off to a hakuna mchezo weight control or even weight loss year


AT about this time last year I was emerging from a thoroughly enjoyable festive season and going through my slight annual dismay at the reading on my bathroom scales as I stood on them.

Being overweight has never been a problem for me – even after it actually dawned on me that some people found it odd that I weighed so much. That particular realisation occurred at Mengo Hospital where my Aunt, Sister Joy Muwonge, worked and provided ready sanctuary whenever we suffered ailments.
Going through some treatment course at the age of about sixteen, I was asked to step onto the weighing scales but that routine exercise ended with a group of medical personnel gathered round to confirm and double check the readings, as well as their machine. I stood at 80 (eighty) kilogrammes.
They found it difficult to reconcile my age and my weight. I received warnings and words of advice that I took to be the routine from medical people, and life has gone on ever since with me accumulating more of these statements from a variety of people who did well in Biology and related subjects at school.
After my university days, when I was master of my own domain and destiny and didn’t need to rely on anybody’s menu allocations to determine my meals, I generally hovered between 96 (ninety six) and a hundred kilogrammes. A lot of meat and unhealthy prepared staple food was involved in this.
I also did not drink a lot of water or other such fluids that medical professionals would have listed as wise for consumption.

None of that worried me, and even the reading at the start of 2016 caused me no alarm even though none of my t-shirts felt comfortable any more, and my trousers tended to twist about in discomfort as if to give me hints of what I should be feeling.

The scales in January last year said I was 117 (one hundred seventeen) kilogrammes.

My suspicion was that the meals during the festive season had been exceptionally heavy and my exercise pitifully low, and I went about trying to correct it somewhat.

By April not much had changed, as my past corrective measures had been compromised by the busy political period and other excuses I cannot go into right now.

And then in walked a lady called Lucy Ociti (+256753471034), from the Fat Loss Laboratory. She had tried to track me down with little success for a number of weeks and when she eventually did I marvelled at her luck so much so that I had to give her two minutes. Just two minutes.

She couldn’t even pitch her solution properly because I kept interrupting with specific questions. I despise diets because I have spent most of my life (at this point) seeing my wife suffering through them quite unhappily.

I was happy to try one and show the loved one that: 1. I was capable of dieting myself and; 2. it was possible to diet without suffering.

I knew 1. above, and the questions I asked Lucy proved 2. above because the diet involved meats (besides pork) and allowed for some light cream salad dressings.

The cost made me hold my breath a little but turned out to be the best Ushs1.5million I spent all year on anything personal.

Following it more strictly than some people do religion, I got mid-way and thought I was on the verge of hitting my weight target. See, I thought a lot about how it worked, exactly, and then realised that it revolved around science we had learnt back in school.

Those lessons about food values? The manner in which the body processes food, creates energy, stores fat and so on and so forth? We know all that. We studied it. People took up sticks and beat us for getting answers wrong. And for some reason we grew up into adults without understanding it.

When my scales told me I was merely 90 (ninety) kilogrammes, I proudly went over to Lucy to proclaim victory and inform her I was en route to a platter of pork ribs within a matter of weeks. She was impressed, but still whipped out her own weighing scales – digital, this time – which said I was 99 (ninety-nine) kilogrammes, fully clothed and pockets full.

I was flabbergasted but also happy about one thing – that meant my 117 kilogrammes of January 2016 was actually a LOWER reading than my real weight at the time…

Some people think I have lost more than thirty kilogrammes, some think I must be ill, and others keep asking me to convey their regards to my big, older brother Simon.

I am now fitting into clothes sizes I last saw in my university days about twenty years ago. I have punched four extra holes into all my belts in order to avoid an embarrassing incident involving jeans slipping down to my ankles in public.

And I am still at some risk of that happening.

Yet I am still overweight.

Today, I oscillate between 90 (ninety) and 92 (ninety two) kilogrammes in the morning, and I still eat carefully, following the Fat Loss Laboratory principles. It makes for an easier approach to weight loss and fitness related resolutions. It has also underscored how much of what we learnt in primary school actually applies to the real world.

Both these realisations are going with me into this new year of Hakuna Mchezo weight control and weight loss.

#KlaRestaurantWeek – food, fun, innovation and more and more food


I attended the #KlaRestaurantWeek launch tour while on a diet and lived to tell the tale.

My dietary planning this year did not take into account events like these, and I have made a million notes to self with calendar reminders so that the next time I think of anything diet related I first make contact with all organisers of food events to make sure there will be no repeat of the pain I am going through.

I arrived at The Bistro for the launch tour well on time, heeding the ‘keep time’ warning and quite apprehensive about the night ahead.

Over a camomile tea, I engaged in a small taco-making competition and envied the judges as they took bites out of a total of eighteen tacos made by our team! I put more feeling into the task than was required, of course, but stepped on my culinary brake pedals (amateur as the accelerator ones are) when I realised some of my team mates were new to tacos in general.

I did wish that we were required to produce Rolexes instead, even though that would have been overkill for the judges, including JJ, the amiable owner of The Bistro. After their flavourful good start, off we went to Yujo, the Japanese fusion restaurant in Nakasero.

They’ve moved to a new location, I discovered, on the road below Nakasero Primary School, and are as busy as ever in the evenings.

Their owner manager, Hanif, is as energetic as they come and for a few minutes you will forget what city you are in as he whirls around you issuing instructions and cracking jokes to go with the colours sounds and smells of Yujo.

Here, I did put down a 50gramme steak, as that fits well within my dietary measures, but during #KlaRestaurantWeek it will be a 100grammer (on the special). I missed out on the Kampala Roll (their response to the Philadelphia Roll) because of the ingredients containing things verbotten to me – but I will be back, walahi!

After that the rest of the group went to The Lawns but I wasn’t strong enough (or was wise enough not to try) to fight all that temptation, and left them to their enjoyment.

But enough about food – on this blog.

The point of the #KlaRestaurantWeek, and the reason you must all go out to the participating restaurants and take part in this culinary adventure is because it is:

1. A lot of fun: Visiting 40 (forty) restaurants in about seven days is DEFINITELY piles of fun – going by our night of just three restaurants. If you plan your week properly you can maximise everything that those restaurants have to offer by taking in the special menu items first and going in groups of friends so you all order different dishes and keep the experience lively.

2. Easy to do: Imagine that on the night of the launch we got from one restaurant to the next in good time regardless of the crazy Kampala traffic, simply by planning the journey and using the relevant back roads – even with the Fairway roundabout in the way of two of the trips. Just by planning a route in advance we cut off precious minutes of digestion time and enjoyed three restaurants in one night (that could easily be “for the price of one”…next bullet)

3. Cheap: For real! If you are clever about it and choose the specials only then you will be on a roll. Most of the meals are either Ushs10,000 or Ushs25,000, in places where during the normal days the cost of each would be about Ushs5,000 or Ushs10,000 more than that. It’s a bargain especially considering that the quantities are more or less the same decent amount you will get when the #KlaRestaurantWeek has ended and we are all pretending to be normal. Visit this page: http://thepearlguide.co.ug/kampala-restaurant-week/ for more.

4. Surprisingly pleasant: Especially finding that there are so many fine restaurants right here in Kampala! Sitting in Yujo, for instance, was like being part of one of those highly entertaining and mouthwatering programmes on the Food Channel (not the one of UBC…yet).

5. An adventure in discovery: As immediately above, but also, for instance, I discovered Yum Deliveries – a new rival of Hello Food – and Eat Out Uganda, with whom I immediately signed up. Actually, I can boast here that I am the first Ugandan to sign up for an Eat Out card, because I happened to meet the Country Manager on the #KlaRestaurantWeek tour that evening.

6. A great way to meet people: As evidenced immediately above, besides the fact that I met a number of bloggers in the flesh on that one night and will be meeting many more bloggers, celebrities, fun Ugandans, great people of all walks of life, provided I go through these restaurants during #KlaRestaurantWeek.

This week is not just about you and I going into those restaurants to eat food though;; it is also about Ugandan restaurants raising the bar to compete with the rest of the world.

Fine dining can be found in Uganda, but so can consistent good food, as many of the 40 (forty) restaurants will show. Plus, in coming years we need to see more and more ‘ordinary’ local restaurants proudly displaying the ‘Kampala Restaurant Week’ badge – including the pork joints many of us like to frequent (I miss those).

And the week gives these restaurants the opportunity to showcase innovation. At Yujo, on the night we were there, the whole restaurant went silent at one point and I looked around to catch about ten people nodding their heads as if in some foodie Mexican wave.

They were all chewing on the Katsuberry burger, and because I couldn’t take a bit I interested myself in what it tasted like.

“Mmmmmryy jnncckjkkddnnnggh,” everyone seemed to say, in their reluctance to stop eating into the damn things.

Eventually someone told me the story of how Hanif and his team went shopping for rare strawberries in a market in Kampala when they were in season, and found the most succulent and juicy offering they had ever seen on our shelves.

Snapping them up, they sped back to the restaurant to make their meal but, as Ssemwogerere’s Law dictates, someone sat on the bag of berries and squashed them flat in their kaveera. The chef was beaten, as was the entire kitchen team. But they did not despair; with some quick thinking and brainstorming, they mixed the squashed berries with aioli and voila! The Katsuberry Burger was now a gastronomic conversation stopper.

That’s innovation in food – they type of result that the #KlaRestaurantWeek aims for.

May we have many more!

(There are no photographs here because at the last food event I attended before this one, someone stole my camera…)

here’s how to get rid of all those empty plots and make money while at it


FOR months now, my neighbourhood association has grappled with the very disturbing problem of empty plots. These are plotted pieces of land on which buildings have not yet been erected and that, therefore, attract unsavoury characters with undesirable, distasteful habits.
For various reasons on top of just the pain of looking at them, the empty plots are particularly irritating for the residences that occupy the spaces closest to them. One reason is the tendency some characters have of haphazardly dumping garbage on such plots, which besides the offensive smell leads to an accumulation of vermin that gets pursued by snakes.
Another reason is the shrubs and bushes that thrive on the putrefaction and grow annoyingly healthily to heights that serve only one purpose – providing cover for criminals of varying degrees of danger and menace, including those misguided young fellows that gather in groups to take turns puffing away at rolled up herbs rarely found in domestic kitchens.
And, linked to that, are the swarms of mosquitoes and other insects that breed within these plots.
Our problem was so serious that we fired off letters to the city authorities and have kept pushing for something to be done, short of claiming the plots ourselves and putting up buildings thereon.
We identified a couple of the plot owners and one of them agreed to keep his plot clean and cleared, but the other went silent knowing our reaction would be muted (one day he will be shocked to find activity on his plot, as you will see later).
This problem exists in many more than just my neighbourhood, and as we were on the verge of forming an association for ‘People Irritated By Empty Plots’, I fell upon a television programme that introduced me to the Huertos of Cuba, and have re-aligned my approach.
I believe that Huerto, in Spanish, means something along the lines of “kitchen-garden”, or “small vegetable garden” or “market garden”.
The story goes that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Cuba found its most powerful economic partner was no longer in a position to provide the support it needed. The country was faced with its own economic collapse, in the face of serious difficulty being such a close neighbour of the United States and at the same time its most rooted enemy.
The most urgent problem the country faced, at that time, was a looming food shortage because food agriculture was generally quite low as the country had focused on industrial agriculture for export mainly to the Soviet Union.
The country declared an economic crisis and introduced food rationing, which led to the malnutrition in families.
At the same time, because the economy was doing so badly, there were hundreds of empty or disused plots within the city – in particular, the capital, Havana, where businesses had shut down and buildings had been abandoned.
The Cubans put two and two together and started to plant their own food on those empty plots, and before long the government took up the task of officially supporting these efforts, creating a system of agriculture that is to this day feeding the country on healthy, organic vegetables.
It has been so successful that the Cubans have introduced a new word into agricultural lingua: “organoponics” (organoponicos, in Spanish) – the use of organic materials from crop resides, household waste and animal manure, to grow domestic crops.
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Photo from http://www.lagarbancitaecologica.org 

It is not awkward, in Havana, to find a commercial building standing tall next to a neat and lush garden of vegetables along a high street; or a home with soil bearing healthy vegetables all growing on the roof of its garage.

By 2013, according to some official accounts, half of Havana was under agriculture. One Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report states that in 2012 these ‘Huertos’ produced 63,000 tonnes of vegetables, 20,000 tonnes of fruit and 10,000 tonnes of roots and tubers!
THIS is what is going into our neighbourhood’s next letter to the city authorities here.
Rather than attempt to confiscate the empty plots that make life so difficult and uncomfortable around us, we will be asking for permission to turn them into neat, flourishing and highly lucrative gardens.
Besides, our soils here are much, much better than the Cuban soils, so we will need even less work on the organoponics, even though it will help us dispose of our organic waste more productively.
And the fellows who converge amidst the bushes on those plots to smoke weed will most likely happily converge there amidst shorter plants to earn money

doing some weeding instead.

#oscarssowhite is not the issue when you’re in a kazigo


Chris Rock at the Oscars
Courtesy Photo: http://www.thewrap.com

I MADE a decision to stop watching the Oscars and Grammies back in the late 90s when, one night as we were gathering to watch the glitzy ceremony, Paul Busharizi burst into a typically uncontrollable fit of laughter at me.

Our viewing station was the kazigo next to mine, and as we walked past my door I smoothly inserted and turned the key in the door lock, unlocked the padlock, threw back the bolt, pushed the door open and quickly tossed my notebook into the dark room where I was certain my bed was located, almost without breaking a step.

Bush was impressed at the fluidity of my movements, but that quickly broke down into his fits of laughter when my notebook landed onto the edge of what sounded like a plate with crockery on it, bouncing it into the air to crash land into some other items of an indeterminate but loud, clattering nature – muffled as I shut the door within seconds of having opened it.

This was muzigo life.

As usual, I endured his ribbing and it didn’t hurt my feelings because it was really funny. But I became alive to the idea that I was putting aside these hours to watch the glittering world of Hollywood’s richest and finest in their splendid clothes at expensive hotels, from the comfort of a squalid one-room muzigo off a very fair sized colour TV.

So I have tried over the years to bring some glitz and glamour into my own little life in whatever small measure, even if there are no lights and cameras involved.

Part of that has been supporting stages for our own entertainment industry to claim some of the prominence and attention the Oscars and other such shows seem to own.

Further opportunity to do so showed itself when, for the last couple of weeks on the international scene an uproar erupted over racism in the world of entertainment, under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

#OscarsSoWhite rocked social media almost as much as #BlackLivesMatter – which came up because of all those killings that involved white (police)men and dead black men – also racism.

#OscarsSoWhite arose because people were indignant that ALL the nominees for the Oscars this year were white – no blacks were deemed good enough to be nominated for these prized awards, and social mediaratti lost its collective control.

This was just weeks after Ugandan model Aamito Lagum was the subject of racist comments from ignorant and angry seemingly ‘white’ people, indignant over her inclusion in an ad for some high-end cosmetics – and that resulted in the social media campaign #PrettyLipsPeriod.

As all that was happening on the global scene I paid a visit to my daughter’s school and noticed once again that there were many posters, motivational messages and text book pages that feature non-Ugandans (their being white should not be the central issue).

As we waited to chat with her teacher, I received a couple of those ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Have a nice day’ WhatsApp messages with images of non-Ugandan (let’s not say ‘white’) babies, and my irritation bubbled over.

I immediately resolved to create my own WhatsApp greeting images using my own children (coming soon to a phone near you), in order to right the global imbalance between black and white. I am also creating for my daughter’s school motivational posters and messaging using images of ordinary, local Ugandans.

Even before vying for Oscar-winning roles, I am certain that creating more Ugandan content will right any so-called racial injustice and counter #OscarsSoWhite more effectively than a hashtag campaign.

If we allow our children to settle for a muzigo with a TV on which to watch the Oscars they will never get to the damn show either, let alone believe that they can create their own respectable alternative.

recycling, creativity, art and made in Uganda right at home


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MY weekend has been quite satisfactorily artsy and hands-on, starting with Friday’s delivery of this superb pot by Christopher Bigomba, after months of saving up for it.
I met Chris about five years ago under circumstances I can’t remember right now, and got him intricately involved in producing some bespoke pieces of art for me, in his specialty style.
He is a master at painting bottles, and I was a master at collecting them. Putting the two characteristics together and lubricating it with money and patience resulted in a very colourful collection of pieces that are dotted all round our home.
img_20160228_093310.jpgI’ve always been fascinated by how easily these bottles can be turned from rubbish into art, and spend too much time worrying that there cannot be enough time in the world for Chris to paint ALL the bottles in Uganda.
Enter Ronnie Kyazze, a pal I met under other circumstances I won’t go into now either, but that involved Land Rovers.
As we were discussing the mechanics of the vehicles one day, I found out he was actually an IT guy.
While we were talking about our IT interests, I spotted a neat wooden bird house hanging out of an avocado tree in his garden. It was so much better than the plastic doll house I had taken from my daughter and tied to a disposable plastic party plate, that I had to ask him for its source.
He had made it himself.
Then he told me he even decorates and cuts used bottles – and shot into the house to get me one. The word ‘non-plussed’ popped up in my mind, and that day I left with the gift of a glass he had cut from an old wine bottle.
Many months later he came over to take us through some bottle painting and cutting lessons.
I had neglected to soak my accumulation of bottles in water the night before, which is essential for getting the labels and their adhesive to peel off neatly. So I rallied the children round to help soak the bottles, before we washed them and peeled the labels off.
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After soaking them for a while the bottle labels and adhesive gave way to my pen knife scraping quite easily, and Ronnie threw in some liquid soap to quicken the process so that within a couple of hours we had an array of clean bottles in front of us ready to receive our bottled up creativity.
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That reminds me – back when I was a child I once scored 22% in a fine art assignment and my teacher was appalled. Her comments made it clear that I would never amount to much as far as fine art was concerned. I intend for none of the children I interact with to EVER grow up with such an idea in their minds.
We put together spray paint cans (only five colours), string, raffia, sisal, glue (different types), jute, some sea shells, masking tape and paper (recycled).
While cleaning the bottles I got to dismantle the pouring stoppers and extracted some glass marbles as well, specifically from Johnny Walker bottles – which I later sprayed golden and added to the decorative mix as beads.
For the designs we used the masking tape round the bottles, and stencils cut out of the disused paper, and the raffia and sisal.
The results were not as great as Christopher Bigomba’s, or even Ronnie’s own, but we were proud of our work.
After that we got to cutting bottles and creating self-watering planters as well as glasses. The process is so simple that, again, it’s a wonder that so many bottles still go into dustbins in this country.
Ronnie whipped out a bottle-cutter – which basically holds the bottle in place and enables you to make an etching where you want to cut it. After that, we poured hot and cold water along the etching simultaneously until the bottle came apart quite smoothly, before we sanded the edges down.

At the end of the day, we had a good array of decorative bottles and self-watering planters being looked over by my small group of highly energised young ones with proven creative juices in full flow.

Plus, if all else fails, we can make a living out of this – selling these recycled items Made In Uganda.

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 And there are certain ladies in our lives who are happy with these gifts:
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