Yesterday whilst sitting enjoying a mountain of meat with some friends, and, perhaps more importantly, minding my own business I was handed a note by another patron in the restaurant. This is in fact not the first letter that has been slipped over a table at me whilst both the author and I try to avoid catching each other’s eye. For me the avoidance of eye contact is simple, I try to pretend that the situation isn’t really happening and I definitely don’t want to encourage the note giver so that they begin talking to me. Similarly, whilst I read the notes (and offer them around for other people to take amusement from) I never respond to the writer, even if they bring over several… you’d think they’d get the hint after the first one wouldn’t you? For them, the lack of eye contact is probably a case of embarrassment, but then why give me a note at all?
|The original letter|
The givers of these notes are never entirely savoury. This particular note giver was in the latter stages of middle age, had a slightly wild look about the eyes and was drinking alone… at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
As for the note itself, well it wasn’t (thankfully) a declaration of love rather it said the following: “Hullow a strong woman and a brown woman even a social woman who is always smart and very active. I am Julius who is greeting you. I am very glad to see you here. Which means I wish you a happy stay and enjoyable life in Kabale district. A strong woman, just now I am in a bad condition, assist me – 2000 shs.”
To my knowledge I have never met, or indeed even seen, this man before. Therefore I’m not really sure how he knows that I am always smart and very active. Strong here is clearly a code word for fat and I’m not entirely sure as to why he refers to me as brown, especially considering the fact that the majority of people here can’t wait to point out the fact that I’m white with their calls of ‘mzungu, mzungu’. The request for money is cheeky, but not entirely surprising, such requests are fairly commonplace. What I was surprised at however was that after I failed to acknowledge his letter, the scribe once more sidled up to our table and handed my friend a letter. It was similar (he described him as a strong man) but rather than 2000 shillings he asked only 1000 from my local friend. I guess even in the world of begging you have to ask for mzungu price!