Braving a new reality

 

It has been a whirlwind year so far. So many experiences, up and downs and u turns but nothing compares to suddenly quitting  a job. It was liberating, scary and exhilarating. A matter of sunshine and rain.
Joy and pain. But mostly joy.
As I take a pause and contemplate on my next move I find one place of solace , that is engaging with the bravest of them all, the people in the arts.
There is something about the starving artist that gives me great inspiration and admiration for them. First of all the patience they have lasts like a lifetime before they make it. The belief in their arts is only comparable to the belief a parent has in a son. And the determination to make it with accurate pin point focus to reach an end goal is mind boggling.

So as I pick my direction, I engaged with a number of  creatives, artists and artisans as I got to attend one of my favourite events ‘Creative talks Africa’ organised by Kq and design hub with the host being an articulate and interesting gentleman called Wabwire .
This is an engagement of one creative with an audience which consists mostly of other creatives and people involved in the creative industry. The second one I attended was about festivals in Uganda,  the founders and how festivals come about and how they impact artists and how they are mostly organised by foreigners.
I loved the whole concept and it was a source of inspiration and ideas.

I got several ideas floating in my head and I need a starving artists focus to make them a reality. So am counting down. The ideas have been conceived, now we wait for the delivery.

Despite the well deserved break from the 9-5 I cannot seem to rest, the mind is restless and on high radar alert than before looking for the next niche. This is all working out unconsciously but I will need to sit down and know what to focus on.
This is the year of the brave, the late 20’s come with a lot of expectations. As a classmate is getting married, another is living as a hobo yet they all have the same expectation from life. Someone should have prepared us for these strange times though all in all am enjoying.

The adventure, the whirlwind chase for something almost out of reach, the realisations of child hood dreams and fantasies, the travels, the awesome friends and family. The minor and major achievements, the festivals. The cries and the laughter. The ups and downs. That is life.
The 9-5 did not feel like life, it was more like waiting to die. A secure job, a monthly salary, an alarm set same time all year, same faces to see each morning. Boring. But having so far survived six months months off I will say all that financial self education from the internet that barely applied to our  Uganda economy has paid off.

Now though often being scared and hopeless one second and the next hopeful with possibilities , I feel like am living. I don’t know what I will be doing next, no ideas who am meeting tomorrow or where I will go. It’s just that.

All am looking for now is a stable wifi in the various remote locations am able to go.

Advertisements

Where the dinosaurs lived

I encountered the most beautiful place I had laid my eyes on, Karamoja. From Napak to Kaabong, it was all awesomeness, I was left in awe at the nature of the landscape, people and weather.
I have been embarking on these journeys alone but there is nothing like ‘solo travel’ because everywhere I have gone so far there are familiar faces, family and friends.

 

 


Being always madly impatient on most journeys with this one being the longest, it was a totally different travel experience. I hitched a ride with Lorika and his family so most of the time I was preoccupied with interaction with his very brilliant kids  and the rest of the time I was enjoying the Savannah grassland landscape filled with green hills and marvellously shaped rocks and different rock formations. The road itself was a typical safari road, mostly Marrum but smooth. It was a ride straight out of a movie with us heading to a far far away land of mystery. The first thought that came to my mind as I was gazing at this landscape that was unendingly moving past was ‘this is where the dinosaurs lived’.
Dinosaurs, the poster boys of extinction must have enjoyed such a landscape. The flatness where one could see as far as the eye could allow, the rocks scattered  all over, and the hills and mountains.

The journey took us through most of Eastern Uganda and we were lucky enough to take a ferry ride on the Lake Bisina.  It was  rather a big raft with a big engine. It was amusing. Looking at the ferry from far you would think it can hardly accommodate more than 5 cars but when it was time to board, am still amazed at what this big raft could carry

 

 

Proceeding through the beautifully formed Napak mountain I was like ‘screw it, I have seen everything where is the exit?’ but little did I know this was just the icing on the cake. Mount Moroto was far more monstrously imposing and stunning.

Passing through Kaabong to the Kidepo valley national park felt like I was in a place outside time and maybe space. The sunrise from behind the mountains found us on the road to Kidepo. I was dumbstruck and embarrassingly simple minded at this moment like those seconds when you wake up from bed.

 

 

This was a reserve for us from God but with the help of the early elephant hunters like Lorika’s great grand father. The story goes that Lorika’s great grand dad was a prominent elephant hunter who helped foreigners  in their hunting expeditions. But he cunningly took the foreigners In circles around the mountains and never really let them see and possibly hunt in the kidepo valley because he knew what a beauty it was and also wanted his great grand kids to behold this piece of nature’s cake. Talk of unsung heroes and a fairytale story as I got to do a park drive with one of his great grand children.

we saw the Buffaloes, lions, antelopes, water bucks, and the very elusive elephants, giraffes and one thing I noticed is that all animals in this very large expanse looked well fed, I guess it was just nature at its best. The Eco system was intact.

 

 


We also got to pitch camp at the Karatum lodge which is a new lodge still under construction  perfectly wedged between two rocks and overlooking the national park. There is no better view than this and I vow to be one of the first clients when it opens. Hope Lorika gives me a heads up.
So definitely I will be back to Kidepo valley.

 

The Karamoja cultural festival

What is culture if it cannot be celebrated proudly by it’s people and admired by people from outside that culture. That is why with an impromptu invitation from long time friend Lokol, other culture hoggers, appropriators and I took a long rather scenic ride to what seemed like the end of the world to Kaabong in Northeastern Uganda. A place I would later describe as ‘where the dinosaurs lived’. This ended up being a road trip around Uganda with new friends,family and fascinating stories.

 

 

The Karamoja cultural festival is arguably the biggest cultural festival by a tribe in Uganda. This started as a tribal meet up in Kampala perhaps to escape the usual snore of urban culturally eroded lifestyle lacking the fashion and pomp in lifestyle, food and clothing. perhaps the love to involve the people back home or lack of ceilings high enough to accommodate the edonga jumping dance. Anyway the mtv premier league second hand clothes wearing minds of the concrete jungle would not really appreciate a major distraction in terms of this traffic stopping colourful cultural festival which clearly truely belongs in the beautiful  flat, hilly, rocky savannah plains of Karamoja. So there was no venue more befitting this year than Kaabong which attracted all k’jong tribes from various walks of life. From the Turkana from Kenya, the Jiye and Toposa from South Sudan, and those  from Ethiopia. So despite  consuming the mind farts of many professors, historians and teachers I still cannot totally break down this very diverse ethnic group.

The usually traffic deprived streets of Kaabong this time were busting with energy and life with different sects dancing and singing in processions. Each displaying what is unique about them as K’jong. The Karamojongs are a big tribe divided dinstinctly by district borders. So we have different sect of k’jongs in Uganda coming from Moroto, Kaabong, kotido, napak, amudat nabilatuk, abim , Nakapirit, each having a major distinction from the other in some very unnoticeable way to a foreigner.

 

 

And what is a cultural festival without the food and drink. I got to taste the Agodish which is a flour meal mixed with ghee, milk, and some oil. I could only compare the sharp tingling taste to the Injeera from Ethiopia. Then there was the Emunna which would make the best snack ever. Emunna is a groundnut sim sim  paste mixed with milk, ghee, and pounded meat. There should be other ingredients in this food but that is what my amateur tongue got to taste.
The scantily but smartly clad girls adorned in various ornaments and beads including the current Miss Tourism Uganda who I got a glimpse of got all the fibers in me raged to an unpleasant stiffness but I did not mind much with all the local brew ngagwee streaming  through my veins in the scotching semi arid desert sunshine which unfortunately later turns into a bone biting cold breeze in the night.

It is hard to relieve this whole festival in a blog post but I got to take pictures of everything and anything with no one of the festival goers giving a flying squirrels posterior about it. Perhaps because here everyone was a moving exhibition of style and pomp. I myself was not left out as I followed norm and dressing, I felt k’jong, Scottish and female at the same time. The Shuka cloth for a trouser with barely nothing under and multiple colourful beads, many a fashion guru could use some ideas.

With the sound of energetic  stomping, synchronised sing songs , 2 day sleep debt all still in my head, I had to bide farewell to the festival and return to the less colourful life.

The Kasurur falls

Many know them as the Sipi falls probably after the place they are found , Sipi Kapchorwa Uganda but the locals have a name for them which is Kasurur falls altogether. Being a hater for cliche and very suceptible to boredom, a believer in ‘something different’ I will refer and implore all to refer to them by their given name by the locals, Kasurur falls.

After a long solo ride and being the annoying neighbour on the bus, I reached Mbale then Kapchorwa, perched up and camped at the scenic Moses camping site. Well I want to say this is the best spot to camp while in sipi. It is on the edge of the rock right opposite the Kaparukungu fall which is the biggest and main fall given that it even earned a spot on the 10,000 Uganda shilling currency. The Kaparukungu falls is named so by the villagers but many refer to it simply as Sipi 3 or the main falls.

Sipi falls is a combination of three breathtaking falls and the best of them is something relative. To me the best is the first fall Kapacheborion commonly known as Sipi 1 though am still undecided on that. My best as I got closest and one gets to busk in the mist formed. Also it starts it all.

The second fall is Kapachebrot also known as Sipi 2. This is the smallest of them but i got to view it from behind, quite a spectre. So basically each all is unique. After typing this I have to rethink which the beat of the falls is. It’s hard to choose. Because remembering Kapachebrot, I stood right there behind it, like standing behind an unsuspecting person to whisper something. It was amazing.

The falls are referred to beginning with ‘kapa’ as it means ‘family of’ in kooksabiny. So the falls are found in land that belongs to different families Chebrot, Cheborion and Rukungu.

Thanks to my guide Emmanuel, I managed to have a memorable time in Sipi and also he took the pictures, mostly. So after an ‘ice bucket challenge’ kind of shower at the camp i proceeded further up the mountains to Kapchorwa town to have a God’s view of the plains. Stunning, I could see as far as lake Bisinia and mount Moroto.

The pictures.

Uganda’s very British problems

The coloniser left us with a number of problems including these very British problems we inherited. Not sure how they were passed onto us but perhaps it was during the signing of those several forever binding agreements where tea and cookies were served. The front runners of all this must have been the rich enough and privileged enough to chill with the coloniser. Or the beautiful and Melanined enough to sleep with them.
Perhaps it was a natural pull that the British found their perfect match in us as we shared the same ways. Quite a love story but unfortunately after the break up one party is still in confusion and suffering from abject poverty as they were more of leaches and dependants in this relationship and the other was just cunning. Bad thing is that even after the very ceremonial breakup, either party won’t fully let go. There is a commonwealth.

Speaking of break ups and the commonwealth, there was a royal wedding last weekend which reminded most of us of our own Royal weddings down here in the banana republic. Tooro and its princess who wasted our time then the Kabaka who ended up conforming to his traditions and getting a prince out of wedlock after marrying in church. What absurd state of confusion.
We have failed to find a balance between our British ways and our traditional ways. I can’t be sure where we shall draw the line on the topic of homosexuality.

But “We should definitely organise something soon to further discuss this!”
When a Ugandan says this, it’s just a polite way of saying see you at the next wedding. This phrase is #4 on the English language cheatsheet we were left with to guide us with the British language.

#1 on the Ugandan English language cheatsheet. Here is a baffling one.
All answers to how are you is ‘am fine’. But here are a few suggestions we can use. These should be crammed.
– I’m very unsure
– Bad, I think?
– I’m just pretending to work until home time
– I’ve no idea what I’m doing
– There’s so much to do but I’m not going to do it
– Have you seen the state of me?
– I’d rather not say
– Please go away
– No

The scary bit is not being honest about everything else. We are not honest about how we are or how we are feeling and this I suspect has led to dishonesty in other things like prices of items in owino or government funds meant for the sick or needy.
But I understand due to the many problems we have down here, it’s safer answering ‘am fine’ because if someone begins deliberating their problems they will be endless. And no one has time to listen to 99 problems and money is all of them.
Actually I came across a joke that if you have less than $40 on you in Kampala, don’t dare ask a girl how she is.

This is from some friends.
“Aged 20, the concept of being honest about feeling crap didn’t occur to me as a possibility. I thought you just didn’t tell people you were ill until you were dying or something.”

“I baffled my French boss one day when I was feeling ill and didn’t bother him about it until I felt I could no longer sit at a computer. ‘But you said you were fine an hour ago?!'”

And at the work place you find phrases like “I hope this email finds you well”
I bet you have come across this in your email. I swear this must have been the same statement John speak started with as he wrote to the Royal geographic society when he ‘discovered’ the Nile. Of course he must have said ‘hope this whatsapp text finds you well’

Nope, it finds me bored, tired and irritable, but go on…

Then when it gets to modern day communication You get things like “Did you get my text?”

Yup. Read it as soon as it arrived. Bye.

Often when we meet long lost friends.
“You are lost”
“You’re very quiet”
“You’re not”

And finally talking the weather
“Cold out there”
“Yeah it was raining when I left the house

– end of conversation –
– repeat tomorrow –

Nothing much to talk about the weather anyway. The British have over four different seasons but it all comes down to lots of rain and some sunny days as down here in Uganda we have two seasons but it all comes down to sunny and abrupt rain. You will wait in vain to put on your fav shorts if you are counting on perfect weather in either country.
Given how unpredictable the alternation is, the weather to put on shorts is anytime. So if you find a Ugandan soaked from head to toe wearing shorts, do not take him for a fool for the wardrobe choice, i guarantee you it was sunny and hot as the Sahara that morning as he was leaving the house.

Excerpts from my debut novel.

Chapter 3: Lost in La-la land

Everyday is another adventure day.Exciting lively days.
Some moments am killing bandits in a jungle in Cameroon, the next am building castles in the sand at the beach in Hawaii. A place I came across watching my favourite tv series Hawaii five-0.
Here I got plenty of friends, we execute missions together and sing victoriously through the Spanish streets after defeating the wild blood thirst toro bravo bulls at the annual bull run.
Me and my friends are mafias who are ruthless, merciless, rich and have all the money in the world to buy all our favourite toys.
We got the admiration of all the girls including the magnificent Stephan who is in my class, that is middle class at st. Mary’s school.
In my adventures Stephan is older than me but loves and adores me to the chagrin of my boys because they like her too. But here am the hero in my days, in my head.
Am the lead protagonist in this life of me, Stephan and my loyal friends. My henchmen.

This life is good, I rule the world but it is only often interrupted when mom calls my name to go do a chore(now i sweep the streets that I used to rule) or when she stumbles in drunk from her night of self pity or when the school bell rings waking me up from my la-la land.

This is the world I want to live in, I think about this as I see Stephan talking to other boys, yet she has never told me a single world.

My world is different, I go places even though am in the corner(watching you kiss her) alone with nobody around. Am lost in it everyday.

I have to feed this hungry monster of imagination, so I always make sure I have the best movies and comic book collection, the TVs remote is mine. I fully enjoy the pacs of unsupervised Tv. Despite dad coming once in a while to watch boring sports then knudging, nagging and urging me to play a sport.
Yes of course I play sports in my world often and am the MVP but presently I see it in the eyes of my dad that he would want me to look a little less timid but more confident and aggressive. Not in this world for me.

My ideal world is in my head. But my present would be so much better if mom got her job back and we saw her less.

Chapter 8: My Babies

I love my babies, I adore them and am glad everyday that I have them.
Ethan is 4 years old, Tracy is 2 years old.
They are such sweet little darlings, fragile angels that need protection.
It’s a fast paced world I live in now and I have a 9-5 job. Unfortunately am a divorced and on countless days a single parent. I barely have time to put my hair together.
Life is so hectic, am always running helter skelter in the city but the thought of my babies is ever present.

Am I even a parent, do my babies know I miss them, do they know am their mom, I always wonder.
I wake up at 5 leaving them in bed and I return at 9, when they are fast asleep most times except Ethan who tries to keep awake to watch unsupervised tv. The things he has learnt from that flat panel I cannot come to teach anyone. Most I guess are undesirable lessons for children.
Tracy is one I never get to find awake yet she is so lively on those special occasions when I get to hang with her on my off days.

But today…today I get to see my babies as I was fired from the job.