Mwe tongue chewers and heavy breathers, first come here.

Let’s not encourage Miley Cyrus by acting shocked about her gross performance. Let’s just ignore her and her long tongue. She should be examined by professionals for repeatedly engaging in racist acts and grab grabbing from a culture, while giving it and its people zero respect.

But if you’re honest, at 20 most of you were performing (much) watered down versions of her madness. You felt like the discoverer of  sex, like the president of a republic called rebellion.  Unfortunately for her, she’s making her ugly mistakes with paparazzi, Hollywood and the world watching. I pity her 30-year-old self and the mudslide of shame she will have to wade through to find inner peace.

Actually, the only reason I’ve brought her up is her tongue. It can’t seem to go five minutes without nudging its way out of her lips and rolling down almost to her neck. That on its own doesn’t bother me, but it reminds me of other tongue-related deviances that do.

If there is one thing that drives me so far up the wall that I end up hanging from the ceiling, it is tongue chewing. When I notice that somebody near me is doing it, I become incredibly annoyed. Think a dozen bulls in a indoor stadium with walls painted red.

I have to fight the impulse to shake and roll and vomit and scream “Why? Why are you chewing your disgusting tongue? Do you hate peace of mind? Do you hate me?!”  and if the person’s chewing is accompanied by that sound like slugs mating in mud, I have to get out of earshot or risk exploding.

I was happy to discover that it is not lugezigezi at play here but a variation of Misophonia, a condition defined as the hatred of sounds. Of course this is all self diagnosis, but my symptoms are a direct match with those of selective sound sensitivity, a condition where soft sounds (typically eating and breathing sounds) make the sufferer react with great rage and disgust.

Sufferers have an abnormally strong reaction of the limbic (emotional system) and autonomic nervous system (body control system) which the auditory system is intimately connected to.  Basically, Misophonia happens when the parts that control your hearing get all muddled up with the ones that affect your emotions.

I once considered ending a promising friendship* because the jama couldn’t keep his tongue away from his teeth. Luckily for me, that situation resolved itself.

I know there are many people like me, so I’m going to be charitable and share the ways I deal with it:

Forcing the person to stop. If you are in a position of authority, you can easily threaten the person into quitting. This sounds like bullying, I know, but if you have experienced misophonia, you know that their sound is worse than bullying for you. It is the difference between productivity and breaking down.

Training your mind to react differently: This is difficult but if you care for the maker of the disgusting sound, you can do it. I know I did. Nope, not going to share how. This is a blog not a diary.

Wearing headphones and listening to white noise, such as rain sounds or static is 100% effective. This is great for work places where you may be stuck for months or years around people for breathe so loudly, you’d think they had hot coals in their throats, that are being put out by a dripping tap.

Very much

As in you really need to stop

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Respect My Hunger.

Because food; the eating, growing, cooking, serving and wearing of, is one of my favorite things, I take the service I receive at restaurants very seriously. I feel truly betrayed when a waiter tells me that my order will be steaming in front of my watering mouth in 15 minutes and then 40 minutes later, he or she has not even carried the tomato sauce and cutlery to my table. I become overwhelmed by a  hysteria that, on a good day, will end with my leaving the premises, sobbing quietly into my palms, and on a bad day, have me assuring everybody from the manager to my fellow patrons how they are seeing me for the last time in their lives because I am never coming back! When it comes to food, people have to be truthful and honest. They need to have a sense of honor.

I have met some very interesting waiters and restaurant owners in my time, the most entertaining being a lady who owns a restaurant somewhere in Nakasero. Or is that Kololo? Anyway, it is located close to Fairway Hotel. 

This woman is a real character. It is without a trace of malice that I say she has the demeanor of a tall cockroach. How somebody like that is able to maintain a restaurant that has apparently been popular for years, I don’t know.

Anyway, on the day I encountered this lady, I was in high spirits. It was my graduation day. I had just gained a pretty good degree, considering how many morning classes I had refused to attend while on campus.

Three years down!

Three years down!

My father was strutting and swaggering, as proud as only a father whose first born is graduating can be. My Aunt Cherry was ululating every few seconds. My siblings were radiating awe, and I looked gorgeous. It was a good afternoon and we wanted to crown it with a hearty meal in a restaurant with good African food.

The first thing Madame restaurant said when she spotted us was, “You people who come many many like this! I hope you are going to be able to afford me!” She then turned to my father and said, “You you are bringing so many young girls here this afternoon. I hope you can pay for them all!” I was nearly passing out from the pain of standing around in four inch stilettos and so my focus was on finding a seat, and not this crazy lady’s words. For some reason, dad did not herd us out.

We were soon in line for the buffet. Aunt Sherry is a professional chef and so when I saw that she had declined to pick from four of the bakulis, I asked her what was up. She just shook her head and turned away with what must have been a giggle. It is when we brought our first spoons to our mouths that we realized why our aunt had been so reluctant to serve. Everything was off. From the beef stew to beans to the basket of fried chicken that the woman brought me as a “graduation present”, it was a spit and a lick from being completely rotten. We were all confused. This food was going to cost 25,000 a plate and it was just a few hours away from having maggots.

We left everything untouched and all stood up to leave, apart from my aunt who was, with a very determined look on her face, mixing everything together so that the woman would not be able to serve the same sauces to unsuspecting people the next day.

Food is sacred. People with bad manners should not be allowed to prepare or even sell it.

Daring To Smell #I

For a long time, I had a paralyzing fear of smelling bad. This is not the worst fear to have. In fact, if more people had it, using public transport in Uganda would be much more pleasant.  I can trace this  fear to a time in my primary school career, perhaps p6, when I earned myself a nickname for smelling sweaty.

This was something my parents just couldn’t work their heads around. To them, 11 year olds who incessantly begged for deodorants were just being bad.

This experience messed with my psyche. At one point as an adult, I had a deodorant in every bag that I owned, two different types on my vanity board and another two in my drawer at work. I couldn’t bear to go a day without lathering my underarms in gooey roll-ons and stinging sprays. On the occasions when sweat somehow broke through the layers of deo, I would become anxious beyond belief.

This attachment to deos wrecked my underarms. I have sensitive skin that reacts to everything, even certain fabrics. For years I silently suffered the discolouration, rashes, bumps and boils. When my underarms weren’t exploding with pus, they were as rough as a crocodile’s back! I had made peace with never having smooth and/or happy armpits.

 On the 25th of March this year, I came upon a tweet by a fascinating lady called Alokin Ikon. She had written that thanks to lemon, her armpits were as flawless as a movie star’s. I read that tweet at least five times.

I was excited, disbelieving and irrationally angry all at the same time. Had I been going about life with armpits that were as ragged as old lorry tyres when lemon could have easily given me the smoothness I so coveted?

After a short conversation with Aloikin, my mind was made. I was going to abandon regular deodorant and replace it with lemon juice. The likelihood of having armpits that would allow me to wave my hands in the air like I just don’t care was fascinating.

This all happened around the time when I’d decided to stop wearing bras (in order to force myself to love the dip and curve of my breasts and appreciate my body image, even without the lift of a bra). I was brimming with boldness and motivation. I threw my deodorants, all ten thousand of them out and embarked on stage one: research.

 I was determined to experiment with only natural deodorizing substances that were cheap and readily available. It was during this search that I learnt about parabens and aluminum, substances that most  mainstream deodorants contain. Parabens are preservatives found in food and cosmetic products. They have estrogen-like qualities and are easily absorbed by the skin. Estrogen is a female hormone known to cause breast cells (both normal and cancerous) to grow and divide. The link between cancer and parabens, if any, is still being worked out by people of science, but this information gave me even more gas to go natural.

My journey had begun with tweets about lemon, so I went to the market and got myself a large kaveera of them. To kill pesky odor causing bacteria, all I had to do was cut a thin slice of fresh lemon and rub it under my arms. I was ecstatic. I smelled like nothing. My sweat was lightly lemon scented. Unfortunately, this bliss was not to last.

Good in food, tea, alcohol and armpits.

Good in food, tea, alcohol and armpits.

I’ll be back next Tuesday with more about my quest to find the perfect natural deodorant.

When Love is Not Enough

When you enter the world, you’re wet, naked and poor in most senses of the word. This is unacceptable to your greedy little instincts, so you begin to gather things for yourself almost immediately. My mother, my nipple, my blanket, my chew toy, my shaker without which I won’t allow to sleep.

As you grow, you attach different levels of fondness to the different things you encounter, from toys to books to friends, lovers and eventually, that person you feel should be yours forever and ever amen. But Happily Ever Afters are rare and sometimes things don’t work out.  What  happens when you have to walk away? When love is not enough?

Loss is hard to accept. To acknowledge that grief is going to blast through you and remain sane enough to envision a time when you will not be hurting, that’s even harder.

When the loss is permanent*, say the death of a parent, friend or spouse, you feel a terrible helplessness and it is this feeling that pulls you away from the lip of insanity. You realize that whatever you do, however much you weep and starve and curse, your person is dead and you cannot bring them back.

Then there’s the flavor of loss that I call reversible loss. This is where your mind tells you over and over again that if you say the right thing, your ugly situation will disappear and you will be back in the zone of comfort, normalcy.

It could be the loss of a job (right before a promotion, no less) where you are sure that if you explain your contribution to the company hard enough, the boss will welcome you back your desk.

It could be the loss of a partner with whom you have built a flamboyant castle of dreams, a castle that is now disintegrating, wisp by wisp like so much cotton candy.  In the case of lost love, even if you are the one who has broken things off, the feeling of “I must take my words back right now and return to my relationship” can be overwhelming. Woe unto you if your partner has also made their mind to move on because you’re going to be stuck with self-loathing and regret for a while.

People with broken hearts are always looking to commiserate with somebody. That’s why there are so many threads on reddit on this subject, and so many songs. That’s why I’m writing this, to be honest.

I asked some wonderful people how they dealt with the loss of a partner that they still loved. My exact question was:

Have you ever walked away from a relationship with somebody you still love? How did you do it? What was your day 1, 5, 9 10, 20 like?

This is basically sadporn. Proceed with caution.

Nagasha: The same. Weighty. Heavy hearted. Except some days were heavier-hearted than others. But they all carried the same dull ache. Day 1, 5, 9, 10, 20. They were all the same.

Immaculate: Day 20 feels like you made the decision to walk away only moments ago. You can barely believe its been 20 days, it all feels like yesterday.

Kirungi: It’s been a year since he walked away but stupid me, I’m still trying to walk away…it can be that hard.

Nswaswa: Year 1 was so painful that even booze could only numb but never stop it. Year two is better, though just seeing a missed call from her is agonizing and even more so when we actually speak. But going apart has been like removing a bad tooth- the pain of extraction and healing time are worse than the bad tooth pain, but then you feel better and even if you loved that one (or still do) you know life is better off without.

Diana: Grief. It’s just like grief. It is grief. Except that with a break-up, when you think you saw them on the street, you probably did. And then all those times you wondered what you would say have suddenly materialised into an actual situation…

Nada: I cried a lot the first fifteen minutes. Parked the car, smoked a cigarette. It rained and I was on the road by the car, and then it was all tears everywhere. I think that thunder broke something in me. It hurt, I drove back to Kampala hardly being able to breathe. Day five was worse, and day twenty was particularly bad because we bumped into each other. And soon he was gone forever. That pain never really leaves you. It lingers inside your mind waiting for a girlfriend to pose a question like yours, to hit back full swing. But now I take a deep breath and carry on.

And finally, Amanda:

Walking away from a relationship when you still love someone hurts. I listened to the script, Adele, Lady Antebellum, I re-read those love letters. Yes I was one of the lucky few who received those precious missives.There was a permanent lump in my throat for a while I tried to cry and failed. I never cried, which I found strange. We were young and inexperienced maybe even a little reckless. We were each others firsts and even though I am past him I know there will never be one like him. He literally snuck in and stole my heart,the good-looking thief! But we got full closure and that helped we talk occasionally and we are both good.

 Loss is hard to accept, especially if you’re listening to Toni Braxton on a loop. If your heart is a mess right now, know that you’re not alone. The world knows your pain and if I were able to sing songs, this would be a crazy track, just for you. Feel better. I already do.

Here’s some of the stuff that’s helped me feel human again:

Warsan Shire’s Seven Stages of being Lonely

Everything by Soley:

 

Almost Everything by Little Dragon, especially Ritual Union

 

Of Monsters and men (this is an entire album)

 

Almost Everything by KT Tunstall. Heal Over especially

 

Nneka’s Restless (OMG this video). I think I can watch this on a loop because it’s been a couple weeks

Do share the sounds and tricks that have made you feel better after one of them nasty break ups.

x

Shame on my face.

It’s been two weeks and two days since I last posted anything. The excuse I’ve been clinging to is that my bosses have blocked wordpress, but seriously. There are like 5 modems at my home. I have allowed certain silly happenings (not so silly. Letting go of a living breathing person you still care for is fucking devastating) to paralyze me, to kill my motivation dead.

Um, some special stuff has been (and is) happening, so I’m just going to dump it all below. Yes?

  • I wrote an article about breasts, popular perception and beauty but I haven’t been able to put it up because I’m constantly rearranging my thoughts on boobs, popular perception and beauty. Really I could write a book.  I need this article to be perfect! It will be up by tomorrow, I promise. For now, stare at this glorious pair
Yea

Yea

  • I made a call for stories about bizarre/funny experiences had while using public transport in Uganda. Many of you responded with such great stories, that I didn’t have to write Stiletto Point Articles for two weeks. Thank you!
  • I entered a writing competition called Writivism a few months ago and the finish line is close. Terribly close. I like to pretend that I’m not at all anxious about the outcome, that whether I among the top 3 or not, it has been a fantastic experience, but I care. I care so much. I hope that when the time comes, you will read my story, fall in love and vote for it. Here is a video of me talking about why I write. Thank you Writivism!
  • I had the best pilawo of my life yesterday. Seriously. It changed my life. There’s nothing better than perfectly spiced meat and rice. Holla at these guys for a plate.
Is there anything better that perfectly spiced meat and rice? NO.

Is there anything better that perfectly spiced meat and rice? NO.

  • My weekend is going to be full of DIY. Today, I am meeting Akiiki and Liz, two lovely ladies from Arisu.ug to make accessories and maybe even skirts out of my lovely kitenge material. Check their work out HERE.
  • Tomorrow, I am meeting another pair of ladies who make shoes. Shoes! Shoes! They are going to help me make some pairs, using some more of my lovely kitenge. I have an almost unhealthy adoration for love people who can do great things with their hands. This is probably because mine ate the clumsiest pair ever to exist.
  • I’m going to be better about posting. I promise. In fact, here is a gift for you. A really good story by Doreen Baingana. Banange she snatches a chunk out of life and presents it perfectly preserved.Just…read it.

http://caravanmagazine.in/fiction/gorging

Either teach well or go home (and kill yourself).

Church was once a staple in my life and slowly, I am starting to find true enjoyment in the word of God again. This article isn’t about my spiritual awakening (which I hope will last this time). It’s about the way people in positions of influence deliver their teachings.

One Sunday last November, one of the pastors at Watoto Church was talking about his wonderful wife and the lovely things that she’d done for him on his anniversary. It was very sweet. He even insisted she come up and sing the song she’d sung on the day to much cooing and clapter*  from the congregation. He remarked on how beautiful she is and how more women need to obey their husbands, especially when it comes to how they look.

He then said, “But some women just cut off all their hair” while making a comical sweeping motion over his head.

I bristled with indignation, and not only because I have chosen to rock a nearly bald head.

Like this

I miss the days it was like this

The pastor’s joke made the entire congregation look around and eyes lingered on those like me with little or no hair. In that moment, I wondered what it would be like to be married to somebody like him and let me tell you, what I envisioned wasn’t a fun experience. I saw a guy who would whine endlessly and be very aggressive about letting you know how he wanted you to look. Just imagine if a Christian couple in attendance was fighting about style choices. On hearing Pastor’s words, whatever headway they’d made would be lost.

A lot goes into a way a person looks. Mood, emotional well being,  fashions, personality, etc. Style is an intensely personal thing. Even in a long term relationship where you’re committed to loving the same person forever, both individuals retain the right of choice.

If you want to change your partner’s style to suit your tastes, don’t do it by shaming them or comparing them to others. Spitting Bible verses won’t work. Belittling them won’t work. Writing blogposts about them won’t work either . Give them a reason to want to acquiesce to your whims. Make them feel comfortable enough to adjust their style in a way that will make you happy. The way a person looks should be their decision, an act of service (to you, their partner) and not one that leads them to doubt themselves.

People in the Education sector are another group that need to be careful about the way they deliver their wisdom. Their job is to instill confidence, manners and a sense of decency in the children that pass through their system year in year out. Instead of doing that, our teachers and school administrations are filling young people up with their own warped sexual politics.
How can a school profess to be against trousers on girls or tight uniforms and then turn around and allow their girls to wear barely-there dresses during prom? If they really thought that trousers caused uncontrollable lust to surge in the hearts and minds of the males in the system, they wouldn’t allow girls to wear them during dances.

A school like Seeta High bars female visitors from entering school grounds if they are wearing trousers, causing much embarrassment and irritation, but allow their students to swim semi-naked in a pool which is not far from the staff room. Where is the logic? Selective morality is dumb and needs to end.

Our young need to be equipped with feelings of equality, self esteem and affirmations, not insecurities and hypocrisy.

James 3: 1 says Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

If you can’t teach well, go home.

*clapping and laughter

Miss Connie, what was the point?

When I was in Makerere College School, girls in O’level were required to wear outrageously yellow, almost dangerously large school uniforms. We looked like unfashionable child brides with the yellow cotton ballooning around our barely-there hips and dangling onwards to our skinny calves. Because, like all girls in high school, we were fizzing with hormones and rebellion, we’d waste no time in altering them to show off the great work that puberty was doing.

The boys were luckier. They got to wear large shorts which were very much at par with the fashions of the time. All they needed to do was pull their shorts down over their bottoms and boom! 50 cent. That practice that was (and still is) called balancing. Balancing what though? Morals? Like look at me straddling the moral line! You can see my bum but not my acorn!

There used to be raids during assembly where dresses that didn’t fit the requirements were cut up with scissors. Many years later, I still don’t understand what motivated the teachers to be so rabid about our uniforms. Surely as inhabitants of the adult world, they knew that force and humiliation only makes teenagers more rebellious. The aim was also obscure. Were we being taught modesty? Obedience? Whatever it was, it evaporated the moment age liberated us from the tyranny of the stick.

When you enter a boutique in the city, its owner immediately asks you to describe what kind of dress you’re looking to buy. If it’s a well stocked boutique, your options are casual, sundress, dinner, club and corporate. The corporate styles make my jaw slacken every time.

They’re usually tight, hugging every part of your body that our high school uniforms tried to hide. Your bottom, belly and bust are all on full show. These clothes are very sexy, no sexual. They make you look like Aphrodite, even when you’re carrying a stack of dirty newspapers. Without exception, they are uncomfortable, sticking to your skin as if they’re lonely and making lunch times very emotional for the people who decide to wear them. I mean you really want to dig into your meal with passion but also, don’t want to find yourself unable to breathe after indulging.

With the exception of crane bank, I can’t think of a corporate institution that requires people to wear uniform. This is maybe one of the reason certain girls wear stripper heels to office. What I want to one day know is how they’re able to endure the elevation and pain of those shoes and the squeezing of the dresses. Perhaps these things we have to wear to fit the bill of sexy are all part of a conspiracy to slow women down.

I’m writing this on Tuesday, the 6th of November. Later on today, I am going to sit on a panel with Mr. Bazanye and talk about how the internet has changed writing in Uganda. The audience is going to be full of people that are involved in the production of all the kinds of art that Uganda has to offer.  I’m picking at my document like a dissatisfied hen because it has to be perfect. I’m going to go away now and concentrate.

____

That presentation went well. I’m going to compress it and send it to my editor, so expect it in Stiletto Point one of these Sundays.

My maids and I (nobody dies).

I’ve had the good but inconveniencing fortune of running a home (more accurately, being the oldest female in it- which means the same thing in our society). I say good fortune because time will come for me to leave the nest and I’ll possess some very essential homemaking skills like: changing a diaper, tricking a feisty 11 month old into falling asleep (using lighting + Florence and The Machine) and trying to maintain a delicate balance between amicability and toughness in my interaction with the maids, these strangers we let into our lives basing entirely on the recommendation of a friend or a relative.

All the above require energy that I just don’t have after a long day in the office which is where the inconvenience comes in. I’m not allowed to just enter the house and sleep. I have to make an inspection, order the doing of this and that, pick up a broom and sweep a corner to show that I am a good mistress and not a slave driver, e and t and c.

Because no maid is perfect and some can be terrible devils that make you want to be single forever so that you’ll never have need of one, I complain about them a lot. My gchat is always on fire. She left the baby’s bottle under the chair! She’s always on the phone! She’s behaving weirdly around my male relatives! She’s stealing my stuff! and the list goes on.

It must be hard for the maids, especially untrained ones who come from a normal life in the village to a place where they have duties that can’t be shirked because they’re being well paid to perform them. You can’t whine about your dislike of doing the dishes when you’re a maid. That’s your job.

At the crux of my disappointment with the ones at home, when I was prepared to withdraw the last of my money to send them packing (consequences be damned), it occurred to me that the dynamic between them and I is exactly the same as the one between my employer and I. I was spending so much time complaining about their incompetence, but just how similar to them was I being at work? I hated this question but it calmed my nerves and made me (think about being) a better employee.

I hate it when they slack off, lie around in their bedrooms when the house is a mess probably as much as my boss hates my spending half the day on gchat.

I hate it when they cook or clean just to get it done, with no interest whatsoever because that means supper tastes like old socks, just like my boss must hate it when I present work I did just to beat a deadline, or to shut him up.

I hate it when they act resentful of direction and advice, but I’ve been a pouting, defiant employee many times.

Finding similarities between their behavior and mine hasn’t made me perfect yet but I’m a bit more patient and less likely to explode all over them. The assholes.

My aunt Sherry says, “When you’re at work, you have to behave like a child living with a moody guardian. Be humble and hardworking, generally eager to please. Don’t feel awkward about performing better than the rest. Life is not easy in Kampala.”

In the words of Khalil Gibran, “if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.”

Idiot’s guide to beating that hangover

A hangover is optional, we all know. You don’t have to take that 10th shot. You’re aware, as you drunkenly upend that bottle of mineral water over your head, that you’re dehydrated and it would be wiser to actually drink the water. But you’re at a party and drenched-dancing is the new thing in Jamaican videos. You gyrate wetly until you pass out on the carpet.

When you wake up, you wish you hadn’t. You lie prostrate for a while and then wiggle slowly, oh so slowly to the fridge. With an amount of effort that seems herculean, you inch it open and pull out a jerry can of the finest, most beautiful liquid in the world. Water.

With every sip of you take, your body sings. Water is life, alcohol is war. Somebody comes into the kitchen, drops what they’re holding, screams and exits. You lift your torso slightly off the floor and look at your face mirrored on the tiles. If you’re a weak person, this is the point at which you cry. Your face. It’s terrible. Your swollen tongue is splayed over your lower lip and your eyes have quit.

How do you become normal again? How do you survive the hell that’s your own moral depravation?

Let us consider the wings on which hangovers come into our lives. Overconsumption and dehydration.

When you consistently pour punch or battery acid into your body, without allowing it the relief of water, your system becomes saturated. You forehead becomes shiny with the oils of intoxication that are oozing out of your pores. Drink less and drink more. Less intoxicant, more water. Water is the answer.

So assuming you’re the character described above, drag your body, slowly, carefully into the bathroom and turn on the shower. You don’t have to take your clothes off. Just lie there and feel peace.

If you have to be at work in a few hours, get dressed and lurch into office. Everybody understands your suffering, on account of them suffering your smell which is a combination of dead grapes and a resentful liver. Physical activity improves your circulation so the moment you can manage to lift your body out of your seat, head to the parking lot. Contort your body into positions that would shame yogis worldwide. This might trick the alcohol in your veins into circulating a bit more. If your headache is confounding your efforts, hold a bag of ice to it and proceed.

You look, smell and sound scary. Use that to get an edge, get some respect, y’know.  Address people in short, gravelly barks, like a dog with a dislocated voice box. Be indifferent to their surprise and/ or disapproval.

Drink all of the antioxidants. If you can’t bear to spend money constructively, which is why you’re feeling like a soggy sandwich right now, pluck hibiscus flowers and boil them in your tea. Or chew them.

React with shock and horror when your officemates make loud noises, like clearing their throats. When they laugh, take it personal. Make a perfect fool of yourself by delivering long, cutting lectures about the levels of happiness that are acceptable within a healthy corporate environment.

Thieves in the big city

A thief is a person who feels more entitled to the fruit of your labor than you are. In their opinion, you are a slave, born to toil with power point and fight with photocopiers, all for their benefit and enjoyment. That bag you bought in Wandegeya? Theirs. That car you tricked your employers into buying, theirs!   I’ve met some thieves that I’d like to see again, on more neutral ground of course. Their methods were impressive.

I was three years old when I first encountered thievery. Mother would deliver me to Mango Tree Nursery School Bugoloobi with a container full of fried matooke and boiled eggs. Those were my absolute favorites. I’d enter class dreaming of the wonderful, satisfying pain that would fill my tiny throat a few hours later, when I’d be chewing and swallowing whole eggs in one go. I was very proud of this ability.

Slowly by slowly, break time would arrive. I’d bolt to the back of the class, grab my container, twist it open and find only matooke. Other times, I’d find only eggs. Basically, what I ate depended less on what was packed for me and more on what teacher felt like having with her tea. One day, when I found just one egg sitting in a lake of matooke gravy, I decided to involve the authorities. I was going to report this evil thief to God, to the teacher and to my mother.

Because mummy was at home and God was in the sky, I decided to start with teacher. When I approached her table, I saw my egg and matooke on her plate; so I reported her to herself and she beat me.

This was when I learnt that the world isn’t fair and thieves, especially big, tall ones, can respond to exposure with violence. Indignation doesn’t weigh much when you’re a little person.

Thieves with feelings

My most recent encounter was as I was leaving Mateos after a particularly bland Blogger’s Happy Hour. In its haste to get to me, a taxi (with a woman hanging out of its front passenger door) swept past, narrowly missing my toes, and parked a short distance ahead.

The woman began to gesture and coo in a way I suppose she thought was inviting. Note that she wasn’t the conductor. He too was hanging out of his window, making come hither faces. In their eagerness to add me to their creepy matatu populace, they forgot to tell me their destination. I had to ask.

The people in the back looked as if they’d been scooped of their contents and taxidermied so I opened the front door and asked her to scoot over. She gave me a dirty look and tried to force her way past me, at which point I decided to get another taxi. I wasn’t going to trap myself between the driver and that woman. She began to jeer, “You people of Kampala you pose a lot. Do you susu soda? Do you pupu sweets? Shya! You not rich!” she sounded genuinely hurt about my refusal to board, probably because she wouldn’t be going home with a new handbag and wallet.

Probably because of how helpless I was when I was first stolen from, I can’t stand being cheated. I’m a pro at battling conductors for that extra 200 shillings. Victory is always mine because I enter the arena with all the Luganda and Acholi. They always let me win, either out of amusement or fear.