Sunday, July 16, 2017

Introducing the Wonder Bolt


Last year at the sports day finale Dominique was inconsolable. In all her 5 years in the school, her house had never won. She was sobbing loudly. Fifi’s house had won but rather than celebrating she was reduced to consoling her older sister. No comforting words seemed to be working though – until Fifi had a brilliant idea. She told Dominique that since Imani was joining the school next year, she would be in Dominique’s house and they would win. Dominique was instantly cheered up. Even when I provided the proviso that there was no guarantee that Imani would end up in the same house as Dominique.

You see earlier that term, Imani had joined a sprinting competition between the boys in Dominique’s class. Imani is a full 5 years younger than the said boys, but she outsprinted them with ease. But it was not just getting there first; I noted her technique and commitment. The knees rose high with every stride, the arms swinging through the stride and the focus on her face. I knew then that she was a born sprinter.

As fate would have it, Imani joined and was assigned the same house as Dominique. When sports day came round, Imani’s race was a day earlier. It was a relay and she was running the last leg. By the time of the switch over her team was well ahead, but she took off without the baton. 10 yards in and a teacher reminder her she had to go back. She was now fully 20 yards behind. But then she turned on the turbo and sped past the lead girl with 10 yards to go. It was EPIC!


The next day Dominique was in the tag of war. They came dead last in that event. They came dead last again when the final results were announced. Dominique was inconsolable again, but Fifi was in no mood for niceties this time (probably because her house had not worn either). She made it clear to Dominique that she cannot expect the house to win if she has not won her own event. She assured her that she had let Imani down by coming last. The sobbing stopped and was replaced by introspection.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The more things change, the more they remain the same - Is it 1980 0r 2017?

One day in 1980, my dad did not come home. This was not unusual since as a child of 4 years old, no one told me much. In fact he was gone for over a week and I did not experience any angst (may have had something to do with the fact my mother was away on a pilgrimage to the holy land).
Back in those days we used to stay in Najjanankumbi and we used to buy milk for the baby from Makindye barracks. So about 8 days into my dad's disappearance, on the drive home from school, our driver parked outside the barracks to go get some milk.
As Christopher the driver, crossed the road to enter the barracks, a figure, wearing a bloodied long white coat, came running through the barracks gate. But the fellow did not notice the ditch just outside and he stumbled and fell, allowing the chasing soldiers to catch up to him. As they lifted him back into the barracks with accompanying slaps and kicks, I noticed it was my father. 

Christopher had noticed this too and was now frozen in the middle of the road. Thankfully for him, the soldiers were too busy enjoying the torture of my father that they didn't notice him standing there. Once they took my father back inside, Christopher run back into the car and we drove home without milk for the baby. 

A day later my grandparents showed up and another day later I returned from school to find daddy at home too. I remember my sister and I giggling about the fact his mummy on return from his long trip bathed our daddy. Then there was that long white coat of his that was covered in blood. I remember it remained unwashed for a long time. Plus the scar at the back of his dead that never went away.

According to my uncle, my father's problems started when he stopped off at the same Makindye barracks to buy milk for the baby. Outside the barracks was a bar and he decided to enjoy a few drinks before going in to buy the milk. Soldiers from the barracks across the road patronized that bar as well. At the time, my father used to work for Shell and BP as a sales rep. and he was wearing a long white coat with their logo on it. This was similar to how white-collar workers in the 90s (especially those working for the telcos) went everywhere with their ID badges around their necks. To make matters worse, my father was driving this very sleek convertible Mercedes Benz sports car. 
 Image result for CONVERTIBLE MERCEDES BENZ VINTAGE
The envy factor in the bar that day was through the roof and so when my father starting bragging about his family, the soldiers had had enough. They drove both him and that Benz into the barracks and began to try to extract a confession from him.

My uncle reports that they spent anxious days looking for connections to get him out of detention. They tried to get help from late Captain Erima (before he - Erima - in turn disappeared, showing up in 1986 with the NRA and then disappeared again never to be seen again!). They finally got assistance from General Tito Okello Lutwa (later President of Uganda), his assistants Basilio Okello (later coup plotter of the uncoordinated troop movements fame), and James Olara-Okello; who personally escorted my uncle and the Benz to Najjanankumbi. They were lucky that my uncle's wife worked at the Military Hospital Mbuya and the three officers were together in Mbuya when they asked for assistance.
Image result for kamwenge mayor tortured
I remembered this story when I saw the exposed flesh on the knees of the mayor of Kamwenge. You see, at that time, Museveni was in charge too and he still could not control the errant soldiers who extra-judicially arrested and tortured my father. To write lecturing letters is to bury your head in the sand. I would like to see some heads roll over this torture business.

The saddest thing, though, is that the more things change, the more they remain the same. God help us all.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Then he decided to get married


It was a big day for us. A happy day for us. It was the event that could not be missed. One of those where everybody remembers where he or she was and what they were doing when it happened. For my friends and I it was a bucket list item. Right up with taking our wives to Egypt and travelling together to watch the F1 race in Abu Dhabi.

If you were a CIA agent engaged in regime destabilization in Uganda. You would remember how the first WhatsApp images came through just after you had completed deep infiltration of insurgent camps in the Rwenzururu uprisings despite their massive rear guard action.

If you were running a club in London, you would remember how you posted kinky pictures on the Mboga Chat Forum when your phone indicated the arrival of the first Facebook post with the images from the event.

If you had unsubscribed and moved to Australia you would remember how you loaded up on starters and left no room for the main.

But I was there. I was there when the Best Man helped him carry that massive head of his as they thrust their groins at the father in law while doing the Mboga shuffle. I was there to see the rest of the stock in that home.

Earlier with excitement, I bought my tickets at the Trinity bus garage for the bus to this event. I was excited not only about the event, but about the 4-hour journey I was going to enjoy in the company of Nyarus on Trinity bus. Then I got a call from Mr. Particular asking me to join him as his driver took us to the event. Now not only was I going to tick an item off my bucket list but I would also arrive to do so in such opulence.

The first sign of trouble was for Mr. Particular to arrive, not with a car driver, but with a train driver and his wife. Granted trains are glamorous in a country like ours, but banange, guy avugga train. Anyway, I chose to focus on the event.

40kms into the journey and the car overheated and that meant we could not drive faster than 60kph. God had decided that we would travel to this event at a pace as slow as that at which the main character drives his car. But, in true Mboga fashion, we arrived just in time to join the line for food.

So we had come and we had seen, we had drunk were drunk and we had got the mini champagne bottles. It was time to hit the road back to our mundane non-exciting lives. We decided to take a shortcut despite shrill warnings from our female companion. So the silver shadow got stuck in the mud. It took all of the skills of the train driver to get us out of that one.

The train driver had guzzled some wine at the party and, with the mini victory over the swamp, decided he was now in an F1 race. And faster than you can say ‘Lewis Hamilton’, there was a loud bang in the engine followed by a large mushroom cloud of steam. Stuck in the dark in the middle of nowhere. We had to push the silver shadow up the hill so we could turn it around easily. By the time we were through, none of the people in that car were drunk anymore. Suddenly the battery died too, completing the darkness completely. Most felt it was not safe to sit in the car in the dark on the road lest a speeding truck collected you. Out there in the tall grass the only thing left to do to keep spirits up was exchanging of war stories that could otherwise be described as gossiping. Suddenly, after about 45 minutes of complete darkness, all the lights in the car and the radio came on like a scene from ‘The Haunting’. The spookiness led our female companion to conclude that all sorts of imaginary creatures were crawling up her skirt and the tall grass was not safe anymore. All the men soon joined her in the car as fear gave way to fatigue.

Finally rescued and checked in to the best hotel in Mbarara, we ordered room service and prepared to turn in for the night. With the shower not working in her room, our female companion waited until the food had arrived before she asked to use the dark guy’s shower. Her husband pretended to be waiting in line, but his real intentions were exposed when a condom dropped out of his pocket. For the dark guy to notice this during his meal should be an indication of the quality of food on offer.

Yes, we were there when he finally got the monkey off his back. May the couple have a long and wonderful marriage.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

17 years since Siito Paul left

It is 17 years today since the most devastating phone call came announcing your demise. It has been 16 years of no Christmas joy for me. I am glad to say this year tis the season to be jolly. Finally the wonder girls had a chance to decorate a Christmas tree. You would have had fun with the wonder girls. Hounding me the way I hounded you; questioning everything. I still remember the look on your face when I told you to shut up as you spewed nonsense about Brazil as France won the world cup. You should really have stuck to volleyball. 

Watching the wonder girls enjoy reruns of shows with the excitement of a 1st time viewing reminds me of all those times you dramatically responded to a missed chance while watching your own recordings of old world cup matches that you had watched thousands of times. They are proper wonders.

I have thought about you a lot this year. How you refused to migrate to France. How you resisted foreign postings or trips longer than 2 weeks. How you took us out of school as soon as you landed from any trip abroad. How you took us (it turns out you took Sheila and Stella too) to that shack in Mabira to eat kigere. That shack finally closed last year. I draw inspiration everyday from our time together. I still have not slept in a tree like you though, as am still not sure that was a true story.
Rest in peace my babu-ji. Thanks for a wonderful life.
(Before anyone asks; yes, I am the baby in the picture and yes I used to wear dresses).
(Sheila Magero, if you discount the massive forehead, I sort of look like Jade in this picture)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The man from Kigezi and the son of Amos


And it came to pass, in the twenty ninth year of the reign of the son of Amos, sower of the Mustard seed and Sabagabe of Uganda, when the oil from the land of the god-King Kabalega had not yet been removed from the ground; that a man appeared in bright yellow. A yellow that was brighter than the morning sun going forward into the day.

A man from the hills of Kigezi and blessed with great intellect. A man who in the protracted guerilla battles of the triangle bush war spent his time munching on sausages and other delectable food and earned the nickname “kalya sausage”

In the great battles of the Movement he smote the philandering Gilbert; he of Mahogany, stealer of other men’s wives and laughing stoke of all who knew him.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before Kiggundu had opened the gates to the great election bonanza, this man ventured forth, up onto the mountain of the YouTube. It was there that he did declare that he would challenge the king of kings, sabagabe of Uganda for the right to rule this great nation of coffee and diaspora dollars. But first he would challenge him for the bright yellow kingdom.

The message, as spake, was heard through out the land of green bananas and the entire world. The message was taken by twitting birds and packets on the super highway of electronicus to the rest of the world.

The news came to the son of Amos while he was visiting the land of Zuma, buffoon of the south and curer of HIV by washing privates with water from the fountain of Armitage Shanks. There they feasted with Bashir conqueror of the Dinkas and butcher of Darfur. The son of Amos left the feast like a pickpocket at a wedding. He jumped onto his chariot of the Gulf Stream IV and rode, fast like the wind, back to his kingdom.

And there was much anger and gnashing of teeth in Rwakitura, the land of milk and honey. And the cows in Sembabule were restless and would not eat of the grass nor bring forth milk from their udders.

The son of Amos, tired, after riding his chariot of the Gulf Stream IV all night, appeared as a vision to all his people. He told them that the man from Kigezi was a delinquent and could not be trusted. The king of kings took his people to the highest mountain in the land, on the peak of iPad. There he showed them schools that had been built by Nyamurunga and the vile colonialists. Some had also been built by the conqueror of the British Empire, Dada Idi Amin. Shamelessly he claimed he had built these schools with his own money. Money he had got from selling Milk from his cows in Sembabule and Rwakitura. Money he had got from selling cow hides to the great merchant Hassan B. Appalled by this chicanery, the wizards and sorcerers of the UCC decided they would switch of all analogue magic. So 98% of the nation were suddenly able to wake up from the vision of the son of Amos.

Starting the next day, much carousal prevailed in the land of green bananas for all of 48 hours. Then Hospitals went without medicines or doctors again. The great heroine Kagina continued to sharpen her sword in preparation for the battle at UNRA and Musisi continued to place her great huge buttocks firmly on top of the poor people in Kampala. And everyone went back to work in the over crowded malls and the gardens.

Life went on.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I am on top of the world!!


If you are on top of the world, do you have to come down off the top in order to climb back up again? If you shoot for the stars and hit them, are there no more stars to hit?

Ever since I was little, people have talked about deciding what to do with your life. Back then it was – when I grow up, I want to be this or that. When I actually grew up, I even calculated how much money I needed to be able to “retire”. Then guess what? I actually became what I had always wanted to be and I even saved up enough to be able to decamp from the rat race. This was at age 32.

At the time, I told people that I had achieved self-actualization. Their reaction was to treat me with superciliousness. Reminded how no one knew who I was etc. There was much celebration when a few years later I said that I now had a new goal in life. A friend of mine told me that if I had really self-actualized previously then I would not have a new goal. But I disagreed and Maslow and his hierarchy of needs suffered defenestration.

Why do I have to do just one thing with my life? Why does doing all sorts of different things get looked at as searching for the one thing? Why does it have to be ONE thing?

I have always been able to identify patterns easily. I found that to quickly get a woman to bed, you had to make sure all her other needs or desires were satisfied. But this is not about her needs for all time. It is about her needs at that time. That means that what satisfied today may not satisfy tomorrow. For those still obdurate apropos Maslow’s pyramid, think of it as having to get to the top of the pyramid every time. So today she has no money problems, she is not hungry and is in a good mood. In that case all you have to do is make her feel respected. But tomorrow she suddenly has money problems that may impact her mood, but her boss was nice to her and so she feels really respected. So then you have to satisfy a different need.

Over 10 years ago, I found true happiness being able to come home everyday to this particular woman. Once my class and, later, my shift ended, I felt the excitement fill my heart at the prospect of seeing her face and hearing her voice. So every evening as I closed the back gate and she looked down at me from the bedroom window, I hit a star. Then I married her and we had a child, hitting several stars. This was now a new level of happiness.

In the meanwhile I was being paid well to be a programmer. I had wanted to be a programmer for a long time. I had even threatened to kill myself if my sisters did not let me use my inheritance to pay for my software engineering education. I remember how happy I felt when I paid the tuition. I had no money to my name immediately after that point but I was walking around like I was the richest man in the world. The happiness I felt when I finally found a job at McDonald’s was on another level. Then I came back to Uganda and my code was impacting real lives. The sense of fulfillment that brought was immense.

There is a long line of teachers in my family. My paternal grandparents and my parents were teachers. It is my destiny and desire to work in academia. While I was still being fulfilled as a programmer I got several opportunities to teach. When my name first appeared on a research paper, I cried. I cried because the joy overflowed. Then I was at Oxford University coaching doctoral students of Biomedical Engineering… If only my parents were alive to see that. My daddy used to brag in the bar about the secondary school I was in, am sure he would have taken out a TV advertisement about my stint in Oxford. Just that thought brings tears to my eyes. How many times can a person be on top of the world?

I have been truly blessed in my life. I had a box of cigars from Cuba that I used to turn to every time I was feeling on top of the world. That box had 10 cigars and eventually run out about 3 years ago. But the happiness is still coming.

It is my contention that in my life, I will continue to find happiness in many different ways. That is why shooting for the stars appeals more than Maslow’s pyramid. The universe is never ending. When you hit the stars, there are still more stars to hit in a galaxy far, far away.

So what is my purpose in life? What I can say is, its not just ONE thing. It has been many things. And I know many more are yet to come. Join me and lets count our blessings. Let us stop and smell the coffee. We have many lives to lead.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Am I a racist?

Right now I am in Istanbul Turkey on a consulting gig. I travelled here with a few of my Indian brothers and we are staying in a pretty posh neighborhood in Bostanci. So yesterday after working all morning and some of the afternoon, my Indian brothers and I decided to go out for lunch nearby. We did a search on Google and we decided on a Mexican restaurant called Ranchero. So we layer up and walk over. As soon as we stepped inside a waiter came rushing over to us shaking his head vigorously and showing us back to the door. The only English word he said was closed. But that cannot be true because even as we were being ejected other people were coming in and not all the tables were full either; and none of them was marked as reserved.

So I made 2 conclusions. One is that the waiter racially profiled us and determined that we would be ordering vegetarian options and those were not available. Or 2 that he just did not like the look of us. In both cases there is a tinge of racism.

What scares me is that I was not in the least bit offended. I was more irritated that we had to go back out into the cold and find another restaurant and thus lose time that we could have spent working. There is something definitely wrong with me because this is not the 1st time I have reacted like this to racism. I was on a bus in London when an old drunk man started making some racists remarks in my direction. I only realised I should be offended when the nice old lady seated next to me complained on my behalf. Then the driver threw the geezer off the bus. I remember being irritated by the fact that the bus driver stopped for a long time to throw the guy off and I would probably miss my train.

Many times I read the stories of alleged racism and I wonder what the fuss is about. I wonder why Luis Suarez was banned, I wonder why Yaya Toure called in the police. I can understand why my friend Henry Lukenge called in the police. This behavior made him miss his bus and that is just not right.

So what is wrong with me? And what impact will my attitude have on me and others? Does it mean I am racist too? I do know that I am prejudiced and I do perpetuate most stereotypes. But I also know that I posses empathy. As such, I always try to put myself in the other person's shoes.

That guy at Ranchero may be knew that he basically has racist regular clients, who may make our experience in his restaurant uncomfortable. So I should understand that calling the police on the guy will probably mean him losing his job and yet he threw us out for our own good. I actually have a racist friend (lol - that just sounds like "... some of my best friends are racists ...") that I always try not to subject to the company of white people as it would be unpleasant for all of us.

That chap on the bus was struggling to find work and had become an alcoholic and may be his job had been taken by a black educated man like me. Its probably easier to tell him to shape up, but as a humanist, I think its not right for me to be upset with him. I should instead feel sorry for him, rather than add to his problems by getting him thrown off the bus or calling the police. And lets us not forget the risk of missing my train.

But still, I wonder if there is something wrong with me...