Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why I am not particularly surprised by women killing their husbands

At the end of 2008, I was allowed the privilege of access to the files of the serious crimes unit at the CID headquarters. I am tempted to tell you that in the spirit of good professional and constructive journalism, I had decided to go beyond reporting crime numbers to understanding the stories behind the numbers. I won't lie. What I really wanted from those files was a blockbuster, dramatic story that would make me the Truman Capote of my time. So in that pursuit, first, I picked out the murder case files. Then from the murder case files, I picked out the most sensational type --- spousal murders. These surely would give me long dramatic story-lines that involved long standing major dramas of land, money and power plays, that eventually culminated into elaborately planned executions done by hired hitmen and so on. I’d dig deep into these stories, visit the murderers in prison, weave intricate tales about the extremes that spin one’s humanity out of touch and audiences would be eating out of my palm the whole time. (Yes, my mother says it too. My life’s lens is coloured too much by American TV).

What I found was chilling. Apparently we Ugandans are pretty casual about the business of killing our spouses. I had 86 case files (73 dead women, 13 dead men) and none of the stories therein were dramatic or elaborate. Most of those 86 people were killed on a moment’s whim and for nada a thing. Like; a couple starts off debating whether or not their son should share their bed. Then they are fighting. Then he’s beating her so bad the kid runs to the neighbours. The neighbours take the kid in but kinda just leave the couple to their thing. Next morning, the woman is dead. Or, she goes home drunk and in reply to her husband’s inquiry, says a drunken thing like, “I was out making money out of my vagina.” He calmly waits for her to go to bed and strangles her in her sleep. Meanwhile, somewhere else, a woman is being beaten into a fatal coma for refusing to tell the husband which man bought her the drink on her breath. It went on and on, ever so chillingly casual, that three days later, I went to my journalism mentor and I said, “I don’t know how to tell this story. Am I supposed to tell people that 86 Ugandans murdered their spouses because, well, that’s one way to end an argument?” I did tell end up telling a sanitised version of the story

So now I hear that Kasiwukira’s wife may or may not have killed him. That, right after Nsenga’s wife is convicted of murdering him. Excuse me but I am not quite as surprised as you are. I haven’t counted but I am pretty sure that for every Kasiwukira or Nsenga, there’s at least 10 other Ugandans who were similarly killed by their spouses. The cat in a steel chamber is dead whether or not you are observing it.

Now I do recognise that I should be outraged because Nsenga and Kasiwukira were rich. And yes, like you, I do have the orientation to think that rich people are more equal than others. That’s why I’d like to become one of them. But are they ten times more equal than others? No, I draw the line at maybe 3. Clap for my humanity. But seriously, we can’t have an epidemic of fatal domestic violence going undeterred and still try to pull off that outpouring of humanity we do every social media minute. It just comes off as false. Yeah, I could join the excitement by weaving a conspiracy about money, power etc but like I said, I was cured of that 5 years ago.

Oh but it is women who killed. How outrageous! A woman is the mother of the nation, the sweet face one dreams of at night. They should not kill. But of course they can be killed. Yeah, for every male spouse killed, at least 6 women bite the dust similarly. And trust me, the numbers of women dying at the hands of their spouses are gravely under reported. Take this: A few weeks ago, I was teaching a data journalism class. Journalists in the room took turns at speaking of some data stories they’d worked on lately. One female journalist said she’d taken a look at Arua police's crime report for the month before and done a story about the high suicide rates in the district. Apparently, 96 people had committed suicide in this one district in one month. “And the other thing about it is that of those 96, only 3 were men. 93 were women.” So, we looked into the typical suicide ratio between men and women globally. It turned out that typically, slightly more men than women commit suicide. So, I asked if she’d looked into the circumstances under which these women supposedly committed suicide. “For most of them, it was after problems in their marriages,” she revealed. And the penny dropped! Consider, that half (yes half!) of married women have been physically assaulted by their spouses (UBOS stat). Remember too, how easily death resulted from these kinds of now ‘regular’ spousal beatings in those reported 86 cases in 2008. Of course, 93 Arua women didn't kill themselves in fits of heartbreak within a single month. A lot of those are spousal murders that the police either didn't want to investigate or was bribed to mislabel.

Things are at a pretty pass. This culture has turned marriage into an existential threat for women. It is dangerously naive to assume that women don’t pick up on the extent of this threat. Or that they all will run those risks forever. Yes, women are saints (feel free to dream of us at night). Only saints would retaliate so infrequently to such levels of violence against them. But also, women are people. People’s strongest instinct is to preserve themselves. We can’t turn marriage into an existential threat to women and just hope that men will remain safe. Of course not. If you beat your wife within inches of death regularly or psychologically torture her by treating her as a sub-human to whom you need to add seven concubines to feel satisfied, be very scared if she’s not retaliating. Either she doesn’t have the means to deal you a similar or worse blow (and that can be fixed) or she’d bidding her time. Either way you are not safe. More women with the means to procure that murderous driver or enough alcohol to do it themselves, will be re-creating that existential crisis our culture has made of marriage -- this time for men. Fix things from their roots or get over it.

God, I hope we choose to fix it by rolling back all the way to that distant sane place in our minds in which all human beings are full human beings.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The five stages of drunk texting grief

First of all, if you are going to drink and use your phone, call don’t text. It is a ‘rules of evidence’ thing. If someone out there wakes up the following morning to allege that you uttered unworthy things while in a drunken state, well then, it just would have to be your word against his. All we would know for a fact is that a call was made by the accused person to the complainant at a certain potentially unworthy hour.  That however would merely be circumstantial evidence that doesn’t prove anything in regards to the core issue of contention. Were unworthy things uttered or not? That, we wouldn’t know. A text message on the other hand, woooiiii...  It leaves you with absolutely no room for rebuttal. Just brace yourself for the grief to follow.

1. Shock and Disbelief
So you turned away for a minute, typed things into your phone, touched send and the message actually went!

Horrified, you turn to your drinking buddy and say, “the message actually went!” Because she’s had about as many shots as you've had, she offers some wildly disproportionate and incomparable consolation such as, “Hitler killed six million people.”

2. Denial
Strangely, the awful consolation does actually speak to you. You relax. This has been a terrific night. A terrific night. You tell her how much you love her and how grateful you are for her company. “So many times I just don’t have anyone to bounce my thoughts off. I am so happy to have that tonight,” you elaborate.

3. Phenomenal Problem Solving
It’s the morning after. You half open one ka-eye, sneak a look at your message log and yes, the message really did go. Yes, it was delivered to the recipient device. But, the blue ticks haven’t gone off yet which means no human has actually seen the message. You still have time to think about remedies and mitigations. So, you think, think, and think some more. At last, you come upon the bright idea to delete the message from your own device. That way, you’ll never know whether or not an actual human ever saw the message.
4. Bargaining
You’ve now had some breakfast and your thinking has attained a discomforting level of clarity. So, you sit down with a warm cup of tea and start composing a mitigating/remedying note. First, you deny responsibility. “My buddies were so zonked last night they typed that shit.” Delete. You contemplate humility but that, “I am really sorry I directed my drunkenness your way,” text just sounds lame. Delete. You attempt humour. Fail. Delete.  Defeated, you nonchalantly kinda sorta let yourself off the hook with, “it is what it is. I’ll just wear dark shades for a day.”

5. Non-Acceptance

Under the shower, you really ask yourself, “but is it fair that a human being should have to hang their head over a mere text message?” No it isn’t fair. You are a complete human being with many good qualities even if holding your liquor isn’t one of them. You re-open the matter with a mental note to check buzzfeed for a list of things that one can do following a drunk texting night. Maybe they’ll make you laugh. Maybe, you’ll deal with the matter by sending this link to the owner of the device to which your message was sent. Let’s not forget that we don’t even know for a fact whether or not a real human ever saw the message anyway.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hey look, my fork and spoon joined the Miss Uganda debate!

This morning over breakfast, my fork and spoon joined the hottest conversation in town lately; the dissection of the new Miss Uganda.

Fork: She’s ugly. She looks like a Musoga, even.  

Spoon: Indeed she looks like a Musoga! You just have a colonized idea of beauty. She is beautiful in exactly the way an African should look. 

Fork: Waa? She’s just the way only half an African should look. She needs some curves somewhere.

Spoon: Anyway, she has inner beauty

Fork: You mean she has cute intestines and a sleek kidney?

Spoon: Idiot, she graduated magma cum laude in computer engineering. And when you wake her up at night, she doesn’t scrowl at you. Infact she’s not one to need coffee before she can smile in the morning.

Fork: Irrere. It was not a national science contest or a canonization of saints. A beauty contest is exactly that. They had a girl called Flower Violet in the contest. Who chooses a Kalunguka over a Flower Violet in a beauty contest?

Spoon: The UPDF, in its capacity as the overtaker of agricultural extension services. This isn’t about the beauty of just beauty.  This is about promoting Ugandan values; agriculture, militarism --- all that good shit. 
♫Talalalalala… she’s not just a pretty face. She can even milk the cows.

Fork: ♫♫Nanananah… and when she grows up. She’ll marry Mr Uganda. Who’ll hunt a squirrel or two… in the boot camp to stardom. Nananana… she’s not just a pretty face. And he won’t be, just a heap of brawn.” ♫♫

Spoon: You are just disturbed by the ghost of the Brazillian who haunts you asking for her hair back.

Fork: Well, perhaps the new Miss Agro-Militia can learn a thing or two from me. When you don’t have it, fake it. That way, only FatBoy hates on your weave not the entire Ugandan internet.

Spoon: Okay, you win. But fuck, did I just spoon your fake eyelash into the mouth of the madame de la maison? We are so screwed!

Madame de la maison: Okay, kids. I’ll now let you join the rest of your family over here for the rest of the day. Enjoy it. 

Madame de la Maison speaks under her breath:   We really should not be holding beauty contests. What shit is that? Hey, lady; step over there and I will gawk at you for a few minutes before I decide if you are worthier of my gawking than the other ladies in line. What shit is that? It just ruins my mornings and several days of my interneting. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

In Case I Eventually Check Myself Out…

Edit Note: I first wrote this in October 2014. I am republishing it because the term Mabirizi trended on Twitter last week, as people cracked jokes about the fact that a man jumped off a 7 storey building and as the tweeps put it, "failed to die." He died in hospital the next day and Red Pepper reported that his dream had finally come true. These kinds of statements show how much our heads failed the whole point of education. When we are confronted with what we don't understand, we mask our ignorance with callous mockery. Had we not missed the point of education, our instinct would be to Google it, pick up a book or ask someone who might know. But many of us missed that point by miles. 
Anyhow, the old post:  

Yet another person has committed suicide under circumstances that allow the public to know about it. This time it is a young woman who jumped off Workers’ House. Two months ago, it was a famous actor. Naturally, people on social media are falling over themselves to showcase their ignorance and callousness regarding the subject of suicide and the mental state that precedes it. To paraphrase some of the postings and comments that followed these incidents:

On Robin Williams: You see them happy and rich but when they are dying inside. Okay… also dying inside are all people with terminal illnesses such as cancer. Would you like to gloat about those too?
On the 26 year old Asaba: Do people jump off Worker’s House because of adrenaline?  Who knows? Maybe let’s Google that?
On Robin William: One thing I am grateful for is that here in Africa; we have social structures to support us. Indeed. Is this why nobody has ever committed suicide in Africa?  
On Both: It is crazy and selfish. Right. But posting the picture of a dead person on your page to get a few more views and likes to massage your ego is neither crazy nor selfish.  

Following all the local social media callousness that followed Robin Williams, I set out to write a post about depression in the irrational hope that perhaps I’d get through to the humanity of those people whose sense of humour didn't rise above correlating his suicide with his three marriages. I did try but halfway through I was crying over my keyboard in the office so I put it off. I have been stewing on that post since, so here goes a second attempt. 

So, statistically speaking, there is a chance that when I die, it will be at my own hands. No, I am not suicidal. Not right now anyway. But, I do suffer from depression and a huge proportion of the people who take their own lives are depressives. Also, I notice that I have a markedly different reaction to news of suicide than most people. Yes, the image of a young woman jumping off the 14th floor of Worker’s House is chilling to me too. As is hanging one’s self. I doubt I would do either. But my chills are brought on only by the how not the what. That is; I think, there are less horrendous ways of committing suicide, not that there is something intrinsically wrong with suicide itself. I figure that death is death whether it comes by suicide or cancer. Clearly I am further out of my mind about this than most people are but that’s the story.

I suffered my first serious episode of depression when I was 10 or 11. Following a not particularly noteworthy beating from my mum, I tried to run away from home and failed. I didn't think it through well enough even for a 10 year old runaway. I ended up at the home of one of my mother’s colleagues, who of course sent for her. So I was a runaway for what? Two hours maybe? What followed however was not a joking subject. I fell into a sadness so profound that I literally couldn't speak for about a month. Whenever I tried to, tears just streamed down my face. Imagine my mother’s terror – she never laid a hand on me after that. Imagine my own confusion. The profound sadness did pass but was then followed by a year of inexplicable ill-health. Vague illness kept me in and out of school for much the year that followed. I even developed the very grown up disease called ulcers. I was constantly crying at little to no provocation.

Even prior to all this, I hadn't been a particularly happy or easy child. My grandmother used to swear that the first time I spoke, I said a full sentence, repeated it thrice and it was, “Nja kuffa.” (I will die!) Take that with pinch of salt. I, proudly, come from a long line of storytellers. Still, I was a pretty sad child, even to my own recollection. Now, of course, as with most stories of childhood depression, there were familial circumstances on which my apparent sorrow could be blamed. I will not go into those because I have come to think of them as mere triggers for an underlying condition that would (and still does) anyway come to the fore regardless of what is going on in my physical world. 

I may have suffered another episode around the age of 14 or 15 but that wasn’t clear cut sorrow. It was more in the form of swings between hyper happy and sulky. Plus teenage is so confusing for everybody that even with hindsight, it is hard for me to pin down what was going on. Still I remember certain things that have come to characterize my depression in the years after – waking up to weep in the middle of the night about something that wouldn’t make me cry ordinarily, the feeling that I was drifting aimlessly through life and this would be my eternal lot in life, a deep craving for drugs in the belief that they’d make things alright (I am still managing to stay away from them, save for the occasional recreational joint of weed). The thing is that the above feelings were completely unfounded. As far as teenage goes, I was pretty successful at it. I routinely topped my class and was well acknowledged (admired even) by my peers and teachers. My parents thought me a well behaved child yet I was still managing to sneak off to daytime discos at Little Flowers & Club Ambience. I once even harbored a friend for an entire day before we jumped the fence and successfully got into Club Silk that night. At 15! What else does it take to be a successful teenager? Yet, that inexplicable sorrow never quite left me. For stretches of weeks at a time, I would find myself crying into my basin of bathwater for reasons that I don’t recall. In any event though, teenage certainly wasn’t the worst time of my life.

I think the trophy for worst time of my life would go to the period between 27 and 29 years of age. I honestly feel like I lost three years to the sheer effort of keeping out of the darkness. During this time it got so bad that flashes of my slit wrists crossed my vision at random hours of the day. That, plus the waking in the middle of the night to weep my heart out. I didn’t even trust myself to take care of my child – hence a few shameful parenting decisions hereabout. In addition; more than a few other shameful personal choices that shall remain unsubstantiated. My older Facebook friends probably remember those ‘my life is pathetic’ updates and blog posts! Some, bless their hearts, went as far as coming out of the internet into my life to support me. Thankfully, though, this episode happened then not earlier. Around the age of 25, I had started to learn about depression as a disease. I came to learn that it wasn't just a personal tendency to be sad but rather an actual physiological disease that stems from underlying chemical imbalances in the brain. I came to know that it can be treated or managed. Just as importantly, I came to name the thing that occasionally took over my life just for its just. When it first returned in my late 20s, I of course didn't recognize it right away. I blamed my disorientation on my personal and work situations, the stresses of adulthood/motherhood, childhood baggage, the media and all its bad news, the existence of awful people like those who sprayed Dr Besigye’s eyes with pepper spray every few days etc. So I slogged it out for two whole years. However, when the slit wrists started to flash before me, all the learning I had done about depression was triggered into my consciousness. I recognized that I was sick, not sad. This would be the part where I tell you that I took that insight and started fixing things.  Except, fixing things was more like:
Go into panic mode.
Make unjustified and unsustainable changes to your life.
Go into erratic mode with the changes and decisions.
Calm down when you’ve amassed a tidy pile of random meaningless experiences.
Make changes slower and more deliberately now.
Start to see that glimmer of calm light at the end of this section of the tunnel.

Maybe the above did fix things. More likely, once again, the thing took three years of my life and then left. Nonetheless, I think knowing what was happening to me when it was happening really helped me cope. That’s one reason why mental health education and services are so important – not just that famed African social support structure. So the worst of that episode is behind me. Still, even today, after a slight disappointment or unwanted change in my life, I might catch myself involuntarily pining, “I just wanna go home.” This is a scary and stunning thing to hear yourself say involuntarily especially when you are sitting in your own living room. I am not na├»ve about what ‘going home’ means there.

I definitely plan to keep this beast at bay and outlive you all and, I am quite the achiever so that’s probably gonna happen. But if one day it stretches my mind so far out that I go beyond the flashes to actually slitting my wrists (yikes!), I want all random social media peeps to be reminded of the below when they post declaring me selfish, seemingly happy but dying inside or an adrenaline junkie.
  1. I have been keeping this beast at bay since I was 10. When they call me selfish, ask them what struggle they've fought so determinedly for so long.
  2. At that point, I will be just as dead as I’d be if I died of cancer. Remind them of that.
  3.  Because of the number 2 above, I wouldn't be reading their status updates so do point out that their moral lesson will be kinda lost on me.
  4. Related to number 3, I wouldn't be suffering the ignorance and callousness of people like them anymore. Joke then that death isn't without its minor benefits
  5. Most emphatically tell them that I have lived a pretty darn good life. Depression isn't a full time illness. Despite it, I have squeezed some pretty fun experiences into my thus far short life. Tell them that I have abseiled besides Sipi falls, been inside the Taj Mahal, climbed (a certain number of steps on) the Great Wall of China and have lived inside a lover's t-shirt. Tell them I lived a life. What do they mean I was dying on the inside?   




If however you were to be a person who actually knew me, loved me and wanted me to hold onto my life just for you; I wouldn’t know what to say to you except that life is rough and we aren’t always in control of things. I’d just hope that the very deliberate effort I put into making my connections worthwhile will keep your heart warm with some pretty awesome memories made just for you. And I’d hope that the knowledge that nobody gets out of life alive, would help you keep your perspective.

Eh! Nga now this sounds like my will. I am not dying or planning on it. I am not even sad or depressed. Yes, you even can buy me coffee and beer. Yes, both. Tuli mu future! Let’s live while we are still alive.

Update: I thought I'd share this collection of portraits that illustrate the duality that living with (at least some forms of) depression can be like. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

“Why do women exaggerate the pain of childbirth?”

Why do people exaggerate the pain of child birth,” asked Adong, one of my Facebook connections. She said she has given birth and it wasn’t that bad! I watched the thread for a while but it didn’t answer her question for the time I was watching.  I can’t contribute my own experience to this question. My child birth experience was minus labour, anesthetized and completely painless before and after. Still, because there are a lot of things about motherhood (which I have experience of) that I have heard women completely exaggerate, I wonder about the biggie. “Do women exaggerate the pain of childbirth?” Incidentally, this same subject came up at dinner with friends on Saturday. One of the ladies said that “every second of the pain” she felt in child birthing 8 years ago, is still “imprinted” on her brain. I turned that around in my head for a while but I gave up trying to imagine it. “How can a sensation however strong be imprinted on one’s mind 8 years on?” I almost wished I had experienced it. It sounds truly profound.

But then again, ‘profound’ experiences seem to litter the landscape of motherhood. For instance, mothers say that when they first held their babies, they were overcome by profound love. Well, I felt no such thing. I remember looking at the child and thinking, “She, like every newborn I have ever seen, looks like a lizard. Why were those women saying she’s cute? But she does have my nose.” Indeed, I didn’t love her for at least two months. How could I? First of all, newborns have absolutely no character. Plus, she was kind of inconvenient. She cried at odd hours for no apparent reason, threatened to slip out of my hands while I washed her and her presence gave people the impression that I was now a social person that they could just visit fwaa around the clock. Now I had to make small talk.  But mostly, she had zero character. Who loves a person like that? Well, not me. I understood my responsibilities and therefore fed & bathed her on a schedule but I really couldn’t say I was all that taken up by her. Now somebody is going to come here and quote me some statistics on how C-sections prevent the natural mother-child bonding. Trust me, I just don’t have it in me to love unconditionally and my condition is that one at least exhibits ko some character. Emerging from a particular orifice of my body isn't going to let you off the hook on that one. After two months though, she started to smile. Randomly but still, that was something to start a relationship on. Quickly thereafter, I really did come to love my child. She wailed out of other people’s arms into mine, which was totally awesome and motivating. Mostly though, it dawned on me that she was indisputably mine. She would always be available and safe for me to love. She wasn’t going to go off and find another mother and because I had birthed her, I would always have the unquestionable right to budge into her space and demonstrate my love. And that there; availability and safety, I can tell you is the bedrock of parental love, if not all love. Isn't this why we ask people to marry us? Such that from that point on they will be available and safe for us to love with abandon --- in theory at least?

The littering of suspicious profoundness continues all over the timeline of motherhood. For instance we mothers like to claim that being mothers is our biggest life achievement. Note that we don’t even qualify that. We don’t say "being a good mother is …” Nope! Just being whichever kind of mother we are. I might even have said this myself from time to time but if being a mother was my greatest achievement, I would be kind of depressed about my life. Don’t get me wrong. I do recognize that in evolutionary terms (and this is the closest I come to religious obedience) the purpose of my existence is to reproduce humans. I do recognize that the continued existence of this race depends on my willingness to not only birth babies but also see them through to the point that they are old enough and able to birth the next round of us. I am not in any way disgruntled about this set up of things. In fact it does have its charms. That being said, I do take my non-purpose driven hobbies (if you like) quite seriously too. Often, even more seriously than the default purpose. When I do write a bestselling book, I will truthfully tell you what the greatest achievement of my life is.

I could go for a really long time about the many profound motherhood mystiques that I seem to be slightly offside about even though by many people’s praises, I am actually a good mother. But let’s round back to Adong’s question, approaching it more broadly this time. Why do we build myth after myth about the profoundness of motherhood? 

One of the friends at the Saturday dinner has this theory: It is his considered opinion that the whole motherhood mystique narrative  is a cultural construct that comes from, interestingly, two polar places. On the one hand, women advance it because motherhood “is the one space they have a control over.”He says that because we are constantly fighting for and losing dominance to men in all other spaces, we've taken the one thing that they can't argue with us over and turned it into a high throne. Kinda like the old man who can’t go to war and therefore turns to God and even declares that spiritual warfare is the highest and most important battle of them all.  This too was his example not mine.  
He goes on to say that on the other hand, culture, which as we know is driven by The Patriarchy, furthers this narrative to hoodwink women into continuing to give birth to babies --- a thing which to right thinking women would be abhorrent because it ruins their bodies, causes them pain and thereafter limits their life choices. This he likens to how, knowing that death is necessary but completely undesirable; we try to psyche ourselves into living with it by calling funerals, “a celebration of life.” Perhaps, if we didn't try to put a positive spin on it, we’d be even more maniacal about avoiding death and would eventually succeed in creating a completely unsustainable population situation.  In the same way, we glorify the mundane (and logically undesirable) process of birthing and raising children so that women can birth them into infinity and that way, we avoid another unsustainable population situation.

Well, when intelligent people who use words like “narratives” and “spaces” speak, I just do the reporting.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

What is with Newspaper Editors and Erectile Dysfunction?

Prologue: I wrote this brief post two weeks ago. I wanted to use a photo of an actual newspaper (not online version) to illustrate it but I didn't have the physical copy readily so I saved it saying to myself, "in a week or two, one of the papers will have another erectile dysfunction story anyway. I will post it then." Sure enough, today we have one

In English that should not be anywhere near a newspaper whose publisher employs editors and sub-editors, today's erectile dysfunction story starts off by alleging, "erectile dysfunction is a problem many men shy away from. And even those who suffer from the condition, they would rather die silently than let anyone know about it." Huh! If I had a dollar for every time I have read a letter seeking advice on erectile dysfunction from the newspaper, I would propose to Bad Black. You'd think it is the single biggest public health problem that affects Ugandan men! Never mind the country’s birth rate. At third highest prolificity in the world, I'd say our men are erectile functioning just fine --- maybe even too fine.

Okay, maybe I am being a little too harsh. Surely, getting it up is a big deal and even if it affects just a few good men, we should dedicate some public newspaper space to helping them. Right. But we did that three weeks ago, and two weeks before that, and a month before that. How about going forward, the newspaper editor simply emails all those past expert answers, to every man who writes in with an erectile dysfunction? For the shy ones who still haven't written in, we could always run a banner at the bottom of health pages saying, "Struggling with erectile dysfunction? See vol xxx of this newspaper published on date yyyy for advice."

Also related to the above, considering that erectile dysfunction is apparently such a big public health issue and its sufferers are emailing newspaper editors, why isn’t Google (or whoever his evil spammer cousin is) redirecting all these viagra marketing emails I receive to those people?

This world just isn’t working properly. We need to fix it and maybe in so doing we might fix Uganda’s few good men with an erectile dysfunction as well.

Monday, March 3, 2014

From a Balcony in Addis

From a balcony in Addis, I partook of a sad homecoming. A truth I had always known strolled back into my conscious mind.  Callously casually, the knowledge that I was alone, and never could otherwise be, came back to me like one would stroll into their own yard after a normal day at the office. I could have wept. I could have screamed. I could have sworn a string in rage and refusal. But any of that would have been too dramatic for so ordinary an entry. So I silently shade a tear and sat still as I felt it calmly find its old place in my soul. Without further opinion, I turned my attention to the street below.
From a balcony in Addis, I silently watched a crowd beat up a man. The street was hardly lit. The shops were closed. Happier people had long gone home. It was that thin hour that’s spared for those whose luck has been thin. He was one like them. They were ones like him. Callously casually, they kicked and pulled at him with not apparent method or purpose. He writhed. He wriggled. He didn’t fight back. He let a sound. In a random moment he found himself correctly positioned for the space between the legs of one of them. Without ceremony he wriggled out of their snare, through that dishonourable space and into the dark of the silent night.

From a balcony in Addis, I stepped back into the unlit room. For no other reason but to escape the chill of the night, I crept to the bed. He lay quietly breathing. A slit of light from yonder illuminated his back - a long stretch of tight jet black skin that seemed to shimmer against the white of the sheets. I gathered the covers off the floor and tacked him in. Quietly I crept in. Deterring pretence of anything we weren’t, I turned to face the other wall. He’d be gone when I woke. I’d be gone within the week. An easy conversation at a museum had led to a mostly quiet evening in a dimly lit bar and later on, an inconsequential tumble between these same sheets.

He wasn't gone when I awoke. He sat atop the bedside drawer in the shape of the threadbare multi-coloured cotton band. That which had the day before carressed the disproportionately thin wrist of his arm. Gone from my side of the bed was one of two most clumsly crafted earrings. At the bar, he had sought to tease me about being the cute tourist who buys clumsly strung crafts in search of local authenticity. I’d disappointed his tease when I said I had made them myself - back home. In the earring’s place, on hotel pad paper, was a note that only said, “If ever…” From a balcony in Addis, I bathed in the beauty of the glorious morning sun soaking an ancient land.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A memo from 'Our African Culture' to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga

Dear Kadaga Alitwala,

It is indeed a surprise to find myself writing to you my prodigal child. I had long given up on you because of as one of my daughters, you have lived a life so far out of range of my expectations and prescriptions for a woman that you seemed like a hopeless cause. But now, of your own accord, you have returned to me. Well, thank you. Your passing of the anti-homosexuality bill in defence of me - Our African Culture, was a most thoughtful gift for a parent long forsaken. Granted, it was kind of inappropriate. It would have been more fitting if offered to my bleached version of the mid 1900s. The version of me that mindlessly sucked up to Christianity and Colonialism, my most severe rapists. I have since started to heal from that confusion. But hey, its the thought that matters. And you are trying to find your way back home. I tentatively accept the gift.

However, even as I happily welcome a long lost child back home, I am still a good proper African parent. I won’t spare the rod by failing to remind you of the debts your owe me. Hence this very brief memo. Following:

1. You still owe me offspring. You know me, your very own ‘Our African Culture.’ A woman is no woman until she bares children. Indeed a person is no person unless they are willing to breed. Indeed, this is one of very many things we both fault homosexuals for - the unwillingness or inability to breed. Therefore, I am sure you understand when I insist on this one. Woman, meet your African cultural obligations and give birth! That’s an order not a suggestion. In this area code where you live, women are meeting this African cultural calling more than sufficiently. They are giving birth to six children on average. A good African woman does not stand around with hands akimbo while other women work. Madam, stop whatever you are doing, go to the labour ward and push something out of you. You know that's my cardinal expectation of a good African woman!

2. Related to the above, get a husband. I don’t understand you woman of these days. Going around without husbands as if you are not African. Get a man or you’ll remain worthless to me. Preferably, get a real man who can show you some love by routinely beating you. Have you forgotten my place for you in the hierarchy of this world? Fall in line quickly before I ask the clan to rain down on you with a thorough beating. Mssscchwwttt…. No offspring, no husband --- and you still think you are protecting the traditional African family. Well, now that you are back home, I, 'Our African Culture' will teach you better.

3. You show absolutely no fear of men. That will not do! You speak while they speak. You get involved in political affairs as if you are a man. The other day, you shut up the prime minister - a whole man! Is that the true African woman I raised you to be? You keep on talking smart in that manner and you may as well be lost to me again. A good African woman is seen not heard. Stop talking smart and also use the silence to reflect on what a bad African woman you have been.

Now go work on the above and we will review in a year. If you behave, we can start talking about dropping that non-African Rebecca name of yours and getting you to pass a law that changes the official language of this African country from English to say, Lusoga. Eh, my dear, 'Our African Culture' is a high maintenance lady. The defence of me will be a protracted and deeply invasive operation. Get to work.

Keeping my faith in you,
Our African Culture.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Aboard the bullshit train

Here we go again
Aboard the bullshit train
He cancels, I watch the phone
Hoping he’ll call and explain why
Or better still say he’s on his way after all
At 10pm I start tearing up but stop right there
 I give myself a speech about my beauty and worth
The tears retrace their steps back into that dark part of my soul
You see, the ultimate bullshitter can talk herself out of any feelings’ shit