observations and thoughts may not define a man, but they do help us define life
I'm officially out of the youth bracket and therefore need to hit the gym more often so I can impersonate myself a few years ago - the physical equivalent of why I started writing this blog.
I used to be more intellectual than I am now, so you might notice a lot of high-minded blabber herein. Forgive that on the understanding that to let my guard down will result in a lot of juvenile lurches to depths that would not be appreciated by either my parents or my children (for at least another five years...)
THE conversation has come up often since I first decided to write my Last Will and Testament.
Early this year it has come up more as my lugezi-gezi made me share my year’s plan around, and some have been taken aback at the entry regarding updating my Last Will and Testament.
At first, after getting the WTH’s out of the way I would explain my process and people rarely bought it, but agreed to write their own in a way that told me they needed the conversation to end quickly.
So it would.
And after many such endings I developed a different method that has worked well so far this year.
First, I stopped telling people that writing one’s Last Will and Testament was expected of anyone who had attended school for long enough to write full sentences in English.
So far, I have found that it is not yet realistic to hold the expectation for everybody to understand that acknowledging one’s mortality does not necessarily invite terminal proof.
So I dropped all indications of that in my approach.
Instead, I have started telling people to consider the Last Will and Testament as a challenge to focus them on achieving their annual objectives.
See, in your Last Will and Testament you are forced to consider everything that you own and can bequeath to your loved ones. From a strictly material point of view, therefore, you will have to list all the property and assets that you have against your name.
One friend, who will remain unnamed for now, squinted almost in pain when I said this.
“But…but…” he sputtered a little bit: “I have NOTHING!”
“There you go!” I said, triumphantly, “THAT’S why you have to check that document every single year.”
I explained that point a little further:
Starting the year out by realising that at your ripe old adult age you have accumulated less than you would want to leave behind for your children could make you spend less on pork and whisky and more on chunks of soil identified by land titles.
Computing your official net worth should you suddenly stop being productive, and working out how long your dependants would survive in material comfort thereafter could lower the priority you accord to leisurely frolics over weekends.
Away from the worldly possessions themselves, you will find it interesting to evaluate which of your friends and relatives you actually trust enough to raise your children and keep your home running in comfort without breaking sensitive barriers.
Should your analysis be difficult, you have a whole year ahead to culture, cultivate and create meaningful relationships that will not fade into dust on your departure.
Your Last Will and Testament, ladies and gentlemen, is a serious document.
In fact, just contemplating it and knowing that you haven’t yet written one should also guide some of your actions. If you haven’t written one, for instance, you would be even more stupid than normal to take a boda-boda without a helmet.
The thought of you dying without having deposited a Will with your trusted compadres should horrify you – what will they say at your funeral? Do you want your children to forever think you were so intellectually challenged as to neglect leaving behind a plan for them?
There are more worries than can fit into one article in one day. To short-cut the rest of it just write your Last Will and Testament as an essential part of your 2019 life plan.
When it kicks into effect you won’t be alive to regret doing so, but your loved ones will be alive to not regret your having failed to write one.
THERE are three people this week that need to be counselled, educated or investigated:
One is a 74-year old American lady resident of a United States village called Hooper, in Fremont, Nebraska; the other a Ugandan Pastor called Jimmy Mwanga of a Church called ‘Glory Rescue’ in Luuka, Busoga; and the third an online journalist called Tammy Real-McKeighan, also in Hooper.
I am a Christian myself, and have watched the new types of churches grow and multiply over the years so I am not at all surprised by the activities of Pastor Mwanga and Donna Kriete. In fact, her monies and those of others like her could count well towards our foreign exchange inflows as a country.
I also can’t hold anything against Pastor Mwanga for finding a way to earn a living or even grow his church using these funds.
From the story online and a reading of his Facebook page, this Pastor is doing God’s work. The online story says, for instance, that: “Mwanga…was told in a dream to start a church in an area where Muslims lived and a place where witchcraft is practiced.”
This is the type of stuff that some Christians like to read.
But what we don’t like to read, and where my hackles were raised, was when Donna Kriete said: “When you go to Uganda, it’s like you’re stepping into Bible times,” adding that ‘there is no electricity where Mwanga now has two churches.’
Mind you, this Ms. Kriete came to Uganda in 2014 – the same year that the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics published this 57-page report on Luuka District (alone). In this report, available online so that characters like the journalist who half-assed that story could do some fact-checking, UBOS reports that 20% of Ugandans in Luuka use electricity for lighting.
Not only that, looking through the Facebook page of Pastor Mwanga’s Glory Rescue Ministry you can see lots of microphones and loudspeakers being put to use. Using firewood, perhaps, like in Bible times?
Those simple observations made me wonder what type of Bible Ms. Kriete reads in Nebraska that made her feel like being in Uganda is like “stepping into Bible times”.
Did this woman come to Uganda on a donkey or via an aeroplane that landed at Entebbe International Airport? Is she FROM the Bible times herself and did she undergo some deja vu when she got here?
It wasn’t confusing reading that simplistically drafted article, it was annoying. Moreso because it wasn’t written up as a casual blog post by Ms. Kriete the philanthropic artist whose childhood dream, the story says, was to be a missionary in Africa. It was a report by a journalist!
Reading the article you find it obvious that it is targeting either dim-witted people who can’t use google or dim-witted people who still believe that Africa is a jungle teeming with savages in need of civilisation.
The journalist, Ms. Tammy Real-McKeighan, seems to genuinely quote Kriete without sarcasm saying: “(Mwanga) is interested in bringing the good news to people who’ve never heard it.”
In Luuka? 28 kilometres from Iganga on the highway? 118 kilometres from Kampala?
At the point where they were talking about children having asthma and malaria, I felt that someone should make an internet for people such as Kriete and Real-McKeighan and their readers in America so that the likes of me, myself and I never get to read such things again.
At Mwanga’s Church, “Kriete met a girl named Spae who had asthma and couldn’t attend school until she was healed.”
And the journalist, Ms. Real-McKeighan, actually wrote: ‘Some might wonder why miracles occur there.’ and then published Kriete’s considered opinion that: “I think they’re desperate. They don’t have the money or the medical technology that we have here. And they just believe God and heal them and many are healed.”
Putting aside your incredulous look and the feeling that someone should be slapped in the face, wouldn’t that suggest that venturing into technology and medicine being so difficult it might be better for there to be more desperate people in the world so we just pursue vast miracle healing of diseases?
How are the authorities in the United States not arresting Kriete for something? Are they off duty because of the government shutdown?
Counselled – so they get proper legal advice; Educated – so their minds are opened to the realities of 2019 in the real world; or investigated for outright fraud because nobody can be so stupid as to fly an aeroplane into a country and drive a vehicle along tarmac roads for 200kms then say it’s ‘Bible times’.
AS the old year ended a focus point to aid one of my personal actions in 2019 – what some people refer to as a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ – showed up in my soap dish.
I won’t go into the reasons why I make use of a lot of soap, but believe me when I say it is a crucial item for me wherever I go and I tend to develop near-personal relationships with these inanimate objects.
I have learnt how to stick to a brand for years on end.
A long time ago I made a decision to drop the brand of soap I had gotten stuck to and opted for any Ugandan soap. I went from brand to brand and just couldn’t find the right one for my ablutions.
One day I even found myself placing an order for a regular supply of some green cakes from Katosi Primary School, where the pupils had been taught how to manufacture it using avocado and herbs. Their offerings were so smooth and aromatic that I bought up way too many pieces and two months later was regretfully throwing them out as they had disintegrated into an indescribable mush.
That’s one thing about making this life-changing (for others, not oneself) decision to steadfastly support Ugandan-made products – I have learnt to insist on high quality products that can replace the imported ones that take the money we spend to other countries.
So imagine my pleasure, some months ago, at discovering the ‘Body Milk’ product by Movit! The very next day I was back at the supermarket stocking up on this soap and I have never looked back – even when the cost went up from Ushs2,200 to Ushs2,500.
It got to the point that I always bought an extra cake during any supermarket visit even if I’d walked in to buy a pack of breath mints, just to ensure that I had a reliable domestic supply should a sudden shortage occur.
Which brings me to the soap dish that startled me into what one could call a ‘Resolution’.
At one point late last year I stopped finding Movit Body Milk on the shelves of the supermarkets I visited. After many trips I started noticing a foreign brand of soap – bigger in size than my favourite Movit Body Milk – was suddenly available at a discounted price of Ushs6,500 for a pack of three.
I succumbed and bought up a pack, then got so taken by it that whenever I went searching for Movit Body MIlk I emerged with this new brand of soap. This went on for a couple of weeks till I checked my values and rebuked myself.
I went further and further until, in a district very far removed from my normal operating zone, I found the right soap and picked up enough to last most of this month.
The allure and shine of the intruder brand is still with me, as is its scent since it sits wet next to my Movit Body Milk, but my resolve is stronger.
It might have been a coincidence that my Made-In-Uganda Movit went scarce just as this foreign soap made it’s promotional appearance, but suppose there was a sinister plan afoot here? Wouldn’t that be plain economic sabotage on a national scale? I think so.
How many Movit employees’ jobs would be at risk if we all stopped buying their products? How much would the government lose in PAYE and other Taxes? What would our future look like if all these employees’ pension fund savings suddenly stopped?
If we let the likes of Movit disappear from the supermarket shelves, and our soap dishes, how will our children ever know that Ugandans can make good quality products? If we don’t create, develop, support and buy more and more Ugandan products than the imported ones, how will we motivate our children and grandchildren to invent and innovate?
Hence my 2019 action plan entry this year – to further promote Ugandan products and Uganda at every turn and corner, with a specific objective of giving at least fifty (50) products some good visibility within these borders and abroad.
If we all do this and also put our money where our mouths are, I honestly believe we will have a bigger, more promising economy to hand down to the next generation, and much more reason to declare things like: Happy New Year!
I HAVE made New Year’s Resolutions before, like an ordinary person, and broken them before, like an ordinary person.
I didn’t stop making Resolutions out of some weakness or inner strength. I just felt that too many years of these attempts needed a new approach, and so far it’s working better than the past.
My fail points, as an ordinary person, were numerous: the Resolutions themselves were difficult because they were simplistic; the process was doomed because it was scheduled yet impulsive; keeping these Resolutions was near-impossible because they were just statements with the most unrealistic timelines.
New Year’s Resolutions always reminded me of the Uganda Cranes player back in the 1990s who told my brother how their coach at the time would show up during the half-time break and tell them, while clapping one hand into the other: “Yongera mu amaanyi!” (‘Put in more energy!’)
This went on game after game and they kept losing game after game till one day they mutinied and asked him: “Naye tuwongere mu amaanyi tutya?!” (‘Exactly WTF are we supposed to do and how?!’)
See, bila mupango the ordinary person always stands little chance of getting anything done. Hence the definition of ‘implementation’ as “the process of putting a decision or plan into effect; execution.”
The ‘plan’ with New Year’s Resolutions always seemed to be: “Say words. Do things.”
Most chaps who said, “I will Drink less alcohol in the New Year” or words to that effect found themselves back down the same road.
Week One was always easy because when you are coming out of the holiday season you automatically imbibe less alcohol. There are fewer parties, there is less money, work has resumed and inconveniences alcoholic pursuits, and so on and so forth.
But if you haven’t computed how much alcohol you drank last year, you can’t tell whether the amount you are drinking in the New Year is “less”.
“I will Stop drinking alcohol” has its own issues.
I knew a guy called Daudi who pushed the envelope for about two months then found himself being sent in one general direction. Because of his new non-alcoholic schedule he started spending more time at home.
(I personally know this to be dangerous to one’s mental health if one is unprepared for it, but that’s another story that involves a meeting called by my domestic staff demanding my absence.)
See, Daudi, for instance, would find himself doing unnecessary things and getting stuck at one conclusion. One day he tackled a bouquet of flowers that had been placed in a large see-through vase of water filled only halfway.
He couldn’t walk me through the thinking process that suggested this was a problem. But eventually found he had to wipe a table and mop the floor, only to face an irate wife who couldn’t believe the flower arrangement she was taking to some bridal shower had been destroyed.
As she told him off he had one thought running through his mind: “Or I go to the bar?”
Some days later, something made him try out D-I-Y and he chose to paint part of a verandah wall. As he was buying up materials he was mentally patting himself on the back with thoughts like: “Kale, that could have been three beers.” and “Imagine! There I would have bought two Coconuts (Waragi ones)!”
Hours into the project, however, he began to appreciate the different professions that exist out there. His paint wouldn’t stick to the wall and the colour looked different from the one in the Pinterest photo. He broke down and called a painter who slapped him in the brain by asking, “Did you sand the walls?”
What was that, even?
As expected, he hung up with the thought: “Or I go to the bar?”
But he had to clean up before attempting to leave, and as he did so he found mournful thoughts in his head such as: “Kale, that could have been three beers!” and “Imagine! There I could have bought two Coconuts!”
Yeah, like any ordinary person, he was in the bar before long, appreciating the bartender’s professionalism.
If only he’d planned it, I explained, he would have stood a chance. He should have replaced his alcohol with another pursuit or set of pursuits – including flower arrangements and wall-painting, but gone at them systematically.
“See, you didn’t just go to a bar and start drinking large amounts of alcohol,” I explained to him, “It took a while for you to learn how to drink, what not to drink, how to deal with mixing alcohol and what not to mix, and dealing with the hangovers, right?”
So, logic would have it, his plan required him to first learn the alcohol replacement activities before engaging in them – all of which would have taken enough time for him to be weaned off the alcohol consumption and being in a bar situation.
Bila mupango, nothing will happen. You need a plan in order to implement.
So all those statements that people keep making fwaaa will go nowhere and will do so very slowly because a year is LOOOONG!
And the idea behind a plan is to borrow a leaf from companies or corporate entities. None of them goes into business with the objective of “Making a profit”. <— say something like that during a job interview and you’ve failed.
Those organisations – the successful ones – go into their business year with a clear profit objective and specific targets, with plans of how to achieve them, which they employ people to carry out with frequent checks along the way to ensure they are on track.
The specificity of the targets companies set for themselves will not accept, for instance, an objective (Resolution) like: “I will Go to the Gym.” because there is no clear end result of that.
If your resolution is to go to the gym you could drive there every single day and without setting one foot out of your car, drive on to a bar nearby to find a frustrated paint-splattered Daudi.
The person who sets out to “Go to the Gym AND WORKOUT at least Two Times A Week” is more likely to attract the attention of serious people.
Companies will set targets which will be cascaded to their staff in a way that everybody gets their own individual targets that they must perform certain tasks (aka ‘work’) to achieve.
You could do the same – if your objective (again – Resolution) is to read one book from start to end every month throughout the year, in order to develop your mind and establish a book reading habit, then your spouse should be tasked with ensuring you have a fresh book every month, and the children must leave you alone for one hour every evening to do your reading as they do their homework.
These companies then ensure that they have serious managers who, in most cases, are incentivised differently from staff. The roles of the managers are many but include keeping an eye on targets, making sure the staff stay on track in the right direction so that company objectives are met, and motivating the staff.
As an individual you might not hire a manager but you could get what a close friend of mine calls an ‘Accountability Partner’ – a person who keeps you accountable, on track and somehow motivated. By the way money is not, apparently, motivation; but if you are motivated by money then give your Accountability Partner money to give you if you stay on track.
That”s like placing a bet on yourself to hit your target. I know a guy called Okello (not really but it doesn’t matter) who quit smoking because he wagered Ushs500,000 at The Junction Bar in Ntinda one night that he would do so. The guys at The Junction Bar are so widespread and have a vibrant WhatsApp group so there are few places Okello can go to and sneak a cigarette.
To make matters worse, they told his wife about the wager and added her to the supervision list. I say ‘matters worse’ because should he risk Ushs500,000 leaving their household she will kill him that day; and she has been fighting hard to make him quit smoking so…
…Okello has about 100 Accountability Partners for his no smoking objective.
The list of possibilities in implementing your New Year’s Resolutions is long and, for me, exciting because of the planning element. This year I’ve been asked to share my personal plan but my Accountability Partners (the family – who also had to do the same) are the only ones getting the actual plan in full.
The rest of you can take this as a glimpse into what someone’s 2019 could look like if they chose to plan their ‘Resolutions’. The last slide indicates some of the routines a person following this plan would have to follow.
A plan without routines makes you an aimless adult – and that’s an insult.
Forgive me because I am angry about the Lake Victoria Boat Tragedy that has consumed us in many ways for over a week. My anger is as justified as yours, having lost a close relative in the tragedy, besides other people I knew.
But I am not as angry at how unnecessary this tragedy was, as I am irritated by how many bright ideas everyone suddenly seems to have about how it could have been avoided yet we risk life and limb daily in so many ways.
Too many people in this country do not take life seriously – or, said differently, too many people in this country don’t take the avoidance of death seriously.
Among the people rightly and loudly declaring that the boat operators should have provided life jackets and the victims should have worn them, for instance, are people who we see every single day driving round without seat belts even if these seat belts are provided in their motor vehicles.
Some of these people, in spite of their education levels, often drive around with their infant children seated in the front seat of their cars – highly discouraged by all safety experts and even casual observers who might not be educated but can think critically. To make matters worse, most of these children wouldn’t be wearing seat belts in the back seats of those vehicles either!
Many other Ugandans hop onto boda-bodas in Kampala’s stiff traffic and flatly refuse to wear helmets. Some will use flimsy reasons like the lack of hairnets to presumably protect them from lice as if lice is a bigger problem than the effect of slamming one’s head against the ground at a high rate of progress.
The number of stupid things we do that put our lives at risk every single day are confounding and probably cause more deaths on a daily basis than the highly visible tragedy that hit us so hard this weekend.
Few of the people on that boat appear to have lacked a university degree, meaning that they knew – from primary school lessons – about the need for life jackets, and other safety measures. Too few of us think about this every day.
Because we tend to think more of what is on the surface than the foundation of things, too few of us are ready change our behavior so that we save more lives – including our own.
Some people have said the capsized boat was poorly maintained – which is highly likely to be true, judging from reports I heard more than a year ago about the same vessel. So, how many of us are maintaining our personal vehicles properly every single day – equipping them with all the right protective equipment including fire extinguishers and even first aid boxes?
When we buy our second-hand, twenty-year old vehicles, discarded from other countries mostly for reasons of the personal safety of their original owners and the environment of their countries of origin, do we first clean them out and tool them for roadworthiness in Uganda, for our own personal safety and the environment of this country?
Yes – go and check, then come back to finish reading this.
Vehicles aside, our disregard for preservation for life in spite of all the schooling we undergo is a sign of the concept of education in this country not being translated to life in the real world.
That’s the only explanation that can work for any educated person to entrust the lives and upbringing of their children to a person whose wage value per month is LESS THAN the equivalent of the cost of one week’s groceries in the very same home.
Look, we educated people employ domestic staff whose pay is so low that they wear second-hand underwear and in most cases live unhygienic personal lives of their own, but we expect them to handle our food and our children without passing on a single germ.
During the burial ceremony of Isaac Kayondo, one of the young victims of the Black Weekend, one speaker who went to help with rescue efforts narrated his interaction with askaris at the Marina where boats launched from. It was clear what the caliber of the Askari he spoke to was, and that there was no way the fellow could have stopped a vessel unworthy for travel.
The harrowing stories from the rescue efforts, also, made me think – how many friends do I (read YOU) have who can perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should the need arise? Or any other form of First Aid? Can I (read YOU) do it myself, if a friend is in trouble?
I have even more questions but the right answers to all of them is a change in the way we behave and apply our education to ensuring we live long, healthy, productive lives.