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.

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Somebody Please Banish Me to Bule.

Bliss

Bliss

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

Raw Iguanas in my pizza

See for yourself.

I see raw iguanas. I could taste raw iguanas. I trust my senses.

Iguana would have gone right on being the place I head to for my lunch time/early afternoon drink (don’t judge me, judgey mc judgeyson) if I hadn’t had a meal there.

A friend and I were excited about the things we’d heard about their pizza and pork specifically. We’d both sampled the pork so chose to have a pizza (bacon, egg, mushroom, tomatoes) and a burger for lunch. Good things first. The pizza is huge. If you’re not particular about taste and only need filler for your tummy, your desires and expectations will be adequately fulfilled. The chips that came with the burger were beautiful. Crispy, moderately sized, dry and full of yum.

My grim experience with that pizza was due to three factors. I had to wait too long for it-we were done with my friend’s plate by the time it came, the waiter who brought it emerged from the door that leads to the downstairs toilet (really bad for the psyche of a patron) and it tasted whack. Not even the bacon could save it.

As for the burger, it didn’t taste bad exactly. It was just ugly. The patty is unusually large so it hangs over the lower bun like…jowls. Like labia that have lost their way. Like long armpits.

This is a style of presentation which you can’t begrudge an establishment but why did the mushrooms taste like milk? After scraping all the stuff between the bread and the patty, we were able to enjoy Enos’ burger but that felt wrong.

The rain caught us there, so we considered drowning the stuff we’d eaten in alcohol but then it stopped and our consciences returned.

Moral of the story: use Iguana for what it is originally for i.e. drinking and making merry. If you must eat, do the chips (and maybe pork).

Alternatively, the chef could switch it up. Pull his/ her socks up.

Boda men have the best stories

 I’ve had many experiences with boda boda men, the good far surpassing the bad in number. There’s the psychopath who tries to impress himself by flying over humps and the one who seems almost embarrassed to take money. There’s the big, dark one whom I used to be afraid of, who’s now my favorite because his fee is a constant 1500 from the stage to my house.

and den dis and den dat

 And then there’s Davis of Ntinda. I met Davis at 10pm just as I was about to board a Kyanja taxi. In the usual boda man fashion, he rode menacingly in my direction, swerved away at the last minute and then patted the seat behind him. “Silinji bitaano ku kisaasi” he said.

 Now if you live in Kyanja, you know that entering one of those taxis after 9 means sitting for at least an hour until it fills. I whipped out my negotiation skills and we agreed he’d drop me off near my home.

 When we started moving, he turned and said, “You mean you’re not a Muganda?”

Oh boy. I was not in the mood for this kind of talk. I knew what was coming, but because it was late and he didn’t seem threatening, I didn’t make him stop.

“No.” I said

 “Mbadde manyi when I saw you that you were a Muganda kubanga you are very beautiful.

The rolling of my eyes was audible.

“What are you? A mucholi?”

“Yes. I’m an Acholi.”

After a short pause, he said, “Sorry”.

Sorry? Did this man just sympathize with my not being a Muganda? Just as I was about to cuff the back of his head, he continued. “You know, Acholis are very tough. Me I fear those people.”

“You do? Well, I’m an Acholi from Kitgum. Kitgum Matidi. So ride faster.”

 And then he launched into one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard. It wasn’t so much the content as the delivery that had me falling off the boda with mirth. Davis is a very funny man. He said,

“One time, I was driving to Dubai, you know, the Sudanese-Ugandan border. And when I reached Gulu, it was very late. 3 am in the night. I went to a restaurant and asked a woman for food. Haa. You Acholis you’re very tough.

When I asked what food she had, she said fish. But when she was serving, I saw also beans. When I asked her why she hadn’t told me about the beans, she shouted: YOU ASKED FISH. I BROUGHT FISH! The woman even wanted to fight me!”

 Here the motorcycle wobbled a bit, so I told him to either ride well or shut up. He continued

 “I just ate, but I was annoyed. How can a woman want to fight with you? I decided to go to a bar. When I reached there, I saw four women dancing very much. I didn’t know if they were drunkards or what. After some time, they came near me so also me I danced ka little little. When things became hot, I decided to go away. Naye when I reached the car, they all ran out and started abusing me. Awuruwuruwuru! Then they entered my car by force. Hmm. People of that place are tough.”

By this time, I was in stitches and we were at my stop. I paid him, asked his name and said goodbye. Boda men have the best stories.

On self racism and fantastic comedians.

Recently, I was invited to the office of a company that required my writing skills. Over the phone, the manager sounded amiable and the work he wanted me to do, while boring, wasn’t difficult.  More accurately, this job was a piece of sponge cake and I had no reason to feel intimidated.

But when I walked into his office and noted he was Indian, my heart jumped into my mouth. This was annoying because my mouth only has space for teeth and not an entire heart. My flare of nervousness didn’t blow the job, but it left me puzzled.

5 weeks ago, an article titled Intellectual African scum went viral. Its gist was that we educated Africans are useless drunkards who spend all day chasing tail while people suffer in the villages and the west continues to leech our resources.  It inspired a series of reactions in me; from a mournful acceptance of my uselessness, to quiet indignation to, finally, a raging disgust at the writer’s condescending and un-researched sentiments. I’m still sad about the way so many people unthinkingly accepted the article’s lashing and even became abusive towards those who so much as questioned it crowing, “The white guy (article’s persona) is telling the truth! Don’t try to convince us otherwise!”

That madness is what birthed the term self-racism.

Complex: My generation was weaned on Cerelac and television, so it’s possible that a TV stereotype has been carried on to real life where they assume white= glamorous bringer of wisdom and light and black = porter/gangster/helpless/needy.

This may be the reason why so many Ugandans are openly deferential towards white people. Sure, we all react differently towards newness, but for the love of Nakibuule! It’s possible to celebrate differences without worshipping them.

Conditioning: Last week, I had to sternly stop my 7 year old sister from singing a slave song to soothe Daniella, our resident baby and overlord.  Making hoeing motions, she sang: slave slaveslave, in America! Working day, day and night, planting sugar, sugar and tea, when I goooo to America!

When I asked where she’d learnt it, she said, “Yiii they taught us that song P.1!” I was horrified. An inferiority complex is drummed into us from when we’re P.1 babies. Note that this song isn’t taught to children within the context of say, a history class.

Courtship standards: The average middle class Ugandan man wants a girl with an education, a ‘reasonable’ accent that he can show off to his friends and some financial prospects. Most foreigners will take one look at a girl, be charmed by her dark skin and call her exotic because of her mbogo filled English. By the time African boys stop judging prospective mates using standards gleaned from M-NET, they might find all the girls’ hearts boarding planes.

If you’re one of those who read Stiletto Point in the Discovery Magazine and then come here to like or comment or whatever, you ROCK. Also, you’ll notice that a rant on Mish Mash and it’s rude management has been omitted. This is not because I am all of a sudden OK with the way they treated Lindsey, a colleague of mine. It’s because Jane Bussmann is in town and she’s, for some reason decided to hold her show there. At Mish Mash.

For those of you who haven’t read her book Worst Date Ever (or How It Took a Comedy Writer to Expose Africa’s Secret War), find it. Find it now because she’s fucking hilarious. She’s going to be being awesome at Mish Mash on the 20th of April.

See? See? Even her pictures ooze funny-ness.

You people, come and we go. Buy a ticket early- 35,000 and come enjoy an evening in the company of this awesome comedy writer (South Park, Brass Eye, Smack the Pony)

A day in the life of a writer

Writing is easy peasy until you start to call yourself a writer, then it’s the most soul crushing, life sapping, mind bamboozling activity in the universe. Sure, there are warm, spurty feelings to be enjoyed after you finish a story, but mostly, it’s crap. Today, we take you into the comically sad but smug life of your average writer.

3.00am: I’m ejected from dreamland by Rihanna howling about love and hopeless places. I hate that song. I hit snooze.

3.10am: Ugggh. I don’t think I’m very talented at waking up. I hit snooze five more times

4.00am: I throw my phone under the bed so I can go back to sleep unmolested by that woman’s whining.

8.30am: I get up. Sure I’m late, but I’m not going to panic. I’m a ‘creative’, which my employers take to mean unstable, eccentric, lazy and brilliant. To get fired, I’d have to do some really scandalous stuff. Getting to work one hour late is nothing.

9.40am: I saunter into office and head straight for the kitchen. Coffee must be had. Peter’s fruits must be sampled. That guy eats too healthy anyway. Any healthier and he might start sweating fruit juice and shitting fruit salad. So really I’m doing the guy a favor

9.45am: My ears alert me of heavy breathing and snorting right outside the kitchen door. I hear somebody gurgling phlegm. It’s the boss and I think he’s smelt me in the building. Quickly, I arrange my face to resemble that of a sick bunny, slump my shoulders and splash tap water around my nose

9.46am: “Why you disgusting puddle of nothing. You unproductive sow! You heifer of unproductivity. You…you…why are you late?!”

9.47am: I say nothing. We’re both aware of the dynamic here. If he fires me, I’ll be broke for a while, sure, but he’ll have lost me. Where will he ever find such cheap cleverness again? So I saunter over to my desk and open multiple youtube videos.

9.49am: I creep back to the kitchen, fill my basin of a mug with coffee and proceed to wake up.

10.00am: Angst

11:00am: Disorder

12.00pm: Pain, suffering. A brief but violent episode of sobbing under the desk. I consider throwing myself down the three stairs that lead to the parking lot. I disregard this dumb thought. Why is writing so hahaharrrd? Waillll.

Fuck

12.30pm: I walk out. You’d say for lunch. I say in protest.

2.30pm: I return yelling “I can do this! I can do this!” and then recite a couple of positive affirmations

3.00pm: I read dampsquid.wordpress.com for inspiration and inform everybody on facebook and twitter how happy dampsquid is making me.

3.10pm: “Why have I not received any work from you yet? Do you think you’re here to play? This is not your father’s farm!”, yells the boss.

3.12pm: I write some brilliant stuff

3.14pm: I send this brilliant stuff.

3.15pm: I leave office. I’m done with my work, aren’t I?

4.00pm: I play video games/ read books/ drink stuff.

5.00pm: I sleep.

And then I do it again.

A pox on all DVOYS

I like to play with words. Smash them into each other. Subtract certain letters to create interesting sounds. Language is far too rich and life far too short for me to restrict my rich imagination to the couple of million words that England has deposited in my country. Take as my gift to you; Voncersation which defines a conversation between lovers in which one is punched in the voicebox as they tell the other that they’d like to sleep with other people.

One relevant to today’s story is dvoy (dee-vhoy), a combination of diva and boy to describe a male who through every failing in his personality is a very annoying, poncey and pissy human being. Dvoys sometimes shed their drama and grow into men, but this doesn’t happen often. Most times, these narcissistic zeros go about their lives spreading irritation and confusion among girls (mainly).Their very existences depend on whether or not they’re successful in luring unsuspecting people into their worlds which are teeming with existential crises.

Overwhelmingly irritating things that dvoys do.

Hey baibe: They incessantly, without any style whatsoever, proposition girls on whatsaap. Yea yea. I know. This is the era of the social network, people are getting laid more than ever on merit of cleverly worded messages and wordplay is the new foreplay; mbu, but that doesn’t make it acceptable, especially if the receiver of these messages is more irritated than stimulated.

Fits: In an admirable show of unpredictability, they throw fits at moments when you could’ve sworn by your grandmother that everything was hunky dory. They’ll blame the people around them (in self-righteous falsettos) for the missing of a call, for the weather, for the crying of a random baby in a taxi. For anything really. As long as they’re whining and making everybody uncomfortable, they’re happy.

ngwaa this ngwaa that, ugh

I’m hot: They constantly remind you, in ways both subtle and unsubtle that their eyes are wandering and though you’re enjoying their attentions for the moment, they can switch to some other girl, exactly as if you’re a TV channel. Their tastes in music haven’t evolved beyond that wiggle wiggle song. They know how much you want them, yo, and won’t ever stop talking about it.

I’m special: These soiled pampers believe they are very different and very extraordinary and very unique and very everything. The word very features a lot in their vocabulary. They expect you to be grateful for their attentions, so the moment you let lose an opinion or disagree with one of their dumb ideas, they lose their minds. Their tantrums are powerful enough to frighten little animals into comas.

One of the most annoying phrases they use a lot is, “I know how wild and crazy you are for me”. Barf. This is so annoying that you may find yourself making money from the whole ugly business by writing about it.

By virtue of free will, everybody can behave in whichever way they want to, but please, dvoys, cease and desist from exploding your bad personality all over this girl’s space.

Yes

Yea. Screw teeth.

There are teeth that are strong of nature and dazzling white of color. They are well spaced of look and good mannered of personality. They are tiny of size and wholesome of being. They rock and are category A.

There are also teeth that are shaky of nature and beige of color. They are scattered of look and sinister of personality. They are erratic of size and seem to be in a perpetual state of contrition for existing in the first place. They suck and are category B.

The category you’ll carry in your mouth for your entire duration of life is determined by two factors. Number one is your momma. If your momma’s genes are good and she passes them on to you, you can achieve category A teeth. If her genes are good but susceptible to intimidation, if they’re wimps, then they’ll defer to your father’s horrible ones and you will be stuck with category B.

Factor number two is your pocket. If you have money, you can afford to savor this experience that is the ownership of teeth by routinely studding, coloring, removing, tattooing, replacing, resizing and whitening them.

But if you’re so unfortunate as to have bad genes and a bad wallet, a sweet tooth and a wild space in your past in which you shunned toothbrushes, your teeth are going to rot in various ways, one by one, in no particular order. They are going to hurt in every damn way under the sun. Dull thud, sharp thud, tingle, burn, dull tingle, sharp kick! It is well within possibility that you’ll find yourself milking the whole dark business for a story at 1 am in the morning.

The decision to visit a dentist is not easily arrived at. In fact, most people do everything to end the pain for the moment and then go about life like they have category A teeth. Other even dumber people medicate themselves, not with pain killers and local home remedies but with the internet.

Shaking with pain, they’ll limp to their father’s room and beg for the modem, fix it into their fabulous new laptop and proceed to worsen their situation by trying out all the remedies that the internet suggests, even the really dumb ones like: ‘bang on the offending tooth with a spoon’ and ‘use a wooden fork to uproot it’. Some like ‘put a clove of garlic in a saline solution and stick it next to the hurting tooth’ and ‘apply ground cloves to the hurting area’ actually work but the best I’ve seen so far is ‘go see a dentist’.

When the devils of rot in your mouth stop deferring to home remedies and living starts to seem more like a horrible chore instead of the wonderful! Wonderful! experience it’s supposed to be, the time to make a decision has arrived.

The first thing you feel is excitement. “No work tomorrow!!” a voice in your head squeals.   You start to practice your sick voice for when you’ll have to call your boss in the morning because while, like other mortals, you can fall sick, your voice is not one of those that can elicit coos of sympathy. You always sound robust with health.

So you practice your sick voice and try not to be too excited about a day off, because dammit it, you’re only going to see the dentist and he’s not even cute.

On Writing, Azania, Baingana and dumb rules.

Many people become writers because they have a burning desire to tell their stories, get famous and maybe even rich off them. I do it because it’s the only profession where you have the world’s permission to walk around drinking coffee, kicking things and behaving like a self-important clown; and also for the invites to fancy breakfasts, yoga retreats and other pleasant get-togethers.

Last month, I was invited to UCU for the Azania Experience, a monthly gathering of poets, writers and other artsy types. After making it to the gate of the university without dying of Visitor’s Anxiety (a madness which convinces you that you are hopelessly lost and are never going to make it to your destination on account of you not remembering where to tell the taxi conductor to maasawo), I got shouted at by a stranger in uniform to GO and change my clothes! This confused me because I was under the impression that I looked very nice. Turns out, there are certain fashions that UCU’s women are not allowed to rock. Like jeans.

How comes UCU’s men get to wear trousers? Has management not considered the dirty way in which their belt buckles draw attention to their groins? The only way we can save Uganda’s morals from slithering to hell is by making everybody wear kanzus, not so? No, I didn’t rush to a roadside boutique for more homely clothes. I smiled my way in.

One of the things I really enjoyed about being Azania’s special guest was seeing my name on a poster that wasn’t a sweeping roster or a list of debt defaulters. My boss is thankful to the organizers for making me feel special as my productivity has shot through the roof. He encourages everybody in the world to show me a lot of love.

Because I was under such pressure to give writing advice, I may have spewed a lot of fey gibberish.

To make up for that, here is some really good advice from Doreen Baingana (author of Tropical Fish and awesome woman) that I scribbled down at a Femrite session where she was reading from her book and mingling with her groupies.

She said, “Writing doesn’t get easier”. So get used to however hard you’re having it now. Nothing apart from the volume with which you voice your complaints is ever going to change.

She said, “Write whatever wants to come out. Silence the editor”. Learn to ignore that part of your mind that laughs at and insults you by turns. Don’t become fearful and inhibited as a result of people’s opinions. Use your head.

She said, “The biggest challenge for writers is that nobody is crying for your work.” So whether or not you give it your stories, the world will continue to revolve in that irritatingly slow way that makes it hard for me to use Google Earth.

Baingana is motivated by deadlines. I am motivated by the need not to be the kind of nasty, kennel bred heifer that hands work in late.

My mojo nearly exploded from the stimulation of being in the same space as Doreen that day and I felt ready to machine gun my stories at the world; stories in which I’d turn my best and worst moments into entertainment for strangers.

I hope that feeling will return soon.