Eating Holiday

I need a holiday. To go away some place where I’ll wake up with only a single concern every morning: to feed this body of mine. To eat some good and some not-considered-so-good food. To spoil myself with fries and burgers, coffee and loads of chocolate, ice cream and cake. To be bad (or good, depending on how you see it) to myself for while, to over indulge. To feel no guilt at a late morning or an inactive day.

My sole purpose will be to walk about, not aimlessly, but seeing sights; stopping only to drink in the pleasure. I’ll eat some strange foods and talk to some strangers. They’ll talk back in accents I don’t understand and I’ll giggle like a school girl.

I’ll see new places, learn new things and meet new people. There will be new music, new stories, new folklore, new jokes, new festivals. Even new dreams, I imagine. I’ll relax, forget a little and live a whole lot. I’ll take long walks, and learn to appreciate art and wine. I’ll take boat rides, go treausure hunting and wish upon stars.

And when my holiday ends, I’ll be a new creature. With bigger cheeks, of course.

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Morality

Do no harm. That's it.

No excuses, no rationalisations. Do no harm, period.

To do good, only, always. How hard can that be? Well, very hard, sometimes. But like we’ve agreed: do no harm, that’s it. Actually I don’t think that’s enough. Sometimes doing no harm does not translate to doing good. Sometimes doing nothing may mean no harm has been done, but neither may good have been done. Sometimes doing nothing may actually wind up being harmful. I only know I haven’t done harm when I’m certain my inaction or action has brought about good.

So, do no harm. That’s it.

Turn left at the jack fruit tree

In some parts of the world, finding your way around to a point of interest, X, should be as easy as Block C, XYZee Street, 3rd Avenue. And as it’s written is exactly as you’ll find it.

Karibuni kwa Uganda. In the Central Business District of cities and towns, places are rather easy to locate. Streets have names, plots have numbers and buildings have names. In some places  the order is a little haphazard but you eventually get where you need to go. After swimming through the sea of human bodies, that is.

Outside the city, and even within the city but outside the CBD, it takes a lot more than GPS and a good sense of direction to get where you’re going. You stand a far better chance with superb people skills, determination, eagle-like eye sight, and truck loads of patience. Because homes are not constructed here as they are in the west or other parts of the world with planned communities, planned homes, intricate urban planning et al, addresses become hard to locate. Here, land owners cut and sell their plots of land as they see fit. As long as an access road can be routed to that piece of land, it’ll be fragmented and sold. I know there are some rules, but some people ignore them. People will build their houses facing wherever, as they see fit.  In extreme cases, when the seller happens to be someone of questionable character you may even find yourself having purchased a piece of land without an access road. Ambulance chases are to lawyers in the west what land wrangles are to lawyers over here. Most places don’t have addresses. Nothing is recorded, unless it’s a place of business in a business area, you cannot look it up in a directory. And not even all places of business are recorded in directories. So directions to someone’s home could go something like this:

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Dating & Pillow talk in the time of power cuts

Omwaana kyatamanyi tekimukabya – A child cannot cry for what (s)he does not know.

If I didn’t know of the existence of chocolate I would not hanker after it. If I didn’t know of hot baths I would gladly submit to ice-cold showers on rainy days and if I had never heard of Paris I would not be so set on going there someday. You get the picture, and what that Luganda proverb is all about. That proverb (and it’s equivalents in all other languages of the world) may not be completely true. We’ve all felt that feeling of longing for something more, even when you can’t put a finger to exactly what it is that’s lacking, what it is that will make you feel whole. And then when, eventually, you happen upon it you know that THAT is exactly what you needed to make you, or a moment, complete.

We are supposed to feel lucky that our homes, offices, etc. are electrified. Electricity makes lives easy, interesting, liveable. It runs everything, it runs my life. Just half an hour with the power cut is enough to drive me nuts. That so many people in parts of this country only see a lit bulb when they visit family in urban areas is no consolation to me. I’m in the city, it’s the 21st century, I pay taxes, why, oh why have I no power in my home 24/7? I’m a child that has seen and knows electricity and I’m howling and wailing – not just crying – for this electricity. I want my electricity on all the time. I want the switches in my home to glow red every time I flick them on. God forbid that my laptop battery should run out when the power ids off!

In this city you schedule events and dates according to Umeme’s¹ load-shedding² time table. When a friend calls and wants to meet up, mentally you go, “Wait, let me see… we had power Sunday night and Monday during the day, so there’ll be a power cut Monday night and Tuesday daytime…. ” then out loud: “Okay, I can do Monday night or Tuesday daytime… Wednesday night is also good.” The key thing is to make sure you’re not at home when the big cut comes, when all goes totally dark every where and you have 3 choices: 1) Light candles and play about with your phone till you either fall asleep or power returns, 2) Go online/ watch a movie and use up whatever is left of your laptop’s battery then resort to no. 1 above, 3) Just call it an early night and crawl into bed. The best plan of all is to have ‘plot’ when the power gets cut – have somewhere to go, someone to meet, something to do outside the house.

I used to schedule my dates with the mister (let’s call him G) to sync with these power cuts, some times. Guy and Mary, friends of mine, have admitted they never leave home when the power is on. That’s time for watching all your tv series on DVD in marathon style, sunrise to sunset. Everything that needs to be done away from home is grouped and scheduled for a power-off day. Nothing is worse than a Sunday afternoon power cut. Sunday is stay home and watch a movie /feel lazy day. It gets unbearable without power, and it happens more often than you can imagine.

Some nights G would come over to my place and a while later, zap! It would suddenly go dark. I always hated it when that happened. Eating under candle light is not as romantic as it’s cut out to be. At least not in this part of Africa. Also, I like looking at people in the eye when I talk to them, and watching their faces. When I talked to G, I liked watching his face. And not just that, I’m a body language freak. A twitch of the eye lid, a blink, a certain look in the eye, hesitation, … I’m always watching for what people are actually saying that they don’t put into words. Sometimes the most important things are those that go unspoken. So you can imagine, talking to anyone – and least of all a boyfriend – in the dark is one of my least favourite things. There are these phones with a torch application, that are popular here for that very reason, the torch. My grandmother jokingly boasts about how hers lights better than mine. It actually does, I had to admit, grudgingly.

Well, this little phone comes in handy in a power cut. And talking to G, I would find myself shining it in his face as he we talked. Not always intentionally, I just found myself doing it, ’cause well, you want to look at someone when you’re talking to them, right? He hated it. And that’s an understatement. He would scowl, and frown, go ‘Why do you have to do that?’ and I’d say sorry but find myself doing it again. A flashlight direct in one’s face is obviously uncomfortable, I know that too. Pillow talk in the time of power cuts would then get a wee bit… weird. Talk, flashlight in the face, scowl, growl, apology, darkness, talk, flashlight, scowl, growl, sigh… goodnight, let’s talk tomorrow. Honestly, though, pillow talk with G wasn’t always like that. Pillow talk with G was kinda like G… sweet, gentle and loving.

Talking in the dark is not actually that difficult, especially if you’re not at table but in bed, talking about not-so serious matters, being held and cuddling and generally talking as lovers do. Lovers talk in the dark all the time. It’s been said, “…in th intimacy of the darkness…” The darkness can be real intimate, we all know how, I only wish it wasn’t forced on me as often as it is. Some claim these power cuts are going to bring on a massive population expansion, what with people getting to go to bed earlier more often. More than half Uganda’s population are youth. If power cuts = more copulation = increase in population, then things aren’t looking so good for motherland beloved.

¹ The body in charge of electricity distribution.

² The term used to refer to sharing/distributing electricity across the country. The watts generated are way fewer than what the nation needs, so at any given time some areas are taken off the grid and have no power supply while others are supplied. Distribution is rotated, places take turns at being on or off the supply grid.

22 Extra Words!

I’m writing this thing that requires a limit of 1000 words. Problem is I have 1022 words, all of them important. Ever tried to get rid of 22 words and somehow you just couldn’t? English summary was such a huge part of English language composition lessons, and yes I did quite well at it, if I may I say so myself, but my, these 22 words are keeping me up and it’s 3:00am!

Okay, back to getting rid of those 22 words and getting some sleep.

As it was meant.

It’s all as it was meant to be.

If we were all wise, made only wise choices and did just what was right every time, what would the point in life be, indeed where would the lessons lie? What is it that would be called living; and what, then, learning?

Yes, some must be wise and others foolish. Lying halfway or anywhere along the spectrum that spans the two extremes is also permissible. I daresay, even ideal. That some may teach and others be taught. For we could not all possibly strut around holding our heads sagely, dispensing tots of wisdom to one another only to nod and agree with each other then dispense some more.

Variety is truly the spice of life; how tasteless it would be were we all to be alike! No surprises, no personalities to marvel at, no jokes new to us, nothing to puzzle, no treasures to discover in one another, no persons more special or dear to us than others! It really would be a life without much sweetness.

Perhaps there would be more harmony if we were all alike; yet it is only in diversity that we can learn virtues such as patience, genorosity, compassion, humility. In diversity, our humanity is called for. Were we all to be the same in all things, we would never have need to give, patience would never be called for; our love would never be tried. It would be a weak love, a lazy thing. What is love if it is not tried, if it cannot prove its worth, if its never given a chance to live up to its name? What is love if occassion never rises for it to demonstrate all it professes to be? A tried love is an active love, and an active one true. Show me a lazy lover and I’ll show you a liar.

No, we couldn’t all be the same. Some must be more virtuous than others, some wiser, some wealthier, some stronger. All is as it was meant to be, since the fall of man.

Lessons of the year

As the year nears its end, I find myself pondering on the lessons it’s leaving me with. This year has been one of profound growth for me. I’d have to say that’s been the year’s greatest achievement. The evening of the year, especially, has brought me spiritual growth. I wouldn’t say I’m there yet, baby steps first. As we say in Luganda ‘Basooka kwaavula.’ Directly translated, that’s ‘they crawl, first.’ Then they walk, then they run. You get the picture. They may even fly. Who knows.

I’d love to make a list of lessons left by this year/achievements, except I’m not much good at lists. That is with the exception of to-do lists. Boy, I’m good at those. Who isn’t? You simply hit off a list of  X things you think you might do on day Y, things you would like to do. Whether you actually do them is another thing altogether. To-do lists have a focusing effect on me. When I’ve got a to-do list I’m a woman on a mission, one that won’t rest until she’s crossed out everything on her to-do list.

  • Go to Mulago, talk to Prof., Dr. Mworozi
  • NDA, pick up certificate
  • Call Muzaale Sr.
  • Text Julie, ask about her ref
  • Submit application
  • Go lingerie shopping
  • Return home
  • Sleep
  • Ha ha

That was yesterday. Okay, it didn’t all go that well. Completion of items 3 and 5 depended on successful results from items 2 and 1, respectively. The latter didn’t go well, so the former were not accomplished. Item 6 was much fun, a well spent two hours. Who doesn’t love a little frill and lace? I know I do. Items 7, 8, and 9 proceeded without a hitch, and were successfully and brilliantly executed! As expected:)

If I were to write this year’s end’s list, though, top of it would be understanding and forgiveness. Those would have to be my greatest lessons for the year 2011. What have your’s been? Care to share?