Market day

Linda and two of her friends had agreed to check out the Brixton market on Friday. Part of the fun is figuring things on one’s own and as such, they did not have a chaperone. Thankfully, this stop was on the same line  as theirs(Think one of train stops on the same route)

Right after they got to the station, they did not know where to go. They decided to  turn left and then come back if they failed to find it (or ask along the way) Voila, the market stood in its glory just a few metres after the lucky turn.

It was easy to tell because of the buzz that surrounded ‘traders.’ In just a couple of minutes, they had seen bananas, avacado, mangoes and pretty much everything that screamed ‘home’ to them. They decided to take a short tour and then return to make some purchases.

Brixton UG

Do you see that flag, do ya?

The walk seemed to uncover something new with every step. The population in this area is mainly of African and Caribbean descent. As an African, you would feel right at home, as the trio did on this cold Saturday afternoon.

They agreed that they needed to taste food from at least one restaurant before they left. The pick was what seemed like an Italian restaurant with a varied menu that had everything from curries to french fries (chips). Milly and Christine settled for chips and chicken, while Linda had a beef curry with rice. The prices are quite pocket friendly. In fact, the train fare, meal and drink were altogether cheaper than a meal at the street where the students live.

They agreed to try out a new restaurant whenever they were in the area. What better way to ‘travel the world’ than through discovering different cuisines, right?

BRIXTON restaurant

Google image


Ahead of them lay a cosmetics shop that had everything from weaves to the hair oils they know and love. Milly purchased a few brands she was familiar with and then they were off. Before embarking on the ‘food trail,’ they chanced upon a little Christian bookshop that turned out to be a gem. It had beautiful messages, books and gifts that left the ladies wishing they had a shopping allowance. Milly suggested a group Bible study for the East African team after finding a book that would serve as a guide. Christine and Linda happily welcomed the idea and made their contribution so as to purchase the book.

After spending more time than they should have in the lovely, store, they decided to concentrate of their purpose for the visit. Most of the items were sold at one pound each. For those that seemed greater in quantity like apples, oranges and onions, Milly and Linda split so that each could take home a fair share that could last them a week or more.

brixton food

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While looking for flour, to make chapatis, Linda bumped into a shop attendant of Indian descent. He did not even ask her where she was from and immediately started a conversation.
Him: Gyebale nyabo

Linda: *quizzical look on her face* Kale, naawe gyebale

Him: Olyotya?

Her: Gendi

Him: Oyagala matooke..?
Her: *giggle* Nedda ssebo

After a while, Christine pulled her aside to ask if he indeed knew ‘her language..’ They did not find the flour but Linda made sure to buy some items from him.

It started to rain (as it often does, out of the blue) and the ladies took shelter for a while. The bags were too heavy and too full to stand the burden of umbrellas.

The ride back was quiet after 3 or so odd hours of ‘shopping.’

With Linda still struggling to keep up with the change in time zones, her system dictated a long bath and some rest even though the night was still young.


  • The shops generally give shopping bags in this area although it is best to carry a big one in which you can throw everything
  • It is also a great entertainment scene, with several bars, Ritzy, picturehouse, the largest independent cinema in the UK, Brixton academy that hosts live shows and live music. There are also several other items ranging from clothing to jewellery, new and second hand. Perhaps Linda will have more to add on this in future.
  • Apparently, Brixton’s crime rate is considerably higher than most areas in and around London.. but there were no incidents to report on while the ladies discovered bits of this vibrant area.

Free food!

The day started out cold and rainy. All Linda could think of were the excuses people would be making to cut work or make their way out of appointments back at home.

She found a colleague and they set off for the train station.

Controller at the train station : Are you Kenyan?

Linda: No, Ugandan

Guy:  *In heavy British accent* Ogamba ki?

Linda: *Wide grin* Gendi mani….

The ride to the University was smooth and fast.

The venue for the ‘new’ student’s meeting was a bevy of activity as Linda settled in her seat.

She said hello to her neighbour who happened to be Australian. As they got to talking he asked her if she knew the singer Roberto and if he was from Uganda 😀

Linda: The one who sang ‘amarula?’

Him: Yes! Is he Ugandan?

Linda: I wish. He is Zambian

Him: I love that song!

Great ice breaker. Before long, they were catching up like old friends.

With a few hours to spare before the next session, Linda and her friends took a stroll to pick up their student IDs. The campus seems to have a new building that pops up every other minute.

At the orientation, the group had been told about a gentleman who serves free lunch daily and had been toying with the idea of trying it out.  Free food in London? Why not?! Some of the other students were sceptical but Linda was happy to try anything at least once.

By 12pm, the queue was filling up. They were curious about the food for that day’s serving and quickly joined in.

It turned out to be rice, some bread, mushroom sauce and even strawberries! (for dessert perhaps?) The portions were quite big too. Best of all, it was hot!

hot food


Daniel, by far the funniest guy in the lot, started to exclaim that he would not buy any food for as long as he was at the University. He started mapping out a route in which he would head to school daily, with or without lectures just for the food. Daniel even vowed to get a seat in the library with perfect view of the serving area so as to arrive on time.

This is the same guy who earlier said he had  plain ugali (posho) for breakfast that day because he was unsure when his next meal would come 😀

Linda could not get over the guy who cooks and serves this food and made a mental note to get him to tell his story, at a later stage. If this happens, we get to ‘hear’ it here 🙂


More next time.


In the beginning

When Linda dreamt of travelling the world, she figured it would be only for pleasure; to relax, learn about different cultures, meet several people, make friends out of strangers, experiment with various cuisines, write and then live to tell the tale. As with most dreams, the package was considerably different when it arrived.

Her chance at a London experience showed up in form of a scholarship that she never imagined she would get but that is a story for another day.

Linda’s departure was mostly heartwarming with a hint of pain that was safely tucked away for future reference. She spent time with her loved ones, most of whom passed on a word of advice or a gift and lots of laughter. Others shared something even more precious, time. The distractions were quite welcome as she did not have too much time to think about the changes that were yet to come.

At the airport, she shocked herself when her friends left and no tears welled up in her eyes. Progress, she thought.

She took a corner sit and drank a cup of tasteless overpriced coffee. It wasn’t long before her stomach reacted and begged to be released from that misery. It could have been the anxiety, the terrible coffee or both. She did not care. She needed to be physically prepared for the 15 hours ahead. “Will there be enough leg room, will I manage to catch some sleep, shall my neighbour snore?” were some of the questions running through her head.

When she spotted Maureen*, whom she had not seen in years, she smiled to herself. If Ian had been there, he would have started a long speech about how she knows someone in every part of the world. She walked over to Maureen and tapped her shoulder. Maureen turned around and her face could not hide the surprise. They caught up for a while before an announcement was made. Boarding would begin shortly. They exchanged contacts and Linda caught up with the other two Ugandans with whom she was traveling to London.

Helen* was wearing a ‘kitenge‘ dress and open shoes, much to Linda’s surprise. Was this an attempt to bask in the glory of African heritage in the meantime or did she not have any warm clothing? Linda decided to pose the question as she could not imagine how Helen hoped to deal with the winter upon arrival in the UK. Her fears were confirmed when Helen explained that she planned to shop in Doha during the two hour layover. Linda started to spell out that the prices would probably be outrageous but quickly realised that her counterpart was quite unruffled. She then offered what little garments she had in her hand luggage and went on to scroll through the available entertainment.

The intern was an easy choice as she needed something with a simple story line and a chance for laughs. Alas, the laughs came with tears too. It was difficult to tell if the emotions were entirely brought on by the movie or if it was simply the spur that the heart needed to face its imminent situation.

The hours flew by, laced with drama from the little toddlers sitting next to her,some depressing music from Adele and failed attempts at sleep. The minutes before landing at Doha were a complete delight, everything sparkled like a collection of jewels. All she could think of was the vastness of God’s empire and its boundless beauty.

The two hour layover confirmed the fears about airport prices. Helen found a pair of jeans at $200. She settled for a pack of socks at $21. Linda caught herself a little too late when she  started to ask Helen why she had not shopped in Downtown Kampala where things would have been much cheaper. There was really no use crying over spilled milk.

The group grew larger when the Ugandans got to meet the group from Kenya (which is the biggest) and the lone Tanzanian. They were reunited, a year after their first encounter. Odd hugs and handshakes were exchanged as everyone tried to remember each others names and grab a seat pending the connecting flight to Heathrow.

Linda later found a seat further away, prior to boarding. She met Isaac,* a Nigerian who had traveled back home for the holidays and was returning to work in London. He tried to convince her that Uganda had pyramids until they agreed that he must have meant Sudan. He was quick to offer tour guide services when he learnt it was Linda’s first time in London. Mmmhh.

The remaining journey was longer, ‘bumpy’ and did not have enough distractions. Attempts to sleep as late as 3a.m were futile but Linda did not stop trying and frantically looking at the clock. Alas, there was no winning.

At 6.40 a.m, after what seemed like decades, the plane finally landed at Heathrow. This marked the final step, in the beginning of this new journey for 15 East Africans, many of whom are parents, continuing with their Masters’ degree, several miles from home.

In the following weeks, we shall stalk Linda and all her ‘maalo’ as she meets people,discovers places and deals with her very first winter.

Google image

Google image