the rain and the children


There is a certain number of children beyond which one is not guaranteed that continuous deep sleep under heavy rain and thunder.
Study that statement carefully.
Basically, the logic is that if you have one child then you have a 50:50 chance of having your heavy rain deep sleep interrupted; anything more than just that one child decreases your chances of sleeping drastically.
In general, most of the children will take advantage of the rains to also enjoy some deep sleep, but there will always be one who departs from the script under ordinary circumstances. In a worse case scenario, you might even have more than one doing so, taking turns to send you for water, toilet tours, entertainment and so on and so forth.
Last night after the first major peal of thunder, I was summoned to the presence of only one of my brood and presented with a classic heavy rain problem:
“I can’t sleep. The rain is too loud.”
She was quite right about the volume of the rain, and I immediately acknowledged so then told her to just close her eyes and try to sleep.
“I did that and it didn’t work,” she responded, in a tone of voice that signalled frustration and anger at science in general.
As usual, I started a discussion about the science of rain and lightning and thunder, hoping the dullness of the topic and depth of my voice would bore her to sleep. Failure was complete, as I started nodding off in mid-sentence myself and she had to wake me with:
“I still can’t sleep. It’s really too loud.” This time in a tone of voice so hard that I realised I had to be more careful approaching the problem.
I suggested prayer, story-telling, and a couple of other tactics but she had tried some and rejected the rest.
Eventually, looking out of the window at the torrents of rain, my mind went to the Bobi Wine song ‘Singa’ (“Singa, nze Museveni…Singa, nze Sudhir omugagga…”) and I tried to imagine what those two would do in these circumstances.
We would have fallen draw-draw, as some would say.
This was a problem no money or power could solve.
But I needed to look on the bright side of the issue and, first and foremost, stop the conversation from going any further. You see, the problem statement was one that I could possibly tackle: “I can’t sleep. The rain is too loud.”
If we went on talking there was a chance that we would get to a demand such as, “Make the rain stop” or “Decrease the volume of the rain.”
These are fatherhood nightmare statements, in these situations, because they put our hero-status to a direct test held under stressful conditions invigilated by a hyper-alert young one with very high expectations.
Those are the kind of demands that make fathers create entire dramatic productions backed by nonsensical stories that they pray will be forgotten before the children enter into their teenage years. Acceptably embarrassing options in these extreme circumstances include phonecalls to so-called ‘Rain Offices’; the use of imaginary remote control devices to decrease the rain volume; and even positioning oneself before windows and using some mind-force energy to push the rain away.
It is very embarrassing but can be highly effective if timed right and the elements of nature comply within reasonable measure. The only problem is that eventually you get asked to “decrease the heat” during the hot dry seasons and whereas the solution is switching on a fan, the act is not as heroic…
So “I can’t sleep. The rain is too loud”, needed to be managed and for the moment I was the man for the job.
If she had been of age, this problem would have been fixed by a double measure of a wide range of tonics from various bottles kept in the relevant cabinet.
Sadly she was above the age where moving to our bed was a solution to any problem from “My stomach is hurting” to “I had a bad dream”, and so my options narrowed down even further.
I couldn’t dare, meanwhile, curse the rain; we’ve waited for it long enough and will be forever grateful for it.
The solution: wait out the rain in her room while ensuring conversation does not get to “Make the rain stop” or “Decrease the volume of the rain” levels.
So I transferred the failure to sleep and took it on in full measure. That’s me here. Being an insomniac on behalf of my daughter so that she can get enough sleep to manage a few hours of school tomorrow.
See; all I have to do during the day is go out to work so I can afford their school fees, the mortgage, their food, clothes and so on and so forth.
I will sleep when they are old enough to get their own house.

Victor Ochen: let’s take him viral for Uganda


Allan Ssenyonga (@ssojo81 on Twitter) is a Ugandan living and working in Rwanda who makes incisive, prolific observations every so often in his weekly newspaper column down south (I don’t get that paper in regularly), and more importantly, on Twitter.
A week ago he was angry at the Ugandan media focus on Desire Luzinda, Bad Black and the likes of Zari instead of presumably ‘more serious’ matters.
“Dear friends,” he wrote, “that’s how Bad Black/Desire Luzinda find space on page one while you struggle to know when the next LC elections will be held.”
“From setting the agenda,” he continued, “newspapers now just reflect what is trending on social media…in the process (the papers) have lost their voice.”
We applauded him, in between tweets about the just-leaked racy nudes of one Sheebah, a musician.
“Newspapers seem to be struggling to be blogs. Like that 30yr old who still wants to sag his jeans to hangout with campus kids,” he went on.
He hit nail after nail on the head with heavy, effective tweets, but of course life went on and the newspapers are probably not following him THAT keenly.
By the time he was tweeting this up, I was popping off a few of my own seeking excitement, on Twitter at least, about 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Victor Ochen, whose appearances on our front pages so far have not been numerous enough by far.
Victor Ochen’s popularity amongst the social media crowd is low, of course, because of his severe failure to be photographed in a state of undress or on video while engaged in a sexual act.
Victor Ochen and-Archbishop-Desmond-TutuThe most commonly available photograph of him online has him draping his arm over the shoulder of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
This amazing young fellow is being lauded (a nomination on its own is serious global applause) for starting and running the African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET) in northern Uganda which has changed the lives of thousands of people.
Without focusing on how young he is in calendar years, Victor Ochen’s initiative has provided direct surgical medical rehabilitation to more than 5,000 victims of torture, gunshot wounds, rape and other forms of war-related trauma in northern Uganda.
And while most people prepared to cast votes for the Social Media Awards 2015, he got nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
And he wasn’t nominated by me, or any other Ugandan I know – even though nominating someone isn’t complicated at all – the categories of persons and organisations who can nominate people are many and include any Member of Parliament (Victor Ochen’s MP must be kicking himself right now, I wrote in my first version of this article; but when he read it on Saturday night – the early edition of the Sunday newspaper – he sent me a Facebook message and we had a good chat about this.
Victor Ochen’s Member of Parliament is Moroto County’s Benson Obua-Ogwal and he is NOT kicking himself over this.
“I’m not surprised by his nomination, and he deserves it. But you and I know that it is hard to know exactly the criteria for such nominations, going by many past winners. I dare say if the nomination came from me or a fellow African of any rank it probably would not have carried as much weight as the nomination from …(this is revealed a few paragraphs from here)... He has worked very closely with international friends, and we have been in touch. I am proud of his work. I’m praying he wins. It will be my pride and that of the people of Moroto County, Lango and Uganda!!” he told me.
To nominate someone you just send an email to postmaster@nobel.no; but obviously if your airtime has been eaten up by all those WhatsApp messages with photos and videos of Ugandan ‘celebs’, then you can’t send that email.
Without saying that all of us who didn’t nominate Victor Ochen for the Nobel consideration were otherwise engaged in soft pornography, guess who nominated him?
The American Friends Service Committee.
No, it is NOT a Ugandan organisation with an American name. The organisation doesn’t even list Uganda as one of the countries in which it has operations, so I am not certain or how where they heard of Victor Ochen.
The AFSC itself won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, and so is high up on the list of organisations allowed to nominate future winners. We have to applaud them for using their valued opportunity on Victor Ochen.
There is no telling exactly how many people have been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, since the organisers, the Nobel Foundation, keep the list of nominations secret for 50 YEARS!
Still, there are people who make their nominations public, and so we know that Victor Ochen is up against Pope Francis, Ban Ki-Moon, Edward Snowden and the World Health Organisation, among around 200 or so others.
At this point, it is not healthy to judge your own friends, or posse, or investment club as you ponder the proverb regarding ‘birds of a feather’.
Instead, salute Victor Ochen for getting nominated by way of noble Victor Ochen 2hard work, and say a prayer or cross your fingers that the Ugandan flag will be flown in places such as the location at which the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates are announced and awarded.
And tell your children about Victor Ochen so that they aspire to be like him. Also, if you can take a break from your smart phone, or the bar, or life as usual otherwise, lobby our educationists so that they include the work of Victor Ochen and people like him on the curriculum of our schools.
It is important for our millions of students to get exposed to more of Uganda’s Victor Ochen’s than all these undressed celebs and their shenanigans.
And maybe for our media to tell us more about the work of AYINET than the last sighting of a photograph of a nude person on the mobile phone of a misguided person.
In fact, YOU get a photo of Victor Ochen and send it round to a couple of people with a few positive comments just in case you can inspire more people to be like him.
Victor Ochen
The heroic Victor Ochen – photo from http://www.africanyouthinitiative.org/

the ‘ebola is Africa’ bullshit needs to be stopped BEFORE the disease itself


Earlier today you must have seen this map:

Ebola In Africa

Please share it with anyone and everyone in THE WORLD so that they begin to understand that this continent is not one big tent under which lives this big, close-knit family called Africans.

And kindly go over to people like the professionals who run kidshealth.org and make them replace their entire philosophy with this map.

This evening, while checking on a couple of ideas I had in the middle of handling my four-year old’s feverish cough (NO – she does NOT have Ebola!), I landed on this page (http://kidshealth.org/kid/) and was surprised to see the section titled ‘Ebola’.

Ebola 1

Do you see what they are doing there? This is a website that communicates DIRECTLY to children, with a clear focus on the ones in the United States of America, and their idea of Ebola has it linked to the continent of Africa in our white entirety.

Don’t think, by the way, that the purveyors of this website information are so stupid that they show you a picture of the full human body to depict a headache:

Ebola 5

They understand the idea that the body is made up of different parts, and, presumably, that an ache in the head is called headache and so on and so forth. The idea that the continent of Africa does not have Ebola across the entire landmass, therefore, should be easy for them.

Luckily, on one level, this is not the type of page that a medical researcher will visit for information on Ebola, judging from entries such as:

Ebola 2

But the children who read this, I fear, will be traumatised for life with the thought that these “many people in Africa” are sick.

And one cannot therefore fully blame American children or their ignorant parents for all manner of silly reactions such as:

1. The teacher who had to resign her job because she had returned from a visit to Kenya and parents of her school in Lousville, I-Can’t-Be-Bothered-To-Find-Out-Which-State – which is probably closer to the Ebola case in the United States than Kenya is to any case of Ebola in West Africa this year. (http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/education/2014/11/03/louisville-catholic-teacher-resigns-amidst-ebola-fears/18417299/)

2. The two children from Senegal who were beaten and shouted at for being African and therefore probably having Ebola.  (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/28/us/ebola—-school-beatings/)

And many other stories besides.

Isn’t there a high possibility that these students and their parents had sought some high quality information from the likes of http://kidshealth.org/kid/?

You see, their editorial policy…actually, read it yourself:

Ebola 3

“rigorous”

“extensive review”

“by medical professionals”

Okay, they don’t know geography or communication, obviously, and need help in that field – thus the need for them to refer to the map above.

Ebola 4

Showing them the map above would help them in their ’18-step process’ that has hitherto failed to notice that the VAST MAJORITY OF THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA DOES NOT HAVE EBOLA.

I’ve done my bit, and gone to their ‘Contact Us’ page where, politely, I have suggested: “You should not spread the stereotypical error that Ebola is linked to the entire continent of Africa, as the map you have presented for the disease indicates. Be clear in your communication so that the children of the United States of America don’t grow up associating everyone from Africa with this disease. You might also wish to mention that some people in the United States and also Europe have contracted Ebola…”

I know that on its own this is a weak blow.

So, please, join me, go over and submit your own suggestion?

Please?!

Help the American child to NOT be mis-educated so?

fetch me the chaps who make zebra crossings…NOW


Zebra Crossing

 

Somebody, please point me to the person in charge of deciding where zebra crossings go?

At my kids’ school it’s ridiculous.

The zebra crossing over there, on what I believe is called Gaddafi Road, is a little faded, but that is not the problem – it might actually be the solution, because the sooner it disappears, the better.

Because the crossing runs from one end of the road to the other, right onto the entranceway into a parking lot (see above, again).

Yes – the safe crossing point at my children’s school leads pedestrians straight into oncoming traffic. There are crazier things happening in the world, of course, but this would be high on your list if it were happening to your children two times every day.

This is not the fault of the Aga Khan Education Services, which is run by hard-working educationists and administrators, because my expectation of them is to provide an education and an environment in which that education will be received and absorbed in an enjoyable manner.

Which is why I ask again: who is in charge of these things? Who is the person who took time to examine the problem children and parents were facing getting across this busy road, and worked out that a zebra crossing would solve it?

That person must have researched the concept of zebra crossings and the fact that they give right of way to pedestrians – the same right of way that driving instructors, back when I was in driving school, explained to me in some detail.

On establishing that a zebra crossing would be a good solution to the problem of children and parents risking life crossing a busy road in Kampala City, the person behind the Aga Khan zebra crossing probably got to work designing it.

From the looks of it, that person’s idea of ‘design’ was to: a) Draw black and white strips. b) Leave.

The strips aren’t even all the same size!

Taking into account the speed of internet access used to google ‘zebra crossing’ (if that person’s internet provider is the same as mine), and the time taken to pick up one pencil and one sheet of paper, this entire process should have taken four minutes.

And that person certainly didn’t get involved in painting the actual zebra crossing onto the road, otherwise the folly of its placement would have been clear to see, if they had their wits about them while doing the painting.

That folly is clear to us, parents and children alike, as we make that crossing daily like gladiators facing vehicular monsters under the control of the maniacal drivers Kampala seems to produce in their thousands.

The plot thickened recently when due to genuine security concerns cars were prohibited from driving into the school yard to drop children off, and more recently when the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) rightly put a stop to the practice of parking on the pavements.

So now, all vehicles must go into that one parking lot, accessible strictly over the same single zebra crossing that leads children and those parents adventurous enough to accompany their young into the arena.

Not all parents or minders, I might add, face this danger; some are too busy to get involved and toss their little ones out of the car in order to head off into commerce and duty. They are not taking risks, I presume, since there have been no reports in the recent past of vehicular tragedy at this school.

Other parents, minders and drivers, while speeding off to their other lives, narrowly escape killing their children’s classmates every morning and afternoon while doing so.

Again, they can’t be fully to blame because their only access in and out of the parking lot is by way of the zebra crossing.

Luckily, there is a traffic officer present most mornings to guide the chaos. But if the zebra crossing designer had applied just a little bit of planning during their work, then that traffic officer would have been deployed to create a higher level of order or handle a more serious crime elsewhere.

The officer in question is most times assisted by some parking attendants kindly provided by the school and, together with parents and children, small crowds form to intimidate the vehicles enough to avert death.

The challenge is entertaining to observe, but some times also irritating. Like the Friday before last when one Nadia-driving lady impatiently hooted at a group of parents, children and attendants to get them out of her way after she had dropped her ‘passengers’ off.

On realising that her car horn was not achieving the desired effect, she took a leaf from the book of taxi drivers and drove over the pavement and kerb, inches away from ANOTHER group of parents and children, and made her way into the road.

The irony of a child-dropping parent being a threat to the lives of other children and parents doing the same is as thick as that of the zebra crossing leading into the parking lot; and just a little less thick than the designer of this zebra crossing itself.

 

pain is the defiance of a three-year old in stormy weather at night


Those in Kampala will read the time at which this is coming in and will surely sympathise; the defiance of a three-year-old in THIS weather at THIS time can only lead to kiboko or a VERY MAJOR lesson in patience.

Over time, my three-year old has developed a system for summoning us to her bedside in the night, which involves pestering her eleven-year old sister awake by calling out to her gently but continuously until she responds firmly as proof that she is awake, then instructing her to call either one of us.

The eleven-year old, once awakened, is always desperate to go back to sleep and applies herself to her three-year old sister’s assignment with energy fuelled by this desperation. Since we are always asleep when her frantic shout comes through, our response is always quick, frantic, panicked and, again, quick and frantic. It is always only after we have completed the sprint and hurdles across to their room that we remember that this is normally a summons by the three-year old to entertain any one of her middle-of-the-night needs.

Things proceed calmly after that, most nights, but it is painful.

On this night, in this weather, it is even more painful; first of all, I have developed a system of not waking up fully when this happens, in order to fall back into sleep in the style of the military command ‘As You Were!’ – I’m sure you all have this. The human body is an amazing thing for having this auto-setting where you can memorise slumber and lock it in, go to the loo or fridge or frisky kid for a few minutes, then Return To Unit or Return-To-Sleep.

When the weather is like this one right now, raining cats, dogs and other larger animals, the body has ways of absorbing sleep so completely that you begin having dreams of candles melting and merging with their holders like your body onto the mattress under the blanket. Even in your sleep, you find that position that you are somehow aware is the perfect one without moving even a toe to one side or another; and the sound of the rain in that slumber penetrates all sleep and even enhances rather than  interrupts it.

In THIS weather, Return-To-Sleep is automatically engaged, but when I got to the three-year old’s bed and heard the first words come out of her mouth I became immediately alert to how awake she was and fear set in.

“Daddy,” she said, to test whether I was surely, properly awake and to prepare me for a long discourse ahead, “I am seeing light and I want to bathe because I think it is morning.”

She is now at that age where she comes up with such statements of reason for things that make you first work out how she did it before you can address her argument – which puts you on the back foot when she follows it up with another argument.

Imagine this position at THIS hour of the night in THIS weather when your body is locked into Return-To-Sleep mode.

I wasn’t entering into a conversation.

The poor eleven-year old was also awake but unlike me, her return-to-sleep is faster and more assured so she got up to use the loo. I decided that I had to change the three-year old’s nighties, children being children, and immediately dispatched her to go with her big sister to the loo while I picked out her change of nighties and waited for them to return, only to hear a bit of commotion a few minutes later.

Shuffling over to the rescue, I found two white ants fluttering about, the eleven-year old sleepily watching their feeble drama, and the three-year old pointing at them with commands for someone to put them out of commission.

She hadn’t used the loo yet.

I crushed them underfoot – the white ants, not the girls – on my way to picking her up and placing her on the loo.

Disappointed at how quickly this had been resolved, the three-year old then declared, “I am going to pupu.”

This is her threat whenever I take her to the loo and appear to be in a hurry, and in polite adult english language would be phrased as, “If you think this is going to be quick, you have another think coming!”, while in Luganda it would be, “T’ompapya! Ndi wa ddembe!”

The eleven-year old gave me a sympathetic diplomatic fifteen seconds of company then left.

I didn’t even acknowledge the threat and after two minutes held out the nighties with, “Have you finished?”

I breathed a sigh of relief when she disembarked from the loo, but then she headed to her room and roused the eleven-year-old to help her with finding another set of nighties – her preferred set of nighties, for this occasion.

I watched in disbelief as they browsed the clothes cabinet, the three-year old with a running commentary of her clothing preferences and wearing history of some of the outfits, and the eleven-year-old showing a little commitment that ended when she realised I had arrived.

After trying on two sets of nighties and rejecting them, I begged her to go to sleep and she responded in the voice and tone of my Aunt Robinah, the most big-headed of my beloved aunts (which is why God gave her Edgar for a son): “But I don’t want to sleep.”

She didn’t shout it, or whine, or anything child-like; she stated it as if to say, “Seriously, why do you think I am all up in these clothes right now?” or “Beera mu kilaasi”.

The eleven-year-old, always focussed and now in the comfort of her bed, gently asked me to tuck in her net tightly and bade me a good night, then promptly dropped off. This is when I remembered how it was only a couple of years ago that her and her nine-year old brother began appreciating the opportunity for sleep that rain provides. The nine-year-old, meanwhile, cannot be anywhere in this story as he has a strict sleep policy when it rains, which reads in full as follows: “Sleep.”

He even prays for it to rain at night so that he can sleep. The nine-year old so keenly looks out for rain at night that if he hears the signs early in the evening he will be off to bed well ahead of the rest, to lie in wait for the rain to fall.

Not so the three-year-old, and tonight I could see that my seminar on the subject had flopped.

So, ordering her to enter her bed with a sternness I hoped she would not ignore, we faced off for a few seconds and she gave in.

I was overjoyed!

Tucking her in with instructions to close her eyes and just go to sleep, I left.

But my Return-To-Sleep setting had worn off.

And as I tried to regain it, seeking my perfect sleeping position and listening intently to the sound of the rain beating down, I heard instead: “DAAAADDDDYYYY!”

She was now thirsty. The rest is insomniac history.