Imagine darkness. Then, see the light.

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Infinity of the word I’m not supposed to say loud

by on Jun.12, 2017, under Uncategorized

There are many levels of ignorance, I have learnt to accept that and to a large extent, I’ve learnt to find excuses for it.

We choose to pursue our paths with intent. We choose – each time we make a decision. We choose to comply with the rules or we choose to break the rules.

Essential quality of a responsible team player is to communicate and get validation from within his team, because it is the team that produces opportunities for any player. If you fail to respect your team you end up in front of the goal waiting for the ball that nobody will pass to you.

So why be that person – when all it takes is to respect your teammates, communicate and plan together? Then again, you can’t put in what was left out.

That’d be my excuse for you. Now go and play, whichever game it is you’re playing.

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Don’t Walk On Our Grass

by on Jun.07, 2016, under Uncategorized

This instruction, given by KCCA long ago, still holds water. You’ll be so busted if you step onto the grass under the watchful eyes of KCCA wardens (job creation). Fantastic, we now have green patches of grass around the City and it feels really wonderful. Especially to see that bodas still ride on it freely. But hey, who can manage bodas?

I’m missing concrete, and tar. In Kampala City, these are not enough. Narrow strips of concrete covered in tar, with some nice non-slip granite tiny stones sprinkled on top, framed by concrete slabs on one side, by grass on the other side, with some few deep shoe sole marks in them, footsteps that crossed on the day the tar was still soft and hot. Footsteps of progress, stability, respect for citizens.

Yes, the imaginary things above are pavements. They are gracing all city streets in cities that have proper priorities at heart. They exist to spare pedestrians from tragedies and accidents. They exist to give space and safety. And to try to grab your shoes on a hot and sunny day.

Our city, no. We don’t need this. We can afford to lose people to accidents every day and pretend that nothing ever happened. We can afford to employ people to arrest us if we step on the grass but can’t afford to employ people to make us pavements, so we don’t have to step on the grass in the first place. We can afford school kids falling into potholes, manholes and trenches on their way to school, dodging cars and bodas as they go. After all, if a child is knocked and dies, we have so many. We can afford to be so careless with our citizens’ lives and needs.

In my mind, I grow this grass of freedom and I see Jennies of this world not even daring to look. Because this grass is so green and bright that it hurts their eyes and they prefer to keep their eyes shut and hidden behind the dark glasses of politicking. This is the grass I won’t allow them to walk on. The freedom to say what hurts the ordinary person. The freedom to photograph it, spell it and expose it. The freedom to demand that the army of sweepers converts to the army of pavement builders. So we stop sweeping critical things like this under the carpet for another five years and our city doubles in size with nowhere to walk on.

 

 

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Tuesday Morning

by on May.10, 2016, under Uncategorized

This is just an ordinary Tuesday morning. Nothing, absolutely nothing significant takes place. Perhaps the rain. It followed me from home, started at 4 am with bangs and flashes of light, scaring everyone out of their beds or deeper into the covers. Perhaps. The rain.

Rain is significant. It changes things. And lives. It puts people in a strange mood. Not one general mood. Just mood strange to each person. It changes things. Washes and takes away.

There is no rain without thoughts of something. Everyone thinks of something when it rains and it is the same something they think of each time it rains. So rain is a kind of a lost and found memory. A recurring memory like a skipping record. If at all anyone knows what is skipping record is nowadays.

A drop of water falling on your forehead at intervals is torture. I saw it in the movies. Read in the books about this. So what is all these drops of water falling all over the place all the time? Torture? Necessary evil? Or nature’s harmonic way of perpetuating our existence, until the end of each one of us, until returning each one of us to soil, to be eaten by worms, pooed as fertile soil to grow a flower that will be eaten by a cow that will give milk to feed a baby…

It’s just an ordinary Tuesday morning.

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Tenders

by on Oct.07, 2015, under Uncategorized

Agency management can sometimes get excited when seeing a quarter-page tender in daily papers, particularly if it’s by a large international company. Usually pre qualification of suppliers means that the narrow opening had been created for a different agency to offer and provide services of advertising, creative, media buying and whatever else the case may be.

If the client is someone on the agency’s wish list then the excitement grows even more: is there a possibility that they will pitch, drop their current agency when they see our fabulous ideas, move with us into the blissful and successful future?

Let me tell you one simple thing, derived from twenty-odd years of experience: don’t bother.

Pre-qualification of suppliers is the most bogus process that Ugandan companies engage in. You waste money on printing an ad, all in the name of transparency and giving everyone equal opportunity. Next step is to sell your applicants a copy of your tender document, which on average goes for UGX 50,000 to UGX 100,000, depending on how important the company thinks it is.

You jump through hoops to get the document: visit the client, get the bank account number, queue in the bank to make payment, guard the receipt with your life because without it, you tender submission is invalid, then run to the office excited that you are now allowed to put the document together.

Next step is preparation of documents. If you’re a habitual responder which is a condition bordering to delusional, you will have stuff ready to print: just a quick find & replace to insert proper tenderer’s name in the right places. If not, then pick, un-frame, scan, look through files, pull out docs, put together samples and examples, the whole drama!

Then you remember: Income Tax Clearance Certificate! Run to URA, beg and plead, come tomorrow or two days after, beg and plead some more… Finally, Certificate in hand, you are binding one original and three copies of your agency’s life, ready for MD’s signature: all packed into sealed and patiently, correctly addressed envelopes, dashing on a boda to deliver to the client before the tender deadline.

Phew! Just in time.

What happens next is a total anticlimax, considering the drama, the excitement, the passion with which the agency team approached the tender document preparation.

Two weeks go by in silence.

Four weeks pass.

Six weeks later, you send an inquiry. They respond. You shiver in anticipation before you open that e-mail that pretty much reads: “Thank you for your inquiry, we shall get back to you.”

Three months. You write again. This time no answer.

Eventually a letter comes in telling you that you are now prequalified for the current financial year, which lapses in two months.

You look at the letter and think to yourself: “This, is not possible.”

The trash bin next to your desk smiles hungrily.

My conclusion: don’t be a part of an idle process. If someone has to complete a certain form in order to satisfy their compliance committee – don’t help them. Agency-Client relationships are built over time; cherish the ones you have and invest agency energies into creating outstanding work for your existing clients. That will be your best investment.

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The other day I drove through Zziru

by on Sep.28, 2015, under Observations, Short Stories, Uncategorized

It was one of those days when the road feels good under your tyres and you go a bot further than you should on a fast murram road… And you have to turn off in Zziru. On a scale of national importance Zziru is a place that would be called Ziru but luckily some old Muganda teacher (probably) decided to give it importance by painting the words on the schoolpost and doing the double consonant to up the ante. So the place became known as Zziru and to be sure, became known on this right side of Nakawuka road but asking anywhere else, you’d have a problem getting any directions whatsoever.

I drove through Zziru. It is so unimportant that immediately, as you leave the Expressway, you bounce onto the road full of potholes that get deeper and angrier with every passing metre. It was a lonely drive for a bit, until I stumbled onto a brick truck but even then, my company branched off before I could see the first roofs of Zziru peeping quietly and modestly beneath the banana trees.

I thought this was going to be a quiet, ordinary drive with a quick stop at the fish-woman’s stall where you get fried fish pieces tasting of fish gall, crisp and bitter, for 500 a piece. But soon I saw a crowd by the road and some trucks parked there, I thought Besigye or someone like that had discovered voters and came to Zziru to campaign, so I approached with caution.

Someone died at Zziru. I saw the chairs. And chairs follow either weddings or the funerals. Quick scan of randomly parked trucks, not limos, and the absence of funny ribbons and decorations told the sad story. We had a dead body somewhere there and people were gathering to pay respects. I drove by ever so carefully and slowly and what embedded itself in my mind was the important guy who looked like Aggrey Awori but wasn’t the one, standing there with an envelope in his hand, giving instructions as if he was Aggrey Awori. And the lady who knelt on the road in front of another man dressed in a suit.

Faces passed by my window slowly and I could register a whole range of emotions but I didn’t really think of that till now. I just knew that someone died at Zziru and people were there, at the house, ready for the vigil. I wondered if they were going to sing a “Balokole” version of “Oh my darling Clementine” as they always did during lumbes, but I pushed that thought as a ‘none of my business’ as I drove on.

And then I started really thinking about the dead person in Zziru. I drove downhill, on the most pathetic road I’ve seen in a long time. I had so many boda-bodas coming towards me. Carrying as many people and more. Ladies dressed in their best busuutis. Then an old man with his grandson sandwiched safely between him and boda guy. A lady with two girls hanging out of each arm. Another busuuti lady. A shariati lady with a headscarf made with dangling large gold sequins. A lady with pop-art black & white long dress that looked like a geometrical illusion of sorts. A man who had an air of the village politician, holding papers and brown envelopes in his left arm while talking hurriedly on the phone. And so many more, hanging for their dear lives on that miserable Zziru road. All going to pay respects, all wanting to do so, not to complete some bizarre form but sincerely making an effort to see off this dead person while themselves looking their very best, being their very best.

I felt it. The summary of life. It didn’t matter who it was, it certainly was someone torn from the very fabric of Zziru in a hard way, creating a large hole that can be filled only by togetherness of remaining people, their extended hands, hugs, wailing, swollen teary eyes. Warmth of people was melting that fabric and weaving it again, making it complete again, delivering the gap into the arms of the soil, into the wings of the spirits of the ancestors, while the living reorganised and took their new places in the family and village hierarchy without even wondering why or who’s next.

One day, we will all be chief guests at our own funerals. I drove off, slowly sliding downhill through the gullies of Zziru. An insignificant place, not on any map, spewed my car out like you’d spit out a jambula stone when no one is watching. It remained behind me, a place holding the keys to life’s mysteries, full of powerful lessons and explanations.

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Somewhat Strange

by on Sep.20, 2015, under Horses, Interesting Words on Love, Observations, Poems, Uncategorized

These things called feelings. At some point you begin reflecting. Thinking it over and over and over. Replaying scenarios. Rethinking situations. reviewing reactions.

You question. Rightfully so. You bring yourself to the edge and count seconds before you are ready to jump. But you never jump. You step back.

Life becomes less complicated as you get older. Feelings intensify. You love yourself more. You ask for more. You determine, define, decide.

Somewhat strange that I’d let the small stuff bother me. But I did because it bothered me before and I let it be, graciously.

Let the dead horses decompose. But now they want to race, and win races with me in lanes. Wait a minute. I hold the whip and I even have a vest.

If you never sat on a horse, you don’t know what it means when the ears go down. And you find out a millisecond later when your ass is on the ground.

I think sleep is a wonderful thing. Anger tires me. I get really sleepy really late at night.

I have my new puppy on my chest. His steady breathing is translating into mine. Holding a warm puppy is a huge source of happiness and calm.

I love you. Something is misplaced between us but I love you. We need to walk the path together. Let me come back for you.

 

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It’s That Simple

by on Sep.08, 2015, under Observations, Uncategorized

There’s been enough stories about ‘white’ people this and that, it makes me really sick. I’ve seen ‘white’ people being used as an excuse for a variety of things: action, inaction, backbiting, gossip, spite, undermining, envy…. It just makes me believe, even firmer, that Ugandans have to wake up from this debilitating stupor and take charge of their lives, forgetting lousy and stupid excuses like “whites take our jobs, whites take our money…”

The minute you utter the word ‘white’ you diminish your own qualities – you allow any race to place itself above you – in your world, and you acknowledge you aren’t at par. You shoot yourself in the foot. Because, where you could excel, you have placed a ‘white’ person on a pedestal of success; the job you would really be good at, ‘white’ person holds; the ideas you came up with – ‘white’ people are executing…

How about some self-respect? Some confidence? Some passion for learning and excelling in what you do? How about looking at your brothers and sisters who struggle every day to put themselves at the place of success, to prove it has been done and it can be done again and again, no matter what colour you are?

How about not looking at race as an excuse for anything, any more? Today we have better chances at racial equality than ever before, how about taking your chances, taking charge of your abilities, delivering your best shot irrespective of how ‘black’, ‘brown’ or ‘white’ you are? How about stripping yourself of those chips on your shoulders and moving forward, within your abilities and limits, wanting to only take what is yours and completely ignoring what isn’t within your reach?

How about allowing your child to be born in a house whose owner is you, where there is cutlery, wall clock, something you inherited from your grand-grand-mother, a car that you paid off from your salary, a cat, a loving family? How about taking those steps in life, like having a water heater and a tiled bathroom in the house, and a good TV? A reasonable carpet in your living room? A vacuum-cleaner? A washing machine?

How about earning – not borrowing – before desiring? Living within your means? Working hard to build your estate for your children to inherit?

I’m not defending competence or stupidity of ‘white’ people. They come in a wide range of qualities and faults but if you keep on having only one argument why they shouldn’t be in Uganda (which is that they are ‘white’) then there is a lot you have to do.

Leave racism to racists. Prove yourself. Outshine others. Outsmart and excel. Define your destiny by being the best human being you can be.

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Thus Flied Away Life

by on Sep.03, 2015, under Short Stories, Uncategorized

It happened, I suspect, on 8th July this year.

I was thinking about her lately and in my mind I was making promises to give her a call when I get to Belgrade. I knew my mom will have some news, at least the neighbourhood rumours, and I was going to look for her phone number via Yellow Pages, and make a call.

It was like a cold shower when, instead, I heard what followed my sister’s question “Did you hear about Maya?”

When you hear a question like that, your mind plays endless scenarios in a milisecond in preparation for good or bad news. But nothing prepares you for the news of your highschool friend committing suicide by jumping through the fifth floor living room window.

We were huge friends then. Inseparable. We shared secrets and cigarettes. We knew everything about each other. I didn’t see this coming.

Maya stayed in my Belgrade life. I don’t want to describe her because it is difficult to go back to our joint history now that she’s gone. I was hoping we were going to be meeting into our old age to talk about our escapades over decaf (as doctors would prohibit two geriatrics to have real coffee).

She broke to pieces. She was a judge who lost her job in the restructuring of Serbian justice system. She was jobless for six years. She used up all her resources and in the process, she lost her health. Her son, a fifteen year old, stopped her from jumping a couple of times before.

Not this time.

Her long blond hair must have waved the world that one last goodbye.

She died in the ER a couple of hours later. Thus flied away life.

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Unconfused Mind

by on Aug.04, 2015, under Uncategorized

Rains are back, or so it seems. All I see is gray. Probably the effects of my second malaria in only three months. and that handful of blue pills I have to take daily at 3pm.
I have been dreaming lately and it doesn’t help see the world any clearer. To step forward into the abyss – that’s exactly how I feel the next steps. Finally the inactivity has brought me to this place. Some kind of strange fear crept in. I am looking but not seeing the right keyhole for the key I think I have.
This is how the mind gets confused into not doing, not working, not thinking, not activating. I think I understand now. Discipline is important and this is where I fail.
Making up my mind to grow more discipline, more order. Orderliness. That can be a good start. Then one step at a time. Small things, like keep the house tidy. Make your bed in the morning. Wipe the bathroom floor. Put dishes away after breakfast. Small things.
I think I’m ready. Rain is drumming on my roof and three out of four dogs are sitting across from me, hiding from the rain. Their life is simple. All they want is to be near me. Without worrying about my issues. It’s beautiful to see that all other creatures exist totally oblivious to your issues. Reassuring in a way. In this rain, we hide in the house together. Unworried. Beautifully relaxed.
That’s the clarity I needed. I think I’m ready.

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#9 vs Obama Challenge

by on Jul.31, 2015, under Uncategorized

Sitting here at Kanjokya Street automatically places me at the level ground with some of the nicest people you will find in Uganda, like Simon who is the inspiration for this opinion and like #9 who is at the centre-stage. For funny reasons.

Here’s the story: US President Obama potentially flew over some cloud that later entered our air-space and this is reason enough for Uganda to be all alert and opinionated, particularly those Ugandans who are otherwise opinionated 24/7 even without clouds. And so, another opinion banged us on the head this morning via Al Jazeera website.

All of a sudden, Obama was the bastard who dared come to Africa and preach to Africans about democracy, gay rights and presidential terms, and indeed how dare he, who is he, he’s only part African, rejected by his African father so in fact, he’s not even African at all! Therefore what the hell does he, the Muzungu, know about Africa and on what authority does he speak to African Union about all this stuff, yet he keeps so many Africans in American jails (let me not go through that Al Jazeera opinion again to give you stats) and he himself oppresses Africans in the US of A, so who is he to tell us ish?

Somebody pass the ice pack. I’m getting a headache.

This is who we are: we invite people to visit us; we invite BIG people to visit us. We unroll red carpets but we are just waiting for big people to open their mouths to say something. We would love it if big people can tell us how smart, pretty, developed, advanced, progressive, democratic, futuristic we are. We would like to hear praise and get pats on the shoulders for our achievements. We would like to look great in pictures and we would like those pictures to fly around the world so the world can see that Spain is not Uganda, that Uganda is this heaven on earth that Obama praises so highly for all the good reasons.

But we don’t get the praise.

We get a somewhat shallow, detached opinion by a President of a superpower whose agenda contains Uganda and our issues somewhere at the bottom-fifth of his priority list. We get what they all get: be democratic (whatever that means), leave gay people alone (they are also people AND tomorrow this can be your child), don’t steal money if you are in government, don’t stay in power forever, and the rest of the blah.

We figure Obama sat far away from our President. There must be hate there already.

They did not take a photo together. There. Hate for sure. Nugu.

He did not come to Uganda in the first place. Ahaaa – see the hate?

So this point-five individual from neighbouring kraal, whose father didn’t even want him, is now there in Ethiopia dissing us? Naaaaah! Let us take all the dirt and mud we can come up with and throw it at him. Who does he think he is?

Let us invent this unique jail angle, where we can bundle every African voice that had ever been jailed to speak against this ugly man – whose only issue now is how to wrap up his presidency, write a book and start speaking at summits for a six-figure dollar fee.

So, good on #9 to earn some ko from that opinion written for Al Jazeera, continue writing and by the way, you never thanked me for sending you that book by William Strunk, “The Elements of Style” yet I’m sure you read it because it’s now slightly easier to read your work.

Only, perhaps, you need to more stick to the topic because your digressions are now going beyond the Pluto probe and you know, people want content in context without having to think too hard or travel too far in imagination to see where you’re going.

All I can say to Obama is: dude, you did it, you demonstrated that living a dream is possible, your wife showed the rest of the First Ladies how to dress for all occasions, your daughters are marvelous and you have a great life ahead of you. Enjoy it but: try harder to quit smoking, it’s not good for the voice – and you, of all the past US presidents, will be using that voice the most. Conferences, summits are all yours for the taking: with your simplicity and charm, you set an example of what a President of anything should be. Cool, witty, ordinary, approachable, communicative, human, delegating, easy, understanding, respectful – all the goodies contained in you that America and the rest of the world should look for when voting their next President.

This much from me, sitting here at Kanjokya Street. Thanking NWSC for clearing that sewer yesterday so one can breathe some fresh air now.

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