Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Uganda heading towards dark days.

Has anyone seen the latest loadshedding schedules effective February 1st. They are crazy. Some of us can expect not to see a lit bulb in our houses for days on end. The schedule is alternating between daylight (6am-6pm) and peak hours (6pm- 2am) rationing. What this means is that for one month or so, your area will be under the evening schedule and for the next month it will be under the daytime schedule. Absolute madness.

The thing that really pisses me off with all this is that the justification for the privatisation of the generation and distribution arms of what was then the Uganda Electricity Board was that the services would improve. Given the state of affairs at the time people assumed that privatisation could only make things better. Who could image worse loadshedding.

Eskom (going under the name of Umeme) has since raised the tariffs, saying more competitive tariffs would lead to better service. In true Ugandan style, the public made the obligatory noise for all of a week and gave themselves up to paying these tariffs.

Do we have better electricity supply. Hell no.

In their defence, Umeme claims that the water levels in lake Victoria have gone down so drastically that they cannot supply enough power for everybody. There is also talk of shutting down the Kiira hydropower dam. Hopefully it won't get to that because the consequences are tremendous.

In my pedestrian thinking, here is how it ought to be right now. If five years ago we had terrible infrastructure and inefficient mangement, but we had loadshedding a lot less than we do now (considering that this is not the lowest the lake waters have been). Then we should be having at least the same amount of loadshedding now (given the lakes levels and all) as we did back then considering all the improvements that privatisation has brought (efficient supply, getting rid of illegal connections, better service due to competitive tariffs etc).

I need somebody out there to soothe me with an explanation that makes sense to a simpleton like myself before I lose it and go medieval on those Umeme chaps at Rwenzori Courts.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The whining class

I have just read an article on how middle class Ugandans love nothing better than whine about how messed up everything is and yet they can't be bothered to do something to change the situation. The author, Martin Lwanga, says

"One of the favourite past times of the African middle class in general, and Uganda in particular, is the love to sit down and whine and moan about the plight of their nation. Many of us in the middle class love nothing more than lambasting politicians and distancing ourselves from the evil circle. "

This article article made a lot of sense because I have noticed, over the years, that the people that make the most noise about Uganda's problems, corruption, bad roads, lousy education system, etc are also the least proactive lot. I leave in a housing estate and everytime I am whiling the evening away at the neighbourhood pub, somebody is bound to be complaining that something or the other is not right in the estate. Yet when the regular weekend tenants or LC meetings are held, to discuss some of the complaints, the attendance is so poor they are often called off. Everybody is either indoors nursing a hangover, digesting that fine Sunday lunch, waiting for the rerun of Smallville that they missed earlier in the week or out somewhere.
At the national level it is the same, as Mr. Lwanga put it,

"Right now Uganda is going through an election exercise but a great many of us in the educated class are not registered voters and on election day will casually sit back to watch CNN and wait for the results late in the evening to filter in from shamba boys. "

We (alas, truth be told I belong to this group) are mostly the same chaps who complain no end about how the current government is killing us with taxes, high fuel prices.... You'd think we would be the most eager to change things. And some of us have the audacity to complain about Museveni being kept in power by votes from "ignorant" peasants that have no knowledge of the country's "real" problems.

I found this rather interesting too

"Somehow many of our friends in the diaspora, having taken their skills to the developed world, expect to visit and find things miraculously running just as well in the nation which they robbed of their talent and skills."

It reminded me of this post , which would be just as meaningful if it were about Ugandans in the diaspora.

Enough said, I am going to vote for Ssematimba as Mayor.

..ooops.. I didn't register to vote.


Musings on online banking

I have been expecting some money to be wired to my Nile Bank account since Friday and today I decided to go and find out if I was rich. I made the way to the bank with the sun beating down on me mercilessly, only to find my account balance was as meagre as it was thje last time I had checked.

I got to thinking and I remembered I had seen an ad that said I could get a pin number from the bank, which could enable me to access my bank credit from my mobile phone., I figured it was about time I got one of those so as to avoid useless journeys to the bank like the one I had just taken. Anyway, I entered the bank, filled in a brief application form and I had a pin number in no time. The young lady then went on to ask if I needed a pin number to enable me to do my banking from my computer. I figured why not and like that I had joined the online banking community. I can now check my account balance, pay a few bills and buy airtime from any computer with internet access.

However, after trying out the process I started thinking about a few things.

The first one is the access bank people have to our banking information. I say this because I gave the young lady only my account number and account type and when she was giving me the pin numbers she addressed me by my name. I figured that she was probably checking out the state of my account. I was reminded of how a while back a friend of mine had jokingly said that the easiest way of having all the female yuppies in Kampala know how much money you had was by opening an account with Standard Chartered Bank. For some reason most bank tellers and customer service people in Uganda’s major banks are 20-something females.

It is also advisable to immediately change the password/Pin number that the bank gives you to one you are more comfortable with ( this option is available on the site) because the person who gives you the details knows your account number and the pin number you have just been given.

I am in no way saying that it is common practice for bank employees to go digging about other people’s finances or secretly cataloguing customers bank accounts and pin numbers, but we have to wary of the bad apples.

I also thought about somebody hacking into my account. I have a personal (purely academic) interest in hacking and over the years I have come to learn how easy it can be to get hacking tools like password grabbers and keyloggers from the internet. If hackers installed any of these programmes on a computer in a café it would be easy for them to get a list of Usernames and Passwords of all the people that would have used a specific computer. If that computer had been used for online banking then the dangers become obvious.

In my experience Ugandans can sometimes be careless with their passwords and usernames. I don’t how many times I have tried to log onto a password-protected site only be immediately taken to the account of somebody who had carelessly accepted the option of having his/her username and password memorised by the computer for direct future access. I have had cheeky fun chatting under some other person’s Yahoo ID, for example.

I am hoping that the banks that have introduced online banking do take the necessary precautions to protect their clients from the dangers above.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Of a friend's wedding and matchmaking aunties

Over the weekend I attended a wedding of an old friend, with whom I had suffered the terrors of high school. He has been in “outside countries” for a while and he decided to come back for a bit and do the needful via his sweetheart.

The wedding was alright and I got to meet a number of friends I hadn’t seen in a while. In the process of exchanging war stories, the conversation steered to the topic of marriage.

It all started when the groom dropped by briefly and started waxing on endlessly about how it was such a great feeling to finally get married, joining the ranks of men…. etc etc. Then everybody got to agreeing fully with him and generally picked up on the whole topic when he had left. All of a sudden everybody wanted to show just how soon they would be inviting us to their receptions. I got the feeling that everybody wanted to outdo each other on how soon they would make honest women of their girlfriends.

Somebody soon realised one Jay was not contributing as enthusiastically as the rest and the attention soon turned to me. When asked why the disinterest, I answered that marriage was something that I just didn’t think about at the moment. Soon I was being told that I was just lying to myself, still holding on unrealistically to past years of youthful abandon (this I thought was a load of bollocks) and that at our ages (most of people present were just over 25) marriage ought to be somewhere up there among the priorities.

For a while I failed to recognise these guys because they started to sound a lot like a certain auntie of mine. Most of the time she is good company except when she is matchmaking. These days it happens more often because many of my slightly older cousins (and a few younger ones, all female) are getting married with such frequency it appears there must be some inheritance from some unknown rich relative for whoever throws down the most grandkids before a certain date.

Anyway my auntie prides herself with being responsible for hooking up a number of these guys and bringing in line one or two that were beginning to have doubts. Since the older guys are all but done she has me in her matchmaking crosshairs. No visit or phone call goes without the lunch invitation for me and my girlfriend (an invitation I wouldn’t want to inflict on anyone I happen to be going out with).

I have unfortunately not been a good candidate and she doesn’t tire of lecturing me on my lifestyle, and on the fact that I don’t seem to take anything seriously or plan ahead. I do not know how many times I have been told how important it is to “settle” and start developing myself etcetera. Most of the advise makes sense, what I resent is that she sometimes gives the impression that I am wastrel who is heading for nowhere unless I get hitched.

I gave up on telling her that, like most things in my life, it will happen when it does. I am not one of those people who have a five-year plan at all times where certain things have to be achieved by year X. I am mostly a here and now kind of person and right now certain things just haven’t crossed my mind. But she will probably keep at it hoping to wear me down.

I now why I don’t like weddings, but I will be watching my friends' progress towards the matrimonial altar with interest. Who knows cupid might do a major number on me and before you know I could beat them there.....naaaaah.

Tuesday, January 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.

High School Hell II

Nobody bothered me again that night. The next morning I started on what was to become my routine for a while. I would wake up early, go off to where my suitcase was, get everything I needed for the day and then move on to class. I wouldn't come back to the dormitory until the junior prep had ended, which was 1 hour before the seniors. I would pray that by the time the older guys came from prep they wouldn't feel like bugging me.

Of course this routine was not very effective. For one, almost every after prep the older guys would descend on us as a means of stress relief. Sometimes it was just lighthearted foolery-like when they would play a song and ask each of us to slowdance our pillows as if they were our girlfriends. Other times it could get quite nasty.

There was what was called "going to New York"and believe you me that was one trip to the Big Apple you didn't want to take. It involved a hapless S1 getting under a low bed with springs so loose that even without anybody on the bed, anybody under it would still be making contact with the springs. Then 2 or 3 boys would start jumping all over the bed. This meant the bed springs and wires would dig into the guy under the bed assisted by 80-100 kgs pressure exerted from above.

It was not rare to earn yourself a slap simply for looking straight (read menacingly) into the eyes of an older student. I was once sent by one of the guys in my room to collect a kettle from another dormitory. After being shown the bed of the person I was to get the kettle from I approached slowly and, in my gentlest voice, stated my business. The reply I got from the chap was a shove and an inquiry as to how I could venture into his space and demand for things he knew nothing about. I tried to explain that I was just carrying a message from someone. I was shoved into a locker kicked in the sides and told to get the f**k out of the room if I valued my life. Since I obviously valued my life, I made for the door with haste. But I wasn't hasty enough because a Reebok sneaker hit me in the back as I was making the last turn.

I later learnt that the fellow had messed the kettle up and he was still thinking of how he was going to get it fixed. At this time in comes Jay, perfect candidate for displaced aggression.

Once I was told to drink 3 litres of water at once for refusing to do something I had been told to do. My stomach has never bulged so much. I thought I would never drink water again after that. I threw it all up as soon as I had finished. It was actually more like someone tipping a jerry can that is full to the brim, because there were none of the typical heaves that characterise throwing up.

It was always better to have "punishment" dispensed immediately after "offending" because, if it was wasn't, it was likely something quite terrible was being cooked up for you. It was likely that the culprit didnt want to be identified lest he is reported to the authorities. This meant he was more likely to pay a midnight visit. These visits usually included around 5 guys, each with a role to play. One had to ensure that the lights were off and act as a look out. 2 guys would cover you with the blanket and make sure you were held down. The other 2 would go at you like military police on a Besigye supporter. The operations were meant to be short but intense, after which the culprits would scatter in different directions while the dazed victim figured out what had just happaned.

I could go on endlessly about the nightmare most of my S1 was, but there is simply to much to say. Thankfully I hear the school has changed and there is none of what we went through nowadays. On the flip side though, I have interacted with some of my younger Old Boys and I can't help feeling that they are not quite made of the same mettle as those that went through the school 10+ years ago.

The one thing I learnt was that bullies are usually weaklings hiding behind their mean acts, usually knowing that they have backup in case of anything. Seldom does a bully operate solo. The backup might be his friends or a position of authority he has. I despise them all.

I also got to speak my mother tongue fluently. Its ironic that I only learnt it as a means of preventing future asswhoopings.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

High School Hell

On one of my recent blogosphere tours I came across a post of somebody talking about his hellish high school experiences and it got me thinking about my own S1 days all those years back and how nasty they were.

I went to what was then one of the best primary schools in Kampala, and Uganda, (before UPE came in and changed the whole school) and as was the norm for people in schools like that I fancied myself going to Buddo, SMACK and such. Personally I put my first choice in Buddo, which gracefully turned me down (they stopped admissions at 5, I got 6) and I was selected by my 2nd choice (a school somewhere in western Uganda). I hadn't thought much about my 2nd, 3rd and 4th choices because I knew I had to go to Buddo. So, when I got selected for my 2nd choice I threw a hell of a tantrum about how I couldn't go to a school so far and how mum had to do everything she could to ensure I got into Buddo. The old woman wasn't impressed and she emphatically assured me that if I had wanted Buddo that much I should have concetrated more on schoolwork than I did on the Hardy Boys, Famous Five, Tintin, Asterix ...etc.

Soon enough, the 1st day of S1 arrived and I found myself at school. As soon as the car entered the compound I knew I was in for a hard time, because all the faces seemed hostile and at least 3 boys we passed passed their index fingers across their throats in a slitting motion.

Luckily for me (at least that was what I thought at the time) there was a distant relative who was a teacher at the school and he escorted me to my dormitory after the administration issues had been sorted out. When we entered everybody was nice and welcoming, they even laid my bed. I thought maybe I had been worrying for nothing. Soon the teacher and my mum left the room, and there the nightmare begun.

Immediately the 'friendly' guys set upon me and told me to open my case, which I did. They helped the selves to the grab like it was a mad rush for santa's sweets at a kid's christmas party. The grab was saved from complete dessimation for two reasons. It was still classtime so only those with free periods were around and the teacher had told his nephew to go and check on me since we were in the same house.

When this senior relative came over, he didnt have to be told what had happened. He quickly told me to lock up my case and take it to his room. He was in one of the exclusive S6 rooms. He then told me that from then on I was to come to him whenever I needed anything. This sounded very OK with me. I later decided to take a tour of the compound with other newbies.

On arrival from the walk, I entered the dormitory to a welcome of the most hostile faces I had encountered in all 13 years of my life. I was immediately asked, in the local lingua, if I was the Kampala boy who thought he was too good for the rest of the dormitory. I replied, in English, that I didn't think myself too good for anybody. Big mistake. The right side of my face immediately made the brief but intense aquaintance of the back of my inquisitor's right hand. With my cheek still on fire I was told to explain why somebody with a name like mine,which suggested I should be able to understand the language I had been addressed in, would choose to reply in English. To them it only proved that I thought myself above them.

Slight digression. At that time I could not construct more than two consecutive sentences in my mother tongue because I had never really had to use it. I only heard it at home when my parents where talking or when they were really pissed off with any of us kids. They had since conceded that they were fighting a losing battle against English because we spent most of our days in schools that prohibited the use of any language other than English or with friends who didn't speak our language.

Where was I? Oh yes, the slap. By the time I recovered hearing in my right ear, it had been decided that I had no business spending the night in the room since I "didn't feel my roomates were worthy of my company" and I also had no belongings there. Someone was ordered to carry my beddings out and have them thrown in the drainage trench just outside the dormitory. I was in tears by now pleading with the boys not to throw my stuff out. Then mum entered the room.

She had brought me some aerogrammes (I wonder if anyone still uses aerogrammes) to use in case I needed to write home. The room fell immediately silent because right behind her was the teacher. They both asked if I had been crying and I said no. Though it was quite obvious that I had been crying, I wasn't about to do anything that would bring further pain to my person. The teacher then asked the other students what they were doing in the dormitory since it was already prep time. They boys quickly gathered their books and scampered out. My mum asked me again why I was crying and I told her I wasn't crying, just that an eyelash had entered my eye, hence the teary look. She left it at that and bade me fairwell. She said she was going to spend the night in town with relatives relatives before going back to Kampala. She got into the car and drove off. For a splitsecond I conteplated calling her back and asking her to go back home with me and deliver me from this hell. But I just choked on the words and started crying again.

To be continued.........

Happy 2K6

I see most of us made it into the new year, which is a nice thing. The holidays were quite fine. I'm back at work, well rested and ..er.. quite broke.

Broke already you ask. Yes, I am.

That is the one reason why next festive season I wish I have some kind 13 hour job or something so that I don't spend and I am too exhausted to do anything else after that. The thing is I have been off work for nearly 2 weeks and as much as staying at home is fun, it is also bloody draining.

The thing is that the salary comes earlier than usual and for those people with tendencies like mine, it is not good to have money in the pocket and nothing to do. Everyday tends to be a weekend and this goes with all a weekend comes with.

Staying at home might be fine for one or two days, but after a while the legs get itchy and they beg to move. That is also the time of year all sorts of proggies come about.

Scenario 1
"We go to Jinja this afternoon", says derailing friend. "Why not", replies yours truly. And off the merry pair goes for an afternoon at Bujagali and and evening at Sombreros and some other place whose name I forget.

Scenario 2
10pm on a certain Super Tuesday at Steak Out
"Its late, we had better get going", says yours truly. "I think you are right, can't be late for jobo tomorrow", replies trusty partner-in-crime. Slowly the pair makes its way to the exit until, as if on cue, they stop and say in unison, "but there is no work tomorrow". Back to the counter they head 'til the embarrassingly wee hours of the morning.

Scenario 3
Ring, ring.
"Hello", answers sleepy Jay cussing those that have no respect for people's early morning sleep. Reaches for watch as he answers phone. Time check, 12:43pm.
"'Sup Jay, I'm having a house party today and i'd like you to come along", says caller. "Starts at 6 and bring your own bottle and by the way come with some chicks", continues caller.

Six hours later Jay is off to party with a bottle of Gilbeys. He tells himself that he is only going because he does not want to disappoint friend. "I will get there say hi to the guys, have a soda and head on home to watch TV", he tells himself, afterall he is still slightly hangover.

12:43am, Jay is dancing rhythmlessly (on account of a number of shots of Gilbey's, Waragi, some Club Pilsner and a wicked punch) to some raggaetone number with Sheila (or was it Stella)-the happiest camper on earth. No intentions of going home to watch TV whatsoever.

2pm, Somebody mentions the disco and Jay is all to eager to further display his lack of rhythm elsewhere. From here on memory becomes hazy.

Two weeks of such and you can imagine why I feel there is too much month at the end of the salary. But it was a blast though. Enough to last me 'til April.

Sunday, January 01, 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 me 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.