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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A noisy bus and thieving hotel rogues

My journey to Mbarara was quite tumultuous but I reached safely, much to my relief. What I was not prepared for was thieves in the pleasant hotel I checked into, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza 

The mention of travel is nowadays frightening considering the endless carnage on our roads. So when I landed an offer to travel to Mbarara to give creative writing tips to a group of students in exchange for good bucks, I was apprehensive but accepted for I needed the money.

That’s why I found myself in the bus park on a hot Friday afternoon queuing for a bus that was visibly in good mechanical condition - looked new and was clean inside. I reclined in a seat by the window and smugly opened my copy of Aesop’s Fables. Soon we were moving and I was glad.

The driver, who must be a certified fan of singer Jose Chameleon, turned the volume of the stereo on the bus, suddenly awakening me to the realisation that I was occupying the seat on the third row from behind cc–just below the loudspeaker on the bus ceiling.

As Chamili-Chamili and Vumilia popped off into my ears, I couldn’t help bobbing my head to the effervescent sounds. But the driver stretched it when he pushed the volume button to maximum. The speaker itself didn’t take to it kindly and turned croaky to irritating proportions.

My eardrums hurt and my head began throbbing explosively. The patience of other sojourners had been pushed to the limit for one young man shouted at the conductor to “go tell the driver to turn the freakin’ volume down!”

The driver obliged but the next sanity was only cursory. The blaring was soon back and the most intolerable bit about it was that it was still Chamili-Chamili and Vumilia playing relentlessly. Even my belly grumbled and not from want of food but the unwelcome noise inside the bus. I occasionally had to push my head through the window to protect my eardrums from bursting but the avalanche of the wind outside didn’t make it any easier.

Even more, the bus was now moving at a dangerous speed; either the driver was high on crack or he was crazy, in which case I bowed in prayer and pleaded with the ever merciful God to protect us. And sure, God heard the cry of His child for as we approached Lyantonde, the driver reduced the volume to a friendly level and soothed our nerves with the sounds of Judith Babirye. I looked up in amazement but the elevating lyrics could not assuage my pounding headache and the distaste the bus had left in my ears for Chameleone’s songs.

When we finally reached Mbarara and alighted, I nearly knelt on the tarmac with gratefulness. I checked into a popular hotel near the Rwizi River, where I was welcomed by a shapely Muhima girl with an adorable face and an affable manner reminiscent of the girl I’m in love with.

My room had all the amenities a man of easy stature like myself found acceptable. It had a double bed and a small screen and was spick and span. However, the screen just wouldn’t project the pictures it was supposed to and it was after I gave it a light kick that it produced bleary pictures on Africa Magic.

Meanwhile, the pretty girl kept checking on me to see if there was anything I needed. She handled me like a treasure and made me feel like a prince. There were woolen sandals but you never know what kind of potbellied mister with a contagious skin disease could have used them previously, so they were left untouched. On the smooth floor, I indulged in break-dancing and almost broke my leg.

After my presentation the following day, I strolled around town and at Arch View, posed for a picture with a statue of a herdsman with a smoking pipe grazing his cow.

I was soon back at my hotel. I shrugged off the inviting smile of the hotel lady and entered my room. I found it smelling so sweet it reminded me of the fable I had read from Aesop’s book about a woman who found an old wine bottle and on sniffing it, declared, “If you can still smell as sweet how about when you were full?”
In the sweet fragrance of the room, I packed my few things, ready to leave early the following day. That’s when I realised my pair of sports shorts were missing – the very shorts I was wearing that morning as I worked out in my room. I checked the bathroom, under the bed and everywhere in the room. My novels and Sony recorder were there but the shorts were gone.

I’m a very private person; my diary is written in a coded language only I can read and my phone has a code. So the very thought of the hotel employee snooping in my private stuff and nipping my fancy Adidas shorts is what maddened me, not because I had bought them expensively. I did my best nursing my fury, forgave the thieving rogue, but vowed never to set feet in that hotel ever again.

--Sunday Monitor, April 11, 2010