there is NO ZIKA in Uganda


Aedes Aegypti
The Aedes Aegypti – from http://www.outbreaknewstoday.com

THIS Zika virus is pissing me off quite a lot.

The damn thing is causing excitement and concern in Brazil and other Latin American countries, and people have contracted its related diseases in the United Kingdom and the United States.
NO ONE in Uganda has contracted the disease.
In the last 70 (SEVENTY) years there have been TWO (2) people who got the Zika disease in Uganda.
But believe it or not, Uganda has entered into the story. You haven’t noticed yet, but there is already at least one travel advisory that affects us – Ugandans.
THIS has pissed me off, of course, because those less discerning than most will immediately assume that we have Zika viruses floating about in the air over here, and will begin to avoid us. Or they’ll come up with some silly extra airport checks for people who have been to Uganda, or have names similar to ours.
There is no predicting what could happen.
The last time a strange, scary disease broke out in West Africa we had sanctions and cancellations in East Africa. There is 7,000 kilometres of very bad road between Sierra Leone and Uganda, but people in the UK still felt that it was worrying enough for the disease to exist THERE, for them to avoid coming HERE. Sierra Leone is closer to the United States than it is to any East African country, but ignoramuses would still be more scared of coming here than going to the US.
(That statement about distances from Sierra Leone might or might not be true – so go and read up on the continent of Africa a little bit, just to be sure. The one about ignoramuses is true.)
But that’s not what is churning bile into my throat.
The casualness around which people – journalists inclusive – are talking about Uganda in this story is infuriating!
It took just a couple of days for people to misread the Wikipedia statement, “The virus was first isolated in April 1947 from a rhesus macaque monkey that had been placed in a cage in the Zika Forest of Uganda, near Lake Victoria, by the scientists of the Yellow Fever Research Institute.”
Personally, like most of you who haven’t just heard about it from the title of this damn blogpost, I first heard of the Zika virus and the Zika forest about two weeks ago – in that order, separated by a couple of days.
On Monday the World Health Organisation declared Zika an “international public health emergency” and by that time Uganda was on maps labelled ‘Areas with current or past evidence of Zika’ (see http://www.nytimes.com – I won’t be supplying the link).
Within these last two weeks we have had journalists and ‘scientists’ (or science officials) make comments that simply fit into the expected narrative but don’t tell us much that is accurate or even useful.
They could have read the Wikipedia article in full, as well as embedded links therein such as this scientific-looking linkhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819875/
before launching into the Zika Forest for their stories, but…
Take this story headlined, “Ugandan forest where Zika hides”, complete with a photograph of an old Uganda Virus Research Institute  (UVRI) signpost in front of a patch of grass in what is clearly NOT a forest <—incomprehensible. The height of laziness is in NOT taking a photograph of even a single TREE for an article ABOUT a forest.
That article states with confidence: “Most local cases of the virus were mild, resulting in a rash, fever, and red eyes. Global health authorities barely took notice until an outbreak on the Micronesian island of Yap in 2007.”
Yap is NOT in Uganda. The Micronesian islands are NOT in Uganda. There are NO LOCAL CASES OF ZIKA that the story cites, but that sentence, by-lined by AFP, is on the internet even though in Yap, according to the Wikipedia article on that outbreak, 73% of the island’s population above the age of 3 (three) had recently (by then) contracted the disease!
Later in the story the AFP states, “Uganda’s health ministry is keen to point out that there have been no known cases of the disease in that country, and that the outbreak in the Americas did not originate in East Africa.”
This is because it is true, though the story indicates that it is just a claim.
Why not, “There have been no known cases of the disease in Uganda (in recent years) and the outbreak in the Americas did not originate in East Africa.”?
The reporter could have done some simple research within the Wikipedia article and benefitted from this sentence: “There are two lineages of Zika virus, the African lineage and the Asian lineage.[19] Phylogenetic studies indicate that the virus spreading in the Americas is most closely related to the Asian strain, which circulated in French Polynesia during the 2013 outbreak.”
But the AFP could not be bothered.
And it even closes the story with, “There is no vaccine against Zika, which has spread to over 24 countries in the Americas.” <—the Americas – it has become like Africa. Would you imagine, reading that phrase, that anyone in the United States has contracted a Zika-related disease? Or that anyone in the United Kingdom has one? You think the AFP story would mention even that most amusing detail of how Brian Foy, a biologist from the Colorado State University, in 2009 returned to the US from a trip to Senegal and sexually transmitted Zika on to her?
Nope.
It doesn’t even mention that SIX (6) cases have been confirmed in the United Kingdom – which detail I have only discovered today! I thought it was three – 3 – until this afternoon of February 2, 2016 when I surfed through various links to get to this one.
See, the text on the discovery of Zika in the UK says things like, “ZIKV does not occur naturally in the UK. However, as of 29 January 2016, a total of 6 cases have been diagnosed in UK travellers.”
Did you notice the use of ‘ZIKV’ there, instead of Zika? That’s deliberate so that you find fewer instances of internet searches linking the word “Zika” to “UK”.
This is from an official government release – and our Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs and Tourism should take a leaf from this and have all public officials comply; take A LOT OF CARE when making statements about matters sensitive.
The United States’ Centre for Disease Control (CDC) announced that, “No locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the continental United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers.” <—again, distancing themselves as a country from this disease, and suggesting that “only travellers” (which they mis-spelt) have it.
Meanwhile, it would take me (I am too simple) too long to establish how many travellers to the US have actually been diagnosed with the virus, but I bet they are more than Uganda’s ZERO!
The UK reporting also keeps talking about “UK travellers” so that in your mind the disease is never RESIDENT there.
It is RESIDENT elsewhere. Maybe in the ‘Americas’ or Africa – and the same advisory states that travellers should avoid travel to “areas where any mosquito-borne diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, malaria and Zika are known to occur”. <— see? It has started already!
But if anyone tries to cancel a booking to Uganda on the basis of this advisory, then please point them to this link from CNN which states with authority that, “the Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, “which are found throughout the U.S. and are known for transmitting dengue fever and chikungunya, may also transmit the virus, the CDC said Friday.”
 
So the UK advisory discourages travel to the United States, as much as it discourages travel to Uganda.
The BBC also sent a team to the Zika Forest – where they also met the same guide, poor Gerald Mukisa, who is now quoted everywhere.
The Associated Press report of the same site states that the Zika Forest “is, now fittingly, a research site for scientists…” even though everywhere else on the internet states that it has been a research site since before 1947! <—but that’s a small point, so ignore it.
Or, maybe just to get into the meat of things, it might not be ‘now fittingly’ – the reason they probably chose the Zika forest as they would any other part of the world to conduct such trials back in the early 1900s, might be the availability of specimen such as the monkey.
The longer version of the AFP report, meanwhile, quoted one Julius Lutwama, 56, described as “Top UVRI scientist” who says: “Zika virus has always been a mild infection. Out of say five or 10 people who are infected, only one or two may actually show some fever that is noticeable.” <— WHAT THE HELL?
The BBC text report on the same subject quoted the very same Dr. Julius Lutwama saying that only two cases of the virus have been confirmed in Uganda in the last seven decades. SEVENTY (70) years.
‘This is because the types of mosquitoes that would transmit the virus to humans don’t often come into contact with the general population, says Dr. Julius Lubwama, a leading virologist at the Uganda Virus Research Institute.’ reads the story.
So is it only two people as the BBC quoted Dr. Lutwama saying, or “out of the five or ten people”, as the AFP quoted the very same Dr. Lutwama?
I called up the Uganda Virus Research Institute and was told that there was only one Dr. Lutwama but was told he was out of the country – hopefully in Geneva attending the emergency meetings that resulted in the WHO declaration. I was given his colleagues number, one Dr. John Kayiwa, but he didn’t answer his phone and I had to post my blog so I went on reading, only to find this in the  BBC article:
“But as Dr. John Kayuma, one of the laboratory managers told me, one of the reasons why there are few recorded cases in Uganda could be because not many people have been tested for it. ‘It is possible that there could be several people, or so many people out there with the Zika virus infection, but because many people do not seek treatment in the hospitals, we could be missing out”‘
They don’t stop there.
“‘And also the surveillance has probably not picked them out. There’s a possibility that there are more cases out there.’”
THAT is the kind of comment that has me shaking my damn head.
(Pause for breath).
And the story ends on the dramatic note of: “In the meantime, Dr. Lutwama and his team say they are keeping an eye on the type of mosquitoes in the country in case any of the ones that are good at spreading the disease enter Uganda.”
THIS is the BBC?
They can’t spell Dr. Kayiwa’s name right – so marks off for that.
But then, do you see how the narrative is being kept alive here? That “it is possible” that people have the disease “but they have not been checked?”  We are to think that people are walking about possibly suffering from Zika but they have not been tested for it so cue music of impending doom and sickness?
Quite simply there is NO story here unless someone finds that damn monkey that was the subject of those tests. While looking for it, though, please take in our thousands of other monkeys and apes, the magnificent wildlife, the great scenery and the extremely pleasant hospitality of Ugandans who are so kind we will smile and say what you most likely want to hear just to make you feel at home – sometimes to our own detriment.
At the back of your mind, please be aware that “it is possible” that very many people out there have a cold, or mild forms of malaria, or even cancer, but they have not sought treatment in hospitals.
Brazil is there with 4,000 cases of babies born with microcephaly (the birth defect that the Zika virus is said to cause), the United States has 30 cases, the UK has six, and we are here saying “see Uganda”?
It is these reports that have me looking a little more seriously at bloggers, or what some people call conspiracy theorists, because those ones appear to put more effort into their work.
Like one Jon Rappoport, who blogged last week: ‘Is the dreaded Zika virus another giant scam?’
Rappoport, unlike our international journalists, goes into the science behind the Zika virus, and the tests that would have to be conducted before certain declarations are made, and then even raises links that answer the question, ‘Why did we not know about this between 2007 and 2016?’ (let alone 1947 till now!). Why is it spreading so fast and frenzied in Brazil and Latin America?, and then (read his blog, by the way, rather than wait for me to reproduce it here) the link to pesticide use in Brazil and so on and so forth.
Then there’s sheezacoldpiece, who posted, ‘The Zika Virus – What They’re Not Saying…’, in which the blogger raises a vaccine that the Brazil government introduced in 2014 and says “The recent outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil is now being linked to genetically modified mosquitoes developed by the British biotech company Oxitec, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”
Leaving the corporate bodies out of it for a while, the blogger raises a point some other people have raised in the comments on Zika – what is the role of science in all this? Even in the 1947 tests, according to this scientific narrative – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819875/ – tells you that they were not just walking through a forest and noticed a monkey shivering with an attack of the Zika.
There must be some scientist out there who can decipher for us the meaning of the phrase, “was first isolated”; does that not indicate that there was some clinical laboratory work going on that could have involved placing a sample or something into the monkey in order to study its results?
I am clearly not a scientist.
But also, if, as the bloggers suggest, the microcephaly or Zika disease is a result of additional factors beyond just a thirsty band of mosquitoes then our scientists have lots more work to do than monitoring the borders to ensure that these vectors don’t get in.
Reading https://brazilianshrunkenheadbabies.wordpress.com/about/ you will find a lot of blogger-insight (see links at the bottom of that page) that sensibly argues how the use of medicines or pesticides untested for your area or blood type or genetics can create such alarming results.
As for the journalists, we have even more work to do so that we are more convincing than the bloggers and conspiracy theorists; if we can’t even spell a name right when covering such an ‘important’ story, how the hell are we expected to be believed on the science?

do me a favour? sell me that airtime?


airtime ugandadrone.com
Airtime: Painful to procure in some places – Photo from http://www.ugandadrone.com

IT’S happened to me twice so far over a four week period in two different parts of Kampala.

Luckily, it’s not a daily occurrence otherwise I would have given up on using a mobile phone a long, long time ago.

The first time, I was walking home and decided to buy a little airtime just in case I ran out in the middle of the night. Going past the turn-off up the hill that I should have taken, I stopped at the first of one million shops selling airtime alongside sugar, iron sheets and boda bodas.

“Airtime? Orange?” I asked, politely, quickly amending it to, “I mean, Africell.”

Wa mekka?” (For how much?) the chap asked me, seemingly disinterested.

I was sweaty and had a laptop bag slung over my shoulder but surely looked respectable enough for him to unfurl himself and attempt to take my money?

Apparently not.

He also wasn’t going to answer my question before I answered his, which I found awkward-ish but then quickly dropped the lugezi gezi and replied politely: “For Ushs20,000?”

I was trying my luck and thought my tone conveyed that. I didn’t want to give a wrong answer and get sent away, just in case there was some rule I wasn’t aware of. But even as I responded the thought occurred that I could have walked into some spy secret set-up and the guy would hand me a box of spy stuff if I accidentally got the code right, and my life would change forever as I became a target of various global security teams.

Apparently not.

“Ah-ah! Oyo simulina.” (I don’t have that.)

Non-plussed.

I needed more information – did he mean he did not have Ushs20,000 worth of airtime or that he didn’t have one single Ushs20,000 airtime card? Ten seconds I stood there just about to ask him to clarify but he was looking elsewhere, having closed that chapter.

Of course, I should have gone to the next shop, but I asked all the same.

Nnina za lukumi lukumi zokka!” (I only have Ushs1,000 airtime cards!) he responded, still not looking at me, still seated in his chair. He had a very bad posture, I noticed, and if he had been more polite I would have helped advise him to change it so he didn’t end up with a painful back in his old age.

As it was, I chose the long game for his punishment.

The short game situation, I quickly realised, is the reason why they put bars in the front of those shops as if they are prison cells. Not to lock the stupidity in with the merchandise, but to stop people like me from snapping and committing regrettable acts that would probably soil the merchandise with blood and gore.

Three shops later, I made a note to self that telecommunication companies need to revise that part of their training manual that has all these retailers responding in this manner.

In the fifth shop, I changed tack and instead asked, “Can I buy Ushs1,000 of Africell?”

The young girl sold it to me. Then I asked for another.

Aweddewo.” (It’s finished).

THAT’S when I checked my credit balance to confirm whether I really needed to continue with the circus – especially since I was walking further away from my home.

I did.

In one shop, the chap fell for my ruse and asked, “Ddala ddala, oyagala wa mekka?” (How much do you want, in actual fact?)

We question-duelled till he gave way and counted how much he had in his drawer.

Ushs4,000.

“I’ll take it all,” I said.

“Ah!” he exclaimed.

I was bothered; see, his ‘Ah’ didn’t sound like that excited, “Yaaay; you’re giving me money and finishing my stock so I make a profit and then go and re-stock faster!”

Naye awo ky’ogamba; sijja kusigaza airtime yenna okutunda?” (But then there, do you mean I won’t have any airtime left to sell?)

Unbelievable but true.

I left.

Eventually I got to this most progressive shop – larger than the rest and with no metal bars in the doorway.

Realising that if I didn’t fill my phone up with airtime as soon as possible I might spend the rest of my life buying it up in drips and drops, I asked this fellow for more – Ushs50,000.

He ran a Mobile Money outlet after all. He had those glass display cases in his shop. He also sold mobile phone accessories. Surely he would have airtime available to sell.

“Ha!”

Again, an exclamation that didn’t sound like the one I hoped for – I needed to hear that ‘Ha’ of a man gleefully calculating the profit he would make off his purchase, and maybe even betraying some relish at the possibility that he could sell me some earphones or an extra charger.

This ‘Ha’, however, sounded like: “Small Problem, boss.”

I was about half a kilometre away from the turn-off point home, and thirty minutes off schedule. My patience had run thin and I had no more laughter to hold in whenever these people did these things. I needed the airtime.

“Man. Nyamba!” (Help me, man!) I pleaded.

I was breaking a rule I have held fast to for years and years; abdicating my role as customer and betraying all my kinfolk in the economic stratum of those with disposable income, therefore frustrating the rules of economics relating to supply and demand. My secondary school economics teacher would have rubbed his chin and proclaimed a lack of surprise as he recalled my distracted antics in his class, even though he can’t have my test papers to present as proof that this was how I would end up.

The shop attendant thought a little bit, progressive fellow, and a lightbulb went on in his mind.

Leka nzijje!” (Let me come! <— this is our pidgin, and if you think in English it means, ‘Be right back’.)

Off he went, leaving me alone in his shop with all his merchandise and that drawer containing airtime cards and even some cash. Unlike the first chap I stopped at, this one disregarded my dishevelled looks enough to trust me with his shop as he shot across the road.

Five minutes later he was back, waving three airtime cards – two for Ushs20,000 and one for Ushs10,000.

Nzifunye!” (I got them!) he declared triumphantly, with some irrational pride in his voice.

I gave him the Ushs50,000 and he was off again to pay the person he had sourced the cards from.

When he got back, he offered to scratch my cards and opened the drawer to extract an implement for doing so – a coin.

As he did so I got a good look at a collection of airtime cards amid the small notes of cash and other bits and bobs.

I didn’t want to ask, just in case he answered in the affirmative, but after he had scratched the cards and as I was loading them I could resist no longer.

“Do you mean you have NO Africell airtime here at all?”

“I have some,” he responded, totally unfazed by the implications arising from this confession, “But I didn’t have Ushs50,000.”

How much did he have of this much-wanted airtime, but in small denominations?

Ushs14,000.

He STILL didn’t quite get it.

So I bought that, too – kind of as a token of appreciation for his having gone out of his way to get me the Ushs50,000 cards.

I cringed after placing the order, afraid that he was going to protest having to sell all his stock in one fell swoop.

Luckily for my nerves, he made no such protest.

Webale nnyo, boss!” (Thanks a lot, boss) he said – the very same words I had said to him a few minutes earlier.

the scourge that is artisans and tradesmen around my home – and oba how does the askari not see it?


DECEMBER-January at around this time puts me in dangerously close proximity to a variety of tradesmen, artisans and workers, because it is officially annual maintenance and repair time at my home.

This is the month I find it easiest to stop for a few days to do some serious general repairs to polish off all my D-I-Y projects using supposedly professional help.

I decided long ago (as Whitney Houston once sang) to focus all my work on a limited number of these people, in order to decrease the likelihood that I would one day commit slaughter upon one.

Through a painful and costly process of trial-and-error-and-elimination, I have over the years selected the best of all the tradesmen, artisans and suppliers in each category, and put them to work in bits and pieces.

That means, for instance, that instead of hiring one to do a large job like, “Paint this house” in one sweep, I bring the guy in and assign him about two and a half walls every other week, under close supervision.

The gardening guy cannot be allowed to cut the grass, shape shrubs, trim branches off the larger trees, do pruning and also sweep up the cuttings all in one day.

That way, if anything gets messed up it is not messed up in a major way – like that time the painter used all the wrong colour combinations in different rooms, making the kitchen super calm and the bathrooms blazing hot and vibrant…

It’s generally been a smooth run so far, this time round, except for this one guy.

About four weeks ago a concatenation of events led to the glass top of a patio table shattering into bits late one night in a manner that could only be blamed, if anyone attempted to do so, on me.

It would appear that the domestic staff had a meeting to discuss the likely suspects and worked it out quite easily since, when the crash was heard in the deep quiet of the night, the askari had only recently allowed me in through the gate.

Long story cut short, I commissioned a new table top to be fashioned out of some floor tiles that had stayed over from a long-past job.

The matter was straightforward: 1. Get the left over tiles 2. Arrange them to form a table top 3. Get paid.

The fellow agreed, nodding to indicate that he had understood what I was saying.

I paid him, and left for my holiday, only to return and find this:

img_20151228_180605.jpg

(Cue silence.)

I looked at the table top for about two minutes, working up the courage to walk over to it and check whether the tiles had only been perched there temporarily.

They were permanently placed there.

Flabbergasted, I called in my eleven-year old to confirm to me that I had not taken leave of my senses, and he laughed uncontrollably.

I then set about on a search of the perimeter to establish whether we had simply not provided enough tiles for the project.

We had.

He could have done this, instead:

img_20151228_180803.jpg

There were so many tiles that he could have laid two layers of them over that table.

Flabbergasted, I called in the askari to ask his opinion.

He stood there, quite blasé, and we both observed the table for a while until I realised I had to break the ice.

“What do you notice is wrong with that?” I asked.

“The glass got broken, sir. But I don’t know for sure who broke it,” he said.

“No. I know it got broken. I mean what do you notice about the table right now?”

“It has those things on top. Those nani…” he left off, waiting for me to say, “Tiles.”

“Not that. I am the one who asked that tiles be put onto the table. Do you not see anything wrong with it?”

“Er…” he started, leaving space for me to give him a hint.

Silence.

“Well? What do you notice is wrong with that?” I asked again.

“It has…dust?” he asked, clearly worried that the duty of cleaning the table might have been passed on to him without his notice.

“No. You don’t see anything wrong with that table top?”

He gave up.

“No, sir.”

“Don’t you find it awkward that this tile is here like this, for instance?” I asked, pointing at the green tile.

He looked at me to check whether I had lost my mind.

I also gave up, and summoned the fellow who had done the table.

Within minutes, he was there and taking me through the very same conversation I had just had with the askari.

I kept my patience right to the end and couldn’t help asking whether, in all seriousness, he didn’t find the green tile awkward.

He looked at me to check whether I had lost my mind.

“Okay,” I conceded, “at least, why did you make the orange tiles NOT face the same direction?”

Silence.

I could not get enough of that silenced look.

I still can’t.

(Of course I made him fix the damn table).

the Bruno saga continues at Total Nakawa


20150908_101722Starting the day out normally for a seasoned Land Rover driver, I made up my mind to walk to the stage and get a taxi after my car failed to start. I had an urgent series of meetings to attend, and was not going to risk being late.

Confounding the askari at my gate, I threw my laptop bag over my shoulder and stalked out while making a phone call in Bruno’s direction. The plan was simple – take a taxi headed in the direction he was going to depart from, and meet somewhere midway.

Rather than call him up though, I called up his real boss a.k.a. my wife. She often undergoes tribulations with the chap but not on the scale that I suffer, which makes me believe that she has better communication skills when it comes to deploying Bruno.

“Please ask him to pick me up at Total Nakawa,” were my exact words, followed by: “The Total at the Nakawa lights.”

She voiced a clear understanding of the situation and didn’t even offer an endearment as she dialled off to dispatch the fellow.

I made it all the way to the taxi stage, into the taxi and through the process of arguing with the conductor a little bit so he wouldn’t cheat me out of Ushs200, until I was standing on the forecourt of the Total Station in Nakawa.

At that point, I realised that I should have seen Bruno’s car by then. There were not many vehicles there and a limited number of options open to a driver for parking a motor vehicle in a manner designed to aid the collection of a waiting principal.

I looked round again and confirmed that he was not there.

I then recalled a similar incident earlier on and a sense of dread began to weigh down on my forehead.

Supposing he was at the Shell in Nakawa? That small one up there, just after the traffic lights? Or the one further on? I knew it was in Naguru along Stretcher Road, and not Nakawa, but this was Bruno…?

I realised that I was going to be late for my meeting, and whipped out the phone to call up with apologies, wondering whether to mention Bruno’s very existence in my life as a cause, when I noticed that he had tried to call me about five minutes earlier under the sound of taxi chatter.

The next few minutes were going to be painful or full of mirth, I figured, so I sent meeting apologies just in case I didn’t get hold of the chap, then called Bruno up.

“Bruno?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Where are you?”

“Sir, I am here.”

I no longer laugh at this. Also, I gave up trying to make it stop. I just allow it to happen, so the time it takes to get past it is built into my expectations of these interactions with Bruno. So I leave him “there” and probe further.

“Are you at Total Nakawa?”

“Sir, I am at the new buildings.”

I stopped a little bit and allowed the brain to churn. I had noticed some construction work going on near the garage bays at the top of the fuel station, but that couldn’t possibly be called “new buildings”. The works actually depicted mounds of soil extracted from the bay itself, rather than any new construction.

As I squinted to establish whether or not Bruno’s car was underneath one of those mounds of soil, I realised that in front of me, above Total Nakawa, was the UAP Business Park.

Without leaning on the investigative power of the likes of Sherlock Holmes or Grace Akullo, I solved the case.

Two weeks ago, I had had Bruno pick me up from those very same “new buildings” that make up the UAP Business Park. He must, therefore, have gone there on hearing the ‘Nakawa’ part of “Total Nakawa”.

“Bruno?” I said, in even tones delivered not to make him skittish and go off to, say, Mukono, “are you at those Nakawa buildings?”

“The new buildings, sir!”

“Bruno, where did Madame tell you to find me?”

Silence.

“Bruno?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Aren’t you supposed to find me at Total Nakawa?”

Silence.

“Come to Total Nakawa.”

Five minutes later, he drove into the fuel station – not from the Old Port Bell Road as you would expect if you are in any way familiar with this part of town, but from the main Jinja Road.

And on driving in, he stopped his car right there at the entrance and turned to face the UAP Business Park as if he either expected to see me emerge from that direction, or would be driving there shortly himself (see that black car in the photograph up there? Exactly like that!)

I walked over to his car and made myself available to him as a calm passenger before asking him WTH.

“Did Madame tell you to find me at Total Nakawa?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then why did you go to those UAP New Buildings?”

Pause.

“Bruno?!”

“Sir, I had gone to look for parking…”

sending Bruno to the parking lot fwaaaaa


Progres

IT’S been a while since you heard about Bruno, and I want to assure you that he is still doing quite alright and providing his endless stream of irritating entertainment guided by thought processes running at a very unfashionable speed.
Luckily for me, he is employed to drive somebody else – my wife – and when I am unlucky and find my car taken custody by a mechanic, I submit to Bruno and the uncertainities involved in travelling with him.
Today, after leaving the dentist’s chair, we got into slow traffic outside the Acacia Mall and I decided on a whim to hop out and change some money.
NOTE 1: Never do anything on a whim where Bruno is involved. Plan very carefully and plan again, just in case anything can go wrong – because it will. When it does, revert to the next step in your plan.
I knew this about him, so I thought my plan out clearly then told him, “I am going out briefly. Drive round to the Kisementi parking and I’ll find you there when I’m done.”
My brother believes the problem with Bruno is his understanding of the English language, but I have often proved that not to be the case. All instructions to do with his money and his feeding, for instance, are received and acted upon quite well in english, yet those to do with my money or my feeding go awry.
I thought about the Kisementi arrangement a little bit more and came up with a better idea – City Oil is a much smaller place and was right there, about twenty metres ahead of us.
Plus, because it was right there, I could point at it on top of giving him the verbal instructions.
What could go wrong?
NOTE 2: Never ask “What could go wrong?” when doing anything involving Bruno. Murphy is nothing; a child – mere games to Bruno’s war-ness.
“No. DON’T go to Kisementi; go to the City Oil parking instead. That one there.” I pointed at it.
I waited a couple more minutes as I thought about what I was doing and considered seriously what could possibly go wrong, wondering what else I should tell the man in order to ensure no disruptions to the plan or nature itself.
It was that additional minute of waiting and extra consideration that led to my leaving my phone behind when I eventually hopped out of the car as the traffic started moving again.
I realised it when I had arrived at the building, and turned back to see traffic back at a standstill and Bruno not too many metres from where I had alighted.
Perhaps I could complete my errand and make it back before anything went wrong?
I tried.
Speeding through the process that had made me hop out of the vehicle, I made it back to the road within four minutes but…Bruno and his car were gone!
Surely he had driven straight to the City Oil parking lot.
The clouds had darkened with the threat of an afternoon shower, so I hurried across the road and was in the parking lot well within a minute.
This is when I realised I had a problem. I had gone to the forecourt, where the fuel pumps are, which I had pointed at when I said “Parking Lot”.
Suppose Bruno, overthinking matters and aiming to impress me, had thought to himself, “This man said ‘Parking Lot’ but pointed at the ‘Forecourt’ but I am sure he meant for me to go to the Parking Lot at the back.”?
This highly improbable thought was a likelihood because Bruno’s car was not visible within the confines of the forecourt. So I went to the ‘City Oil Parking Lot’, which I realised – when I go there – was actually the Cafe Javas (not City Oil) Parking Lot!
There was no way Bruno would think to himself a thought such as, “But this guy said City Oil Parking Lot and this one is the Cafe Javas one. Maybe the City Oil Parking Lot is the one downstairs?” before proceeding downstairs.
But because I could see no sign of either him or the car he was driving when I last saw him, I accepted the extremely unbelievable premise that his mind had gone that way.
Even as I hurried down the staircase I was calculating to myself that the time that had gone between my leaving the car and that point at which I was trying to work out his whereabouts, was generally too short for Bruno to have made all those decisions.
He wasn’t there. Neither was the car.
NOTE 3: Never think too much when working Bruno out.
Just in case – in the very unlikely event – Bruno had happened to be driving to and fro as I had walked from forecourt to parking lot to parking lot and we had missed each other that way, I basically sprinted back.
Remember, at this point, that I had just been on a dentist’s chair. One side of my face felt like a basketball and my tongue was as thick as my belly (I’ve REALLY skipped the gym).
I told myself, when I got through the upper parking lot and was standing on the forecourt, that perhaps my words had been garbled when I told him to park in the City Oil parking lot.
But then, if that were the case, how had he heard me telling him to go to Kisementi? Maybe my pointing had been unclear, because of something to do with the painkillers I had swallowed at the dentist’s?
If so, WHERE could he be? Had he gone to the City Oil on Bombo Road? Bakuli? Kyambogo? Had he gone to a Sitya Loss concert?
I maintained baffle stations as I walked into Cafe Javas to find someone – anyone – with a mobile phone I could use to call him (remember I left mine in the car?) even though I knew the odds were that his phone would be off.
For the first time since it opened, I walked through Cafe Javas Kisementi and recognised nobody there – not even the staff!
I resumed my bamboozlement about Bruno’s whereabouts, which led me to the simplest possible explanation: Perhaps he had stopped listening after the Kisementi instruction.
There are people who do this. Like when you ask someone for a phone number over the phone and you don’t have pen or paper, but after they read it out to you they try to continue the conversation while for you you are just reciting in your head “0-7-9-2-8-0-0-0-8-0”. Eventually you just hang up on them, planning to save the number then call back claiming the network was bad, so that you don’t appear to be a selfish caller…then they call you back when you’ve only typed out four digits…
Bruno was at Kisementi.
So I turned and headed over there, quickly. Even as I got to the corner of the Acacia Mall, I realised the risk of turning off to Kisementi at the same time as Bruno was probably giving up on finding parking there and was driving to City Oil.
So I stopped and pondered my options.
And it was while I was doing so that I turned to face the direction from whence I had conducted my frantic search, to see Bruno’s car slowly reversing into a parking spot, in the ‘Parking Lot’ of Cafe Javas.
As he turned from inspecting his parking prowess, since he doesn’t like to use the side mirrors, our eyes met and he quickly dropped his away. The guilt was obvious, and I pondered over it as I crossed the road yet again to finally embark the vehicle.
“Bruno,” I said quite sternly with my temper fully in check and my tongue quite restored, “Where did you go?”
He tried that tactic of mumbling something unclear but I sustained my line of questioning, unwavered.
“Sir,” he said, “I drove around.”
This was insufficient information, so I probed further.
“I am sorry, sir,” he conceded a minute later, “I went to Kisementi…”
So I had eventually been right.
But then…why had he come here, then, at the end of it all? What had made him think of City Oil? What had happened at Kisementi?
“There was no parking at Kisementi…”
Think about that for a moment.
Yes – if he HAD found parking space at Kisementi, he might have parked the car there and I would have STILL circulated round City Oil and Javas before walking to Kisementi. But supposing I had left the car with my phone, or had found one of you guys with a phone inside Java’s, was his mobile phone on?
“No, sir. My battery is dead…”