Somebody Please Banish Me to Bule.



My dream is to travel around the world and write. Because a lifestyle like this will need serious financing, I see myself working a 9-5 job for at least 5 more years.

To stop bands of frustration from forming around my heart and mind, I take every opportunity to play pretend.  I morph into a tourist at least once a day.

As I am leaving home in the morning, I  say Apenyo, you are now a Kenyan college student who’s just checked in at Malaba

or  Apenyo, you are now a rebellious  Batwa (Mutwa?)  teenager who has run away from her home to explore the world.

Too few Ugandans possess a sense of wonder about their country, preferring to dream of vacations in “outside countries”.  Oba we think every centimeter of the world is as gorgeous as our home and so we don’t bother exploring? Fake stuff.

Bule is not really an Island. If you travel long enough in a straight line, the murram road that cuts through shaggy, unpredictable forest will deliver you to the heart of Mukono. This is disappointing to me. I like to imagine Bule as a tiny island, surrounded by waters rich in mukene. In reality it is some kind of peninsula.

The first time I traveled there, it was in the company of a fun but also peevish friend who refused to tell me where we were going; not when we were getting into the Ggaba taxi at Cooper Complex, not when we were whizzing past Kansanga. Not even when he was telling me to board one of the taxi-boats at Ggaba’s landing site did he say “Hey, I know of this island* with gorgeous beaches and that’s where I’m taking you”.

He just became irritated with me for asking.

I am happy that I went with the flow that day because the taxi-boat delivered us to a place whose loveliness hasn’t diminished in all the 3 occasions that I have been there. There is too much to see, to fear, smell and touch.

My irritation with my irritated friend had disappeared!

My irritation with my irritated friend had disappeared!

As the boat approaches Bule’s shore, about a meter way, you hear raucous chirping. It’s rising from a short but sturdy looking tree that’s growing out of the water. The tiny yellow birds that call it home are too many to count. Their nests are identically sized and hang from every available branch!

The moment I noticed that some of the nests were still green as a result of being constructed with fresh twigs, I considered bursting into tears of wonder. Why? Because, come on, how often does one find opportunity to burst into tears of wonder? Green nests and brown nests, green and brown all over the tree with tiny yellow birds flitting from branch to branch, nest to nest and all the while, making shrill contributions to the conversation they are perpetually having.

There are four “beaches” on Bule. Before last weekend, I had only been to Mutoola, so I bless the Boda boda men at the dock for happily educating my partner and I about our options. Really they had nothing to lose. They were going to profit by charging us three times more than they charge people who know their way around the place.

Lagoon Resort, they said, is for bazungu. “It is nice, but if you don’t have money, hmm, you go to the other places. Those are BaGermany.” They were right. The place seems geared towards expats kubanga they charge (heavily) in dollars. It would cost us 200 dollars to spend a night, the receptionist said, and we couldn’t bring any drinks or eats in.

I am an old hand at Bule, so I know that if you don’t carry food from Ggaba, you are likely to starve. Well, unless you can hunt squirrels and bush rats. Most things that you’d like to eat while at the beach come from the mainland and so the hotel people need for you to communicate your intention to eat hours before you arrive. Not even fish will be on hand because there is no electricity to keep stuff fresh. 

We left Lagoon and after a short walk, arrived at the gate of a place called Lakeside Adventure Park.

I won't call it Eden. That will be too much. But it's close.

I won’t call it Eden. That will be too much. But it’s close.

It was deserted. A few minutes’ exploration revealed that Lakeside had an even better ambiance than Lagoon. We were walking around, mouths agape, worrying about how much we would have to pay to spend the night in such a place when we came upon a lean man wearing a yellow shirt and grey pants. He introduced himself to us as Mr. Perfect.

Perfect had a removed, somewhat supercilious manner until we told him that we were looking for a place to spend the night. Perhaps he always has to send stragglers away, who just wander in, looking for a place to picnic without paying the 10,000 entrance fee. However, as people with intentions to spend money there, we didn’t have to pay this fee.

We were happy with what Perfect had to say. It would cost us 40,000 shillings to spend a night in a tent erected a few meters from Lake Nalubaale’s shore. We also had the option of sleeping in the dormitory at 30,000 a head, or making use of the “family house” which is fitted with solar electricity and other amenities, for 150,000 (4 people). We took the tent option.

We had muffins, waragi, a box of fruit juice, pineapples and a kilogram of raw pork. That’s right. Lakeside allows, even encourages patrons to bring their own food in. For 5000, we had the use of their kitchen.

As our tent was being pitched, we explored the climbing courses that occupies a good amount of space on Lakeside’s lawn. They are intricately constructed and I imagine, fascinating to climb.

I hadn’t padded my wallet enough to afford a go (60,000) but I watched some people complete it the next day. Oh the joys of watching a human being overcome terror. It was like witnessing an excruciatingly slow bungee jump; all of the terror with none of the merciful swiftness.

I spent two days lazing about on different surfaces, wearing few to zero clothes, just breathing deep and falling in love with life.

Eating life

Eating life

At one point, we ran out of cash and had to take a boda boda to Mpaata, a shanty town some miles from Lakeside for mobile money. When we arrived, the network was off. We didn’t despair for very long, deciding to do a nature walk instead of panicking.

Bule is one thickass forest, you guys. I swear it is like the set of Land of the lost. It was the most romantic (and amusing) thing watching my partner uproot a long, flexible, reedy plant that he started to use as his staff (and swat-stick). What was it for, I wonder? Protection from snakes and large squirrels?

What had Bule turned him into? Moses of the Bible? George of the Jungle? Both?

I love creeper plants and this place is home to such a variety!  I just want to move there and build a tree-house and make babies.

Not actual babies.

Eventually we got our M-money and carried on pretending that we’d never have to return to Kampala.

Reading boat

This boat became my reading chair.

If you want to travel to Bule, this is what you need to do:

  • Shop. Take a taxi to Ggaba. Walk to the dock and enter a taxi boat. Fare is 1,500/=

  • If you don’t want to be sweated on by other passengers (these boats get PACKED), take a “special hire” one. This will cost you anything from 15 bob to 6 bob. Bargain in Luganda.

  • Don’t be just staring at your smartphone like an idiot when in the boat. You will miss the special tree with the special nests!

  • Remember the names of the beaches. I totally, 100% recommend Lakeside. No they haven’t paid me to do kalango. They should, right? Ha

  •  Don’t allow the boda to charge you more than 2000/=. Go forth and enjoy.

  • Take the climbing course at Lakeside. Terror is good for personal growth. Climb, jump, zip, duck, use your body. Turn some of the bacon fat around your heart into energy.

  • Take pictures! I didn’t take very many, but here’s hoping that my words painted a good enough picture.

  • Go explore Bule and tell people about it because because a place like that should not be a secret

Update: Forget my sad pictures. These people have a fantastic gallery

My next big adventure is a two day trip to Murchison Falls with a truly great tour company called Sabili Tours. Come and we go :D!

The end

Uganda’s best kept secret is on Bule island.

And I have yammered about it so much that it is now Uganda’s worst kept secret. Bule is wild, beautiful and a 10 minute boat ride away from Ggaba. I am going to tell you all about my trip soon. Tomorrow like.

Sharon, lovely lady,  you and your friends can feed your curiosity on these pictures for now. The main course is coming soon!

So much beauty.

So much beauty.

Me rocking some shorts

Me rocking some shorts

The jetty! One of the wonders of Lakeside Adventure Park

The underwater jetty! One of the wonders of Lakeside Adventure Park

My travel partner is as cute as all of the buttons

My travel partner is as cute as all of the buttons

Voluntary Deafness and Victory Over Lokodo’s Brothers

One of the best things about life on earth is time; the passing of. I no longer want to break my work neighbor’s imitation beats by dre headphones. I no longer fantasize about stepping on them “by mistake”. My heckles are resting and show signs of staying down as far as this issue is concerned.

Walking Kampala’s streets with noise cancelling headphones wrapped around your head changes the way you experience many things.

First and most importantly, the headphones disarm street hecklers (who henceforth shall be referred to as Lokodo’s brothers).

Lokodo’s brothers have one method of operation. They identify their prey, line their ugly words up, wait for the lady to get within hearing distance and then attack. If they are feeling particularly creative, they grab some part of her body. Usually, she’ll just walk away struggling with a thousand and one feelings like “Should I turn back and slap? But what if they gang up and beat me? Should I just sit down and wail?”

The first time I walked past Kamwokya stage with my headphones on, I was nervous. The usual suspects arranged themselves along my path and everything from their body language to their eyes emanated lechery. When the moment of attack came, uncertainty danced on their faces. They froze for a couple of seconds and then one of them shouted, “Nyabo, owuliira?”

I sauntered on undisturbed and jubilant. The power of these men lies in whether or not the victim hears their disrespectful words. They couldn’t tell whether or not their talk would reach me and were thrown off balance. Somebody ululate with me!

The stings of Lokodo’s brothers have been blunted. I can happily wear whatever I want (short skirts, anybody?) and walk with as much “efujjo” as I desire.

Let me make it clear that these nasty men bother me even when I’m wearing maxi dresses. Anybody who believes that clothes cause rape and/or street molestation is a supporter of rape and deserves jail time for endorsing the behavior of rapists.

When I confirmed that headphones could save me from all kinds of unwanted street attention, I became addicted to them. They were like a curtain between me and the world, a curtain whose parting only I could control.  The only time I didn’t wear them was bath time.

One evening after work, I stopped at a Tuskys. My plan was to visit a friend before heading home, so I wanted to get something fun like muffins. I bounced into the supermarket, picked what I needed, paid and left. Because I was feeling so energetic, I decided to walk to her house. So far so good.

A few meters from her gate, I realized that my hands were empty. My kaveera had vanished. I have never been more confused in my life. I retraced my steps and accosted not one, not two but three people, inquiring if they had perhaps seen a kaveera lying around. I’d say, “Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you with such an absurd question, but could you have seen…or picked a kaveera with bread and muffins around here?” They were all carrying kaveeras that were shaped like mine. I suspected them all of picking my groceries and now withholding them from me. They all looked at me like I was mad.

When I arrived at Tuskys, I was received with a lot of laughter. It turns out that after paying, I’d swept out of the supermarket without my bundle and because of the music blasting into my head, hadn’t heard the workers calling me back.

Beats by dre: Winning and (petty?) irritation

2012 will always be remembered as the year that I won something. I have the worst of luck when it comes to games of chance and I’ve always rolled my eyes whenever banks and telecoms start rolling promotions out to protect myself from jealousy and heartache.  With a sneer on my face, I shrilly ask, “Who wants free land? Who needs free cars and microwaves? I can work for my own property!” all the while crossing my fingers that one day, the squealing woman on the telly will be me.

In December 2012, my luck changed. A company called addmaya took over the internet with a promotion on their website that involved the answering of many trivia questions and a kind of treasure hunt. One of the goodies up for grabs was a pair of Beats by dre headphones.

I’ve written before about how much I resent having to sit in an office for 8 hours, every day of my young life. The idea of retirement in some distant future doesn’t console me. Like King Saul who needed David’s music to quiet the demons in his head, I need music to soothe my angst and make me a more productive employee.

At the time of addmaya’s promotion, I had just broken my earphones. Life was torture. You cannot refuse to go to work because you have no earphones. Life just doesn’t work that way. I took many deep breaths, went to the website, followed the instructions concerning the Beats by dre headphones and I won. I actually won. I won the beats by dre headphones. My music is not the same as your music. I won.


The celebration that ensued should have gotten me fired. I ran around office whooping and hi-fiving my bosses. I even kwasa kwasad around the parking lot.

This is what they look like: They are big. They are black with accents of red. They have the word monster on them. The box they came in is still on display in my room.

This box is too good to throw away

This box is too good to throw away

Not only are these things comfortable, they are cool and anybody who cares about such things (usually cute boys) always look at me once, then again when they spot the b engraved on the side of the headphones. I welcome all double takes, especially from cute boys.

Everything comes to an end, including excitement. After a few months of carrying them everywhere, I began to occasionally forget them at home. Last Monday, I arrived at office sans headphones and all was going reasonably well until my neighbor pulled out a pair of bright red abominations shaped like my babies. His headphones were plastic with a bright red b painted on either side. At first I was amused like, “Haha. Bambi people can want nice things. I wonder who made these headphones?” And then the amusement died because I began to imagine what it would be like to use my headphones next to him. Somebody would pass by our desk and look at both of us using what looked like beats by dre headphones. They would then notice that his are fakes and then they’d assume that mine were fake as well.

You can’t confront somebody about their headphones or make them throw them away. That is impossible. I considered being passive aggressive but that is not a sustainable plan. My annoyance would hurt me and not him.

Just so cute! I don't remember where I grabbed it from. Forgive me, internet!

Just so cute! I don’t remember where I grabbed it from. Forgive me, internet!

 I still haven’t decided how to react to his kiwanyirous headphones, so I’m writing about it and hoping that you’ll leave suggestions in the comment section.

In Pursuit of Sharp Hair II

Last week, I wrote about my irritation with the saying and mentality that ‘a woman’s hair is her crowning glory’. I wrote about the schemes that many people in my life employed to trick me into growing my hair during the 14 or so months that I chose to shave it bald. I also wrote about the craziness I encountered when finally I decided to grow and style it.

I had reached the part of the story where a hairdresser in Wandegeya tried to assault my scalp with Ariel detergent.

After my escape, I made peace with the fact that I would never again be welcome in Yusuf’s salon and turned to YouTube for inspiration. For the last two years, a natural hair revolution has swept over the internet and there has been faithful documentation by black women from all over the globe, on all kinds of platforms from YouTube to tumblr to Facebook to pinterest.

I was therefore confused when it proved hard to find a short and simple instructional video. I shifted my research to Google and keyed in all the variations of the words ‘spiky natural hair’ that I could think up. My luck was meagre.

It became clear that the information I wanted was deliberately hiding from me and so I decided to learn by trial and error.

I called my best friend, secured her commitment to my cause and then bought three kinds of locking gel. I also bought a bathing sponge woven out of string and went over to her house. On arrival, I washed my hair and proceeded to rub my scalp first with the sponge and then with my palm. I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed. By the time I thought about giving up, the hair over my ears had spiked up but the rest of it remained bunched up like defiant steelwool. I also had a raging headache and the skin of my scalp felt and looked like bruised tomato skin.

I took my sorrows to back to facebook and finally caught my first break. Apiyo, that dear girl offered to help. Herself a lover of stress free hairstyles, Apiyo is a veteran as far as sharp hair is concerned. Reader, I knew this from the very beginning. Why hadn’t I contacted her earlier? I have no idea.

It took 30 minutes of rubbing to turn my head into a mass of spikes and I walked out of her house preening like a pampered pony. I made sure to stare every cute person in the face, mentally ordering them to propose marriage. I felt fabulous and felt the need to show people outside my social circles how great I looked. This search for attention led me to National Theater the next Thursday evening, for a show by Fun factory.

Was I distraught when I saw Anne Kansiime rocking my very hairstyle? Yes. Did I irrationally decide that she’d somehow stolen it from me? Yes. Did I magically forgive her when I got the opportunity to take a picture with her? Of course. The lady is hilarious.

During the course of the show, I managed to win myself a free hairdo of my choice at Jephi’s salon on parliamentary avenue. Even though I love Kansiime and had totally forgiven her for making me feel less special about my hair, I decided the time for a change had come.

Jephi’s is upmarket and its workers are very skilled but the director was irritable and snappy during the first five minutes of my arrival. When, however, he heard that I would be writing about my experience, his attitude totally changed, of course.

The golden spikes on my head have been a source of much chagrin in the hearts of some of the very people who were complaining about my baldness. Dad took my sister Jero aside and asked her, “Have you told Mildred how bad her hair looks? It’s terrible! It looks like nothing. Go and tell her to remove it!” Smh. In matters of hair, you’ve just got to do you.

Here are some pictures:

Golden spikes

Golden spikes that I got tired of in like a week

What I was rocking at blankets and wine last Sunday

What I was rocking at blankets and wine last yesterday but one