some of the things we've seen bodas carrying recently, toting a handbag should be the last thing they're worried about taking).

Boda driver Benjamin,33, however, knows what he wants. When he picked me up at the National Theatre on Saturday (I'd gone there to watch The Cut) to take me to nearby Garden City, he had this brown Futura number confidently slung across his shoulder.

"I like your bag, Sebo (Sir)," I said straight away, causing him to giggle.

"Others are saying it's for the women," he replied. "But I think it is smart." Benjamin told me that he'd bought the satchel at Owino market for 20,000 UGX only a month ago.

When I posted his photo on Twitter, one friend, Danni (she visited Uganda earlier this year) declared the accessory was "straight off the catwalk. Utilitarian fashion at its finest."

But several Ugandan men in the Twittersphere were unanimous in the verdict on the bag: no.

"That's a lady's bag. Doesn't look right on a man," said Julian, a Ugandan expat now living in the UK.

Would you buy this handbag, men of Uganda?
However the most interesting comments came from Ugandan Norman Anguzu. Fashion aside, toting a handbag or man bag on a boda isn't necessary, he pointed out.

My mzungu friend Jennie Penhallow, who lived in Uganda up until this summer, said the bag was "too girly to be a bloke's bag, not school satchel enough! Sorry boda driver", but another Tatenda liked it although said it needed to be "less shiny".

"Neda nyabo (no madam)," Norman replied when asked if he liked it.

"The pockets on my trousers are just enough to carry what a manbag would carry."

"It's hard enough helping my girl out with her handbag."

There you have it. The majority of Ugandan men may shy away from the handbag, but one has admitted that he helps his girlfriend with one.


UPDATE FROM THE BODA KING, WALTER: Actually for me I carry a cross bag as my office. However, most bodas don't carry anything like handbags because they don't always need them. Also a handbag like that is mostly for ladies. The only time I would carry it is when I have a fiancé on the back, or a female client who is scared of thieves, especially while passing through downtown/chaotic areas. Sometimes if I see a boda with such a bag, especially at night, I begin to suspect that they have robbed it somewhere. Like from a pedestrian.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

"The bodaboda drivers are all super heroes." Confessions of a mzungu rider.

Brrrmm brrrm. Can't believe this is only day five in Kampala! Photo courtesy of William Ranieri.
I only discovered the other, day when he offered to give me a lift to Kira Road after a press conference, that my mzungu film-maker friend William Ranieri (not to be confused with the other William) had his own boda. I first met William and his lovely girlfriend Jo, a doctor at Mulago hospital, at the Halloween party our house had (the same party we had to take to another house, due to a power cut at ours, but this is another story). "Yeah, I bought it five days after arriving in the country," he told me. Of course I wanted to know more. I was most interested, as an Italian, what William thought of driving in Kampala's chaotic traffic, so I kindly asked him to take part in a Q&A as the first mzungu rider (technically he's not a boda driver - yet - despite dropping off white-y friends every now and then). Check out the great video he's made, and go on a boda trip yourself, below.   


Firstly, what were your first impressions of Kampala's bodas?
Those guys are crazy! 


When did you buy your boda ?
Because I have a 'boda' back home (in Brighton) and I'm used to riding. I'm used to the freedom of jumping on a bike to go anywhere because I trust myself - more than ANY other boda driver.


What were your experiences as a passenger?
Terrifying!!! My first Monday in Kampala I was going on my first bodaboda trip to have my new house keys cut and I almost had myself cut instead!! One person told me, "If you go that way you'll die!" I kindly and gently suggested the bodaboda rider to "U turn, now!"


You're from Italy where they have a lot of scooters? How is this different to Kampala?
I (now) live in the UK (Brighton, before he left for Uganda) where everybody rides and drive like robots... close to perfection! (Not EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL!!) The only trouble in the UK is that most people can't park! Italian drivers are gold in comparison to Ugandans. Here the road is just a space that needs to be filled, there is no such thing as giving way. Only overtaking is allowed!! So if you are BIG you go first. Unless you're fast, like a boda. In that case you try to go first.... 




Have you got any nightmare boda stories - either as a passenger or driver?
Luckily (I have) very little to say personally. Only once a very small but very fast kid tried his best to be run over by me. I wasn't speeding so had time to brake many millimetres before the impact! I also assisted after a terrible accident one day. A BIG truck took the right of way and the poor boda was literately hooked by the side of the truck. The rider flew away and bounced back on his feet while the poor motorcycle was stuck under the truck!


Does Jo go on bodas?
Apart from mine, no!

Ug's bodas are quite stylish. Do you feel under any pressure to look "smart" when on your boda?
Not at all. The only style is in the riding !


Do you think riding a boda in Kampala will change the way you do it when you go home?
I really hope my style will improve rather than getting worse while I'm here. You need to have eight eyes to ride safely here while back home I only need one. But after more than t
wo months in Kampala and almost 2,000 km on my boda, I've come to realise that these guys, the bodaboda riders, are all super heroes!!


Friday, 14 December 2012

Bodas are carrying everything but the kitchen sink (oh, and mistletoe. WARNING: features We are the World.)

My first 'Christmas boda', Gum.

Meet Gum. This morning he dropped me off at the Gulu post office for the seven hour or so bus journey back to Kampala. It was 6.20am, but I could still make out the writing on his jumper. "Dear Santa, I was good but not that good."

My first 'Christmas boda'. I was quite excited by this and meeting Gum made my brief stay in northern Uganda worth it. My friend Liam had bragged that he'd spotted a 'Christmas boda', with tinsel around his bike, on the streets of Kampala only a week ago, but I haven't seen him yet.

Do I spy with my little eye a Maple Leaf on this boda's beanie? Perhaps he was paying tribute to yours truly, who is half Canadian?
Of course when I announced on Twitter that I'd been ferried around by a 'Christmas boda' that cheeky Dr Wolfgang H. Thome, German expat with 25 + years experience in the 'Pearl of Africa', adoptive father to other expats and Ugandans, aviation expert, very resourceful person worth knowing etc etc etc for those who don't know him, replied "I gather some are also carrying mistletoe branches to steal a kiss ..."

CARRYING a helmet? Clever. Although I suppose it might muck up your hair.
Flattery will get you everywhere... But really, I wonder if the good doctor fell off his hammock on the shores of Lake Victoria and hit his head? He did say himself a few weeks ago he faced two choices: running away or running mad... Just kidding. Wolfgang, these boys are carrying ANYTHING but mistletoe. (Side thought: can you get mistletoe in Uganda) In fact if this boda which I spotted on the road to my house as soon as I'd arrived back in the capital (knew it was time to get off the bus when they began showing the We are the World video clip) is anything to go by, they're carrying EVERYTHING but the kitchen sink (oh, and mistletoe).

Have you seen a 'Christmas boda?' If so please let me know.

The people on the bodas mightn't be carrying mistletoe, but at least they're fully-dressed.



An alternative to bodas in Gulu.
Gulu sunset.

Oh, and for anyone who fancies a singalong, here's the We are the World video. I've had this little ditty stuck in my head all day long. Thanks Gulu Coaches.






Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Spotted: the VB boda boy and his esky-toting mate

From this day on I will no longer be swinging a leg over a boda without making sure I have my good camera on me and not just my iPad.

This is because just over 24 hours after spotting the Socceroos' newest ambassador in Uganda (who moonlights as a brightly colored feather duster roadside trader), I've found someone ever better on the streets of Kampala: a VB boda boy.

Check him out.



And check out what his passenger appears to be carrying. Yes, an ESKY.



What on earth this pair were up to, I don't know, and I didn't have time to find out (perhaps this is a good thing?) as I was rushing to get to the National Theatre for the screening of a "classic British film" (that was the only clue my friend who invited gave me. For anyone who cares, it turned out to be It's a Wonderful Life and not Spiceworld The Movie).

What will we see next on the streets of Kampala. Heading up north to Gulu tomorrow. A Twitter friend Mark says he once unearthed a Western Bulldogs scarf there (he also once saw a Safeway uniform in a Malawian village), so fingers crossed.

BODA OVERLOAD




I loved this boda pic taken in Rakai District, central Uganda, which Sunday's Daily Monitor carried under the headline "Commemorating World Aids Day in style". According to the caption, "overloading" bodas has led to accidents in Uganda. In the capital Kampala at least 2,111 boda accidents were registered last year, the police say.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Found, on a Ugandan roadside selling feather dusters: The Socceroos' newest ambassador.

Spotted, on the streets of soccer-mad Uganda,  flying the flag not for the Ugandan Cranes but the Australian Socceroos.

So okay this blog is supposed to be solely dedicated to the stylish boda drivers. But they're not the only ones who are "smart" in Uganda. And I did meet Sitivini, who was sporting the Australian Socceroos jersey and selling colorful feather dusters, on the side of the road while a boda was bringing me home from Garden City, causing my driver to really hit the brakes and stop.

I just had to go back and get a shot and Sitivini happily posed for a photo - after I paid his friend selling loo paper alongside him 15,000 Ugandan shillings ($5.30 AUD) for a ten-pack (some may call this a bribe but I was given a discount of 5,000 UGX). I was offered a feather duster as well and it was hard to say no, but our house needs the toilet paper more at the moment.

Everyone was most excited about the taking of the photo, including the boda driver and Sitivini's mates, who all crowded round speaking in Luganda (the only word I could understand was "mzungu" - foreigner).

This isn't the first time I've spotted Ugandans on the streets of Kampala flying the flag for Down Under's sporting teams.

Last week my boda driver, Dennis, took me to Garden City on his bike wearing a WASP hockey shirt  (post on Dennis coming soon).

The shirt my boda driver Dennis was wearing last week.
I've found plenty more Aussie labels here, everything from Witchery (a pair of heels found at William's stage) to Billabong to Country Road. My mission is now to find as many different brands as possible, Aussie and non-Aussie.

I found these Witchery heels at my old boda stage with my former driver, William.

I've even uncovered Fitness First backpacks - when I lived in Sydney seven years ago they were giving them out for free when you took out a membership - at Owino market.

In Uganda they're even flogging Fitness First backpacks.

Cricket Australia is particularly well represented on the streets of Kampala. I've spotted a Milo backpacker with the Cricket Australia logo on it at Owino. 


In Independence week in October I came across a Ugandan selling a Cricket Australia hat during a Jubilee concert in Kabaka's grounds (coincidentally, an Australian choir was performing at the concert).


And I'm sure there's more waiting out there for me to unearth.

Aussie Aussie Aussie.

You never know what goodies will turn up in Uganda.


Saturday, 8 December 2012

"If you're not smart you won't get customers." Meet David, an Nsambya boda.

Hotel door service from David.
David, 32, has been a boda driver for five years. He is Bugandan by tribe and his boda stage is in Nsambya, Kampala. He is currently single but has a four-and-a-half-year-old son who lives with his grandparents. David spoke to me at Cafe Pap on Parliament Avenue, Kampala, one of two "capitals of happiness", coincidentally both in Kampala (but let's face it when you've got a driver around who looks this sharp, is friendly and wears a helmet, there's going to be good times guaranteed).

David was slaving away in the kitchen of a Bunga guest house for tourists as a chef - pancakes and "Irish food like mashed potatoes" - when Nathan, a friend he'd studied catering with, told him driving bikes would be a better day job.

"He told me 'I'm doing the bodaboda. Could you come and join us?'", David recalls. "He took me and showed me the stage. He got me an ID card."

David loved being his own boss and soon had a string of clients.

"I liked the customers very much because they were sociable to me. They spoke to me," he explains. "They'd give me jobs, get me to take them everywhere. I liked the job very much."

At first he was riding an old bike that was "disturbing" him by constantly breaking down. Then a nice lady called Alice, who lives near his stage, loaned David a bike. Now making up to 30,000 shillings ($11.13 USD) a day, the boda driver put 60,000 UGX towards the payment every week. Two years and 5,000,000 UGX later ($1,853), the bike was David's.

The customers won't miss Dave when he wears a jacket this colour!
Today he makes between 20,000 and 30,000 UGX a day transporting locals and foreigners, a mix of Indians, Ethiopians, Congolese and other "whites" (including one antipodean, guess who), mainly to nearby Kabalagala for shopping and nightclubbing. On a very good day David can rake in 50,000 UGX. The mornings and evenings are the busiest times; it's the afternoons, when people have gone back to work after their lunch break, that drag on the most. However David always puts away 10,000 UGX at the end of the day.

An accident in February, during which his leg was badly injured, meaning he had to take two months off work, made him realise he shouldn't solely limit himself to boda riding to make a living.

David went to hospital for treatment after a local woman (NB: local, not yours truly) "sat badly" on a bike and it fell on top of him.

"I think it was her problem because she sat without telling me she was going to sit on a boda and I was not ready," he explains.

"I was looking the other way. We fell in a trench. It was me who hurt myself. 

"I stayed home for two months and life was a bit terrible. It was very, very bad."

John, one of David's colleagues, and another regular driver of yours truly.
After the incident David started up a garage with some of his savings, selling spare parts for bodas. Not only can he earn extra income from this but also help his fellow drivers and friends like Julius, Mubarak, John, Ronnie and Vincent, who he shares a stage with, if their bikes break down.

David says his colleagues "get along well", but admits there's competition.

"You have to compete. If you don't you won't get money," David says.

When it comes down to it though, the gang will stick together. Recently there have been stories in the local papers about boda drivers being robbed and even killed. In some parts of the country, David says desperate thieves put chicken wire on the roadside to trap bodas late at night.

"Then at night when you come there's no light, it can cut off your head. Mostly they do that in the village. In town it's not common," he says.

If a boda driver is killed, look out. It's an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. A group of bodas may even go to the perpetrator's village in a desperate attempt to exact revenge.

"When they find the robber they will kill him. If they get the robber, most of the time the bodaboda drivers they kill him, because the robbers also kill the bodabodas," David says.

Another regular boda at my stage. Have only used him once or twice but considering that he's called Jesus Cares (see sign on front of bike) maybe I should more.

If a boda and another vehicle collide, however, he says the motorcycle will always try to negotiate assertively with the other driver to have him pay for the damaged bike, before resorting to physical violence.

"I've never seen anyone beat up," David insists. 

"One time I saw them about to beat someone up, but the police came. They charged him. He paid for the damaged bodaboda."

"Everyone", that is the mzungu customers and local passengers, receive equal treatment from drivers.  I point out that one day a few months ago one of David's colleagues (he shall remain anonymous) tried to rip me off, demanding more money and following me for the rest of the afternoon when I refused to budge after dropping me off at Kisasi.

Yours truly was being taken to Kisasi, home to the Big Rooster. Afterwards a boda driver demanded more money off her and when she wouldn't give in effectively stalked her for the rest of the afternoon, "disturbing" here. Months later it's been revealed there was a problem with the lingo that led to this situation. Who would have thought?

But the problem was the language barrier when I negotiated the price, before even putting a leg on the bike, David explains.

"He was trying to tell you the amount of money but he doesn't speak English very well. When I went back and told him the problem and talked to him about it he said he was sorry," David surprisingly informs me.

"He was upset but he forgot to come and tell you to apologise. He said 'I'm going to be very good with that lady, I'm going to change my way'."

David always wears a helmet as "it's useful". He says that when riders go to apply for permits they're encouraged by the authorities to wear "jackets and sweaters" for protection, but concedes fashion is also important for bodas. David says he has 20 pieces in his wardrobe, mainly purchases from local Owino market, and swears he never wears the same thing two days in a row.

He laughs when I broach the sensitive subject of stinky drivers.

"There are those who smell especially those who ride when they're drunk. They don't wash, they don't take care of themselves," he says.

"The others are smart, they know what they want. If you know want you want (customers), you have to be very smart. I've been smart from the start, because I know what I want.

"If you're not smart, you won't get customers."

GET DAVID'S LOOK

New Concept fleece from Owino - bought nearly two years ago for 5,000 UGX.



















Friday, 7 December 2012

I can sit. Don't touch me, don't pull me. A message to all bodas.

Should have stuck to this guy. One of my regular drivers, John, looking cool in red.
Ironically, the day I went down on a boda on the mud I was listening to a song on my iPhone with lyrics that say "Steady and Straight/ And if they drag you through the mud/ It doesn't change what's in your blood/ Over rock and chain over sunset plain/ When they knock you down/ Don't break character/ You've got a lot of heart."

I wasn't going over rock and chain and sadly, not sunset plain, rather just a wet dusty dirt road near my house, on the way to the East Africa Agriculture Value Chain Investment Summit to hear representatives from the The Presidential initiative for Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) speak, among others.

It was Tuesday morning this week, about 8.20, and I was on my way to Speke Resort and Conference Centre at Munyonyo. Ironically, a friend had offered to pick me up on the way but I'd said no. It was the one day when none of the bodas at my regular stage - Julius, Ronnie, David (my favorite), John, Frank and Vincent to name most of them - were around, so I was forced to yell out and hail another driver.

I was wearing a leopard print dress which was creeping up around my knees (Whistles, if anyone cares) to try and impress the banana brigade (word also had it that President M7 might also grace the conference with his presence). As a result I got on the boda and sat side saddle. 

Now I'm the first to say I'm not that co-ordinated (yes, really), but I have sitting side saddle on a boda in a short frock under control.

The random boda driver however apparently doubted my skills as I'd been on the vehicle only about a minute when he pulled at my dress, gesturing for me to move my bum towards the front of the bike, obviously so I wouldn't fall off. Guess what happened?

I fell off, head first onto the mud. Thank god it wasn't a dirt road, as I would have hurt myself. 

My iPhone actually sustained the most damage, the screen cracked. The Apple retailer in town will be happy, I thought. I was already their best customer.

Although the boda driver was only looking out for me and apologized profusely - "Sorry madame, sorry" - I silently cursed him for the rest of the 15 minute trip. I was also mad at myself. This is what happens when you cheat on your regular regular boys, I thought.

I arrived at the conference late and in a bit of a fluster, with mud down my legs. I was in no state to meet the president, so was glad when I was told he wouldn't be making an appearance after all as apparently it was his birthday.

Technically speaking though, I still hadn't had a proper boda accident as the driver had pulled me off the bike. And just to recap, the other times I sustained injuries where a boda was involved was the time I fell getting onto a bike, pulling another mzungu on top of me on the side of the road (much to the amusement of the driver, who didn't know where to look, and the Ugandans laughing at us as they drove and walked past). The other time was when a boda ran into me, while I was walking. So they weren't boda accidents either, technically speaking.

To any boda driver who happens to be reading this, I'd just like to let you know I CAN SIT. I know how to sit. In fact I'm quite good at it believe it or not. Even when I'm wearing a dress. Even when I'm riding side saddle. So don't pull me, don't touch me.

Wabale (Thankyou).

Puffy ski jackets with high collars are all the rage for boda drivers at the moment. 



The cake made from matooke (banana plantain) at the conference was yummy.