the versatile blogger award


versatile-blogI’VE collided with this assignment quite by random and will endeavour (FACT ONE – Endeavour Uganda was the name of the first company I ever registered right after I finished my University Degree; it was a tourism promotion company that could, if we were ever struck by the need, build ships)…<—I apologise for using those three dots so early in this one-post relationship (FACT TWO – I tend to use those three dots a lot because I am shy – in real life and also when writing. I can’t explain that quirk because most people seem to have a very different idea about me, both in real life and when reading what I write…anyway, prepare to step out of the parentheses to complete the sentence we started at the beginning of this paragraph and connect the dots)…to stick to the rules.
(FACT THREE – I sometimes appear to stickle, most manifestly when writing and editing, but also in real life. It amuses my children, and irritates my wife though she is secretly happy whenever I do it…I think…, and it infuriates the ordinary mortals I come into contact with, most especially those who find comfort in mediocrity because they discovered long ago that lowering one’s standards makes it easy to appear to excel – which makes me a problem to them in presence and in fact.)
The rules of this assignment are straightforward, from what my nominator – a word I doubt having ever used before – posted, and I paste them below so that the persons I nominate – called nominees, which is a more popular term – find it easy to carry this tradition on until we are called up to receive this Award to much fanfare narrated by a trending twitter hashtag and featured on millions of timelines:
RULE 1. Thank the person that nominated you and include a link to their blog.
(FACT FOUR – I give thanks A LOT! My daily prayers are  almost a litany of thanks to God, and if there is one thing I want to pass on to my children it is the readiness to give thanks; I had it passed down to me by my parents, to whom and for who I give thanks, and I give thanks to God that I have been given the opportunity to teach my children how to give thanks.)
I therefore find it easy to give thanks to Joel for nominating me – and for being such an avid blogger and a serious Ugandan (which I have only surmised from reading his blog these so many months).
RULE 2. Nominate at least 15 bloggers of your choice. When considering a fellow blogger for the Versatile Blogger Award, keep in mind the quality of their writing, the uniqueness of their subject matter and the level of love displayed on the virtual page.
(FACT FIVE – Contrary to the last bit of this rule, I do not believe there is a high level of love displayed on my virtual page, which makes me comfortable blogging. I am extremely uncomfortable with public displays of affection, which discomfort began dissipating when I started being a father. Now, visually step out of the parentheses for the rest of this…)
First of all, right there before you visually stepped out of the parentheses I was itching to use the phrase “step over” but that would have required me to use the singular for that pair of parentheses, which word I cannot find at short notice. ‘Parenthesis’ refers to a word (look it up yourself) rather than one of the brackets that form the pair of parentheses I have had you hop in and out of.
Back to the Rule, though, luckily for me, it does not say that the ‘level of love’ displayed needs to be high or low, so I will therefore use my discretion to select my nominees, who are:
(I do not like leaving so many people out, so these are the fifteen who have come to mind this evening, and I left out an eleven-year old boy just so I don’t appear overly nepotistic, but I have him in mind as I type this:)
7. Stompie (You guys don’t know this name) 
10. Norah
12. Paul
13. Aur
15. Zelah
This list is too short for it to be fair, and everybody who isn’t on it must not develop those uncomfortable, unhealthy feelings, because we need not justify why we chose who we chose…we being nominators (twice in one day!). Today being a Saturday, my thoughts were mostly themed along lines that probably reveal themselves in the collection of bloggers I have chosen. (FACT SIX: I love Uganda and always try to find a way of highlighting our positives, or correcting our negatives so we can stand out. This is where my family lives, and so I must make it my paradise, so that my family can be happy. The objective that some call ’the pursuit of happiness’ came to me in childhood because of our social and political environment, that was so despondent that we little people had to find ways of fighting back with our spirits. Being happy was hard, but not impossible, and that’s why I found myself voluntarily avoiding negative influences – since life around me had more than enough of them without my adding to them by watching sad movies or reading thrillers in which children died and crime went unpunished. To this day, there are many popular icons of entertainment I have deliberately let go by just so I can be happy; likewise, and more seriously, I go down paths unpopular for most just so my family can be happy…because if we are all happy, Uganda will be happy.)
RULE 3: Link your nominees and let them know about their nomination.
QED. I like the way this either stands for Quite Easily Done or Quod Erat Demonstrandum. Don’t ask which teacher in my past wrote the latter onto my answer sheet because that is as irrelevant to this post as this post would be to the question I was responding to that warranted said abbreviation elaborated in latin.
RULE 4: Share seven facts about yourself. You will find that I have done so, and a little bit more because, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I am a Writer. (FACT SEVEN: I am a writer. I have always been a writer. Just the day before yesterday I was thinking back to when I first started writing – at the age of three or four…yes, I kid you not, and I believe the evidence exists somewhere in the files that my father fastidiously keeps arranged in cabinets locked up tighter than cash-laden safes. Cash holds less value in our home than our memories do, and many of those memories have been recorded, in writing and photography. I am a writer, I know, because I would rather put my feelings down on paper by medium of lead and ink than speak from the mind. My pens are in my last will and testament. Buying a pencil is still as exciting today as it was back when I was a child – more, actually, since I can afford more pencils now than I could back then. I have notebooks that serve the function of comforter blankets, that I reach for when anxious to be assuaged by the sight of blank pages on which I can squeeze words in the event of a disaster. If the world suddenly threatened to come to an end, would I get to write about it? I hope so. Because I am a writer. A writer who blogs. A blogger who writes.

two journeys, one path – different destinations


TAKING a walk through Mutungo for health reasons – exercise, I must declare – I found myself at the top of a road I had ignored countless times before, and ventured down its lead.
The short walk was uneventful besides the number of people I had to prompt into responding with “Good evening!” as I walked past grey and brown walls shielding what appeared to be regular residential houses with regular grass gardens.
Then, quite suddenly, the grey and brown was broken by a burst of thick shrubbery. I believe my breathing changed before my mind had fully taken in what my eyes were seeing. The thick hedge ran for a regular distance but I slowed down my paces to take it all in, and to peer through it out of curiosity.
There was much more behind it than just grass and a house; the flowers and shrubs were not rare and in some cases not in bloom, but it was interesting to observe. So interesting, actually, that when I got to the gate and found it was wide open I took that as an invite.
Inside, the neat garden exceeded my expectations, as it came with many pots and plants,img_20160121_170250.jpg all of them obviously made (the pots) and nurtured (the plants) within the perimeter fencing. The house was obviously old, probably built when my grandparents were youths, but it was well kept. Against the front of the house, someone had carefully fashioned an archway of flowering shrubs that arrested my attention for a while before I called out, “Koodi?”
There was a stirring in the sitting room and a young man peeped out of the window to return my greeting and inform me that the person behind the pots and plants was probably in the smaller house at the back – and he left his television set on to pop out and check.
The fellow, who this young man identified as his cousin Joe of Jowy Creations, was indeed away but could be found on Facebook.
A few days later I returned, this time deliberately, to view the garden again and try to meet this Joe of Jowy Creations.
Again, the gardens were still but there was sound in the sitting room. This time I didn’t have to call out before the very same young man, possibly wearing the very same vest, stood up from his television viewing position.
His cousin was in, this time, and came out to meet me though I first summoned the TV watching youth to interrogate him a little bit. Top on my mind was the question: Had he been watching television non-stop since the last time I had been, a few days ago?
He laughed and said he hadn’t. He was on holiday, from his university course studying “IT”, and was therefore chilling. Did he have a laptop or something else to occupy his time? He chuckled a bit but became irritated at my lugezi gezi, but I made it clear to him that I had an endless supply of it and would return to him after meeting his cousin properly.
img_20160121_170421.jpgHis cousin, Daniel Joe Semakadde, listened quietly to the exchange while behind him I noticed the garage held about fifty concrete pots in formation which hadn’t been there the last time I was.
He then took me round the garden to see his plant creations, his pottery and even
ironmongery! This was their grandparents’ home, and they now live there with a sectionimg_20160121_165903.jpg of the family.
Semakadde, a graduate of Food, Science and Technology, took to interior design as a child and made his first sale at the age of fourteen by putting together some dried twigs, colouring and arranging them in a pot. He still went through school dutifully, taking a difficult professional course, but during that time img_20160121_170446.jpgtaught himself how to make pots, weld metal, grow plants and design art pieces.
He has lived off that income very comfortably ever since.
As he spoke, his cousin was back at the television, and I could not understand how the fellow had let me leave the first time without trying to sell me any of the Jowy Creations. So I cut short the visit and called the young man out of the house for some more lugezi gezi.
To begin with, he had only Ushs15,000 to his name at that point, and confessed that he didn’t know enough about pottery and plants to earn any money from me doing it.
Long story cut short, we made arrangements for his cousin to train him for the remainder of his holiday, and I offered to ease the process by paying for his transport from the television set to the garden for the training course.
Today marks the end of Week One, and I am praying I don’t find him in front of a television. I also need someone to give me lessons in understanding how these two young fellows can grow up in the very same home and take such different paths in life – one to wealth and success through sweat and hard work, and the other likely heading to a despondent declaration of a lack of opportunities.

i needed a technician, but luckily i had God


THAT William Cowper hymn, “God Moves In a Mysterious Way, His wonders to perform” often plays in my mind at the end of my most random gallivanting sessions.

Saturday brought it to mind quite strangely, having left home on two precise missions that both departed from my usual schedule to the dismay of my real superiors.

Four minutes after driving out, my phone began to blink – rebooting itself every twenty seconds.

This was a problem. For both appointments I had the location was uncertain and arrangements had been made for me to confirm the final details by phone after getting to specific points in the city. So I had charged the phone to a comfortable 68% before setting off well in time for the first appointment, with a buffer for getting lost a little bit in between phonecalls.

The need to place a phonecall is for me, as you might know, a practice abhorrent and to be avoided. So I drove on with a resolute mind to make it to both appointments, phone be damned.

I bounced at the place where I thought the first one would be, and spent twenty minutes trying to make use of the twenty seconds up-time the phone permitted in between reboots.

The continuous failure made me realise I was also losing battery life very fast (39%), so I sped down to a gadget shop at the Lugogo Mall, for help.

“Hi,” I said brightly to the young lady who walked up to fill the empty space behind the counter, where the fellow that I know over there was conspicuously absent. Using that bright tone of voice is a good trick – it makes shop attendants pay better attention to you, and if they planned to be rude or sullen they sometimes change their attitude.

“I need help opening this phone to check why it keeps switching itself on and off,” I said, avoiding technical terms, since it was obvious she was non-technical – having observed her walking over from a totally unrelated counter and, as I mentioned, since I know the chaps there.

“Do you have a manual for this type of phone so I can check?” I concluded.

“You need a technician,” she replied.

I already suspected this, but had opted not to ask for a technician since it was Saturday afternoon, the shop was sparsely populated with just two other people at counters that made it clear that they were not technicians, and I really just wanted to first open the back cover to take the battery out for a little while – or to read the manual.

She reached out and took the phone out of my hand.

“Eh. Nga it’s very hot?” she said, being consistent to the trait of stating the unnecessarily obvious.

I took the phone back (32%) and asked again, “Do you sell this type of phone here so we can open a box and check the manual?”

“Ha. I don’t think…” she began, but luckily one of the fellows who should have been behind the counter returned, confirmed they didn’t have the manual, double-confirmed that the phone was hot, and even pointed out that the battery was running out pretty fast (27%).

“You need a technician,” he said.

I gave him that look and smile that conveyed deeply how disappointed I was that we had spent these precious minutes together only to arrive at a point we had more or less started at. My look most probably made it clear that if I hadn’t needed a technician I would have asked to buy a brand new mobile phone within seconds of arriving at that counter.

Contrite, he directed me to the very next shop to find ‘a technician’.

The chap was seated in the corner of a small, stuffy room. I could tell he was the one because of the ten or so people in the room, he was the only one who didn’t look frazzled, sweaty, anxious or worried.

Plus, he was the only one with a computer and twenty phones on the desk in front of him.

And, he was the only one who looked up and nodded a, “What do you want?” at me.

I couldn’t resist saying, as I held up my phone (20%): “I need a technician.”

It was an inside joke only I enjoyed, but I did not dare laugh in case I got thrown out of the shop. The second appointment was very important to me, and I did not have the phone number of the person in my head – it was on that phone (17%).

He took the phone and added it to the queue in front of him as I explained my problem quickly. Nobody complained those things of, “But we were here first!” as he flipped my phone over and over like a Ssenga inspecting a newborn child whose mother has never been fully accepted into the family.

When he spoke, he did not raise my need for a technician but pointed out that the phone was hot. I concurred, suspecting that I had about 10% battery life to go.

He then interviewed one of the other people in the room, and handed them back their phone as he made a phone call to another technician and explained my problem. They talked a bit, after which he hung up and addressed one of the other people in the room, and sent them on their way as well.

All this with the solemnity of a highly celebrated medical surgeon, or a judge of the higher courts somewhere in the mid-sixties.

Then he turned to me and gave his verdict.

“You might need to buy a new battery, since this one is heating so much. Or you need a software upgrade, but it will take some time. Maybe up to Monday. You have to leave the phone here…”

I could not.

First of all, I suspected that if I needed a software upgrade I could do one myself. Secondly, the conversation he had held with the other technician had dented my trust in him – I needed a technician who needed a technician?

No, thank you.

I maintained my bright tone of voice, took back my phone (10%) and left.

The second appointment was now a niggling problem in my mind so I tried a desperate move: as soon as the phone re-booted yet again, I re-dialled to get the number of my target, and when the network showed up I pressed the ‘Call’ button.

It went through!

In five seconds I said where I was and that my phone would cut off.

It did.

It re-booted again (7%), and I went through the same motions to say where I was, again, and that my target should find me there.

Miraculously, he confirmed having heard me and said he would be there in twenty minutes.

The phone didn’t cut off.

So I told him what I was wearing so he could recognise me (6%). He confirmed having heard that as well.

The phone didn’t cut off.

So I told him precisely where I would take a seat, on the verandah of Good African Coffee (5%). Yet again, he confirmed having heard that.

The phone didn’t cut off.

I began to suspect that we would develop trust issues if I continued talking yet I had said the phone was acting up and was bound to cut us off – so I signed off, and hung up. (5%).

But I couldn’t sit down at the coffee shop twiddling my thumbs. Strangely, I hadn’t carried a notebook and pen and didn’t have my laptop or tablet on me either.

I reserved my table and made my way to Game, hoping against hope that one of those second hand book sales was under way.

Five minutes later, William Cowper’s hymn started playing in my mind, because I fell upon this magnificent book at only Ushs4,500 yet I could easily have paid ten times that for the pleasure that it is giving me:

img_20160125_124511.jpg
Glorious reading material – not to be put down!

And so I sat and consumed page after page, till my meeting happened, and went on after the meeting had ended, page after page. I was at peace, with the phone being off, until I realised that I had stopped paying attention to its screen flashing to indicate a re-boot.

The battery must have died, I thought to myself, turning a page before reaching out to check its temperature and finding it to be normal.

But in the process I touched the power button and caused the screen to light up again, which was surprising since it had been on 5% thirty minutes ago and should by rights have blacked out by now.

It hadn’t.

It was at 2%.

I hadn’t needed a technician after all. Two days down the road and I am still operating as normal – but giving the phone far less attention than this fantastic book.

“God Moves In a Mysterious Way, His wonders to perform”

all hail the queen of Katwe


IF you don’t know Frozen, you either have no children, no TV, a very low media appetite, or all of the above.

That makes you commercially unimportant in the global scheme that the promoters of that movie designed and implemented well enough to take over the world of entertainment and commerce so decisively that the movie is reported to have grossed more in revenue in one year than some countries do in decades.

Your irrelevance to the global economic equations of the world’s premier businesspeople aside, you must – at least – have heard of Disney. The Walt Disney Company? Again, if you haven’t, then even your ability to read (especially in the English language) is a miracle you should be proud of.
Disney has been behind the world’s biggest entertainment projects for years and years; besides their amusement parks, we can focus on only their movies to get to the point here:
Their animated movie The Lion King made US$313million in the first few years after its release, while the musical (performed on stage) made US$6.2billion (BILLION!) in three years from ticket sales alone, and was seen by 75million people! Toy Story 3 grossed US$1.063 billion in 2010. Frozen earned $398.4 million in the United States and $674 million internationally to take the title. By March 2014 it had grossed US$1.072 billion in revenue after opening in Japan – and has continued earning since.
Disney knows how to make money out of entertainment. Let’s not even talk in detail about their amusement parks and merchandising, because there is too much information out there.
One Frozen statistic that flummoxed me was to do with a dress of one of the Elsa dolls; this dress that had retailed at US$150 sold out and started going for US$1,000 on eBay…secondhand, in some cases!
Then also, in one day in 2014 in the United States, Frozen sold 3.2 Million DVD and Blu-ray Discs. In one day.
Much more importantly, they make massive amounts from franchises. One US authority reveals that: Mickey Mouse brings in $4 billion in sales a year; the Disney Princesses (Jasmine, Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Mulan, etc. – I name them for a reason that will become apparent shortly) $4 billion; the “Cars” and “Winnie the Pooh” each $2 billion a year; and “Toy Story” brings in $1 billion a year.
Still with me?
This is one of Disney’s releases of 2016, about Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, who rose from Kampala’s slums to international chess stardom.
The movie will be released in April and will star Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo (that black agent in Spooks) – and also feature Madina Nalwanga playing Phiona Mutesi, Ntare Mwine, and Maurice Kirya.
You guys!
Disney is going to feature a movie about Uganda (go back up a few paragraphs and read those figures again).
That means they are likely to make good amounts of money doing so while giving us – the entire nation – free publicity to make what we will with it.
Even if we just found a way of squeezing one of our promotional phrases onto the DVD covers, we would benefit greatly.
But let’s go to Katwe, first. Not many of us – you reading this – spend time in Katwe or can identify it apart from the tarmac bit we drive through on the way from Entebbe.
Now that it is going to get Disneyfied, the people at the Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda Tourism Board and Uganda Investment Authority need to look up quickly and do some work there.
Create some Katwe trails so tourists enthralled by the movie can come visit and walk through Mutesi’s home(s), eat the food she ate, and jump over the dirty bits of road she skipped through as a child.
Speaking of food, does the Rolex appear in the movie? Luwombo? Katogo? Spiced tea with Cassava and gnuts? All Uganda’s restaurants and hotels should introduce a ‘Katwe Option’ onto their menus. This is the time to officialise Ugandan cuisine onto the world market and sell it in a big way so we have Rolex stands in New York, London, and at Disneyland!
That same Disneyland is where a lot of the merchandising rakes in the dollars, but let’s be clever over here and create Queen of Katwe chess boards, gomesis, bags and other merchandising.
Speaking of which, remember those Disney princesses named above? I have detested having to buy them for my daughters and nieces, and seeing the adulation beaming out of their eyes, but I will LOVE doing so for a doll named Mutesi…
Kudos to that young lady for putting Uganda on the map so well by usurping great odds to excel in a field so unexpected.
Phiona Mutesi! The Presidential Awards Committee should take that name and spell it correctly.
So should the media; our biggest celebrities and heroines are in the slums and villages, not in nightclubs and cities.
PHIONA-MUTESI
Phiona Mutesi: Our Queen of Katwe – Photo from i.huffpost.com

out of the way things to do in 2016


I’VE just read Davis Kawalya’s blog post ‘Where Is Our Self-Esteem?‘ and made a snap decision to adopt this practice.

I am going to compile a list of things that I will do between now and the close of 2016, which I am calling ‘Out Of The Way Things’.

The list is going to contain things I wouldn’t normally do but that are easy and fun to do – and tending to quirky more than adventurous.

His blog post did not render me suddenly stupid, so I will not be bungee jumping or wrestling leopards.

The first thing on my list is what he had down in his blog:

Out Of The Way Things in 2016

Life is not exciting enough doing the things that I normally do, and reading Davis’ blog I recalled a time not long ago but before I was clear about responsibilities, when I would do such things with a group of pals who would take a contract out on me if I dared give clues as to their true identity.

Some of our antics were of the harmless shock-therapy type that would have triggered anything from angst to angina, and a few were life-threatening (for the onlooker as well).

This year, my list will NOT include any of the latter, and few of the former.

And having a list, by the way, is not to make the process boring and regulated – the spontaneity will remain in the manner that the activities that get onto the list will be chosen. For instance, I am now duty bound to say that loud, public prayer in a taxi – with or without any of you witnessing it.

This had better be fun and involve no painful repercussions especially of a physical nature. Back when I used to do these things more frequently I was light enough on my feet to flee the scene if things began to escalate. Right now I can imagine myself sprinting so slowly that my punishers could hold a lengthy, verbiage-filled meeting and take corrected minutes and then find me eighty metres away panting for dear life.

The risks will be few, therefore.

My out of the way things to do in 2016 will also not involve money. I cannot spare for silly eruptions such as those three a.m. “We go to Kigali!” arrangements that result in month-long hangovers and a life wondering how many relatives one actually has, scattered around the world, and whether they will ever make themselves known in a dramatic manner to a compound full of one’s official bloodline.

My out of the way things to do in 2016 will also take place strictly in Uganda, because there are countries out there that put our definition of the word daring to shame.

Everything on that list will be sure to raise the eyebrows of my favourite aunts and grandaunts, and I will therefore try my best to ensure that they are present for the events.

My wife, meanwhile, will need your prayers.