Aug 31, 2011

Dear Grandpa

As we sprinkled damp soil in the deep hole, tears dripped gently and had to glide down my cheeks. I watch the grave diggers gently pile soil on your coffin. The thoughts, the memories of a fallen hero, a friend, a teacher, a role model and grandfather continuously keep showing up. “You are still alive,” I try to convince myself. Hours earlier I struggled to make a speech. There were thousands of people at our home to say goodbye and I couldn’t talk about you. It was overwhelming for us your grand-children. We could not avoid it but think of how soon you were gone. 

When we were young, we had a craving to visit your home every holiday. Your stories about our origins and the lessons we could learn from them. The knowledge and wise words you would offer were only for you. At your age, you had seen it all from the wars, the regime changes and the brutal/harsh treatment. 

“You look out for yourself and the friends you have,” You would tell us.  “Be careful, not all the friends you make have want the best for you. Some of them want to use you so they can get to a certain level,” you would caution. 

I remember at your burial, that politician who lied about your thoughts on the current regime in power. If I am to remember your words and the clippings you gave me, you had always cautioned me to be careful with the current regime in power. 

You specifically pointed out how agriculture was on the decline and you squarely blamed the current regime. 

“We used to get more money from our tea estates when we had co-operatives. This government seems to have less concern for us,” You once told me.  

Your stories on courage and the suffering you went through while reaching out for the people near Queen Elizabeth National Park. I remember your story on the encounter with a lion, an elephant and buffalo. There is that buffalo horn in the house. A souvenir for the achievement you had made after killing that animal (With help from two men). 

The suffering and torture you went through when preaching the word of God in witchcraft infested area (Buyaruguru). How you were scorned, rejected, spitted at and at times received death threats. But you remained unshaken to the point that you eventually transformed that place.  

Your faith was always an inspiration. You never abandoned God. You believed he had all the answers in this world. Even when grandma passed away, you kept strong. Your faith was also clearly shown in the disappointment you had for the church. You never liked how the church was very “secretive”. How reverends and canons were committing horrific acts of evil and yet continued to grow within the ranks of the church. 

Your selfless nature was probably the greatest fruit that you had grandpa. You and grandma only had one child (My mother) but looking at all the people who had taken care of, you would have probably been one of the richest men in Western Uganda. You never loathed material possessions and all you wanted, was for people around you to be happy. You took care of so many people and they were all at the burial to say goodbye.  

Thank you grandpa for all that you taught me. Each time I saw you and we talked, I learnt something new. I remember at a time when the teenage boy in me was about to end my academic lifestyle. You stood by me and got me a place at a High school. It was clear you believed I would change and become the person I am right now when some people had already given up on me. When I finally became a scribe, you were always proud of me and each time you meet people you tell them of your grandson who had become a journalist. Thank you gramps. 

For the past few days, I have been thinking about you grandpa. Whenever I talk to my family, we seem to reach a consensus that you are alive. It’s hard to believe that you were placed six feet under. You were only diagonized with cancer last year and it is shocking how soon you had to leave us. There are so many cruel people who were always jealous of how much you loved and cared for us. In us you are still alive although we miss you greatly. You are irreplaceable in our lives.   

Aug 18, 2011

The Kampala pedestrian

A pedestrian can be defined as a person who walks on the roads of Uganda in general and Kampala in particular. Wikipedia and the Oxford dictionary have their own definition of a pedestrian but mine is clearly not far off. In Kampala people walk to work (Which until recently was legal - sort of).
There are those with motorcycles, cars (the Toyota's) and those with beasts (Audi, Hummer, Dodge). As a holy pedestrian, I am usually starstruck when I look at the cars people drive. (BUT: Where do people get the money to buy not-Toyota cars?). To the point; I will own a car sometime in the future and it will save me from the life of being a pedestrian in Kampala.

The Cover that is not: A pedestrian in Kampala is likely to fall or drop a smartphone in a manhole. There is someone in this city who steals the manhole covers. What are manhole covers used for? Welding gates and metallic doors? I do not know. But in these tough economic times these covers must be very useful.

The Splash; There are unbelievable tales of people who have suffered splash moments especially after a rainy day. Due to the somewhat poor drainage or poor road works or potholes, pedestrians get splashes. Of course it depends on who has splashed. For an ambulance or presidential convoy, it may be okay. The splashes may ruin your day and drivers usually DON'T apologise.

The body check; This one in particular I find unpatriotic. The people driving cars don't leave their huge vans to be checked yet the pedestrian will be subjected to two body checks. One at the gate and the other before reception desk. Yes. Some hotels do this. (I can prove this beyond reasonable doubt).

The Taxi; During rush hour (huh! Wanna be Kampala rush hour), the traffic jam is annoying (for those in the cars). A pedestrian holding a fancy Kataala phone hooked to Pakalast (Load 1k; talk all day), walking on a walkway is hooted at by a taxi or one of those drivers. The taxi driver is using a walkway. All the passengers in the taxi are not even criticizing the driver for using a walkway.

The bullet; My friend Rogue King loves to call them bullets. The famous Kampala "boda boda." The riders have no respect for traffic rules (Apart from the ones I use). They interfere with the flow/movement of pedestrians. I am very passionate about this one that I cannot say anymore about it. Except; Even at the zebra crossing and the traffic lights you are likely to knock a pedestrian who has right of way.

Optical non-nutrition; As a pedestrian I tend to peep or look at the people occupying cars. Its interesting what I get to see in peoples cars. Beautiful ladies are usually the center of interest. However this doesn't help. Its non-nutrition because it benefits the eyes only in the short run.

The boss; The pedestrian will be subjected to a ruined day if it rains. No rain coat and no umbrella or and no boots. You will either be later for work and the boss will fume or you will miss an appointment with a client. Client has a car and the boss too has car. boooom.

Shoe wreck; Shoes get older. The sole will peel off in a much shorter time. Enough said.

In these tough economic times, more and more people(Cliche; ignore once) have become pedestrians (Unless your car is a Vitz, Starlet or Duet or if your company pays for your fuel or you very rich or you steal taxpayers money). They have also become frustrated because of the conditions of being a pedestrian. They have to buy water, spend more on shoe polish, shoe repairs, new pair of walking shoes among others. Even for the ladies who have the love for high heels, they are only reserved for the office.

My pedestrian life is lovely at times BUT its below expectations. Someone needs to have a voice for people like us who pay taxes and face such treatment from fellow citizens.

Aug 9, 2011

baffled, astonished, worried

Images from London's riots are unbecoming (Check oxford dictionary). The sheer determination by groups of youth breaking into shops and doing loot service. Its all over the news and the social media circles. Such events are usually scarce on the news wires. Looting and rioting have always been an African thing and rarely do we as Uganda even talk to psychologists on what is going on in the minds of the youth.
Baffled by the "gangs" the news anchors and commentators on radio, TV and Websites in England couldn't believe what their eyes had seen. I too found it hard to believe. I could barely believe the sheer helplessness of some shopkeepers and the police that was ultimately overwhelmed.

I am watching. Shocked. The riots come at a time when the free market is facing a huge task, financial markets tumbling, debt crisis in Europe, America losing its AAA rating, tough economic times in Uganda as we have a sugar crisis (sort of) and nose diving dollar among others.

Who can one blame for the events in London? Clearly I do not know. I have listened and read analysis from acclaimed experts and they have varying reasons for the looting. Ranging from social exclusion and the recent austerity measures by the Cameron and Clegg government. But why resort to looting, setting cars ablaze and stoning the police.

Even I can't find a reasonable excuse to loot.