​I will return to Bushenyi someday

Bushenyi shall be my permanent home some day.

Beautiful blue butterflies twirl around in colourful circles. Fresh floral leaves drop down from tall dancing trees which sway delightfully to a light rustling wind carrying sweet tantalizing smells. The birds can be heard pouring out their early morning melodies in the small woodland nearby. Beams of golden light burst through the green foliage at the canopy and give the ground below just a peek of brightness. It’s a beautiful day and I can’t help whistling. I tread carefully creating my own rhythm as I let each foot sink into the bed of dry leaves and branches on the ground. 

This is the reward for each morning of hard labour on the farm that begins at 4:30 a.m when the shrill piercing sound of the alarm clock invades the silent night instantly awaking me from my slumber. It’s time to milk the cows or else the milk will ‘evaporate’ as they say. The moon is out and gives me confidence to walk in the lifeless night. The only sounds are the hooting of an owl somewhere or crickets chirping plus the thud of my boots as I scamper downhill. In 20 minutes, I am at the farm gate draped in a heavy jacket, warm khaki pants, rubber boots to protect my ‘tender’ feet from the dew and wielding a herding stick and a LED flashlight. The two herdsmen are already up, just waiting for me to start off the day. Quickly we fetch the pails and milking salve cream and the drops of milk accumulate into litres with each pull at the cows’ teats. The stubborn ones are milked from the crush. Within an hour we are done with milking and feeding the calves that still take milk. Then the bulk of it is sold to the community around. By this time, the sun is starting to rise from beyond the horizon creating a sight to behold.

As the first glimpses of daylight appear, we set the herd off into the grazing paddock for the day. It’s a fresh paddock. One that hasn’t been used in a week and the excitement is evident on each cow’s face; fresh sprouted grass. If any of them stays behind or walks sluggishly, the simple deduction is that it is sick and the veterinary doc is called straight away. Fetching water from the nearby stream to fill the 1600 litre trough (80 jerry cans) is the last and also the toughest of the morning labours. This has to be done early before the sun is out to intensify the job. It is after this task that come the reward I speak of; the short quiet walks in the pastures and woodlands soaking in the beauty of this part of the world from which I derive a lot of pleasure. 

The stream, full to its brim because of the November rains, happens to run faster at the eastern edge of the farm. It is a calm constant flow that you hardly imagine drying up in the dry season when the heavens are mean with rain and the dry grass is tasteless to the cows. The sun rises higher and forces me to think of returning home. The emptiness of my stomach has begun to make it churn. A few minutes after nine, I’m homebound with a bucket of milk in hand for a hearty breakfast. 

Deep in my mind, I know this is pure bliss. Deep in my mind, I know that these are beautiful days. Yet these are but the exceptional days that I enjoy on the sojourns to my village Bushenyi, the place of my father’s birth, which never last more than two weeks. For the rest of the year, I must bear the buzz and rush of the capital.

Bushenyi shall be my permanent home some day.

From Lumumba with love

img_2599Weeewe…weeewe!

This is a catchphrase, sometimes a war cry, a rallying cry, at times even an alarm, and a magnetic chant that resonates with all Makerere university students but mostly among the residents of Lumumba hall.

Lumumba is a male hall of residence that derives its name from Patrice Lumumba. It is mostly known for its fearless nature. It leads the strikes, terrorises other halls and protects its turf with such ferocity that there is permanent fear in its opponents’ hearts. The atmosphere is akin to the Viking raids in the Anglo-Saxon times of 11th century England. Lumumba without doubt remains the premier hall of residence at Makerere University. One might attribute this to its talented or gifted residents, the shrewd and charismatic leaders but it is the spirit of Lumumba that is most striking about every lumumbist. That unfailing spirit and passion for the empire or other issues that are close to their hearts that is present in the DNA of each lumumbist.

For the first time I attempt to capture the atmosphere in Lumumba from the proceedings of the first kimeeza of the semester, observed by yours truly with undivided attention. (This is normally priviledged information and the highest offices in the empire had to be consulted first before it could be relayed to the public)

Kimeeza is a sacred assembly of all residents that is convened to pass on information, debate the affairs of the empire, declare war or raids on enemy halls, plan strikes, initiate freshers, but mostly to keep the barbaric spirit alive. This is where the leadership hopefuls flaunt their talents, it’s the community of Lumumba plus a few boxers fused in one song. It is also where the true Lumumbist is made, not at the porridge nights or the Lumbox carnivals or even the many episodes of the naked mile.

Tonight, the chairman is seated at the table (the only piece of furniture in the room) and regaling closely at his side is the chairlady of Box (Mary Stuart hall, which together with Lumumba forms the Lumbox solidarity) and a few other escorts. A short distance away, the god of the empire(a metallic stature); Emperor Gongom stands erect both horizontally and vertically just adjacent to the iron gates. He is draped in a kanzu that used to be white. At the waist of the kanzu is a hole that allows his ever-erect appendage to protrude. It is covered with multiple layers of condoms, a light hearted yet stark reminder to all to follow his example.

The kimeeza always begins with the singing of the songs of the empire led by the cultural minister. Words that ordinarily, do not escape from the mouth are sung with ease. For the newcomers they must wonder whether this is the so called Harvard of Africa. The whole Lumumba empire is on its feet surrounding the table and listening keenly. Whoever wants to address the kimeeza must stand on the table itself. The speaker is mandated to direct the proceedings and he yields the stage to those who desire to speak. Several speakers rise and address the meeting. The skilled ones can spend over five minutes while those who don’t know how to keep the audience on its toes are pulled off the table by the hems of their trousers even before a minute elapses. Notable speakers are the chairman and some members of his cabinet; the health, cultural, and entertainment minister with diverse messages ranging from the upcoming health week, the beach bash or complaints about the Wi-Fi connection.

You can’t fail to mention the GGB (Gongom Guard Brigade) commander. A dark, tall, fully toned student that towers above everyone else but most of all he is the only five star general in the rug-tug forces of the empire. There is a thin line between respect and fear for him even among his own friends. His remarks are brief and devoid of all political intonations. Firstly, he announces that the GGB is recruiting and goes on to elaborate the criteria for selecting those vested with the responsibility of guarding the empire. The positions available; head of misinformation and propaganda also called the spy chief, the chief mobiliser, and chief of recruitments. Finally, he gives the security report and elaborates the guidelines of how to be security cautious.

When everything has finally been deliberated upon, the cultural minister bursts out with twesimye nyoo…  Almost instinctively, every Lumumbist’s left arm grabs his crotch while the ladies reach for their breasts and all (by now also including freshers) lift up their right arm with a finger pointing to the skies and the empire is swallowed up by the tune of ekitibwa kya Lumumba. It is a catchy rendition of the ekitibwa kya Buganda, but instead of singing sabasajja Kabaka, its sabasajja Gongom. Similarly, asaana afuge egwanga lyona is twisted to asaana aziine abakazi boona.

Granted, this is not an original anthem and it might be littered with many vulgarities, the voices are even hoarse and not tuned or in sync but it is infectious. The passion and energy with which it is sung is the most visible show of solidarity in Lumumba, and that makes all the difference between the empire and the rest of the villages.

P.S; there is no inference of any living person in the above article but if any direct or implied allusion is detected  it is entirely unintentional or merely for dramatic purposes

Sandy left one day and has never returned

 

Just like that as dusk was descending, the bitch disappeared into the darkness, never to return. We never fought or quarrelled and she never seemed to complain. She merely slipped through the back door without any warning.

Each day from school I found her looking through the window anxious for my return. Then she would scamper down the steps to lick my face. Viva was her other name. Viva from vivacious because that was what she was! I enjoyed her company immensely although it was a potential distraction whenever I wanted to concentrate. She liked to swim and had learnt some hilarious dance strokes that she liked to show off whenever we got visitors.

I still wonder why the bitch left. Was it lack of affection? I don’t think. I always caressed her hairy back daily. Was it food? It couldn’t be. I always left enough food and fed her myself at times. We even went on walks in the neighbourhood almost daily. They were silent peaceful walks I thought she liked.

I sit at the steps to my door each evening, chin-in-hands like a man who has lost his mother in law, hoping to see her run into the yard and into my arms. Maybe one day I’ll understand that I am not one of her kind after all. That the constant gaze that she had over the fence was a longing for something I had selfishly denied her.

Could it have been that dog that was always peeping over our fence that lured her away?

Didn’t she see that she was one of the few dogs that sat in the front seats of their owner’s cars? Perhaps she didn’t. After all, she was merely a dog. (even though I know how self-defeating that consolation sounds )

 

The girl that stole my heart.

only God knew whether worms would have the courage to bore into her flesh when she died

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She was not the kind of girl you towed around hand in hand along Kampala’s dusty streets. No! Hers was a kind of beauty to be stared at, admired and preserved. In fact a friend had suggested that if it were possible, I should put her in an aquarium and place it in my living room. Then each day as I returned home, I would stare and behold the regaling goddess in the glass case, unblemished and pure.
Only God knew whether worms would have the courage to bore into her flesh when she died. I doubt they would. Ten days after her death she would still be as intact in flesh as a newly born. I was convinced that God would let her into heaven in her earthly form. He too would be hesitant to let this glittering creation of his hands to rot away into soil.

I have a secret!

The tarmac burns our bare feet by day and tickles them with cold at night.

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I have no idea how and why I landed here on these grueling streets. I must have been born here because i have no memories of any other place I have called home. I do not know anything to do with my parents. The person who comes close to fitting the description of a mother is a kind old lady who sells her merchandise along the road and all street kids call her mama. But not even her big heart can accommodate us all. We have to fend for ourselves most of the time.
Overtime, I have discovered that the trick is to take life day by day and barely think about tomorrow. Each day, I awake to the same fate. Looking for something just enough to keep my body going and keep it from starving. One time, an old muzungu who was shocked by my size told me that I am emaciated, whatever that means. The streets are all I have and they are home. The tarmac burns our bare feet by day and tickles them with cold at night.
Kampala’s streets awake very early, too early in fact. Taxi touts rouse me from my sleep before daybreak with their incessant cries for passengers. Then the bustle of busy bodies jostling for space on the small pavement kicks me out of my blank dreams. As the sun rises, my yawning also begins as if to announce that the day’s hustle has officially begun. We(I am not the only one) find ourselves on the streets, hands outstretched in prayer for an early morning coin almost automatically. Most times we have to do more than just stretch our pitiful arms. You grab you worn out shirt and clean the side mirror of the car of that beautiful woman who seems to pity you. Or you show the muzungu your toothpick-sized arm and sunken belly hoping it is enough to shock him to reach into his pockets and bless you with a coin. For some it is a mere curtsy and a greeting in English that is enough to convince them to dish out a coin.
We beg from all people, white or black, in the big cars or the smaller ones, whether old or young, pedestrians and even traffic policemen. We beg indiscriminately. And yet there are some cars which we never get close enough. Or they simply move too fast and deny us the chance to showcase our deprivation. They are the convoys that mama says belong to very important people, people who don’t have the time to waste in slow traffic. People like the president, ministers and members of parliament.
Of all these, I dream of the day I will get the chance to wave at the president and show him my bony arm. I know his face from the campaign billboards of the last election (I used to sleep under one of them) and the newspapers mama sells, where he features so often. I wonder if he would dish out a coin or a note. But his convoy always evades me. It is simply too fast and has mean looking soldiers seated atop accompanying military trucks. If I ever have the chance to stop him, I will bear out my heart to him and disclose my secret. A secret I am ashamed of; my stomach has never known the feeling of being satisfied.

The sun still rises

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It was difficult to imagine that we would one day live a life like this. No one could fathom that six months down the road we would be sharing a single room, battling deprivation and on the brink of starvation. The future turned blink as if God had all of a sudden turned his back on us.
Six months earlier, we didn’t have everything and neither did we lack anything. Food was a routine which we became accustomed to, school a perennial entry on our calendar and we loathed its monotony. On all the ten minute rides in dad’s car to school each day, we (my sister and I) had never wondered what it felt like for those classmates of ours we passed by as they trekked to school. Dad always returned from the market each Saturday, the car laden with food provisions for the week. Now we wonder about the next meal even before the food settles in the stomach. We took for granted the fact that each of us slept in his own bed, had the chance to grow as kids worrying about nothing, that we had a flushing toilet (with a door) and a maid who did most of the chores.
And then everything changed. Dad, the sole bread winner was diagnosed with cancer and quickly ailed away. Frantic measures to treat it were all in vain, too late as the cancer spread fast, faster than we could cope with. We were thrown out of the government house barely a week after his burial with a meagre sum of money to start us off in our new life-a life at the back of the stage, away from the spotlight. The car had already been taken, a week before he died as if they knew he would never make it back. It belonged to the government too, just like everything else. Mum wailed and soon ran out of energy to go on wailing. I grew tired of the sombreness at home and found my solace in the comfort of the books and friends at school. This was only momentarily as that too was snatched away when mum failed to raise the school fees and we had to shift to the government school that offered free education-but of a lower standard.
Life has surely changed. But we thank God that each day the sun still rises, oblivious of the bright darkness in our lives. It’s not to imply that we’ve lost all hope, no. We are simply waiting for that bright light to shine upon us, like those rare days we studied in geography where the sun shines directly above the equator and the day is equal in length to the night. We are waiting for God to smile upon us and give us a chance to change our fate.