Almond croissants, blueberry muesli, low fat yoghurt and Red Bull – the things of my nightmare.
I came into the city very early this morning. It’s beautiful in Kampala this month. It rains almost every night and the sun fights valiantly to shine through the gray clouds. The result is a glorious orange sky with streaks of yellow streaming from the horizon. At 6 a.m., the air is fresh, the streets are silent and mayhem and colorful confusion of the city is gone.
I was extremely hungry this morning, having had nothing to eat the previous day but kabalagala and a stale bun. I knew I would have to chew on my cheek for several hours because the options for an early morning meal in Kampala are limited because my city is a slow riser and the earliest you can get a decent breakfast is 8 a.m. Then I saw my ‘savior’: a huge billboard announcing 24-hour shopping at the latest entrant in the retail sector in Kampala. Nakumatt Oasis Hyper oyee!
It felt really strange driving into a supermarket parking lot at six in the morning. Surprisingly however, I was not alone. There were eight other cars in the parking lot. Eight other people who like me were doing maalo in the morning.
The aroma of freshly baked bread filled the air as I approached the supermarket. At the entrance were people looking professional and ready work. It seemed I had counted wrong. There were certainly more than 10 customers in the supermarket. Cashiers were ringing up the till, an attendant at the gadgets corner was showing a customer the latest mobile phones and there was a subdued buzz of activity in the supermarket.
My senses were aroused. The sun was barely in the sky and all I could thing of was shop, shop, shop. I was filled with conflicting emotions of desire and self-loathing. What the hell was I doing?
So I shopped:
- Almond croissants – 2 hot and steaming
- Blueberry muesli – 1 box
- Low fat fruit yoghurt – 4 cups
- Skimmed milk – 1 liter
- Red Bull – 2 cans
I sat in my car and silently gagged.
Oooh, I love the perks of Western ‘civilization’. I want my early morning French-named pastries available at the nearest corner store. I want to sip outside a café drinking ridiculously costly cups of coffee from Ecuador. I want to shop in sanitized malls smell of floor wax and air deodorizers. I want my storekeeper professional, but anonymous. I want the things, the stuff and the life.
You know that picture of hypocrisy? You see that face? That’s me. Tumwijuke: duplicity redefined.
Maybe I’m just confused.
I still want my country. My Uganda. My joy. My confusion. My love. My mess.
I want Maama Mmere in the market to pry annoyingly into my life. I want her to ask me why I’m not yet married. I want her to joke about me growing old with no children. I want her to wipe sweat off her brow with her hands before she dumps onions, tomatoes and beans unceremoniously into my old papyrus basket.
I want to buy my pastries at the back of a truck in the middle of the dust of the Old Taxi Park. I want George the driver to ask me again and again, “No banizi? Sweet banizi heeyh. Banizi madamu? No? Okeh!”
I want my coffee delivered to me in a huge tin cup covered with an old red plastic plate. I want it full of the creamiest milk with coffee plucked and roasted a few kilometers away.
I want the things, the stuff and the life.
It’s called globalization, I am told. The integration of economies, cultures, politics and peoples around the world. I am told it’s great. I am told it’s evil.
I don’t know.
I’m off to eat my nightmare.