Saturday, 27 April 2013

Experiment: how long does it take to find a Wallabies jersey in Uganda? A trip to Owino market to find out!

Would you buy and wear this in Uganda? Or anywhere?? Please be honest.

If my time in Uganda has taught me anything, it's that when you're least expecting to see something there it will be right in front of your eyes; when you go searching for it you won't find even a trace of it. 

Take, for instance, my hunt for a Wallabies jersey, a little slice of Down Under in the Pearl of Africa. To be honest, I'm not a great rugby fan although will take it over rugby league and when one is away from home one can often start to feel more strongly about supporting one's team. And where else am I ever going to be able to snap up a top for $3.72 AUD? According to some research I've done, back home they retail for $129 (please correct me if you've seen them cheaper). But the many times I've come across a Wallabies jersey roadside, despite marveling at it I've passed it up.

So last Saturday, with my friend Silver Kayondo, I decided to go to Owino markets and do an experiment to see how long it would take me to find a Wallabies jersey. I left empty-handed (well as far as the jersey was concerned).

I'd been certain that I'd find at least one amongst the hundreds of sporting labels on display. Going for gold, in other words. But even though I had Silver with me to help with the search I had no such luck.

Quite fitting that my first boda driver of the day was showcasing the logo for Australian Safari, described as the "TOUGHEST endurance motorsport event in the Asia Pacific Region".

I was so confident that a Wallabies jersey would show up at what is one of Africa's largest outdoor markets, even if it had burnt down recently, that I'd even taken bets on how long it would take for the zealous vendors to unearth me one. Stella Otim estimated half an hour, while Diary of a Mzungu predicted just five minutes. 

My shopping expedition on the day, ironically began and ended with Australian labels, in the first case this Australian Safari  t-shirt above which the boda taking me from Kisimenti to Entebbe Road was wearing. He'd purchased it "DT" (boda speak for downtown), apparently. This had to be an omen. I knew I was going to go home from Owino (via bike, of course) wearing an Australian rugby jersey.

I set out for my trip to Owino on another lovely, sunny day in Kampala.

When Silver and I arrived at Owino at 1342 I explained to a seller exactly what I was looking for by showing him a photo of a Wallabies jersey on my iPhone.

"I'm going to go and look. But if I don't find it I'm going to go with you and search," he promised before dashing off out the back.

We sat down and waited near the hat section. But I was up within seconds, staring in awe at the range of the caps hanging above me. There was every single brand under the sun.

Many Australian cities - Melbourne, Perth (two different types of hats) and, getting more closer to home for the author of Bodaboda Baby, the Gold Coast.

Blue and white check Gold Coast cap.

Melbourne, sitting next to An American Revolution, third from the left on the second row.

If we go a bit closer it's...Perth. Third from the left on the second row, two down from the LA Lakers.

Perth again. Will we see a rise in tourists to WA after this?

I spotted Uncle Tobys, the Aussie breakfast cereal brand, Betta ElectricalCoopers Brewery and low and behold, the ACT Brumbies. This is just to name a few. It was mind boggling. I couldn't keep my head down. 

There's even Uncle Tobys breakfast cereal, third from the left in red, next to Lebanon.

Green and white Coopers Brewery.

"You look like a giraffe," Silver told me at one stage. That night my neck was sore. 

Above Nissan it's...Brumbies.

While we were waiting I decided to buy a South Sydney Rabbitoh's cap for 15,000k - because it wasn't only Russell Crowe's team but more importantly one of Mum's favourites and I could give it to her for her birthday (or, ahem, Mother's Day. Quick, better get to the Post Office!)

And finally, next to the 50th Malibu Open 2004 it's the Rabbitohs.

Silver, after much bargaining, got a 'man bag', down from 65,000k (they know about to charge, some of these Owino sellers) to 25,000. When I asked him his thoughts, later, on the day he replied he felt he was being seen from a "mzungu prism (just because I was with you) and hence the exhorbitant price! I thought that was quite below the belt." And to think that Bodaboda Baby thought she was going to get a bargain because she was at Owino with a Ugandan!!

Just purchased. Silver shows off the 'man bag'.

By now it was about 14.00 and there was news on the Australian rugby front. First the bad, broken to me gently: there was no Wallabies jersey to be found.

Then the good: did I want a BIRDMAN XXXX GOLD Australian beach cricket shirt with the? It was similar to the one I'd seen this bloke, below, wearing roadside on a trip to Shanti Uganda.

The first time I spotted a beach cricket shirt in Uganda was when I was on a matatu trip from Kampala to Luweero and we stopped for a quick break. The owner of the shirt kindly obliged when I asked for a photo.

I said, politely, thanks very much but no. Even though I could buy the Gold Coast cap and wear it with the shirt, I had my heart set on a Wallabies jersey and I was sure that one would "turn up somewhere".

He said okay, but did I want to come out the back to check myself and see what else there was?

I agreed and when we got there I was certainly spoilt for choice. There was even this vest from the Beijing 2008 Olympics torch relay, next to a Molson Canadian jumper, up for grabs. Crikey.

Very topical for yours truly, being half-Maple Leaf herself).

But sadly, no Australian rugby kit.

Feeling slightly dejected, Silver and I decided to call it a day and head to the nearby Mr. Tasty. In retrospect, I am actually glad I didn't find the Wallabies jersey there and then, as I've come to realise that I like the thrill of the chase and half the fun with trying to find anything in Uganda is looking and seeing what else you come across in the process.

Also I hadn't been to Mr. Tasty and was quite curious about it, and still am, especially as it's slogan is "the food that makes you go hmmmmm", as a friend Sarah later pointed out. Another friend, Hilary, pointed out do you wonder "hmmmm" as in "hmmm, how long have these chapatis been sitting here for? In hindsight, it may be a good thing that the author of this blog chose only a Coke Zero, although Silver had a kebab which he said was great. I've since found a blog which describes Mr. Tasty as "close enough to KFC". According to Sarah, who has studied this photo hard, it's a "dead chicken..or something a cat! Hmmmm." Hilary meanwhile identified it as a "kind of funny shape...a squirrel McNugget?"

Mr. Tasty, the food that makes you go hmmmmm. And some more.

On the way home two more unpredictable encounters took place. This first was that we met this lovely woman, below, who appeared to be on her way to a Jubilee party, but running months late, in a stereo shop DT. She kindly obliged when I asked if I could please take her snap. Was she going on Ugandan time or mzungu time, I wonder? Just kidding. Independence? What Independence?? Just kidding. My friend Jennie, she who painted the Union Jack on her toes before she hosted what was Kampala's best Jubilee party last year (pic below) was very disappointed that I'd met this woman nearly eight months later, otherwise she could have joined us for our festivities then.

Love the dress. Only eight months late.

Still late, but do love the bag.

The wonderful Union Jack toe nails, belonging to the lovely Mrs P.

The second surprising encounter - actually now that I'm writing this I think it was fate - is that as I was hailing a boda for my ride back I met this driver below who was wearing this blue hat which had Sydney written on it. I proudly posed next to him sporting my just purchased secondhand Sydney Rabbitohs hat. Unfortunately you can't see the "Sydney" in the photo, but I swear to God/cross my fingers etc that I'm not making this up.

Two Sydney caps come together.

So my experiment to see how long it takes to find a Wallabies jersey continues, but it has begun and concluded (so far) with Australian merchandise.

Too true!

As this exhibition which was part of last year's inaugural Kampala Contemporary Art Festival pointed out, you "never know what will happen next" in Uganda. I wonder what will happen next on my search for my Wallabies jersey?

Monday, 22 April 2013

Watch your back, Fabric! Nightclub on wheels hits Kla.


It's just another Manic Monday....wish it was Sunday...cause that's my funday...

So sang the Bangles, and that's exactly how Bodaboda Baby felt this morning. She was also  in a dream at six o'clock, although it didn't have anything to do with kissing Valentino. Rather it was a dream - nightmare - about having nits after buying a South Sydney Rabbitohs hat at Owino market, which ended up with her waking up and nearly tearing all her hair out (more on this in the next post).

In fact the Mr Price shirt above sums up how the author of this blog was feeling. And the song "Today I don't feel like doing anything... (which coincidentally seems to get a lot of air time in Ug).

After an evening swim at Speke Resort she perked up. But it was after coming across THE FLASHY BODA below that she felt like she was sleeping in a rosebud, to quote Marnie, one of the characters from her new favourite TV show Girls.

Flashy Boda aka Fabric on Wheels aka Godfrey, does not only flash - it's lit up more than Times Square - it plays continuous techno music... 


And it features a US flag. In fact with all that flashing combined with the music and the stars and stripes, you could be forgiven for thinking it's the fourth of July.

Bodaboda Baby can't help but wonder how much does it cost to keep it on the road like that?

It's owner, Godfrey, who works at Muyenga stage, has promised to reveal all tomorrow.

Watch this space.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The new pizza delivery boda guy who doesn't come with a large supreme, and other boda-related news.

Boda rider Godfrey, who I met earlier today.

Bodaboda Baby has already uncovered the Toronto Fire Services on the streets of Kampala. Now comes her discovery in Muyenga earlier today that there's a new Pizza Hut boda delivery driver around, albeit sans a large supreme. 

Godfrey, 25, a rider of five years who took me to Prunes cafe in Kololo this afternoon claimed he'd purchased the restaurant's shirt for just 10,000 Ugandan shillings ($3.91 USD) at local Owino market. Incidentally, there's no Pizza Hut in Uganda, yet, although the author of this blog is a big fan of Miki's pizza, although you'll have to go on a bit of a ride to get it.  She also hears KFC could be on its way to KLA.

What's next, a Sizzler uniform? (That's for all my antipodean followers. Read: Mum).

Pizza Hut now has a presence in Kampala.

Godfrey's grey scarf was also hanging over his bike on display instead of his neck (a bit like some boda drivers who leave their helmets on show, rather than protecting their delicate heads). Godfrey informed me it had set him back 5,000k ($1.95). Ripper.

Whether it's hung over the neck or bike, a scarf is a must-have accessory for boda drivers these days.

Regular readers will recall that a few weeks ago the author of this blog, a half-Canadian, discovered the Toronto Fire Services on the streets of Kampala.

This shirt, found in Kansanga on March 16, was going for 8k. Of course the author of this blog got it down to five. 

The Pizza Hut discovery comes after Bodaboda Baby unearthed this Shamrock Festival shirt in Kansanga on the eve of St Patrick's Day. After writing to the tournament director, Mark Tanis, informed her that the event is actually a youth volleyball tournament in Roanoke, Virginia.  

"Very cool!" he wrote in an email.

"We just finished our 14th annual tournament and we have different shirt designs each year.  I think this particular shirt was from 2006 or 2007.  I have no idea how it ended up in Uganda but I'm glad someone is sporting it years later. Thanks for sharing!"

While secondhand charity clothes are being found in Uganda, bodas are becoming more known Down Under. The author of this blog was having her hair cut the other week when she received a news snap via loyal reader and follower turned boda spy Donna Langdon alerting her that Top Gear Africa, featuring none other than the Source of the Nile, was on the tele in Oz at that very moment. Australian media, marketing and entertainment news site Mumbrella reported that the Africa episode of the series performed "reasonably well", averaging 927,000 viewers, overall eighth on its broadcast night, according to preliminary overnight metro ratings from OzTAM. Top Gear was also number one show in  the key advertising demographics of 16-39, 18-49 and 25-54. Way to go Pearl of Africa.

The author of this blog was at the hair salon having her locks trimmed when news reached her that Top Gear Uganda was on the tele in her homeland, Ooostraya. Photo by Teddy Tinka.

Bodaboda Baby was keen to know what Donna, who has travelled around Africa but not been to Ug, thought of the country and its ubiquitous boda boys after watching the show. Here's some of her thoughts via Twitter:

"Loved it, can't wait for nxt week. K looks v diff to N (Nairobi) from what i cld see. Traffic looked worse, more bodas, and more stylish than N." (That's after the first of the two episodes. Yep don't we know that Kampala's more stylish than Nairobi?)

*More inclined to take a boda there (Kampala) than N."

Then this:

"Bodaboda drivers looking just as fashion conscience in rural Ug as they do in Kampala, as far as I can tell from #TopGearAfrica."

"He (Clarkson) said its a genuine law that u dnt have to wear a helmet if u just bn to the salon!!! Thought that was awesome!" (NB: Bodaboda Baby is still seeking clarification on this from the Ugandan Inspector General of Police, and despite having her hair done while Top Gear Africa was airing on the other side of the world, her side of the world, put her helmet straight on after her blow dry).

There's been so much boda and boda-related news breaking the past few weeks that the author of this blog has had a hard time keeping up with it all. But here's a brief rundown of what else has been making headlines:

* According to a nib in last Saturday's New Vision newspaper headlined "Bodaboda man bathed in public", a cyclist was discovered having a bath by his colleagues at the Wandegeya stage on Makerere Hill Road. According to the report, his fellow riders felt it necessary to carry out the operation to rid their stage of dirty colleagues. The smelly rider was undressed and washed three times as residents cheered, then given 10 strokes of the cane before the other drivers raised the money for a bar of soap and clothes for him. Ouch. At least he got a new wardrobe, free, after all that pain.

* Life in Uganda's already tough enough for women, including female boda passengers and drivers, if a proposed miniskirt ban becomes law. (NB: this Bill just doesn't affect miniskirts, it affects media freedom and many other rights, although the local and international media have focused heavily on the miniskirt factor. To understand what it really means you can read a great blog post by prominent Ugandan journalist and blogger Rosebell Kagumire here).

However now comes the news, via the Sunday Vision, that 120 + beauty creams on sale in Uganda could kill us. And to think all this time we thought it might be Kony or ebola*. Oh dear. The of this blog, who already cakes her face with quality foundation to stop the dirt getting in while she's on her bodas, is so worried about this that she has cut out the Sunday Vision's list of the deadly potions. She has stuck it on her bathroom wall and is now memorising each and every all while she brushes her teeth. *sarcasm

The Sunday Vision April 6 splash. 

Meanwhile the Daily Monitor reported just one day after the beauty cream scoop that power cuts will resume in six months time (read: you will have buckley's chance of being able to carry out a good blow dry, ladies of Uganda). So between miniskirts being outlawed, lethal lotions and potions on sale and zero power, the author of this blog is wondering is there even any point in trying to look good ahead of her boda rides?

* More news from Australia. According to this story I spotted recently via, Yamaha will make a $500 motorbike (that's 1.280,000 Ugandan shillings) in India. The "world's cheapest motorbike" will be sold first in India and then exported to Latin America, Africa and the "factory to the world" China, according to the yarn. Bodaboda Baby wonders if these bikes will show up on the streets of Kla, as she's told there are many Indian-made bikes here already. This could make Uganda even more boca-tastic.

* Finally, one for any teachers in Uganda who've ever entertained giving up their day job. An interesting story from Gulu in the Daily Monitor on April 12 noted that one boda driver in the town is making Shs1.3 million ($507) a month. "A graduate teacher, after spending at least 15 years studying – through primary, secondary and university education - gets about Shs400,000 ($156)," the newspaper claimed.

"So, it is not a surprise to find some teachers running boda boda businesses at night after finishing with the class."

Who would have ever thought? Nice weekend, all of you.

Safe travelling, readers. Remember to keep your eyes on the road (that's straight ahead, not on these on the side).

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Meet the boda crash survivor who did those great special effects with cotton wool and iodine. UPDATED.

Oh no not I, I will survive. Boda crash victim Sorin in Kampala.

Before bodabodas were crashing with the author of this blog on them, they were crashing with Sorin, above, the author of another blog, on them. There wasn't a great deal of time between our crashes, either. Such is life in Uganda. Sigh.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that I came across Sorin's post, "First Boda Boda Crash" while writing an account of my own accident.

"Noticed the sign for my accommodation place and then suddenly the crush happened," writes Sorin, who had travelled from Fort Portal, where he'd been volunteering in an orphanage, to Crater Lakes.

"I a second I was down, the wheel crossed a little over my chest, my hands were walking on the gravel! Managed to stand up in seconds and first was the damage control look. Head was in good shape, only a small bruise on the chest, the leg a bigger bruise but no bleeding. The bad parts where only the right hand and the elbow; both bleeding with some superficial cuts."

After reading on, I was particularly amazed by Sorin's ability to do special effects with iodine and cotton wool (see pics below). Only unlike Bodaboda Baby the Romanian, who's spending six months or so on the trip of a lifetime which began with Uganda, isn't on his way to The Priory for iodine addiction. Or at least this is what he claimed during a coffee we had earlier today at Javas Oasis Mall. Well, boda crash survivors do need to stick together after all.

Sorin, 30, sustained grazes on his hands along with bruises on his chest and legs, in his accident. Ouch.

"(But) the recovery went very well, I think because of local medicine," said Sorin, who used a local plant called enmabarasana (or so we think), given to him by a hostel owner, for his wounds. (NB: cannot find any information on this plant on the internet, so if anyone can shed any light on it please let us know).

"It worked like magic. In a day-and-a-half I felt better."

Enmabarasana, the plant which Sorin was given after he'd had his accident. Photo courtesy of Sorin.
The famous shot from his blog, after his accident.
Tricky. Will have to remember this for next time (just kidding).
If we go a bit closer there are signs of injury, but luckily Sorin is healing.

He described the pain after the pharmacist put iodine on his wounds as "unreal". But three weeks after his accident Sorin was "back to normal".

I was sad to hear however that he's also been the victim of a robbery, with the thief a - gasp - boda driver. Sorin was taking a boda from Jinja Road to Mengo Backpackers when he was "hijacked", with the help of another driver, and robbed before the duo fled. Sadly, there are good eggs and bad eggs in this world, and it turns out that there are even bad egg boda riders.

Despite his two hairy boda incidents, Sorin got back on a motorbike.

"It's the cheapest and fastest way to travel in Uganda," he admits, adding there's not a lot of motorbikes in Bucharest, where his home.

"I'm asking them to go a bit slow since I had my crash, but apart from that I don't have a problem."

No doubt though Sorin will be relieved to get to South Africa later this week and have a break from the bikes, before heading to Rwanda in a month's time, where he's promised to report back to Bodaboda Baby on any boda developments.

Sorin now has some advice for all boda users in Uganda.

"The good thing I've learned from (the) Uganda experience is don't travel alone by bodaboda at night. Not anywhere. No way," he says.

"Maybe with two people, but not alone."

Oh, and unlike the author of this blog who likes to test out her parents' love for her, Sorin's not relaying his experiences to his mother until he gets back to Romania.

"I don't want to scare my family, no-one knows. They're going to think of me everyday (otherwise). I'm going to be home in August, but until then I'm not telling my Mum."

Bodaboda Baby wishes Sorin all the best for the rest of his travels in South Africa (one of her fave places in the world), Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. Please take care, and we'd love to hear any boda stories you have. Sorin will also be back to writing his blog once he arrives in Joburg later this week.

Meanwhile some other boca-related news:

* Thanks to loyal reader and follower, fellow antipodean and African lover, and rugby fan Donna Langdon, who's become a good little boda spotter-er and pointed out this story, via Africa is a Country on headlined "Police impound over 2000 boda-boda in Kampala". According to the report, which quotes an earlier New Vision story, some cyclists whose bikes were seized were carrying up to seven school children in various Kampala suburbs. Crikey. Up to seven. The most the author of this blog has seen is five. The Urban Africa piece also mentions an All Africa report which claims about 80 per cent of 20 to 30 years-old are earning a living through bodas. Amazing stat, if true.

Donna also Tweeted me this pic below of a bodambulance from SBS World News Australia on Thursday night, which appears to have come from Al Jazeera correspondent Malcolm Webb's report (you can watch it by clicking on that link). Regular readers of this blog will recall that Mike Miesen wrote a story on this for the blog a few posts back.

Footage from Malcolm Webb's Al Jazeera report on bodaambulances, as seen on SBS news in Australia, via Donna Langdon.

* The Daily Monitor on Tuesday reported in this Budget yarn (antipodean speak for story) that the Ugandan government has agreed to increase boda registration fees by 70,000 Ugandan shillings ($27.37 USD) to generate an additional 5 billion shillings ($1,955,069).

* Finally an update on #SaveMiniSkirt. After this story broke, Bodaboda Baby was reaching for her seam ripper* and ruler. She was also, after perusing the pages of Grazia UK (see article below), preparing to clear her wardrobe out and purchase some twirly-wirly "lady length" skirts, which's she's been informed will take care of not only the "chill factor", but a "style rut", too. Although of course there's a great danger that these could get caught up in the wheels of a motorbike.

According to this story in the April 8 issue of Grazia, "old-school, ashamedly feminine" skirts with a "long hemline (between midi and ankle") are "proving popular with the street-style pack".

The miniskirt headline in today's New Vision.

But following this report in today's New Vision (above), Bodaboda Baby is wondering if she'll ever get back all the hours of her life she's spent consulting How to Lengthen a Hem has been a waste of time. And this isn't even mentioning the fact that she cannot sew to save her life.

Until next time, please take care on the roads. I leave you with this song, dedicated to all boda survivors.