The shit we columnists go through.

There’s a panic, a horrible and desperate anxiety that the gods have reserved for columnists. It is called OH SHIT. This is what happens.  Columnist sends an impressively huge batch of articles to the editor and then floats in a pink bubble of pride, just feeling so great about how creative and productive they’ve been. This leads to a dumb kind of relaxation that will turn into PANIC when the editor calls at the last minute, demanding an article.

“What do you mean? I sent thousands of those!” the columnist will wail. “They can’t possibly be finished.” Well, the ones I’d sent Esther actually were finished, and I had to run around like a chicken on drugs looking for something to send for your entertainment this week.

I chanced on this old post, off one of my old blogs. Enjoy.

On Sunday afternoon, after I’d been to church, after I’d held hands with a lady called Esther and promised to go for new life classes (so that my tipsy, giggling unserious salvation can finally get a grip), I CURSED. I cursed on radio, into the ears of thousands of Ugandans. I cursed like a fool looking to blow her internship. I said F words. I said S words. I said B words. I said words pertaining to a particularly offensive kind of self loving. My co-presenter scowled at me, so I think I might be fired. To say that I offended most of that radio station’s guidelines is an understatement.

All this happened because the guys I was in Studio with ganged up on me. They backed me into a corner and said things like, “Be quiet Mildred, the cool people are speaking. Mildred, why don’t you give up on radio? Why don’t you go home? You remind us of Kendra.”  They tempered with, kicked, and boxed my ego’s ears. They were being nasty, man. And I was being a bad sport as usual. Sigh. Then I cursed.

Obviously, they started being nicer after that. The sneering stopped. One of them even said, “Mildred, you’ve got to be a better sport. You have to hit back without showing the world that you’re angry. Loosen up; this is only a gag for radio.” He’s nice and cute-ish and he’s got proper smarts, so I hope he’ll be there next week.

Because this is just a blog, I can switch from topic to topic, right? Yea. I make the rules.

I was in the car with father today when he whispered, “Take heel and let loose” or something like that. Whenever he’s itching to show his badass traffic-law flouting prowess, he says that “take heel” thing. When I ask him about it, he says that sometimes a certain spiritual force, a voice in his head gives him the go ahead to overtake cars and drive in wrong lanes.

I’m sorry, but I’m always praying for the owners of the lanes that he’s misusing to come claim them. I’m always hoping for him to get in trouble. This is bad manners. He’s a happy man who whistles and breaks rules, two things that should make me proud.

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Idiot’s guide to surviving the rain YOU asked for.

Every day for the last two months, we’ve been telling God through facebook and loud conversations that we want the sky to weep hankielessly upon us. We’ve been begging water to pour from heaven into our tanks and gardens and fishponds and open mouths.

I even know people who promised to run out of office, strip and dance vigorously to the thunder and vogue in rhythm with the lightening the moment rain blessed the city.

Well? Clouds are here and all we’ve done so far is look reproachfully at the sky and then bolt to the nearest shelter. Like cockroaches. We’ve whispered to our friends, not on facebook because clearly, God has a fb account and he takes requests and complaints very seriously, we’ve been sending each other notes written on Musana papers saying, “we’re screwed. What have we done and how can we undo it?”

This is what to do. Presenting: Idiot’s Guide to surviving the rain that we asked for:

Park: Unless you were bitten by a radioactive water snake and now have the power to drive through Uganda’s terrible storms, get to the nearest convenient spot and abandon your vehicle. Avoid trees because they will invite lightening to the party. Avoid walls as it has been proven that water is stronger than brick. Special sad face goes out to the person who lost a beautiful Honda to the downpour last Sunday. Your karma has to be very bad for a whole wall to detach itself from its foundation and land on your car. To everybody that plays rock, paper, scissors, water, rocket, its official. Water is stronger than everything.

Don’t act like a crazy person: Behave as calmly as possible. The slightest amount of rain, even the weakest drizzle makes Kampalans panic. They start to act as if Satan has stationed himself in the sky with a hose and a cosmically large tank of acid.

When it starts to pour, try not to behave like a hysterical bunny because the moment you catch the attention and amusement of the forces that be, they’ll not want you to ever stop entertaining them. They’ll send things your way that are sure to make you react in a funny way. All of a sudden, a branch will hit you in the back. Hailstones will fly into your ears. Leaves will wrap themselves into your mouth. So. Just remain calm.

The wind IS BOSS: If you take your umbrella out of your bag like a good little girl scout and open it to protect you from the quarrelling of the sky and the wind happens to disagree with your action by blowing the umbrella upside down or sideways, or out of your hand, resign yourself to its decision. Don’t struggle. Don’t fight. Don’t try to show it who is boss, because for one, you’ll look very silly and 2, you won’t succeed. Just put your cute umbrella away and arrive where you’re going sopping wet. In the movies, that’s usually a turning point. If you’re a girl, you’ll probably get a promotion.

Banakampala, just allow. You asked for it.

A day in the life of a pedicurist/manicurist. Nail worker.

My name is Rose. I fondle people’s hands and feet for a living. You come to the salon, ask for a manicure or a pedicure and the madam, yea that one with a smelly weave, points you to my corner. This sentence is supposed to establish in your mind that I hate her.

6.00am: I wake up to the yowling of several cats. Does anyone know what  cats have to say to each other at this time and why they say it so loudly? Have they all gathered around my tiny house to line dance and practice solfas? It sure sounds like they have.

6.30: You probably think I’m an angry person; I’m not, as evidenced by cats still being existent in Uganda. See, every day at this time, I unchain my bike and ride to the saloon. If I wanted, I’d crush the heads of no less than 20 miaowers as a direct result of their arrogant refusal to get out of my way. Even when I make scary sounds and hand motions to shoo them away, they just stand there and stare at my front tyre. Insolently. Cat dodging has been a regular part of my life for 3 years now.

7.30: I’m reading a magazine, not cleaning the floor or washing towels or disinfecting the tools that I’m going to be digging into hundreds of feet and hands. I just can’t be bothered.

8.30: I’m running around like an ant on fire, trying to find a rolex for MADAM’s breakfast. If she arrives before the rolex, she’ll make me do something totally unexpected and horrifying. The last time I annoyed her, she made me scratch her itchy scalp the whole day.

8.40: The rola guys are still rubbing sleep out of their eyes, transferring it to chapatti dough, picking the cockroaches out of yesterday’s cabbage, which they’re going to use in today’s rolexes, man.

9.00: I return to find two women and one guy sitting in my corner. My tools haven’t been sterilized yet, but ah. People with diseases don’t come to this saloon. I feed the boss, smile sweetly at the customers and throw myself into the job.

yea

9.02: It stinks. This woman’s feet are unbelievably dirty. Cuticles like smegma. She could win an award for these cracks, these fissures at the back of her feet. I admire her ability to plop such monsters into somebody else’s hands.

9.03 and beyond: I do the exact same thing the whole day. Nothing changes. I see feet, I cringe. I see fingers, I cringe. I cut people, I laugh. I dislodge a black piece of unidentifiable matter, I cringe. Yea. That’s how a day in my life goes. Want a manicure?

Unlikely friends in unlikely places

When things go wrong, which they inevitably will at some point because life is a bastard, it helps to be able to afford retail therapy. Greedily accumulating things we don’t really need is all we capitalist babies need to deal with life and its many bumps, right?

Recently, my heart was full of black, clumpy feelings. My stomach felt as if it had been used as a reservoir for tar. I felt no good will whatsoever towards my fellow man and woman. It was a stupid day. A silky voice whispered unto me, “Why not go shopping?” which is how I came to be standing outside the old park.

All the entrances and exits of Uganda’s taxi parks are open markets where you can get things that would normally cost you half your face for cheap. This place is mostly frequented by campus girls and interns- people that don’t usually have a very large margin of disposable income. I say mostly because I’m not a campus chick anymore and I sometimes stare at my bank balance to brighten up my day (ha!) and yet on that not so good day, I found myself in the familiar push, shove, grope, fondle world of the park market.

I’d wedged my purse into my armpit and started to scan the area for cute buyables when I felt somebody fondling my elbow. True to form, I turned with a thunderous scowl and was presented with a playful, slightly familiar face. It was beaming. I opened my mouth to say something incendiary when it hit me who this smiling, elbow fondling idiot was. Zakke!

Back in campus when a modest allowance had to stretch to cover feeding, partying and the regular addition of clothes to my tiny akamwesi half closet (seriously Aka. Stop being cheap. Build bigger closets), Zakke was famous in my circles for having the most beautiful, authentic looking jeans that would tear like cardboard the moment you wore them.We called them SVPs. Scandalously ventilated pants.

I was genuinely excited to see Zakke and his partner again.  I didn’t even give him the long lecture that I normally feel obliged to give men who do such things. When you stop and calmly ask a man what the hell is going through his mind as he feels random, unwilling women up, like some kind of rapist, he becomes very uncomfortable.

Even though I had no desire to own a pair of cardboard pants, I patiently listened to their wild lies about the top quality of their wares. First class! Designer! I didn’t even flinch as one of them whipped out a measuring tape and wound it around my hips in one swift movement.

When I asked why they weren’t in their usual spot, Zakke’s partner shook his head and said, “You know this guy called Musisi”. For a second, it occurred to me to correct them about Musisi’s sex, “She’s no ‘guy’, she’s an awesome woman!” but what did it matter.

After hunting for a kaveera and handing me a pair of pants that I won’t wear until its seams are thoroughly reinforced by my tailor, one of them offered to walk me to my taxi to “protect” my elbow from the abuse that men on the path would doubtless have subjected it to. It was with a big grateful smile that I said yes.

Yes, kindly sir. You may guide me through the blah blah

Get naked. Get splashy.

Swimming is the act of taking most of your clothes off in a public place and flopping into a huge tub filled with over chlorinated water.

Wheeeeee 🙂

It is a fun activity that you can do in the sun, rain, in windy conditions and even in the middle of the night if you’re brave. Brave because everybody knows that snakes and crocodiles and other such scary, long, slimy things take residence under pools from 8.00pm onwards.

It does not require much skill to get into swimwear, but it does require effort to keep it on as you’re getting out of the water. Swimming pools enjoy embarrassing people by clinging to their bikini bottoms/ trunks and exposing their buttocks as they attempt to leave the water. This is why you need to carefully rearrange yourself before climbing out and also why people exit pools so slowly. They aren’t trying to be Baywatch, they’re trying to protect their baby-makers from exposure.

For the last two months, all of hell’s hounds have lain on their backs and breathed at us. Vampires have taken over the sun and are trying to see if they can make Ugandans sweat blood. The only way we can fight back is by summersaulting into water and throwing defiant looks at the sun.

The first contact that you have with the cool water fills you with so much benevolence towards your fellow man that not even the sight of a child drooling or a grown man sneezing into the water is enough to make you quickly flop back out of the pool.

Unfortunately, after the first few minutes of cold, unadulterated happiness, the water gets lukewarm and it starts to feel like you’re swimming inside somebody’s stomach, which is when you get out of the pool, carefully, and head for that cold drink that the waitress has just placed on your table.

Swimming also involves a lot of serenity and contented sighing until some blind idiot dives or swims into you, after which you are allowed to unserenely grab their feet to save yourself from drowning and then slap their ribs.

Because there are not so many pools in Kampala, these places can get crowded. It’s perfectly normal to hate everyone who comes in after you, because ugh, they’re mucking up the water with their sweaty bodies, but be careful not to be openly unfriendly or you will be thrown out of the establishment. Hear that, Mina?

Also, it’s okay to be jealous of three year olds that can swim in the deep end like cute little tadpoles, but you have to be very quiet about your indignation or else their mothers will curse you and you’ll feel like a horrible person.

And during those post-lunch hours when you have to eke out a living in a poorly ventilated cubicle, nobody will judge you for bursting into tears in response to the heat. It’s OK to feel sad about your office not being located inside a swimming pool. People, let’s go swimming.

How to grin through ulcers (OR brokness in January)

Brokness: Definition. #1.When you’ve got nothing in your wallet but echoes. #2. One of two circumstances in which anorexia becomes acceptable, the second being when you have a violently greedy housemate; then the anorexia is a survival measure.

Dan Barongo will sue my ass one day

January is the official month of brokness. Everybody knows this. One of the reasons that adults are so determined to have a great time in December is that they know what’s coming. I don’t think there’s a way of surviving the wave of poverty that sweeps the nation during the first month of every year. Even if you save in anticipation of this horribleness, the money will find ways of wriggling out of your careful grip and you will be dirt broke.

I hadn’t expected to be poor last month. According to my careful calculations, moneys were supposed to hit my account on the fifth of January. This gave me the liberty to CUT THROUGH what money I had like a scissor through butter, a knife through a grasshopper, a sickle through morning grass. I raided every shop that I knew for selling pretty things and discovered others. In summary, I exploded my finances all over Uganda, and all was good in my life. Happiness abounded.

This was the state of things until page 5 of 366 came and passed with no notable change in my depleted account. “Huh.”, I said. 7th came along and I kwasa kwasad myself to the bank teller, happy about the funds that were going to grace my life. To my dismay, there was nothing.

On the 10th, I walked into my bank with a tough look on my face, a look that said, “If there’s money in the bank, so help it God” but alas, there was none. It was when I phoned the “traitorous fools” to shout at them for standing between me and my right to spend that I was informed that my money had in fact arrived, several weeks earlier.

I walked away from the bank cackling with the hysteria of the financially doomed, just cracking up, trying not to be thrown into the road by the force of my raucous laughter, helplessness and a very comic variety of despair. It hit me- what had happened to that money. I had unknowingly quaffed it. I had exchanged it for fleeting enjoyment and now hunger had come to collect.

On gmail, I said to my BFF, “Kampire, I may as well be dead.” “Because you’re broke?” she asked. “Yea. Maybe I should start killing people for money again. Alternatively, I could go to random restaurants and relieve strangers of their meals with a sharp knife”. She didn’t discourage me.

To my workmate, I said, “Remember how in the morning you said you’d do anything for me to do both yours and my work for the day? How about you give me some money?” Him: LOL. No.

And finally, like every helpless tween on the planet, I said to my father, “Hi daddy. You know I love you, especially the way you’re always so willing to give your children support when they need it. The Bible says fathers give their children loaves of bread when they ask for things to eat, and not stones. I’d really like some bread shaped like 50 bob notes, thanks; which is how I survived death by stupidity.

I come to February skinny and contrite, with strong resolutions and a story.

Limits? What are those?

A stopper is a small metallic or rubber object used to keep women and men who wear jewelry from going insane.

Hi. We're stoppers.

It was invented to reduce and eventually bring a stop to the disturbing noises that would shoot out of people’s mouths when their earrings fell to the ground, especially if they rolled into hard to reach places.

The word stopper is also this week’s metaphor for limit .People usually have limits. Even Eve probably wouldn’t have eaten the forbidden fruit if it had been dangling from the branch of the tree that she and Adam used for toilet.

In order to be considered responsible and likeable members of society, people set limits and follow them. They say, “The next time my boyfriend cheats on me, I’ll donate his liver to the local butchery” or “I won’t eat more than two bars of chocolate at a go” or “It’s not good form to flirt with best friends simultaneously, so I won’t do it”.

However, some people have no limits at all. They’ve got no stoppers to stand in the way of them committing preposterous acts. These people are not to be hated and drowned in Bwaise. They’re to be tolerated, especially if they’re sweet and female and me.

When you’re a kid, in lower primary school, you’re really intolerant of annoying classmates, right? So when a small boy comes and threatens to report you to teacher for saying a bad word, a word that you haven’t said on account of you having been writing your surname over and over on a piece of paper all morning in an attempt to master its spelling so that you won’t suffer during the next exam, you’re not amused. When this pest refuses to go away, you plead with him. “I didn’t. I’ll give you one musibatie at break time. Please don’t report me” and when he leans over to stick his tongue out, you shove your pencil into his nose. Hard. Blood gets everywhere and you hear the teacher mutter, “children just don’t have limits”.

**

It’s a barbeque and an almost scary number of animals have been slaughtered. So many that animal heaven will probably not have enough time to make preparations for the stampede of souls that it’s about to face. You stumble back home from a party at which you ate a piece of cake that must have been made using every intoxicant in the land. Your head is not OK. Your eyes are trying to expand, which is a lot more painful than you thought possible.

When you’re spotted by fussy family members, a mountain of roasted meat is placed before you. Because you need to stay awake, you eat and eat until your body is disgusted by the amount of foreign flesh in it. Your mind clears up enough to ask, “Banaye chick. Don’t you have limits?”

**

After violently smashing your fist into his onions in response to his annoying slowness in opening the car door, a casual war ensues. He hits your bottom with the tips of his uncouthly long finger nails. You pour a handful of sand down the back of his shirt after which he splashes water on your face. This prompts you to drop his phone in the lake. In your head, events are progressing naturally and it’s only when the phone dies that you feel a tiny prick of remorse. Nobody in your party says anything about limits but their faces are oozing disbelief.

Take that! And that!

What?  He shouldn’t have splashed that water.

All this pressure to fall into marriage immediately after graduating. Banaye.

Have you noticed how in the middle of every speech made at a graduation party, marriage is mentioned? It’s the scariest thing. Just as you’re starting to get drunk off all the fabulous stuff being said about you, the speaker throws you into shock by hinting that you’re expected to quickly knot yourself with some boy or girl in order to be considered a social success.

This is all very well, because marriage has its perks, but I want to ask, where do these aunts, uncles, brothers, and friends expect us to find decent looking, reliable, smart creatures of marriageable age?  Everybody has been ruined by MTV and intoxicants. It’s not like there were course units at university dedicated to equipping us with the skills necessary for hooking tiptop specimens for companionship and baby making.

Because Plan B cares, here’s a guide to catching a spouse from somebody who has no idea what she’s talking about.

First things first, wailing, gnashing teeth and putting up incendiary posts on facebook about your nasty exes isn’t going to help you, friend. All you’ll get is wrinkles on your soul from all the bitterness. Making eyes at your friends’ mates isn’t an option either, because anybody who willfully overturns or wujjas another person’s sepiki of happiness makes a date with disaster in the future. Your step-grandchild will steal your spouse. Your hair will get roasted under the dryer at the saloon. Everything you touch will turn into maggots. Point is, don’t violate other people’s relationships in order to diminish your throbbing need for a mate.

Read and react violently to online articles like that one about intellectual African scum that went viral. Make sure your dramatic reaction is posted on every social network that exists. This will impress somebody and as a reward for all your exclamation marks, you’ll receive a friend/follow request. I know this the only real advice in this article because I’ve heard of twomances and fbromances and googleplusmances.

Look gorgeous and if you’re already doing that and it’s not working, look horrible. You know, reverse psychology.  Shock all the people who count by starting to look so bad that they’ll get concerned and begin texting you to find out if you’re OK. After this stage, it’s up to you to reply with messages that make you seem like the best thing since beans and tomato sauce. Before you know it, you shall be a happily married and pregnant girl/ scared shitless young man accompanying your new wife to antenatal class.

Take your pretty dresses and smart jeans to church, mosques and other such places. Apparently, this kind of place is both the best and worst place to network with intent to marry as the people there are all so damaged from the horrible lives they led before falling at the feet of God that you can’t be sure about their sanity. Plan B has no idea how true this is, but be as careful with them as you are with the heathens.

Or, instead of going to all this trouble, we could just ask our older relatives to arrange the marriages that they’re so enthusiastic about. In fact, all invitation cards to grad parties should have this printed on the envelope: For admission, come with an attractive and responsible person in the age group of the graduand.