Truck Driver by Ugandan writer Billy Opifeni is a non-fiction account highlighting the lives of truck drivers with a keen focus on the dynamics of the sexual network. It is based on true events.
The story follows 40-year old David, a highly sought after truck driver who sets out on a journey to deliver goods from Uganda to South Sudan. Through his drive, the reader is given glimpses into the existing sexual network which is widely aided by poverty, long distance, and convenience.
As David prepares for his trip to Ezo, a border town in South Sudan, he is given his payment by his boss-Madut, the truck owner, which he divides three ways between himself (to be used on the road), his wife and Susan, his lover. The bar is sustained by David and other men who are Susan`s lovers but are unknown to David. Susan is only with them for the sake of her business.
David eventually sets off and moves through Packwach and Koboko districts before crossing the border to South Sudan. In Packwach, David immediately identifies a young and light-skinned lady among the sex workers in the trucks park who he spends the night with. Later in Koboko, he meets up with Mama Junior, a private hotel dealer with who he has a sexual relationship. Whenever he is in Koboko town, he spends time at her home. Meanwhile, David isn`t Mama Junior`s only lover. She also has other truck drivers with who she has sexual relationships. These relationships help her run her business since some transport her items free of charge relieving her of the high transport costs.
Throughout David`s two trips to towns in South Sudan-Ezo and Aweil, the sexual network is unveiled. Whenever he stops for clearance by customs, police checks, or to rest, he finds a woman-long-time lover/friend or a prostitute to spend the night with. And his turnboy Jacob lives the same lifestyle.
With a thriving sexual network, everyone is prone to join because `sexual relationships are a good way to survive at the border.’ No one is concerned about AIDS or STDS. Men prefer sex without condoms because sex with protection is like eating a banana with all its peelings. The women, on the other hand, charge a higher fee for sex with a condom. It is a negotiation tactic.
`Due to this dynamic, many truck drivers have families along the road, women and children who see their partners and fathers twice or once a month. Imagine the impact of this on women and children?
I was shocked by people`s casual perception of sex. There was no pretence. When a man approached a woman and vice versa, they both knew what was on the table and they took it shamelessly. I was bombarded with a multitude of questions: Were the women willingly engaging in this network because of poverty? Did the men do it because they were lonely when on the road? Did they simply enjoy sex with multiple partners? Can something be done to curb the growth of the sexual network?
The book excelled greatly in showcasing the lives of truck drivers but everything else was a whirlwind. The author uses a linear plot to tell David`s story, which works well but in the same breath, it deprives the story of any sense of suspense. All information is told and little is shown. I wished to experience the scenery in all the towns the truck drivers travelled through especially the ones they used as resting points. Everything was vaguely described-the prostitutes, lodges, restaurants, business sightings in some of the towns, the business owners, life at the border. There is no sense of time therefore as a reader I did not know which year the story was told.
As one who had never read or heard much about truck drivers, the book gave me all the inside scoop. Truck Driver is a highly enlightening read.
Call Billy Opifeni on +256 775 795682 for a copy of the book.