a new year’s resolution guide – or you could just be good all the time

IN two days’ time the less informed will be “making New Year’s Resolutions”, which for most people is just the start of an annual process of breaking promises that one did not even need to make in the first place.

I would never discourage anyone from starting off, since even the week or so that most people spend adhering to their stated promise is helpfully better than nothing.

But by now, we should be fast forwarding past light resolutions. Quitting smoking and heavy drinking, going to the gym, eating healthy and other such are ranked low in necessity – and thankfully, IQ tests and work appraisals don’t look into such things.

They mostly fail, anyway, because there is rarely a guide that goes along with them; I’ve made many a resolution in the past following the usual procedure that involves being in a heightened state of emotions and reciting the so-called resolution to a loved one.

I eventually learnt that they are easier to keep if they are planned and follow some sort of guide, rather than made verbally and backed by memory. Most resolutions evaporate with the New Year’s hangover, as do the witnesses who should monitor implementation. 

We need heavy yet simple resolutions, well-planned and documented; resolutions based on serious premise involving a behaviour change that will make an impact on our own lives and those of the people we come into contact with – called ‘stakeholders’, in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility. 

Wish-list resolutions about corruption would be good, but are irrational because the corrupt have a material objective that can’t just be wished away – they want to eat good food, drive fast or big or new cars, live in big houses… They can’t go without these things in exchange for integrity or the respect of other respectable people in society.

We would also be remiss in hoping that civil servants would make resolutions to not squander public resources or prioritise spending better so that ordinary Ugandans of humble means can have their lives uplifted or improved; it’s much easier for them to use these resources for self-aggrandisement.

Let’s go for resolutions that anyone can meet simply and evidently.

The best are contained in a simple but powerful text – ‘Desiderata’, by United States poet Max Ehrmann. Read it and follow:

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

That’s all – Strive to be happy, in this New Year.

let’s join hands and go for the architect who’s behind these upcountry hotels

I wish this were my last upcountry hotel bathroom…this time in Kabale

I want us to join hands as a nation and get a hold of the architect who has convinced hotel owners in Uganda that it makes sense to have the shower and toilet constructed this way. Once we have him or her in our grasp we will take a decision on the next course of action – but it should be decisive.

This man or woman is out there, and judging from the age of most of these hotels, should be about fifty or sixty years old now. This person is also influential and must be considered warped in perspective, and dangerous to the general comfort of all humans.

This is a matter of hygiene, aesthetics, self-esteem and basic decency.

No other country in the world has provided for this phenomenon within brick, cement and plaster. The juxtaposition of toilet and shower made sense in the outdoors, back when one only had to identify an empty space within which to place a bucket and water.

Now, in 2014: it is stupid.

You cannot – must not – place a shower head right above a toilet seat.

No, wait – let’s start with the toilet itself.

First of all, squat toilets should not be provided for in any place where we are paying any amount of money for accommodations that is more than the price of five roadside chapatis. There can be no negotiation around this point.

Secondly, when the right toilet fixture is provided for, it must not be elevated above floor level. We, the paying customers, housekeeping staff or even casual observers to whom this is all quite entertaining, do not agree with this set-up. I have asked many people and we are of one voice.

I repeat: the toilet must not be elevated. There is no point in doing this. Nobody likes to sit on a toilet and balance off it using their haunches. We want to use the toilet with our feet placed firmly on the ground – not for traction to aid the process, even though that may sometimes be necessary, but because the distraction of one’s feet dangling a couple of metres off the ground is distressing enough to delay the biological process that brings us to these places. That’s why there has been no mention anywhere in history of human beings climbing trees as part of their toilet!

This also applies to the pit latrines that require the user to climb up a flight of stairs<— but that’s another rant altogether, aiming at the abolition of pit latrines altogether.

Third, the architect responsible for our hotel discomforts neglected to level the floors in such a manner that the water flow from the shower goes to the corner with drainage. It is hard to understand why this is not obvious.

The toilet-shower is like a pot-hole after it has rained, complete with bits of grit and gravel. This is an upcountry hotel, so even walking from the car to the reception gets you enough dirt underfoot to muddy the toilet-shower within two steps inside – which is normally the breadth of the room itself.

And of course, the hotel management will not provide bathroom slippers. When they do, the damn things are made of hard rubber and have bits cut out of them to discourage theft, but which have your feet making contact with the floor.

Surely, you’d think, the architect could have made the shower floor recess a little below the floor of the rest of the room? No chance!

Of course we have to be thankful that the tilt of the floor is not in the direction of the bedroom chamber – because that sometimes happens, too!

Of course there are no bath mats! What are we talking about here? Focus!

Yes – I have slept in a room where after taking a bath-shower I dried myself off and gave the floor a few minutes to drain of all water before crossing back to the bedroom part of the room. I emerged to find that the water was actually draining INTO the bedroom part instead of the drainage hole!

My enraged bellowing got hotel staff into the room well enough, but they did not understand the problem because “but the bed is not wet” and therefore I could still use it to sleep on.

Fourth, the positioning of that shower head over the toilet. It’s the architect to blame, hands down.

Why? Seriously, biki ebyo?

This has to STOP! It is 2014! We cannot be bathing indoors as if it is 500BC outdoors!!!!!

We have all been in that position: In the middle of toilet activity, feet dangling off the ground and all concentration placed on doing the deed against all odds. All of a sudden, totally unexpected, the shower above you releases a few drops of icy cold water right onto your nape!

Because the damn plumbing fixtures are never tight! And the shower units themselves never work properly. <—this is also another rant altogether, in which we will hope for the execution of all plumbers and for the bill to be directed to their parents.

When you are ready to actually take your shower, many times you discover that because of the positioning, the shower can only be bad by straddling the toilet seat.

And this is ANOTHER reason for the damn toilet NOT to be constructed on an elevated height.

So you’re forced to use the basin – provided for this very reason – to ‘fetch’ water and then ensconce yourself in the corner next to the toilet. The use of the basin leads to an inevitable amount of splashing, unless one is of such a small size that the basin can be turned into a bath.

Being of such a small size is essential for one to comfortably make use of these upcountry toilet-showers – and few of us are actually that size. My children, for instance, tell me that they have no problem using the shower because they place the basin next to the toilet, stand inside of it, and then use the shower overhead – but that’s because they are standing at one end of the basin, not in its centre. I CANNOT fit there. I CAN stand inside a basin with both feet, but once I have done that all movement has ended.

And the reason I can only use one corner of the toilet-shower room is another installation of our architects that I cannot justify and yet is somewhat necessary – the wash basin a.k.a. sink.

The sink that is affixed to the wall at an angle that ensures water pours off its sides onto the floor. The sink with a tap that is set so close to the wall that you can only wash a few fingertips at a time, and yet has such strong water pressure that it shoots out and wets your trouser front the moment you place finger on it.

It is always positioned in such a way that you have suck in your stomach to go in between it and the toilet to get to that corner of the toilet-shower room from which you proceed to splatter everything with your ablutions.

That corner is also where the broken toilet paper holder is, and where the hotel housekeeping staff place the toilet paper roll after cleaning up.

You will only discover this at a critical hour of the morning. And no amount of complaining is logical because even if the toilet paper were placed on the cover of the non-functioning toilet cistern, it would have gotten wet while you showered.


And by the way, I have considered that maybe the shower head is positioned above the toilet because the toilet cistern doesn’t work, so your shower automatically flushes the loo but we should not allow this to continue!!!

We also should force all hotel owners to take a shower in their own bathroom-toilets early in the morning every day for a week. When they realise the discomfort involved in approaching that cubicle first thing in the morning after having used it the night before, the error of their construction will become clear. Then we should make them share the room with their plumbers so they understand what it’s like to have two people use the same toilet-shower for any single activity within any twelve-hour window of any given day.

That’s not punishment, it’s only a preamble. Punishment is if they are made to pay accommodation fees at hotel rates. Tusaba gavumenti etuyambe!

the holidays are here, it’s time to work

FOLLOWING on the lead by the government last week, I’m off on my retreat right now and will be practising what I preach by holding some strategic sessions with key members of my own little Cabinet.

No, wait! The analogy of family and government ends there. You see, that path is fraught with ankle-twisting gnarls over what the wife’s position would be to your Presidency, or whether the children are Cabinet members or expectant citizens saying “Tusaba gavumenti etuyambe.”

I am going to be presenting some performance accountability to my people this week, and setting up goals for 2014 in a process that will, as threatened recently, certainly involve the aspirations of the common folk in my little republic.

We are seriously going to discuss our goals and targets, and agree measures of performance. We are also going to assess deeply what went wrong this year, what went well, and what lessons we learnt.

It’s going to be an entertaining process because of the average age of our group – which is about twenty (20), but that is deceptive because we range from the ages of four (4) to forty (40) and we are only five (5) in number.

Our interests, goals and aspirations are therefore wide-ranging and diverse, but we will seek common objectives and find a way of working together through 2014 to achieve them.

We are not going to assess performance using the usual means.

Allow me to illustrate using a joke stolen from one Sandor Walusimbi (who ‘borrowed’ it from elsewhere):

A parent collected his child from school at end-term and when they had settled in their taxi, quickly read through the report and started berating the little chap over his poor performance.

After some silence, the child also piped up with, “So Daddy, talking about performance, did you see all those parents who collected their children in private cars…?”

Do not laugh – none of these are good examples for children or parents to follow, because material possessions are NOT a measure of performance for parents, and neither is the child’s position in class or grades in examinations.

Our measures of performance will focus on the long-term, character-building and integrity. I caught a good sign last week, for instance, when going over their lists to Santa Claus.

This is a television-inspired bit of culture that I have found no problem accepting since I myself grew up doing the same – the children draft lists of the things they want Santa Claus to deliver to them over Christmas, and are made to understand that provided they behave well during the year, they will be guaranteed their wishes.

Besides the toys and nice-to-haves on their lists, I was happy to find entries such as “God’s blessings” (number three on one list) and “Blessings for the family” (number four), on a list of more than fifty items! That, in my obviously biased assessment, gives the parents a good rating.

I don’t know exactly what the kids will use to assess our performance, but I sincerely hope they consider the amount of time we spend with them at home in the mornings and evenings; and the quality of that time; as well as the impact it has made on their lives.

I also hope they do look at the material gains they have made and assess them against the millions of others who have much, much less, so that they appreciate how hard we’ve worked to put them together.

Over the years, luckily, they have learnt how to gather up toys and gifts for charities such as orphanages and other vulnerable children – and the house cleaning exercise at the start of 2014 will once again lead to these charities benefitting from unused (not broken rubbish) toys and other materials. 

There’s a lot more to this, and we will be working it out as we go along – and the keyword here is ‘working’.

In fact, because of the importance of this segment of the year, our catchphrase for this period is ‘The holidays are here, it’s time to Work’. 

But that’s internal communication. 

To everybody else we say: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

let’s all go on a national retreat these next two weeks

“Why can’t we take on one task and finish it? We are here just talking here, barking there and finishing nothing.”

That’s the ultimate Quote of the Year for me.

I bet you can’t guess who said it but let’s see what options could come to mind:

Your workmates at the office, on any given day? Very likely candidates, but not in this case. 

Your plumber, perhaps at an annual meeting of all the plumbers you have used in the last fifteen years? Very, very, very likely, but again not in this case.

Your carpenter, same as the plumbers above?

Continue guessing:

“Why can’t we take on one task and finish it? We are here just talking here, barking there and finishing nothing.”

According to The New Vision (my only source because, sadly, I was not present when it was said) these are the words of President Yoweri Museveni at the start of a Cabinet retreat this week.

The old Cabinet list

I read the paragraph five times and found my hope in the future of Uganda was bolstered. First of all, the fact that the Cabinet had gone on a strategic retreat, with a Professor of Management (a non-Cabinet member) and the head of the National Planning Authority, was exciting. This normally happens at large corporates whose success we see in their profitability, ubiquity and other matrices that are a result of efficiency.

Then to hear that their Chief Executive was addressing them with tough words so squarely and openly that the journalists in the room could relay it to us, the shareholders: fantastic! In fact, we don’t even hear such news from big-name corporates, even at Annual General Meetings; which means that our Cabinet is way ahead of them and will most likely be more efficient at delivering public services than telecoms and breweries are at supplying retail markets!

Management consultants always tell you stuff like, ‘Acknowledging a problem is the first step in solving it.’

And the fact that this was said by no less than the President of the entire country himself means that we ALL should sit up and take notice.

Now, normally the process here involves the top executives holding their strategic retreat and setting the ‘global’ goals, objectives and targets for the year, together with over-arching strategies to achieve them. Then, they return to their departments and hold departmental meetings and brainstormers to share the strategies and targets. These are cascaded downwards until even the lowest cadre staff are aligned towards the main objectives, and even contribute to the methods and tactics to be followed in achieving them.

The Cabinet retreat ended on Wednesday, so they will be cascading down their goals, objectives and targets until you and I are brought on board to deliver our bit for the country. Hopefully this will happen very soon so that in these two weeks ahead we ALL go on a retreat to assess what we’ve done in 2013 and what we are going to do in 2014 to make Uganda a success.

We certainly can’t afford to just go on holiday and make merry.

And mind you, this is serious and the government also seems to be serious about it. 

In fact, the very day that the President delivered the phrase above, the Prime Minister was quoted at an event saying, “The greatest problem we face in the Uganda public sector, especially the traditional public sector, is complacency. Our service delivery apparatus is largely outdated, yet we tend to do nothing about it. We wait to be ‘caught off guard’ rather than be pro-active.”

And this is true not just about the public sector – even the private sector is largely like this. I run a couple of small companies and find I face the very same problem.

As I told one of my disgruntled clients last week who was protesting that of all people I shouldn’t be inefficient, I can never be efficient provided anyone I work with is inefficient.

Because the whole is only as good as the sum of its parts, we can’t go on complaining about the government or our leaders and sit back complacently waiting for them to change for the better – we’re part of the system.

And so I say again, now that they’ve finished the first stage of their strategising, let’s follow in the footsteps of our leaders these next two weeks and on top of echoing the salutation Merry Christmas, say: ‘For God and My Country.’

the headaches caused by bad Ugandans

Today I came close to shedding tears.

I also experienced what I feared was a migraine.

All because of a concentrated set of bad Ugandans.

And I yearn for a day when I meet ONLY good Ugandans.

We come in many varieties, and I have trained myself to differentiate between good and bad Ugandans because I believe that both types exist. I used to say I had faith but there’s this Sunday School song that’s still in my head which makes “faith” the wrong word for my belief that good Ugandans exist: (sing with me)

“Faith is believing,

In what I cannot see.” 

I see good Ugandans on many an occasion, but today isn’t about them.

First, the Mechanic:

Go with me over my day, starting by driving out in the heavy downpour at 0645hrs and two minutes later fumbling mid-drive to whip off my jacket and drape it quickly and widely over my dashboard.

My car is a Land Rover Discovery 2 (2001) with about 87,000km on the clock and has been to the garage a number of times, no thanks to some quack mechanic called George Nigo who almost killed it as he has done many a Land Rover. He is a classic bad Ugandan, and still owes me Ushs3million for a fictitious gear box job, two months of my life and lots of trust in other Ugandan mechanics. He is located in Kigowa, Ntinda, so avoid him like a trader’s riot when you need a mechanic.

Anyway, this car now goes to Khalifani, on Sixth Street, and he has frequently done a good job with it…until last week when I sent it in again over a month-long problem and in passing asked that his chaps fix the unresponsive sunroof switch.

I got the car back on Friday morning and three hours later, after it had rained a little bit, unhappily discovered that the sun-roof area had developed a leak. But the switch was working again, so perhaps they believed they had fixed that.

When Khalifani responded over the phone with, “Ooooh-oooh. Nkitegedde.” (‘Aaaaah, I get it!’) I was a bit disturbed that he wasn’t surprised/astonished/shocked/horrified/alarmed <—any of these would have mollified me a little bit, and I realise now that I only wanted a bit of sympathy or an apology to start with before he fixed the problem.

I didn’t believe his offer of fixing the problem within ten minutes, having gone a couple of months with him spending hours and days at a time to fix stuff from brakes to gear box adjustments, and put it off till I had the time to spare.

Today, I found that I was driving a Bwaise house. I needed to open an umbrella inside my car. I should have left home in swimming trunks. My sun roof was imitating a sieve (akasengejja).

This is when the headache began – at about 0648hrs.

After a meeting, at about 1000hrs, I took the car to Khalifani’s garage and he apologetically took it after explaining that the fellow who had ‘fixed’ the sunroof switch had actually been outsourced. How long would the job take?

“One hour,” his mechanic, Wasswa, said.

“That means two hours,” I responded, trying for sarcasm, “I know you guys. Let’s make it two hours, right?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Wasswa responded without a hint that he had gotten the sentiments behind my reckoning, which intensified my headache.

Twenty minutes later, a niggling feeling that had been with me from the time I had come awake turned into a solid realisation that made me sit up so fast that my partner was a bit startled.

Enter the Plumber:

When I moved into this house, a self-build, money and scheduling were both tight and I argued eloquently that being in upmarket Kampala meant that we shouldn’t have to install massive water tanks to store water. We even have National Water reservoir tanks or something just above our house on the hill, so water supply really shouldn’t be a worry, I said forcefully. This is called, in Luganda, lugezi-gezi; which in English is known as being a smart-alec, which nobody likes and many times makes them set you up for some pain so that they can employ phrases such as “I told you so!”.

My contractor was fed up of my using logic and reasoning over such matters and left me to my devices, installing the 1,000 litre water tank I budgeted for in order to stretch our meagre resources enough to make the house speedily habitable.

Our suffering has been documented even here, and has been frequent because there is no shortage of dimwits forgetting to turn taps off while washing cars or clothes and so on and so forth.

Anyway, a year ago I got my then-new and efficient plumber, Sula, to calculate the costs of increasing my water storage capacity and I saved up money and kept the plans and estimates till I had him refresh them a month ago in readiness for work to commence. On Tuesday this week (the day before yesterday), I gave him the 50% deposit to enable him to buy up the essential materials and mobilise himself, and we agreed that we’d be meeting Wednesday morning (yesterday) at 0900hrs.

The timing was crucial: a) his work needed to be complete early enough for the tank to fill up and restore the water supply to the house, b) the satellite TV dishes (two) are nearby and needed to be moved and restored after the work, which is a ‘specialised’ process that involves one TV guy standing at the dish and moving it to and fro while another guy stands at the window in the sitting room shouting out how good the signal is, and c) the internet radio ‘dishes’ or whatever they are called, also had to be moved.

This needed coordination, and he claimed he understood the importance of this, so we agreed a time table:

0900hrs – Sula arrives and commences work, taking down the dishes and existing water tank stand

1300hrs – Sula’s almost-complete work can now accommodate the re-installation of the TV and Internet equipment

1500hrs – all is finalised and the tanks begin filling up, while the TV and internet guys re-install the equipment

1800hrs – water tanks to main house full of water or filled up sufficiently for normal operations to resume; and both satellite TV and internet access are restored

We agreed – Sula and I – after discussing the processes. Again, this was on Tuesday at 1530hrs when I paid him the deposit, and later that evening by phone.

On Wednesday morning it rained. Yeah – Sula didn’t show up. He did, however, call me at about 1300hrs to say that our plan wasn’t going to materialise. At that point, it was obvious that he wasn’t going to arrive four hours earlier etcetera etcetera. I took it all with good grace, since a University-degree Accountant with whom I had agreed a meeting for 0900hrs at the office had emailed me at 1045hrs to say that it wasn’t going to happen because of the rain, and Sula could hardly be expected to do better.

(I emailed the Accountant back telling him to buy an umbrella, and have since decided that I might buy him one instead and then deduct it from his fees).

We agreed, Sula and I, that he would instead be on site today at 0900hrs to do yesterday’s work that we began planning a year ago. That’s why at about 1030hrs I sat up quickly and startled my partner.

Today was crucial for the completion of this work: a) the kids begin their holidays Friday, and since they don’t watch TV during school, it is only fair that they get to watch a bit of it during their holidays b) tomorrow is Friday and if I didn’t have the internet guys begin trying to fix things early enough on Thursday, it would be Saturday and Sunday both without internet access c) I can’t stand another weekend night without water flowing in the taps, and I know for sure that Saturday evening will be without, as has happened for two years since we moved in.

And there was the delicate matter of timing my phone calls to the internet and TV dish installation guys; call them too early and they will be strangely efficient and then leave because you are not ready – afterwhich they will be justified in being inefficient because “the other time we came and you were not ready!”  

Sula apologised for the rain and swore that he would show up and do the work.

What about the timing for the TV and internet guys?

In Luganda, he confidently told me that he would take down the equipment without a problem and the guys would be free to come and put it back on Friday morning.

I would essentially be fine.

You can imagine my angry response, and he readily agreed with me and changed timelines so that we were now only two hours off. 

Then there was the TV Guy: 

Quickly, I called up the TV guy, Emma, who confirmed that he would be there at 1500hrs to re-install the TV dishes and confirmed that the kids would be watching TV uninterrupted, no problem, in the evening. I didn’t think it necessary to remind him of the last time he had done work till 2200hrs, and the demeanour of the entire household by the time he was done.

The Mechanics again:

My headache got worse at 1330hrs when I looked up to realise that the two hours I had estimated for the car to get back to me had now become three-and-a-half hours and the mechanics weren’t calling me. If I had believed their ten-minute promise to fix this same problem a week ago, how agitated would I have been then?

When he eventually called me at 1620hrs to deliver the car, I couldn’t help but admire the confidence with which Wasswa handed me the car keys – very much the same amount that Sula had used to tell me that the TV and internet dishes would be re-installed the next day, and Emma had said that we would be watching TV this evening.

Back to the Plumber:

Speaking of Sula, as I got into the car I wondered why nobody had called me to confirm that there was progress on the water tank, TV and internet fronts, and drove home meekly hoping to find everything either finished and in order or untouched and in order.

Of course none of these hopes was met. Sula and his team were welding a metallic tank stand together under the shade of the disconnected 1,000-litre tank, and greeted me heartily. There was no TV guy in sight, and when I enquired after him was told that he hadn’t shown up at all.

“But,” I asked, in between flashes of welding light, “should he still be coming over now, since you are still welding the new Stand and the old one is still up there…?”

“Yeah,” Sula said, “We’re almost finished with this one.”

And that’s when I studied the situation a little closer and noticed that the water tank stand they were welding together was quite the same size as the water tank stand already in place holding up the 1,000-litre tank.

Eyesight can be tricky sometimes, so I was polite.

“Sula,” I asked, “how is this going to work?”

“What?” he asked.

“The water tanks – how are you going to connect them?”

“Using the pipes.”

The conversation was in Luganda, and very level. He didn’t seem to be doing sarcasm or snarky.

“Okay,” I said, since this was technically correct, though also too obvious to have warranted discussion, and tried another approach:

“So are both Stands going to go up there or…what? How is this going to work?”

He looked up at the existing stand and together we contemplated the issue. My 1,000-litre tank is on a metallic water tank stand that sits on a cement slab built over the small guest house building. Most of the other space is occupied by the satellite dishes.

Without question, there was only space for one water tank stand at a time, unless one stacked another on top of it – which didn’t seem to be Sula’s plan as both Stands were basically the same size.

“This Stand,” he said, a little slowly as I was having difficulty absorbing the science of it, “is going to go up there.” And he pointed where the old one was.

“And where will that one go?” I asked, also slowly and pointing at the old one.

“The Stand?”

“And the water tank.”

“We will remove it.”

Again, technically correct and quite obvious.

“Sula,” I asked, a little louder, “what size is the new water tank…and where is it anyway?”

“Five metres.”


“Yes, round…”

“I mean the capacity! How big is the water tank? How much water does it hold compared to this one of 1,000 litres?!”

“It is 2,500-litres.”

“Good. Where is it?”

“It is not here.” The trend of technically correct and obvious responses was exacerbating my headache.

“So where are you going to put it and how is this going to work?”

“We are going to put it up there.”

“And the old one? That one. The 1,000 litre one – where will it go?”

“We will remove it.” 

I looked away a little bit to release some pressure off the brain, and noticed that all work had ceased and his assistants were watching this conversation as if we were Agnesssss Nandutu with Anne Kansiime in Agataliiko Nfuufu.

“You guys, please continue welding and finish your work,” I pleaded, and asked Sula to outline his full plan.

In brief, he was replacing my 1,000 litre tank with a 2,500 litre one – not adding an extra 2,500 litres to my pathetic 1,000 litres. And he had no idea what I wanted to do with the old tank.

Eh! He had an idea, actually.

“Connect it to the Boy’s Quarter block.” Yeah, so that the maid or two have a 1,000-litre tank for themselves sitting on the ground, while the rest of the household uses a 2,500-litre tank elevated on the Stand.

I took my dismay off with me and called Emma, the TV guy, to explain that his lateness in arrival was going to hamper my other plans.

“I will be there at eight o’clock,” he said, after I had pressured him into giving me a specific hour of arrival.

“Please come tomorrow morning instead,” I begged.

“But I am already on my way!” he protested – clearly a set-up for tomorrow’s “I was going to be there on time (mbu) but you told me not to come…”

Sula, meanwhile, set off to take down the satellite dishes, internet equipment and the old tank, in order to clear the area and work out how to solve the problem of installing both water tanks.

I quickly and loudly explained the life-threatening folly of him approaching the problem in this manner, which successfully discouraged him.

The Askari:

By the time Sula had reconnected my old, 1,000-litre water tank and left to rest ahead of tomorrow’s tasks, my arrangements for a comfort food arrangement with the family on a night out were done, and we drove off an hour later for me to forget Sula and Emma and Khalifani.

At the mall we were going to, my headache was just beginning to dissipate when I noticed that the truck right in front of me at the entrance was half-full of gas canisters. I would have expected for that kind of cargo to be going in through a service entrance of sorts, but the askari had no such expectation.

The hapless fellow opened the passenger door, shone a torch into the glove box, muttered something to the truck driver, walked round the truck while shining the torch in about a couple of the gas canisters and then waved the truck through. 

Yes – you’re right about the possibility of the chap in the truck parking it there and setting it alight to cause a ripping, loud explosion. But the askari had checked the glove box and maybe because there was no matchbox, we would be fine.

And yes – I did think of the glee it would have given me to bundle Sula with the mechanic and the TV guy onto that truck and set it off. But the thought only lasted briefly.

I am now sitting up, awake, believing that I will have a solution to this headache in the morning – and that tomorrow will present more good Ugandans than bad ones so that this headache goes down for at least one day.