Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mombao snaps

Mes amis
On a chiller atop das boot
Little fishies as seen through the glass floor of the boat. That trip kinda freaked me out coz i seen all them shark movies and the black guy never makes it.

Got to busy pinting and nearly got swallowed up by the tide covering the sand bar in the ocean


Arrival in Nairobi

I am somewhere in the snaps. Lets see who will point me out (under no obligation to deny or confirm).

Might put up more if i can get my formerly trusty dell to stop acting up. This internet cafe business is taking to long.

Living it up in Mombasa 2

Mombasa’s south coast is a truly magnificent place to get away to and unwind. The fact that it is mostly rural means it is very peaceful, idyllic and beautiful.

On the way to the hotel we passed a few small hamlets and sleepy towns where nobody seemed to be in a hurry. These people must be used to shuttle buses filled with tourists, otherwise I do not see how, considering the near absence of vehicular traffic, a bus full of rowdy singing young fellows could be treated with such indifference.

We were booked into the Alliance hotel. Actually it is three hotels that share the same strip of coastline and are under the same management. The Alliance Jardini hotel and the Alliance Safari hotel are you typical modern hotels, but our hotel the Alliance Africana Sea Lodge was somewhat different. It was made up of (Bandas) Cottages that had a bit of a homely feel to them.

To say that the days went by to fast would be a bit of an understatement because either I was living it up ‘til the wee hours or I was dozing off during the plenary sessions. The activities organised ensured that there was no time to get bored.

The thing about such conferences is that you can be sure that the current host wants to outdo the previous one, and the Mombasans went all out. I had never had of an all night open bar for close to 1,000 people but that is exactly what I experienced on the welcoming night at the Neptune Paradise Hotel.

The taps flowed all night and the guests’ attempts to dry them were all but futile. Throw into the mix a Barcelona Vs Arsenal champions league final and you know that things were bound to get heated. This was the second time that I was watching a champion’s league final this far from home. Like the last time I wasn’t really bothered who would win, which is not what I can say about all the people around me. As it turned down the majority of chaps were on the losing side and the poor beer kegs had to pay for their foul moods. Suffice it to say that when the bus came to pick up those of us who were not staying at the Neptune, quite a number had lost all sense of coherence and balance.

There is something about people that makes them undergo major transformations when they are away from home. This I bring up for a number of reasons, the main one being that I noticed that a number of fellows who are ordinarily calm and reserved whilst in our sunny town had metamorphosed into drinking (admittedly only soft drinks like Smirnoff ice, tusker malt lager and white cap) skirt-chasing fellows. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that girlfriends and nosy prying workmates were not around. Or maybe it was all the nubile young females that took the proximity to the beach as an excuse to dress as skimpily as is legally allowed.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that there was an atmosphere of reckless abandon but I wouldn’t be far from the truth. It seems some chaps were on a mission to get laid as many times and with as many different people as possible. Soon some of us, whose ambitions did not go further than making lasting acquaintances with the barmen and the occasional late night skinny-dipping in the pool start to look out of place.

A word of advise my young unworldly friends (yeah right I hear you say). If ever in a situation where everything around you is appealing and you feel you want it all, calm the hell down and strategise properly. This one chap was laying on the lyrics to a girl one minute and talking to another girl the next. This left a number of less than amused lasses who fell for the charms of the more attentive hyenas lurking in the shadows. At the end of the evening Sir Wanderalot was left to nurse a pint while cursing his buddies for daring to busu (his words) him.

I did manage to make an interesting observation, a few of the Kampala ladies who ordinarily tend to treat me only slightly better than they would treat what the proverbial cat tends to drag around started saying hi more often and asking why I wasn’t playing water polo with them. Trust competition to bring on such a change. With all the hot-blooded young lads running after the equally hot-blooded Kenyan University students and trying to woo the hot Ethiopians, albeit with little success (Ethiopian guys can tight mark like a problem), some people were feeling decidedly ignored. Being the magnanimous chap, I decided to make their Mombasa sojourn more interesting (things are a bit awkward now that we are back home).

So it was always the same around the pool and the beach during the afternoon and around the pool and the hotel discothèque every evening. Friendships being made and strengthened, international goodwill and understanding being promoted and general merrymaking all over.

I know the “major” reason for attending was to conference, but a quick perusal of the programme told me that the beach was going to win out on the conference hall most of the time. The talk on stock options as a means of saving was immediately thrown out because I have nothing to save. I felt I could probably give a better talk on youth and sexuality so I passed. Public speaking I attended just to give time to housekeeping to do their job. I only attended the technical rotary stuff because somebody felt that as an incoming director I had to prepare some kind of report.

It’s a pity I never got to go back to the north coast to visit the town properly, but I cannot say I really regret it. There was more than enough to keep a brother busy in our little nook of paradise. There will always be next time and the having been bitten by the Mombasa bug. It won’t be long before I am back.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Living it up in Mombasa

I am still shaking the sand out of my ears while I try to get back into work mode after what I can only describe as a heck of a week in Kenya, specifically Mombasa. I thought I would give regular blog updates on my escapades but I soon realised the extortionist rates for internet accessat the resort I was in would not allow that. You will have to do with the "postmortem" version.

I had heard a lot about Mombasa and I could not wait to go check out the ocean for my first time. Me and my pals left this sunny city on Monday for Nairobi where we would hook up with our Kenyan pals before heading out east to Mombasa for the same conference. We boarded the early Akamba bus with some luggage and copious amounts of Uganda’s finest Waragi.

I hear someone asking what Waragi has to do with anything. We carried a lot of it along for three reasons.

First, anybody who has travelled between Kampala and Nairobi will attest to the fact that the journey is long (12-13 hours) and that it is hardly the smoothest after you cross the border (highways is one area we beat our neighbours in). To keep the journey short and interesting, one needs to sleep heavily and for those who are so inclined, what better way of doing this than downing a few sachets of UG. Beer is discouraged because of the pee breaks associated with it. Second, we always take our Kenyan friends some waragi every time we are over there. They dig the stuff. Third, we had the feeling that the resort we would be staying in was expensive and we didn’t have that much money with us. We thought that it would be a good idea to carry along our own stash for those days when things got tight. No we are not alchoholics, we just like getting high.

The journey went on smoothly until we got to the border and someone brought it to our attention that carrying around all that liquor might bring us trouble from customs officials (it was quite a lot) and that since sachets were banned in Kenya (something to do with their popularity among school kids), our boxes of Waragi sachets would be confiscated. We were not going to have any of this happen so we set about distributing the contraband among us and hiding the sachet boxes as far as possible. Nobody was stopped or questioned and we continued on to Nairobi.

We got to Nairobi just after and we quickly went with our hosts to freshen up and eat something. There was nothing much going on for me in Nairobi except a chance to visit the Maasai market on Tuesday and add to my large collection brass bangles, shell necklaces and leather sandals. We later converged in a bar called Hooters, which was the rendezvous point before heading on to Mombasa.

The shuttles arrived and we left Nairobi for Mombasa around midnight. For some reason I had always imagined that Nairobi and Mombasa were not that far from each other. So when I was told we had another 9 hours to travel my heart sunk a bit.

My apprehension was not misplaced because that journey was wrought with a number of problems. We had hardly moved for an hour before we got a puncture in the dead of the night, in the middle of nowhere. I knew we were gonners because we wouldbe ripe pickings for a bunch of highway robbers (think of it, young lads and lasses, many in various states of inebriation,with money in the pockets). Luckily a patrolcar came by and the cops stayed with us until the tyre was sorted out. 7 or so hours later we had another puncture that was much worse. It cost us 2 hours, a lot of sweat and our tempers. Our tempers, because out of the 24 people on the bus only 4 felt it necessary to give the lone driver some help in changing the tyre. The rest simply sat at a distance and played cards while enquiring every few minutes why it was taking long to get a simple puncture fixed.

All sweaty and tired we got to Mombasa.

I quickly got to learn that there are two very different Mombasas. One is Mombasa city on the north coast, which is mordern and ancient at the same time. The other is mombasa Island (south coast), which is mostly rural and awash with holiday resorts and beachfront apartments.

We crossed from north to south coast on the largest ferry I have ever seen, which was absolutely free.

I found it an amusing coincidence that having never travelled on water my whole life, I found myself on a ferry, crossing two very different water bodies, twice in exactly one month.

After travelling inland for about 30 minutes we got to the place that would keep us blissfully sequestered for the next 3 days. That though will be a story for some other day.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mombasa-bound, hopefully.

I ought to be heading to Mombasa in a few days time if only the bossman can sign my leave application. When I brought up the subject of leave a few weeks ago he was OK with it but now he is being elusive. Since I have already paid for accomodation and everything, I am getting a bit jittery. I am going to attend this conference and for some reason my boss cannot understand why I am spending my money on something I am not "benefitting" from. He jokingly asks me to be honest and tell him the real reason.

I have been a Rotaractor for a while now and over time I have learnt that any gathering that involves large numbers of Rotaractors (and Rotarians) is anything but uninteresting. The camaraderie and interactions are reason enough to attend. There is also all the networking and making contacts, which cannot be a bad thing. But it is really the fun bit that makes these annual district conferences a must for me whenever I can attend.

Hopefully, I will soon be spending my evenings sipping on fuity cocktails and trying to explain to the others why Ugandans are all that, as I create some strong international bonds (hint, hint), somewhere on Mombasa's south coast instead of dodging boda boda's and playing cards with my housemate in the candlelight.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Where are the candles at?

With all this news about electrity tariffs going up by 37% and the fact that Umeme is in trouble I am forseeing some more darkness ahead. What is Uganda coming to? We are going to pay more for a commodity that we are getting less and less of.

When I first ranted about the power rationing, I thought that the suitation couldn't get any worse. Since then the blackouts have become more frequent and Umeme no longer has the courtesy to stick to the rationing programme it prints in the papers.

I guess we will have to buy more kerosene lamps and generators (for those with deeper pockets). But hold on. That won't really solve anything because fuel prices are shooting up so fast even kerosene might soon be too expensive to buy (considering its now going to be a necessity). I don't think that those generators that the government was thinking of installing to mitigate the effects of the power shortages are going to be answer after all.

Where does this leave those of us who cannot afford the the 1.2 milion for a basic inverter or the costs of solar panels (solar energy is so cheap, if only the initial setup wasn't so costly)?

I guess I should head on down to the shops and stock up on all the candles they have. Given the way things are going the government may soon want to raise the taxes on these too after it has realised that they are selling like crazy.

p.s. I can't keep going to the bar to avoid the darkness at home. Suggestions requested on possible activities to while away the dark hours.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Recently Steakout (my favourite Friday hangout) introduced a Thursday rock night, which was a novel idea because Steakout is known mostly for Friday’s old school soul and the East African jams on its Utake Saturdays.

I hadn’t come round to checking it out because Thursday’s are not really good days to hang out (depleting the batteries for Friday and all that), but due to the incessant and random power cuts these days I decided that there was no point in going straight home to a dark flat in Bugolobi yet there was a rock night to check out in Steakout, which is pretty close to where I get paid to blog on company time.

I was sceptical about the kind of rock music I would find there because, in my opinion, rock and Steakout were as incompatible as raggaeton and intelligent lyrics. However, I was pleasantly surprised because the DJ went the distance and really played music that sent me back and forth from my days as a nascent rock fan to the stuff I spend idle Saturdays listening to.

The year was 1994. FM stations were less than a year old in Uganda and only 2 existed, Radio Sanyu and Capital Radio. The weekly American Top 40 show, hosted by Shadoe Stevens, made its debut on the airwaves and hence a teenaged Jay was introduced to rock music (alternative and soft rock specifically). Soon Shadoe show was replaced by Casey Kasem’s Top 40 which later competed with Rick Dees’ show for a while until Casey was dropped and Rick remained solo.

I was taken back to the days when I first bobbed my head to songs like Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Deep Blue Something), I only wanna be with you (Hootie and the Blowfish), Basket Case (Green day), What’s the frequency Kenneth (REM), Smells like teen spirit (Nirvana), Two Princes (Spin Doctors), Mrs Jones (Counting Crows) etc etc.

In ‘95 Capital Radio made its way to Mbarara where I was studying and by then me and my main man G had garnered enough clout in school to have a radio in dorm without being bothered by the authorities (I wonder is it still against the rules to have a radio in school). Finally we could listen to the Top 40 live, as opposed to listening to the same old shows recorded on tape everytime we came back to Kampala during the holidays.

Back then we were viewed as oddities because we listened to “weird music” when everyone else was listening to Montell Jordan’s This is how we do it, Soul for Reel’s Candy Rain or Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise. But while moving about on Thursday I saw that a lot had changed. More and more Kampalans are as familiar with Ngoni and Ragga Dee as they are with Nickleback, Coldplay and Matchbox 20. Rock lovers like myself are no longer oddities and thankfully it is becoming easier to access rock music regularly around town.

So for now I think I will be going home a little bit late on Thursdays after getting my fix of rock music.

‘Til next time. ROCK ON.