we don’t understand…the same things the same way

IN dealing with the countless frustrations that come with supervising work of any kind in this town, or understanding what one reads in newspapers, sees on television or hears on radio, I draw on the words of one of my wife’s former co-workers.

This employee, whose name I have never been interested in storing to memory, was a constant source of angst for my wife because he held a university degree, appeared to have lived in the city for a considerable period of time, and was an adult. Yet in spite of these three straightforward factors, he consistently made errors that she would have found irritating, incomprehensible and irrational even in a child. 

It was only in the most extreme of circumstances that she failed to restrain herself and it was after one of those that I picked up the phrase, “Don’t think we all understood things in the same way.”

His statement to her at that time went something like, “Madame, we might all have gone to the same classes and they told us the same things but don’t think we all understood things in the same way.”

Of course, this guy presents no threat whatsoever to Jesus Christ, Confucious or Sun-Tzu regarding their positions on the list of most quoted wise sayings.

But he is on my list because he spoke a very prominent truth in this society, even though it is ridiculous. The idea that one can ‘understand’ something wrongly is so mind-boggling that it must be true (see paragraph one above).

His eruption, by the way, was a result of my wife lambasting him for yet again being difficult (it would be impolite to say “stupid”).

You see, he had addressed an envelope wrongly.

Not by writing the wrong name or address on it, but by addressing it wrongly in all other ways: He had picked it up, presumably, placed it upside down on the table, flipped it somehow so the open end was facing him, and then written the name and address on the back. Yes – the side where the flap closes over. Yes – upside down, moreover, but I still don’t want to use the word “stupid”.

And, apparently, whereas along the way in his thirty plus years on earth he had probably been told how to address envelopes, he believed he had not understood how to do it the same way everyone else in the world did.

But, as he stated, he had ‘understood’ in his own way how envelopes are addressed.Image

In the past, my ignorance of this fact about how we understand things differently had led me to agonise greatly whenever I issued instructions such as “Please wash that car” or “Clean this room” and returned to find no evidence of said instructions having been heard or followed.

Ever since I heard what my wife’s colleague had said I had undergone an education and re-oriented my thinking. I had my own understanding of the instruction “clean” and the cleaner had his. Why had I not thought of this before? I would have saved myself countless headaches and litres of bile building up at the back of my throat!

And so last weekend, I found myself happily sharing that small pearl of wisdom with a poor man who was beside himself with anger at an electrician, a team of builders, and a TV repair man.

All three had made promises to be in position early one morning fixing very visible problems ahead of Easter celebrations, and none had shown up by the time breakfast was done.

It had been wrong to assume that they had understood the concepts of “being there” or “first thing in the morning” or, indeed, time in general.

Then, three days later, my wife went back to her clinic to collect the results of a set of some rather serious medical tests (as opposed to the casual, jocular by-the-way tests, I suppose) and was told with a small chuckle that there were none.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Sorry, madam,” she was told, by a clinical employee who recalled her so well from her visit just a couple of days prior, “They didn’t do the tests.”

Refusing to believe that this employee knew immediately that the tests had not been done, without having to check with any laboratory official, or doctor, or even pretending to consult a file or computer app, she persisted with her query.

“Madame, they didn’t do the tests. The doctor didn’t order for them,” said the employee, continuing without much prompting, “Yes, he called and told the lab but he didn’t follow-up so they threw the samples away.”

“Without doing the tests?!!!”


During a very long #eish moment, my wife thought up a couple of questions such as: 1. Why didn’t the laboratory follow-up with the doctor so they could do the damn tests he had ordered by telephone? 2. Why didn’t the laboratory take action as soon as they realised that the doctor had not put his request in writing? 3. Wasn’t clinic bureaucracy going to affect her health, because how was she going to get the right treatment without a proper diagnosis of her situation? 4. What (the heck) do we do now?

The clinic staffer had responses for all three respectively: 1. (Chuckle, Chuckle) 2. (Chuckle, Chuckle) 3. Well, yes… 4. Please come in and take the tests again.

To which she pointed out that the tests would probably not make sense now because the situation she was in when she came in to do them was very different.

“Yes,” said the clinic staff, “they would probably be useless.”

Another #eish moment ensued.

We might all have gone to the same classes and they told us the same things but don’t think we all understood them in the same way.

the hole in the wall…was created by the boss himself

I was briefly taken aback at the photo in Tuesday’s The New Vision of a clock in Parliament that Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah had ordered be taken down because it was telling the wrong time.

The photo was in two parts – one depicting the errant clock, and the other showing a gaping hole where said errant clock stood before attracting the irritation of the Deputy Speaker, followed by swift action on the part of the Parliamentary Clock Remover. 

I wasn’t taken aback because of the action taken or that it was ludicrous for a clock showing the wrong time to be removed to a place unknown for any considerable period of time rather than for a battery to be replaced with one hand as the other hand distracts New Vision photographers who might be on hand to capture the moment.

I was taken aback by the result – a gaping hole in the wall, created by the boss himself!

And I seek not to point blame at the Honourable Deputy Speaker for creating an ugly hole in the wall – but at those parliamentary staff whose pay grade is specifically designed to tackle such problems.

The clock-hole-in-the-wall took me to my own kitchen where a similar clock, probably of a much cheaper variety than the Parliamentary one, is mounted. This clock began telling the wrong time back in November, and my eleven-year old, who is particular about such things, kept throwing hints and suggestions till one day she declared loudly to me that “someone” should fix it.

So I whipped out one of my recycled batteries and ‘fixed’ it, while remarking to the kitchen staff that this really should have been their job.

Two days later, the clock had both seized up and ceased to operate, and this time my daughter suggested that we take it down altogether. I looked to my wife briefly to judge the sentiments around the clock, and a quick mental calculation told me more peace would result in my leaving the clock in position than taking it down.

But I still felt that the domestic staff should be the ones to change the battery, so this time I sat back.

The result? A clock that is only correct two times a day – at a quarter past seven in the morning, and again in the evening.

Until Tuesday morning, it hadn’t occurred to me that the alternative result of this matter being handled by the Chief Executive would have been a hole in the wall. (To be honest, I would have replaced it with another wall hanging of much higher quality, but that is a whole different story)

But I was jolted into changing the battery (using one of about 24 new dry cells I constantly have in stock for similar domestic emergencies) and within thirty seconds (including the time it took to take the clock down and put it back up) had things back in order.

For three months, though, I may have appeared odd to anyone who went through that house at any time other than a quarter past seven (morning or evening), and maybe to my staff who may have thought that I was beginning to lose “it”.

Yet it was them, the staff, who looked odd to me (unsurprisingly) for not taking up the responsibility of changing that battery at any time during the many hours they spend in and around that house, earning monthly wages to maintain neatness and order.

After putting the clock back up in working order, I realised that perhaps I had played into their hands – maybe their inaction was a tactic to cause me to do what they should have done?

But then, mind-boggling as it was, could the Hon. Jacob Oulanyah have been doing the same but vice versa – fixing the situation so badly so that the people responsible feel so awkward that they step forward to do it properly themselves? 

Yeah – you get dizzy after a while, thinking about this too much. It’s much simpler for everyone to just do their damn jobs and do them properly – including the Parliamentary Clock Fixer.

Tusaba Gavumenti Etuyambe

My day has stopped here for an unreasonably long period of time. Whereas I don’t think the reporter who captured this moment in time SHOULD have slapped some sense into said Annet Mukundane, the story would have been much improved if it continued, after that quote, with, “whereupon I laid a massive, well-aimed slap into her face in order to jolt her back to a reality that should not even give her the time to be available to make comments on random issues of this nature instead of digging up some crops for sale or something more economically viable.”

There goes another serious Kaheru…farewell, Uncle Michael

Michael Stephen Kaheru

THIS article is the first that I am sadly sure my Uncle Michael won’t call me to make a comment about.

He was one of those old school people who read every newspaper with seriousness. Those silly grammatical errors and shortfalls in analysis or shallowness of reporting never escaped his attention.

He ‘gave me gas’, as some in my generation would say, and when my decision to work in a newspaper after university was met elsewhere with the question, “What about getting a real job?”, he understood well that I was going into a real job.

And whereas now I am deeply into new media, I still hold the old school, and traditional media, in high regard.

I still fold my newspapers up quite carefully, like to see the crossword puzzle page – even though I may not solve it every single day. And I share bits of the paper with my children because I believe it’s an integral part of life, in general.

When I think of Uncle Michael in Masindi the image in my mind is of him standing in front of his house with a newspaper folded up in his hand or underarm, the evening sun glinting off the back of his head, and him smiling with one eye cocked up.

During his send-off ceremonies, I was hit by how much of the old generation we are going to miss and how poorly we will be without them.

One old man in St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Edward Nyakaana, delivered a eulogy in a faultless mix of Runyoro and English that flowed as smoothly as the Kabalega Falls would if they consisted of oil.

His tonality, purpose of delivery and consistency made me yearn for more discussions with my uncles, great-uncles, and my grandfather, may his soul also Rest in Peace.

Like many other mourners, this well-spoken gentleman told of their childhood days and my own memories of childhood came to me with specific points around the old man we were mourning.

Like his father before him, he shone his own shoes and washed his own car – quite the contrast from our being so busy and important that we visit car washing bays and have our shoes shone by questionably turned-out fellows perched in roadside dust.

He worked diligently through over forty years at government jobs with no hint of scandal and retired into life as a commercial farmer in comfort and peace.

Until last Thursday, when he breathed his last.

And even then, I found that he wasn’t going to be quite peaceful for a little while longer.

The fellow in charge of his hospital documentation had casually written his name out as “Kaheru Mike”, leading to the issuance of a death certificate in the wrong name.

I only roared out about it briefly at the hospital, because it underscored to me yet again how lax the intellectual atmosphere is today.

Just an hour before I saw the wrongly-written certificate, I had given a funeral home official the name of the person to meet at the hospital to help with arrangements – my aunt, Sister Margaret Byabakama.

So I said, “Sister Margaret Byabakama”. I pronounced it slowly so he could write it down and help avoid any time wasting phone calls to clarify issues on arrival at the hospital.

The official wrote out quite clearly and even slower than I was pronouncing the words: “Byabakama Maggie”.

I was briefly at a loss, and sought clarification just in case he knew her better than I did.

Close to forty years had gone by and I had neither heard her being called “Maggie” nor my uncle being referred to as “Mike”.

In the space of one hour last Friday I was deeply dismayed on top of grieving.

A small matter, you think?

Try processing documentation for Michael Kaheru using a death certificate issued to Kaheru Mike.

It is such silly errors that my Uncle always pointed out, declaring culprits as being “not serious” and pronouncing “serious” in the manner that it should be pronounced.

He, like so many of his ilk, was quite serious. And he shall be seriously missed.


And here is an Obituary by Simon, Stephen, Mark, Comfort, Paul and Crispy Kaheru:

AMONG the many consistent attributes family friends and mourners highlighted about Daddy was his bright, engaging, authentic smile. As children we were raised under that radiant smile: in times of plenty, in times of shortage, in times of joy, in times of sorrow, when he was playing with us, or even when he was disciplining us.

He always wore that smile!

When we ourselves became parents, the one thing we already knew how to do was smile and play with our children as an important element of raising them.

The importance of that smile, warmth, affection and friendship over the years have made it both harder and easier to accept the passing of our father.

Would that all parents realise the importance of being friendly with their children and fully involved in their lives!

Michael Stephen Kaheru was exceptional in this regard and we were all lucky as we grew up as not only his children, but as his friends.

He maintained that friendship with us very well through constant communication by means that we were astonished to hear mentioned by many speakers at his farewell ceremonies. Even as a retired civil servant, he spent many minutes (and obviously money) calling us up for all the reasons parents check on their children and a lot more!

His influence on us continues right through to the grandchildren whose smiley friendliness will always remind us of him

Even as his family expanded, including in-laws, he graciously welcomed them as part of his own and the relationships began as if he had known them for years. His friendly spirit with his children and grandchildren made him an excellent baby-sitter, and it was always fun to watch him engaging in serious conversations with two-year olds (an age group that few of us take seriously). This alone challenges us and those who knew him to take every relationship, regardless of age, as important because you just can never know how these will impact your life or how your life will impact on theirs!

But there are many qualities that have not been easy to inherit: his smartness, neatness and attention to detail, which everybody saw right from his childhood days. He did not do this effortlessly – he shone his own shoes and washed his own car every morning in a way that gave true meaning the word ‘spotless’.

The same spotlessness described his work ethic and history of service. For more than four decades, he served Uganda diligently as a civil servant of exceptional calibre. Regardless of the government in place, he presented himself at work faithfully and fastidiously conducted the duties and responsibilities assigned to him.

His work record was pristine all through – from the minutest of details such as time-keeping and attendance to the quality of the work he did whether as Culture Officer when he had just started work, or as a government administrator as he was when he retired.

His work record, one mourner said, was almost more Christian than that of Christians

But he was a Christian, born and bred. And he was a faithful, loyal servant of the church – specifically St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Masindi where he was a church pillar, warden and also a special adviser to the Bishop.

Daddy has gone to be with the Lord and left us grieving but also celebrating God’s goodness to us by giving us 65 years of life with him. 

Without doubt, he fought the good fight; he ran the straight race and finished the due course. All through that time he kept the faith and let the values and ethics that defined him shine till his last breath, leaving us the challenge of carrying them on.