Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Show me the money

When you get a chance to be out on the street for long, you get to see how the rest of humanity goes about making a living. You also realize that it is not all ‘normal’ as in the way your mama told you it was supposed to be done back in the day when you told all and sundry that you wanted to be a taxi conductor when you grew up.

Kampala keeps on attracting people from all over the country. Not only that, they are coming in from all over the world. Seems there is something we are not seeing that foreign people see. We have stopped asking how the Asians make so much money. They make the money wherever they are thrown by fate (Iddi Amin, et al) whether in Uganda or in Canada.

In Kampala, you will probably not find the big money in traditional trades. The doctors are all running away from their offices to make a dime on the side. some of them are happy about the doctors' strike at Mulago because they get to spend more time at their clinics and charge obscene money.

There’s this dude who went to the country after school to slave for UGX 400,000 while doctors else where were fighting to work in K’la where they would get the extra cash brought in through the efforts of desperate patients who have been bred to pay the doctors more than they are officially entitled to.

On the surface it seemed like the dude in question was one shinning example of a selfless medic but he a long term plan. He worked for 5 years and stood for MP in the area. He lost. Apparently, the people in his area did not feel like losing him just yet because he was the cheapest dude around. Everyone knew that he would never ask for money on the side.

He slaved for another 5 years and stood. This time, he won. The rest is history, as they say in my village. He went to parliament and some sharp eyed sycophant of Kagu dropped a good word for him in the President’s ear. Now the good doctor is one of the youngest state ministers and he is suddenly looking very different. He is the state minister fro primary health, Mr. Otaala.

It is about what you believe can happen. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to come to fruition. The good doctor can pass off as a guy who didn’t really go looking for the big time. He was elected by grateful people for all the good things he had done for them for ten years. They elected him not because they thought he should earn an MP’s salary. They elected him because they felt he could go to parliament and represent them more ably than the clown who sat in the seat before him. Because he had spent enough time with them to know their problems.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An act of faith

Today I sit here, in my new home’s modest living room and type about the happenings of the last few weeks. Today, as the rain beats on the roof outside, it might seem to the uninitiated that all’s always been serene.


It’s a week and some days since I crossed the great divide. I am no longer on the side where I felt confident and safe. I am now in Unknown Country. My mission is to learn the ropes as soon as possible. It’s all still too new to me, to us. Even when we knew that we should keep our expectations on the low, this is really like Alice at the moment her house landed on the Wicked Witch.


I had my moment of indecision. I think I handled it well, considering. The people had all eaten and they were reclining in the chairs to catch up on their gossip at the kasiki. My friends, Busta and Emma where in Julius’ room, trying to grill me over why I was really making this decision. I guess they felt like Timon and Pumbaa when Simba found Nalaa.

I walked out for a mite and there was Jo.

It’s really strange when the woman you chased at some point in your life comes for your Kasiki. She came with a chaperon. She came late. She said she almost never came. I have this niggling feeling that one of my buds had staged this.

So we sat and said all the silly things that we could say without being crass. Then at midnight, we hit Al Zwizzle. Peter, our chauffer had had his power nap while the rest of us made silly. He was in a straight frame of mind, ready to drive us anywhere.

Place was everything I had imagined it would be. Like a million people were on the verandah, guys rubbing skimpily dressed Nubians with the obligatory glass of poison in their hands. There was a fat line to the counter yet there were people dancing at the counter as if to keep an eye on it lest the Martians came and abducted the alcohol.

Jo and her sister sat at the corner table while I pretended to move around. I met this artiste who was drowning his sorrows in a glass and complaining that a certain David Tumusiime had destroyed him after the PAM awards. Mbu this writer had made him and had now destroyed him. Honestly I didn’t give a fig. I am not even that writer’s employer.

Getting back to the table, Emma and Busta and Peter were there trying to make the ladies feel good. So the Tusker and Club started flowing. That’s when I also made my decision. This was really my last night and I had better loosen up. So I started on a Club. Now I don’t even know when I last imbibed but this was starting to feel good.
Then Peter was before me with something in a tiny glass and coaxing me to drink up. He lit it up and said the flame is only an illusion. Even before I drank up, I knew this was going to knock the socks off me if nothing else did. And boy, did it!

Many hours later, after mixing things I had only heard people talk about and after meeting like half my old school mates from the Old School, many of them with potbellies and receding hairlines, it was time to go. All this time I was staring at Jo and asking myself if I was making the right decision.

After that, it was like time just flew by. We had a rehearsal at church and I could see my best man was still hanging. He and Busta (who’s American and was here for the wedding) had been all over the town and into every bar. He nevertheless made it in time and walked the line and responded aptly when Pastor Godson told us to go this way or that way.

At the salon, Saturday morning, we met an angel. Old guy who gave way for us as we were bagole just started giving us blessings and advise. He even prayed for us at the end. When I asked him his name, he stammered like he was searching for an appropriate one. Angels don’t have earthly names, right?

That’s when things started falling into place; the budget was still short, the tents at the reception venue were late, the guests were more than half what we expected but I didn’t know all this until later because the people on the committee just went into overdrive that day.

Friends from as far as Mine-SNOW-tah came in like at the most critical time and they’ll never know how much that changed things. I met people at those meetings who I had deleted from my hard drive and I was close to tears when they made a showing. Someone told me, in one of those down moments, that a wedding like the one I was planning could not flop.

At the end, all was done.

Day sped by. The rain didn’t come down. The cake was heavenly. The speeches were short and interesting. Everyone marveled at the colour scheme. I saw my uncle jumping around with his arms raised in the air like a little kid who sees a huge helicopter and starts shouting, “Bye Uncle Museveni”.

My bestman was running around doing all the behind the scenes work when he was supposed to be home chilling, seeing as he was also a mugole. Then he told me his mom had called to ask what she could buy for us of the fixtures at home. And I had not even thought about that!

It was crazy.

Now we are back. Life is normal again. The honeymoon was in a beautiful place and mukyala didn’t want to leave but we just had to come back to reality. Reality that life still has low points and that it sucks big time but it depends on the way we handle it.

Suddenly I feel like I have acquired a new set of wings. I feel like I can do a lot more than I could before eleven eleven oh six. I guess that’s what happens when one is still in this euphoric state. I hear the feeling goes on for like six months. Now I can also start saying things like, “My wife and I…”

This could be the worst fuck up in history. It could also be the wisest thing I have ever done. It is a project I have planned for a whole year. At the beginning, when I told people that I was going to do it, even I had problems believing. But I have faith.

If you are not Christian, the concept of faith might seem out there for you. Because, this whole thing means giving one’s life over to another person. If one of us messes this thing up, we both pay. Did I know this before? Hell, yes. It was the loudest naysayer in my mind. But do I believe there might be another side to it? Hell, yes. And I am an optimist.

(PS: I tried to upload pix. Honestly i did. But the system jammed.So i guess i'll have to post them later.)