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Footsubishi definition: Fancy name for walking as a means of transportation
It’s a given that if you are in a different country and you have to venture out on your own, you’ll probably get lost. It doesn’t even have to be a different country…even in a different district or different neighbourhood within the same city/town, there is a good chance that you’ll get lost. If you are like me and like to apply technology, you’ll consult google maps and, if the place is urban enough to be mapped, you’ll get to your destination without breaking a sweat. If your battery is low/you don’t have bundle, you better hope luck is on your side and the people in that place speak the same language and you can ask for directions. If that fails, you hopefully have the name of some landmark that’s close to where you are going written down so they can point you in the right direction, as you speak your different languages with the misplaced hope that your brain will unlock some undiscovered language translating membrane and interpret for you what the other person is saying.
The purpose of that long introduction is to..umm..well, is to introduce another travelling tale. I’ll dive right into it.
Upon arrival in Nairobi, I had plenty of time before dusk, so I decided to be a clever guy and find the shortest route from where I was staying to the place I was going to be working from so I wouldn’t have to suffer the following day. As a sharp expat, I figured getting lost in the morning rush hour and asking people for directions when they are irritable and rushing to their own workplaces was not a desirable scenario. Very forward thinking if I may say so myself. On that note, watch out for my travel guide book, #ExpatRolexAroundTheWorld that is coming soon.
Dear listeners, welcome back from that commercial break. Where were we? Yes…so, this route finding exercise involved most of the techniques I’ve described in the introduction. Luckily for me, Kenya and Uganda had the same colonisers so majority of the people here speak English and getting directions wasn’t too hard. What proved to be tricky was the meaning of certain words this side compared to their meaning back home. I’ll explain…
Getting to the office was easy because I had a lift from my host and they dropped me close by. From the drop off point, I was able to find the place easily that thanks to google maps. After saying hi, introducing myself, explaining my reasons for turning up one day early and gracefully accepting all the compliments for my excellent foresight, I asked them for directions back to where I was residing. My phone battery was warning so google maps would have to be put aside and more hands-on techniques applied. I wrote down all of the instructions on a piece of paper, synchronised them with the ones I’d gotten from my host and walk out to the street, ready to adventure. The shortest route happened to have two stops from where I’d have to switch taxis, so this wasn’t going to be straightforward.
I walked to the first stage, observed the rapid fire Swahili of the taxi conductor and decided against asking for them for help. Instead, I asked a nearby gentleman, after confirming that he spoke English, if this was indeed the right stage to get a taxi that would take me to the first stop. The gentleman after scrutinising me to verify I wasn’t trying to pull a first one on him decided I was harmless and went on to confirm that I was in the right place. The gentleman was so cool he even spoke some rapid fire swa with the conductor of the next taxi that stopped and told him where to kick me out of the taxi from. Such a kind soul.
I jumped in the taxi and when we reached the stop, which was a junction, the conductor said many things in swahili, which I didn’t understand, and sped off in one direction. Naturally, I assumed I was supposed to head in the direction opposite to that which the taxi had taken, but I decided to ask another stranger if my assumptions were right. He confirmed that I was quite good at this finding-my-way business and also added that I should save my money and just walk to the next stage coz it wasn’t that far off. Just around the corner, he said.
I thanked him for his wise counsel and started walking. Kwani these Kenyans are great people, I thought to myself as I selected a walking friendly playlist from my phone. Dear listeners, this is the point when things went awry. The corner this guy had talked about turned into many corners and the next stage was still nowhere to be seen. After what must have been twelve hours of nonstop walking, I decided I was lost, so I asked another stranger if I was headed in the right direction, and he replied in the affirmative. Just a few more metres and you’ll be there, said he.
Two days later, I was still covering the ‘few metres’ and there was still no sign of the stage. By this time, I had lost a considerable amount of weight, my shoe sole was almost gone and my feet were protesting, with placards and all, complaining against the slave labour.
You might be wondering why I didn’t just grab a taxi to get me there faster, or even a boda. Thing is, I am a firm believer in doing as the locals do when you travel, so if these gentlemen had said this was how they did things, there was no way I was going to go against my travel beliefs just because I was a little out of shape. Also, I pride myself as quite the walker and have occasionally dreamt of winning Uganda a medal at some walking championships, so there was no way I was going to sissy out of a mere walk from one stage to another.
But you guys, these Kenyans can walk. In Kampala, I’m normally irritated by most of the other walkers on the street because they are always slowing us the serious walkers down with their sluggish pace. This time, I was that slow guy that everyone keeps on passing while giving that look of, You should have just stayed at home you puny excuse of a human. And none of them was sweating kumbe me I looked like I had just emerged from a swim across Lake Victoria. Eh…no wonder they produce such exemplary marathon runners. I’m sure I’d also be collecting gold medals if I kept up such levels of walking. It probably has something to do with the absence of throngs of boda’s around here.
I’ve been here a number of days now and my system has since adjusted so I can easily keep up with the other walkers around. The streets of Kampala should be prepared to witness walking on steroids when I return! KCCA should be ready to be making repairs on those sidewalks they’ve been pimping up coz I’m going to be bad news. UOC should even sign me up into the next international walking competition. I’m ready to embrace my destiny as Uganda’s Kiprotich of walking!
Peace out now. I must return to my expat adventuring!