Thursday, October 22, 2015

Travel. Modesty

The internet alleges that  Gustave Flaubert once said, “travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” Wise words but they have never been true for me. Well, not until this time.

Before this time, travel did quite the opposite of modesty to me. It made me an insufferable party guest. My party trick is to load every minute with travel ‘advice’ for whoever I am talking to. “I am gonna say Kasese is my favourite town, but Kapchorwa is certainly worth seeing too. The mountainous backdrops of both are breathtaking yet quite different. Or you could go for broke and do a foreign trip. I totally recommend Ethiopia. It is kind of expensive but if you do go; do be a cliche and see the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. They are totally worth it.”  I do my best to slyly let on how much of the world and country I have seen. I manage to both awe and annoy my company; which really is the point of party conversation.

Until now, the only reason I ever travelled anywhere was to add yet another bragging mark to my passport. It may be the best reason for travel, by the way. The whole ‘travel to find modesty’ thing isn’t looking good on me right now.

The first step to finding modesty in travel is; being thrust into the hustle and bustle of a place, away from the safe net of the delightfully servitude driven world of conferences and tourism.
“Go to north-eastern Queens and find interview subjects for that story due tomorrow. Yes, Google maps is not kidding you, that is two hours on the underground train. Don’t forget, it’s the A train for 30 minutes, switch to the F at 42nd street, calmly endure underground claustrophobia for another 55 minutes. Take the bus to 159 on Union Turnpike.
You will get there another two hours late because: you closed your eyes to deal with claustrophobia; then dozed off; missed the train switch at 42nd; eventually got onto the F train but later discovered it was moving back into town not towards Queens, etc. As you u-turn back into town having achieved nothing because you missed all your appointments, a little voice will whisper to you, “you really are not quite as clever as you have been billed all your life.” Modesty.

The second route to modesty is watching just how well the wheels back home continue to run despite your absence. Once, I was diagnosed with malaria +4. In the subsequent hazy hour as  I lay hooked to two IV lines, convulsing like a leaf in the wind, I become obsessed with the most natural of concerns: my daughter’s life after I died. Well, I know now what it would be like: pretty much the same as it is with me alive. Especially after the first few weeks, she will be fine. Anyone of the people who love either her or I will step in on any number of occasions; birthday parties, school mornings, Sunday outings. It will all be okay. I am not her alpha or omega. Modesty. A feel good kind.

The third way to finding modesty is trying to teach your 30+ head new tricks while also trying to figure out the train system of a new place you allegedly are part of. Someone once told me that I have a brain the size of Africa. Of course, I believed her because she was Brit and had that clever English accent that allegedly brought all things brainy to the continent of Africa. Okay, I believed her because I really did miss the modesty gene. Well, don’t worry. I am growing one. Yesterday, having watched about two hours of YouTube tutorials, in addition to the nine lecture room hours prior, I managed to import a file into one of these new fangled computer programs that software developers use. My professors require that I learn a thing called Python. It is not the snake but is just as scary. It is not Nicki Minaj’s derriere but is just as scary. I really don’t have a mind the size of Africa. I knew that when I did a little dance to celebrate importing a file. The bright side to finding out you are no genius is that it liberates you from wanting to apologise for lame references to snakes and Ms Minaj’s derriere in your writing. Back to the point...

The thing that is really most screwing me with modesty is anonymity. Nothing crushes an ego like the anonymity of being one of more than 8,000,000 random people. Having been fed on the social media rants of Africans who came to the US before me, I was sure I was going to be endlessly bombarded with solicitations for tales about my exotic continent, inane negative coverage of Africa in the press, non-nuanced charges about Uganda’s LGBTI rights record. I even looked forward to the tiny adventure that the police would stop and frisk me just because I am black. I have found that people are simply too busy to give a damn. In my head, I might be an exotic person on a wonderful adventure but I get the sneaky suspicious that to them, I am just another person trying to buy milk at the store. Really, people give like zero fucks about the details of me. Occasionally, the odd Indian immigrant has remarked, “Idi Amin expelled Indians from Uganda,” but no other significantly annoying mentions have shown up. I could complain that with, "Americans just aren't interested in the world beyond their borders" but that would be rich coming from me since I fall asleep (with disinterest) whenever I try to read the non-international version of the New York Times. Still, I was made to believe there were 8,000,000 people here eager to fetishise me in some way. Why isn't anyone trying? Now what am I to do with all these ‘stop stereotyping me’ educational tirades bottled up inside me?

Nobody invited me to Ug Blog Week, which just goes to show how poor you people’s taste in blogging is. But, not being invited never stopped me from showing up. Nor tardiness. So, UgBlog Week #1. In your face.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

For My Genie, Who is Stuck in the Bottle

Written September 2015. 
July 2017 Update: She kicked that fucking bottle, has her first post-rehab job interview on Tuesday, and now I have come across this and I am tearing up like the skies above. 

I know;
  • It is a disease
  • You are trying but can’t substantially help it
  • The demons pulling you in, have run down your family line for generations
  • I am impotent. I could never rescue you.
  • I will never stop trying to rescue you but I do it only for myself. I need to know that I am doing something however impotent. 
  • The selection for who gets to beat it, is as random as the choice of who it catches in the first place
  • You very well might lose
  • A big part of you hopes you lose and get done with it
  • Aah... that sadly familiar simultaneous fear and desire for the end
  • Everybody who has given up on you had to, or they would have drowned with you
  • But you are a good person and are not one with your illness
  • I love you as much as I loved your mother and my heart will be all broken again if, like her, you lose
  • I will love you forever. Just for the sheer stubbornness of love. But also for all the priceless memories that come with a lifelong friendship in which, I have never needed to hold secrets
  • I write this only for myself; to help the late night tears along because my tears, are the only thing I still have control over.
With impotence that I am all too aware of, I send my life force out to you, love. May the random chaos that is life, pick you. May I get to tell you another of my raunchy secrets. Get well.  By randomness. By design. By science. Somehow, do.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

It's wonderful to be here and awful not to be there

It really is nice out here. The university is magnificent and stately. The public transportation system works and on some days, you’ll even enjoy it. Like when performers come aboard and give you a show for your change. My teachers are awesome. If they were to kick me out of the program next week, I would still come home having gained real skills that all those years of journalism practice never taught me. But, I miss home so effing much. Never mind that it’s been only 20 days. I miss the big things.  Like being secure, not having to prove myself in any way. I miss the little things like getting Hailey ready for school in the morning. I even miss things I didn’t know I liked. Like seeing black people all over the place or seeing the faces of familiar waiters. I miss not having an overwhelming variety of choices on the menu, knowing what to order, knowing what my change should be. I miss not being too tired to send checking-in texts to my friends at the end of the day. I miss home so much I can hardly speak of it. So failing to, I am going to borrow Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyrics from Allegro

It's a darn nice campus
With ivy on the walls
Friendly maples
Outside the lecture halls
A new gymnasium
A chapel with a dome~
It's a darn nice campus...
And I wish I were home!

It's a darn nice campus, 
I'm going to like it fine 
Darn cute coeds
They have a snappy line; 
Darn nice fellas, 
As far as I can tell~
It's a darn nice campus...
And I'm lonely as hell! 

It's a darn nice campus, 
With ivy on the walls, 
Friendly maples
Outside the lecture halls
I like my roommate
And you would like h̶i̶m̶ [her] too
It's a darn nice campus
But I'm lonely for you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Fork & Spoon Would Like to Thank Amama, M7 and OO for a Good Day on the Internet #TeamWork

This is a true story: my fork and spoon discuss w̶r̶e̶c̶k̶s̶  matters of national importance, all the time.  

Fork: What is this?
Spoon: A book and a kofa set?
Fork: I can see that. But why are they yellow?
Spoon: Some books just are. Are you racist about books?
Fork: Ah, no.  Me, I am like WBS. Whatever the creature might be, I don’t care a damn about its race of colour. It’s just that these books are confusing. On the one hand, they are the kind of colour, a patriotic kid like the one of this house, should carry.  On the other hand, the picture on them looks suspiciously like the kind of thing that would induce Kayihura to emit teargas or a pink liquid which honestly would not look good at all against yellow. But where does madame de la maison find these things?
Spoon: On the internet.
Fork: Let’s go to the internet.
Spoon: Take my hand, good fella.
Fork: I think I found something.
Spoon: What?
Fork: A video that looks poised to go viral.

Spoon: Oh, sit down, amatuer! This isn’t the kind of thing that goes viral. This isn’t gangnum style. This is a video in which a man is drawling about the kind of things that sound new to politicians even after they’ve been repeating them for 30 years. Also, what’s up with those leaves in the background? Five minutes and they have not moved at all.
Fork: Spoon, you are usually smart and everything but on this, you are wrong. This is a good video. This is the kind video that can change the politics of a country forever. You know… Like a quiet revolution? That kind that infects you slowly and sweetly like a love song? I think that is what this guy is about. A quiet revolution. Like a love song, the magic is in its silent moments. Lethargy is the groove. 
Spoon: The magic of silent moments indeed. That’s something that guy would know a lot about. After all those silent moments in which the country waited for him to tell it when he would tell it, he has cleared his throat for four minutes and closed with; “In the coming days, you will hear and read in greater detail about my plans.” Also, what’s up with those leaves? Why don’t they move ko a little bit?
Fork:  Huh! And guess who is agreeing with you that this is a waste of time? The big man himself, chief opener of all the taps in Uganda, seer of the eclipse. Also known as “Father of the revolution,” by a watch that won’t do very well for telling the time after midday.
"I therefore do not think it is proper for the Rt Hon Mbabazi to waste your time with that premature electioneering." Museveni. 

Spoon: Exactly. A guy who has helped himself to nearly 30 years of your time would know what wasting is proper for it. So I am out of here. Call me when Hitler reacts to this declaration.

Fork: Oh come on, watch the video. If you are accusing the first of being sterile, you'll love this one. Dude is completely panicked. They didn't even have time to cut and edit. He's in here snapping at his aides, "shut up." "amashomero" "just leave them (pictures of amashomero) here.


Spoon: Hehehe... wanna see a true train wreck? Take a look at this twitter account 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Would the Grassroots Dry Up if NGOs Spoke More Organically?

When I first joined the NGO sector, its big words were how I got through long boring meetings --- of which there are plenty. Listing each one that was dropped was my equivalent of doodling. Leverage, value proposition, mainstream, downstream, upscale, thematic areas, interventions (have to be multisectoral), deliverables, paradigms, verticals, attitudinal changes ....

Of course I am now an expert at rolling them off the tongue. In my current workplace where people are far less steeped in NGO culture, they depend on me to come up with just the weighty phrase needed to turn conversations into "citizen platforms for holding officialdom accountable." And, I deliver. Each and every time. After I have redeemed a sentence from the mundanity of "is and was"  and turned it into a venerable entity with "English that fills the mouth," I sit back, nod my head and think, "oh how I deserve my paycheck."

Nonetheless, I can't help imagining the kind of character Chinua Achebe might have constructed out of the likes of me. The modern day versions of the grandiloquent Secretary of the Union.

"The importance of having one of our sons in the vanguard of this march of progress is nothing short of axiomatic," says the Umofian orator, using the kind of English his audience admires, "the kind that fills the mouth like the proverbial dry meat." Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart. 

Things hilariously fell apart on this subject yesterday when it came up on my Facebook wall. I am saving that here for posterity. Click through for the comments. They will 'Change Your Life', I promise, like a true NGO person. 
The following are the crosscutting issues which are being mainstreamed, synchronised, and upscaled across all the three multisectoral interventions

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New Vision Salaries Prove that Being A Woman Is a Bad Life Choice

Like a lot of people, salary leaks are my favourite corporate scandal. I don't really care for news on which boss is sleeping with which junior employee or what politics precipitated so and so's firing. That's just mundane in a workplace. A salary leak? Now, that's truly juicy.

But salary leaks very quickly become depressing. Every time I have seen a leak, I am astounded by how many people I thought of as peers, are in fact so far out of my league. There's always a certified office buffoon who earns so very much. More painfully though, salary leaks remind me that; I can work as hard as a donkey and as smart as Richard Branson, but as long as I am a woman, I probably should continue to explore the option of marrying into money. Every company I ever worked for hired far fewer women than men for high paying jobs and on average paid them less than their male counterparts in the same circle. Now look at the latest leak --- the New Vision salaries. Of the 25 top paid officers, only 7 are women and they on average earn 6% less than the men in the same group. Indeed only 27% of the pie at that level is availed to women. But why? Why? Why us?

The Sexism is alive and well in you New Vision.  It is alive and well.

Waama reader; in the chart below, the pink blocks are women's salaries, and the blue are men's--- seeing as we are sticking with sexism. I have excluded the names and positions related to each salary because munange, they are highly paid people in my industry. I dare not bite the hand that might feed me in the future. But, if you bought today's Red Pepper... Or if you discreetly run your cursor over the graphic... ssshhhh

Procurement Manager: 7,623,0007623000Editor Saturday Vision: 8,800,0008800000Head of IT: 8,687,3228687322Editor, New Vision: 13,080,05413080054Manager, Credit Control: 7,623,0007623000Managing Editor, Regionals: 12,213,01412213014Head of Digital : 11,000,00011000000Managing Editor : 22,036,66613566666Chief Finance Officer : 24,594,79024594790Chief Operations Officer : 24,594,79024594790CEO: 37,334,00037334000Manager Investments: 9,740,3659740365Head of Engineering: 8,580,0008580000Head of Printing : 12,201,46612201466Head of Radio: 15,374,09615374096Head of Television : 13,750,00013750000Editor Sunday Vision: 8,800,0008800000Chief Human Resource Officer : 10,000,00010000000Editor in Chief : 24,594,79024594790Chief Internal Editor : 12,100,00012100000News Editor, New Vision: 7,987,1007987100Manager Treasury: 9,920,7419920741Company Secretary: 14,520,00014520000Head of Sales: 11,000,00011000000

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

So, now I have to marry a Ugandan for the citizenship?

I have to confess; I hadn't been very enthusiastic about registering for the national ID. They gave the contract to collect personal data on all citizens of politically aware age to the army! Call me paranoid but I think the Americans in the NSA went green with envy on reading that. "We had to build really sophisticated technology to steal that kind of data and the Ugandan military has people walking in, lining up all day to volunteer it? That's hardly fair," said a guy in an NSA cubicle.
However, for some strange reason, my reluctance to register seemed to offend my mother personally. Something in her voice as she reminded me (again) that the deadline had been extended again told me she would never forgive me if I ended up losing my citizenship for non-registration. So, on the afternoon of the last day of the last deadline, I took off from work and went to register for my 3rd national ID (after the passport and driver's licence). I left my computer running, imagining that it would no more than 30 minutes. It would take me 6 hours to NOT register.

At the nearest registration point to the office, they didn't have forms, so they referred me to two other possible locations. I decided to play it safe and went to the division headquarters (I live and work in the same division). Sure, they had forms but couldn't register me. Apparently, the team at that location didn't represent the division but a particular parish, Makindye 1. I was educated that I in fact live in Makindye 2. From their explanation of these demarcations, I buy my vegetables from Makindye 1. Anyhow, I went to Makindye 2.

Apparently, I offended the registration team at Makindye 2 merely by walking in with a registration form. I had flaunted a business model they had going --- to sell the registration forms. Also, I walked onto the grounds with a motorbike safety helmet, unkempt hair and English on my tongue. I had lugezigezi written all over me. So they mitigated the problem that I obviously was, with hostility. "I am not the one doing registration. I only issue IDs. Talk to that gentleman over there," said the guy sitting at one of the two computers. He pointed to some dude fiddling with his hand on a bench. He looked like what he turned out to be - a parish chief.

"Do you have a resident ID?" the parish chief inquired with disdain. "No, but I have my passport. "Passport?" he rolled his eyes. "How do I know you are a resident of this place. We can't register you," he dismissed me. What do you think I did? I am Lydia Namubiru. I started reeling off all the facts I know about the ID registration process. That; I didn't need a resident ID. That a passport or driver's licence was proof enough of my eligibility to register. That, he was abusing his office. That people like him are the reason why government projects fail. No, I didn't under-do my rant. I never do. And yet, some idiot still had the audacity to call me aside and offer me an LC residence letter if I could 'get' him sh5000. Cue another diatribe about corruption from yours truly. Who did I move with my self-righteous rant? Nadda a soul. They all just looked at me like I was a wild fire that would eventually dissipate, pay sh5000 and get in line for registration. So, I pulled my own corruption move. I announced, "I am a journalist by the way. If anyone of you expects me to give you a bribe, it is not going to happen." You won't believe how many bribery solicitations I get out of by saying I am a journalist. You should try it. So once again, it worked for me. The parish chief took my form, inspected it, threw a minor tantrum about my declaring no religion but grudgingly wrote as required, "Citizenship Approved." Then he smiled and said, "you are number 41 in the queue so you'll have to wait." They were registering number 28 so it didn't look too bad. I leaned against a car and waited.

Let me tell you; corruption is a creative art. It was about 3:30pm when I got onto the queue. In the subsequent two and a half hours, the one lady doing the registration entered data for exactly four people, one of whom hadn't been on the queue. He was just a corporate looking guy who stepped out of the crowd, 'talked' to one of those LC type people who were hanging about the place and was then guided to the registration table. The whole place was as lethargic as the registration was slow. However, when the clock ticked 6pm, it came alive. The parish chief started packing up things, starting with that second computer that hadn't been used for registration. Then he declared, "the registration deadline has been reached. We only work up to 6pm. This lady is now working on her own time. If you want her to work on you, talk to her." Cue commotion by Ugandans desperate to retain their citizenship. The same ones who had each paid sh5000 to get residence in their home area just 3 hours earlier. The parish chief, of course, came in to rescue the situation. He would handle those who wanted to 'talk' and then hand their forms over to the registration clerk thereafter.

There is something incredibly sad about watching people empty their pockets of coins and cramped notes, amassing all of sh3000 each to give to a parish chief who looks like his own economic status has never allowed him to dream of a sh20,000 bribe. Miraculously, the registration clerk's speed picked up, Between 6 and 7 pm, she registered another 7 people. Only two ladies and I, walked away unregistered. They just couldn't find the sh3000. One said that to get the residence letter, she had bargained sh1000 off the going price, and borrowed sh2000 to pay sh4000. Now she just couldn't marshal another sh3000. Another was an 18 year old student who figured that if police ever kicks down the door asking her for the national ID, she'll just knock a year off her age and get away with it. Apparently, there is a story going around that police will be doing that -- kicking doors down at night to demand for national IDs. I thought of lending them the sh6000 but I didn't have change and didn't see that parish chief giving me back any bit of my sh50000.

As for my won registration, I figured that I will just marry a registered Ugandan and that way secure my citizenship. Plus, a parish chief already approved my citizenship and I have the proof. Surely, that is a start.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

An ernest appeal to the people of my country on the matter of Google

I’ll get right to it:
Dear countrymen and women, please create some online content about our country. No, not those Facebook posts addressed to your haters. Not the twitter wars. Not those inspirational blog posts about how you were walking down the street the other day, realized the sun was shining and felt really blessed to be alive. Mutuleeke naamwe. Create actual informative content about things that are Ugandan. For example, tell us how the food called chaps is made.  Or katogo for that matter. 

You see, last night; I showed my daughter how to use Google as a substitute mummy for all her whys & hows. The first search she typed in was; ‘how to make chaps.’ Guess what? Google doesn’t know chaps. Google thinks chaps are some kind of online payment system. That, it very well might be, somewhere in the world but not in Uganda. You and I know that chaps, the real chaps, is food. It is a particularly uninspired piece of cuisine that manages to be unhealthy, flat tasting and ugly, but our food. Our very own innovation. One of our very many unique contributions to world cuisine. Why doesn’t Google know about it? Because, instead of running a Ugandan recipes’ blog, you are there telling us of how blessed you felt when you saw the sun shine yesterday. Okay, now that the sun is shining again today, here is some new material: write a post on how to make malakwang from start to finish.

Internet political pundits, stop. To be honest, our politics is so base that opining about it with such fervor and high-brow intellectualism just makes us go like, “oh poor Jim; entirely out of touch with reality like that?” Write something that will put your political knowledge to actual use. Write a properly detailed Wikipedia page for that one political party that you feel oba tries ko to be serious?. There is none? Okay, write a page on each of your most despised local politicians. Now that will give you occupation for the next two years, won’t it?

I will now lead by example but not by doing. Here is a list of example topics that will put more Ugandan knowledge on Google’s radar.

Writing Assignment
Assigned Writers
The 7 different ways of drying freshly washed socks on a school morning
Every Ugandan who ever had to stand for inspection on primary school morning assembly
How to light a sigiri in under an hour; the no paraffin trick
Everybody who isn’t me
When the maid leaves suddenly. 3 hacks (with contact information) for turning this everyday misfortune around
Every working mum
Wikipedia pages for local politicians and Tamale Mirundi
Come on Ugandan politicians, even you can do this yourself. Start a stub and the political pundits can take it from there.  
Updating the wikipedia page on King’s College Budo to include among the notable alumni; Drake Sekeeba, of the Vvumbula fame
Actually, I will do this myself   
Know your Kadongo Kamu singers; where is Abdu Mulaasi and Lord Fred Ssebata now?
Ummm, aaaah… what do we know of Katongole Omutongole’s writing skills? TBD
Uganda’s Real Estate Bubble that won’t f**king burst: From Kasuulu’s Property Masters to Jomayi.
Somebody on the Buganda Land Board?

So, now that I have your writing juices following, please go create some Ugandan content. Seriously, it is a shame that there is so little actual knowledge about us on these internets. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to Marry a Muganda Girl. 13 Steps

In the past year, I have been quite taken aback by how many people told me they wanted to marry a Muganda woman. People, come on. If you want to marry me, just say it. Those round-about ways of hitting on me by saying that you like Baganda girls because we kneel, are submissive and know how to make money are just vague and ineffective. Eh.. Okay, let me get over myself. You really do want to marry a Muganda girl? Here is a quick guide as sourced from various relatives and personal experience. 

Step 1: Make a declaration
In some  cultures, this initial ritual is referred to as proposing marriage to the girl. In those cultures, a man is expected to debase himself by falling on one knee to present a sinfully expensive ring with a shaky hand and tears in his eyes. Once, my sister and I were watching the Queen of  that culture, Miss Oprah Winfrey. Right there in her televised sitting room, men were falling to their knees, feigning doubt about their partners’ willingness to marry them (as if the whole world doesn’t know that every woman over 20 is just waiting for a man to ask for her hand). Anyway, at that point in time, we were impressionable teenagers so we were ooh-ing and aah-ing in tandem with the studio audience. That is where our father stepped in to implore us to not dream our youth away. “He’ll just say; in January we go and see your parents.”
Anha. So now you know. No need to debase yourself. Just say, “In April, we go and see your parents.” It is quite enough.

Step 2: Prepare to meet the Ssenga
I am assuming that when you made your declaration, she pretended she hadn’t even heard you speak, but then went ahead to make you breakfast katogo for the first time since the second month of your relationship. That’s all you need in answer. Your proposal was accepted. Now give her ‘transport’ to go and tell her Ssenga that she’d like to visit ‘with a friend’ of hers. Not 50k naawe. Ssenga has to repaint her sitting room, and cook luwombo for when you visit. Facilitate like you intend to send the message that you’ll be a properly provident muko.

Step 3: Apply in writing
This was a surprise to me too. But apparently you actually have to apply (in writing) to join her father’s family. I don’t think you are allowed to type the letter even. So, sit down with pen and paper and in cursive compose an epistle to her father explaining how you met his daughter, blah, blah, blah (because I don’t even know what such letter would contain). Just don’t forget to say that your father begs to visit the recipient’s home to explain your bad manners properly.

Step 4: Meet the Ssenga
With above letter burning a hole in your breast pocket, hit the road for Ssenga’s home. , Two or three friends (plus the girl and her chosen brother) can accompany you to this luwombo feast.  The objective of your visit is to beg Ssenga to deliver the letter to her brother, in whose presence you are not yet fit to appear. (Yiii… I wish I was the father of a Muganda  girl. I’d thoroughly enjoy these power trips). So anyway, once you’ve polished off Ssenga’s luwombo and complimented her on the new paint in her sitting room, give her the letter. Eh! Brother, you have to give her transport for the mail delivery trip. Once again, roll like a properly provident muko,my friend. Haha. Kampala was not built on smiles and handshakes!

Step 5: A Power Trip Interlude
In his own time, you prospective father-in-law will tell your prospective aunt-in-law who will tell your prospective wife when your father can be received at court. If you’d like your prospective father-in-law to make this decision speedily, don’t make that first declaration to his daughter until she is well over 30, has had two of your kids and her younger sister has already been married off. Those circumstances make for an eager father of the bride.  Nonetheless, we can’t give you any guarantees on time here. Just sit, fret and be irritated while you wait.

Step 6: An exercise in diplomacy
When you do get your appointment, you’ll carry 3 or 4 of the biggest men (figuratively but also size matters) of your immediate clan and go to lunch with your prospective in-laws. This lunch my friend is a boot camp in diplomacy. You know, we the Baganda are not one of those backward tribes that still ask for and negotiate bride price. We don’t sell our girls. Nedda bambi. That is why, over this long leisurely lunch, we will go over our daughter’s life story in minute detail, making sure to mention everybody who has been instrumental in her life and our own. Memorise (or discreetly enter each into a memo on that smartphone of yours) and be sure to buy a gomesi or kanzu for each one of them come kwanjula.  And prepare varyingly weighty envelopes to accompany each item, of course.

Step 7: Kwanjula
Now this is an easy one. You have all seen it, in its glam and pomp. There are YouTube videos of it even. Basically, go and buy out all the vegetable stalls in Kalerwe market and heap their contents into handwoven baskets. Oh, throw in a rocking chair for the man who will forever hate your guts. Now borrow every available car in the clan to ferry the same. Some people have been known to hire trucks to deliver these. We don’t think very highly of those people. What kind of bako don’t have enough private cars at their disposal to go to a kwanjula? So, if you do hire a truck, pack it very far away from our compound and prepare your sisters to carry baskets on their heads that whole distance. Women really shouldn’t wear high heels to kwanjula. The logistics don’t work in heels.
A few dos and don’t for kwanjula
·         Don’t take your father or anybody from your parents’ generation. Just your siblings and friends. We’ll be bullying you. Don’t make the exercise awkward for us by bringing the elders.
·         Practice not speaking for a whole day. You really will be spending an entire day on display before our clan and you aren’t allowed to speak or laugh loudly.
·         Hire a spokesperson. Speaking at a kwanjula is a legitimate performing art. No, the Muganda friend who sits next to you at the office is not qualified to do it. Hire a real professional.
·         Buy your bride away from the Kabaka first. You know how the Baganda call the Kabaka “Baffe.” Yee, they mean it. So your prospective bride is actually currently part of the Kabaka’s harem. Luckily for you, he is cheap. For about Shs50,000 you can obtain a certificate from his people allowing you to go ahead and marry one of his women.
·         For other things, just have your hired spokesperson check them against his checklist of must-haves. He’ll also give your party a set of codes and cues to walk you through the whole ceremony as it happens.
  I wish I could tell you to look forward to kwanjula. But it is a drawn out monstrosity. It won’t be fun and it will be long. Sorry.
But, at some point during that battle for words and quips, that woman will become your wife. Somebody somewhere will ask her if her family should accept your ‘gifts’ and she’ll say, “mubilye.” ‘Eat them.’ That’s it. From that point on, you may take her home and beat her, right after she kneels before you --- like you’ve always dreamed.   

Step 8: Watch the power tide turn
Actually, I was kidding, you can’t take her home right away. We have to first check if those tomatoes you’ve brought are not rotten. Not that we can reverse our acceptance thereafter but, oh well, we gotta milk at least one more power trip out of this. I’ll admit that at that point, we are merely exercising vanity. Power has decidedly turned to your side. That’s why, at the end of kwanjula, Ssenga will crawl her way towards you and ask, “Sir, when will you take your wife?” Your call. You can name any day. Just give us a night or two to talk to her about how to treat you properly.

Step 9:  Kasiki
This should interest you so very much. The night before you are due to pick up your wife, the more notorious version of ssenga-ring happens. The boldest women in the clan will lock her up in a room and tell her things that will make you go gaga. Happy endings for you only. So you want me to give you examples? Excuse me! My parents occasionally Google my name. Let’s keep this within the publicly consumable realm.

Step 10: Kasuuze Katya
I have no idea why, but you have to pick your wife before day break. You also carry random items like a tiny kerosene lamp (tadooba) and a matchbox and hand them to whoever meets you at the gate with your wife. No further ceremony, no nothing. Just hand over your sachet of curiosities and get a wife in return.

Step 11: The real wedding
As you make your way out of our gates with our daughter, you might hear her mother whisper, “I hope we’ll now get a real ceremony for which we can wear proper busuutis not these working clothes.” It’s a hint. Even if she’s now your wife to beat, a wedding with proper western pomp would be nice. You know; the one with priests in the morning, photos in the afternoon and a real feast in the evening? Fully at your expense of course.

Step 12: Wedding Night
This may be the night after step 10 if you are that kind of miserly muko who won’t give us a real wedding or the one after step 11. Either way, we will not be there. Those things people say about Ssengas sleeping under the bed to supervise nocturnal self-expressions are false, baseless lies spread by our haters. It has even never happened. Ever, ever.

Step 13: She Cooks for You for the 'Very First Time'
Now, I know she did that breakfast katogo following your declaration. You might even be that kind of dishonest bugger who's been making our daughter cook for you for years already. But, let's all turn over a new leaf. After honeymoon, which we strongly encourage, even if you only just lock yourselves up in the bedroom at home... 
Anyway, after honeymoon, Ssenga will come by with an aide or two and supervise your wife cook her first meal for you. Proper matooke wrapped in an entire plantation of leaves and completely rid of any nutrients from overcooking. Proper chicken luwombo too. Ssenga, will see to it that she kneels down when she serves you and sits by waiting on you as you eat. That's our promise to you. That, this is your life now. You did us the favour and grace of marrying our daughter. She'll now spend the rest of her life serving you like that.  

By’ebyo. Now don't ever come back to our home unless someone has died. You are a muko bugger. We won' be cooking chicken luwombo on random Sunday afternoons just because you got bored at your house. But this is a good thing. It makes us the lowest maintenance in-laws in the history of mankind. We won't contact you unless there is a real crisis. Isn't that just dandy? 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Oh Nai

You are the thick silence of the rift valley
on a long bus ride in a dark starry night
you are hope that he'll ask and I'll say yes
you are the pained confusion of a night years ago
when I deflected as he made to pop the question
for how could I say yes, when mama lived so far
yet how could I say no, when I'd travelled so far
Oh Nai ---you are home that never became home

And now he runs breathless across the street
he holds me tight, kisses me lightly on the lips
in the car, he tells me of her & a marriage to come
he speaks of the newness in being called daddy
we cruise the highway like in a date with the past
we laugh like the old friends we always will be
i say I'll return to put his marital plans to the test
we park & kiss; passionately soft like old married folks
"return soon," he demands;
"i will," I lie to, for both of us
Oh Nai --- you are home that will never be home

I've got new love back home;
much too much to lose
he's a little girl's daddy now;
much too much to steal
Oh Nai ---you are home that was only ever a dream