There’s a nice bicycle shop owner in town (also named John; there isn’t a large diversity in names here) who I’ve been taking my new bike to. I bought it in Kumi last week and it has been giving me all sorts of grief ever since. Its front tire was completely flat when I got home, the back wheel is mis-aligned (and also spins funny), and all of the little nuts and bolts are slowly undoing themselves because, apparently, locking nuts don’t exist in this country. But anyway, John has been taking decent care of me, told me to bring the bike in some morning or early afternoon to get the wheel lined up right.
So I brought it in today and John wasn’t there, but one of his mechanics was. He called some other guy over (whom I had not seen before)– we’ll call him DrunkenThief (DT)– who asked what I wanted done. I explaned that I wanted the chain guard removed, so that I could easily slip the chain back on every time it fell off, and that I wanted to get the wheel realigned. I asked if there would be time, and he said yes. I asked if I should come back in a couple hours, and he said yes.
So I did, and my bicycle was not there. Neither was DT. But BicycleJohn was, and I asked him where my bicycle went to, and he said “your friend boy took it.” I said, “Who? Why did you let someone take it?” Again, he said “your friend boy picked,” and pointed me generally in the direction of where the other John (the orphan I’m helping, let’s call him JM from now on) lived. So I thought he must have meant that was who took the bike.
Still confused and getting more angry, I walked over to the group of huts where John lives and saw him on the way. I asked if he had taken my bike, and he said “no, the other man picked.” I tried to figure out who “the other man” was, but communication barriers prevented that from happening. John took me back behind another group of huts and showed me my bike, with the cover removed as I was hoping, and then DT came walking out of an ajon circle totally snockered and told me “2000.” Which was 1000 more than we had agreed to, even before he stole my bike. I told him no, and tried to get him to tell me why he was here, drunk, with my bike. He mumbled some things in broken English. Finally, since he had done what I asked, was a lot bigger than me, drunk, and surrounded by other drunk Ugandans, I forked up the 1000 UGX to keep myself safe and then took off. And found that both my front and back breaks weren’t working (but probably just due to the bike sucking).
So I’ve decided to train myself on Uganda and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance. That way, when I try to ride it long distances and it invariably breaks every few kilometers (or kilometres as they spell here) I can hop off, fix it, and keep going. Hopefully.