No beers here…


“What’re you going to drink?”

“Water.”

“And…?”

“Probably a wine later?”

“Beer?”

“Nah…”

“You’re such a bore.”

“Let me tell you a story…”

**

I was 13 years old and in a bar. Music blared from loud speakers. There was happiness everywhere, like the disco lights spilling on swaying bodies. I was sandwiched between my cousin, Grace and her husband, William. He had come up with the idea of “outing” so that I could see the other side of life in Bweyale.

“What’re you going to drink?”

“Nile special,” Grace said.

I had neither the age nor experience to choose a liquor in a bar so Pilsner Lager was chosen for me “because it’s sweet and mild”.

Grace danced. Fiercely, like the dance floor had feet-tickling powers. Grace danced. Barely stopping, like she wanted to shake off an invisible demon. William danced too, showily, eyes darting about as if to check if his moves were making an impression.

I stood there, taking it all in. Then, a few sips later, my head began to spin but I didn’t put down the bottle. It was sweet after all, and got sweeter with every sip.  William bought another one and I continued drinking. I don’t know if I took a Pilsner Lager. But I remember the disco lights. Bright and dim, bright and dim. Colorful.  I also remember speaking a lot of English that night.

**

Two weeks earlier, Daddy had grudgingly allowed me to go spend part of my Primary Seven vacation with my cousin Grace in Bweyale – 110 kilometers from home. It had been years of different relatives begging my parents to allow me go spend some time with them. Mama was the easy one, but Daddy never budged. They accused him of being overprotective and mean with his children, as if we are breakable porcelain.

I was ecstatic when Daddy said yes to my Bweyale trip. I would see Karuma Falls and the baboons at the bridge and a whole lot of things. I would leave Gulu for the first time in my life! Coolness!

Boarding a taxi to Bweyale alone was both scary and exciting. At Karuma Falls, the taxi snail-paced over the bridge as if going fast would make it plunge into the fierce milky waves below. I shivered as I watched the waves slap rocks whose heads protruded above the water.

The chit-chat and laughter that had earlier engulfed the taxi as passengers watched baboons fight over maize cobs and bananas thrown to them through the window, or how little baboons hung from the belly of their mothers – were replaced by a stony silence.

It was only until Karuma was out of sight that someone cleared their throat and said:  You see that Karuma, it has a powerful god.  In fact, Museveni one day dived into the falls in a well ironed suit and hours later, emerged without a drop of water on him. We listened in disbelief but everyone seemed too scared to interrogate the story. We all settled for the theory that the big man refills his “power bank” from a god who resides on the bed of Karuma Falls.

Once in Bweyale, Grace bought for me new clothes and shoes and took me to the market which had more fish than anything else. I was also amazed at how much Acholi was spoken in this land of Banyoro but I was soon reminded the area is host to LRA refugees from Gulu and other parts of northern Uganda.  Bweyale felt like home and not a refugee town.

**

That morning after the bar spree, Grace came to wake me up, which was a first. My beer-laden head made it a battle to get up. Alinga and I slept in a hut, just next to Grace’s one-bedroomed rented house.  Being a 13-year-old, I was ‘too old’ to share such a house with a couple still active in bedroom actions. I may see and hear what I shouldn’t. In any case, their two children, the eldest only about three years old, already occupied most of the space in the sitting room.

Grace entered our “bedroom” and shook me awake. A smirk lingered on her face. She started ranting about the previous night’s rendezvous and how I had rapped to them in English. English was not the big deal though, but rapping was. Everyone knew that you couldn’t get more than five words out of my mouth at any point those days. I was the quiet one, the ‘well-behaved’ girl. Quietness went hand in hand with good behavior, I was told. Even at school, my report card always had “polite pupil” in the comment section and that made me keep my head down the more. I talked even less – especially if elders are watching.

I ignored Grace’s tease and went about my daily chores, pushing my hangover body hard. But by midday, I was getting drunk afresh. Grace noticed the clumsiness in my steps and said, ahaaa, the beer is reworking, to which William recommended another beer.

“The cure of a hangover is taking more alcohol,” he said.

I responded with a firm no, and headed out of the house in protest.  I ran into a lanky man at the doorway.  He had a camera slung across his chest and a white envelop in his right hand. He held my hand and walked me back inside. He was our photographer at the bar the previous night. It became clear that not all that flashed on my face were disco lights.

He gave the pictures to William and he looked at them, his eyes lingering on a particular one, before he passed it over to Grace. She looked at the photo, looked at William and they burst out laughing.

Then it was my turn to look at the photos. I looked dazed in most of them. Drunk.  Then I saw the picture that must have caused the laughter. In the photo, William’s lips had enveloped mine –-like a child learning how to drink from a small-mouthed bottle. My big round eyes were wide open, like I had seen something I shouldn’t have. Grace was standing there, her teeth out in a smile, her cheeks dimpled.

I looked up from the photo to Grace and William, and on my face they must have read the message that I had seen the photo of interest. They started laughing again. The laughter carried the sound of a well done mockery. I still hear it.

**

William was a builder. He had recently got a contract to build a house near home. He was the foreman. So he would come home as frequently as he chose. He also had money. That meant he drunk more and showered his kids and wife with niceties.

Since my arrival at his home, William acted as though he could see everyone else but me, he gave me a vibe that made me watch my every step. Other than greetings, I only spoke to him when he said something to me, which was rarely.  But that changed after the bar incident. He looked at me more intently, spoke nicely to me when Grace was away but became the complete opposite when she was around.

It was one of those days when he had come home at lunch time when he found me seated on the table, my back to the door, as I sorted rice. He slipped his hand inside my blouse and grabbed my breast, tilted my head backwards with the other and kissed me.

I washed my mouth with soap, hoping it would take away the revulsion. It also became clear, that I could no longer blame alcohol for the first bar incident.

The next day, William came home again, when Grace was away in the market. Their daughter was about two years old then. She was the favorite of his two children. He lifted her off the floor, placed her on his laps and kissed her full on the mouth. She pulled away fiercely.

I craved the resistance of that two-year old.

**

Results of the Primary Leaving Exams were soon out and that meant I had to return to Gulu and prepare to join Senior One. Grace bought me more new clothes and shoes. She also shopped some essentials for me to take to my parents and to thank them for entrusting me with her.

I had been a hardworking and disciplined child, she said. The neighbors agreed.

A day before my journey back home, William came home in the afternoon and went straight to their bedroom. Grace was in the market, as usual, vending foodstuff.

From the verandah, I could hear William call my name. The second time he called, I went inside and stood in the living room. “Come here,” he beckoned, his voice restrained from the bedroom. He was there, lying on his back on the bed. He didn’t get up when I entered the bedroom.

“How are you?”

I didn’t have time to respond. The smallness of that bedroom meant the head of the bed was by the entrance, where I stood. He grabbed my hand, even from that position of his eyes facing the ceiling, and pulled me to a bending position, my head, directly over his. He held me by the back of my head now, and closed the gap between my head and his.

Outside, the sound of Grace’s laughter at the neighbor’s house made him disengage, like my lips had suddenly become embers; my presence unsolicited.

The next day, I boarded a taxi back to Gulu, my bag full of new clothes, shoes, soap, sugar, salt, cooking oil; and my heart heavy with a secret.

**

“That, J, is the reason I don’t take beer.”

“…”

 

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Dear man, imagine yourself with a vagina for a day


Imagine yourself, a man, with a vagina tucked in that place where your balls and penis once dangled.

Now, imagine several pairs of eyes strolling your body, daily. Pairs of eyes that belong to people who have never walked a mile in your vagina-ed self. Pairs of eyes from people who prescribe how you should walk, talk, react to advances; how you should dress and undress; how loud your laughter should ring; how much layer of flesh should sit on your bones, and the distribution level per body part.

Imagine yourself, a man, with a vagina, just for a day. That should be the least of your worries though. The big deal is in having to explain yourself, every time, when someone whacks you across the face, insults the body you were told was created in the creator’s image; and reduces you to a under-the-table creature.

Imagine yourself with a vagina one morning; and at your door are a group of men who disregard that you are a daughter, sister, mother, friend, human first – and not just a vagina bearer.

Now, if we are together at this stage, then you’ll know why a woman who was stalked and harassed by a 25-year-old man, is being blamed for the two-year jail sentence the dude got. You’ll know why, even when the man pleaded guilty, the woman still had to explain herself with tears down her face as the ‘young man’ laughed throughout the court session. You’ll understand why this woman- Kabarole Woman MP Sylvia Rwabwogo — is being accused of ruining the future of the ‘young man’ by taking him to court, instead of ignoring him like the rest of harassed women do.

And you’ll be puzzled too, at the men [and women] who will sanitise your pain and belittle your anger.

Imagine yourself with a vagina for a day, dear man, then we can talk.

My depression…


…is me avoiding eye contact coz I haven’t mastered the art of looking friends in the eye and lying about the darkness I carry. It’s me adding speed to my steps to hide the sluggishness of my spirit; turning my face from the person walking past the office door coz I’m hiding eyes I just wiped. It’s me storming out of office coz everyone turns on an invisible tap in my eyes.

It makes me blink back tears in the presence of people I know and openly sob on a stranger’s boda boda home. It sends me to bed at 6pm, wakes me at midnight and keeps me up till morning like thoughts about an on-off lover. It drives me to a counsellor who I immediately dislike and I leave cursing all hospitals.

…it’s me cancelling phone calls and ignoring text messages; deactivating my Facebook and typing DON’T CALL OR TEXT in the family WhatsApp; flinging the phone across the room and curling in bed, cuddling pillows warmed up by tears.

It makes me mute the TV from six to six because voices of strangers stoke the voices in my head, and yet the sight of faces behind the screen keeps the world here. It helps me close the door to everyone knocking and makes me look at my darkness in the eye, admiringly.

…it’s me detesting dance. Even poetry.

It makes me eat everything I shouldn’t because food is the only thing I can control. It makes me crave the anti-deps because they understand my love for sleep. It makes me listen to Run on repeat and pray for the sky to fall together with the rain.

…it’s me shutting out voices that ask; You have it all together, what do you mean things are falling apart? You don’t look it, are you sure? It’s me switching off the phone 30 minutes to girls’ night out coz the thought of a crowd suddenly has me gasping for breath. It’s about finding the right words to explain why work – like my life – is undone. It’s me thinking about what I’ll say when the sky clears coz, I was just feeling low no longer sounds convincing, even to me.

When it visited this time, depression said life after here is a garden of flowers that bloom poetry.

 

To the star that never shone…


Government releases O-Level results. In Ntungamo District, Sekyondwa goes to pick his results from school. It is Third Grade. Aggregate 68. He is devastated! He goes home. Takes poison. Dies. His parents weep. His friends miss him. His head teacher recalls he was “an average student” because he also got third grade in mock exams.

Elsewhere, O-Level “stars” are starring in national newspapers (for a bloody full week), smiling and lifting each other on national TV and dreaming aloud about becoming pilots and doctors and engineers and lawyers and pursuing all manner of posh careers in the future. We can’t blame them! It’s either that or they are doomed. We told them that, we tell them that.

In Ntungamo, a family is burying a child because we – yes all of us – made it a capital offence, a sin (the General will soon declare it treason too) to get nothing less than a “good” first grade.

And some of these stars will go to A-Level expecting nothing less than 1AAAA, whether that involves excelling through “alternative” means. And on to the university they will go, buying or sleeping their way to first class or second class upper degrees, buying or sleeping their way into jobs…and at some point getting caught boxers or knickers down when they can’t deliver on the job…

Some of the stars sweated their way to stardom, they have it sorted when it comes to books, you know! Genes and all. We (will) envy them, rightly so. They will soar beyond the classroom and reassure you, we still gaat this! But some of the “legit” stars will also flunk in life, because all they know is ace exams and flunk in anything else other than pen and answer sheets (because we didn’t give a proper shit about them becoming all-round people).

To those ones we will say, eh but that dude had a brain mahn, I wonder what happened to him? Eh but that babe used to whip our asses in exams mahn, oba who bewitched her?

And some of the “fake” stars, the ones who forge their way into everything and everywhere, will surprise you by doing just fine and you will wonder, qwe, do you remember that babe/dude? Kale she/he was aaaaaaaa but see where she/he is now!

And we can’t blame them! Our education system is a single-formula affair. You either know the formula or you don’t. If you don’t, give way!

When shall be stop being so average? Oops, my bad!

I killed a man last night


It started like this. The Doc said I have a syndrome.

When the syndrome comes, it sets my spine on fire, my intestines go into a pull and shrink mode, my mind forgets what it should remember and remembers what it should forget.

My hormones get jumpy; sometimes (most times) I don’t want to get out of bed because my body acquires the weight of a train and aches like it’s aching to win a Nobel. On those days, I hate the music that usually make me smile and I shrink like a tortoise, convincing the world I don’t exist.

On such days, I hate popcorn and sweet bananas and sugarcane and I refuse to make pancakes even when on other days they are the only food that drive my foul mood to the woods.

On such days, I take long walks around the neighborhood and ignore the dogs I usually fear; close my ears to the hissing of men who call me sweet baby without a clue about the bile I carry inside.

On days like those, I jog on that steep hill even when the Doc said, keep it low impact, dear. I jog long and hard because sweat drowns some of my demons.

On such days, I get fatigued without lifting a finger and sleep becomes a difficult lover to woo.

But…

Sometimes I wake up before my alarm shrieks, I prepare breakfast and actually enjoy it.

On such days, I wear my hair wild and put on red lipstick and a mini-skirt and ditch my bra and play loud music in the car and drive fast.

On those days, I arrive at work on time, work so hard I get scared my boss might think I’m after his job.

On such days, I watch movies with guns and mischief and love. When the night arrives,  I cry looonnng and hard for no particular reason and feel good about it; I dance before the mirror and walk around the house naked.

See,

When the Doc told me about the syndrome, my mind deleted its contents in a flash, my eyes zoned out everything and I felt my ears fly off my head. I didn’t hear the Doc ask if I am okay.

Of course I was not okay. But I told the Doc I was perfect and smiled that smile that I only smile when I am with my mother or when fantasizing about twins and living in a tree-house.

The Doc said I had taken the news better than he’d imagined and I heard his breath stroll out of his nose loud and relieved, his face creased in a cautious smile.

How could I not take it well when it’d been years of whoring from one doctor to another, one hospital to another trying to find the clan and religion that this disease subscribes to? How could I not smile that smile, when it had taken years of guess diagnosis and misdiagnosis and mis-treatment.

Does the Doc know what it means for your hair to start falling off your head because they got fed up of the meds and stress and neglect? Does he know what it means to learn that you were on anti-depressants you could have done without? How do you detox your mind from such gamble?

How could I not smile when the disease I had moved around with for years suddenly had a name, even if it’s a chronic?

Omera,

This Doc didn’t just shove tablets down my throat like I had gotten used to. He said, take note of how you feel when you eat anything. Exercise in moderation. MANAGE STRESS. I loved him for that. For putting me in charge of my syndrome. My IBS (Google it).

I have done all that. I do all that the Doc says. In fact he says I’ve become a Doc myself (I guess I just need a practicing certificate).

But you see, my body still throws tantrums and my skin hasn’t grown tough enough to shake off stress with ease; my tummy is still proud, choosy and bossy. I’ll take wheat for breakfast today and my system coils its tail like an obedient dog, and the next day I eat wheat for breakfast and my body gets defiant and every body part wants to do a Brexit on me.

I try.

I know I try because my back got one solution. It loves the hardness of the floor.

On most days I ditch the softness of my bed and embrace the hardness of the PS – the Presidential Suite (see, someone had to give it a befitting name to make it lovable). My back loves how the PS extends its arms past the fluffy carpet and kneads by skin and spine and everything. The fire in my spine dies out on those days and I lie there, eyes on the ceiling, creating stanzas in my head or storming out of the PS to grab the laptop and write down words before they retreat to that place in my mind that forgets what it should remember.

And then it happened.

It was on one of those nights when sleep gets tired of playing hard to get and offers itself for free. On one such night, my eyes fluttered open when my ears caught a click-click sound. From my PS, I saw him standing outside the door. I waited, and held the blanket tighter.

The click-click came again and the door flung open. The security light from without followed him in and I saw shock engulf his face when his eyes landed on the frame in the living room. The encounter had come too soon.

He moved closer, pulled the blanket off my body and I sat up in that speed that seizes my body on days when I wake up before the alarm.

I hit him on the neck in that spot where they say life resides. I left him to finish dying and I walked out of the house to take some air outside.

There was no dead man in the morning. No blood. Just bits and pieces of what used to be my blender, scattered on the floor like it died struggling to take say a prayer.

You see…

I do everything the Doc tells me to do.

He just didn’t tell me how to snap out of a dream that involves killing a man.

My midro income status


I was just minding my mouth eating a samosa when I saw them. I slowed down as I inched closer to the roundabout and the traffic lights turned red. The rest of the cars ground to a halt and they, like majestic bees scanning which flower has the sweetest nectar, started towards us.

I watched them huddle near windows of cars ahead of me. I saw them knocking on the windows gently, insistently, and stretching out their hands to the man or woman on the wheel.

Knock, look the driver in the eyes, and stretch out your hand or both. It is a pattern. The rhythm rings in the head.

I was too busy chewing and watching the spectacle that I didn’t see him approach.

 Auntie, mpa kikumi. Auntie…

I swear I didn’t have the Shs100 he was asking for.

When I set out for a meeting in town that morning, Shs10,000 was the only cash that stood between me and brokiasis (the highest point of brokeness, according to an important person at Makerere as he briefed us on reckless spending one afternoon in 2006).

Since there was no parking space at my meeting place, I drove to the National Theatre for relatively safe parking. I wouldn’t have to worry about someone harvesting the body parts of my car if I’d parked on Musisi’s roadside parking lot.

Problem is, by the time my meeting ended, the parking machine alleged I owe it Shs8,000. Not that I was surprised (the parking here is pocket unfriendly), my only beef was that the meeting encroached on my lunch time and my purse was gloomy.

With Shs2,000 left, I bought two samosas and two bananas and started back to office. I was enjoying my lunch until this boy (of about 10 years old) happened.

Auntie, mpa kikumi. Auntie…

I turned to look at him properly and said, I don’t have money, with my hands. He gave me that I don’t believe you look, and I think I replied with my eyes too; I swear, I don’t have money. Then his eyes landed on my lunch which was on the co-driver’s seat. Damn!

He asked for it.

I looked at the lights and they had turned green. Phew! But no car was moving. The traffic cops must have decided we won’t follow the lights after all. Their whistle and swinging hands would direct us on when to move.

I turned to look at the boy, standing there, tapping at my window as hunger tapped on the walls of my stomach.

‘I am hungry,’ he said and added a don’t be so mean reprimand with his eyes.

I picked the remaining samosa and banana and gave him.

He smiled, said a thank you and quickly hid the eats under his shirt (away from the prying eyes of other ‘give me Shs100’ girls and boys, men and women).

By the time the cars on my side of the road was flagged off, my fuel gauge was blinking a warning. There was Shell fuel station right across the road but my purse was blinking red. Kyaba too much for this dream of ‘midro (read middle) income status!

Then I remembered what my friend Rosie (or was it Jackie) said, that even if the gauge starts warning, it doesn’t mean fuel is completely done. “See that last bar with an E? Yes, as long as the thingie isn’t on the E, don’t worry.”

Great!

But as I approached Kabalagala, I couldn’t shake off the discomfort that the car could just die for me in traffic jam. I turned off to Shell fuel station where an ATM was (thankfully) located. The savings account will have to be invaded today.

The security guard manning the place smiled at me broadly, followed by an elaborate greeting and a joke. It felt good, relaxing my sulking stomach muscles with a good laugh. I didn’t know I would pay for that laugh.

When I was done withdrawing money, the guard, in between goodbyes and a smile said, madam, something small for lunch. I gave him lunch and reversed the car to a fueling point. When I was done, I looked for a parking spot so I could buy proper lunch (not really proper because junk makes me sick, literally, and I had long gotten over the excitement of KFC).

I was almost done parking when another security guard appeared and started directing me on how far back I should reverse. She smiled and gave me a thumbs up when I was done.

About 10 minutes later, I walked out of KFC with my junk lunch and was ready to go earn my pay for the remaining part of the day. As the car roared to life, the security guard appeared from nowhere, walked casually towards me and smiled. Usually, that is a sign for you to smile back, roll down your car window, call them over,  and press a note of Shs1,000, Shs2,000 or whatever amount, in their hands.

I smiled back and drove off!

Teach Me How To Loot


(Extract from a novel in progress)

BY HARRIET ANENA 

The mouth of Aswa River is full, its stomach rising and falling against panting waves.

By its banks, an army of men, women and children stand in a line, their hearts beating loudly in their mouths.

Their eyes shift from the rope in Commander Ocan Bunia’s hands, to the expanse of water ahead of them.

Their legs tremble. Their eyes turn misty. They wait.

When the rope is securely latched from Tree A to Tree B on the other end of Aswa, everyone takes a deep breath. It could as well be their last. They wait.

“It’s time to go,” Commander Bunia bellows.

Holding onto the rope tightly, Commander takes the lead, wading through the water, balancing his weight against slaps by waves until he’s at the other end.

The rest follow, slowly, as they wonder what’s quaking more – their bodies, or the neck-high water around them.

Fifteen minutes later, everyone is on the other side, except Lapwony.

He grabs the rope, starts the walk, slowly until he’s in the middle of the water. Then the rope starts to give way. He can hear it crack, and then snap.

“He’s going! He’s going!”

He can hear the voices getting louder, then they begin to fade until what’s left are whispers from the waves.

His kicks to the stomach of Aswa yields little. It swallows him instead. And he swallows it back – the water.

By the time Commander Bunia drags Lapwony to the shore, his stomach is a river, bulging and drowning his breath, one minute at a time.

When he finally snaps out unconsciousness and sees the pairs of eyes scanning his body, he knows this journey will be as difficult as castrating a dog.

Kampala, beloved


Omera,

Kampala is a lover with bad breath

Edible lips,

Firm hands that know how to cup a face before a kiss

Then

He’ll breathe that thing Besigye hates into your eyes

But…

You’ll love the pearl of seven hills that dot his compound

The Lake Victoria Jacuzzi in his backyard

The flashy cars that defy potholed roads

And…

His deep pockets make many hold hands in awe of his wallet

 

But don’t forget

He’s a late riser. 9:00am on the road for a 7:30am strategic meeting

Respect his right of way. Even on that jam-packed one-way street

 

Omera,

Kampala is my sweet hopeless lover

Can I bring him home?

A dreamer’s guide on how to remain relevant on Facebook


Social media is like a marketplace, a slum, a village, a city, a lonely yet crowded street, or a queue of people screaming or whispering or, even begging to be read, seen, watched and listened to.

My MA thesis that dwells on Facebook and the kind of platform it offers in regard to freedom of expression in Uganda, has seen me roam social media sites a little more in the recent past; and Oh my! Interesting things and people you’ll find.

It isn’t easy staying relevant on these sites; but for a start, follow the 10-Point Facebook Guide below [written under the influence of so many things…]

 

  1. Show us the place

Where are you or where are you going? Tell us, but do it cleverly, you don’t want to put us off by showing off. So say something like this: “Starving, but this sea food! Dear Mombasa, treat me with kindness”; “Damn this airline…missed my flight to America [yeah, America!]”; “Mbarara, this land really flows with milk and honey…”

If you don’t want to write, just post a photo, a selfie of you in the plane, or at the beach, or before that Mandela statue in Graham’s town. And please make use of that phone or computer, set it to show us your location without you losing a strand of hair – it’s that simple!

  1. Love

Forget people who say marking your relationship status as ‘married/engaged to XYZ’ will make people stalk both of you, to see how you are progressing. It’s your life, so flaunt the love and the loveless can go hang! When you break up, it’ll just be because that’s life, right?

And make the eye-catching posts on her/his wall; ‘I miss you’, ‘You complete me’ or better still, post a silhouette of you two in some sweet random place we can’t guess. In minutes, you’ll see comments like ‘Awww!”; “Sweetness”; “My couple of the year” and “Cheers to love” flowing. Tomorrow’s relationship status will sort itself, life has to go on.

  1. Play

There are people you have never met, but they are your friends on Facebook. And by the way, they are hot. So when they post that photo, just say it: “Damn! Hotness”; “God must have created you in the morning”; “Those eyes, Oh!”; “Thank God I have you [it doesn’t matter whether you’ve never chatted or met or if you know each other beyond the fb friendship].

I know we have said play, but don’t do it too much. That might make you say too much, and like someone said, everything that goes online, will eventually come ‘outline’. You don’t want your things flying from the inbox to the wall or a hacker to teach you a lesson…

  1. Give us some brain

Questions like what happened to the Nigerian girls, when everyone is hash-tagging #BringBackOurGirls, will make you appear like you are from the ‘grassroots’. Tell us what you think about Russia’s bigheadedness or the mess in South Sudan that seems so juicy for some or what you think is the diagnosis for Kampala’s madness – we’ll respect you. But beware, such posts may not get you as many comments, but you’ll get likes, or shares – and that’s ok.

  1. Annoy

When everyone is bashing Museveni for calling Nabukenya childish, go the other direction and praise the old-man, he is the bearer of our vision, not so? Or when the world is sympathizing with Lukwago’s woes, rant about how the dude has not done anything constructive other than cause chaos – some people might agree with you.

  1. Grab that attention

Everyone wants attention once in a while. So lines like, “I’m depressed,”; “I need a hug now”; “This headache is killing me [even when you are swinging your legs somewhere]; “I’m the happiest woman on earth tonight”; “I did it” – will make people beg you to tell them more, or shower you with ‘get well soon hun’ comments.

  1. Show us something

Beautiful skin, that hair, chest or that well-done photo that brings out your eyes or legs, or lips will have people commenting. Or, do you have a baby, wife or husband, even boyfriend and that girlfriend, why not – show us how they look – we’ll like and comment, nicely, it’s just good manners from us…

  1. Know the basics

You’ll switch on the wrong lights when you start a chat with your new-found friend and start off with; “Where are you based?, what do you do?” Profile infors exist for you to get such information about your ‘friend’. Some people will not indicate the actual place and work they do, but you can still find out [either through their posts, or randomly through a chat] instead of appearing like you are on an interrogation/stalking mission.

And, comment, like, share – we will reciprocate. Use ‘LOL’ when you really need to. That’s why you’ll have to think about a post like “Good night friends. LOL”. By the way, you can take the private conversations to a chat. We’ll feel really weird reading you rant about your private things with someone on your wall.

  1. Respect

Don’t go throwing words that irritate, insult or bring down people, moreover on their walls. It’s just bad manners! You can do it on your wall and we will understand by throwing the dirt back at you, or we may just read you, shut up, shun you or like you.

  1. Get lost

Deal with the fb addiction. It can rub on us too. The urge to wash every aspect of your life on fb is tempting, we know that. You are in the gym and you feel like posting a photo of your sweaty self or tell us that taxi tale or the dude/chick who couldn’t keep their hands off you. But it won’t hurt to ‘disappear’ for a while. Don’t be on our faces all the time, we get bored and overfed by your posts and before you know it, we’ll put off notifications for your posts. You don’t want that, so take a breather, you’ll be back and still find Facebook alive.

 

[To be continued when the weather says so…]

 

 

 

 

This tribal exam: I’m tired!


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I don’t rant. It’s not in my nature to send my mouth on a verbal parade. I rant from within and… I sweat words through my hands onto the paper when I’m angry or happy. And today, I’ll rant, because thorny words are lodged in my throat…

Encounter 1 [At a flight booking counter]

“What’s your name?”

ME: Anena.

“Who?”

ME: Anena…Harriet

“Anena…that’s a rare name. I have never heard it before.”

ME: [smiles]

“Which district do you come from?”

ME: Gulu. Gulu District

“Gulu? In the north?”

ME: Yes sir

“So you are a Langi?”

ME: No, I am an Acholi

“Nooooo…you can’t be”

ME: I have just told you I am.

“You don’t look like them.”

ME: How are they supposed to look?

“They are black [read, dark], tall and…”

ME: I know…I have heard that several times

***

Encounter 2 (Passenger in a bus]

ME: Good morning

“Yes…Good morning. Ogenda wa?”

ME: I’m going to Kampala

“[He asks several questions in some language that sound like a mix of Luganda and Runyankole]”

[I don’t understand any of it…]

ME: Pardon me…

“Is Kampala home…?”

ME: No, that’s where I work

“So, you come from where?”

ME: Gulu?

“Nooo. You don’t look like them.”

ME: I am them

“Hmmmm…you look like you come from western…like the Baganda, or us Banyankole…not Acholi

ME: [Tries so hard to keep a smile on…]

“So your parents, they are both Acholi?”

ME: Yes…they are

“Hmmm…you are brown. Those people are not brown. They are black like those ones [pointing to couple seated on the front seat]”

ME: [Silence]

That is just a few incidents I remember in detail. But I’m tired of always having to justify my ‘Acholiness’. I’m fed up of having to explain why I’m not as ‘black’ as ‘real’ Acholi are supposed to be and why I’m not tall and why I’m not ugly and why I have big eyes and why my hair is not ‘hard’ and why it is even long in the first place.

“Isn’t that place like so hot it makes your hair so steel wire-like? But your hair is different…” A work-mate once told me last year.

What could I say? I kept quiet and smiled, a smile wrapped in so many emotions I don’t want to give it a name.

“But how come you don’t have their accent? The accent of ‘dis sis my brada Sals’ [This is my brother Charles’. Why don’t I have that Acholi accent? Why?

And what is Anena supposed to answer? Should I ask my tongue why it walks over the ‘h’ and ‘s’ with ease when they are not supposed to? Why must I look like ‘them’ to qualify as ‘them’?

This shadeism, this tribal screening is not what I want to undergo. I’m not supposed to. Is it my fault that of the six children my parents sired I’m the only ‘brown’ one? My mum is light skinned, but must I always explain why I turned out ‘lighter’ than her?

I’m the daughter of my mother and my father. I am proud of them. I’m even proud of Uganda [with all its madness], but why must I be subjected to this tribal exam and told ‘you are not them’?  Why don’t you believe me?

Why can’t we just be us? People? Human beings?