a random weekend episode with a wheel spanner in Hoima


Wheel Nut

IF you’re having a mildly bad time on any given day, call my Dad to give you a recount of any ordinary episode in his life upcountry.

Like his Saturday a couple of weekends ago, in Hoima, when he set off for an extremely important family event (we should all have been there but life being what it is, we were not) and had ordered life to ensure respectability all through.

The event was slated to begin at 1000hrs so he was in Hoima town by 0930hrs, but stopped to top up his fuel tank at the biggest fuel station there – a prudent move because the truck he was driving had been in a garage for many months and this was its maiden trip on discharge. As such, a few things were not working fine, including the fuel gauge.

Being a strict Accountant, and even more old school than myself, he kept count of the litres therein and calculated the mileage (not kilometres) mentally all the way but tended to avoid taking unnecessary risks.

As the fueling process came to an end, a fellow nearby pointed out that a tyre needed changing.

He was right.

Changing a tyre, for a man of my father’s age, experience, and intelligence, would take just a few minutes. He taught me how to do this at an early age, hence my predilection for Land Rovers over snazzy, shiny cars, even though there are Landys that fit that bill.

“Fair enough,” said the old man, suspecting correctly that the months of garage admission had probably stripped the car of essential tools.

Confirming that the unauthorised property allocation had taken place, he asked the garage fellows to oblige.

They readily agreed and shortly thereafter another fellow approached the car with the attitude of someone providing the relevant tools.

In one hand he held a car jack, the type that we used to have many years ago and still exists quite obviously in many places here. In the other hand – nothing.

“Good,” said the old man, even throwing in a “Thank you” with a wry smile while asking for the rest of the kit.

“We don’t have other things,” they said.

At this point, we can only imagine the looks being exchanged in silence all round thereafter.

I have no idea what the fellows at the fuel station look like so I can’t work out how sheepish they appeared but I know full well what my father’s facial expression was right there and then – running from irritation through incredulous and to that one where he was straining not to slap someone.

Surely, at a fuel station such as this in the major town of an oil-producing region in a country on the brink of middle-income status, this couldn’t be happening in 2018?!

It was.

Not all was lost, however; as one shamefaced fellow suggested that the old man go over to another fuel station within the town that might likely have the requisite tools.

Time check: 1000hrs.

He was late for his event.

Either way, at this point he needed to actually fix this tyre situation otherwise he would be doing this all over again in the evening at an even more remote point.

He drove over at a respectable speed and presented his problem to a fresh set of fellows at the second fuel station. They understood it well.

One fellow shuttled off and returned a couple of minutes later with a wheel spanner.

The old man took it up happily and reached out for the other pieces of the puzzle. He was not ready for the consistency of the second hand offering – nothing.

He asked where the rest of the tools required for this operation were.

“Haaa…” replied the fellow.

If you don’t know that ‘Haaa’, I’ll try to make it clear: This is where a guy says, “Ha” and keeps the “aaa” part going a bit longer while tilting his head a little bit and keeping his mouth open for a bit longer yet.

In English, it means: “I’m afraid I am speechless at your request and cannot express how screwed you are, at this point in time.”

My old man, holding up the wheel spanner, insisted on the full version. Because he is not aware of candid camera television, he had no false hopes that the comedy would end soon. And his age bracket cannot spontaneously shout out appropriate phrases like: “WTF?!?!”

The wretched fuel station fellow, nevertheless, explained that whereas they had the tool as presented, they were not in possession of a car jack to raise the motor vehicle and allow things to flow smoothly as they should.

On one side, a rather stern non-plussed look was aimed at the fellow wielding a wheel spanner. On the other side, the fellow sent back an innocent look of earnest bewilderment over the vehemence in the face of helpfulness.

A painful exchange ensued, kept barely civil by the 70 years’ experience of similarly frustrating comedy that my old man has accumulated.

Eventually, another chap with more authority showed up and said he had a solution but that it was available from a mechanic based elsewhere but quite close.

“How long will this take?” my old man asked, skeptically.

“He will be here soon…”

My old man protested the ‘soon’, but the chaps insisted it was genuine and that they believed the word to mean “in a short time to come”.

Unconvinced, the old man proposed that he take their tool over to the first fuel station where he was certain there was another piece that would provide a solution to the problem. They did not know the proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” or any variant of it involving an unidentified mechanic possibly being ‘nearby’ at an undisclosed location.

They counter-insisted that their unidentified mechanic friend at the undisclosed location ‘nearby’ would be there within the indeterminate period of time they defined as ‘soon’ and even offered the old man a seat.

“But how long is this ‘soon’?” he asked, weakening and losing that small but significant battle.

“Ten minutes,” they said, with that confidence that you normally recognise after about ten minutes to be basic bollocks. Basic bollocks designed to shut you up.

It worked.

He took his seat and, in that warm, slow-moving heat, he leaned back.

Big mistake. He woke up thirty five minutes later with a jolt – probably dreaming about tyre-changing tools in the after-life complaining about being separated so illogically.

The rest of the fuel station operations were running as normal in full swing, without the tool he required and any care for his problem and presence.

Aghast, he quickly tracked down the fellow with the wheel spanner he required, and the one who had promised an unidentified mechanic was on his way with a jack.

“Haaa…”

Patience was of paramount importance here.

“The man hasn’t come. It seems he doesn’t have one,” said the chaps, with confidence.

The old man’s temperature rose, not because of the climate around him.

“Enough!” he declared, “I am taking this spanner with me to the other fuel station. I will bring it back when I am done!”

Their ability to resist had been greatly diminished but they stated their reluctance for the record, from a safe distance, and waved him on.

He sped over to the first fuel station, and impressed them with his possession of the part they didn’t have but that was essential for use with the one that they DID possess.

Eager to be done with the entertainment, he supervised the work closely. Ten minutes in, they still hadn’t managed to make a single wheel nut budge.

My old man realised that the pneumatic wheel spanner at the City Tyres bay in Kampala had tightened the nuts so much so that the raw strength and enthusiasm of these particular Banyoro offered little hope.

But they were optimistic, as usual, and called upon their ancestral strength, ingenuity, and experience. You may know that the practice, in such cases, is for the person faced with tight nuts to take up a thick metallic pipe and introduce it into the equation for greater leverage.

They did so, making the wheel spanner set longer and allowing for the solution as follows: rather than using the arm and shoulder muscles to move the wheel nuts the men took to the task by jumping up and down onto the end of the pipe inserted into the wheel spanner.

Twice.

Then the wheel spanner snapped.
Snap

Into two pieces.

The fellow who had been hopping up and down onto the pipe fell to the ground, a short distance away from the piece that had broken off the wheel spanner, and just metres below my old man’s priceless look of disbelief. Nobody laughed.

“Haaaa,” said one fellow close by.

If you don’t know that ‘Haaaa’, I’ll try to make it clear: This one sounds much like ‘Haaa’ but with a slightly longer delivery and less of the head tilting.

In English it means: “This unexpected turn of events is quite unfortunate but I can’t be blamed for it on my own and, therefore, will not offer an apology right away. Nevertheless, suffice to note that we are, at this point in time, screwed.”

Time check: 1300hrs.

Attending the event had become a remote possibility by now. Plus, the tyre was actually flat.

The old man stopped communication with the fellows around him and gave the matter some thought. Five minutes away there was a shop that sold tools. These tools included a wheel spanner.

Fifteen minutes later he was back with a new wheel spanner and a resolve not to accept any further nonsense.

Thirty minutes after that he was handing over the new wheel spanner to the flummoxed fellows at the second fuel station, along with a lecture about their need to be more sensibly equipped to provide the services expected of them.

Time check: 1500hrs.

He got to the event thirty minutes later to find it hadn’t started on time either, by luck and providence. He was just in time for a most crucial part of the ceremony, and didn’t have to explain why he was so damn late.

One thing’s for sure: he will never drive into a fuel station again and assume ANYTHING will go as planned thereafter.

what’s our beef with cows, steaks and leather in Kampala?


MY FAVOURITE Argentinian was a fellow in Uganda called Pedro Seambelar.
I found him working at British American Tobacco and made friends pretty quickly for a number of reasons, and the one time I was upset with him was when we were planning to host the gods of our global tobacco leaf business, on a visit to Uganda.
In that Board Room putting plans together, I was irritated that Pedro spoke up in support of the idea that the meat that would be fed to the visitors in Hoima be bought from all the way in Kampala. I objected on the premise that there were certainly enough butchers in Hoima to supply our needs, but heard back the view – not from Pedro alone, but also from a South African, an American and a Briton in the group – that our beef was generally not good enough.
I eventually lost the argument, but heard quite a lot about how we don’t achieve good cuts of beef, don’t age it well for tenderness, and so on and so forth.
As I ventured out to my first of many restaurants in Buenos Aires the other week, that discussion was on my mind because I very badly needed to demystify the superbovine Argentinian concept of beef.20150621_192606
Even as I type this out, my salivary glands are reacting to the juicy memories of the week’s dining in fine restaurants, train station meatstops and mall food courts. Every one of them, without fail, offered up a consistency of beef that caused me some concern about my situation back here.
For about a year now I have boycotted beef in general at home unless it is minced into a hamburger patty or braised in an upcountry location preferably at a traditional ceremony – both guarantees that it will be extremely tender and full of 20150621_194504flavour.
In urban spots and most Kampala restaurants I generally avoid it especially if it is served up in those chaffing dishes that form the buffet gauntlet that is honestly the bane of the busy lunchtime diner.
The Argentinians certainly know their beef, I agreed, but so do a good many people in upcountry Uganda.
As I munched through various types of tender, juicy steaks I read through piles of brochures and leaflets and magazine and internet articles about this Argentinian beef and kept finding references to the cows themselves being given special treatment throughout their lives.
20150623_221808
A lot of specific care and attention goes into the cows’ feeding, breeding, transportation and even slaughter and carcass management.
The role of the chefs, therefore, is made much simpler because the product presented before them is in such fine form, rather than driven down in cramped trucks to crowded abattoirs for slaughter then hacked up with pangas into indeterminate chunks.
With toothpick firmly in mouth, a number of questions shot through my mind after every meal:
  • Is it possible that beef over here would taste better if we had abattoirs positioned in upcountry Uganda where the bulk of the cows are produced?
  • And what is so complicated about abattoirs that we cannot have some set up in locations closer to where cows are herded?
  • Are refrigerated trucks very hard to create?
  • Can’t engineering students design some and modify things to make them?
  • What do our food, science and technology students study and why can’t they give us ways of turning all our cows into superb steaks that we can use to attract dollars to Uganda the way Argentina took mine the other week?
  • Where do all those hides and skins go after the abbatoir, and why isn’t Basajjabalaba a producer of leather belts, jackets, wallets, luggage and furniture the way so many Argentinians are?
  • What simple item can we pay enough attention to all through the process from inception to the time we serve it up, so that we make Uganda world renowned for it the way Argentina is for their beef steaks?
  • And where, in Kampala, can I find as juicy a steak as the ones in Buenos Aires? (This is NOT a rhetorical question. Email me, please.)

whoever killed captain alex did Uganda a major favour!


ABOUT five years ago the trailer for the movie ‘Who Killed Captain Alex’ was posted to YouTube.com.
Many of us suffered physical injuries caused by laughing when we were first introduced to that two minute trailer, and we sought out the full movie with both caution and relish, but zero success – until about a month ago when it was actually ‘released’.
The danger of additional physical injury due to uncontrollable laughter was real and almost life-threatening right from when the film opened up. The hilarity of ‘Who Killed Captain Alex?’ runs non-stop from the opening credits stating, “This film is lost and all that survives is a low-resolution DVD master. This is due, in part, to the harsh working conditions, but Nabwana IGG also erased his computer to be able to make his next action film, Tebaatusasula. He never imagined anyone outside his own village would see this film.”
From there on, the viewer is subjected to over one hour’s footage of ludicrously comedic proportions in terms of presentation, plot, production, and everything possible and impossible on screen.
Many of us watched the trailer on its own and never got round to catching the full movie, and many more dismissed it as inferior to the quality that they are accustomed to, from Hollywood and such other lofty heights.
But this week the man behind ‘Who Killed Captain Alex?’ has made it to the mainstream global news and given Uganda positive media coverage while the rest of the region is engulfed in floods right in the middle of their cities, and coup d’etats.
It turns out that after that first trailer was released back in 2010, a young fellow in the United States, in New York, spotted it and within forty seconds of viewing had made the decision to come to Uganda.
The American, Alan ‘Ssali’ Hofmanis, didn’t even call the number at the end of the trailer – 0712921775 – or do a background check on this ‘Ramon Productions’. He processed himself, bought a ticket and came straight on down to Uganda, and then somehow made his way to Wakaliga, the village where Isaac Nabwana (I interchangeably call him Nabwana and Nabwaana because one is more likely the accurate one and the other has been assumed) lives and shoots his movies.
Yes – movies! Nabwaana didn’t stop at ‘Who Killed Captain Alex?’; he has also produced or shot trailers for ‘Tebaatusasula’, ‘Return of Uncle Benon’, ‘Bad Black’ and ‘Rescue Team’, among others!
Ergo the term ‘Wakaliwood’ – a merger between Wakaliga and Hollywood (visit http://watch.wakaliwood.com/ for the high profile version).
The number of YouTube views the young man has garnered are in the millions, and should be immediately taken up by the Uganda Tourism Board, the Uganda Investment Authority and any commercial entity in Uganda that is interested in international exposure. Seriously! Those are millions of eyes of people whose cognitive association with Uganda is happily full of mirth – not Idi Amin, Ebola, Politics or any of the usual stupidity!
Plus, the comments of the viewers tell you everything there is to know about the power of creating content and posting it onto the internet.
The fact that Hofmanis needed only forty seconds of film to make the decision to  leave the United States for a life in Uganda is proof that we can move millions of people’s dollars, euros, pounds, yuan, yen and even Zim dollars if we create the right content and use it wisely on the internet.
You see, platforms such as YouTube are incredible tools for countries like Uganda if we learn how to harness them properly. This week Uganda also won the award for Best African Exhibitor 2015 at the Indaba Tourism Fair in South Africa, thanks to the hard work of our Tourism sector and the people at the helm there.
That stand cost us lots of sweat, money and additional hard work doing sales and marketing, and was probably visited by thousands of people whose primary function in life is directing monied tourists to the countries they should spend their time and money in. It was VERY important.
But consider that with about US$200 per film, Isaac Nabwaana and Wakaliwood has the potential on YouTube of reaching 1,000,000,000 (one billion) users, and that every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube. This website is localised in 75 countries and is available in 61 languages – so films like ‘Who Killed Captain Alex?’ with its amateur but extremely funny expressive comedy, could be replicated 61 times if our Department of Languages put some work into it – probably getting us 61,000,000 views in the process!
If just one percent of each view got us one visitor here within forty seconds the way Hofmanis was snared (or forty minutes), that would be … US$30million in visa fees alone at US$50 per visa payable at Entebbe Airport!
Give Him A MedalUS$30million revenue to the Republic of Uganda from the selfless creative efforts of an uncelebrated slum-dweller called Isaac Nabwaana of Wakaliga who neverGive Him A Medal 2 features in any of our celebrity pages and never gets mentioned on Twitter and Facebook and certainly won’t be on any of our national medal lists any time soon…except mine, now, because this Give Him A Medal 3young man has definitely made my week as a proud Ugandan!
If you are online and savvy enough to join the crowdsourcing initiative, you could visit their Kickstarter page and throw in your offering.
If you are in Uganda and can’t be Give Him A Medal 4bothered to do such things as transfer money online, perhaps you will visit that page and see how Nabwaana and company have converted bits of old vehicles into film-making equipment. If you do make that observation, and have a couple of old hard drives, computers, and other stuff that could be useful to a film-maker, donate it to Nabwaana and team.
I haven’t asked for their permission to say this, but I am sure the clothes they wear as props come from some wardrobe somewhere that could do with replenishing with whatever the rest of us can come up with.

Unlike many other people of self-importance, the man even has his own documentary selling on Amazon! See here: http://www.amazon.com/Wakaliwood-Nabwana-I-G-G/dp/B00F4CNEXE – putting Uganda on the map for much better reasons than fraud, theft, embezzlement, wars and what not!

I just wish I could translate this into the commentary language that the Wakaliwood guys use in their movies – complete with a translation of the volleys of bullets (“Wololololo!”); and THAT’S another thing Nabwaana and company are doing for us – putting us out there for that innovative translation of movies into our local vernacular.

Nabwaana is a good Ugandan!Give Him A Medal 5

the rain and the children


There is a certain number of children beyond which one is not guaranteed that continuous deep sleep under heavy rain and thunder.
Study that statement carefully.
Basically, the logic is that if you have one child then you have a 50:50 chance of having your heavy rain deep sleep interrupted; anything more than just that one child decreases your chances of sleeping drastically.
In general, most of the children will take advantage of the rains to also enjoy some deep sleep, but there will always be one who departs from the script under ordinary circumstances. In a worse case scenario, you might even have more than one doing so, taking turns to send you for water, toilet tours, entertainment and so on and so forth.
Last night after the first major peal of thunder, I was summoned to the presence of only one of my brood and presented with a classic heavy rain problem:
“I can’t sleep. The rain is too loud.”
She was quite right about the volume of the rain, and I immediately acknowledged so then told her to just close her eyes and try to sleep.
“I did that and it didn’t work,” she responded, in a tone of voice that signalled frustration and anger at science in general.
As usual, I started a discussion about the science of rain and lightning and thunder, hoping the dullness of the topic and depth of my voice would bore her to sleep. Failure was complete, as I started nodding off in mid-sentence myself and she had to wake me with:
“I still can’t sleep. It’s really too loud.” This time in a tone of voice so hard that I realised I had to be more careful approaching the problem.
I suggested prayer, story-telling, and a couple of other tactics but she had tried some and rejected the rest.
Eventually, looking out of the window at the torrents of rain, my mind went to the Bobi Wine song ‘Singa’ (“Singa, nze Museveni…Singa, nze Sudhir omugagga…”) and I tried to imagine what those two would do in these circumstances.
We would have fallen draw-draw, as some would say.
This was a problem no money or power could solve.
But I needed to look on the bright side of the issue and, first and foremost, stop the conversation from going any further. You see, the problem statement was one that I could possibly tackle: “I can’t sleep. The rain is too loud.”
If we went on talking there was a chance that we would get to a demand such as, “Make the rain stop” or “Decrease the volume of the rain.”
These are fatherhood nightmare statements, in these situations, because they put our hero-status to a direct test held under stressful conditions invigilated by a hyper-alert young one with very high expectations.
Those are the kind of demands that make fathers create entire dramatic productions backed by nonsensical stories that they pray will be forgotten before the children enter into their teenage years. Acceptably embarrassing options in these extreme circumstances include phonecalls to so-called ‘Rain Offices’; the use of imaginary remote control devices to decrease the rain volume; and even positioning oneself before windows and using some mind-force energy to push the rain away.
It is very embarrassing but can be highly effective if timed right and the elements of nature comply within reasonable measure. The only problem is that eventually you get asked to “decrease the heat” during the hot dry seasons and whereas the solution is switching on a fan, the act is not as heroic…
So “I can’t sleep. The rain is too loud”, needed to be managed and for the moment I was the man for the job.
If she had been of age, this problem would have been fixed by a double measure of a wide range of tonics from various bottles kept in the relevant cabinet.
Sadly she was above the age where moving to our bed was a solution to any problem from “My stomach is hurting” to “I had a bad dream”, and so my options narrowed down even further.
I couldn’t dare, meanwhile, curse the rain; we’ve waited for it long enough and will be forever grateful for it.
The solution: wait out the rain in her room while ensuring conversation does not get to “Make the rain stop” or “Decrease the volume of the rain” levels.
So I transferred the failure to sleep and took it on in full measure. That’s me here. Being an insomniac on behalf of my daughter so that she can get enough sleep to manage a few hours of school tomorrow.
See; all I have to do during the day is go out to work so I can afford their school fees, the mortgage, their food, clothes and so on and so forth.
I will sleep when they are old enough to get their own house.