I love living in Kampala, but sometimes it is really frustrating, and sometimes you lose your cool and just punch somebody . . .
So, the other day, my friend Phoebe and I were going to meet some friends for lunch. We left the office for a place called Kisementi. We decided we would take a Matatu (the mini-bus taxis) there. Now, I have taken this route many times. In fact, I living in Kisementi for my first 3 weeks in Kampala and took that exact taxi route everyday to the office (and many times since) and I KNOW that the price is 300 shilllings ($0.15). So, we are getting off at our stop and I hand the conductor 600 shillings to pay for both of us (the conductor is the guy that shouts out the window so people know where the taxi is going and the one you pay). We begin to walk away, and the conductor follows us and says "No! Muzungu (white person), you pay 500 ($0.25) for each!" I then said that we paid the right price. He kept demanding more money, so I explained that we take this route all the time and we know the price. He kept pressing . . .
A little more background: Matatu conductors are always ripping everyone off, even Ugandans, but muzungus are particularly easy to rip off because they usually don't know the prices. However, I have lived here for 10 months now and I know the prices. So whenever you get on a taxi you know you are going to have a bit of hassle when you pay but usually they stop at some point because they realize you know the right price.
. . . back to the story . . .
When the conductor realizes that I am not going to pay more than 600 shillings, he reaches over and grabs the envelope of pictures that Phoebe is holding, and then runs back into the matatu. I was like "Hell no!" and followed him and got up in his face and asked for the pictures, he demanded money. I said I wouldn't pay and demanded the pictures. He wouldn't give them so I grabbed for them and he wouldn't let go. By this time I was fed up with dealing with this guy and my rage got the better of me . . . I then smacked the guy upside the head and pushed his head away and down into his lap which made him loosen his grip on the pictures and I took them form him. it then registered in my mind what I had just done: these matatu conductors are usually pretty rough/tough guys and this particular one had a tattoo on his face, so I thought "Holy crap, I am going to get my ass kicked!". So then I instinctively ran, but then stopped and turned around and saw that he had just come out of the taxi after me but had stopped. I yelled "Don't rip me off! Phoebe lets go!" And we left :)
Now, the good things about this is that there was no way he would have fought back because he knew he was in the wrong and people know that conductors rip people off because they have all been ripped off by them, so people would have come to my aid even if he did decide to fight me. Also, mod justice is pretty much the norm here, and he was in the wrong so once again people would have come after him if he came after me.
The most awesome part though was the 2 guys chilling on the street who were dying laughing as they watched this scene unfold. It must have been pretty hilarious!
Now at lunch, I told my friends this story and Phil said "So, you punched a guy for $0.20?", then Avner responds "No, he punched a guy because he stole." I subscribe to the latter explanation :)
It began with me defended the principle of equal pay regardless of race or nationality and the principle of I-hate-getting-ripped-off! Then I was pushed over the edge by his attitude and theft!
Conclusion = Adam needs to calm down! I have been a bit high strung lately and am in need of a vacation. Good thing I am heading to Zanzibar this week for a 10 day vacation.