RIP Prof Zain…

I’m scrolling through this section of code, my mind trying hard to focus on my task today – but it keeps repeating the lines that it read the night before. In an email, that has left the veins on my temple pulsating hard at the mere memory:

Prof Zain died today

The clouds are gathering in the ominous way that Kampala weather has resorted to these last few days, and the weather is a reflection of the sombre mood that has shaken the CMU Africa community.

We have lost a passionate mentor, a professor and a friend. 

I bit my tongue and purse my lips to push back the tears that have been threatening to pour all morning.

I want to ask how can he be dead? Why now? The unfairness of this makes it even more heartbreaking. Not that death is ever fair, for it always robs us of life that we were not yet ready to let go of.

The last conversation I remember having with Prof Zain was in 2015, and it was about getting a job. I told him I had an interview lined up with a company in Kampala called Fenix Intl but he had never heard of them – neither had I, actually. He wanted me to apply to a couple of other companies as well but I was pretty insistent about coming to Kampala. He helped review my resume and I left his office with a couple of other companies that I applied to.

He was always passionate about seeing us reach our full potential – a kind and friendly person who was concerned about our wellbeing.

Another incident I remember was in 2014, I lost a lot of weight, I remember him stopping me after one of the seminar classes, concerned about whether everything was alright. Funny thing is that we digressed into a discussion on diet and how he was planning on cutting out some foods.

Most times, as people, we tend to be too busy to stop and notice or even ask.

He took criticism in stride and always worked toward being better – in one class discussion, I challenged him on getting more Ugandan examples and the next class he did.

There is so much I’ve left out, so much that can be said – We, as a community, have truly suffered a big loss. I cannot even begin to imagine what his family is going through. It is my prayer that God would truly comfort them during this time. May He comfort us all.

Prof Zain, you inspired and spurred us on to greatness. Your passion to see this region harness innovation will live on through us.

Rest in peace.

image: igihe.com

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[#UGBlogWeek] Your ballad, hidden in my soul…

Let me write about you.
Let me write about who I see.
Let me write about you.

Permit me to paint a picture of your smile.
Permit me to tell of the wrinkles that surround your eyes.
Permit me to remember the way your eyes light up.

Let me dream about your crooked smile.
Let me dream about that shadow of a dimple that draws my eyes.
Let me dream about your yesterday’s stub that tickles enough to make my morning right.

Can I tell them of your heart?
Can I tell them of your heart and the way it bleeds for people?
Can I tell them of your heart and the way it longs for justice?

And your fingers, the firmness of your grip reminds my heart of your presence.
And your arms, in them I’ve found where I belong.
And your lips…

I would write about them.
I could write about them.
But like Billy Ocean said…

You’d first need to get outta my dreams
Then wake me up before you go…
and tell me it’s real.

Happy [early] Valentine to one an all.
You are reason enough to celebrate love.
On this day and all future days to come.

love-autumn-tree_759_thinkstockphotos-177812216

Don’t be too serious… Spread some cheese and corn this month!!

Chain #2: She turned the ballad into vows… https://skyagaba.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/my-diamond-among-simple-stones/ – 

Chain #3: What is the color of heartbreak?? https://cynthiakyofuna.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/ugblogweek-i-painted-my-valentine-red/

Chain #4: The frustrations of the get-to-know each other fairytale… 
https://lakerfiona.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/frustrated-in-love-ugblogweek/

Chain #5: Won’t you stay…
https://djtwonjex.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/a-promise-to-stay-ugblogweek/


Do you have what it takes to keep this story going? Add your chain by continuing where Twonjex has left it…

dear friend. 

I looked forward to seeing you today. 

I wore my nice shoes. I don’t wear them often because they are too high and I have a reputation to maintain. I picked out my clothes carefully, you know. Even though these jeans are made in China, they have the superb effect of tucking it all in. As I tidied my hair, I thought about what scent I should wear. A cocktail of Cucumber, Cocoa Butter and an Elizabeth Arden, were what I chose to settle with. 

When I walked, I noticed my gait and posture in my constant companion, causing me to immediately straighten up. Even the cab guy was on time… Never happens. He always says he is at the stage but it’s never the same stage in both your minds. He knows he is knowingly misleading you, but won’t make an effort to correct your assumption.

My head was held high as I walked to our spot and waited to see you. I am always early, that has alway been my problem. Not that I mind, though. Not today. Today, everything was going so well… Today, was the day. 

I found our spot, mine not to far from where it falls and yours a little off to my right. We should pick another spot… Maybe one a little more private. 

I sat waiting. I don’t mind waiting. Waiting is the price you pay for being early. I am always early, so that means I am always waiting.

You didn’t show. You never came. You sent a friend. You couldn’t come. I stare at my shoes and steady my breath. The shadow imprint of my toes and that of the shoe’s previous owners, suddenly became an interesting study. 

What wasted time. What wasted effort. What wasted … 

I look at my phone, willing myself not to search for your contact in my green app. Yes, I am one of those girls. Stand me up and I will text you with a plausible excuse you could have. 

I push you to the back of my mind and I walk home. The cab guy didn’t pick and others were charging exorbitant fares. So walking was my portion, in these shoes that I chose to impress you with. I will myself to think about not falling because the road was not built with my shoes in mind. Who can blame the road workers? They didn’t know that little old me would be walking home stood up. 

I finally get home. Slightly stressed, low on sugar and hope. 

Then I see her. She looks different. When did she change so much? She looks strained. She looks older. She looks tired. Where have I been looking all this time? When did she become like this? Where have I been looking?

All this time I have catered to this hope, walking while wrapped in an aura of possibility. Dreaming dreams of one-day-soon, while my own flesh and blood was slowly wasting away!

My gaze is turned back where it should be. My dear friend, you were an amazing wisp that appeared in hurricane season – not only did we never stand a chance, we never will. 

We never will because this isn’t the time. The time seems to have been long past and all I am doing is wallowing in the aftermath of a forgotten season. 

The pain is back, the one in my chest. It’s more of an ache really. An old fear back to haunt me…. Only this time, this time fight is not necessary for I fully acknowledge — this is my new beginning

stripes.

I could tell you stories of where I have been, stories of how I have had to get there. Some of them, trust me, you will not believe. Some of the ish that I have had to go through, would have you shaking your head.

I have taken this particular route for as long as I can remember. In fact, I remember the first time I had someone sniff in disdain at the state of my condition. Truth be told, I had no idea there was anything wrong with me until that moment.

I could tell you stories about the people that I have met. They range from fiercely contested presidents to the litter nationals.

Uh! Do not get me started on the litter nationals. Seriously though – who grew these people. The other day, I swear, it was two of the most unsuspecting individuals in the nation. This couple could have been on the cover of GQ (how would I know about GQ, you wonder? Well that is a story of another week). Yes, back to team GQ, there I was happy to have what I could term as an eloquent scent wafting through me – then she went and pulled a kavera out of her bag, and he pulled out one with white crystals from his pocket.

Eggs – Of all the snacks on the entire scale of the snack kingdom, they had to choose – eggs!

Sadly, I never get to choose who I hang out with. Reminds me of some of the vile things that I have had to witness. Grown ass men leering at girls fit to be their children – grabbing at them, whistling, catcalling. What was this nation coming to anyway?

As we turn back into the area designated for us, I see throngs of them. Some of them dejected, some of them lost in thought, some of them as young as ten. Apparently, I am not supposed to judge a mother who lets her young child out on their own. tsk tsk. I watch them wearily, they look docile right now, but at the sound of one word, it’s like a ferocious beast is awaked in them. They get very lethal and if that ten year old does not have gumption, he will go down.

Jimmy hops out and then stares at the crowd that is visibly leaning forward. It’s almost like he saviours the moment. Jimmy walks to the front window and engages the driver in a brief discussion.

He then turns his attention back to the slowly growing irate crowd and says his version of Abracadabra.

Enkadde.

Just like I had predicated, the beasts lunged at me. That ten year old didn’t make it, he was pushed to the back as his elders elbowed and shoved each other out of the way. So funny, for the first twenty seconds, no one climbed in. Everyone pushing each other out of way. Wait, what? Is someone trying to use the rear door? Msschhwwww! Seriously, who grew these people?? Last week, word around was the Kololo route never got such hooligans.

Dang! Where are my manners? I forgot to introduce myself…

I am the blue stripped zebra.

My jungle? Parka Enkadde.

***

Parka Enkadde is the Luganda for Old Taxi Park.

You can find transportation to majority of the places in and around the city as well as to some destination out of the capital city. 

This is also a place where you have to learn to walk while alert and swift. There are pick pockets waiting for you to be lax so they can lift something from you; there are the leer-ists, who just want ‘some’ – they will grab at your arm, ass, shoulder anything they get their hands on; then there are the angry manual labourers, carrying heavy loads for people, shouting ‘fuss fuss’ at people strolling like they are in their grandfather’s backyard; then we have the conductors & drivers & the ones who collect money from them, these guys are famous for reserving the right to name – from ‘Sister, jangu tugende.’ – to – ‘Mumbejja olaga wa?’ – to – ‘Hajjati, gyo lagga?’.

I swear… I mean Hajjat? Reyale?

Anyway, the next time you are in the jungle, take a little care for the ten year old and the blue striped zebra that you ride.

 

nassali.

She meandered her way to the back of the dark room, muttering to herself. She needed to remind him to pay for solar, their payment run out 4 weeks ago – she couldn’t bear the darkness anymore.

She knelt on the floor and started reaching for where she had placed it. Maybe a window will do, she thought to herself. If we cannot afford light, at least nature would be useful. She found the handkerchief bundle near the mattress that was their poor excuse for a bed.

She sighed as she unwrapped it, careful not to let any of the coins roll out. She wasn’t about to start looking for coins in the dark. Candles. That is what they should resort to for now, as they look for more payment for solar.

Abaye, ka balance kabuzze?

She cursed under her breath as the mould on the bed whimpered. Putting her three week-old child to sleep took all the energy that she could muster. She waited a few minutes to see that the baby was truly asleep and also to smite the idiot who was yelling like he owned the place.

She counted five coins and the idiot walked away with his cigarette.

She turned to sit on the wooden stool by the stall, she liked the colours of the stool – yellow, red and blue. She had bought it from one of the hawker-women. She hadn’t seen them around lately, maybe the local council officials finally caught up with them, she mused.

Across the road, a dark blue pick-up was coming down the slope. A dark blue pick-up that looked strangely familiar

The memories hit her all at once and darkness gripped her chest…. The morning it had rained hard – that rain should have been an omen. A sign that nothing good would come out of venturing out when nature insisted that you stay in.

In their usual nature, the car drivers were in a spectacular hurry. Splashing water on anything and everything that was in their way. She watched him leave and yelled out that he should pay the solar before evening. The mobile money network normally had issues in the evening.

Nankya, the human siren, came knocking at lunch time. Wailing as loud as her voice could carry and beating her breast. The blood rushed to her ears almost as if in selfdefense, trying to ward off whatever doom Nankya brought with her. Distraught and incoherent muttering, was all could hear. She was beginning to lose her patience and demanded Nankya speak clearly or leave her house.

Affudde…. Kakande, affudde!

She refused to believe it. They took her to the mortuary. The dark blue pickup that brought him was still there. The blood on it’s floor now slowly dripping onto the tarmac. His friends were all there. None of them daring to make eye contact with her.

A sharp pain like never before shot through her body making her buckle to the ground. Her arms gripped her protruding belly and she let out a guttural scream. They all rushed to her, trying to be soothing, trying to lift her from the tarmac, trying to get her out of his blood.

She was inconsolable.

Four weeks later, her mind still played tricks on her, she refused to believe that he was gone.

It didn’t help that they were not clear on what had happened.
It didn’t help that she had heard the whispers at the lumbe.
It didn’t help that they all assumed he was to blame because of his trade.

Just because he was a Boda Boda rider.

***

Boda Bodas.

They are the well known ‘menace’ that almost everyone loves to hate. We need them when we are in a hurry, when we want to beat traffic. Occasionally, we shall even demand that they go faster.

Said Boda Bodas are also one of the leading contributors to the casualty ward at the National Referral Hospital.

Since they are who we have chosen to take the blame for road accidents, we hardly ever think of them as being the victim. We hardly ever think that maybe they had a family. We hardly ever think that maybe, just maybe they were not in the wrong. Maybe the driver in the car miscalculated the turn; Maybe the driver in the car just plain scoffs at giving Bodas way; Maybe the driver of the car was in a Range Rover; Maybe the driver in the car was on Whatsapp… 

We need an attitude shift.
We need to all learn to respect each other on the road.
We need to remember that all our lives matter.

Uganda needs all of us to contribute to her well-being.

 

a friday, in the life of this ‘techie’…

Three successive deep breaths.
Five seconds fluttering my eyelashes.

No.
This was not a flirtatious advance directed at the object of my desire. Although, quite honestly speaking, are we still trained to flutter our eyelashes as Betty Boop trained us; compared to the trendy sub-tweet directed at hashtag oomf?

No.
It was a successful attempt to slow my heart rate. To keep my slowly simmering emotions in check. You know, akin to opening the saucepan cover to keep the milk from spilling into the sigiri; an action that would have left the entire house reeking of burned milk.

I’d thought about running to the toilet, also known as, the throne room of all things private… Except when it came to acoustics, muffled cries are one thing, muffled farts – a whole other ball game.

No.
Surprisingly, I was on a troubleshooting streak and couldn’t afford to step away from my task. Yet, in that moment, my entire being was awash and painfully aware of the absence of my dad.

No.
He didn’t just pass away, so this is not a fresh wound. It’s been 3 years and 3 months and I think I have been doing well so far. Well not I alone. I think my family has been doing well with his absence. My immediate family and our greater family.

No.
This is not a rookie coming face to face with the shapeless shifting wraith named Grief. When you master the art of waking up, you begin to comprehend that corny adage: take one day at a time.

I already took the day and woke up. I should be over this. I should be past this. Instead 3 years in, I am still having moments. Worse still – in public type of moments.

Something had just happened; my personal life was beginning to leak into my professional life. There I was, silently trying to draw deep breath without breaking the train of thought my troubleshooting task needed. For all of fifty seconds, the energy was sapped right out of me. I was tired. Tired, when I could not afford to be tired.

In a cosmic attempt to authenticate her existence, Fate shook her tail feather at me, almost as if it was 2003 again. I was one of the lucky winners of the Father’s day competition. Why is it Father’s though? Is there one Father who owns the day? If not, should it not then be Fathers’, representing the Fathers everywhere owning the day? Or is Father actually in plural already?

Still, this is not what brought on the brimming of salted liquid.

Actually, what did is inconsequential when compared to the lesson that I have learned as result of the entire episode. They say, a parent should never bury their child, again who comes up with these adages?

I have learned of a hidden response from the child who buries a parent; naturally the departure causes a void that needs to be filled. And, who else but a grieving child to assume the responsibility and attempt to fill this void. With a brave face, they drudge on, propelling themselves into an unintended destiny.

No.
Not for me.
Not for us.

To the one who has dealt with the loss of a parent.
To the one that is filled with the burden of protecting the one you have left.
To the one wandering helplessly in the wilderness of an unintended destiny.

stop.
take a knee.
and pray for strength.
gasp out loud and let the tears roll.
then stand up and keep walking, it may have been unintended, but I heard a rumor… Something about all things. I am guessing that all means all…

Some promises are worth holding onto, with all that you are!

Yes.
This is for me.
This is for us.

rom828