Tuesday, October 31, 2006

As I move on.

Over the past week I have been runnining up and down while trying to tie loose ends and as such I have hardly been at my desk in the office.

Because I havent been near my trusty Dell laptop I have realised somethings about blogging that I had started taking for granted.

First aof all I am going to miss my fast connection here at the office. It tried to update twice at variuous cafes in and out of kampala but the Blogger beta and the slow connections made picture uploads impossible that I decided to give up. While blogging here I can take my time. I dont have to worry about the seconds ticking away.

Signing in and moving about is a lot easier with the laptop because of all that cookie business and the small tools, widgets, plug-ins, extensions I have added to my browser of a period of time.

I have become so used to using Firefox and/or Opera that Internet explorer is like a new thing whenever I try it out.

Another thing

For those who like TV series may I recommend getting your hands on Rome. It has political intrigue, good writting, gory violence, lavish sets and costumes. Basically everything a period epic of its kind should have.. and yes lots of sex. The sex can get graphic but it is not gratuitous. Anybody who knows how the Romans lived there lives would understand.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The road not taken?

I haven’t been that regular with my posts for the last month or so because I have had a lot on my plate.

A series of slip-ups and major bust-ups with the immediate boss, who wont accept that some of the slip-ups were caused by his failure to fully grasp what the assignments from above required, over the last 10 months have led to a situation where the office has been a truly nasty place for yours truly for the last few weeks.

After thinking long and hard, with the help of some intelligence gathered through my mole in the higher echelons of this organisation, I made the very difficult decision to tender my resignation letter and give in my notice.

After 3 weeks of pushing and shoving it was inevitably going to come down to a choice of who should leave, the boss or me. I realised that was one decision that was more than likely not going to favour my black ass so I made the pre-emptive move. This way I wont have a record of ever being fired.

I am beginning to think I did the right thing, under the circumstances, because everybody is falling over himself or herself to tell me that they will have my back should I need any positive recommendations in the future. To me this means they were going to fire me regardless of the merits of my defence and my resignation gave them an easy and guiltless way out of the problem.

I am not saying I am totally blameless but considering most of the time I was operating under some very misguided instructions, I should have been cut some major slack.

All this has me wondering how different my life would have ended up had I taken up my calling to become a broadcast journalist.

As a MassComm student I developed an interest in radio and TV broadcasting (I was looking for options with no written examinations) and under the initial tutelage of a chap called Murray Oliver I started churning out some pretty impressive assignments. In those days we didn’t even have a campus radio stations and editing suites, like the Countryboyi has, to help grasp the practical elements better. You do not know difficulty until you have attempted to edit a radio skit with only a microphone and a boombox with two tape decks

While still at university I worked for a while at a, now defunct, TV news agency. I liked the work but because I wasn’t being paid I quickly took my uncle’s offer for a job that I found uninspiring.

He had a PR consultancy firm and he had just won a really big job, which required him to get some extra staff. He wanted an assistant and since I was studying mass communication he figured I would do just fine. He also knew that he could pay me peanuts and I’d be happy.

It was the allure of a salary no matter how small (it was actually quite a sum for a university student) that started me on my journey down the “wrong” path. For once I had money to spend and since I was being paid weekly, had no real expenses to talk about, I found I was above the average income level of my classmates.

Almost a year later, after our finals, I was selected by my head of department for a 4 month internship with WBS which would almost certainly lead to fulltime employment. Being the myopic person I was, I turned the internship down. Why? Because I had just received a slight increase in pay and I didn’t see myself quitting what I had to work for 4 months without pay.

As with all consultancy work, the big juicy assignment was soon done and my uncle’s company found it hard to get any new contracts (at least none as good as the previous one). Company went broke after a while and I found myself doing all sorts of dull short-term research gigs, until I got my current job, which is (or was) also largely routine and administrative in nature.

As I sit here charting the carriers of my old team from the broadcast class, many of whom have gone on to better (more interesting at any rate) things, I can’t help but wonder what it might have been like had I stuck to what I liked.

But then again, maybe knowing I am going to be on the street in 28 days has me seeing things from an unhealthy perspective.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lady pays the bills

A discussion with friends about whether or not it was OK for guys to let a woman pay the bills while on a date got me thinking of an embarrassing situation I found myself in sometime back.

I had just joined a certain international organisation, my boss of two months had been posted elsewhere and this young lady had just been posted to Kampala. She was my boss temporarily while a permanent replacement for my former boss was hired.

Since we were all new at the job (and her even the country) we soon became close. She was one year older than me but a lot younger than many of the other expatriates at work. I soon became her consultant on everything about Kampala and Uganda.

One day, after she had been around for a while and was starting to get used to the expat scene in Kampala, we were talking about hanging out in Kampala and she was surprised that I had never been to all the restaurants she was mentioning. I told her that I wasn’t much of the restaurant type and that a decent meal in some of the places she was mentioning would probably cost me a tenth of my monthly salary. As far as she was concerned dining in places like Krua Thai, Mamba point, Grand Imperial, Sheraton etc was pretty normal (of course she would, she was earning thousands of dollars per month).

Anyway soon after that she made it her mission to school me in fine dining. We did the rounds in damn near every fine restaurant in Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe. I also did my humble bit by introducing her to all the local buffets I could think of ( I once got her to eat kalo and eshabwe, which she enjoyed immensely).

All this time she kept insisting on paying for everything. At first the few traces of machismo in me were uncomfortable about it but I soon came to accept the state of affairs. I told myself that after all she was always the one suggesting where we go and the prices in many of her places used to make me shudder. So I decided to let her keep paying if she wanted to.

One day I had gone for a Kasiki in Silk and I ended up over indulging. I spent my last money on a cab to my place. When I woke up in the morning I had a total wealth of 1,800 in coinage. I had to get to work fast and since I was running late so I decided I would hit the ATM any free time I got after clocking in.

At lunchtime, with 500/= left in my pocket, I was very hungry and I couldn’t wait to get to the nearest ATM to withdraw some money and go have myself a humongous lunch. At this time my friend drops by and says she wanted to take me out for lunch. I figured the ATM could wait since my immediate problem was about to be solved. So I said yes and out we went to a nice restaurant near work.

After the meal, she asked for the bill, which came up to 32,000/=. I wasn’t bothered about anything because I knew the sister had everything covered. However, as bad luck would have, it she had three 10K notes and a 50K note. The allocated 1 hour for lunch was up and we had to rush back to office so she didn’t want to give the waitress money that would require her to go and bring back change. At this point she asked me to add 2,000 to her 30K so that we could be out of there fast.

You should have seen a brother fidget. I nearly chocked on my toothpick while I mumbled some excuse about forgetting my wallet in the office. My friend didn’t think much of it and pulled out the 50K note, which she handed to the waitress. I felt so embarrassed and the look the waitress gave me made me want to melt into the ground.

I will never forget the contemptuous look. I could almost hear her tell herself what a useless, exploiting, gold-digging, good-for-nothing scum I was. She must have shared her sentiments with all the other waitresses she met while going to get “our” change because they all started peeping in our direction to see which chap was de-toothing the Muzungu.

My friend still insisted on paying the bill on other subsequent occasions but I was less willing to have her do it. I also started finding excuses for not going out with her unless I knew I had some loot on me.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

To fib or not to fib

I had taken a hiatus from blogging. It was not because I wanted to but a combination of personal and work related issues conspired against me making a timely post to the “As you asked” Part Deux.

As I was compiling that (last in the series post) something struck me, which has left me somewhat, discomfited. This might appear trivial to some of you, but allow me explain my case.

For most of my life I have had one debilitating condition-I have been incapable of telling a lie and getting away with it. For some reason everybody (excepting maybe toddlers) has been able to see through my lies, embellishments, truth embroidery..etc. Because of this I have become by default a (depending on how you look at it):

1) Trustworthy person
2) Person useless at making excuses for errant buddies. Like when buddy’s gilfie asks what time him and me (her boyfriend) left the pub after the previous nights champions league game and I know I haven’t seen the chap in two days.
3) Utterly useless salesperson/advertiser.
4) Kind of person you don’t ask if the dress you are wearing makes you look beautiful/sexy/corporate/slutty/fat (girls delete accordingly) if you are expecting a comforting (but not entirely true answer).
5) And the list goes on.

Why am I bringing all this up now? This is why.

Recently I have told two really big lies to my boss (to get out of some of the trouble I have been in due to the abovementioned work-related/personal problems I have had) and he seems to have swallowed them hook, line, sinker, anchor, ship, the whole enchilada.

You might say my boss is a gullible, trusting chap, but then you do not know my boss. He is the kind of guy whose gaze would have made torture tools unnecessary during the inquisition. The kind of chap who would make Jack Bauer ask for his mommy (ok that’s stretching it a bit). But you catch my drift.

I was feeling good that I had gotten myself out of a spot of bother but then I got to thinking. I told myself that the ease with which I was spinning fibs was worrying. I started wondering whether I was losing that which made me Jay. I asked myself “Was I sliding down the dark and ignominious road of dark lies and deception?”

After all of 10 minutes of worrying and obsessing, I said to myself “chief, whats the worst that can happen?”

“Either you discover that your tall tales didn’t hit the mark by a mile and the bossman is only marinating on the most cruel method he can use to make you pay for thinking you could sneak a weak-ass lie by him and thus you don’t have to worry about all that ignominious road nonsense ”


You just became normal.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

As you asked

To those that asked, here goes.
Where do you fall? To circumcise or not to circumcise, for men that is?

Circumcission seems to be the thing these days for various reasons, many of which I don’t buy. Personally, I am against circumcision simply because I am against self-mutilation of any kind. Nothing to do with all the scientific facts about reduced chances of getting HIV (condoms do that a lot better) and theories on how the girls love it better (haven’t received complaints yet). I am doing just fine with the foreskin on.

That profile pic of yours,,,do u look remotely like that? I could swear i've seen u before. Or the real owner of that "face". U look somewhat like "Chege", that guy in "The river between". Never seen him tho (i just put his name to that face).

Yes and no. The nose and forehead are quite similar, but the cheekbones are what make the major difference. Fill the cheeks out a bit, add a goatee and some more hair on top of his head and yes he might just pass off as me.

The reason I chose it though was because it was the description of a what a typical black man (un homme noir) looks like in an old anthropological journal. It’s a painting of a Mandingo slave from 18th Century New Orleans or thereabouts.

Do u blog under another identity ie. Iwaya. same writing style!Or do u atleast know each other?

yeah...you iwaya or r u buddies?

I do not blog under any other identity. I am flattered that I can be mistaken for somebody far more talented than myself. Although I do administer a specialised group blog, where I post articles under my real identity sometimes. But that is not my blog.

i always wondered,do you put both socks on before both shoes, or is it one sock and shoe and then the other two?

I had never really thought about it until you asked. I put on both socks first before I put on the shoes. Is there anything for the psychologists to read in to this.

What do you wear to bed?

Only my chocolate-brown skin. No pyjamas, no boxers, nada. All night, every night.
I have never really been down with the whole pyjama thing even as a kid. I would have probably been sleeping naked back then if it was not for sharing room with siblings and such.

Sleeping nude is the best way to sleep. It is so comfortable especially during those hot nights in this sunny city.

Lehommenoir is just a french thingie or vous parlez francais?

J'aime la langue française et je la parle mais je ne suis pas fleunt.

favourite sex position... pour quoi?

Woman on top. All pleasurable details aside, it involves less work.

i wanna know about ur love life!! is
their a significant other, y or y not? how long u guys been together if
u r indeed together?? any plans of gettin wit anyone if u'r single?? i
mean, i noticed u dont discuss ur love life a lot, and i'm curious..

There is no significant other right now. There hasn’t been for some months. I spent most of last year and early this year dealing with two “significant others”. One liked me a lot and she made this point very clear. Unfortunately I did not feel her the same (a minor detail I never got to mention to her), mostly because there was this other person I liked a lot. But this other person was very unclear and kept playing me like a puppet (she knew I was smitten). Not to bore you with details, in the end one young lady left the country hating me for breaking her heart and it was eventually made clear to me that the other young lady liked some other chap more (I wish I had gotten to find out under less embarrassing circumstances).

I am "freelancing" right now and enjoying the benefits that such a situation has to offer but I can definitely get with someone. Although when you use the word “plans” its like it is some kind of ten-point programme thingy.

3 people (if given a chance) you would love to meet

There are like a gazillion people I’d like to meet but since I don not have a ready made top 3 list I will put up these.

I’d really like to have a one-on-one with His Excellency Kaguta. I’d like to seat down with him over, unfortunately, tea and pick his brains for a while.

I hope dead people count because I’d really have also liked to meet Hitler and ask him WTF?

There is this lady Ayaan Hirsi Ali,who seems to thrive on having fatwas declared on (or is it against) her fine self. And also because It is always enriching to be in the company of beautiful women.

Hopefully that answers all.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Everyone's Favourite Ugandan Dictator Coming to a Screen Near You

Just when the world was about to forget all about Amin and Ugandans could travel around the world without having ignorant chaps asking if Amin was still the President, FoxSearchlight pictures has him well-packaged and ready to be unleashed onto the 21st century.

The Last King of Scotland is set to be released later this month and it is likely to generate a lot of talk about Amin and his terrible regime.

I have to admit I have been waiting for the movie for a while because its the only movie I have actually ever seen being shot. I remember having different parts of Kampala blocked off as the crews were shooting or seeing Makerere University Library miraculously turned into Entebbe airport's lounge (at least thats what I think it was).

It was rather funny seeing old Peugeots, Citroens, VW Beetles from the 70s being planted along the roads as props. THe filmmakers would have prefered to have many of them being driven up and down but they failed to get enough that actually worked.

Onet thing that worries me about the film is that some people may not realise that the film is only very loosely based on actualm events or that the book its based on was largely a work of fiction. You might find guys asking that if Amin was all that how could the young scottish doc sleep with his wife and live to tell the tale.

Its a pity that no Ugandan actors got any significant roles. They are doing the usual standin, passerby and twoline type roles. It would have been nice to have some Ugandans up in there like in there were in Mississippi Masaala.

At least the movie was shot here, where it is set, and thus put some money in a few Ugandans' pockets unlike some of the more recent films set in African countries. Hotel Rwanda was shot in South Africa. Tears of the Sun wasn't even shot on the continent, leave alone Nigeria, but in Hawaii.

Below is the trailer.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Caught in the middle

It’s about 10pm and I am at the counter in my local slowly poisoning my liver but liking the process immensely. My usual buddies are not around so I am making some chitchat with the bar lady in between watching bits of a recorded premiere league match (sans volume) on the screen above. The background music is just right and everything is cool.

In walk Jon and a beautiful young lady that I seem to know from some place. Jon walks over to me and gives his greetings. Young lady picks sits on a barstool next to Jon, who is now sitting on my right. I am introduced to the young lady and vice verse. The young lady is called Sue. The name does not set off any chimes in my head but the face still looks familiar.

Sue offers to buy pork for both her and Jon but Jon declines, he says something about an early supper or late lunch. Sue goes on to order for her meat and for drinks for both of them.

The manager walks in and challenges Jon to a best-of-three pool duel (apparently Jon walked all up and down is ass the last time they played). Jon takes up the challenge eagerly and thus I am now left with Sue and the small talk commences.

I enquire as to where I might have laid eyes on Sue’s fine self before. Sue says she doesn’t think the two of us have met. One of those Eureka bulbs pops up glowing brightly above my head and I say I am certain that I have seen Sue once or twice at a certain medical facility that has always been good to me whenever I need an excuse for having not appeared at work on a given day. Sue acknowledges working there and I realise why the face is familiar and yet she doesnt seem to recognise me. Her workplace is usually teaming with bonafide patients who keep her too busy to notice loungers with made-up diseases chilling out in the lounge reading two-week old magazines while waiting for the doctor to bring any official looking, signed and stamped, document to prove that they were actually to see the doctor.

Jon has been beaten terribly at game one (a quick seven-baller) and he comes over to take a sip off his drink. He asks me for a cigarette, which I offer. Sue tells him how her and me “as if” know each other. Jon makes some “small world” like comment and goes back to salvage his honour at the pool table.

The small talk (more like familiar banter by now) goes on over drinks and cigarettes (Sue loves to torch it too, by the way). Its all good until I begin wondering what Jon is doing over there at the pool table (especially since they are really sticking it to him) while his date is over at the counter with me.

Sue calls over to Jon and suggests he packs it in and gives her a ride home. Jon light-heartedly (at least I am sure it was meant to sound light hearted) that people with no faith in his pool playing abilities should find their own way home. Jon loses game three and I am thinking its time to get the hell out of Dodge, seeing how it is approaching the witching-hour (not to mention some sense of tension).

I am in the process of bidding my adieus when Jon says he won’t have any of that. He says he hasn’t had time to have a decent chat with me the whole evening. He offers a round and even says he will drop me off home. He had me at “another round” so the free ride is a great bonus.

Sue is now suggesting it is late and she’d really like to leave. Jon says we’ll be done in no time. Sue smiles but I can see she isn’t happy. Well anyway, we finish the drinks “faster, faster”; clear whatever needs to be cleared. Jon promises the manager he’ll definitely be back in the sequel to the evening’s pool show and we exit the bar.

We get into the car and I can’t wait to be dropped off at the turning to my block not far away. However when we get to said turning Jon doesn’t stop and moves right on. Sue doesn’t look too happy about this (probably has something to do with the fact that I had mentioned vaguely where I live during our chat earlier).

We get to Sue’s place. Sue gets out quickly; Jon follows soon after and tells me to give him a minute. I move to the front, light up (I have travelled in this car many times and I know he’s cool with it), and wonder what tiff I have just gotten myself mixed up in.

The car is parked just outside the gate and I can hear a bit of the exchange going on on the other side. I convince myself it has nothing to do with me until I hear my name mentioned twice. Jon comes out and we set off.

I am dying to ask what just happened but Jon answers me before I do. Sue is apparently an ex of Jon’s friend and she has wanted to bed Jon for a while. She had apparently figured that night was the night and she wasn’t amused by the fact that one Jay tagged along and ruined everything.

I am quick to point out that I didn’t ask to be dropped off. Jon says he is aware of that fact but that my being in the bar gave him a way out of spending the night at Sue’s without appearing to be the bad guy. Apparently he needed time to find out if she wasn’t on some mission to get back at her ex. I suspect he told the chick that he would have loved to stay but he couldn’t leave a buddy stuck in the middle of the night

I was like damn; I’ve probably made myself an enemy without even trying.

Everything you've always wanted to know about Jay, but were afraid to ask.

I got this idea from another blogger a while back but I didnt think much of it then. But now I think
 it could actually be interesting.

Basically, I want you guys out there to ask me anything you want. The questions can be about 
myself, my opinions on issues, they can be whimsical but humorous. Actually anything except my 

This ought to be interesting for me seeing what kinds of questions y'all come up with. 
Send in the questions by email to hommenwa at yahoo dot fr.

Will be dropping the answers in a week or so. For obvious reasons, some questions I might not answer fully.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Of Unstirred Martinis and Beautiful Women

I have done little else since Friday evening than try to watch all the James Bond films (the official ones anyway). I have only managed to watch 8 and a half, which leaves me 11 and a half to go.

It all started when I found out that a friend of my housemate had a collection of all 20 movies on DVD and I convinced my housemate to borrow them so that I’d finally be able to say I have watched all the Bond movies.

I have been a Bond fan since that day when my old man came home with our first VCR and with it Live and Let Die. From then on the debonair spy would become one of my favourite movie characters of all time.

I started with the 3 I hadn’t watched before Thunderball, Goldfinger and Licence to Kill and as I made my through them I started realising some things I had never taken note of before, mostly because I watched my first 13 Bond movies between 1985 and 1989. Back then I was easily impressed and things like plot, dialogue and elements of cinematography were not of much interest to me.
But over the weekend I kept wondering why most Bond fans think Sean Connery is the best Bond ever (I prefer Rodger Moore). I also realised that the Bond franchise needed the changes it underwent in the six year hiatus between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye. For one the portrayal of the Bond girls in the earlier movies of the 60s and 70s just wouldn’t fly today. For starters all of them fall for the guy as soon as they lay eyes on him, they might turn on him and attempt to put a steel blade through his ribcage later but he will have had his way with them by then.
I remembered a grimy and unshaven Pierce Brosnan leaving the North Korean Prison in Die Another Day and I compared him to the first two bonds who never had a hair out of place even at the worst of times (in Diamonds are Forever Sean Connery’s bond barely survives cremation by a matter of seconds, but gets out of the confine unfazed and with hair and crease line neatly in place.
I should be done by Friday and I want to make my own “Best of” series, while I wait for Casino Royale latter this year.
Right now though, I am trying to figure out which theme song I like more Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only, Gladys Knight’s Licence to Kill

Friday, August 18, 2006

Just for Just

Being the lazy guy that I am, I never do anything unless I really have to. As such I never iron 
anything unless I am going to wear it right after.  I have now become used to  acertain pattern
 in the loadshedding schedule and I know on which days to iron an extra shirt for that morning when there will be no electricty.

Somebody somewhere turned everything on its head and yesterday morning I woke up to an electricity free flat. I mmediately knew I was in trouble because the only two clean "office" shirts were so creased they looked like they had just been spat out by a cow that had decided it didnt like how they tasted after chewing on them for a while.

I ended up going to work in a shirt with a few of those African designs on them- I had decided to bring the casual friday a day forward.  I kept getting odd looks at the office but surprisingly nobody questioned my choice of shirt. It wasn't until later while at steakout for the rock night that everyone I met was asking if I was on leave or something.

From now on its mass ironing for me. Anybody know a cheap dhobi?

I have read many technology reviews and many sites have interesting writers but nothing has amused me more than the guys at niggaknow. Its not so much for the reviews but for the language and the humour. Granted the language is rather explicit and somewhat racist if you are white or asian, but I found it funny using hardcore ghetto slang to review the tech.

Speaking of tech. Apparently Ugandans do use the WAP services on their mobile phones. I was surprised to learn that many Ugandans access the beeb on their cellphones (considering the small number of Ugandans
 with cellphones (saying nothing about those with WAP enabled sets).

Any of you believe in time travel? Is world war 3 starting in 2015? A chap called John Titor told us it will when he dropped in from 2036 looking for some 1975 IBM PC for some kind of research in his time. After acquiring what he wanted, he dicides to check out the years and landed in 2001 and started dropping all sorts of predictions on the future on many forums and chatrooms. Even had sketches of his time machine and all. Check out this site dedicated to his predictions and this wiki that puts it in perspective. I say it was a damn fine hoax.

Enough randomness for now. Gots to get back to the future work.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Its an anniversary

I have just realised that it is exactly one year since I stumbled upon blogger, opened an account and made my first post on this third rate blog. Why I chose Inzikuru as the subject of my first post and not some “hi I’m Jay and welcome to my new blog” kind of post, I can’t recall.

Blogging has since become a major part of my life and checking out my blogroll everyday has become a near addiction. It’s amazing how something that I knew nothing about before 10/8/2005 has quickly become a part of regular activities.

At first I thought I was a lone Ugandan sailing the vast sea that is the blogosphere until another sail picked up my message in a bottle and responded with urls of other blogs that had been around longer. Thanks Ivan.

Now I have a whole lot of blog friends and acquaintances, many of whom I probably pass on the streets many times without knowing (probably just as well for them). Some of the bloggers I have met have been philosophical, poetic, analytic, lyrical, angry, soulful, scandalous, odd, clinically insane etc.

I now have my on nook of the net to put down whatever is on my mind and it is great. I get to write stuff in a way a like at my leisure while enjoying the experience before I sit back and wait to see how people respond.

Heck, this blogging business has even got me on the BBC site (looking around smugly).

Next stop: My Own Website. Though I don’t think my lazy ass can keep one going.

Any Stasibasiphobes in the house?

While trying to get some light to the dark and murky place that is my mind by way of my trusty friend google it dawned on me that I am not as messed up as I had earlier imagined. There are a some really troubled souls out there judging from some of the disorders and phobias I have come across.

Think of any irrational fear of anything and somebody somewhere probably has it and it will have a medical name. This guy has a list of all manner of phobias.

While reading throughthe list, I wonder why anybody would be dendrophobic (afraid of trees) -except for hobbit lost in the Fangorn Forest. But then, phobias are not logical.

I would think being afraid of being buried alive (taphophobia) is normal and those 
who are not should be the troubled ones. 

If any of you answered yes to the title of this post I suggest you jump of a not-too-high building and land strategically as to carefully break you spine that way you will become paraplegic and you wont have to be afraid of walking or standing up anymore.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Getting the movie. Then and Now

  The proliferation of bootleg DVDs of very new movies (many of which are still showing in the cinemas) got me thinking of how far Uganda has come in terms of accessing the latest entertainment. My mind went back over the years, thinking over how things have really changed.

I can’t say I remember when I watched my first movie, although the earliest clear memory I have of a movie is of Clint Eastwood’s A Fist full of Dollars which I must have watched around 1983/4 at an aunties place. Back then I wasn’t sure whether it was TV or not.

We got our first VCR (along with the first colour TV) in 1985 and with it came 3 movies Live and Let Die, Assault on Precinct 13 and All Quiet on the Western Front. Owning a VCR meant having a constant supply of tapes to feed it. This is where the problems begun. The likes of Darlyne and Inktus might not believe that there was a time when there was no real Movie Library in Kampala (and Uganda for that matter).

I remember my old man used to bring home tapes with the words Whittaker’s (or some such name) video library written on them. Now before you start saying “but I thought there were no video Libraries” let me explain.

Mr. Whittaker (if there was ever any such person) had come up with the ingenious idea of having his friends in the UK record stuff for him off the telly, which they could send over to be lent out to the likes of Jay’s dad. But because the recording was off TV and the people doing the recording probably just set the timer and headed on down to the pub, the tapes would come with commercial breaks, public service announcements, breaking news etc. We would go some minutes into a movie like the Far Pavilions and have a ketchup ad thrown in before reverting to the “regularly scheduled programming”. Something like that would probably piss me off now but I was six at the time and even the ads were fun.

The other good thing about these tapes was that Mr. Whittaker felt that the entire 180 minutes of the tape had to be filled. Along with every movie came a few episodes of some sitcom or series. These were mostly british programmes like Fawlty Towers, Not the 9:00 o’clock news, Top of the Pops etc. and sometimes the American series like Miami Vice (somehow I do not see Collin Farrel and Jamie Foxx, in the soon-to-be-released movie, having the kind of chemistry Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas had in the TV series)

Thanks to Mr. Whittaker I developed a love for British TV, which has remained to this day.

We moved to Jinja in January of 1987 by which time VCRs had spread all over the land and the movie rental business had started developing. We soon became members of Bashir's Video Library, which was next to Town Talkies video hall.

Bashir did have the movies (the proper ones without commercial breaks) but the problem was the variety wasn’t that great. The movies were generally categorised thus;

-“You kill my father now I kill you too” old style Kung Fu flicks with titles like Snake in the Monkey’s Shadow. Closely related were the latter day versions of previously mentioned flicks. High-octane Hong Kong martial arts kickfests all based on the same cop drama/revenge script Police Story.

-Vietnam flicks. You remember the type where some badass GI would mow down a whole battalion of Gooks (their words) and not somehow not get hit by a single bullet shot at him. Case in point, Leathernecks.

-Those good old shoot ‘em up plotless B-Movies with titles like Exterminator.

On top of that the newest movie was two years old.

Did we mind? Heck no. That is until we were watching the movies faster than Bashir could stock them up. One thing I remember that stood out of place at Bashir’s was 30 something tapes of Dallas (they just didn’t fit in with the rest). We watched them all and this was the interesting Dallas (up to the point Jr Ewing dies). It’s funny when you consider that all that can now fit on one DVD.

By now the eighties were ending and we were back in Kampala. The good news was that real video libraries were opening up like Bimbo and Ripples (which was the video library to be a member of), but the bad news was that the membership and borrowing fees were way to high. This led to the emergence of a coordinated network of lending and borrowing movies among friends.

If person x had that movie you had to watch like Terminator 2, Rambo 3 or Die Hard you had to find him an equally interesting movie or trade him something just as cool (like an Asterix/Tintin comic book, The Newest Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew novel). Lunchtime at the Rocks in Kitante was the time most of these exchanges could go down. It had the feel of some kind of stock exchange with young boys haggling over what movie was worthy to be exchanged for another or one guy promising to lend movie to another for an extra day on condition that a certain comic book was thrown into the bargain.

It wasn’t long before the Ugandans hooked up with bootleggers from around the world and swamped the market with the latest VHS movies there were to offer. Soon the bootlegged copies started getting bootlegged and every other neighbourhood had a video lib stacked with 5th and 6th generation bootlegged VHS tapes.

Then there came the shortlived VCDs followed by the DVDs. Since these days everybody and their uncle has a DVD player, VHS has all but disappeared. The DVDs are ubiquitous on the streets of Kampala and boy are they cheap. For the price of an “original” tape of back in the day you can have yourself 5 full-length movies on one DVD. Nowadays the only movies you cannot get in Kampala are those you have a hard time finding in regular outlets anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kitante Petition

Some of the almuni (like yours truly), friends, parents and wellwishers of Kitante Primary School are seeking signitures for a petition preventing the the illegal apportioning of the School's land. If you feel the cause follow this link and add your signiture to the petition.

For those of you who might have gone through Kitante Primary School try and imagine no cops and robbers "in the rocks" and all the other games that could only be enjoyed because there was enough space to run around. Those of us who went through the school when corporal punishment was the norm might have also wished that that bamboo grove by the Museum fence had never existed but this wouldn't have been the way to get rid of it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Car trouble: Two words you won't hear from Jay in a long time

 The gods have conspired yet again to prevent me from ever owning an automobile. Just when I was putting together the last bits of the ingenious scheme that would somehow get me to purchase a car out of the loose change that is inappropriately called my salary, cars are about to get really expensive (the used ones anyway).

Actually, between you and me, I am smiling inside. Now I have another excuse to give those who keep asking me why I do not have a car. That’s not cause enough for a smile, I hear some of you say. Just hang on a second.

I am the only guy my age I know who has almost no interest in owning a car. The only times I get to wishing I had a ride are:

a) When there is that ballistic date looming and I know I have well nigh to no future with said date if I do not pull up to her crib behind the wheel of a car (preferably a fancy one).
b) When I have over indulged in the pleasures that are only to be found in Club Pilsner and a quick account balance inquiry (hand in pocket) reveals I have only 5,000 and the cheapest taxi cab to Bugolobi is 10,000 and everyone I know who owns a car seems to have vanished.

However these two scenarios are not that common because, being somewhat socially dysfunctional (if this phrase means something other than what I think it means, don’t tell me), I do not date that often and when I do my dates do not mind sharing the comfort of the 100s of “specials” I part own (by virtue of regular use). I have also developed a nearly superhuman ability to keep tabs on my dimes even at my most inebriated (granted sometimes barmaids ‘forget’ to give me my change or threaten to call Mukiibi, the barrel-chested bouncer, if I don’t stop accusing them of cheating me of change).

I have no problem using the blue-striped taxis and I do not go through the agony of my housemate when cash is tight and he has to part with 20k for 3 days worth (curtailed movements and all) of premium petrol.

Besides having read the, ridiculously few, minimum number of Club Pilsners that can set off a breathalyser, I do not think I would be using my car on weekend evenings when I need it the most.

Museveni has done it again

Museveni has just offered another investor prime property in the city without the courtesy of consulting or informing the major stakeholders. Is it just me or is our President's dishing out of public land getting out of hand.

For all the reasons I had for wanting Kaguta's son out of State House in February, my major peeve with him is how he micromanages everything and the way he is running the country like a personal homestead. He is convinced(actually tries to convince everyone) that nobody else has the the good of the country at heart and therefore he has to perform the thankless task of being in charge of everything-setting university tuition fees, deciding who builds where, offering land to investors (99 year leases and all) et cetera. What hubris!!

The thing that ticks me off most is not so much that the land was offered to an investor (to build an IVF clinic) but the fact that everything was done as a personal directive from the president.The Uganda Investment was directed to facilitate the process. Kitante Primary School, The Ministry of Education (Kitante is a public school) and other actors like the land board were not consulted.

And some people wonder why some of us never believe in his "one more term to consolidate achievements and strengthen institutions" speeches.

Its bad enough that all the wetlands around the city are being gobbled up by bigshots in connivance with corrupt City officials, but having a President who seems intent on ridding Kampala of any open spaces is a bit scary.

Land belonging to, a national broadcaster, two of the biggest free primary schools in the city, a public park and God knows what else, all given away just like that. Its just not right.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Where is this? K'la back in the day

These are pictures of K'la back in the day. I'd like you guys to tell me from which parts of town they are and what is there now (if anything has been changed).

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Uganda Oyee. 2 out of 3 aint bad

It has been a weekend of mixed results sportswise for yours truly.

On the world cup front England was sent packing after a penalty shootout with Portugal. This was bad news for me because as I have indicated somewhere in these pages I have been a supporter of the English team for years now.

In an attempt to get away from the England-haters that were making my life miserable at the Kampala rugby club I decided to relocate to quieter environs to watch the France-Brazil match hoping that the samba boys would be sent packing (I am one of a minority of people who do not feel Brazil, but its for reasons outside their football prowess). Les Bleus did not disappoint and they beat Brazil. I was one of the few very happy people at the end of the match, which "cost" me some friends (people do get overly emotional about football).

The win brought back memories of the 1998 World Cup final where I was one of a handful of France supporters in my local pub. I got into an altercation with a (very drunk) Rwandese patron, who had spent the whole match calling the French "genocidaires", when I told him to lose gracefully and leave irrelevant politics out of football.

HOWEVER, the highlight was being present to watch the grand mauling the Cote d'ivoire rugby team suffered at the hands of the Rugby Cranes (Uganda's national rugby team) at Kyadondo Rugby Football Club on saturday. The scoreline stood at 30-7 by the time the final whistle was blown. This brings Uganda a small step closer to qualifying for the rugby world cup in France next year.

A lot of work still has to be done considering we have a very poor away record (the cranes had lost to Morroco 36-3 a few weeks earlier). But considering the Ivorians held Morroco to a 9-9 draw in Abidjan recently, we stand a chance of putting on a better show against the Morrocans when they visit this sunny city in September.

Uganda wins, France wins and England loses.

Like they say 2 out of three aint bad.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Its official, Kony is nuts

Joseph Kony has just granted an interview to a British journalist in which he claims that everything he does, he does on behalf of the spirits. The spirits guide him and give him instructions.

Its at time like this that I wish I had the powers to order an all out carpet bombing of his hideouts (which are known) and have this holy spirit rebellion business done with.

If the spirits give orders that lead to the suffering of thousands then I say we silence the medium.

For their sake, at least.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Better Luck Next time

The Black Stars have proved they can tussle it out with the best. See you in SA in 2010.

Does anybody else feel that the refereeing could have been better?

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Finally the template change is done. Still a few things to sort out though.

What do you guys think.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More blog problems and other World Cup issues

 I am still trying to change my template and I thought , what the heck, while I am at it let style the whole thing up. unfortunately my knowledge of HTML is only as old as my knowledge of blogger (very limited). Therefore I do not want to run the risk of screwing stuff up.

Hopefully by tomorrow everything will be all right.

P.S. I am in a bit of a quandary here. Ecuador and England are going to meet in the second round. Ecuador, I want to proceed for reasons I have already expressed. England has been a team I have supported consinstently for as long as I can remember (except for a while after the 1990 world cup, when they "stole" the semi-final from Cameroon- I still curse Gary Lineker to this day).

I guess it will be like whenever I try to play chess or cards alone. I always end up playing for one of the "two" sides against the other.

Disclaimer: This was not posted with the intention of having Savage slit his wrists. It is the World Cup season and inevitably these things occupy most people's (scratch that) men's minds.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Blog Problems?

I inserted a background picture sometime back but it only appears in the preview and not on the blog page. I was surprised therefore when LA said that it was killing his eyes. Carlo also mentioned that she cannot read complete posts on my blog because they cut off before the end.

Since I do not notice any of these maybe something is weird with my blog when viewed from other computers. If there is anyone who has any problem viewing this blog let me know so that I can make whatever changes that are neccesary.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Football Racism?

This is not about Samuel Eto’o being insulted by hooligan fans or about black players having bananas hurled at them while they are on the pitch. It is about me and what role race plays in my making a decision to support a team. I will almost always support a team that is fully or majority black against a team that is not. Does that make me racist? I guess it does in a way.

International tournaments like the world cup are the ones that always bring this out in me the most. I have done little else over the past few days but watch the world cup and except for England (which I have a particular soft spot for) all the other teams I have supported vigorously have been dominated by black players.

My Ivorian chaps went and put up a great fight but fell to the Argentines after playing the better game and being victims of a dodgy offside goal. Earlier on the Andean brothers from Equador had humbled Poland. Then came the soccer warriors from Trinidad and Tobago who held Sweden to a goalless draw when everybody thought that they were going to get thrashed thoroughly. The Angolans also lost gallantly against their former colonial masters Portugal, who were expected to use Angola as a practise session for their meeting with Mexico. I can barely wait for the Ghanaians to take on the Azzuris tonight.

Like I was saying, all the teams I have supported above are made up mostly of black players and that is essentially why I supported them. The fact that they were playing teams I can find no reason for supporting may also be part of the reason. That I automatically decide I am going to support Ecuador, yet I have never seen them play outside the world cup beats me.

Every time I am pondering these issues I come across information that just makes me understand why. Take the Ecuadorians for example. Black Ecuadorians have for years lived on the fringes of society and are by far the poorest of the various groups in that country. They have been kept in that state by a kind of institutionalised racism that favours the white and Mestizo (mixed white and Indian) population. However, in 2002 when the predominantly black national team qualified for the world cup, everybody was falling over themselves to identify with the team. This publicity has in a small way made the previously “invisible” minority visible and slowly a few doors are being opened for them.

The same can be said about other black minorities. The fact that their brothers are doing well on the sports scene gives them a reason to be proud (think of the French world cup winning team of 1998). Something positive to claim as theirs after suffering daily racism and being painted as lazy, criminally-minded types that are a strain to other harder working members of society (think of the French world cup winning team of 1998). This applies almost everywhere from Brazil to England to Holland. The Black guys on the pitch are the heroes of their people.

Therefore, if sometimes I tend to support all the African teams regardless maybe its because I want them to go out there and win one for the continent. Let the headlines be positive for Africa for a few days at least.

So am I racist or is there a better term for my “condition”?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Friday night with Richard Pryor

For once in a very long time I was at home on a Friday evening and the odd thing was that I was comfortable and I didn't feel like I was missing out on the usual Friday "fun".

The reason for this unlikely state of affiars was a chance meeting with a DVD hawker, which resulted in me purchasing Richard Pryor's (RIP) "Live from the sunset strip" video concert. The hawker couldn't imagine why somebody would be interested in something he had been carrying around for ages and he practically gave it to me for free, considering it was original (I kept wondering who he might have pilfered it from and I felt a bit guilty). Those of you who live in Kampala might understand how hard it is to get such "non-mainstream" DVDs (without parting with 10% of your salary that is).

I first encountered Richard Pryor in Brewster's Millions when I was about 10 and for years his movies with Gene Wilder were some of my favourite. Later, when I discovered stand up comedy, I discovered that many of the famous stand up comedians of today and the past (Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, Dave Chappelle etc) were inspired by Pryor.

Pryor pioneered the in-your-face, honestly vulgar brand of stand up that has become the norm for many Africa-American standup comics. Stand up that is replete with the F-word and has a no-holds-barred take on subject matter. He was the first comedian to openly use the word nigger in his routine and he got a lot of flak for that.

While watching his 1982 concert on DVD I understood why he was at one point considered the funniest man in America. His honest self denigrating style is endearing. His routine on how he set himself on fire while freebasing is so funny yet it should be a sad testament to a life of excesses and self destructive addictions.

Pryor uses the search for his roots and identity to great comic effect. He describes his trip to Africa and how it opened up his eyes. After seeing black people going about their lives as bankers, diplomats, polticians (and drunks too) in their own countries, he vowed never to call any other black person nigger.

I will be watching the DVD many times again and I plan to start scouring all the bootlegging joints for any other such gems that they might ignorantly be too eager to dispose of.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I can see where you live

I dowloaded google earth a while back but I had not really checked it out until just now and I think I have found me another reason not to leave this laptop. Google earth lets you zoom in on virtually any location on earth and for the most part the pictures are of good resolution.

I have just taken a virtual tour of Kampala and its been quite interesting.

Check out Nakivubo/Newpark Area and Queens clock tower.

I just might be getting the layout of where one of you guys lives.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mombao snaps

Mes amis
On a chiller atop das boot
Little fishies as seen through the glass floor of the boat. That trip kinda freaked me out coz i seen all them shark movies and the black guy never makes it.

Got to busy pinting and nearly got swallowed up by the tide covering the sand bar in the ocean


Arrival in Nairobi

I am somewhere in the snaps. Lets see who will point me out (under no obligation to deny or confirm).

Might put up more if i can get my formerly trusty dell to stop acting up. This internet cafe business is taking to long.

Living it up in Mombasa 2

Mombasa’s south coast is a truly magnificent place to get away to and unwind. The fact that it is mostly rural means it is very peaceful, idyllic and beautiful.

On the way to the hotel we passed a few small hamlets and sleepy towns where nobody seemed to be in a hurry. These people must be used to shuttle buses filled with tourists, otherwise I do not see how, considering the near absence of vehicular traffic, a bus full of rowdy singing young fellows could be treated with such indifference.

We were booked into the Alliance hotel. Actually it is three hotels that share the same strip of coastline and are under the same management. The Alliance Jardini hotel and the Alliance Safari hotel are you typical modern hotels, but our hotel the Alliance Africana Sea Lodge was somewhat different. It was made up of (Bandas) Cottages that had a bit of a homely feel to them.

To say that the days went by to fast would be a bit of an understatement because either I was living it up ‘til the wee hours or I was dozing off during the plenary sessions. The activities organised ensured that there was no time to get bored.

The thing about such conferences is that you can be sure that the current host wants to outdo the previous one, and the Mombasans went all out. I had never had of an all night open bar for close to 1,000 people but that is exactly what I experienced on the welcoming night at the Neptune Paradise Hotel.

The taps flowed all night and the guests’ attempts to dry them were all but futile. Throw into the mix a Barcelona Vs Arsenal champions league final and you know that things were bound to get heated. This was the second time that I was watching a champion’s league final this far from home. Like the last time I wasn’t really bothered who would win, which is not what I can say about all the people around me. As it turned down the majority of chaps were on the losing side and the poor beer kegs had to pay for their foul moods. Suffice it to say that when the bus came to pick up those of us who were not staying at the Neptune, quite a number had lost all sense of coherence and balance.

There is something about people that makes them undergo major transformations when they are away from home. This I bring up for a number of reasons, the main one being that I noticed that a number of fellows who are ordinarily calm and reserved whilst in our sunny town had metamorphosed into drinking (admittedly only soft drinks like Smirnoff ice, tusker malt lager and white cap) skirt-chasing fellows. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that girlfriends and nosy prying workmates were not around. Or maybe it was all the nubile young females that took the proximity to the beach as an excuse to dress as skimpily as is legally allowed.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that there was an atmosphere of reckless abandon but I wouldn’t be far from the truth. It seems some chaps were on a mission to get laid as many times and with as many different people as possible. Soon some of us, whose ambitions did not go further than making lasting acquaintances with the barmen and the occasional late night skinny-dipping in the pool start to look out of place.

A word of advise my young unworldly friends (yeah right I hear you say). If ever in a situation where everything around you is appealing and you feel you want it all, calm the hell down and strategise properly. This one chap was laying on the lyrics to a girl one minute and talking to another girl the next. This left a number of less than amused lasses who fell for the charms of the more attentive hyenas lurking in the shadows. At the end of the evening Sir Wanderalot was left to nurse a pint while cursing his buddies for daring to busu (his words) him.

I did manage to make an interesting observation, a few of the Kampala ladies who ordinarily tend to treat me only slightly better than they would treat what the proverbial cat tends to drag around started saying hi more often and asking why I wasn’t playing water polo with them. Trust competition to bring on such a change. With all the hot-blooded young lads running after the equally hot-blooded Kenyan University students and trying to woo the hot Ethiopians, albeit with little success (Ethiopian guys can tight mark like a problem), some people were feeling decidedly ignored. Being the magnanimous chap, I decided to make their Mombasa sojourn more interesting (things are a bit awkward now that we are back home).

So it was always the same around the pool and the beach during the afternoon and around the pool and the hotel discothèque every evening. Friendships being made and strengthened, international goodwill and understanding being promoted and general merrymaking all over.

I know the “major” reason for attending was to conference, but a quick perusal of the programme told me that the beach was going to win out on the conference hall most of the time. The talk on stock options as a means of saving was immediately thrown out because I have nothing to save. I felt I could probably give a better talk on youth and sexuality so I passed. Public speaking I attended just to give time to housekeeping to do their job. I only attended the technical rotary stuff because somebody felt that as an incoming director I had to prepare some kind of report.

It’s a pity I never got to go back to the north coast to visit the town properly, but I cannot say I really regret it. There was more than enough to keep a brother busy in our little nook of paradise. There will always be next time and the having been bitten by the Mombasa bug. It won’t be long before I am back.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Living it up in Mombasa

I am still shaking the sand out of my ears while I try to get back into work mode after what I can only describe as a heck of a week in Kenya, specifically Mombasa. I thought I would give regular blog updates on my escapades but I soon realised the extortionist rates for internet accessat the resort I was in would not allow that. You will have to do with the "postmortem" version.

I had heard a lot about Mombasa and I could not wait to go check out the ocean for my first time. Me and my pals left this sunny city on Monday for Nairobi where we would hook up with our Kenyan pals before heading out east to Mombasa for the same conference. We boarded the early Akamba bus with some luggage and copious amounts of Uganda’s finest Waragi.

I hear someone asking what Waragi has to do with anything. We carried a lot of it along for three reasons.

First, anybody who has travelled between Kampala and Nairobi will attest to the fact that the journey is long (12-13 hours) and that it is hardly the smoothest after you cross the border (highways is one area we beat our neighbours in). To keep the journey short and interesting, one needs to sleep heavily and for those who are so inclined, what better way of doing this than downing a few sachets of UG. Beer is discouraged because of the pee breaks associated with it. Second, we always take our Kenyan friends some waragi every time we are over there. They dig the stuff. Third, we had the feeling that the resort we would be staying in was expensive and we didn’t have that much money with us. We thought that it would be a good idea to carry along our own stash for those days when things got tight. No we are not alchoholics, we just like getting high.

The journey went on smoothly until we got to the border and someone brought it to our attention that carrying around all that liquor might bring us trouble from customs officials (it was quite a lot) and that since sachets were banned in Kenya (something to do with their popularity among school kids), our boxes of Waragi sachets would be confiscated. We were not going to have any of this happen so we set about distributing the contraband among us and hiding the sachet boxes as far as possible. Nobody was stopped or questioned and we continued on to Nairobi.

We got to Nairobi just after and we quickly went with our hosts to freshen up and eat something. There was nothing much going on for me in Nairobi except a chance to visit the Maasai market on Tuesday and add to my large collection brass bangles, shell necklaces and leather sandals. We later converged in a bar called Hooters, which was the rendezvous point before heading on to Mombasa.

The shuttles arrived and we left Nairobi for Mombasa around midnight. For some reason I had always imagined that Nairobi and Mombasa were not that far from each other. So when I was told we had another 9 hours to travel my heart sunk a bit.

My apprehension was not misplaced because that journey was wrought with a number of problems. We had hardly moved for an hour before we got a puncture in the dead of the night, in the middle of nowhere. I knew we were gonners because we wouldbe ripe pickings for a bunch of highway robbers (think of it, young lads and lasses, many in various states of inebriation,with money in the pockets). Luckily a patrolcar came by and the cops stayed with us until the tyre was sorted out. 7 or so hours later we had another puncture that was much worse. It cost us 2 hours, a lot of sweat and our tempers. Our tempers, because out of the 24 people on the bus only 4 felt it necessary to give the lone driver some help in changing the tyre. The rest simply sat at a distance and played cards while enquiring every few minutes why it was taking long to get a simple puncture fixed.

All sweaty and tired we got to Mombasa.

I quickly got to learn that there are two very different Mombasas. One is Mombasa city on the north coast, which is mordern and ancient at the same time. The other is mombasa Island (south coast), which is mostly rural and awash with holiday resorts and beachfront apartments.

We crossed from north to south coast on the largest ferry I have ever seen, which was absolutely free.

I found it an amusing coincidence that having never travelled on water my whole life, I found myself on a ferry, crossing two very different water bodies, twice in exactly one month.

After travelling inland for about 30 minutes we got to the place that would keep us blissfully sequestered for the next 3 days. That though will be a story for some other day.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mombasa-bound, hopefully.

I ought to be heading to Mombasa in a few days time if only the bossman can sign my leave application. When I brought up the subject of leave a few weeks ago he was OK with it but now he is being elusive. Since I have already paid for accomodation and everything, I am getting a bit jittery. I am going to attend this conference and for some reason my boss cannot understand why I am spending my money on something I am not "benefitting" from. He jokingly asks me to be honest and tell him the real reason.

I have been a Rotaractor for a while now and over time I have learnt that any gathering that involves large numbers of Rotaractors (and Rotarians) is anything but uninteresting. The camaraderie and interactions are reason enough to attend. There is also all the networking and making contacts, which cannot be a bad thing. But it is really the fun bit that makes these annual district conferences a must for me whenever I can attend.

Hopefully, I will soon be spending my evenings sipping on fuity cocktails and trying to explain to the others why Ugandans are all that, as I create some strong international bonds (hint, hint), somewhere on Mombasa's south coast instead of dodging boda boda's and playing cards with my housemate in the candlelight.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Where are the candles at?

With all this news about electrity tariffs going up by 37% and the fact that Umeme is in trouble I am forseeing some more darkness ahead. What is Uganda coming to? We are going to pay more for a commodity that we are getting less and less of.

When I first ranted about the power rationing, I thought that the suitation couldn't get any worse. Since then the blackouts have become more frequent and Umeme no longer has the courtesy to stick to the rationing programme it prints in the papers.

I guess we will have to buy more kerosene lamps and generators (for those with deeper pockets). But hold on. That won't really solve anything because fuel prices are shooting up so fast even kerosene might soon be too expensive to buy (considering its now going to be a necessity). I don't think that those generators that the government was thinking of installing to mitigate the effects of the power shortages are going to be answer after all.

Where does this leave those of us who cannot afford the the 1.2 milion for a basic inverter or the costs of solar panels (solar energy is so cheap, if only the initial setup wasn't so costly)?

I guess I should head on down to the shops and stock up on all the candles they have. Given the way things are going the government may soon want to raise the taxes on these too after it has realised that they are selling like crazy.

p.s. I can't keep going to the bar to avoid the darkness at home. Suggestions requested on possible activities to while away the dark hours.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Recently Steakout (my favourite Friday hangout) introduced a Thursday rock night, which was a novel idea because Steakout is known mostly for Friday’s old school soul and the East African jams on its Utake Saturdays.

I hadn’t come round to checking it out because Thursday’s are not really good days to hang out (depleting the batteries for Friday and all that), but due to the incessant and random power cuts these days I decided that there was no point in going straight home to a dark flat in Bugolobi yet there was a rock night to check out in Steakout, which is pretty close to where I get paid to blog on company time.

I was sceptical about the kind of rock music I would find there because, in my opinion, rock and Steakout were as incompatible as raggaeton and intelligent lyrics. However, I was pleasantly surprised because the DJ went the distance and really played music that sent me back and forth from my days as a nascent rock fan to the stuff I spend idle Saturdays listening to.

The year was 1994. FM stations were less than a year old in Uganda and only 2 existed, Radio Sanyu and Capital Radio. The weekly American Top 40 show, hosted by Shadoe Stevens, made its debut on the airwaves and hence a teenaged Jay was introduced to rock music (alternative and soft rock specifically). Soon Shadoe show was replaced by Casey Kasem’s Top 40 which later competed with Rick Dees’ show for a while until Casey was dropped and Rick remained solo.

I was taken back to the days when I first bobbed my head to songs like Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Deep Blue Something), I only wanna be with you (Hootie and the Blowfish), Basket Case (Green day), What’s the frequency Kenneth (REM), Smells like teen spirit (Nirvana), Two Princes (Spin Doctors), Mrs Jones (Counting Crows) etc etc.

In ‘95 Capital Radio made its way to Mbarara where I was studying and by then me and my main man G had garnered enough clout in school to have a radio in dorm without being bothered by the authorities (I wonder is it still against the rules to have a radio in school). Finally we could listen to the Top 40 live, as opposed to listening to the same old shows recorded on tape everytime we came back to Kampala during the holidays.

Back then we were viewed as oddities because we listened to “weird music” when everyone else was listening to Montell Jordan’s This is how we do it, Soul for Reel’s Candy Rain or Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise. But while moving about on Thursday I saw that a lot had changed. More and more Kampalans are as familiar with Ngoni and Ragga Dee as they are with Nickleback, Coldplay and Matchbox 20. Rock lovers like myself are no longer oddities and thankfully it is becoming easier to access rock music regularly around town.

So for now I think I will be going home a little bit late on Thursdays after getting my fix of rock music.

‘Til next time. ROCK ON.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Balkanisation, Ugandan Style

Yesterday, I was trying to update my list of work contacts and when I came to the local governments section things became a bit tricky. I realised that I had just come round to adding districts like Amuria, Nakapiripit (very belatedly) to my address list and here I was faced with the task of looking for the contacts of many new districts most of which I was hearing of for the first time.

Sometime last year the government decided to increase the number of Uganda’s districts from 56 to 72. The parliament approved the increase to 69 and 3 other districts are awaiting approval.

The reasoning behind creating new districts from the larger ones made sense when it had just been started in the early 90s. The argument back then was that certain districts were very large and some of the subcounties in those districts that were furthest from the district headquarters were not receiving their share of resources due to their “remoteness” but now it has become a misused vote getting trick by the government and a weapon of blackmail for the electorate.

These days every time an election comes around the President promises somebody a district. Sometimes, as was the case in Tororo county last year, he was told not to bother seeking votes in the area if by election time they didn’t have a district of their own ( I forget what they called it).

It had come to a point where if you blinked you’d miss the creation of a new district. I have somehow managed to get a list of the districts and I am trying to place districts like Kabingo, Bukwa, Amolatar and Butaleja. None of them is on the maps yet and neither are they in the telephone directories.

Actually some will probably not appear in the directories for a while given the fact that telephone lines and thus fixed telephones are yet to make a debut on their soils. Some districts that have been in existence for years do not have telephones yet in their district headquarters. I was trying to set an appointment with the district leaders in Amuria sometime back and you have no idea what a hassle it was to get the mobile telephone number of the LC5 because it is the only means by which to contact him.

Many of these districts do not even have a half decent permanent structure to house the headquarters and other district offices. They are still being run from the offices of their mother districts.

Infrastructure problems aside, the creation of large villages and calling them districts has brought about some really petty quarrels. In Manafa, the people of Manjiya subcounty threatened not to be part of the district if Bududa subcounty was not declared the district headquarters instead of Bubulo (something to do the with the fact that the people of Bubulo always seem to get the good things). In retaliation one of the subcounties made its own letterheads because it could not have its official correspondence bear the address of another subcounty. Such petty quarrels plague almost all the new districts.

I will not even get into what each new district means in terms of costs. More district officials to be paid, more women parliamentarians to be overpaid etc.

To be fair, a district like Koboko (where I have been twice) stands a chance because it has had its own infrastructure (most of it privately built) for years. An amazing feat considering the entire town was razed to the ground and it was a ghost town for nearly 10 years following Amin's overthrow (Koboko was Amin's hometown). Koboko town is always abuzz with life and business to and from Sudan and Congo (Koboko is in the extreme northwest). The district is financially viable and it has promise. Ibanda had been a sub-district for over 20 years and should have been made a full district ages ago.

If this balkanisation goes on there will be a welcome to (insert district name) sign every 2 kilometers in the near future. We might soon have places like Bugolobi and Najjanankumbi districts.

For now, I guess every time I want to contact Kiruhura’s CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) I will call Mbarara and tell them to shout across the border and find out if the guy is in office.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Island Fun

I was in the Ssese Islands for part of the Easter weekend with a few Ugandan and Kenyan friends and I must say I should get out of Kampala more often. There was nothing that wasn’t fun about the whole trip.

I got to make my maiden voyage on a ship (actually its called a ferryboat but if it moves, sways and looks like a ship then its one) and contrary to what I thought would happen I didn’t throw up due to sea or is it lake sickness. The MV Kalangala left Nakiwogo in Entebbe at 2pm and we excepted to reach Ssese at 5pm. Initially I wasn’t looking forward to spending 3 hours on the lake but I got round to actually enjoying the experience. It helped that I was surrounded by about 20 friends so the engaging conversations and card games took my mind off the waters. In fact after the first hour it was quite festive in there, thanks largely to constant flow of beer from the bar and various other carry-on drinks and snacks from people.

After the ferry docked at Lutoboka pier in Ssese, we made our way to the Hornbill camp, which is right next to the pier.

The scenery at the camp took my breath away. There is a long semicircular beach that is shared by Hornbill and another camp and for a few seconds I thought I might be on some south pacific island until I looked around and saw the dense forests and water that was so still it couldn’t be ocean water.

I looked at the still water with both longing and trepidation. My “slight” fear of water means I have never quite learnt how to swim. I can get around but panic sets in every time the water gets shoulder high or I feel my feet are not touching any terra firma. That’s why I resisted the temptation to dive right in and instead opted to first check out the sleeping arrangements.

Most of us had opted to camp in tents (others preferred cottages) and those of us who had booked earlier found our tents ready. However, there was a mad rush for single tents (as opposed to the larger compartmentalised ones) by those whose plans for the evening involved getting cozy with somebody else in the tent as opposed to singing dirty rugby songs at the campfire. Personally I didn’t care where I crashed because I didn’t intend to do much sleeping and because I knew from an earlier experience that the campfires are the place to be.

Everything from there on was just a blast. I got to play some water games, tour the beach and generally make merry. I had a buffet supper that was quite nice and after that the night and early morning were full of singing, dancing and getting nicely juiced around the campfire.

I went to bed at some point but it can’t have been long because before long I was being woken up to go and have breakfast before boarding the 8 am ferryboat back to the mainland.

I did manage to make it to the ferry in good time and when I looked around I realised many people were paying the price for a good night. Major General Katumba Wamala was on the same boat and I remember him smiling bemusedly at our group of party-scarred people.

Sseese was quite the experience and I intend to go again, but this time I will be getting cosy with someone and there will be no all night campfire parties.

P.S would have liked to post some pics of the beach but somehow each has an individual in it and I wouldn't like to put people up on the net in their skimpies without prior consent. For the campfire, there are reputations to be protected. I dont know who reads this.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Muganda Man buying lingerie

I got this clip of a muganda man ordering sexy lingerie for his wife and I thought it was quite hilarious. I hope you guys do too. If its not clear try here

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Anything for the Visa

I am always amazed at the number of young Ugandans who would do virtually anything to go and live abroad (Europe and USA being the preferred destinations). Some people spend every waking moment planning how to acquire that precious visa at the expense of doing things that would benefit their lives in Uganda at present.

I got thinking about this recently when I bumped in a young lady I studied with at University. After exchanging the usual greetings we got to talking about what some of the people we studied with were doing and it turned out that quite a number had since left the country. What really struck me though, was how this lady went on and on about how bad luck seems to foil all her attempts to get abroad.

Apparently my friend has never bothered to get any meaningful employment, outside one or two research assistant jobs, in the four years since graduation. Initially she was waiting on her brother in the states to “hook her up” with a pass to the states. The brother wasn’t able to help despite his constant promises of “working on the things”, which was hardly surprising considering he was an illegal alien. After giving up on her brother she has since attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain UK and US visas at least five times. In the process she has spent millions in dealing with crooked “travel consultants” (racketeers and scammers are more suitable names), visa fees, acquiring bank statements etc.

If my friend was a down-on-luck, unemployed and uneducated girl from the village I would probably understand her actions. But she is not. She has a university degree and if she can marshal 1 million shillings to pay a travel consultant for a visa every time she wants to travel (when will these people learn), she can get money to get her started in something.

She is not the only one. Because of the nature of the work I do, people are always asking me how I can help them get scholarships for short courses abroad or which conferences I can get them registered for. Many of these people are only looking at the course or conference as a ticket to the “greener pastures” offered in these countries.

I will be the first to concede that life in Uganda can be pretty difficult sometimes and that everyone has the right to pursue whatever they think will make them happy and prosperous. However, what makes me want to weep is that Uganda is losing out on many young people who cannot look around them and see that opportunities are here too. Many have delusions of a life of glamour and quick riches in the lands yonder.

Utter madness is when a young widow stakes her land title, sells all her property, sends the kids to granny and “invests” all her money in obtaining a visa. She gets rejected, she can’t get back her money and in the end she decides to take her own life. Why, Why, Why.

I think a very serious change in the mindset is required.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Up in Smoke

Recently BAT Uganda introduced the Dunhill brand of cigarettes to the Ugandan market. The launch was a festive and colourful one at Speke Resort Munyonyo. Personally I hope the brand does not gain any popularity, but probably not for the reasons you think.

I am pissed off that they have the audacity to introduce other brands to Uganda after shafting us and closing down the manufacturing plant in Jinja. They send all the employment to Kenya and they still want our dimes.

You might wonder why I am not going on about the grand conspiracy to have tobacco kill off the African through increased cigarette production in Africa after deep slumps in sales in other parts of the world. Or how cigarette smoking is bad for the health etc.

First, I won’t be telling anybody anything new. Second, seeing how I have been smoking for 11years it wouldn’t seat right with me. So I am looking at this purely as a smoker and a pissed off Ugandan one at that.

For all its sins BAT Uganda (BATU) was until last year putting a paycheck in the hands of hundreds of Ugandans employed at its cigarette manufacturing plant In Jinja. They were also paying the Uganda Revenue Authority a hefty paycheck after selling said cigarettes. But last year they did some restructuring and shut down the Jinja plant and decided that it made better economic sense to produce all the cigarettes for the Ugandan market in Kenya (all that is left here is a leaf processing plant and administrators). Obviously many jobs were lost and the shillings paid to the national coffers are less . BATU’s net loss was 6.94 billion shillings ($3.86 million) mainly attributed the loss to restructuring costs resulting from the closure of its Jinja plant.

My excuses are dwindling. I used to tell myself that by smoking I was doing my bit in keeping a tobacco farmer in Arua, or a factory worker in Jinja, happy. Taking one for the team, so to speak.
Besides young Ugandans smoke to much already and they are starting younger. We do not need any more temptations for those impressionable wannabes. I am waiting to see what coolness they will associate Dunhill with.I can already see the yuppies displaying their shiny Dunhill packets at counters from SteakOut to Silk Royale.
Yes, I know that my REX brand is produced in Kenya. I still can't help thinking of it as a Ugandan cigarette. If I must smoke imported tobacco at least let it be something historically associated with Uganda.

What? I am not making sense? You are probably right. I am in a very “Jay state of mind” right now. Just that there is no forum for Ugandan smokers to rant in.
Ministry of Health Warning- Cigarette Smoking can be harmful to your health

Onyo la wizara ya afya - Uvutaji wa sigara waweza kudhuru afya yako.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Just checking if this test video post works. I plan to send Jay's Eye View to another level.

I once was told that the messier the desk, the busier the person (hint, hint).

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Diplomatic Adultery/Espionage

The ongoing saga of the Rwandan diplomat who was caught in flagrante with a married woman in an Entebbe hotel is just the latest in a series of events that convince me that somebody in the machines is not happy unless we are having issues with Rwanda.

The whole incident has the hallmarks of a frame-up. A very unimaginative frame-up, but one nonetheless. Who ever heard of a diplomat being arrested by police for adultery. Whether or not he was sleeping with the woman is immaterial (according to this, he wasn't). It is the treatment he received after arrest that leaves me thinking the whole ordeal was meant to embarass the young chap. He was detained for almost 4 hours after clearly invoking his diplomatic immunity.

My suspiscions are all but confirmed when the adultery story is closely followed by an inside story of- surprise, surprise-espionage accusations. Obviously the government wanted him out of Uganda and the adultery bust was the way they figured they would achieve this.

Now before I get accused of being in cahoots with foreign spies let me say this. There are many ways he could have been sent home through diplomatic channels because God knows there have been other Rwandan diplomats before him who have been summarily expelled. The whole adultery angle is what gets to me. It seems the diplomat (and by extension Rwanda) also had to be embarassed in the process.

What amuses me is that it is widely acknowledged that diplomatic missions and espionage go together like well salted crisps and a cold lager. Actually wikipedia, under diplomatic immunity, says "The espionage conducted by embassies is actually more a custom than a violation of diplomatic immunity, as it is continuously carried out by all major world powers". I assume therefore that all diplomats are acknowledged as potential spies and are always being watched to make sure they do not get any really important secrets.

I wonder what retaliation our southern brothers are going to carry out. This see-saw game of accusing diplomats of espionage has to go on. Rwanda has been tagged and they have to do something. I wonder when all sides will get tired of the games and decide to go native on each other (this time across each other's borders, not in hapless Congo's backyard). All the provocatory moves are about to be played out.

p.s. WTF is adultery still doing in our penal code.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A village burial

I spent most of yesterday in rural Bushenyi. Actually I spent most of he day travelling to and from Bushenyi (680km round trip). The purpose of the visit was to attend the burial of a distant relative. This was after heavy doses of emotional blackmail from my mum, which involved her telling me how important it was to always attend burials as a show of solidarity and how keeping aloof would result in nobody caring about me when I died. The part about solidarity I got 100% but the part about nobody coming for my burial just beat me. I wouldn’t care less who came for my burial because I will be dead.

Yesterday’s experience gave me an interesting insight into village burials. I have been to maybe 3 burials my whole life and I have always, with the exception of my old man’s eons ago, been no more than a distant observer at these functions.

First, the burial was like a major social event that brought all the people out in their good clothes, although the old lady we were burying was not a major community figure from what I could gather. The villagers came streaming in at around 1pm because it seems that there is some unwritten law that says all burials should start at 2pm.

People were then called for lunch and I started getting the feeling that the punctuality had more to do with the free meal than with time consciousness. In true village spirit, everybody was invited to lunch, even some chaps who struck me as just being curious onlookers.

During lunch I was surprised by the quantities these chaps can put down. I was passed a plate and at first I assumed they had served for 3 people due to lack of plates until I saw everybody around get served with similar heaps. I got the lady serving to give a smaller amount, which she did begrudgingly because she didn’t believe me when I said I had been given too much food (she probably thought I was passing a negative judgement on her culinary skills).

After everybody was sufficiently stuffed with a high carbohydrate lunch, the main business began. The old lady had to be laid to rest after a “few” speeches. This is where things got pretty interesting. It seemed to me that everyone was going to give a short speech. There was the widower, the kids, a brother, a sister, the LC chairman, the head of some village women’s burial cooperative (whose role I couldn’t quite get) and finally the two clergymen (our family is protestant and the old lady had been married to a catholic).

Most of the speeches were short and full of the expected pleasantries but some were not. One of the dearly departed’s siblings gave a speech about how she had taken care of the old lady until her dying day. The other siblings felt that they were being made to look like they had neglected the late sister and they let their displeasure be known. The clergymen also just couldn’t help the urge to participate in a subtle game of one-upmanship- continuously throwing barbs at the “other” group.

Even that ended and the coffin had to be lowered. I figured this would be quite routine and we would soon be on our way. But it was not to be. After the prayers and the hymns had been sung and the coffin was about to be lowered some elderly man said that the head of the coffin was facing the wrong way. A spontaneous and lively debate started over where the head of the coffin should face. Half the mourners soon entered the fray and I kept hoping nobody would throw a punch. The elder lost the debate and the coffin was lowered into the grave as earlier intended. The soil was poured over the coffin and that was that.

Something struck me about the whole experience. I wonder if all the villagers are schooled in what hymns to sing at burials or has everybody attended so many burials that they have all memorised the hymns. Every time the reverend started a song, everybody quickly stepped in to sing along.

We soon made a hasty exit after promising to come by again under more cheerful circumstances.