1 December 2012

Kenya: Surviving the City After a Few Days' Holiday

If there is one thing the folk in this town love to do, it has to be travelling long distances. People will plan for weeks or even months on a destination that they have been dreaming about for a while.

They will start the process by informing everyone on their social networks on their plans. The person states that he just came from either the airline or long distance bus operator to buy tickets for the epic journey.

With the transport sorted out, then comes the booking process and as our guy chooses the hotel, everyone in his radius has to know. After that be sure to be inundated with photos of the places he plans to visit. "In a few days I will be laying on this very beach on this deck chair, holding a drink with an umbrella," he will state.

The countdown is very important and the guy will keep you posted on the number of days to the big day. He will have Facebook posts like, "13 days to take off" then "12 days to take off" then "11 days to take off" until the departure day.

On the day of departure, He'll write statements like; "Today is the day. Malindi/Zanzibar/Diani/Mogadishu here I come!". There will be a tearful farewell for all those around him, including colleagues, neighbours, security personnel at the office etc.

Even people on the streets will be victims as any negative comment even from a matatu tout or driver will met with responses like, "Twenty four hours from now I will be laying on a beach so whatever you do doesn't matter."

He will return a few days later. The major problem, on returning to the city, will not just be the depressing part of waking up early in the morning and going to work. The real challenge will be on money matters.

Our guy will usually have budgeted for the holiday but not for the days after his return. After all, it is not too difficult to get a Visa-branded ATM these days so fun will have gone on and on until the account has been cleared.

The Nairobian will now have to cope with little or no money until the end of the month, which can be very tricky. Our enterprising guy will of course start looking for the few people who owe him money.This will be anyone who owes him anything from the thousands to the hundreds.

If you owe this person Sh200, you can expect to get a call demanding you make the payment instantly. There are no niceties at this point and you don't want to know how this usually gentle soul can turn on you if you dare not deliver.

Of course the creditors will try their best to deliver but it will never be as fast as our guy wants. The long-haul traveller will now turn to friends and colleagues to chip in and bridge the gap for the outstanding weeks.

So, the guy, who hours before was regaling you with tales from another county or country as you indulged in the chocolate he brought for the whole office, changes.

He will be asking you for some money and the closer you are, the bigger the amount he will be borrowing. Requests start with "buy me lunch" and to "please hook me up with a few Gs." Sometimes he won't even get the cash and he will start drinking water for lunch, claiming that doctors recommend that we drink eight glasses of water daily for proper digestion.

He will also brush his shoes vigorously outside the office so that workmates don't suspect that he walked all the way to work. His trick will however be discovered soon afterwards since during crazy days, people use all manner of routes to avoid traffic jam.

His motoring colleagues will see him sweating down the road. If our guy spots a colleague driving towards him, he will pretend that he is on a fitness exercise but we can all see through it. Eventually the end of the month comes and he will go back to his old ways... until a new holiday is on the horizon.

Venue review: Boda boda, Garden City mall, Yusuf Lule Road, Kampala

Last weekend I was in Kampala as a slew of regional activities saw many Kenyans land in the capital of the pearl of Africa.

One of the many pubs that I visited was the Boda Boda Pub at the Rock City Mall. The pub was at the top of the mall which had an elevator and a ramp for those who are wheelchair-bound. Top marks for that.

As I walked into the place, I noticed that the pub was quite spacious. The main section had a counter with a few barmen, a reasonably-sized dance floor and a section where one could sit and have a drink.

There was also an outside area where one could have a drink. Outside, there was a restaurant outside called Mwanzo, which I could not establish if it had anything to do with the pub.

The pub's design had an African style with carved wood, as a major component of its décor. Even the decor in the washrooms seemed well thought out and followed the African theme with some cool masks besides the taps.

I took a seat near the dance floor and ordered a drink that I had come to like due to its smooth blend, called Bell Lager. The price here was Ush6,000 (Ksh200) which was high compared to the beer prices in some of the pubs I had visited, which seemed to hover around the Ush4500 (Ksh150) mark.

After getting my drink I started to look around. On the dance floor, some patrons were dancing to tunes which were a mix of urban music from East Africa, Jamaican dancehall and American rythme and blue classics.

The crowd was well decked out and was a mix of the young and the old. Outside the dance floor, patrons were a more mature mix, looking multicultural and cosmopolitan and I felt quite at home.

After several drinks, I asked for my bill and we had to get into a haggling contest with the waiter who had added an extra beer on my bill.

Then I visited the washrooms and I found them very clean. I wouldn't be very worried if an emergency broke out when I'm at the pub because it has many exits. A quick recap of the venue;

Good: Excellent décor, clean washrooms, a dance floor! Convenient location, mature cosmopolitan crowd, emergency exits available

Bad: Service leaves a lot to be desired especially where waiters and padded bills are concerned.

My verdict: This is a very nice place to have a few drinks if you ever found yourself in Kampala but you need to be eagle-eyed to avoid being swindled by waiters.

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