Living in Kampala is a lot like living with an insomniac rooster. That is, there is always something that will wake you up or keep you awake. For example, in our apartment building, every fifteen minutes or so we are interrupted by a loud mechanical noise that abruptly makes its way down through the walls and into our ear drums. The mechanical noise is best described as the sound that a giant photocopier from the 1990s would make: “Errrr, thunck! Err, errr, err, thunck! Er, thunck!, Er, thunck!” Although the giant photocopier machine thing is most likely a water pump or electricity generator, I have a theory that it is actually the world’s first human cloning device. Every time I hear “Errr, thunck… etc.,” I imagine a team of Umpa Lumpas gathered around a metal box that resembles the Apollo 11 lunar landing pod, frantically pulling levers and pushing buttons. At first I think, “Cool… clones”; however, my curiosity is quickly replaced with fear as I realize that the futuristic Umpa Lumpas are probably looking to test the cloning machine photocopier thing on an unsuspecting expat before they multiply and proceed to take over the world. Imagine: a world full of Umpa Lumpas. If Jersey Shore has taught me anything, it is that a world ruled by small orange people is not a world that I want to live in.
Rachel and I are interrupted a strange noise as we sit on our balcony: “Weeeeee, weeeehhhh, weeehghh, weh, wheee, we, ehhhh, we, weeeee, wehhhh, wee, wahhh, ahhhh, we, we, weeo, weeeooooo, waaaaaaaaa, ah, weeeee” ….. “weh, wheee, we, ehhhh, we, weeeee, wehhhh, wee, wahhh, ahhhh, we, we, weeo, weeeooooo, waaaaaaaaa” Rachel turns to me and says “What on earth is that? It sounds like a siren in a 1930s French film”. I reply, “It kind of sounds like the noise that Justin Truedau would make if John Baird snuck up behind him in the House of Commons and gave him a wet willy”. We listen on, “weeeehhhh, weeehghh, weh, wheee, we, ehhhh, we, weeeee, wehhhh, wee, wahhh, ahhhh”. After ruling out that we are not in France and that Justin Trudeau is most likely smoking pot (but not inhaling) and egging 24 Sussex Drive with Jean Chretien, Bob Ray, and Michael Ignatieff, we arrive at the realization that the ungodly sounds described above are coming from a human baby’s oropharynx. Rachel and I quickly shrug off the noise and get back to writing our respective blog posts….
“What in the name of Stephen McNeil’s chest hair was that?!” I said. I think that someone has either (a) found a dog whistle, (b) killed me and the high-pitched noise is the sound of my soul descending to hell (or as I call it “Fox News Studios”), (c) Shelby is surrounded by a circle of ants, cockroaches, and geckoes. “Damnit, Usain and Grecko have returned, but this time with backup. Now they are going to kill Shelby – but she is so young! Why!?!”, or (d) Mariah Carey is in town. Fortunately, none of my predictions are confirmed. Rather, I look down from the balcony and see a few kids playing soccer in the parking lot in front of our apartment. The one responsible for the ear-splitting shriek is a 4 year old boy who appears to have been tripped by his older footballer colleagues. Walk it off, kid. Walk it off. If soccer doesn’t work out for the little tyke, I am confident that he will make it on American Idol as a male soprano.
Are you starting to understand the insomniac rooster simile yet? Okay, it is not really a simile. I am pretty convinced that there is actually an insomniac rooster that lives near our apartment building. He is named Donoghue Donoghue, but he goes by Hue Hue. If you are curious as to why Donoghue Donoghue goes by Hue Hue, please see the short story attached to this entry. Anyway, Hue Hue most certainly has insomnia. While most roosters tend to wake up with the Sun and do their usual “Caaaaa kahhhhhhhhhh!” shtick, Hue Hue is steadfast in remaining awake hours after sunset and hours before sunrise.
Let me back up just a tiny bit. As a city slicker, I spent most of my life getting woken up by mechanical devices like alarm clocks or iPods. For me, roosters that woke up and shouted “Cockle doodle doo!” were just about as fake as the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or Stephen Harper’s promises to do an inquiry on missing and murdered Aboriginal women… oh wait, he didn’t make that promise and he probably never will! However, roosters quickly transformed from myth to reality upon my arrival in Kampala. Whereas in Canada one only comes into contact with livestock if she or he live on a farm or only have sons, in Uganda a large amount of livestock run free. For example, even though I live in a highly urbanized area, my 200 metre walk to work is usually accompanied by one or two chickens, a goat, and even a cow on occasion. I am not saying that all of Kampala is like a verse out of “Old Macdonald”, but rather that being chased by a baby lamb is a much more regular occurrence here than it is on the suburban streets of Winnipeg. Fortunately, baby lambs are much less intimidating than two guys strung out on cocaine chasing you through Polo Park mall in late December – trust me, I’d know.
Thus, Hue Hue, although annoying, is far from out of place in the auditory landscape of my morning. A few other sounds on my wake-up playlist include (but are certainly not limited to): dogs barking (3:30am), photocopier cloning machine (ongoing), water dripping through the inner hole of my doughnut-shaped apartment building (ongoing), Hue Hue (ongoing), guys shovelling gravel (4:30-5:30am), Hue Hue (still ongoing), Hue Hue’s friends (6:30am), my real alarm (7:09am).
Speaking of loud noises, yesterday my fellow Scholars and I attended a Uganda vs Botswana football match – or as I called it: the Uganda vs Botswana vuvuzela blowing contest. The game itself was an experience like no other. Nearly 100 000 fans from all walks of life, clad in Uganda soccer jerseys and face paint packed into the Mandela National Stadium for 80 minutes of singing, dancing, drumming, and hugging – and oh yeah, I think there was a soccer game going on somewhere too.
It was as if the stadium had a personality of its own. When a Ugandan player got control of the ball, the entire stadium would erupt in cheering. If a Botswana player got the ball anywhere near Uganda’s keeper, on the other hand, the stadium would descend into a chorus of booing and stomping. And when Uganda scored its first of two goals…. Wow. It sounded like the Saturn V rocket starting its roll program as it cleared the launch tower in Cape Canaveral; absolutely thunderous. When Uganda scored its second goal, the large Ugandan man next to me picked me up and gave me a bear hug. What a day, what a day.
You see, it’s not so bad living in a city where noise is constant and ubiquitous once you get the hang of it. The nice thing about an insomniac rooster is that he constantly attempts to interact with others; to encourage sleepy people to get outside and enjoy life in a shared space. For instance, it is a misty Sunday afternoon and I am writing this entry on my balcony. When I turn my head to the left I hear hip-hop music coming from a nearby university campus. If I lean right I hear church music blaring from a Christian Fellowship a few hundred metres down the road. When I look up: people conversing across their respective balconies; down: children playing basketball and soccer. Yes, the noise is constant and certainly annoying at times, but at least it indicates that people are sharing their lives with each other.
I think that Canadians have a lot of trouble with sharing their lives with one another. We look for houses in quiet communities because we do not want to be disturbed by our neighbours; we put in our headphones on the bus to ensure others do not contaminate our hearing space; we spend our summer vacations on the beach, but do not dare interact with those who live in less affluent neighbourhoods (*cough-Winnipeg beach-cough*). After spending a little bit of time in Uganda, I realize just how quiet Canada truly is. And while silence is nice from time to time, it is certainly not the bliss I thought it was only a few short weeks ago.
Thanks for listening,
Short story: The Life and Times of Donoghue Donoghue – A Rooster with Insomnia
Donoghue Donoghue was born on July 1st, 1996 in a small farming community located in South-East Saskatchewan named Awakesville. Awakesville was the second most famous farming community in South-East Saskatchewan right behind Wollerton (spit). From Steinbach, Manitoba to Red Deer, Alberta Awakesville, Saskatchewan was known as the sleepiest small farming community in South-East Saskatchewan. In fact, Awakesville had more beds per capita than any other small farming community in South-East Saskatchewan.
Donoghue Donoghue was named after his mother, Donna Donoghue (RIP) and his father, Noghu Donoghue (RIP). Noghu (RIP) and Donna (RIP) met at a rooster singing competition and gala held annually in the Awakesville Colosseum (not actually a colosseum, but rather the name of Awakesville’s roadhouse bar), where they tied for third place. As fortune had it, Noghu (RIP) and Donna (RIP) both preformed botched karaoke versions of Andrea Bocelli’s hit song: “Por ti volare”. It was love at first sight. The third place prize was an all-expenses paid vacation for two to a barn in Winkler, Manitoba.
Winkler, Manitoba is known by many to be the fourth most romantic farming community in Southern Manitoba – right behind: Morden, Eli, Protage la Prairie, and Petersfiled. Donoghue Donoghue was born few months after Noghu (RIP) and Donna’s (RIP) fateful trip to Winkler, Manitoba, the fourth most romantic farming community in Southern Manitoba.
Unfortunately, the beginning of Donoghue Donoghue’s life was the sole cause of Donna Donoghue’s death (RIP). Although Awakesville, Saskatchewan was infamous for its high rooster maternal mortality rates, the loss of Donna Donoghue (RIP) was quite tragic. After all, she was tied as the third pace runner up in Awakesville’s Annual Rooster Singing Competition and Gala. So much talent.
Noghu Donoghue (RIP) decided to honour his late lover, Donna Donoghue (RIP), by raising little Donoghue Donoghue to be a professional singer. As the years passed and little Donoghue Donoghue grew from adolescent Donoghue Donoghue to young adult Donoghue Donoghue, Donoghue Donoghue continued to blossom into a first rate singer (remember, we are dealing in rooster years here). In fact, he even won first prize at the 2004 Awakesville Annual Singing Competition and Gala. There was not a dry eye in the house when he dedicated his prize-winning performance of Andrea Bocelli’s hit song: “Por ti volare” to his late mother, Donna Donoghue (RIP). The first place prize was the coveted position as Head Rooster at Awakesville’s largest farm. Needless to say that Noghu Donoghue (RIP) was a proud, proud Papa!
Donoghue Donoghue had a lot of responsibilities as Head Rooster. His most important responsibility: wake up Awakesville, Saskatchewan with his prize-winning voice at 5:00 sharp every morning. This was a crucial task given that Awakesville, Saskatchewan was the sleepiest farming community in South-East Saskatchewan. After all, there was farmin’ to get did! And that’s how it was: day after day, month after month, and year after year. 5:00am sharp would roll around and Donoghue Donoghue would lull the sleepy Awakesvilleites out of their deep slumbers with his prize-winning voice. That is, until one fateful July morning.
The years had taken a toll on young Donoghue Donoghue. Prize-winning fame came at a price, and for Donoghue Donoghue that price was his ability to remain sober for more than a few hours at a time. What a shame. Some say it was the pressure that came with being Head Rooster that made Donoghue Donoghue crack, others say it was the cocaine. The reality is that it was probably a mixture of the two.
On the July evening a physical altercation broke out between Noghu Donoghue (RIP) Donoghue Donoghue. The cause of the altercation? We will never know. The result: Noghu Donoghue (RIP) Donoghue Donoghue vowed to never speak again. Ever! Poor Donna Donoghue (RIP) was rolling in her grave.
Donoghue Donoghue burst out of his father’s home with teary eyes and a fuzzy mind. Only a few minutes earlier he had it all: a good relationship with his father, Noghu Donoghue (RIP), the most prestigious job in town, and enough cocaine to kill a small elephant. Now all he had was the most prestigious job in town and enough cocaine to kill a small elephant – but by morning those too would be gone.
Donoghue Donoghue awoke from his cocaine-induced slumber at 5:03 the next morning in a small farming community located on the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border. Awakesville, Saskatchewan burned to the ground two minutes earlier, at 5:01 in the morning. There were no survivors, not even Noghu Donoghue (RIP).
You see, Mrs. Enright (RIP) owned Awakesville’s premier pie emporium/indoor play structure fun zone, aptly named “Enright’s Premiere Pie Emporium and Indoor Play Structure Fun Zone”. At its peak, “Enright’s Premiere Pie Emporium and Indoor Play Structure Fun Zone” was the premiere pie emporium and indoor play structure fun zone in South-East Saskatchewan. Like most Akwakesvilleites, Mrs. Enright (RIP) relied quite heavily on Donoghue Donoghue to wake her at 5:00 sharp every morning. Why? Because Mrs. Enright (RIP) baked her pies overnight and if she let those little suckers cook even a minute too long, the highly flammable ingredients in her pies would blow her entire pie emporium and indoor play structure fun zone to smithereens.
At exactly 5:01.01am on the fateful July morning, Mrs. Enright’s premiere pie emporium and indoor play structure fun zone blew to smithereens. By 5:01.05am, the neighbouring shops, restaurants, and fun zones had all caught fire and burned to the ground. When 5:01.36am rolled around, Awakesville’s town hall and court house were no more. And at 5:01.58am, Awakesville was but a sleepy memory to those from other framing communities in South-East Saskatchewan.
Crippled by guilt, Donoghue Donoghue immediately left South Eastern Saskatchewan and hopped the first flight he could find to East Africa. Donoghue Donoghue now lives behind a tall apartment building in Mengo, Kampala, Uganda. He has since changed his name to Hue Hue for fear of being recognized as the rooster who was responsible for the infamous “July Awakesville Disaster Extraordinaire”. Hue Hue lives a quiet life, a happy life, but is ultimately haunted by his careless actions in South East Saskatchewan so many years ago. In fact, for fear of causing another disaster extraordinaire, Hue Hue has not slept a wink since that darn fateful July evening. Hue Hue is, by all intents and purposes, an insomniac rooster.