My consuming fear of motorcycles has been well-chronicled, but in Kampala, you can't avoid taking bodas. They are everywhere, traffic is horrible and constant, and to get anywhere quickly, you simply have no choice but to flag down a boda, haggle over the price, hop on the back of the bike, and pray.
As soon as I began riding bodas, I met a driver named Jon, who parks himself outside of my apartment complex, waiting for customers. Demure in stature and wearing an ever-present smile, I hopped on the back of his boda while going to a bar one night. Preparing to watch a USA world Cup soccer match, I was wearing my red white and blue jersey.
"USA!" Jon exclaimed! "I love USA!"
Before beginning our journey, I grabbed hold of Jon's arms and made a deal. "OK, Jon, you like this jersey? If you give me rides, charge me fair prices, and keep me safe for the next month, I give you this jersey."
I could virtually see Jon's mouth watering. He let out a high-pitched "Eeeeh!" and we sped off.
Last night, I called Jon to my apartment complex, needing a ride to meet a friend at a restaurant. I approached him, one hand behind my back, and we embraced. After chatting for a minute about how we were doing, I stepping back and brought my hand around, showing him the shirt he craved. I tossed it to him, and he grabbed it out of the air with glee. Hopping off his boda, Jon gave me a huge bear hug, not an easy feat given that I am at least 8 inches taller and 50 pounds bigger than he is.
"Thank you, Mr. Ross," Jon said. "I will wear it every day!" He drove me safely and slowly to the restaurant, and refused to take any payment.
This morning, I left my apartment to walk to work for the last time. Jon was perched on the side of the road, straddling his boda, chest puffed out and proudly wearing my red, white and blue jersey.