May 25, 2009

Walking in reverse

“Opportunity knocks once.” I don’t know whether it is proverb or a saying or a common statement used by the ordinary Ugandan. Whenever I pick The Saturday Vision and New Vision, I read the writers’ name before I let my eyes explore the story. There are particular people I’ll look out for. Carol (Natukunda/Kasujja/Kezaabu), Ernest Bazanye, Angela Kintu, Esther "Namungojji", Babara Among and Joseph Kabuleta. I’ll not want dwell too much in typing all the names. Its a whole list of columnists I follow. 

I was always told by people around me on how it is hard to get into New Vision as a writer. This made me believe that it was actually very hard and that I’d need connections to get in, but each time I’d read the newspaper I noticed the writers in there were very good at what they did. Despite that I gave up so fast and gave up on writing. 

DEC 2008. 
In my third year as a journalism student I had never written for a newspaper apart from our campus paper. So an opportunity appears. I apply to do my internship at the features desk of The New Vision. I probably had the longest application (Only new Visions’ human resource manager knows that). Driven by negative thoughts and people around me I was never with the belief I’d actually get in. 

Jan 2009
It is the second week. I have already given up on getting into New Vision so I got a place at Business Week. This was something differing of my beliefs. I take myself as an all round person, atleast I can write business, sports and politics. They offer me a contract that expired April 30th together with an ID card. In my mind I’d given up on that opportunity to work for New Vision. 

Feb 2009.
When I was a young boy I tried to listen 
And I wanna feel like that 
Little white shadows
blink and miss them 
Part of a system, I am”

Theses are the words in my ringtone (White shadows by Coldplay). Unfortunately I have the polyphonic version. It’s around 9:00am on a Thursday, My phone rings and a soft sweet voice says

“Hullo, is this Mark?”

“Hullo, Mark here,” I reply

“I am calling from New Vision. You applied to be an intern, right?” She says

At the sound of that I freeze for a few seconds then I reply
“I did apply last year in December,” I say as I waited anxiously for what she’d tell me.

“You have been selected to do internship with us,” She says before I interrupt

“Sure?” I say. “Isn’t this some sort of prank or something,” I add

I can tell she wants to burst into laughter. She then replies “If you are still interested Just come next week on Wednesday at 8:00am. You will go to the editorial desk and ask for Helen.”
I freeze and all I say is “Ok, thank you very much.”

“If you have question, ask when you get to New Vision. Ok. Have a lovely day Mark,” She says

“Hope to see you,” I say “Have a lovely day and great weekend. It’s just one day to go,” I reply rather softly. I know how to be sweet.

There is a brief laughter and the line dies out. 

I start regretting why I was not patient and waited. I cannot terminate a contract. I did not have a convincing reason to tell my boss. Its Wednesday, I walk to industrial area, stand just at the entrance of New Vision for about 10mins then turned back and went back to Business week. Later that evening I cancel my supper plans, went to my bed and cried. The one chance I had to get in had been blown just because of a clause in a contract. 

I just wish walking in reverse was possible. In a few Months University life will be put to the shelf. I hope such a lifetime chance will appear again. I always imagine myself in the News room rubbing shoulders with some of Uganda’s good writers.

May 19, 2009

Is it for love?

How do the rich earn their money? They were patient and built their empires over the years. Well at times I wonder if am following in their footsteps. Is it that I like my internship and enjoying it? Well I do not know. When I took up this internship or I would rather call it job, the divines of providence looked fathomable. Finally I would get published. Wow

Then I started doing my work, I fell in love with work that I would walk 1km daily to and from work. No money. I was told I would be paid if I could deliver publications. Well I did. It is something I am proud of. So what exactly is wrong? Well my payment delayed by a week, a month and still counting. Am so broke that this Easter I can’t travel home or even buy an Easter egg for myself or my Kid brother. Well with all hopes slowly dwindling, a normal person would think about quitting. I cannot take myself out for a decent meal.

As normal as I am I’ve thought about it. Actually am supposed to be relaxed and fail to submit stories. But I actually cannot do this, am finding it hard not to submit. So what have I done to myself? Am I working for charity? Each day regarded as a worker. But maybe I would rather be published. Don’t know if am doing this for Love. For the love of having a by-line am walking home late and sleeping less to get a story published.

Each day I wake up I hope to get the best out of myself. Hope is what drives me. My quest to become a journalist has outstripped my desire to get myself a girlfriend. Not that I wouldn’t want one. My desire to become a good journalist has been met with a barrage of the corporate world.

The corporate world has hijacked my writing skills. Human interest is my thing but slowly I am sinking into the world of the corporate.
Am working for a business paper whose reader is the “wall street kind.” I have become that which I did not want. It is more than heartbreak to me. I have sunk in and am finding it very hard to leave.

Will I be able to leave? I do not think any time soon. I have gotten used to this. I would want to get out but where am I going. I wanted to write stories that impact society. Stories with an emotional touch. This I have seen slip away.

Not that I wouldn’t write something emotional in a business paper but because that touchy piece of writing is not the editorial policy. So have I realised my dream? I would reply am waiting to see the sun.
Maybe it is for the love of writing.

May 14, 2009

“Green Bottle” effects

In The Rainmaker a book by John Grisham, the main character RRudy Baylor is this young lawyer trying to find a place to practice but before he could sit his bar exam he works at this bar called Yogi’s. He works at the bar in order to get himself some rent and good money to make him survive as he gets a proper job in a law firm. Grisham refers to the lRudy's life as one those stages a Law student will get through before practicing law.
There is this friend of mine (I would like to his name off the radar since I have established myself as a writer I will call him Pie-o) is in a similar situation. But this would be called excitement that freedom had been relinquished to him after a long spell on “Curfew.” So he told me he had this event about 300 kilometres from the city he has to attend. He is supposed to be on the bus by 8:00am. It is around 5:00pm the day before he leaves and an Idea comes up. It is Thursday and its Rock night at this popular hangout Steak Out. He is convinced by his friends to go. They leave with at about 11:00pm after refreshing themselves an Alter Wine bottle. He had promised it would be a non-alcoholic night because of this “Bus Date” he was looking forward to.

He tells himself. “Today I am not going to drink a beer.” So he walks around but his eyes cannot avoid the overcrowded counter. He does not want to drink because he will be travelling with this hot girl on the bus and he hopes to get to know her.

He gets to the counter, pulls the wallet, flips it open and plucks out 5000/= shilling note and hands it to the waiter. “Black Ice please and a glass,” he says. His reasoning is the black will not make him drunk.

The glass is filled with a tear drop from a crying baby. So he needs something to occupy him. He tries to talk to friends and people around. They are holding beer bottles and glasses filled halfway creating foam on the top. He told me that at this time the minute hand on his wrist watch looked stuck. He then dashed to the counter with the intention of ordering for a Stoney but he instead says “A Tusker please.” According to him the difference is that these two words are almost similar but they are names of drinks. So he says that it was no big deal

A Tusker

A Tusker

A Tusker

A Tusker

A Tusker a friend bought. And he says that it is his last.

Water. Tusker bottle is half full.

gets onto a taxi and goes to his hostel and has only 3 hours of sleep. His eyes are squinted.

He wakes up, goes to bathroom, dresses up(head pounding like crazy) and gets to the bus park

Sits on the bus and there is the girl looking fresh and set for the journey. He says hullo and that is the end. She replies him but he cannot start a conversation but he ends up sleeping. He slept but he kept on waking up every 10 minutes because he almost hit his head on the front seat.

He gets up and looks through the bus window he reads a sign post. “Fort Portal 10 kilometers” this wakes him up because he knows he has a short distance. Well he had missed reading the other zero at the end of the 10. It actually read Fort Portal 100km. He stays awake, talking and waiting for the arrival. His head becomes heavy, he then buys water, he feels like sweating and is uncomfortable. The girl asks if he is ok and he replies. “I swallowed PILTON before I got onto the bus. I have a cold.” I doubt if she believed him.

The bus reaches FortPortal town. He gets off, books a hotel room and gets to the event venue. He buys shades to cover his almost half open eyes. It is quite uninteresting because the main event is the next day. He can hardly make sence.

Enters the hotel room. Without hesitation he is on the bed. Well and fast asleep.

Looks like a new day. He wakes fresh.
This was what happened to my Friend Pie-O. The green bottle, it is not Krest, sprite and Mountain Dew. It is that beer bottle called Tusker. He promised never to take it again. His Bus Date was a nightmare.

May 12, 2009

Death and all its friends (Viva la Vida)

I want a gun. Shoot someone. That one, who tortured me, beat me, rendered me useless, denied me entrance in the pub and stole my phone. Could this have been going through the mind of that PGB soldier who shot at people at a bar in Kampala sometime last month?

A dark crispy night, air filled with happiness. There is a buzz, people talking to each other on the fine night. The sound of glasses skimming passed peoples lips and the sudden “pshh” sound as the waitress opens a bottle. Each round table is occupied by a couple chatting silently and sipping from the glasses and bottles. In one corner a group of young lads probably in their early twenties are the loudest in the room. They watch every lady that walks passed them, they do not say anything. They just watch. At the counter a lady in short dress probably it almost reveals her thighs, her breasts are held by her dress that rounds them up and reveals the mid-line between the two breasts. She seems to be waiting for someone. She is drinking a soda and punching the buttons on her phone. The waiters and their lady counterparts move from table to table talking to the customers. They seem to be happy and everyone in the room is happy and as the night dies out and the sound of the cockroaches grows deeper and deeper.

Do these people have any idea what is going on outside the bar. They innocently drink, dance and enjoy the night as they wait for dawn to arrive. The smell of uncertainty seems to be hovering around the bar and in flash. Gunshots. The night is dead. Dawn is not breaking. The glass windows suddenly break and the people scramble to run out of the room. In a split second there is alot of screaming and wailing. A night that was filled with soft music, laughter and hush sounds comes to a sudden halt. The unexpected happens and the wailing is high. Dead is life.

So did they deserve to die? A rampage. Eight innocent lives are brought to an end. There is no justice. The night is dead. Death came with its friends and took the innocent lives away.