#55UGBlogs An Awakening Dawn

Sepia.

It’s the filter on the land today. An orange-brownish hue was fallen on the land. The leaves aren’t rustling as they were yesterday, wind will not be interrupting them today. Not today.

There is a rhythm seeping through the land. If you are still enough you can hear it. Well, the African hear it. You can feel the slow pounding in your chest. The pounding the raises goosebumps on your arms and neck. Can you hear it.

The air is crisp. That type crisps that hurts your nose when you breathe in, but you do it anyway, because this what is what fresh smells like. For tonight, we are one. We stand as one. United by this land and our roots that grow deep with every generation.

68 years is a long time, a long time to live without acknowledgment on your own soil. To live in gratitude to our guests, for who allows someone into their home – only to them take charge of every aspect of their existence. Perhaps after tonight, we will have a chance.

Our chance.

A chance to escape a pre-determined destiny that had been awaiting many young adults. These adults had been piling onto buses and pickups headed to the city, many excited – their minds filled with wisps of the aforementioned chance, some of them indifferent and even some worried. Worried about the uncertainty that waited them at the dawn of this seemingly new era. But then again, was it really new, for before the start of the 68 years, we existed even though history might choose not to popularize it much.

The uncertainty that lays ahead can only be described as daunting; the idea of master would eventually have to fade and in it’s place, an awakening to hopes and dreams turned reality.

***

Evening is here and they’ve been dancing for what seems like eternity. Were his hands are sweating, I wonder. Does he know the significance of what he is about to? Does it press it’s weight on his shoulders?

They announce that the Bwola is up next. The Acholi are dancing with an energy that pulsates at that same rhythm. This is important. This night is important. There are kings in the stands… The Omugabe, The Omukamas, The Kabaka and The Kabazinga – The 5 kings are in the stands. They too watch as they wait for the hour. They are dancing the Nankasa now, waists moving to the same rhythm. Even the battalion of the Kings African Rifles can hear the rhythm.

Midnight is here… the rhythm is at it’s peak.

He is at the flag pole. The dreams of a nation on his shoulders. He lowers the Union Jack, as the nation watches in wonder. Could this really be happening? Are we once again our own?

He hoists for the first time, the black yellow red symbol of hope. dreams. freedom.

Our symbol of Independence.

credit: Anonymous Creative

**

This blog is part of the #55UgBlogs campaign by UgBlogging Community and Kafunda Kreative. 7 days where storytellers will come together under the hashtag 55UgBlogs and tell their stories of Uganda, what it means to be Ugandan. 

On 9th October 1962, Uganda attained her Independence from her British colonial masters. This piece is not all fiction, I did a little digging around the interwebs before writing this. I’m ashamed to admit that despite always longing for this holiday to fall on a Weekday, I had little knowledge of what actually transpired on the day. Aside from the usual photo or two, the details were just never of particular interest to me. As usual, the Internet does not disappoint, I found an old 4-hour video of the day, that might be interesting. 

If you are still reading at this point, then I welcome you to take some time and log onto twitter – follow the hashtag and discover who Uganda truly is. Read. Share. Submit your experience. Work that narrative!

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the birth control of product development

The start-up generation has infused the world with the can do attitude. Have an idea? Well… Go ahead and do it. What are you waiting for?

The glamorisation of app creation has fuelled this even further. The process has now been edited to, Have an idea you think is freaking awesome, make the app, upload it to the app store, sit back and wait on the InsTwiSnapBook success phenomenon to pursue you, complete with the glory of waiting on that acquisition proposal eMail.

An eMail that you will turn down because no one can put a price on your dream, but still the fact that someone was even willing to offer is enough to fuel your ambition into the birth of another idea.

For some this actually works, we can even speculate on why/how it works; some will claim that it is the network effect (literally walking the thin line between technical know-who and just plain professional contacts) that boosted their success; and others it will just be the timing factor, their idea was born at a time when people just needed it.

For others, that sort of idealism will leave them with the bitter taste of defeat. The idea was great, a business was started out of it, a product in the form of an app was created but the intended audience is simply not interested one bit in what you are attempting to sell to them. In fact, they would rather you kept quiet and just moved on altogether.

This is the harsh reality when you consider that a lot of startups are designed around a single app.

When you have ZERO customer engagement, what do you honestly think will happen? When you have no idea what the agile movement is about (yes, I am a biased member of team agile) and simply look at us techies as tools that you can use in your current get-rich scheme. Okay, perhaps that was a little harsh, but quite honestly it comes across as exactly that. When Human-Centered Design processes to you are akin to the red tape bureaucracy that is characteristic of African government.

Tell me, when you are sick, do you march into the doctor’s office with a plan of how to get better? Are you shaking your head? You think this is a far-fetched analogy?

The vast majority will look for and even court successful people in business to the extent that they are willing to ‘invest’ in getting their opinion. But let your resident developer attempt to explain to you why you need to iteratively involve your target audience in the development process – suddenly, there is no budget for that.

You see that is what the Agile Movement is about (Yes, I am avoiding the word methodology). Scrum is one of the more common ways that agility is implemented within teams. It allows for incremental product development across cross-functional teams. The development process is usually broken up into sprints which are 1-2 weeks. After the 1 or 2 weeks, the team will present a ‘shippable product increment‘. There are three main roles in Scrum: Scrum Development team: As said earlier, this is cross functional: the test, business analyst, domain expert (For example, if your product has something to do with the medical field: paediatrics – you need to find a paed who is willing to take part in the project. ); the Scrum Master and the Product Owner.

Scrum is only one way of implementing of the using agility in your process. Other methods include using Feature-Driven Development, Dynamic Systems Development, Lean Development, Extreme Programming, etc. There is a whole menu to chose from, together with your team, figure out what works for you.

The assumption is of course that you have already gone to a sample of your intended audience with a prototype of your product and tested it on them. Prototype includes the ever inexpensive paper prototype as well. And yes, this is before any form of software development has even happened.

Watch how your user interacts with your prototype, note the questions that they are asking, where do they get stuck, what is easy for the them. Understand what feature needs to be taken out. Do they look excited about it? Do they even think it solves the problem they have?

We are often guilty of giving our users less credit than they deserve.

My point (incase it got lost in this mini-rant of a post), is there is a lot more that goes into creating a successful product, and not just the business/profitability of it but in the actual technical development of it.

How much are you willing to invest?

a prophecy hidden in fiction #UGBlogWeek

Today started out pretty well, I completed all my tasks by midday. Including one task that I was dreading with all of me – let’s face it, some bugs are easier than others.

Despite this awesome start, little did I know that my life would come to a grinding halt after a crashing collusion with Paige’s. For the first time, two timelines have crossed and I’m seated here in the aftermath not even sure about where my head’s at.

I’ve always loved the mystery that surrounds itself in the stories that are born in my head. I knew Paige when I started typing, but I didn’t know what was going to happen to her… so as I wrote, the story unfolded. The twists and turns always happened at the point where I’m nervous about the story getting too long, also coupled with the fact that life sometimes poops like a chubby cute newborn.

Paige’s day one literally picked itself up and plopped itself into my existence. Sadly, I did not have the luxury of running to my Dee. No. I had to return to work and try to continue with my existence sans glitter, fairies and butterflies.

Because the chances of my Jared reading this are microscopic, I’ll regale you with the detail of this tale turned reality.

I’ve been smiling for no reason for the last 4 days, despite the insomnia I’ve suffered for the past 2 weeks. No, not the mind drifting, lets-soft-build-castles-in-the-air drifting. Nah bruh! More like lets-create-multiple-universes-with-different-timelines-and-warp-capabilities kind of drifting. When my mind wonders, it takes the brutal force of reality to being me crashing back. Thats the second time I have used the word crashing and it am just 200 words in.

Some universes are worth smiling over, a gaze focused passed the object in front of you, into a reality even your imagination wouldn’t mind but will not admit it. I wore blue today, for the sole reason that my mind was convinced that you liked blue. I wore those black shoes from the other day. Come to think of it, it might be the shoes. The last time I wore these shoes was also a set up for disappointment.

I was early. Ha! These days, I am hardly ever early but look at me walking in 10 minutes early. None of that, restaurant adjacent to another business. I am momentarily distracted by your scent because you smell soo good. You smile good too. Yes, insert the African blush all over this material. Conversation is easy. No forced talk or awkward silences. I’m bidding my time, I am waiting. There is a question coming. A smile on my face as I write this. The kind of question that leaves men weak and women giddy.

it was worse than website.

Paige should be happy she got website.

emotional-abuse

Split second recovery is something that is taught to you in grad school as your hours of hard work are shredded to pieces. Split second recovery is what makes you smile an emotionless smile as the memory of the moment is pulled into your head. Split second recovery is nowhere, as you stand and stare at your reflection in the bathroom mirror.

I stare at her, in the mirror, trying to scrutinise… what exactly is it about her that is not just not desirable but… sigh. I’m hugging my middle before my knees give way, making me slide into a squat. Like the one when you use in a pit latrine for better aim. You know the one…

I just need a minute. I need to process what just happened. I just need my pillow, thats all. No, it’s not a blankie, but it has more experience in these situation than the soothing cold tiles of this toilet. I’m just staring at the floor and letting the cold seep into my back.

I should probably talk to God at this point. It is probably a good idea for me to do that right about now. I should find my completion in him. I should find my centre in him. I should put my hope in him. I should… I should… I should… You know just because you say it does not make it easy.

Just because it’s running through my mind doesn’t mean I have the energy to get off this floor.

Today, should have ended different.

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***

This Dandelion tale has stolen a verse from my life.

Even Hollywood wouldn’t have been able to script this ish! Only life in it’s purest form! There is aways a possibility that life will attempt to screw you over but hope must remain. Dawn will return. 

The Dandelion series will return after this short break. In the mean time, find part One, Two and Three here.

 

i swear it’s satan’s jajja #UGBlogWeek

What just happened?

Comprehension fleeing from my sense of reason’s ardent pursuit. I look up and a waiter is coming toward me with what looks like the bill.

Great! Just great! To add to all the commotion, the gudu did not have the courtesy to pay the bill for a meeting he called.

You must think I’m being petty and mean, after all I have never been pregnant. I have never had my water break. I have never walked into a restaurant looking for my baby daddy to make said water breakage announcement.

Yes, I’m allowing myself to get carried away, wouldn’t you? Aren’t I allowed this privilege? After all how many of you would interrupt a ‘friend’s‘ meeting to announce your broken water? All sensitive hormones aside, of course… and yes, at this point I’m doing a hard mental eye roll.

Cold air had hit her hand as he retracted his warmth from her. A sudden look of worry and horror awash on his face. That in itself was a telling sign. That was his child. He was going to be a father. I will not be a home wrecker.

A bitter chuckle escaped my lips as I picked my bag from under the table, home wrecker my foot. The guy wanted a website, last time the world checked, web development is not a contributing factor to home wreckage.

I place the money plus tip into the bill wallet pouch looking thingie and walk out. I’m making a mental note not to get caught in this drama again.

***

He has been calling every two days since 3 days after the meeting. May be it was a hard labour. Lisa, my sister had had one of those. She had been in labor for a week, till the doctors advised her to consider a cesarean birth.

All the more need to ignore these calls. She, the girl, needed him now more than ever. He has no business calling me with such frequency.

It’s been two weeks and I wish he would just stop. Almost as if on cue, my phone lights up, his caller id flashing clueless in kisementi. I turn off the volume and watch it ring until he gives up.

 

until two days from now, I mutter to myself.

I wonder what it is with the number two, why two days? He could choose to call every day, not that that would make a difference but I wonder why two days. A loud sigh escapes my lips, and Dee glances up from her desk.

Crap, mentally chiding myself for not having better control of my emotions. I smile at her then gaze outside the window. Dee knows. She knew about the ‘meeting’, we had oohed and ahhed and sighed at all the probabilities, but none of us had put Website in the realm of possibilities.

Has Jay called again? She asked with a genuine sympathetic look on her face.

Yes, I gave her a different name. No, it’s not what you think, I am not that insecure, that I would give my friend a fake name. No. It’s just that he is Jay, in my head anyway. My short form of Jared. The name that I would end up calling him, only now he will remain clueless in kisementi.

Yeah, he did. I answer while glancing at my phone.

Perhaps you should consider picking up next time. Just listen to what he has to say. She said delicately.

Dee was the proverbial fence-mender, always believing the best in people. That day two weeks ago, I’d barged into her house while gasping and sobbing so hard, she had feared the worst. Nope. Just it was another self inflicted broken heart. I seem to be getting good at collecting these.

Let’s go book shopping today, I say to her purposefully changing the subject.

She gives me a pointed look but I avert my eyes, my tears are closer than I like to admit. I am not yet ready to face or hear him.

I can’t. John has a friend in hospital, we are going to visit this evening. 

John is her boyfriend. They have been going steady for the last 3 months, sadly with my level of self involvement, I have never met him or inquired about him. I make a mental note to get more involved in her life once the Jay Jared matter is put to rest.

Okay. I respond. I’ll just book-window-shop for a little while to get my mind off this.

***

I’m standing by the elevators looking at the entrance of Aristoc. I’ve been standing looking at the entrance for the last 10 minutes. For obvious reasons, I’m failing to go in, a reaction which one half of me finds utterly childish. Almost as if I am stuck in a Disney movie.

I turn back and head back to the ground floor and there is another bookshop in this mall. While their books are expensive, they are a welcome distraction. Yes, I know there are people out there with more serious problems than mine but what gives you the right to sit there and judge me. How would you like to have a moment of crisis and have me tell you to suck it up and move on.

As I walk into New Day bookshop, I am reminded how the last time I was here, I was chased out because I was eating ice cream on a cone. The utter irony is that the place has a mini bakery-style-coffee shop in it.

I avoid the shop attendants, today I am in no mood for small talk. I find 3 Karen Kingsbury books and 1 old Frank Peretti. I made myself comfortable in one of the chairs and started the real book browsing. The two Kingsbury books were a little bit pricy, so I decide to do the Amazon-price comparison. Yes, Amazon plus a ridiculous bank exchange rate would be cheaper for two of the books. I wasn’t really planning on buying…

Paige?

I look up, slightly surprised and slightly guilty. Nothing like being caught amazon-ing a book in a bookstore.

Yes?

I’m Bosco. You don’t know me, but I’m Jared’s friend. He has been trying to reach you.

Wait what? His sentence took a moment to sink in. Jared’s friend. Comprehension and anger were doing a tag team thing, WWF was going down in my head. So the gudu is now sending his friends to stalk bookstores in Kampala? Glad, I didn’t enter Aristoc! He is probably seated up there waiting, in which case, serves him right!

Yeah. I’ve been a little busy with meetings and deadlines, I manage to say in a controlled voice.

Is he okay, I add, feigning concern.

No, he was involved in an horrific accident at the Mwanda-Mulago junction. He was with his …

Everything else he said faded into the background. Accident? The world was tilting precariously to the right, worry and guilt suddenly making my finger tips go cold and numb.

acc… accident… I stutter in a whisper.

***

This is part three in the dandelion series.

Dandelions or Satan’s Jajja as I used to call them in primary school are beautiful and almost have a certain ethereal quality. This, however, does not take away the reality that they are weeds, plain and simple.

If this is your third read, thank you for persisting on this story’s journey with me. As I wrote this, I wondered if Paige’s reactions were realistic – If you were in her shoes, would you have picked up the phone?

Part two can be found here

 

even weeds can be pretty #UGBlogWeek

You could have said that in an email, she said while glancing at her cup.

I could have, but I wanted to see you, is what I wanted to say. I really did, but that would not have been professional.

While in Aristoc, Bosco had insisted on me keeping it professional, going on and on about Paige’s status in the industry and about how she didn’t take crap from anyone. He was in the middle of the lecture when Paige had breezed in. From the stationaries stand, they quietly watched her hand her helmet to the guard and walk to the African Authors section.

Her blue jeans had me singing that Ginuwine song, they perfectly sculpted her lower body. She wore a plain tank top and a red and white checkered shirt unbuttoned on top of the jeans. The sleeves of her shirt were rolled up, revealing her arms. Her smooth arms.

I shifted my stance to get a better look from our concealed spot, and literally felt Bosco’s accusatory stare.

That is exactly what I am talking about, Jared!

Even though he spoke in an octave above a whisper, it was hard not to overlook the urgency in his voice. What did his friend think he was capable of doing?

It’s not like I was inviting her to a 3-day getaway on an island one minute south of the equator. It’s not like I had imagined exploring every single inch of her on said island. It’s not like I had imagined waking up to the scent of her lying next to me or imagined watching her walk, the way she swayed her…

Are you even listening to me? Bosco said as he grabbed me by the arm.

Yes. I am. I will not mess this up. I replied between breaths and made my way toward her.

My palms were a bit sweaty which was a little uncharacteristic for me. There were no books at the section near her that I could use as a ruse. I mean, really, grabbing a book on IT for Dummies would not make the best opening. Winging it was the next best option.

From that point on, every thing seemed to be going fine. Well, that is until about now. Now, it felt like someone had turned the air condition on in Bistro. I could have sworn that as soon as I mentioned the website, she had sat up straighter and her tone about the email sounded different. Bosco would say I am doing it again. Noticing things that are not even there.

Email is so impersonal, I prefer meeting all clients and partners face-to-face, you know? I say while smiling. Face to face interaction allows people to understand each other better, even from reading nonverbal cues, you know when to sell harder or back off. 

Jeez! I sound like I’m a lecturer at Makerere! What am I doing?!

So what are my nonverbal cues telling you? She asked while sipping her tea.

I suppress a smile, I wonder if she appreciated how her actions had meme material written all over them. Ice. That is what her current nonverbal cues were screaming at him. She was throwing daggers of ice at him and he had no clue why

Honestly, I do not know you well enough to gauge.

That was such a lie! Why am I spewing so many lies today?! I knew her well. I’d watched her at the front of the class for three years. The last two of them spent seriously infatuated with her.

However, what I do know is that you will absolutely love this project.

During those two years, I had learned that Paige loved to get involved in children’s causes. I had volunteered at one event, just because she had gone around class giving out flyers. I was the only one who had signed up that day. That was the same day she had turned, looked at me and smiled. The world had shifted slightly that day.

I leaned over and placed my hand on top of hers, We are trying to mobilise people to visit orphanages around the city on Christmas day. We would like a place where people can sign up, but more importantly be able to give to the cause on the website as well. 

She smiled.

That same smile that made her dimple show. That same smile that elicited a physical reaction from me. That same smile from that day in class. At least this counts to progress! Global warming was hitting the glaciers.

I glanced at our hands, noticing for the first time how soft her hands really were.

I really hope… 

JARED!

Came a shriek on my right. A shriek that I know very well. I’m trying not to groan out load. Sophia! What did she want? And NOW of all times!!

She waddled while panting toward their table, with a small suitcase in tow. The waiters looking slightly confused, slightly worried about the scene that was about to unfold before their eyes

My water. It just broke! Sophia gasped out of breath

***

This is part two in the dandelion series.

Dandelions or Satan’s Jajja as I used to call them in primary school are beautiful and almost have a certain ethereal quality. This, however, does not take away the reality that they are weeds, plain and simple.

There is a mini-poll going on amongst some about the identity of Sophia and who she is to Jared. Who do you ‘want’ her to be?

Part one can be found here

Book Review: The Ghosts of 1894 by Oduor Jagero

 

I believe it’s tricky when choosing to write about topics that are very sensitive. Whether the content of the book is based on a true story or it’s fiction, you can never really tell where or when to draw the line.

Oduor does an excellent job of gripping our hearts and taking us on a journey into the hearts and minds of his characters. The way he wrote this book… It felt like I was walking through Nyungwe with Akamanzi and Juliet.

The character development was something that my mind kept running back to, after I started reading – Oduor introduces and builds up several characters that are integral to the plot of the story. With a back story on each leading to the point where we meet them. Each story very well thought out, there is a point where even though he is giving you their past, there is a certain mystery that still remains with the character. I felt this way about one of the lead female characters. Actually, throughout the entire book, I kept expecting the ball to drop in some drastic way.

Another interesting thing about this book, is the way it cuts across timelines and countries. Weaving a tale of the unresolved differences of the masters that bled into the hearts of the unsuspecting colonies. This gripping thriller will hook it’s unrelenting claws into you and keep you turning her pages.

There are some tiny details that did often wake me from my reverie, like the notion that Kabale is infinitely more rural than Busia *major side-eye*; or the fact that locals kept referring to Mille Collines in it’s full form (Hôtel des Mille Collines or shortening it as des Mille); or Matoke instead of Matooke; the American recognising ‘groundnuts‘… Again, these are just teensy-wincy details that often pulled me out of the I-can’t-get-enough-of-this-book.

The topic of creative licence came to mind as I noted above. In all circumstances, an author who is writing fiction should be able to create and redefine places as they see fit. But what happens when you are writing fiction surrounding events that have happened or even writing about places that currently exist.

Must we stay in line with the nuances of the locals or do we have the licence to integrate the physical reality with a hint of fiction.

Side Note: This is the sixth book I am completing off the 2016 Africa Reading Challenge. My reading list is here in case you are looking for books to add to yours OR if you have book I simply must read feel free to share.

My next book is Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go


**The Ghosts of 1894 photo source: AfricaReview.com

#Writivism2016 Mannequins are beige, alert the sand dunes!

It is six days later, the sun is still shining, darkness still falls over the land and the birds are still noisy. In short, life has moved on – even the aftertaste is slowly but quickly fading.

Writivism saw the meeting of some of the continent’s most talented literary minds. I say some because there were some who were obviously missing (*sigh* Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, one day we shall meet…) and also because I believe there are many authors out there who couldn’t make it, have not heard of the festival or have not yet been discovered.

Truth be told, it’s been a while since I have made the time to soak in and indulge in my literary passion. One week of shamelessly buying more books, while picking up and putting back others that my heart was tempting me to own. Most evenings were spent listening to authors read and perform some of their work, others spent discussion our reaction to certain themes.

Some themes that stuck with me revolved around Francophone Africa and Decolonization. As I write this, I am sipping my favorite Blackcurrant Bracer tea courtesy of the London Fruit and Herb company. No, the irony is not lost on me, but rather, it’s the realisation that I take no notice when I am reaching out for F&H instead of Mpanga or Kericho. When I’m stuck in traffic and to pass the time I resort to taxi-window shopping, I mostly notice the clothes and never the color of the mannequin. The issue of colonisation outside of my social studies class, is not one that has ever come up. Until Writivism, that is.

Panashe remarked on this during Zukiswa’s keynote, about how even though we are one continent, we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss another’s struggles just because where we are from, that particular struggle is not one people deal with.

Also for the first time, I encountered the word decolonisation and how we are subtly losing certain aspects of our story without even realising it.

This was also a week when it dawned on me that there are certain sections of Africa that do not speak English – *pause* mind blowing isn’t it? An African who thinks everyone in Africa understands English… This is especially embarrassing for me, seeing as I spent some time in Rwanda. And perhaps, it is just me, but there has been an underrepresentation of Francophone Africa – where underrepresentation is open to interpretation. While there still some kinks, it was awesome to see and hear questions being asked in French.

Last really cool highlight for me, was titles. For some reason, and I have no idea where I picked this up from – I have always believed that I needed to keep the title short, sweet and relevant. I always believed that a title should not be a sentence on it’s own. As you can see from previous posts, I have since let go of such beliefs. What is my new belief? A title can in some way represent the story or certain aspects of it or sometimes, just make it a fun title and give the readers a good laugh.

All in all, it was an amazing week well spent!

writivismbooks