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Old 02-13-2007, 04:09 AM   #101
adsman
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Re: On Changing your Life

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adsman deserves a custom title!
I asked for mazungu but it seems no dice.

There are three types of white people in Uganda. Tourists, ex-pats who get it, and ex-pats who don’t. The ex-pats who don’t understand how to adjust stay for the most part behind their bolted gates, while making quick trips in relative luxury to the must-see locations. Tourists for the most part, are walking ATM’s. Anywhere they go they will be ripped off and extorted. But they don’t know, so they don’t mind, because they’re in Africa and “Gee, isn’t this swell?”

Then there are the ex-pats who get it. When almost everyone wants to use you for your perceived status, you have to adjust your behavior. Some find this morally difficult to do. They think they are being racist. You’re not being racist, you’re doing it to survive. The Ugandans are playing a game with you. Either step up and take it to them, or stay behind your closed doors.

An example. It was Melbourne Cup day. The Melbourne Cup is a famous Australian horse race. The Australian embassy in Nairobi was having their yearly Melbourne Cup Ball. Milo and I had been invited, due to the fact that when we’re together, unusual events take place. We decided to dress up for it. We made jackets out of baby flip-flop sandals. Sewed them all together. Green for Milo, yellow for me. The Aussie colours. They looked great. We actually made the front page of the Australian embassy times, the in-house magazine that goes to all the Aussie embassies in the world. But I digress….

Nairobi is a one hour flight, or a twelve hour drive. Milo was busy at this time setting up his own rafting company. He had split from the rafting company and gone into partnership with a local Indian businessman. As he had so much to do, he only had time to fly in. I took the bus with his crazy English girlfriend, Alison. She had lived in Uganda all her life. She was a little flighty but we got along well. The twelve hour trip is along roads that are not of the greatest quality. It is important not to sit at the back of the bus. Your head will spend most of the time hitting the roof. Halfway between the middle and the front is the best spot. We got on and headed for the border.

The border is interesting. There is a 100 meter stretch of land between Uganda and Nairobi that belongs to neither country. It is no-mans land. So legally, in that stretch of earth, there are no laws. And you’re in Africa. Kind of scary when you think about it. What’s more daunting is the fact that when the bus arrives you have to get off the bus and walk the 100 meters to Kenya while the bus trundles past empty. At the Kenyan border you go to the customs house, get your visa sorted out and get back on the bus. The 100 meter stretch is packed with people. I was traveling with a beautiful six foot English white girl with large breasts. This would have normally been a problem, if not for the fact that Alison was not clueless. She understood how the system works.

We hightailed it off the bus. There were quite a few tourists and we didn’t want to get stuck behind them at customs and lose our bus. There were a few guys sitting there on boda-boda motorbikes. These are little bikes that have had an extra seat attached to the back. They are one of the primary means of getting around the countryside. They are also bloody dangerous. Boda means border, and this is where they originated; to run people the 100 meter stretch between the borders. We grabbed one each, I flashed them some US currency and we sped off the 100 meters. When we got to the customs house the line was quite small. We paid the boys and got in line. I ended up in front of a scowling, fat, female, Ugandan petty official. Are there any other kind? She sneered at me and demanded my documents. We were about to play the game.

My documents were all in order. It should have been a simple charge for the Kenyan visa and then bye-bye. But no. She thought she had spotted a mark. She looked me up and down and said,
“Mazungu, where is your yellow fever vaccination certificate?”

It was back in Kampala, and there was no way I was going back to get it. I didn’t even know if I needed it in this situation, in fact I seriously doubted it as you couldn’t enter the country and get a Ugandan visa in the first place without it. But I wasn’t going to try and explain myself on the route. That would be a world of pain ending in me paying a nice little bribe. All of this flashed through my brain in a nano-second as I responded instantly in an aggressive tone with,

“I don’t need my yellow fever vaccination certificate!”

She was taken back by this. She reverted to charming personality. “Oh mazungu, of course you need your certificate. You cannot leave country without that.”

I replied as soon as she had finished speaking. Do not hesitate, do not show any doubt, show 100% confidence and be a prick. If she wanted a bribe she was going to have a hard time. “Yes I can. You know I don’t need one. Here’s my visa fee. Give me the stamp. Now.”

“Eh!” This is a word in the Ugandan language. It is used to convey surprise. It translates to; “I don’t believe what this person is saying. How could this be true? I have never encountered something like this in all of my life.” When they say ‘Eh’, you’ve got them. Behind me standing in the line, was an American couple. They were looking around in wide-eyed wonder. They were talking in loud voices. They were hoping that they wouldn’t have any problems crossing the border. They were clueless. The petty official heard them. She looked at me, made up her mind and without a word stamped my passport. Why bother arguing with this guy when there are two walking bribe victims right behind him? In my year and a half in Africa I never paid a bribe. Not once.

Alison hadn’t had any problems either. We re-boarded the bus and headed for Nairobi. Don’t go to Nairobi. It’s a very dangerous place. Kampala is wonderful, Nairobi is a nightmare. We arrived and got something to eat in a restaurant while waiting for Milo to show up. We were in the centre of the city. In less than half an hour we witnessed three muggings outside the restaurant. I hadn’t seen one in all my time in Uganda. There was a different feel in Kenya. The locals do not like whitey. In Uganda the locals think that Jesus was white, and we are white, so we must be closer to Jesus. Not here. There was a ripple of nastiness traveling just below the surface. Milo arrived and we high-tailed it to the hotel where the ball was being held.

That evening was the semi-final in the rugby world cup between Australia and South Africa. Milo and I wanted to get a beer before the ball so we wandered into the downstairs bar. It was packed with Aussies watching the game and we were wearing our green and yellow flip-flop jackets. The place went wild when they saw us. We got mobbed, everyone buying us a beer. There were some very hot girls there. We decided to stay. Feck the stupid ball. Half an hour later one of the ball organizers came in. He was looking for us. He begged us to come up. In the end we had to go. Alison would have been very pissed if we had abandoned her up there. The ball was full of ex-pat Aussies and Kiwi’s. Embassy-types, Kenyan cowboys, businessmen, etc. It wasn’t our crowd. They were all wearing ball wear stuff. Tuxedo’s. We were wearing flip-flops. But they loved us. We got spectacularly drunk and dropped some weak acid.

Milo flew out early and the only bus going back that day was at 8.30am. We dropped Milo at the airport and in the same taxi directed the driver to take us to the Akamba bus. He kept driving and driving. It was getting closer to the departure time. He pulled into a huge bus park and our spirits sank. He had taken us to the normal, crazy African bus park. The Akamba bus was a private line. We were in trouble. If an African doesn’t know what you’re talking about he won’t tell you. He will just smile and do whatever and hope that will be cool. He doesn’t want to risk losing his mazungu meal ticket. This had been the case here. We had said Akamba repeatedly. He had never had a ******g clue where to take us. I told Alison to get out the map of the city and I pushed the driver into the back and jumped behind the wheel. He started saying ‘Eh!’ a lot. With Alison directing me I rally-drove that piece of crap through the middle of the city. I didn’t stop once. I broke every driving law known to man and then some. We made it, just. Then he tried to overcharge us. Alison just looked at him and then went to town on the guy. I hauled our gear to the bus which was just about to leave. Twelve hours later we pulled into Kampala. I’d never been so glad to see the place.

Last edited by Yeti; 09-24-2015 at 12:02 AM.
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Old 02-13-2007, 04:26 AM   #102
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Re: On Changing your Life

Freaking awesome.
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Old 02-13-2007, 12:56 PM   #103
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Re: On Changing your Life

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Freaking awesome.
I think you mean, "******g Awesome"!
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Old 02-13-2007, 01:05 PM   #104
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Re: On Changing your Life

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Quote:
Freaking awesome.
I think you mean, "******g Awesome"!
Joe Tall with wit like that maybe you should write a book too.
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Old 02-13-2007, 01:17 PM   #105
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Re: On Changing your Life

"that's africa" they kept saying in blood diamound. Sounds like you have to be one tuff mazungu to make it. You can go on all day with the africa stories, it sounds like it's the wild west
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Old 02-13-2007, 03:21 PM   #106
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Re: On Changing your Life

You and your "Rally car driving a taxi through urban African slums".

I'm sure I've done something just as terrifying and cool.

Umm....

Umm....



I did raise a kid, that's close.
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Old 02-13-2007, 08:14 PM   #107
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Re: On Changing your Life

More life stories please, more poker please.

thanks this is really superb reading
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Old 02-13-2007, 08:39 PM   #108
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Re: On Changing your Life

Good stuff Ads. Keep it up.
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Old 02-13-2007, 08:54 PM   #109
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Re: On Changing your Life

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You always have two decisions available to you. Yes and no. Shall I do this? Yes or no.
Thanks for the great story so far. I quoted this part because despite its obvious simplicity, it's likely to have a profound effect on me.
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Old 02-13-2007, 10:00 PM   #110
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Re: On Changing your Life



Great read!!

Spent some time in Kampala myself 2000-2001.

Nearest I have come to death was on the back of a boda boda. We were zipping up the hill. Very big truck speeding down the hill. Road narrowed at exact point we passed truck.
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Old 02-13-2007, 10:00 PM   #111
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Re: On Changing your Life

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It takes an hour to drive into Kampala from Entebbe. The first thing that struck me was the number of people. Between the airport and the city it’s basically scrubland and jungle, but there were people everywhere. Every 50 or so meters there was a fire on the side of the road with people standing around it. I couldn’t get my head around the situation. We were following an open-backed truck which had about 20 revelers in the back. They were drinking and shouting and carrying on and we couldn’t get past them. The state of the road was disrepair taken to lavish extremes. Suddenly the tailgate of the truck dropped open and a large box flew out of the truck. We had to swerve to avoid it. It cracked open and a body rolled out. It was a coffin. They were going to a funeral. We were stopped behind the truck as we watched the ‘revelers’ jump out to retrieve the body. They were all laughing and passing around bottles of beer. Smoke from the roadside fires drifted across the scene. Mick turned to me and with a deadpan stare said,

“Welcome to Africa.”

This should be the opening of your book.
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Old 02-13-2007, 10:32 PM   #112
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Re: On Changing your Life

adsman,

i check this thread every 12 hours for update. I read your 3am EST posting first thing every morning.

Fascinating adventures >>>> my boring DC life.

Snu
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Old 02-14-2007, 02:56 AM   #113
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Re: On Changing your Life

As usual: Excellent!
Great writing.

A little bit OT but:
If anyone wants to read a great book about Africa, specifically South Africa and the roots of Apartheid, I recommend:
My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience by Rian Malan

Its basically an Afrikaner turned liberal telling the history of his family. Its not an easy read (very bloody, everyone fighting everyone) but it gives great insight into how Africa was shaped, and how the hatred was built.
Im not doing it justice in this description, but I just couldn’t put it down.

After reading it I bought Nelson Mandelas Autobiography. It’s a looong read, I haven’t finished it yet, but it is fascinating so far.
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Old 02-14-2007, 04:49 AM   #114
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Re: On Changing your Life

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Great read!!

Spent some time in Kampala myself 2000-2001.

Nearest I have come to death was on the back of a boda boda. We were zipping up the hill. Very big truck speeding down the hill. Road narrowed at exact point we passed truck.
That's the same time as me. What were you doing there?


A month after I arrived, Milo quit the rafting company and began setting up his own company. Scott was made head guide. Scott had a Ugandan girlfriend, Susan. See was absolutely lovely, but more importantly she came from a rich family. Thus Scott knew that she was truly interested in him as a person, not in what he represented. Eddie had a live-in girlfriend as well. She however, used to be a semi-hooker. We weren’t too keen to have her in the house, as her motives and trustworthiness were extremely questionable. I never touched a Ugandan girl the whole time I was there. I was sorely tempted on occasion, but the high AID’s rate at that time, plus the fact that you could almost never be sure of their true motives led me to keep my distance. It was difficult though. So many beautiful women there.

Near our house was a little bar where some older ex-pats hung out. They looked to be in their late fifties. They always had a young girl on their arm. They spent their days drinking and watching the world go by. They looked to be completely brain-dead.

When Milo left we needed another guide and Scott had a good mate from Cairns who had just finished working a season in Norway. Noah arrived like a blast of fresh air. I knew him from the Tully and we immediately formed a good rapport. Noah was no-nonsense, extremely good fun, and a top guide. I took him into the city the day after he got there and he freaked out at my driving. He started yelling at me and dressing me down. I just looked at him in surprise. I wondered if he was a fish out of water. Two weeks later he drove me into town. He was worse than I was.

The owner of the company lived in New Zealand. At that time, it was the premier rafting company in the world to work for. But he had started cutting corners, as well as costs, and my time there marked the beginning of the company's long decline. He flew out about four months after I got there. It was the first time that I had met him. He seemed nice enough, was a good kayaker and he was enthusiastic to have me there. Our office manager was a Kiwi woman who had previously worked in the New Zealand army as an officer. She was completely incompetent. We held in thinly disguised disdain. The fact that we were doing so few trips made tensions fairly high all round as well. Added to that, our video kayaker, Dave, turned out to be slowly going insane.

In Africa, as a white man especially, you can push the boundaries. Maybe one day you do something that back home would get you into a little bit of trouble, whereas in Africa nothing comes of it. So you start doing it more often, and you push your boundaries further and further. I was driving Noah out to the river one day on the main highway. In the distance I saw a policeman standing on the side of the road. He stepped out and indicated for us to stop. I had a quick look and then I put my foot down and shot right past him.

“Holy crap,” Noah said. “Why the hell didn’t you stop?”

I looked at him. “No gun, no car, no radio. Why the hell would I stop?”

For some, pushing these boundaries became something of a nightmare. If you push too much you risk arriving in dark places. That was the case for Dave. He had been there for three years when I arrived. He had a dark sense of humour, and a great sense of injustice at the world that he carried with him. He had slept with every hooker at Al’s Bar without protection. Every morning a different girl would leave his room. His alcohol intake was impressive. His drug intake was disturbing. One day he went down to the Irish doctor to get an aids test. He came home with it in his hand. It was negative. He didn’t know whether to be happy or depressed. He went out that night and brought three girls home.

It got steadily worse and worse. One morning he didn’t come out of his room for work. The door was locked from the inside and we were unable to rouse him. Finally we broke down the door. He had taken two boxes of valium and drunk three bottles of rum. He had thoughtfully covered his bed in a big sheet of plastic so we wouldn’t have any problems disposing of his body. We rushed him to Doc Clark who managed to fix him up. Two days later he was back home. We located a white psyche to come out and see him. He advised us to send him straight back to New Zealand. The rafting company wouldn’t pay the bill, his family didn’t want to know and we couldn’t come up with the money. He was trapped in his own nightmare. We began sleeping with our doors locked.

One morning I wandered on to the upstairs balcony and found him curled up in the fetal position moaning incoherently. His mind had gone. The English marketing girl was secretly in love with him. She was something of a head case as well. She phoned London and organized two tickets. She had had enough of Uganda as well. We drove them out to the airport. Two years later Dave finally succeeded in killing himself. I think of him as a victim of Africa.

Last edited by Yeti; 11-07-2015 at 10:35 PM.
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:16 AM   #115
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Re: On Changing your Life

You (and your writing) remind me of Hunter Thompson. The Africa parts remind me of his novel The Rum Diaries, and his [edit: non fiction travel book] the Curse of Lono. Both take place in essentially 3rd world environments, and dealing with being a white man there. I'm sure you would love his 2002 autobiography, Kingdom of Fear , if you haven't read it already. All, if you enjoy adsman's posts here, you will not be able to put this book down.
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Old 02-14-2007, 12:08 PM   #116
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Re: On Changing your Life

I check this thread a couple times a day.
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Old 02-14-2007, 12:43 PM   #117
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Re: On Changing your Life

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In the distance I saw a policeman standing on the side of the road. He stepped out and indicated for us to stop. I had a quick look and then I put my foot down and shot right past him.

“Holy crap,” Jeno said. “Why the hell didn’t you stop?”

I looked at him. “No gun, no car, no radio. Why the hell would I stop?"
Lol... nice. I can't even imagine living in a place that is that much of a free-for-all. Probably the closest thing to complete anarchy you could find, a true "survival of the fittest". It speaks volumes about you as a person that you are even here to type this stuff today. I honestly don't think I would have lasted a week out there...
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Old 02-14-2007, 01:09 PM   #118
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Re: On Changing your Life

Best thread ever!

Where in Italy are you?
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Old 02-14-2007, 03:42 PM   #119
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Re: On Changing your Life

This is a really great thread - thanks for sharing.
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Old 02-14-2007, 05:45 PM   #120
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Re: On Changing your Life

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You (and your writing) remind me of Hunter Thompson. The Africa parts remind me of his novel The Rum Diaries, and his [edit: non fiction travel book] the Curse of Lono. Both take place in essentially 3rd world environments, and dealing with being a white man there. I'm sure you would love his 2002 autobiography, Kingdom of Fear , if you haven't read it already. All, if you enjoy adsman's posts here, you will not be able to put this book down.
I am a long time admirer of Hunter.S. Unfortunately, I am nowhere near his level. That guy was a genius.

Moggle; I live in Trentino, in the Northern Alps of Italy.
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Old 02-14-2007, 08:34 PM   #121
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Re: On Changing your Life

adsman this is a great thread. more more more!
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:08 PM   #122
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Re: On Changing your Life

adsman this is my new favorite 2p2 story.
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Old 02-14-2007, 10:13 PM   #123
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Re: On Changing your Life

mazungu,

Awesome stuff.
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Old 02-15-2007, 01:27 AM   #124
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Re: On Changing your Life

you are an incredible writer.
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Old 02-15-2007, 01:43 AM   #125
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Re: On Changing your Life

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I check this thread a couple times a day.
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