When you get to know me, you’ll find that I’m pretty clueless. I am also a major scatterbrain. I’m talking ‘Walking into walls I see in front of me’ scatterbrain. My Luganda is weak, but I like to think what I also am is a fala. And a year ago, the universe decided it was time to take my fala manifestation to a whole new level. The details of how I got my first job will be shared someday, during a weepy testimony on God’s greatness ( 1% chance? ) or a drunken brag fest. Or I might whisper it to you over cold fries because I don’t like to feel like I’m bragging. It’s a pretty amazing story after all.
Anyway, the outcome of this amazing, braggy, amazingly braggy story is that me, who had only been as far as Nebbi town in my life up until that point, ended up on a flight to Johannesburg because of a job interview that went well. Now, I am a fala. I know this because I came back from that trip thinking “Ah, that was a nice place we stayed at. The cars were real nice.” until I watched Lasizwe buy a house in the same suburb. Is it okay to call Sandton a suburb?
Location aside, there was also a serious case of sensory overload. I needed at least a week to process the airport alone, and I had to be out of there in 5 minutes. I needed maybe another week for someone to explain why all the cars were new. I also needed to kiss the roads, roads that only heard of potholes in the scary stories they probably told each other at sleepovers. Yes, I do believe these roads went on sleepovers. After all that was done, I needed to go on a 6-month retreat on ‘How to not stare at rich, pretty people, with a bonus session on how to not be overly excited and tell your South African colleagues “You sound South African in real life!!” because that’s rude, Samalie’.
Anyway, you might imagine that all this excitement got me hungry. The food? I am only sad that my falaism struck again and I saw the ice cream and pastries section the day before we left. I think it was 3 or 5 courses per meal. I don’t know. I was overwhelmed guys. So at my first lunch, I grabbed a plate. Turns out white ceramic plates are the same in Sandton. And there I was, every African, Ugandan and Jonam in me fighting sense. What do you mean I have to be polite and pick either beef, chicken or pork? Do you realize this pig is not Uganda, Sir? I must partake. And Sir, this fish is not regular nyanja fish. Having this ocean fish on my plate might give me an accent! You know I need it, half these guys can’t hear me. Do you have Basmati here, Mr. Serving Man? In my country we eat Basmati at fancy places. I’d like some Sandton Basmati then. And what do we have here?
What do we have here?
What is this doing here???
In that beautiful, well lit food display stand, in that beautiful hotel place, in that beautiful town in that beautiful country on that beautiful day, surrounded by beautiful people in beautiful clothes, kawunga lay, bathed in gold light. Mr. Serving Man offered me some kawunga, but it seems this one had escaped from the pans in Buganda Road and managed to convince everyone its name was actually Pap. I sneered. No, I don’t want your fancy posho sir. I want some Basmati rice.
“I see you made it here too”
“Shut up”, I whispered. “We don’t know each other”
“Is that what you told them?”
“This is my moment. My fancy trip. I took a PLANE to get here. Why would you ruin this for me?”
“You needed a friend”
“I can eat spaghetti and rice. And potatoes”
“I wasn’t made by Ugandan cooks. Don’t you want to know how the South Africans do it?”
“Doesn’t mean you aren’t kawunga”
“I’m curry flavored”
“And I’m wearing perfume”
“Seriously, try me. I’m nice with wors and Chakalaka”
“Nonsense, those are long sausages and that’s eggplants and stuff”
“Silly girl. I’ve met more bazungu than you. They love me. You? Meh”
I glared. Kawunga stared back.
I thanked Mr Serving Man. He never answered. Maybe he thought I was the fluke, that I was the one that didn’t belong in that Instagram-esque world. I knew that if I tried to explain it to him, I’d probably look worse. He’d probably stand in between that food warmer and the insane me, trying to use my fancy new pen to break the glass, screaming bloody murder at the top of my voice. He’d say “Pap is actually a part of our culture; it’s been here for years”, and I’d scream until my voice got hoarse and I had to be thrown on the next flight home. And I wasn’t leaving that town until it was nearly illegal for me to be there. So I ate my meal in peace. And no, there was no Basmati.
On the Saturday we left, it rained. Just like in the movies. Our flight home was early, and I never got to know whether Pap was on the menu for lunch. But the further away I got from the nice hotel-place, the louder I could hear the laughter.
“You know they also call me mealie meal? Have a safe flight home, now.”