The conductress


Credit: Daily Monitor

I never realised how easy it is to assume things until I caught myself doing it sometime back. I got into a taxi to head back home, and the taxi got full and started to move without a conductor. I thought, well, this must be one of those awkward situations where the driver does the conductor’s work too and when getting out a passenger has to stretch their arm like “omujiini” to pass the money over to the driver himself. I accepted this sad situation and began to work on a way of easing life by getting out the exact money required so that the driver wouldn’t have to search for change. I was feeling quite happy with myself, what with being well-prepared, until my neighbour asked me to do her a favour by giving her my 1500 so that she’d pay for the two of us at once with her 10000 note in order to do the same thing I had wanted to do: to ease the change situation. I gave it to her and then from nowhere began to feel bad. I had done my part not to make the driver suffer and now it was reversed because of Madam Neighbour. Then I became angry: why doesn’t this ki taxi have a conductor anyway???
And then lo and behold, I see someone handing money to the woman seated where the conductor would normally sit. I see her give the person back his change. I see her pulling a bunch of notes out of one of those waist strap bags. I see her ask other passengers for money. My God. We have a conductor all along. A conductress.
I am, in this particular order, shocked, glad, confused, elated and then perturbed. How could my brain have so automatically refuted the possibility of her being the conductor? I mean, I had seen her sit there in the conductor’s place, and no other conductor had come in. How hadn’t it occured to me?
A thought became clear in my mind that had been swimming there for a while, blurry and formless: there’s a reason for stereotypes. There is a reason why it is a little difficult for my mind to wrap around the fact that this woman was the conductor. And why is this? Because not many women, actually barely any even do this job at all. So when one is shocked by it they don’t mean that a woman can’t be a conductor, they just mean it’s not common and they are not used to it.
The conductress has began to make sense to me in lots of things. There is a reason  why many non-Africans think Africa is only populated by hungry, begging, war-ravaged people and why many Africans think all white people are rich. There is a reason why some groups of people are seen as thieves and others as cheats. Not because everyone of them is. But because, many of them, too many, exhibit this very same behaviour, and because over time, this is the part of them they show most to others, despite not being entirely like that. There is a reason for stereotypes. I realised that nobody wakes up in the morning and creates a stereotype just because, but that it instead comes from something people notice over time and begin to get used to. Of course some stereotypes are exaggerated or over-used or plainly ridiculous. But most come from something at least close to reality in one way or another. I have realised now that much as societies and peoples and tribes and genders need to learn not to view each other through stereotypical lenses, it is also the responsibility of the group of people being stereotyped in a way they don’t like to change this stereotype, because others will never change how they see you until enough of you are different enough to break the mold. Some will say it doesn’t matter what other people think of you, but I don’t think it’s entirely true. Simple things like these affect so many aspects of life, even in ways we do not notice. They might affect if you get a certain job or not, if you get awarded a contract, if you are given the position of treasurer at your local church, or a million other things.
The conductress broke a stereotype for me. I never thought I’d see a woman do that. Frankly, I’m inspired. Not that I’m about to become a conductress any time soon, but I feel like I should open up to many more opportunities that I would have previously ignored because of the stereotypes I harbour about my own self.
A toast to you, Madam Conductress.


Writivism: Partying is not a stage


Could someone just rewind this week back to Monday so that the Writivism 2016 festival would be just beginning again? Or better still, could someone just fast forward to next year so it’d be Writivism festival again?


Because I’m not done. I don’t feel done. I am unable to deal with the fact that it has come to an end. But like all good things….

I could say I’ve learnt a lot at this festival but I’d be lying, because a lot is too little. From Monday all the way to Sunday it did not relent. The book launches – I never thought this possible – were so much fun; the readings had me going broke, scrambling for copies of these wonderful books (especially a certain amazing author whose name is Chuma Nwokolo, he just finished all my money. You people must buy How to Spell Naija in 100 stories and enjoy with me, I don’t want to be selfish with my joy). I met and got into interesting conversations with so many people, from readers to aspiring writers to writers to bloggers to authors to publishers to Greek gods and goddesses. This thing brings together so many beautiful minds and souls.

Also, this year, our Francophone brothers and sisters have been fully included in everything, from submissions to judging and the events themselves, which has made Writivism more wholesomely African by reaching out to more African nations. This particularly gives me so much joy as a lover and speaker of the French language.

The biggest lesson Writivism 2016 has taught me, however, is not one you’d quite expect: that partying is not a stage. You read that right. You might wonder how on earth partying came in, but yeah it did. Let me explain.

Have you ever had that friend (or are you yourself the kind of person) who doesn’t really go out clubbing, partying or drinking and generally doesn’t do any interesting stuff by Ugandan standards? People always say such a person is missing a stage and will one day wake up in their forties or fifties and crave the party life they didn’t live in their youth and begin hitting the clubs mixing with people half their age to kind of pay back a debt to the gods of youth. Well, I disagree. Partying is not a stage. What the stage is is that time of your youth when you enjoy your passions and explore your interests. Being at the Writivism festival this week has had me feeling some type of way, the way I imagine many of my agemates might feel after a good party or after great night out on the town. I am actually in a state of hangover; I didn’t think I would make it to the office today. I get my high off things like these. I feel like I need a few days of to digest all the Writivism bubbling around inside my brain.

And to crown it all: Acan Innocent Immaculate, who is a friend of mine (yes I must show off), won the fourth Writivism short story prize. Glory! Talk about friends who inspire! Talk about a great end to a great week!

Tremors on my birthday

Today the ground shook for me
That’s what!
It stood up and roared for me
But not just that!
It danced for me
I swear
The world did a little jump for me
That’s rare….

And all I can imagine now
Is how much it must have jumped
For my mother
The day I decided I’d jump out.

Her world must have exploded into madness
She must have been filled with so much sadness
Thinking she’d lose me
Never get to see me
And grow and play and be pretty.

If I could speak I would have told her
Hush, Mummy, I’ll get to grow older
There’s a higher power, don’t you worry
It’s Him who brought me here two months early
And He’s going to be there
And I’m going to be well
And we’re going to be happy.

Now that I’m away
In my own little version of
making mummy proud
We don’t get to be together
On a day like……today……

And you know what happens?
The world shakes.

An extra table

Sometime back I happened, within the space of a few days from each other, to eat at a “kafunda” and then at a classy restaurant. It’s not like I’d never been to any of those two kinds of places, but for the first time I noticed the stark contrast between them. It’s amazing the things we don’t notice, or that we notice everyday but gradually close our eyes, ears and hearts to. I was left confused anew by how different life is for people on different sides of this Kampala city of ours.

We went to the kafunda as a large group and there was barely anywhere to sit. We ended up having to pile up on two benches so tiny and shaky I was afraid they’d fall apart before we got a chance to get something into our stomachs. The carpenter who’d made the table we were to eat at must have had zero training; the thing looked resigned. And the food…..oh the food! It was dug out of grimy saucepans right in front of our eyes with hands that kept touching everything from stained kitenge wrappers to sweaty foreheads and leaky noses. I don’t even want to start on the cutlery. You should be able to picture its state from what you’ve read so far. And yet I’ve never enjoyed a meal so much in my life. One of these days I’m going to start believing that filthy conditions are a necessary ingredient for delicious food. Never mind how ridiculously cheap it all was.

Now on the EXTREME other hand, the classy restaurant. Dear Lord. The waiters warmly greeted us (only two this time; you don’t really go to cool restaurants in large numbers) with the warmest words and smiles, and a bow. Yes. They did a little curtsy for us! The person I was with had a big laptop and was checking emails, so the waiters felt the need to carry another table over to us so that we’d dine together and I’d still have enough space to eat comfortably without the laptop all up in my face. Before that I’d been amused by the sheer excess of serviettes they gave us, plus pretty little bottles of salad oils that looked like bottles of expensive perfume. But an extra table? Just for me? That left me nodding in amused approval! I asked for a sandwich and guess what; sandwiches come with an entire (huge!) plate of free fries (if they’re really free at all, considering the price of the meal). The sandwich was large, too. And superb! Not to mention the cinnamon flavored tea that I guzzled down with no mercy. Everything was on point.

Be not fooled though, people, we paid for all this luxury. A small fortune. And an arm and a leg. As we left I was almost saddened by how much we’d had to spend on a meal we could have gotten for a quarter of the price. Almost saddened. Because you can’t really be sad when a hot waiter in a hot outfit is smiling at you as he escorts you out of the restaurant, heartily thanking you and sweetly talking you into coming back again. Well, I guess we paid for that too. Such a charming side-smile can’t just be handed for free…… Oh, plus those luxurious serviettes. And the salad dressing that we didn’t even use.





My creative tribe

** A creative tribe is a like certain kind of creative: the creative people out there who share similar quirks and ways imagining and doing things.

They are timid people. Timid in a way no one would ever understand because on the surface they look oh so intimidating and bold. They are crazy people, that tribe of mine. No, I don’t mean that they like to go clubbing or diving off cliffs. That would be the last thing they would ever think of doing. Instead they’re crazy because they have way too many dreams. They want to be writers and graphic designers and programmers and engineers and crafters and chefs and pianists and I don’t know what else. Ask them for their passion in life and they’ll freeze, unable to say just how many little passions and big passions they have, for fear of sounding unserious. They love the color green because it’s life, refreshment, harmony. And they are artsy, always making little sketchy designs in any of their numerous notebooks. Virtually any sort of design appeals to them, whether they can contribute to it or not.  They like to travel and meet new people because much as they are mostly introverted and shy, they have always harbored a burning curiosity about the lives of people in other parts of this great wide world. On that note; they love food. They’d kill for a chance to travel the world sampling the cuisine from each continent. Coffee is liquid gold. Yoghurt, possibly silver. Veggies and fruits, bronze. Everything else, they’ll try it if it doesn’t give off poisonous vibes.
Above all else, though, they love to put into words the amazing things that happen in life every day. They watch life through narrowed, deeply interested eyes, knitting stories and whipping up poems. One thing stands out; they are not really sporty. They may admire sports from afar but participation……not so much. But they can dance. Kind of. They like music and wouldn’t mind moving the body a little, just not in front of other people.
Brands? Anything with a really creative logo, or any that oozes sophistication. Plus Coca-Cola. Any day.

The fault in our Ugandan TV commercials

Okay I lied a bit in the title there. I don’t exactly mean “faults”, but lately I’ve realized that there’s a hidden message/lesson in most of our Ugandan TV commercials. Next time you’re forced to endure one of those things, look at it this way: there’s a lesson to learn. Like those things of “moral of the story” in our primary school storybooks.

  • First of all, there’s that DStv commercial with Patrick Idringi (Dr. Turner Show).

This one truly taught me something about life. The guy was complaining about not having DStv in his home and therefore missing out on lots of football matches. Dr. Turner then tells him about DStv and the channels it has, on which he can watch all the sporting action he wants. His reaction is simply crazy! The guy screams and jumps into the sofa in excitement, which makes me wonder what he’ll do when he actually gets the DStv connected in his home. In short, he’s happy at the prospect of it. Even before something actually happens in your life, just the expectation of it should be enough to give you happiness. Great lesson there.

  • Then, that infamous MTN commercial with the geeky kid.

For sure, the lesson in this one is that you’ll raise/grow crocodiles with the help of the internet. It’s actually symbolic. See, much as the internet will give you all the information you’ll ever want and more than you’ll ever need, it will also give you ways to put your life in danger, like, you know, how to raise (or grow) crocodiles. Be careful with the internet, people.

  • That Camay soap commercial. And the Lux one, for that matter.

The fate of the ‘true African woman’. This commercial is just too full of underlying meaning. Its soundtrack is a song talking about how that particular man is always in a hurry and has no time for his woman, so she begins to seek ways of getting his attention. Of course, the moment she uses Camay soap, he pays attention to her. And the song goes on to say something along the lines of “I’m a true African woman,” after she gets the man to look in her direction. In short, you marriage-age African women out there, this commercial just might be telling you of your fate; a life of seeking the attention of your absent-minded spouse. God forbid.

  • And then, those Mun G Airtel commercials.

Very straightforward lesson here; that two minutes is so so so much time. In that amount of time you can talk about the chicken and the egg, your nursery school days, the milk you bought at the supermarket  and just about anything else. Of course, this shows us the value of time. Never ever say that a minute or two is too little time. Have you seen how much Mun G can say in a minute? Patrick Idringi even sings an entire song in another commercial, this time by MTN. You can achieve things in two minutes. Stop saying you’re time barred.

  • And then, that Skin Guard commercial with a white woman.

This one is obvious; that sometimes (or many times) we need/want a white person to validate something we’ve not been giving much attention. A white woman, in a very sweet voice, assures us that Skin Guard is the best soap (or is it lotion? I forget). This isn’t the first time this has been done. I’ve seen white people in Ugandan commercials before, for some toothpaste or other, and I guess it works.

*Please note that the above is strictly my own interpretation and therefore not representative of what the companies actually want to mean in their commercials. At least, I hope it isn’t.

All fiery at 6:00am

7 Day blogging challenge  #UGBloggers7Days

Today, I woke up to a sky the colour of fire. I refuse to undermine its beauty by calling it orange or red. It was fire. And when I looked at it again, it looked pale, like the fire was slowly smothered by cold, grey ashes. Or like the fire was lit amidst ice, and the ice made the fire look pale while the fire made the ice melt. It looked like the two were not exactly delighted by their union, but it had created this indescribable beauty. It is just like the forced marriage that surprisingly works out despite the couple having never shared any romantic love.

The beauty rapidly faded, though, and I began to wonder if it was making way for another of those unremarkable days when the sun shines so mercilessly that it is no longer an amazing thing, but a giant orb emitting piercing rays. Or would it rain a little today, like on those days of undecided weather when all the different kinds of weather want to happen at once? I didn’t know, but today I felt ready for a surprise. Today was going to be wonderful. Yes, it was just six in the morning, too early to tell. But why was my heart beating so loudly? Why couldn’t I breathe right? Why was all my blood gushing around my body like even it was excited by the prospect of this day? Why couldn’t I stop smiling to myself?

A glance out the window now showed me that the fire was winning. The entire sky now had a scenic fiery glow. Wow. There was a lot for me to take in from this. The fire is like love, and passion. It burns out the cold feelings of dread, fear and despair. But there wouldn’t have been so much beauty without the ice trying to get in the way of the fire. I decided to light my fires, too, today, and burn out all the cold, dark things. I decided to smile, and love, with my entire soul. Today I began my day all happy and bubbly. I guess excitement is a fire, too, so I should let it burn!