They forgot

They forgot:
The people that told me of life
They forgot:
It skipped their wise minds
When they sat me down
When they took my hand
To give me their insight about this earthly life

The self-help books forgot: they talked of high tides and waves
Of moments of joy and tremendous gain
Of determination and of strength
Of not giving up through the stormy gale
Also, of life’s hard times and pain
Of traps: “Beware of life’s many traps!” they said
That life is one great crazy jungle
In which the hunters set traps, and watch, and wait.

They forgot:
I could set my own.

They forgot:
The hunter can hunt themselves
The hunter can be me
Hunting
Me.

Don’t warn me of the outside thief
Of the kidnapper that prowls dark streets
Don’t warn me of lions with bared teeth
Or of cheetahs that run at a million miles speed
Of snakes that aim and bite for the kill:
Because those, I can see
Those, we have learnt to spot
Warn me instead of the most lethal being
Warn me of
Me

Warn me that some days I will be the tsunami
That some days I will quake and bring down buildings
Warn me that I will steal from myself
Warn me that I will hit myself
That I will sit down,
Design the trap
Carefully set it
And carefully fall in it
And it will bite into my own ankles
And it will hurt
And the pain will be my lesson
And I will burn with emotion
And my cries for help will be mere curses
Me cursing
Myself.

Teach me how to get through that.

Please don’t die

Many things in our traditions may die out but this thing with death just won’t die. Not now. We may be phasing out various practices in the way we cook our food or greet our elders, we may be wearing bitenge and calling it African print and cleverly letting it replace our true Ugandan cultural wear or speaking our languages less and less or whatever else that comes with modernization and globalization. But when someone dies the whole clan is going to gather and travel to the village and wail in a truly African fashion. A million little rituals are carried out. The deceased’s family ends up the hosts of a mammoth crowd. People show up. Your enemies. Your friends. Close relatives you like. Distant relatives you don’t really remember. Phony relatives you hate. Everyone. And they’ll be there, they’ll stay the night (or three nights), they’ll contribute condolence money for the funeral and somehow, one of them will cook nice thick porridge to keep everyone warm and satisfied as they sob. Because there’s a lot of crying. Some other relative will even make chai and katogo so everyone won’t miss their lunch and supper for the day (or three days).

We still bury at our ancestral homes. Over a month ago I lost a relative and there was a decision to make about where to bury them, due to some complications in the deceased’s ancestry. Someone then asked why we haven’t yet adopted the graveyard thing (or is the proper name ‘cemetery’?), like more developed countries instead of always having to sort out family land issues at burial time.

I almost jumped out of my seat. Suddenly I’m all like Nooo. No. No. Don’t do this to me. This is the one part of our culture we still uphold the most and yes I used to hate all the family stuff but now I’m begging it please don’t die. We need this. This sort of family unity and expression of culture that comes with death, we need it. Somehow, when there’s so many people each trying to help out somewhere, even if it’s only help with the crying and eating, the pain is easier borne. You can lose yourself in the crowd and mourn as one, you can look around and let the support strengthen you. The force of family and tradition keeps you going. I know the day will come when the demands on land won’t let us bury the way we do anymore; when people will no longer abandon their busy schedules and jobs to travel so far into villages and mourn together; when we will need to designate places for the dead while no longer bothered about their particular ancestries. Yes it will, we already see the signs. But please, not yet. Not now.

The race to outrun life; we’re defeated

The start of the race

Anticipation still shone on our face

We could still dreamily gaze

Into the early morning fog haze

Happily, excitedly,

Looking forward only,

We couldn’t wait to start.

.

And start we did, with such energy,

Run we did, such agility.

You couldn’t stop us if you dared.

But you tried, life, you did

You were always trying to get in our path

And trip us so we’d fall over.

.

But we trudged on, life, we trudged on

When we fell down we crawled

And soon we’d be back on our two feet

Running again, flying!

.

In that moment you began to understand

That you couldn’t outdo us with simple stunts

You came up with a most lethal trick

You’d tire us out and leave us sick.

Employing confusion, you made us run in circles

Go here, go there, go everywhere

So we’d end up running but never going anywhere.

.

You made our legs tired.

Tired legs.

Slow, numb legs

Leg-freeze.

.

But we learnt to deal with our bodies

If our legs hurt, there were remedies

Headache now couldn’t kill us

Exhausted bodies now couldn’t stop us

We’d go on and we’d not pause.

We’d accept no tricks, especially not yours.

.

Life, though, you just don’t give up

You came at us, nuclear options in hand

If the bodies were strong,

Then you’d fire at the mind.

Curve it around your wicked finger.

.

The result?

Tired brains.

Weak, rigid brains.

 Brain-freeze.

.

And that was it.

The straw that broke the camel’s back

You won; we’ve never finished the race

Yet we still try, more slowly, more softly

No destination, no end in sight

No light the end of our tunnel.

.

We tried to rise and take back what’s ours

But as we began, you pulled out the guns

Machine guns aimed straight at our hearts.

And you proceeded to do your final work

.

You took our souls.

And with that you took all our power

You’ve thrown us off the race tracks.

.

And now;

Tired souls

Hard, un-loving souls

Soul-freeze.

.

Greatest treasure gone.

I weep for us; no more souls

We have no more souls.

Virus

#UgBloggers7days

Another Ebola headline. Boring. Why was she watching CNN anyway? A quick flick of the remote and she was on the next channel. BBC. Which had yet another Ebola headline. She rolled her eyes in deliberate slow motion and turned to the local television stations, resigned to the fact that she wasn’t going to watch international news channels without Ebola being shoved in her face. Couldn’t a girl watch a little news to keep up with the world and go back to the Food Network in peace, without being forced to think about crazy virus infections? Eh? She was even starting to believe that these big news networks exaggerated the extent of the infections to keep people glued to them. But she was above that sort of emotional manipulation.

On second thought, perhaps it was better to watch something else altogether. She threw herself into the couch in a lying position, one leg up on the arm rest and the other down, grazing the velvety maroon carpet. She stretched one arm to her laptop to log out of Twitter and turn the computer off before it began its normal routine of freezing like it too had a case of Computer Ebola. Just as she began to click, though, something caught her eye. A tweet mentioning that Marburg was apparently back in the country. She sat up and in the process almost slid and fell from the shiny leather of the sofa. The news was all over. How is it that it had come back right when Ebola was in full gear across Africa? Did these viruses sit down in a secret meeting and plan to all come at once? Somehow, though, this one made her scared. It was close to home and it spoke to her subconscious in a way she couldn’t quite explain.  All thoughts of watching TV vanished, not with the speed with which her fingers were flying across the keyboard. She hit Enter and Google brought it all forth. Cases. Warnings. Uncertainty. Virus beginning to spread. But the words “Mengo Hospital” stood out like a sore thumb.

In the next two minutes she flew off the couch and halfway around the house to look for her phone while at the same time trying to remember where she had left it. When she found it on top of the microwave, she speed-dialed her father as smoothly as her fidgeting hands would let her.

“Dad! Where are you? Where did you say you were going today after work?”

“Why?”

“Just tell me,”

“I told you I’ll be visiting your uncle in Mengo. You should even be coming with me but you children don’t care about you family members and-”

“Dad, are you already there? Are you inside the hospital?”

“I’m actually getting out now. I’m almost at the gate. They’re acting all funny here and chasing out all the visitors……”

“Marburg,”

“What?”

“Marburg, Daddy,”

“Let me get out as fast as I can,” Continue reading

I eat everything. Almost. Not really.

Are you a picky eater? Share some of your favorite food quirks with us (the more exotic, the better!). Omnivores: what’s the one thing you won’t eat?  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/mouths-wide-shut/ 

 

Most people I know hate cucumber, but I’d eat that stuff everyday for the rest of my life. Same goes for a number of leafy vegetables and a few funny fruits that surely only grow in my country (I can’t mention them because I don’t know what they’re called in English). In short, I eat a few things that wouldn’t be many people’s first option. Because of this, lots of people who know me think I eat everything.

If only they knew.

My name is Lydia and I’m a picky eater.

There was even a time in my life, quite recently, when I’d dread meal time. Of course I wanted to eat ’cause who doesn’t? The problem came in later, however, with the effects. The food we eat here generally includes a staple food (usually a very heavy carbohydrate) and a sauce/soup (usually protein food like fish, meat and legumes). Now those heavy carbs……those were mostly the issue (and they still are, sometimes). For some reason, my digestive system wasn’t in the mood for any hard work. I was relieved to know it was a disorder, but that’s where the relief ended. No doctor could conjure up enough “doctor-ly powers” to diagnose this thing and do something about it. I was tired of stomachache. Tired of feeling bloated all the time. Tired of not enjoying food because I was worried about how I’d feel after eating. Tired of my stomach itself.

I stopped (at least willingly) eating most of the food available to me. Some of this behavior still exists, but I’m gradually becoming less picky. I’d only be happy eating fruits and vegetables and drinking tea. Goodness, I love tea. Tea, besides being the best beverage ever, enabled me to take as much ginger, lemon grass and cinnamon as possible, and those helped to calm down my stomach (while tasting great too).

So I don’t eat everything, or even go anywhere near that. But I’m getting better. And I’m just glad I’m able to eat normally. Not everyone gets to eat food that’s not pumped into your system through a web of tubes.

Everything else aside, I just won’t eat fish. It doesn’t even give me any problems. I just hate it.

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And time will pass

From a time in my life when I was afraid I’d waste so much time;

And time, as it always does, will pass. Days will still go by. They may have no life in them, no excitement, nothing to look forward to, and no passion; but they will not linger. They will go by. They will not remember that I lived in desperation, begging them to come with something more; to bring some jump to my soul; to be bright and full of colourful bubbles. They will quickly forget that I sat by and waited for life itself to grant me the things I should have worked for and hand me prizes for things I’d made the mistake of giving up on. They will sneer at the fact that I watched other people thrive instead of survive, that I celebrated when other people achieved their dreams while I passively pondered upon mine. And they will not sneer for long, for they don’t dwell on things not done but on things that are done, because something is greater than nothing.

They will sigh a little, not from annoyance, but from disappointment because I wasted their time. In twenty four hours, a single day, others will have dreamt a thousand dreams and made a thousand realities, while I just sat and looked on. And the days will feel betrayed and hollow for I threw them away like the kind of smelly garbage everyone’s always eager to get rid of. They will not even bother to look back because they’ll not think me worthy of craning their necks so hard. So they’ll give up and move on, they’ll have given me their chance. It comes once. A day, two, three, three hundred. They’ll never return for a second round. And they’ll be gone, and I’ll be here, having had a feast in front of me from which I refused to eat.

Maybe one day, the days will come back and I can ask them for forgiveness. I can tell them of all the new plans I’ve come up with and how it can all be worked out. We can plan new things together, have new visions and dream new dreams. We can rewind to those wasted days and fill them with passion and action and love; we can make them worthwhile. I feel the jitters now; they’re butterflies in my gut; we are going to re-write history! This is hope!

That was hope. There’s this thing called logic, though. Guess what logic tells me. Days indeed never return. So I’ll just never get back my wasted time.

To an unkwown destination

Loneliness is an interesting feeling. And that’s probably because, ironically, there’s no one there for you to explain it to. You can’t quite express it, too. When you’re happy you’ll do your happy dance. When you’re sad you’ll play that soft rock music that you know will make you weep, but you play it anyway. When you’re excited you’ll call up your best friend and scream a bit. When you’re depressed you’ll take a pill. But when you’re lonely…

They told me these rails would lead me to the next town, but I feel like I’ve been walking since the beginning of time. I keep trying to take one step at a time, literally. Not that I would be able to take two at once. I would if I could.

My bag slides off my shoulder and falls down. Good. I was thinking of resting my arm, anyway. I bend to pick it in the slowest motion possible, trying to buy myself some time for rest. My legs think ahead of my brain and decide to give way. In a flash I’m seated in a little patch of grass with my bag lying haphazardly strewn beside me. Normally I’d fret and set it in an upright position. Today I can’t even think in that direction; I’ve never been so happy to be sitting down.

I’ve walked for all these hours and I’ve not seen a thing. Now that I’m not walking, I’m starting to see the stones; to see that each one has its own hue of grey. I’m just starting to see the little specks of rust on the rails, the vibrant green that gets thicker as it goes further away to a place that I don’t know. That’s the other thing about loneliness. If you don’t know how to handle it, you turn inwards and focus entirely on yourself for entirely too much time. You end up like me, supposed to be focusing on getting to the next town and finding a new life again, and instead missing out on all the beauty around you because you’re just not letting yourself see.

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