Yesterday afternoon I went down to the generally quiet and considerably comfortable smoking lounge on the fifth floor to do a bit of private reading ahead of an important meeting, but two minutes into my preparation notes, a young fellow sat smack next to me across the counter and lit up a Lucky Strike.
Being naturally incapable of rudely continuing to read and therefore allowing him to smoke in peace and quiet, I looked up from my book and invited conversation, resulting in a vibrant thirty minute chat during which we established that: 1. He was fond of travelling and had been around quite a bit on his annual (he was European after all) holiday. 2. He had never been to Africa. 3. He was keenly interested in hunting and, barring the opportunity to do so, as I informed him strongly that Uganda did not accept that sort of thing, he would be equally enthusiastic about fishing. 4. He was scared to death of contracting malaria. 5. His next holiday was planned for Thailand, and even though I threw tough warnings in his direction over the recent uprisings and conflicts in that very country, he was not convinced it was as bad as most African countries.
With my usual vim and panache, I convinced him that: 1. Most countries in Africa were safe to travel to, but most especially Uganda since we had so much to offer (google Uganda and ignore any link that shows up talking about Joseph Kony, LRA and HIV) – which he realised quickly was an impression that had been lurking at the back of his mind because all he had heard about Uganda before (and he was really surprised to realise that he had actually heard about Uganda before speaking with me but the idea hadn’t really sunk!) was positive. 2. There was a lot more to a holiday involving game than shooting at it – and I pledged to send him my photos of wild animals in the national park, taken on routine trips en route to farmers upcountry. 3. Malaria only kills if you don’t take the right treatment for it, and that were I to hold equivalent fears then I would not have come to Europe for fear that I would die of an overdose of some recreational drug or at the large end of a neo-Nazi’s spiked club. 4. If he still believed Thailand was safe after all he had seen on TV just because he had been there before, then it might be wise to visit a country like Uganda before deciding it would be the death of him.
And immediately after our chit chat, to the further detriment of the important meeting I had set out to read for, I sent him a couple of pics taken at random in the Kabalega National Park by yours truly, and he replied with a thoroughly impressed, “Wow, we gotta do this some time. HOOK IT UP!!!!!”
Two hours later, my important meeting successfully concluded but with fewer sparks than I would have otherwise conjured up had it not been for God and My Country, I hit the internet to pick up on some news from Uganda only to find the headline, “Crocodiles eat five people every month” (My http://www.monitor.co.ug/artman/publish/regional-special)
Damn this! The fellow above was probably reading the very same shitty article.
Shitty not because it reveals this mildly alarming fact (at the rate of five people per month, crocs are nothing compared to boda-bodas), but because of the content and authorities quoted:
“Shortage of fish in Lake Victoria has turned hungry crocodiles on the hunt for human beings for food on the shores of the lake in Mayuge District.” Shortage of fish? How many fish are there or are there not in Lake Victoria? The reporter does not at any time try to support this ‘fact’, and understandably so because all he relies on is ‘the district vermin control officer’:
“Reports from the vermin control department in the district indicate that at least five people are eaten by crocodiles every month. The district vermin control offficer said crocodiles have resorted to eating humans due to the current scarcity of fish caused by the use of undersized nets to harvest immature fish.
Mr Francis Ongom was reacting to reports concerning an LC 1 official from Mukono District who was on January 25 eaten by a crocodile while fishing.”
What is this? The usual nonsense of any public official making any statement that then becomes news across the globe with an impact on the entire nation – especially this same daft public official who will be complaining around a malwa pot in the near future that the government does not provide enough funds to run the ‘vermin control department’.
Meanwhile, the rest of the story reveals that contrary to the impression that the crocodile had turned up at the restaurant counter and ordered for fish,
“The LC 1 Vice chairman for Katonga village Peter Higenyi was fishing in the waters close to Lingira Island in Mayuge when the incident occurred. According to a witnesses, Higenyi was caught by the crocodile when he jumped off the boat he was using and tried to swim on seeing Beach Management Unit operatives hunting those using illegal nets.”
Oh Uganda, May God Uphold Thee…