What did I say to Julia?
After one dating disaster too many I joked that “if another guy with dreadlocks wants to date me, the first thing he has to do is shave his head.”
Moving on, a few months go by and the girls were having a giggle… Elisabeth wanted to set me up on a blind date with a friend of hers.
“Teddy works in a salon,” she told me. “You can just drop by one day, and check him out first. He won’t know. He’s fed up going out with Ugandan girls who keep messing him around. He said he fancies going out with a Muzungu.”
We checked him out, surreptitiously. My friend gave him my phone number. He called me.
“I just wondered what you’re doing tomorrow? I’ll be in Kampala,” he said.
“Call me when you get to the taxi park. I’ll be at the saloon by the bus station,” he added.
As I got off the boda boda downtown the next day, half a dozen men from different upcountry bus companies ran towards me and demanded to know where I was going: Lira, Gulu, Masaka, Soroti, where….?
“I’m going to the salooooon,” I answered. (A salon in English, in Uglish it’s a saloon.]
I’m an independent kind of girl so I didn’t call Teddy straightaway; I just thought I’d see whether I could find him first.
A couple of people helpfully offered to guide me to a saloon of their recommendation. He wasn’t in the first one.
Would I recognise him?
In the second salon, I saw a man having his head shaved. Were the dreadlocks coming off? Had he read my mind? Had he read ‘that blog’? Had Julia told him he would have to shave his head? The man’s head was bent forward, so I couldn’t see his face. All I could see were the last two inches of hair being removed by the razor.
The man lifted up his head. It wasn’t Teddy.
Two saloons later and I still hadn’t found him.
In the bustling street, a young man in an orange T-shirt tapped me on the shoulder. I was going to ignore him but he said my name out loud. He introduced himself as Teddy’s brother.
I followed him through the crowded streets into a crammed shopping arcade where we climbed up three flights of stairs. (How would I ever have found this saloon on my own?) And there was Teddy, sitting on the balcony, grinning at me. “I’ve been watching you from up here,” he said.
Guess what? He was having his dreadlocks redone!
And you seriously call this a date?
We had some general chitchat and he offered me a soda. We sat and chatted while his brother worked on his hair.
On the salon veranda, overlooking the buses, we ordered lunch: beans, rice, cassava and matooke. He laughed when I said in Luganda “Silya enyama” (I don’t eat meat).
The lady from the restaurant looked very impressed that the Muzungu was eating the big plate of “black African food” she’d brought into the saloon for us.
Teddy’s brother encouraged me to clear my plate. “No leftovers or they’ll charge us more,” he quipped.
“I love the UK so much! I love the Queen!” Said Teddy.
Was this supposed to impress me? “Why do you love the Queen?” Quizzed the Muzungu.
“I am a prince.” [Perplexed look on the Muzungu’s face….]
“I know a Prince,” I jumped in, looking for the logic. Was he trying to tell me he’s a monarchist? (I never did get to the bottom of that one).
He next explained that his dad and his sister live in the UK. He showed me a message from his dad saying that he should get a green card for the US. Why he showed me this, I don’t know. [And where did he think I was really from?]
We talked a bit about music. “What music do you like? Elton John?” He enquired.
Oh pleeeease. Why do so many Ugandans live in this 1980s musical timewarp? It drives me nuts. (Yes Elton John is an amazing singer/ songwriter but forgive me Elton, your heyday was 30 years ago).
After lunch, Teddy explained that he had left his money at home – a pretty impressive move for a first date.
He said he wanted to buy us lunch, but “could I lend him 5,000 shillings?” [Approx $1.50 / £1.00]
I decided not to make a scene. Lending him money on our first date wasn’t what I had in mind. However, since it would cost me at least this much to eat lunch anywhere else in town, I handed over the 5,000 shillings. He said he would pay me back that afternoon. (Afterwards I asked myself: why didn’t he just ask his brother to pay for lunch?)
Time went by. We ran out of conversation. I looked up at the TV.
His brother noticed I was getting bored and asked me if I’d like to read a magazine, and produced some old copies of African Woman: dated 2006.
What am I doing here? I asked myself…
The average Ugandan seems to spend a lot of their life just sitting around. I can’t do it. This was a work day and I’d come into town – just to meet him. I asked Teddy what he was planning to do for the rest of the day. He said he would be another couple of hours and then he was going to look for 10,000 shillings from one place and 20,000 from another. I told him I had some work to do.
He said he would call me to see about meeting up later. (Could I be bothered… ?)
The strap of my sandal broke. “Those sandals must be Chinese!” Said a man sitting outside a shop. As I hobbled along, people looked down at the muzungu’s broken sandal, smiled and said “bambi” and “sorry” as the Muzungu limped on by.
A boda driver called out at me “I give you a lift!” A cloud of dust lifted in the air as he SMACKED the seat of his motorbike, in anticipation of the muzungu’s kabina.
Across the road, a man with a handful of T-shirts beckoned me.
“Here is the tailor,” he said.
Just outside the entrance to Owino, next to the open sewer, an old man sat hunched under a big umbrella fixing shoes in the dust. He gave me a wooden stool to sit on, a perfect vantage point for watching men on the opposite bank of the sewer playing dominoes and urinating against the wall.
Within minutes, my sandal was expertly fixed, for just 2,000 Uganda shillings (not the 20,000 shillings some chancer tried to rob me of another time!)
I went into town looking for love. Instead, I got a shy smile from the old cobbler.
Actually, I couldn’t have been happier.
STOP PRESS: I hear that Teddy has lost the dreads. I did agree to see him a second time – but this time he bounced, his phone went off and I didn’t get a call or explanation for a whole week. Some people are so unserious!