He may be just one of 28 bodas standing outside Kampala's busiest shopping complex waiting to pounce on a customer like a vulture, but Mike Taber, still stands out, especially with his smile and his orange and blue rimmed shades. The 26-year-old, from Mukono district in Central Uganda, has been a boda driver for three years and is now one of my regular drivers. The riders who have their stage right outside the Garden City mall put up with a lot - like passengers such as yours truly constantly jumping onboard with more bags of shopping than Victoria Beckham (well, nearly). In the past I've carried on a boda everything from a massive box of cupcakes from New York Kitchen to three large pizzas (always knew I'd missed my calling as a Dominos delivery girl). Then there was the bottle of wine and eight bags of ingredients for dinner that I tried to get all the way home from Uchumi to Mengo (the vino sadly never made it). The Garden City chauffeurs, Mike included, though are always helpful, understanding, and reliable - and as I mentioned in my last post, will even go to extreme measures in the battle against car mirror thieves. I sat down with Mike in Nsambya and he told me his story:
"It's a good job. In a day I can get 30 people (customers) and make about 35,000 UGX. If it's a good day I can make even 50,000 UGX. I'm enjoying it. I'm (mainly) driving around Kampala. A long journey from here to Jinja (in good traffic about two hours away from Kampala). There's a few people who go there - costs about 70,000 UGX. I take mzungus (foreigners) going to visit the Source of the Nile. If I get that job I've had a good day. In a month I do that once normally. I also go to Entebbe (in good traffic about 40 minutes away from Kampala) at least twice a month. I start at 8am and finish at 6pm. On Sundays I'm at home relaxing and washing my trousers. In my spare time I watch movies. I like ones like Exit Wounds.
|Mike even takes some customers to Jinja, the Source of the Nile|
"In Kampala I also take people (passengers) working in an office, others making their business in a market, the others who have shops in Garden City. The average trip costs 2,000 or 3,000 UGX. It's not hard, it depends on where you're going. Someone can tell you (to go from) Garden City up to Speke Hotel and you can charge 2,000 UGX. From 1pm til 3pm is a busy time, people are moving around that time.
"The problems we are getting is that some people are stealing our bodas. They're robbing you sometimes. It's quite common at night or during the day. They (the criminals) can move for you (at night) with a knife. I've never had my boda stolen but twice they've tried to rob me. That's why I've stopped working as night, at 7pm, because I saw it's dangerous. I used to stop at 9pm.
"I've had two accidents. It was not my fault, it was those (other) people's fault. In 2010 I had an accident at Mulago Junction so they (the other vehicle) had to pay for (the damage) to the bike. I had to go to the hospital for treatment. The other time a taxi driver knocked me in town. You know, they're driving rough. That one (the other vehicle) disappeared.
"I'm renting a double room in Bukoto (a Kampala suburb). I'm paying 120,000 UGX a month. But they're (the rooms) not self-contained. This job allows me to pay for it. There's no bad jobs in the country. All jobs are good as long as you're getting little things to feed yourself. I wouldn't be doing any other job."
|Who needs a bus called HONEST when you can have Mike?|
GET MIKE'S LOOK
From Owino market. I bought them when they were brand new for 15,000 UGX in 2011. They've ripped over the time with work.
|THE jeans - think Sloanie, Pippa Middleton, only ripped (naturally, not on purpose).|
|Mike's other favorite pair of jeans come from Malawi.|
40,000 UGX from Owino.
50,000 UGX from downtown. "I bought them because I liked the picture of the lady with the gun on it. The back says 'I'm running short of money'."
|The hair - he keeps it simple - and the shirt. Says it all: "I'm running short of money." Anyone for a trip to Jinja?|
10,000 UGX from another shop DT (downtown). Bought them brand new.
|If Mike needs any fashion inspiration he could always buy this shirt, from Mr Price in Garden City, to wear on Sunday, his day off.|