Bad day, huh?

One of my favorite songs used to be Bad Day by…my God. I don’t remember. I can’t remember half of the artists that I swore I would die loving only a few months ago. It seems that when they slip out of my playlist, they fade from mind.

I can never properly classify a day as bad because of how changeable my emotions are. One minute I’m bubbling over with the joy of living, breathing, blinking!And the next, sticky annoyance is oozing out of my pores. To prevent myself turning into an intolerable grouch,I break my days down into 30 minute moments.

When I get shortchanged by a conductor or left behind by the pioneer bus or hissed at by a street idler, that’s a bad moment. If two or more motorists try to run me over in a given moment, it’s an unlucky one. If four irritating songs from my playlist show up in my ears, in a row, that’s a fake moment, because come on, out of all the hundreds…

This system has rules.

You are not allowed to carry unpleasant feelings from one moment to another but you can feel as nice about a happy occurrence for as long as you wish. You’re not ever allowed to swallow your feelings. Want to tear your leggings and fling them at a dumb workmate? Go ahead! Feel like jeering long and loud and then bursting into bitter tears? Do it.  Similarly, if the urge to scream I LOVE YOU WORLD, I LOVE YOU comes upon you, express it. Put it on a social network for those unlucky people whose eardrums aren’t going to be blessed with your good feelings. Pat a conductor on the back. Smile at your boda man and tip him if he’s been particularly ninjarific in getting you to work three seconds before the morning status meeting.

There are, however ,certain occurrences that can’t be fitted into a 30 minute box. Tragedy for example. I remember wanting to punch the face of some person who, when I complained of depression after my mom’s passing, told me I had only a year to be openly sad about it, after which my friends wouldn’t be so tolerant of my gloom. What? Shya! You’re allowed to mourn as dramatically as you want for as long as you feel is necessary.

We’ve already established that the system allows for joyful feelings to be spread over as long a time as you want. Absurd happenings too can be spread out for puzzled reflection and quiet chuckling.

I was once walking (skipping) down Kampala road after bagging a fairly large writing deal. I was swollen with the promise of money. Dollars and shillings dressed in raffia skirts had started to do the Macarena inside my head when some woman stepped in front of me and said, “You look funny!” and then just stood there waiting for my reaction. Because of the high I was on, I smiled and glided away. She must have been confused by this reaction because as I was entering the computer shop that was my destination, I looked back to find her still staring after me.

What turns a day bad for you? Burned ground nuts at the cafeteria? Unproductivity? And how do you turn things around?

This week, I’m reading Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese.  One of the best lines in it is ‘Make something beautiful of your life’.

Do make something fantastic of your life this week.

MY +256-041

A good deal of the world’s music and literature is about home towns. Cities and their vibes have been squeezed for inspiration with good results for both the ARTS and artists’ pockets.

I haven’t spent enough time in Kitgum Matidi to write anything sincere and/or impressive about my home town, and I identify more with Kampala by virtue of having lived all of my years in the place.

Before I was allowed to leave home on my own, I thought the stories in Saturday Vision’s Krazy krazy Kampala were made up. I just couldn’t reconcile the city I experienced as so normal and boring with the people that this column reported committing all sorts of silly acts, fornicating to death and all those dogs going on such undoggy adventures! All of it seemed like lies; until I started to use public transport.

First up were the idlers. Probably a quarter of Kampala’s population is made of people who wake up in the morning to stand on street corners either doing nothing or hissing and fondling passersby.Nobody is safe from their wet attentions; wet because gosh, have you seen the amount of spit they spray when they’re really into the hissing? If you stopped them waggling their tongues long enough to offer them 2bob to wash your car, they’d likely launch into a tale detailing the deaths of their parents and then ask you for money. Never mind your car.

The taxi stage next to my workplace recently acquired an interesting one. In the normal fashion, he pollutes my days with random eyebrow waggling, but when I get closer to him, he says, in a comically rising voice,“Mpulira njagala kusitula!”If the mpulira is do on the solfa scale, the situla is a so. I translate his words as I really feel like lifting you up! which sounds like something a person would say to a nursery school kid, so I always smile.

The people in this city are easy to please. One morning at around 7.30 am, an empty bus swung into the Ntinda stage. People rushed into it, some even abandoning their seats in nearby matatus. The bus didn’t fill up, so it idled for a while. A tutorial started to play on the little screen upfront, informing us of rules and regulations and when it ended, there was a smattering of applause. It played a second time and the clapping was even louder.

Two chatty girls got on and because there was only one seat left, they opted to stand, clutching at the dangling handholds for support.  When the bus started to move, local music videos begin to play at a crazily loud volume. In the stead of coffee, Co Co finger, Twonjex and Bebe Cool jolted life into our still sleepy forms. The girls began immediately to dance. The mzungu one was very entertaining. First she bobbed her head and her knees in perfect rhythm then her neck jerked and swiveled first to one side then to the other. Her waist began to move in that way that was so popular in my senior two, bongo flavor belly dancing.

The overall effect was awkward and adorable, and made me realize just how boring I’m becoming.  In her place, I wouldn’t have danced so freely. People started cheering them on and a couple left their seats to join them on the dance floor. The smart girls quickly occupied their vacated seats. Drat. My space is done. This will probably be continued.

Hustle, hustle, hustle HARD

The first time I tried to use that popular saying ‘Kampala sibizimbe’, I got it wrong. I said Kampala sizimbe, much to the amusement of my mean relatives. It can be loosely translated to mean Kampala is not just pretty buildings. Things are hard and you’ve got to be creative to survive. My version of ‘sizimbe’ also works, if you open your mind up a little but you know, whatever.

I like people who hustle. Let me rephrase that for honesty. I like men who hustle. I’m pretty ambitious myself (although not as rabidly as say, two years ago) because I’ve already realized my childhood dream; which was to write in the same ‘paper area’ as Ernest Bazanye. If you’re my age (and as sharp as I am), your mind started to flower just about when he started writing, so you can understand how glorious and unattainable that goal seemed to me. Whatever hustling that had to be done for me to achieve it got done and now I’m relaxing a bit.

Give me a man with good hustle-sense and you can keep the dowry. Dowry exists mostly to show a girl’s parents that the family she is marrying into can take care of her in as grand a way as she’s accustomed to or even grander. If he can chase deals and dream up businesses, he’s a good enough substitute.

I’m supportive of every kind of hustle until it infringes on my own. If, for example, I were in a hurry to get to a meeting on the other side of town, I wouldn’t expect my boda man to behave the way my friend Roger’s did. I would react with a lot of annoyance in fact.

Roger once flagged down a boda to take him from Greenland Towers to Kamwokya. He hadn’t even finished stating the amount he was willing to pay when the man started riding at a high speed.  It is only when they reached Wandegeya that he turned and asked, “Mpozzi where are you going?” When Roger said Kamwokya, the boda man killed the engine and told him to get off. Eyo sigendayo.

Asked why he’d allowed Roger to board in the first place, the man replied, “They beat people at that Greenland stage! If you stop nga you don’t belong there? I stopped for you because banange, Kampala sibizimbe. I also need money!”

And it’s not only boda types that have taken hustling to insane levels. Even not so desperate people with steady allowances are capable of hitting you over the head with the silliest schemes. My cousin once tried to sell drinking water to members of the household. He took the jerry cans off the dining table and held them hostage, smiling smugly at everybody who came from the kitchen with a cup. He demanded a sum, any sum the thirsty person was willing to pay. Later, he tried to pretend that he’d been trying to teach us life lessons, to make us really think about capitalism and how it has turned humanity’s most basic of needs into a thing to be exchanged for money, but we were on to him.

Tiny children and their mothers flooded Kampala’s streets a few years ago. No longer contented with just chasing after you in the hope of making a few hundred shillings, they threaten. Some say they’ll spit, and others even wave handfuls of feces in your direction, to inspire your generosity. This is terrible, but also impressive. They’ve turned begging into an art, a real hustle.

Of Money Woes And Cute Speakers

If a piece of plastic disappeared every time a Ugandan (a young one especially) moaned about being out of money, the earth’s waste disposal problem would be solved. We wouldn’t be forcing rubbish down the throats of Amazonian fungi.

Yep. Some scientist types have discovered fungi that can consume and digest plastic. All we have to do now is wait for CNN to tell us how, at a slow and steady pace, these fungi have gobbled up all the plastic in the world, and then how they seem to have developed a taste for metal, then  wood, brick, then skin. As they eat their way up the food chain, I’m hoping that these same scientists will be preparing Mars for human habitation because if not, every zombie apocalypse that you’ve seen on M-net is going to become your reality.

I made my first 200bob a little before I joined university. Chamucated with fantasies involving large bathtubs and hot money, I decided to open a DFCU account. I promptly lost my ATM card, probably to one of Steak Out’s toilets and didn’t bother replacing it until recently, when I became paranoid that the bank tellers were marking my irresponsible spending habits and judging me for withdrawing so often.

What cinched it was when, at the end of a certain month, I was informed by a nice teller that my account was in debit. What made this experience terrible was that she followed this declaration with, “By the way, I really like your articles Mildred!” I backed away with a manic smile, vowing to return to her counter the minute my account regained glory.

I’m terrible with money. This is why I cleared my social calendar, grabbed a ticket, stole a pencil and bought a notebook when I learnt that the theme of (the last) Marketeers’ night was to be “A fool and his (her) money are soon parted’.

The speaker was a charming and clean cut man named Philip Odera. On the subject of saving, his first piece of advice was what you’ve heard ever since you were a thirteen year old pimple. Live your life. Be yourself because you have nothing to prove. Peer pressure will be your ruination. When the girls are heading to the newest coffee shop, stay in office and drink the free one there. When the guys are doing whatever it is guys do with their money, buy a saving box, man. Own your financial status and plan accordingly.

A young lady asked if there exists some formula that people can follow to wisely split their salaries to cover obligations, savings and pleasure, emphasizing that one needs to enjoy one’s money in order to be motivated to make and save more. His answer was: Pay yourself first. If you cater to all obligations first, there might not be any left over. Put a fair amount aside as payment to yourself, and let the rest follow.

One Moses asked a question that made me think. He said, “What is this thing called future? What does it mean? In school, I’m told to read hard for the future. University; to work hard for my future. At work, to work hard for some future. What is this monster? I’m living my future, so I’m going to enjoy it.”  This makes sense to me, but hopefully he’s considered that the future of one second away is just as real as the future of 10 years away and at all times, financial maturity and security is a must.

Let’s not die

People in Uganda drive like assassins. They ride motorcycles like witches on brooms. Over the years, bicycles have found their way into the city center and are jostling for tarmac space to die on. It’s like we all really want to become road kill.

Speaking of road kill, we’re totally the most wasteful society inexistence. There’s a steady supply of dog and cat for every household to feast on meat every single day of the year but do we harvest them carcasses? No. We avert eyes and cover mouths in mourning, as if the protein in kitten meat is any different from that in cow meat.

Uganda’s transport system is one big abattoir and every creature has an equal chance of getting minced. How to survive the carnage? Grab a pencil, a notebook.

Franco Mugabe, what do you smoke?

ON a boda? Learn defensive passengering. From the moment you straddle that boda, you and the rider are a team. Use your eyes to stop motorists from getting dangerously close, your arms as indicators and your voice box to scream disgustedly at other bodas that try to overtake yours. Scowl at those utterly stupid women who wait for traffic to get really thick before bolting across the road with a baby in tow.

Clearly they were eating in class when teacher taught us the formula for crossing roads (look left, right and left again. Or is it the other way round?). This happens mostly in the morning, and I’ve only seen women do it.

Number of times I’ve been in a vehicle that has narrowly missed a toddler’s back? Terrifyingly high.

IN a car?  You’re not a wimp for sticking to your line. It doesn’t make you a ninja to crack our few pavements with your old tires. Leave that to the suicidal and hell bound. It’s best to drive like a happy retard, singing along to Judith Babirye or whichever CD it is that has gotten stuck in the car stereo.

Look down your nose at road rage, opting instead to blow kisses at the people who create second lanes and scratch your car. It doesn’t win you any points to drive like the villain in Despicable Me.

Footsubishi? Remember always that nobody really cares about you. The driver hasn’t ‘seen’ you, so don’t saunter across the road with your eyes closed. Next you know, they’ll be merrily rolling across the tarmac. Remember that cars and bodas are liable to invade the sidewalk at any moment and that motorists generally aim for the legs of any woman who has better ones than their wife/girlfriend. It’s either you be constantly ready to skip to the side or you learn the art of landing on your feet.

Also, if your feet are all you have to transport you from A to B, I like you. We’re both broke. Take a moment to feel superior. You are doing the environment a favor by choosing to foot. The kinds of fumes that you release as a result of walking long distances are not at all dangerous for the ozone layer.

Fatness happens. Get over it.

My waistline is creeping away from me, it’s true. Partly, it’s because I can now afford lunch and I’ve outgrown the idiocy that inspires anorexia. I no longer have to walk from Akamwesi to Dfcu to Lecture room what to room 3 in God knows where.

Rogue kilograms have arranged themselves around my curves, to the (overly dramatic) dismay of family and friends. The only person who seems to approve of this larger me is a perpetually drunk dude at my stage, who calls out “size yange!” every time I wobble past. Wait. Saying wobble is poking fun at myself. I don’t wobble. My walk is musical.

When I was in senior four, I had a teacher called Mrs. Lubega who in the middle of an English lesson informed us that we would all get fat, so fat that we wouldn’t be able to recognize ourselves. As one, we cried, ‘Blasphemy! 16 year old bodies are forever! We won’t let ourselves go! Etc’

A couple of years later, nearly everybody who was in that class has gone up to three dress sizes up. Their cheeks are rounder, their entumbwes jiggle when they walk and they look nice but mostly feel bad about their new selves.

It wouldn’t take too much effort for us to maintain some approximation of our campus bodies really. There’s all the walking that we could do from taxi stages, up the stairs to office and down the stairs to the canteen, if we could be bothered. Instead, we send the office messengers for our breakfast rolexes, hop on boda bodas for any distance that involves more than 5 footsteps and avoid all forms of exercise, probably because the permanent scars that the compulsory chamuchaka in high school left on our psyches. As for gyms, few are willing to part with their exorbitant fees.

The way adulthood is structured isn’t doing us any favors either. The world offers three socially acceptable options. A 9-5 job, an entrepreneurial endeavor or marriage.

According to aunts and other advice givers, a business won’t survive if you’re not committed and involved. Basically, do it yourself or suffer big losses. So if you run, say, a clothes shop in equatorial mall, you’re going to expand from all the inactivity and boredom induced eating that keeping shop comes with.

If you work a 9-5, you have only one hour to yourself during the course of the day which you almost invariably spend stuffing your face with soda and pilau. The only way to get exercise in is to break into spontaneous stretching in your cubicle or in the office kitchen, but it won’t be long before the MD tells you to stop behaving like a lunatic on his premises.

For the ones who have dived straight into housewifery, the fat gathers even faster unless they have a home gym (in which case they have abs that can crack eggs).  If it’s not because of the gallons of porridge you’re swallowing to manufacture breast milk for your new baby, it’s because you lie about all day pointing the maid in the direction of the housework.

It’s sad and irritating how much pressure we’re put under to remain looking like our half starved university selves. Nobody owes anybody an explanation for their new hips or their rounder bottoms. Don’t make us waste our most beautiful years on weight-paranoia.