Friday, 23 November 2012

Prince William, my original boda, in his own words

Prince Will. My Original Boda.
I first met William Ntulume, my original boda driver, in February when I was living in Mengo, a Kampala suburb. Sporting his trademark mustard bomber jacket, a H&M t-shirt he'd bought at Owino market for 10,000 Ugandan shillings ($3.78), aviator shades and crocheted cap, I could see from the moment he waved to me that he was THE KING of his boda stage. Already popular with mzungu (foreign) customers in the area, he soon had my details on his books and he was so reliable and never ripping me off (or taking me for a ride, metaphorically speaking) that he soon became known as Prince William. In fact I'm now like part of the family and one day he even took me to his house in Lungujja to meet his family (including the adorable Baby Diana, see below). My parents also met him when they came over to Uganda - and Mum approved. Now I've moved across town I have some new drivers, but still call on his services every now and then when I'm looking for a very trustworthy driver. Here in his own words, William, 30 tells me about being a boda driver:

"I used to work in a garage but needed to supplement my income. I bought my own boda for 3.5 million Ugandan shillings ($1, 324 USD). I have three regular passengers (speaking at the time when yours truly was one of them) and the rest I just find. Most are business people who just call me and say come and pick me up. I make up to 50,000 ($18.93) a day. If I wasn't driving bodas, I'd be back in the garage. I work every day from 6am until 6pm then go home to my wife and four kids. They all go on the boda.

Aww, in the good old days when yours truly was a daily customer.
"The best part of the job is that it gives me an income. There are two things that I don't like about the job. The first is that fellow riders don't respect the job and as a result are dirty and have bad hygiene and as a result riders of bikes are seen as people who are dirty and don't take a shower. That's not good for business. The other thing I don't like is that taxi drivers don't respect us as proper riders.

Check out those shades. William picking me (it's never "picking up" in Uganda, just "picking", that's how cool they are) one morning.


"I blame the government for making narrow roads. Everyone's looking for the best part of the road and that leads to accidents. A permit (to drive a boda) is 300,000 shillings ($113.56) for three years. Accidents happen all the time. I have one or two small accidents a year. If a customer calls and says "come now" someone might bump into you. It's the nature of the work."

Thanks to Onyait Odeke for translating this from Luganda to English.

A formidable line-up. William and his mates at their local stage in Mengo.
Earlier this year I met some of the family.

Proud father with Baby Diana.



William sporting the Australia hat that Mum brought over for him when she visited Uganda. William's response (later): "I've got some African drums for your parents." Mum: "I'm sure Australian Customs will love that. I should have bought him a new cover for his boda instead."


  COMING SOON: WILLIAM'S EQUALLY COOL BODA FRIENDS.










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