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Downtown dreadlocks. The muzungu’s blind date

Sep 3 • 6971 views • 32 Comments on Downtown dreadlocks. The muzungu’s blind date Uganda

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.

downtown Kampala street

Lunchtime on a downtown Kampala street and the streets are fairly quiet

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!

Uganda dating. first date. Dreadlocks

A very Ugandan first date. At the hair salon

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).

African buffet lunch Gardens Restaurant Fort Portal

A cooked Ugandan lunch comes in one size only: BIG!

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?]

Ugandan hair salon sign

“Trust me with u’r stayle” hair salon, near Mubende, Uganda

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… ?)

“My sister!”

To choruses of “my sister” and “jajja,” I worked my way down the street towards Owino market.

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.

cobbler shoes Owino market Kampala

The shy tailor – cobbler – was delighted for me to take his photo. Fixing my sandals outside Owino market, Kampala

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.

cobbler shoes Owino market Kampala

Not the best view in Kampala but certainly the best shoe repair prices!

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!

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32 Responses to Downtown dreadlocks. The muzungu’s blind date

  1. Ruth says:

    haha. Bambi.
    I just love your blog.

  2. Devon says:

    “I went into town looking for love. Instead, I got a shy smile from the old cobbler.”

    Some may argue that this old cobbler’s shy smile was a display of love in its purist form. 😉
    This photo makes me very happy.

    I look forward to visiting Uganda for the first time before the year is over. I will be spending the majority of my time near Mbale.
    Thank you for this great blog 🙂

    • the muzungu says:

      Hello Devon, thanks for your comments.
      That guy made my day. You can run around all day trying to make people happy (and not get anywhere!) then an unexpected smile from a stranger makes the whole day special.
      I don’t know if your time or budget will allow, but hiking Wagagai (Mount Elgon) is highly recommended. Closest big town is Mbale.
      Enjoy Uganda. I’m sure you will!

    • Zilla says:

      Sorry about that miss….so were u able to get the love u wanted???

  3. Paris ariah nicole says:

    Haahahhaa ugandan men uhuh. .so on the First date he expresses his need for a green card and then cant Pay for lunch. ..run girl run. …

  4. Shem Nambale says:

    hehehe that dreadlocked Ugandan was just a desperate hustler trying to make ends meet through a mzungu. He gives the rest of us Ugandan men a bad name. Love your blog mzungu

    • the muzungu says:

      You’re right, just a hustler I reckon. But they come in all shapes and sizes… He had a good job. He told me took care of his younger siblings, think he felt it was his turn to be looked after!

  5. Hmmm, not a good experience!
    I guess we have to train our Ugandan men on dating ethics & you can try men in suits with definitely no dreads… (hihihi)

  6. Nanssy says:

    Wow.. This is amazing

  7. kenya couk says:

    Can’t really see a problem with East Africa???? Southern Railway – ThamesLink in the UK don’t offer a much better service than that of East Africa???? And let’s face it the M25 is no driving paradise as is the sections on the M1 from Junction 13 southbound to London. PS M6 around Birmingham (M62 at Manchester) is no paradise either…………..

  8. Andrew says:

    Enjoyed that story C !

  9. Yusuf says:

    If you still wana date a Ugandan, try me.
    Nice seeing my society through your lens…

  10. Arnold says:

    “The average Ugandan seems to spend a lot of their life just sitting around”
    Condescending much!?

    • the muzungu says:

      Church
      Weddings
      Wedding meetings
      Introductions
      Speeches
      More speeches
      Yet more speeches?!
      Prayers to start meetings
      Long lines at the bank
      Long journeys up country
      8 hours at the saloon having your hair done

      … And you sit thru all this while rarely complaining…!

      Eh banange.

  11. Chris says:

    Not all Ugandan men are like tha my friend

  12. Joe says:

    I’m sorry that your blind date turned out to be an awful experience… but that shy smile from the cobbler was nothing but pure… The more we chase love…the more it runs away from us…the same thin with happiness… Happiness is like a butterfly…the more you chase it…the more it will elude you… But if you turn your attention to other things… The butterfly will just come and settle on your shoulder… That explains the smile from the cobbler… I really hope you don’t judge all Ugandan men based on that one horrible experience… God Bless

  13. […] Sep 3 › Downtown dreadlocks. The muzungu’s blind date » […]

  14. Gift Fred says:

    HAHAHAH…….I love the story…………………though am a rasta but to me its just a style and I dont mind what peope say

  15. Quin says:

    Hahah…this is such an elaborate and beautifully written piece. Well, inspite of your awful experience, the sense of adventure and fun can be felt. There will be other loves, other rastas and finally your true Ugandan love. Looks like you’re on top of your game so I’m sure you won’t get duped. I love the way you express yourself in a very Ugandan way when you say “banange” when at a complete loss of words. A nice read…

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Quin, thanks for taking the time to comment. You know the good thing about writing a blog is that you can write your way out of annoying or sometimes distressing situations. It’s quite therapeutic!
      I find Ugandans often talk in quite a poetic fashion. It makes me wonder what I am missing by not being fluent in any African languages. I love playing around with language.

  16. Jascinta says:

    Hahhaha hahaha this story made my day, This remainded me of aguy who took me out for lunch but he had only 5000 in his pocket. U can imagine asking a girl out for lunch with 5000 only. I ended up paying for the whole bill.since then I become Idependent

    • the muzungu says:

      Thanks Jascinta 🙂
      What is it about 5000 shillings? It seems to be a common theme! These guys probably start off small. They think if you can lend them 5,000 shillings one time, they can scale up to 10,000 shillings and 20,000 shillings. Strategising!
      Good to hear you are now independent. I usually find that is the best way thru this dating confusion!

  17. Mujibul Alam Khan says:

    Appreciate your thought provoking blogs. I have tight schedule in East Africa, want to browse Kampala in 2 days. Possible? Any tips on budget accommodation to things to do?

    Best regards,

    Mujibul
    Johannesburg
    South Africa

    • the muzungu says:

      Thanks Mujibul 🙂

      Yes Kampala in two days is possible. I suggest:

      Uganda Museum, Kira Road. Low key but intriguing. Very small entrance fee.

      If there’s a football match on, go watch it or watch in a bar. Ugandans LOVE football!

      Eat a rollex! Street food.

      Ndere Cultural Centre. Absolutely the best introduction to Uganda and Africa. Very professional dance and music show, Wednesdays and Sundays.
      Shake your kabina! A musical, dancing tour of Uganda.

      Baha’i Temple set on a hill just north of centre of Kampala. Hexagonal-shaped building on top of small hill. Can see it from afar as it is lit at night. No charge. Non-denominational service every Sunday.

      Gaddafi Mosque. Best panoramic views of Kampala. Biggest mosque in East Africa. Climb to the top of the minaret for best views of the city. Small charge.

      Boda boda (motorbike) city tour – $35
      This is the quick and easy way to visit items one and two. See Walter’s boda boda tours
      For tips on riding a boda, see How to ride a boda boda

      Lake Victoria. Read “Eating fish” on Lake Victoria – the Muzungu’s guide Local prices, great experience.

      Kampala has numerous busy markets and a growing number of shopping malls. Go downtown to the ‘taxi park’ for real sense of crazy chaotic Kampala! (Leave your valuables in safe at the hostel).

      Currently people in Kampala are flocking to Acacia Mall, which is on Kisementi Square, Kamwokya. I recommend La Patisserie and Cafesserie (excellent coffee, the best patisserie in Kampala, superb desserts, European style menus and prices to reflect that!) Both at Acacia Mall.

      Eat Out Uganda lists Kampala’s restaurants and cafes.

      On Kisementi Sq itself, I recommend Endiro excellent coffee and cheaper than other two cafes. Le Bistrot, excellent Indian and international food. Que Pasa very lively Mexican bar. Good for cocktails and afterwork drinks. Sometimes has live music.

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