By George Laghu
THE airportâ€™s bright security lights bounced back in reflection from his bald head as he stepped out of the first class cabin door of the plane, clutching his briefcase and camel skin camera pouch.
After a quick clearance of his immigration formalities, Peter Claus, the famous official photographer of the former East Germany leader Eric Honecker, walked into the lounge pulling a suitcase.
â€œHi, I see that Entebbe airport has changed greatly and the air is totally refreshing,â€ he said, as he stretched his hand for a handshake.
â€œMan, I am thirsty. I have had nothing to drink for the past twelve hours.â€ I knew Peter as both the man and the Bavarian. In his latter capacity, he has grown into the culture of regarding the taking of anything less than a beer not worthy of the term a drink.
As a man, he had retired from drinking water in 1975. In India, he saw how water could be at its dirtiest as naked beggars wade in a murky pool of water, which is also drunk by some people.
Everybody who knows Peter knows that whenever he is thirsty he goes for a beer. I led him into the bar where he immediately asked for a cold beer. The barman brought two beers and emptied the contents of my bottle into a medium size glass.
Peter said: â€œMay I have a bigger glass?â€ He looked around as if to confirm whether he was truly out of Germany. This he did when he saw that the people around him were not only black, but also drank their beer by sucking on plastic straws.
â€œTell me, is that how a beer is drunk here?â€ he asked excitedly as he got out his camera and snapped at some people around us.
Whether pouring beer into a glass, drinking directly from the bottle spout or using straws are all acceptable ways of drinking a beer, is debatable.
But one thing is clear: While eating or drinking anything there must be regard for hygienic practices that not only give self-esteem to the consumer, but also respect for whatever is being eaten or drunk. Another important regard should be given to acceptable mannerisms and cultural practices that do not embarrass others.
As any other kind of social behaviour, the beer culture has developed over a long period of time.
In spite of the fact that advertisements of Ugandan brewers go with such words as â€œonly to be sold to persons above eighteenâ€ and â€œexcessive taking of alcohol is harmful to your healthâ€, Ugandaâ€™s beer culture is headed in the wrong direction, evident in the use of straws as part of the beer culture.
As many Ugandans, especially
those of the affluent class, resort to beer drinking, there is a lot to be desired in our drinking habits. Such deplorable habits as that of pouring beer into the glass until it overflows and over crowding the table with bottles (darkening as it were), are very debasing indeed.
If one does not know how to pour beer in a glass, then ask the barman or maid to do it for you â€” many of them are trained for that.
Whereas it is a praise-worthy
practice to use a glass to drink a beer, it is totally unhygienic not to cover the glass. Ugandans have been embarrassed by flies falling into their drinks. Many people have simply picked out the fly and continued to drink the beer with little regard to its health implications.
Another hazardous drinking habit is taking a beer without checking its alcoholic content. This is especially common when a new brand hits the market.
For reasons of social esteem, many Ugandans like to over indulge themselves, thinking it is a prestigious practice, forgetting the negative repercussions like being broke, hangovers and domestic squabbles.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, when beers became rare, they were hidden under beds, and only sold to known clients who hurriedly drunk it from the bottles to either avoid being caught, or being asked to share with a friend.
Ugandans soon resorted to â€˜un-beerlyâ€™ cultures such as mixing beer with spirits to increase its potency. Others took narcotics and cigarettes to achieve the same effect.
Another bad habit is not checking expiry dates of beers, causing many to suffer stomach ailments after taking it stale.
Because of the influx of various beer brands, many Ugandans drink more than one brand in one sitting.
In 1986 when the National Resistance Army took over power, a new phenomenon of straws crept into the beer culture. Many of the soldiers were from Ankole, where they drank local beer from gourds using stick straws. To the Banyankole, this practice was not only a matter of convenience, but of culture.
In most developed countries, the brewers take a leading role in developing a desirable positive culture. They have made glasses emblazoned with the brands of different beers. This is not only aimed at increasing sales but also to make people appreciate the practice of drinking from a glass.
In Uganda people use branded costers to cover their glasses.
Companies should invest more in glasses, plastic cups and costers. to improve the beer culture, which should be entertaining and refreshing.