Donkey Man

From Lois Pollock's diary

A tall, young and very black man braces himself against the open side of the flat bed truck. He is stripped to the waist and a fine powdering of cement dust covers his upper torso except where rivulets of sweat have run down his face and neck. He tenses and then lowers his head slightly, eyes staring straight before him. On the truck, another man heaves a 60 kg sack of cement and lowers it onto the extended neck and shoulders of the young man. He does not flinch. Then a second and third bag of similar weight is lowered one on top of the other. When 180 kg are in place, the young man flexes his arms, huge muscles tightening as he walks a precarious track across the busy Kampala Road. I watch him doing this two or three times, almost without stopping for a breath. The tension on his neck and back must be enormous. But men and women in this country - those of the poorer class - are used like beasts of burden. It is entirely common to see women with a baby or toddler strapped to their back with a colored cloth, together with a great bunch of maatoke and possibly a similar sized one of cassava. They scurry along, bent over and able only to watch the ground.

Mechanized Donkey Man

A boda boda driver is resting across the handlebars of his small machine that is pulled onto the side of the road on a busy roundabout, when he is accosted by two elderly women who want him to carry them, plus two enormous bundles of used clothes, a 100 kg sized sack of matoke, a 40 litre jerrycan, a large plastic basin, a black bag - perhaps from its knobbly shape containing sweet potato, and finally a small jerrycan.  Dressed in traditional gomesi, their heads bound with brightly coloured scarves, these two slightly built women drive a hard bargain and even though I cannot understand the language, I can see the driver protesting and gesticulating that he wants more from them.

Negotiations concluded, the boda boda driver eventually secures one of the sacks behind his seat, and the plastic bag of sweet potato is strapped to the back while the other large parcels are fastened to the side of the bike. He sits astride, champing to get on his way and first one of the women hoists herself side saddle behind him and a large bundle is hoisted onto her lap so that her companion can somehow squeeze behind with the washing bowl, jerry cans and a small black bag. In a space that appears too small, she wriggles herself into position and without further ado, the driver opens the throttle and the encumbered bike heads west towards the highway and Mbarara.