Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: What’s Eating Our Sisters From The North?

A woman in the Nam-Okora camp for internally displaced persons in northern Uganda.

I really admire the ladies from the North.  I think when God was creating us; he started from up there and took all his time to do a perfect job.  Their skin is always flawless and glistening. In fact I have yet to meet one with pimples. They have excellent dental, perfect nails and bodies that defy nature.  While other tribes’ bodies spread and burst in middle age, our sisters hold it in so decently.

They are also physically strong, hardworking and generally humble enough to do jobs other women would be mortified to be seen doing. If carrying a 50kg basket of bananas with a child on your back from Kawempe to Kampala isn’t hard work, then I do not know what is.

But all these great attributes get lost on the general population because of their clenched fist attitude. Correct me if I am wrong but every one of them I have met seems to be spoiling for a fight at the slightest provocation. For heaven’s sake the war in the North ended 20 years ago let it go. Even the way they exhibit their joy is quite scary.

Today I am riding with one of these babes, dark and beautiful but as hard as nails. She steps on my toes hard as she settles down besides me and says “don’t mind sister” instead of apologizing. Of course I mind as I might lose the toe. She then adds “well done” I am confused and ask her what for. She looks at me as if I am an alien and explains that it’s a form of greeting. I want to ask her what happened to “how are you” but instead I smile at her in typical Ugandan style and we soon settle down.

However, our peace does not last as her phone rings and a very animated conversation ensues.  It is carried out at full throttle, the laugh is so loud and shrill it reminds you of mating hyenas. Every sentence is punctuated with “praise God and Hallelujah”. This babe scores 110% for spiritual fervor but zero for decorum.

Now dear sister just because we don’t understand what you are saying does not mean that you should say it so loudly in a public place.

As she talks, she throws her head, limbs and whole body around in the most unlady like way.  The result is that her two- piece buttoned up ensemble of black polyester skirt and coat gives way and we are treated to her unsightly undergarments.

I pray for the chair to swallow me at the sight of her lacy white half-slip,  the kind that went out of style with the July 1985 coup d’état.  To save myself from further mortification, I close my eyes and start silently humming Pharrel Williams ‘Happy’ hoping to escape into my ‘safe’ place and it works.

Hey, I am a Ugandan woman who spends a minimum of four hours daily travelling in taxis. Like you, I used to dread the taxi rides until I realized that it is a source of a variety of free entertainment and an interesting study of human nature.