Friday, 31 July 2009


This has happened to me twice, and both times I’ve come out feeling like I’m a saint. Until this morning, that is.

1st Time

It must have been January or February. I’m walking on Kampala road, from the Jinja Road junction towards the Bank of Uganda. At Commercial Plaza outside KCB, I decide to cross to the other side, near Krystal Forex Bureau. There are two guys walking in front of me, one about one or two steps behind the first one. Soon, the first guy accidentally drops an envelope on drops to the ground, and I can see a few Uganda Shillings bills protruding from the edges. But the ‘dropper’ moves on, the guy behind him picks it up and tries changing direction. So I try to alert the dropper that he has lost his money, by which time he has crossed the road and is walking towards Rift Valley Railways. In the meantime, the guy who picked up the money is trying to convince me to leave him alone, so we can share the find. Being the good woman, I quickly walk after the guy who dropped the money, show him the guy who picked it up, and off they go. I’m left feeling like maybe he’s not the one who dropped it, guy number two was plain lucky and maybe we should have just split it between the two of us. After all, these guys seem to be off to somewhere discreet, away from the people who just observed all that drama, and I’m the fool. But, character is what you are when no one’s watching, right? So I feel a level gooder than the rest of you.

2nd Time

That was last night. I’m moving to my new place (yes, again!) and so have to go read the electricity and water metres at my old place so we can settle everything with the landlady, and she can give me my deposit back. It’s about 9:30pm. The matatu guys decide they are not taking two people into town, so decide to stop somewhere in Old Kampala. This is Kampala, and it’s waaayyyy safer than Nairobi. So I decide to walk down to the matatu stage to get a matatu to my new place. Near the Masaka Fridge Sales shop, I catch up with two guys. Like before, they are walking very close to each other. Soon enough, an envelope drops, this time with loads more money. Within no time, the dropper is on the other side of the street, and guy number two has picked it. Yes, you guessed it. I call out to the dropper who doesn’t seem to hear me at first. This is like 9:40pm and the streets are a lot less crowded, almost deserted but I can’t think like that. I’m that good, you know? I mean, the currency here is rather bulky; it could be the guys whole days’ worth of work or more, God must have made the matatu to not come into town so I could save this guy from this misfortune. Same as before, guy number two picks up the envelope and tries to convince me to just share the spoil with him quietly. Soon enough, the dropper realizes he doesn’t have his money and comes back to us. I’m trying to tell him, “ Ssebo, ono musajja alina sente zo. Umeangusha akachukua” (Sir, you dropped your money, this guy has it). But he’s too confused to hear that and starts walking back up towards the mosque mumbling about some two women who must have stolen his money. Guy number two is still telling me to keep quiet, it’s a lot of money, it’s all gonna be all ours. For the second time, the dropper walks back towards us, confused. Before he gets to us, guy number two tells me that that’s quite some money and this is Kampala: there are many bayaye (conmen)and he could lose his money so shouldn’t we look for some safe place to give it to him? By the time the dropper gets to us, he has calmed down a bit and can actually listen to me, and guy number two reluctantly gives him his money. The dropper says “Thank you Madam, let me give you something small”. But, being the good woman that I am, I say, “No thanks, it’s OK, really, usijali” So dropper walks away, back up towards the mosque again. Being the good woman, I’m afraid that guy number two could try to unleash his frustration on me, so I jump on a boda boda and tell the driver to drop me off on Kampala road. I go home to my new place feeling like a saint.

This morning I come in and narrate my experience to a colleague, who tells me I should have just kept quiet. I’m thinking, and just split the money? No, stupid, that’s how people get robbed here. Apparently these guys are a team. Guy number two would have asked me to give him something small, anything, in exchange for the envelop with all that money, which, by the way, is full of paper and a few bills on the sides. Another colleague tells me that he’d have asked me to go to a secluded place to share the find, and then they’d have robbed me dry. Anyway, they robbed me of a chance to be good people. Kumbe I’m that stupid? I surprised even myself. Next time, I’m just gonna pull my lips forward suck in lots of air and say ,”Shya!”


Andy Weaver said...

There is a somewhat similar scam in the US, but I have to say I think this one is more clever. It is a shame that people take advantage of those trying to do the right thing.

Sibbie said...

Seriously you fell for it . . . TWICE?! You should have a thing or two about that prank in Nairobi, no?

PKW said...

Andy, I never encountered such tricks back there.
Sibbie: Yes, but never got robbed each time.

bomseh said...

Sure that was a scam. Both times. I have watched it on BBC Entertainment tv on a programme called the Real Hustle. The hosts uncover ways in which the public is conned in the streets of London. They do this by conning people and returning the money, then they show their victims the video clips and advice them on how to avoid such situations in future. Then with the victim's approval they air the episode and advice the public. The bad thing about the show is that if a conman is watching, he can up his game a little bit.

Good that you are a good girl and you didn't fall for their little trick. You'd be posting something different.

Mrembo said...

Sorry PKW, I was laughing as I read it, enywe you got lucky.