Don’t donate yourself, your nearest, your dearest to death

September is the month that my mother slipped through the doors at the other end of this waiting room that we so politely call life.

Her departure was aided by the staff of one of the popular private hospitals in Kampala (namely Kadic) who, using negligence, gave her an almighty shove into the arms of death. I suppose it all began when her doctor, a man who had performed multiple cesareans over a long career, somehow forgot that people who’d just undergone major operations were susceptible to blood clots.

When that nurse with a thin, brown face and stunned expression held my shoulders and said, “You are going to have to grow up now” I was sure my mother’s conscious was still in the hospital, perhaps in its walls, trying to steady itself, to gather gravity so that it would become weighty enough to slip back into her body.

And I called for her to do so in the only ways I knew how: noise, violence, chaos.

The first thing I failed to accept was that we had lost her after doing everything right, at least by movie standards: rushing to the best hospital we knew, delivering her into a pristine waiting room, being  reassured by a young doctor whose accent made you think “clean, sure”.

How could such a logical system fail, I asked? How could they betray my trust in the competence of musawos? What kind of doctor only remembers to administer oxygen to a patient who has been failing to breathe for an hour, after they have taken their last struggling breath? I suppose I had expected things to play out like an episode of House.

The second thing I failed to accept was that we could have saved her life had we had basic knowledge of the plants, spices and herbs around us. They could at least have mitigated the irregularities her body was facing. A small clove of garlic ingested regularly, ginger, cayenne pepper, vanilla leaf, all which thin your blood and lessen the likelihood if you developing atherosclerosis, a condition that causes blood clots to form in our vessels.

Two years later and I still remember so clearly, the helplessness I felt that Wednesday night. It is a strong force behind my desire to become an herbalist, a true daughter, sister and wife to the soil and her extensions.   

On the night of 9th September, Chris Ocamringa was reporting about a mysterious disease that is making the throats of the afflicted in Ntungamo burn and then produce snail like creatures, mbu. I balked at his use of air quotes as he referred to the medicine men and women who were,  according to all accounts, treating this disease successfully. Shya.

We have been poisoned by the idea that medicine is only worth appreciating when approval flows down from overseas. We are both suspicious and dismissive of the wise men and women who have been healing our sick for centuries, who have retained their knowledge in the face of globalization, colonialism and self-racism that came as a direct result; who have protected their knowledge against the stealing and repackaging by foreign elements. As a reporter whose responsibility it is to bring us the news, it was silly of him to flaunt his bias towards the medicine men and women.

Unless we intend to continue to donate our nearest and dearest to death while paying for death spaces in the fancy little hospitals that keep mushrooming all over the hills of Kampala, we had better wake up to the healing elements around us. It doesn’t take much. At the very least, google. Pay attention to what you eat, hydrate and move.

 Ma, Mary Jessica Opwonya, you are loved and sorely missed by we, your seven.

<3

Broken Bones, Restructured Hearts and Other News. (Hello August)

Hello August. I salute you. I salute your air with my lips. Here, mwa! Mwa! Mwa! On your 20th day, I shall be four digits older than my birth date. I shall be closer to the glory that my mid-20s are sure to bring.

I of course arrive with drama. My fibula is broken, so you will be my unfittest month of the year, August.

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As I rest, I shall enjoy getting rounder, and I won’t even mourn my stamina too much. I shall throw back glass upon glass of water and tot upon tot of gin. I shall eat all of the livestock and some of the fruit. Perhaps I shall join a gym and tone my upper body up. We’ll see.

My 23rd year has been incredible. It saw me make a year in the most serious relationship I have ever had. I am not a commitment-phobe, now I know. And I am not incapable of loving or being loved! This year also saw me fall out of that relationship. It saw me in the lap of devastation and afterwards, in the face of excitement (and contentment) so bright and thick that I thought I had achieved Nirvana. I am now back to being normal just, so yea that wasn’t nirvana.

This year has delivered me into the arms of herbs and essential oils.

Yay essential oils

My hair smells like peppermint. My pillowcase has wild lavender tucked into it, plucked right off the slopes of Mountain Muhavura.

Wild lavender all wrapped up in Acacia. I think they are dating!

Wild lavender all wrapped up in Acacia. I think they are dating!

Eucalyptus oil blesses my water every time I feel pain. Moya (that some call shea butter) is stripping scars off my legs, scars that appeared because of the mubofu spider mites that tried to invade my herb patch.

I regularly bless my bath water with rose petals and mint leaves, plucked from my own plants. I have even gotten into the habit of thanking the plants when I take from them. In other words, my kwemola has reached insane levels, and I am happiest this way.

whosaqueen?

This year, I have stopped being so annoyed by some of the things my father does. I have come to love them instead. His tendency to befriend and invite complete strangers into our home for impromptu dinner parties. His loud way of speaking, my god, he shouts all the time, everywhere. He is so aggressive, even when he doesn’t intend to intimidate or annoy. I have come from flushing with annoyance to beaming with joy and acceptance. This is partly because I am so very similar to him.  I intend to honor him in a Stiletto Point article soon, so let me not over spoil.

During this my 23rd, I have conquered the demons that made me so attached to deodorants (I would have 5, one for each workbag). I no longer spray those synthetic, paraben-filled armpitcides onto my delicate skin. I have made peace with the memories of bullying that went down in Green Hill Academy’s corridors and no longer pay that time of my life homage.

I am in love with my brown. Forget pretending that I am blind to all those times that weirdos have tried to make me feel bad, or lesser because of my dark skin. I have been at war with many demons-ooo!

Ayaya who is that? Apenyo.

Ayaya who is that? Apenyo.

I am an aloe vera gal. On three separate occasions, people have hugged me at the end of a day and said, “Oh wow, you smell so nice.” Do you know what they are smelling? Aloe vera + Apenyo. The gel mixes with my natural smell to produce musk like no other.

I have never had so many trips lined up in the same time frame as I do now. Last weekend, I was in Kisoro and Kabale drinking, dancing, climbing and breaking legs with the Kampala Hashers. This weekend (or possibly next), I am going to be exploring Lake Bunyonyi with a very lovely person, the best travel buddy in the world really. On the 24th and 25th of August, I am going to be in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Plans are all over my life like back acne.

I am also part of a competition that explores how stories directly affect readers after production. 46 of us submitted stories on the theme of identity and equality to Writivism, 14 of us got mentors, attended workshops and read to young literature lovers in many of Kampala’s schools. It has been an experience with many ups and downs for me, but ultimately, a great one. I would do it again. The shortlist is going to be released on the 3rd of August, and here’s hoping True to Nothing will be on it.

I am writing (haltingly, with a lot of procrastination and inertia in the mix), I am growing things out of the soil, I am growing myself, my mind, I am living as consciously as I can. You guys, life is good.

Forgive me for not posting last Sunday’s Stiletto Point. I was full of pain and self pity. My leg nanti.

See how I have cutiefied my crutch.

On crutches, but still pretty.

Pretty crutches.

x

Attacked by Kilogologo (also known as the demon itch).

I don’t want to turn into one of those writers who endlessly bore their readers with whatever they are obsessed with at the moment, but this is important. For the last seven days, I have been scratching myself like a 7 year old with worms. But let me start at the beginning.

As you know, I proud mother to plants such as lemon balm, sage, thyme, lavender, strawberry, rosemary,two kinds of mint and a plant whose name I can’t remember, but whose special power is that it smells like BOB insecticide when you burn it. Because my energy is surpassed only by my kwemolar, I sing to my plants. I wake up very early in the morning, push my sleepy feet into sapatu and haul a bucket of water to my herb patch. The plants are doing very well, which convinces me that my croaking is making them happy. What I am not convinced about is whether this particular brand of kwemolar is sustainable.

See, since I began this little ritual, I have developed a most insufferable itch. It doesn’t attack. To say it attacks would insinuate that it follows a strategy to accomplish its goal of tormenting me.

This itch is an obnoxious squatter. It has built a house and grown crops and taken a wife on the landscape that is my skin. When I wake up, I am scratching. The last thing I remember before blacking out is manically raking fingernails over my skin. I am even developing sexy biceps from all the exertion.

It is worst around my feet and entumbwes but will many times spread to my arms and back. The amount of time I have devoted to daydreaming about rolling around in a pile of coarse sand is embarrassing. My doctor laughed when I demanded dewormers and then said that the worms which used to make children itch have gone extinct, and that what I have is an allergy. Me a whole Apenyo, having to pop cetirizine like one of those people on the internet who cannot stand pollen.

I have often felt smug about how at one I am with mother earth and now see.

To the best of my knowledge, I am not eating anything different, or doing anything new (apart from singing to my herbs) so I can’t even begin to understand this allergy business.

The itch got so bad at some point that I went to comrade Google for some home remedies. Squeezing my workmates’ lemon on my feet worked for a minute, and then it returned with a vengeance. Hand wash, air freshener and crushed garlic all failed to work. Fortunately for my legs, I had a small piece of aloe vera in my handbag. I cut it in half and rubbed it briskly over my skin. This toned the itch down to a background annoyance. Aloe saves the day again!

Now to go stock up on Shea butter (whose proper name is moya) to heal these dumb scars that are trying to colonize my legs. 

It looks about 10 times worse than this.

It looks about 10 times worse than this.

Bathing plants and office DIY

When my dad discovered me singing to my plants a few days ago, he must have backed away very slowly because one minute I could hear him being generally alive in the space behind me and the next, he was gone. Not to another part of what is a large backyard, mind, but totally gone. Perhaps he was like it’s too early in the day to face the kind of offspring I have bred. 

In the absence of a watering can, and the presence of my two very capable hands, I give my plants a bath every morning. I am very proud of the small plot that I was allowed to de-grass for this project and I’m determined for everything to go amazingly well.  

The process:

Using my palms, I scoop water out of a bucket, quickly come up with a song for whichever plant I’m watering and then pour. For example:

Lemon balm, lemon balm, will you let me be your calm.

and

Sage plant, Sage plant, protect me from these ensanafu

and

Thyme, Thyme, will you love lime…

Look it doesn’t have to make sense. Singing charms plants and that’s what must have brought my strawberry baby back to life.

Have you read this article by Fungai Machirori, founder of herzimbabwe and all round fantastic woman? You should because it is about Anne Kansiime, arguably the funniest comedian in Uganda. I was lucky to meet, attend a comedy show, drink and do loud karaoke on Jinja Road with Fungai when she was in Uganda a few months ago. She’s a real gem and I hope I will one day do something extraordinary enough for her to feel like blessing me with an interview like this.

For now, I will enjoy the fact that she has called me an advertising executive and included a beautiful picture of Kansiime and I in her article.

In other news, I have decided to document my journey to fitness on tumblr. Check my tumblog out and send me all of your best energies, even after reading that  I yesterday jogged from office up to Alfredos and back. Control your feelings. Don’t let your jerasssey cloud the vibes, hehe.

In fun and final news, I stole an empty banana boat paper bag from the receptionist’s desk. I say stole because it’s really good paper and she may have wanted it for something.

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Anyway, I needed its sisal handles for an impromptu recycling and DIY session.

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Also read as, I felt like changing my hairstyle and didn’t have any rubber bands. I took the handles out and after a minute in the bathroom, looked like this. 

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and this

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and this

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and this

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It’s fun, free and takes my bob away from my neck, which is great for the hot hours. When it gets cold, I can just let it back down. This has got to be the most versatile hairstyle I’ve ever rocked.

I need to go and write a wildly overdue article about songs, sex and gender issues for Muwado.com, so see you on Monday.

Matooke peels in mah pits.

I’m a sucker for experiments. Let’s eat catfish for a week! Let’s listen to Tyler the Creator’s entire album! Let’s make our own kwete!

Generally, I’m going to say yes.

A few months ago, Aloikin tweeted about the wonders lemon had worked in her armpits.  She said that if you put her armpit next to a Hollywood one, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  

My ambitions are a bit closer to home. Nollywood’s Genevieve is the truth. 

Walahi I was inspired

Walahi I was inspired

Inspired, I abandoned deos and turned to my pantry, the internet and some very strange substances for solutions to vubs.  I then wrote about my experience herehere and here.

On Monday night/ Tuesday morning, a rare and wonderful thing happened: my sister Jerolyn and I were insomniating at the same time! People call us twins on account of how alike we look and how in sync we are  naye adulthood has so much drama that even when you live in the same house, you can find yourself drifting apart from your untwin. Finding her in the living room felt like a trip back to childhood! It also felt like a heart attack because who sits so silently in the dark?

During my deoless weeks, a lovely lady called Yvonne suggested that I burn matooke peels, add water to the ash and rub the paste onto my armpits before going to bed.

All ready to burn

All ready to burn

There’s not much to do at 3.30 am, so Jero and I decided to try this out. It seemed like a simple enough plan. We had eaten matooke for supper, so there was no shortage of peels. A few coals on the sigiri were still hot, so I attempted to bring them to life, for the peel roasting. 10 minutes and a face full of ash later, I suggested that we try the microwave.

The next 30 minutes can be summed up thus: At least we didn’t burn the house down.

After 25 minutes of micro-grilling, we crushed the now brittle peels and ended up with what you see below:

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You guys, matooke peel ash has such a gorgeous, intimate, velvety, coffee like smell. It is so rich, so dark, so wholesome.

I realize I may have just described my ideal mate.  If you are rich (talent counts), dark (um, yea) and wholesome (like butter), this is for you.

We also made some  ginger/aloe water to use in spicing our bath water. We added some of it to the ash and made a nice paste.

I could eat this stuff. The smell!

I could eat this stuff. Smells like many heavens

Unfortunately, ginger is such a bully. Its flavor was all fronting, trying to outshine the matooke peel. On application of the paste, we both experienced a strange tingling sensation (thanks to the ginger I bet). I’m going to use plain aloe water next time.

On Tuesday morning,  I “forgot” to use deodorant, and am happy to report that I only started smelling shady at around 5pm. Win!

Here’s to experiments, new discoveries and deep smelling substances.

:D

😀

P.s: Late last year, I submitted a story to the Writivism competition. It made the long list and has been published on Short Story Day Africa and Reader’s Cafe Africa. It’s such a wonderful high, getting published.

Check my story out you fab person, you.

Dare to Smell: Aloe Vera gel Saves the Day

Aloe Vera is incredible. It is self healing, can survive with little or no attention, is anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, great for skin, hair, genitals, you name it. For a while, I have been writing about the weeks during which I abandoned mainstream deodorant and went on a quest to find a natural substance that would do away with body odor.

 Find Part one here and Part two here.

When I first decided to put freshly harvest aloe gel under my armpits, I was just playing around. I didn’t expect it to work, but it did. It eliminated the stench-causing bacteria in my armpits for three days. But on the fourth day it failed.

My theory is this: Aloe vera stopped working because I had become distressed. I know this sounds a bit of, but I am just recounting what happened to me (with zero embellishments). A person to whom I’d been quite attached passed out of my life quite abruptly and immediately, I began to smell appalling. Stress makes you sweat more so that must have been a factor, but this wasn’t regular stress. I took to applying fresh aloe vera gel thrice a day but still, I smelt like a dead snake.  The smell of distress is like a moan from the very soul of your armpits.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I didn’t care. I mean, who worries about vubs when their hearts is bleeding?  After all, God didn’t create the nose with special instructions to smell only perfume.

I only snapped out of my funk after what I call the Kisaasi bus incident.  It was the end of a long day and as I walked to the place at Kamwokya stage where Kisaasi taxis congregate,  I made a short prayer that I would find a window seat. It had been a rough day, worse than usual and I smelt both sweaty and distressed.

Alas, there weren’t any empty window seats and so I had to settle for a middle one in the back row. To my right was a lovely looking girl and to my left was a nice enough guy. He made space for me, even smiled. Nobody smiles at a stinky person right? Wrong.

My neighbor on the right was having a fit. She began by pushing the window as wide open as it could go. She then held her tiny nose between her delicate fingers and winced. I looked at the guy on the left and he was having no reaction! I almost asked her if I smelt weird, but I knew the answer to that, so I kept mum.

Eventually, I became irritated with what I saw as a gross overreaction on her part. She was practically holding her breath. Do you know how long it takes to get to Kisaasi from Kamwokya? To have somebody risk death, just so that they don’t have to breath your stink in, that hurts. I felt she was being overtly mean.

Eventually, she moved out of the bus. There’s nothing like a beautiful girl reacting with horror to your presence to help you pick yourself up.

I didn’t start using anything different. Rather, I began to apply aloe vera even in the night before sleeping. Since the smell had been brought on my my distress, I decided to proactively deal with my feelings of loss, denial, anger and fear that all break ups come with. Sadness is no excuse to smell like a he-goat.

My armpits have healed over completely. They no longer look fried by chemicals and are absolutely flawless. An added bonus is that even when I forget to apply aloe, I smell like nothing. 

Recently, I went to Forever living and bought an aloe deodorant. I am OK with most of its ingredients although tricoslan has many weird reviews on the internet. Many days, I’m happy to go without. Occasionally, I go back to applying fresh gel, but  I’d really rather eat the aloe that surrender it to my pits.

So what do you think of my journey? Would you abandon mainstream deos for more natural alternatives?