A good Ugandan is a dead one, apparently/ We goooo!

In this society, we openly discuss other people in two instances; when we’re gossiping about them and when they’re dead. It is as rare as chicken teeth that you’ll find two or three gathered, extolling the virtues or achievements of somebody else when they have nothing to gain from doing so. It is only when our propensity to envy is numbed by their deaths that we start to sing about other peoples’ good deeds. Phrases like ‘true Ugandan’ and ‘builder of the nation’ float from mouth to mouth like dust bunnies.

I know some great people doing phenomenal things, people who I’d like to be when I finally grow up and I’m going to start writing about them here. One of them is a fellow called Ganzi. He’s not dead and is doing something that I very much admire.

When was it that we were taught about the ‘tourist sites’ of Uganda? Primary three, right? And how long did you retain that information? I’m willing to bet that you forgot all of it as soon as you’d finished writing that SST paper. Ganzi is a dreamer, pushing paper in a corporate office to make ends meet, like so many other young people. Unlike the rest of us, he’s a doer as well.

A product of middle class upbringing, he’d been conditioned to believe that tourists were the white ladies and dudes in the short shorts and sapatus, traversing the streets of Kampala with large cameras dangling from their necks. He didn’t know many Ugandans who traveled around the country for anything other than work and when he looked into what exactly was drawing people into Uganda,it didn’t take him long to assemble a list of places he’d visit if he could afford to do so.

He conceived of a dream to start and run the biggest travel agency in Kampala, one whose emphasis would be on getting as many young Ugandans to explore Uganda as he could. But he had (and still has) a problem.
When Ugandans talk about going on holiday or honeymoon, they speak dreamily of Mombasa( the poor ones) or places like The Maldives (the rich ones). There is little or no talk of Jinja or Moyo or Mbale or Mpigi. And this is not because these places are boring or ugly. Laziness and bias has closed our eyes to the loveliness around us.

I’m here pointing fingers at you, but I too am one of the people who only pose on social media when I’m travelling out of the country. I even write long, glowing articles about the trips and badger editors into printing them. Terrible.
Can we please take a moment to appreciate just how insanely rich and beautiful this country is? And can we, together, make the decision to pull some of our monies out of bars and boutiques and inject them into our tourism industry?

Spend some of your annual leave jumping off a ledge


or watching gorillas mate

Or just hugging


or staring slack jawed at the view from one of the mountains around lake Bunyonyi.

bunyonyi beauty

Go boil your breakfast in a hot spring

boil eggs

and spend the night under Gulu’s night sky.

Way better than this

Way better than this

Do something constructive with your life and money. Find people like Ganzi and pay them to organize trips for you.

Ganzi is a good Ugandan and a builder of the nation. What are you?

P.s: He’s the man behind this TRIP. Come and we go.

120 million. I need 120 million now.

I’m slowly drowning in my sadness as I write this. Father has just lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and it’s emitting terrible smoke thanks to the leafy mango tree branch that he’s just thrown over it. I feel exactly like that smoke; I feel gray and aimless.

There is a medium-sized house right next to ours. Despite the unfortunate shade of orange that covers most of it’s surface, it’s pretty and has a compound that’s perfectly sized for the kinds of herb gardens I like to maintain. Using charcoal, somebody has added the words FOR SALE and a couple of phone numbers to it’s décor.

As my aunt and I were passing by it earlier, she brought my attention to the fact that nobody lived there anymore.  I sleep next door everyday! How could I not have realized that the neighbors had moved?

She went on to tell me she’d heard the house is going for 120 million. Oh boy. The excitement I felt was insane. My mind went into overdrive. What can I sell? Who can I ask? What can I sell? Who can I ask? Until it occurred to me that I have nothing in my life that I can sell and nobody that I can ask for one hundred and twenty million shillings. What a shame.

That’s pocket change for some people, you know. There are Ugandans who go into 21 billion worth of debt and get covered for by our government. How rich do you have to be in the first place to accumulate such debt? Probably rich enough to lend a broke writer 120 million.

I escorted my aunt to the road, ran all the way home and breathlessly informed my people of what was going on outside the gate. With 120 million shillings, I could own a house right next to ours! Perhaps I’d move in there or maybe rent it out at an exorbitant price . I could even make my friends pay me to hold house parties in it. Father looked at me in the same way you would a kitten climbing a tree and said, “Mildred, that house is 40 million, tops. If Housing finance got a serious buyer, it would probably go for a bit less.”

That is the moment I slumped down next to the smoky fire and began to type this. People, I have no where to find 40 million (which is 80 million less than 120 million shillings) and have nothing but bad ideas.

The first is to write and here’s why it wouldn’t work: writers in Uganda get paid really badly. My only hope would be to win something huge like the Caine prize of African writing and whereas that is achievable, it’s hard.

Another idea is prostitution which would probably work if I didn’t have such strong inhibitions. I take this opportunity to thank my parents for doing a good job.

The third idea is to start a school. The only problem here is that I dislike long contact with all strangers between the ages of 11 and 19 because they are full of hormones and are therefore unpredictable.

The fourth Idea is to stop thinking so hard about this and start a donation drive here where anybody who gives me over ten million shillings gets a free biography. I have no idea how to write those, but Google is full of how-tos.

P.s My kidneys are in great working condition.