Waiting for the bus to depart: Nyabugogo bus park, Kigali
I can’t believe my luck. My allocated seat – number 11 – happens to be the window seat near the front of the bus. I couldn’t have chosen a better position. (Luckily it’s not so near the front that I can see danger looming! Jaguar Executive Coaches block off the driver’s cabin from the rest of the passengers, which suits me just fine). I always travel between Rwanda and Uganda’s capital cities with Jaguar, as regular blog readers may recall.
From my window seat, I kill time watching a man cleaning and repairing shoes. The shoeshine man has set up his makeshift shop in one of the bright yellow bus shelters. On a blue painted wooden bench sit eight pairs of clean shoes, their wet tongues hanging out to dry.
A man wearing dark green overalls stops at the shoeshine man’s bus shelter to remove one of his baseball boots. (What is the fashion with cutting the huge hole in the backside of your overalls? Is it general wear and tear? Is it for quick access at the local latrine? I don’t mean to stare at the guy’s bum, but… my eyes are drawn to it by the gaping hole!)
The shoeshine man retrieves a pair of blue flip-flops for the customer. The new arrival removes his threadbare “peephole” socks (to match his “peephole” overalls) and wipes the dirt from between his toes. He folds his socks away into a small ball. He puts the ball of socks in his pocket and leaves his boots with the shoeshine man before he walks off in the temporary footwear.
In the meantime, a smart-looking gentleman removes one of his black office shoes. The shoeshine man picks out a pair of black sandals from his canvas sack and hands them to the new customer. The man who arrived wearing black office shoes rolls up the bottom of his trousers, puts on the black flip-flops and disappears into the Nyabugogo bus park crowd.
His customers temporarily gone – replaced by their shoes – the shoeshine man gets to work, scrubbing another pair of black leather shoes. He scrubs them with a green plastic brush, as he bends over a red plastic basin of water. He looks around for something, and pulls an old T-shirt from his white canvas sack. He dries the shoe thoroughly with the T-shirt.
A tall man in a white baseball cap sits on the yellow plastic bench of the bus shelter, grabs a brush and starts to brush his black boots. No money exchanges hands.
Customer number four is given bright pink plastic sandals to wear. They look rather like a lady’s house slippers to me. The man sits gazing into the distance, chewing on a toothpick. Another guy in long green overalls comes to stand under the bus shelter. He looks over at the Muzungu in the bus and flashes me a big grin. I’m trying not to stare – but he has this huge gaping hole in the back of his overalls too – and he’s rather handsome… from the front and from the back too!
A boy selling newspapers stops in front of the bus shelter. He grabs a brush, gives his shoes a quick scuff and moves on through the crowd.
As people come and go, one thing is constant: the shoeshine man works and works, hardly passing the time of day to chat or to look up from his work. The ‘man in pink sandals’ walks off contentedly – transformed into ‘the man in brown polished brogues’.
A young man walks by, with an empty milk churn hanging off one arm. A paper tissue drops out of his pocket onto the ground. A minute later, a woman in a headscarf and red batik wrap approaches, equipped with a traditional broom and a red plastic shopping bag containing a battered old cardboard box and miscellaneous rubbish. She leans down to pick up an empty crisp packet and the tissue. The shoeshine man hands her some of his rubbish. They do not acknowledge each other. I sense the rhythm of a regular routine. It’s a relaxing way to wile away a few minutes before the bus pulls out of Nyabugogo bus park for Kampala.
If you enjoy the muzungu’s occasional cross-border bus journeys, read:
I didn’t understand much but the salesman’s words: “Tsunami in the vagina” and aggressive pelvic thrusting into the bus seat next to him somehow caught my attention.
This guy should have been on the stage: the traveling salesman who literally travels as he travels, walking up and down the aisle of the bus from Kampala to Kigali, working the crowd, proffering samples and chucking out sweets to an enrapt audience of hecklers. How I wished I understood Luganda at that moment!
Julia complained that she hardly slept for the whole journey. She only fell asleep for the most interesting part: passing through a private wildlife reserve, where I spotted zebra and antelope from my window seat. “You snooze, you lose!” As she likes to tell me…
We drove from the coach park straight into heavy evening traffic – and the side of a car. After ten minutes of arguing and arm waving, the consensus was that the car was the one-size-fits-all Ugandan term: “stubborn.”