(Okay, I know, I’m WAAAAAY behind in my posts. Since I last posted, I’ve been through India and now 10 days in Uganda. All good stuff that I’ll try to find time to write up. But honestly, I’m so busy “doing” that I have too little time to write. The following is a fun little morsel I hope you enjoy. I sure did.)
I’m a bit early for my 9:30am RwandaAir flight from Entebbe, Uganda to Nairobi, Kenya. Looking very “munu” (foreigner) here, but otherwise comfortable. As I amble happily away from the Immigration desk (this time, a very nice man), I hear a yell, “My Friend!”. I turn to see a Ugandan Police officer, with a rifle slung on his shoulder, walking towards me, with some purpose in his stride.
He approaches me. “My friend, where are you going?”
“I’m off to Nairobi on RwandaAir”
“Ah, Nairobi. Why are you going there?”
“I’m on a trip around the world, and that’s my next stop.” (Dammit, I screwed that up! Always say you’re a missionary and they’ll leave you alone)
“A trip around the world, very nice. When are you returning to Uganda?”
“I don’t know, I have a lot of traveling to do”
“Well when you come back, you will want a friend, yes?”
“Yes, someone to greet you when you arrive. Like a police man”.
“Yes, like me. Will you give me $10?”
“What is your name?” (I say, trying to change the subject and pretending I didn’t understand him)
“Innocent” ( I am NOT making this up)
“Your name is Innocent?”
“Yes. Will you give me $10?”
I give up the feigned ingnorance. “$10? For what?”
He smiles and gently shakes his head. “So you will have a friend when you return to Uganda”
“Hmmm…What can you do for me now?” (thinking maybe I can bribe my way into a shorter security line) “This looks like a pretty long security line?”
“Ah, that is not your security line. Your flight is not yet called. You can sit over there until they call you”
“Oh, okay. Well, I don’t happen to have $10. The foreign exchange lady would only give me a $100 bill, and I already have friends here.” (At this point, I realize I’m not in trouble, he just wants money, so I decide to play along just so you readers could have this story. Yes, I did.)
“You only have $100? But you could change it?”
“I don’t know. Who here could change a $100 bill if the foreign exchange lady doesn’t even have change?”
“You could go there” (pointing to a bar inside security)
“Okay, I’ll go check. I want a Coke Zero anyway.”
This gave me a chance to check to see what cash I actually did have on hand. So I take my time with the clerk, and notice that I have a $100 bill, and two $20 bills. He’s not getting those. But I also have some extra Ugandan shillings left over, 10,000 to be precise (about $3). So I figure I’ll just pull the Bali shuffle on him with that. He’s a nice guy, laughing easily with me, not at me, and probably makes no money at all. What am I going to do with 10,000 Ugandan shillings anyway? So I fold the two 5,000 shilling notes in my hand, grab my Coke Zero, and walk back out to the terminal, where he is waiting.
Remembering my Bali strategy, I palm the money, look him straight in the eye, full of bon vivant, and reach to shake his hand.
“My friend, I’m sorry, they couldn’t break the $100, but here is what I have. I appreciate you being my friend. “
He smiles, then stops smiling as he looks at what is in his hands. He really wanted US money.
“I’m sorry, they couldn’t break a $100 and I need that to get into Kenya.”
“Where is my gate?”
“It’s just over there” (he says dejectedly) “They will call you when your flight is ready.”
“Okay, thanks so much. Sorry I couldn’t do more, but I appreciate your kindness, Innocent. Bye!”
“Good bye, my friend”
I should keep a list of skills I’m learning on this trip. One would definitely be “how to haggle with people carrying automatic weapons”.