The Russian Mafia



The city we live in, Entebbe Uganda, is home to many ex-pats.

I never fully understood that term.

The dictionary defines it as “___________________

Entebbe is a city of ex-pats.

Many work for the large UN base beside the airport.

Others for the numerous N.G.O’s that base their operations here.

DeDe and I go to a local hotel’s health club. It’s not Gold’s Gym.

One treadmill that works.

We’ve always been walkers but Entebbe is not for the walking.  Here are three reasons:

  1. 1.     Matatu’s will run over you.  These taxi vans are dangerous for pedestrians and well as passengers.
  2. 2.    Boda-Boda’s will run over you.  These are motorcycle taxis and are even more dangerous.  I believe the riders enjoy playing “How close can I come to the walking Mzungu (white man).
  3. 3.    You cannot walk any appreciable distance without being accosted for money. 

I exercise to relax. So the above reasons mean we must exercise inside the friendly confines.

The health club is where I’ve become a member of the Russian Mafia.

There is a group of about five Russian men who enjoy the club’s sauna.

They are big men.



(I asked one of the staff why the club didn’t have a scale for weighing. She said, “Oh, we’ve had plenty but the Russians always break it.”)

I only understand one Russian word (No: “Nyet”) but many times sweat in the sauna with the Russians for extended periods of time.


They all wear the European style of men’s swimwear called a “speedo.”

I can attest.  It ain’t a pretty sight on a overweight middle-aged Russian.


Even their laughs are big.

I call them the “Russian Mafia.”

They are pilots.  The Ugandan air force uses MIGs and Russian cargo planes as well as helicopters.

As we sweat together (five Russians and one American) I always try to figure out what they’re talking about in their cigarette and whiskey-soaked conversations.

Are they talking about how it was in Afghanistan?

Or where the best vodka is in Uganda?

I always recall a scene from a Cold War-era James Bond where agent 007 is in a steamy Turkish bath with a group of Russian men.

Stirred, not shaken please.

Or is it shaken, not stirred.

If I spoke Russian, I’d ask the men. They’d know for sure.

The Russian Mafia seldom acknowledge my presence. A good grunt is about all I get as they or I enter.

Africa is a peculiar place.

Each day is an adventure as you mix with the mass of humanity that is so fascinating.

Folks from every tribe, kingdom, language, culture, and continent.  (I even met a Mennonite here whose mother was from DeRidder, the city of my birth.)

Fascinating folks.

Folks like the Russian Mafia.


One comment

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