|Youth playing pool by the roadside in a Kampala suburb|
|Kathmandu nightlife. You get a feeling sometimes
that Nepalis aren’t welcome in some places.
|Maoists marching against something or the other.|
|Youth playing pool by the roadside in a Kampala suburb|
|Kathmandu nightlife. You get a feeling sometimes
that Nepalis aren’t welcome in some places.
|Maoists marching against something or the other.|
Answer: Yeah, wear animal costumes. I think you will look cute as a Zebra. Oh well, we didn’t really send the kid that answer, it was something much nicer.
Dear Elijah & Beaty
Why do African dance? when they are happy or sad?
My name is Harper. I’m really glad to get to communicate with you! In our group, we’re doing Waka Waka by Shakira as a comparison from modern African influenced music and music that is straight from Africa. I was wondering if people in Africa think that African influenced modern music is interesting or stupid?
Nice question, Harper J
|Modern African dance|
|School children perform a dance at the National Theatre, Kampala|
|This is some of what we eat in Africa.
Not what you see below.
|Picture stolen from google images. Can’t remember who to credit. It was very offensive to many people as stereotyping Africans. No wonder the poor child comes up with such weird questions.|
|Entrance to the Kumari’s courtyard.
The ‘guides’ who will hustle you idle about.
|The Kumari’s courtyard|
|Fort Jesus, Mombasa, with it’s irritating hustlers and guides lurking at the entrance.|
|Julius, the beach boy of Nyali|
|The boys of Bofa beach, Kilifi|
This weekend, I returned from Mombasa, where I spent nearly two weeks on holiday with the girlfriend. Ooops – fiancée. We had planned for it for a long time, and she did not know I was planning to pop the question in style during this holiday. Upon returning, a friend called and said I must have spent millions. I laughed, because we each hardly spent 300 dollars for the entire trip! We would have spent less if had avoided first class on the train!
|It’s common to see game along the highways of Kenya|
|A resident of Backpacker’s Nirvana|
We stayed at Backpackers Nirvana, which is right on Nyali beach, and it was worth the price because we were allowed to cook food for ourselves. If you are a budget traveler, then cooking facilities come in very handy because you won’t have to spend a lot of money eating in restaurants. At Backpackers Nirvana, you can get a private room for about 3,000 KES a night. These rooms can host up to three people because the beds are really huge, so if you are traveling in a group and do not want to share a dorm with strangers, this might be the cheap option.
Even cheaper and free, is Couch surfing. There is this website http://www.couchsurfing.org/ where you can find someone to host you for free in Mombasa. We put out a request and we got a lot of people offering us free accommodation in their homes. But we chose to stay at Nirvana because of it’s proximity to the beach. We wanted to be able to go to the ocean at any time of the day. It was worth it. We spent a few dawns taking a swim in the ocean as the sun rose out of the waters. Absolutely marvelous!
So if I am limiting you to only Fort Jesus (one day) and the Marine Park plus snorkeling (one day) what will you do for the other three days? Seeing that you have only slightly over 100,000 left for you to spend? Go to the beach!
|Captain Wagna leads a client to his boat|
Well, so there it is. Your five day holiday in Mombasa for only five hundred thousand shillings. It’s doable. Better start saving. The best way to have fun is not by buying stupidly expensive tickets to watch drunk musicians in Lugogo. Nor is it by going to Kabira country club or to Steak Out and getting drunk. Jump on the bus, leave the country and you’ll discover a whole new world that you hitherto thought was reserved for the rich!
|It’s sad to see a young life wasted,
reduced to waiting for the grim reaper.
I visited this family in Wakiso district, and spent a day with them. I am hoping to convince a physiotherapist to visit the family and train them on how to care for their sick children, but this case makes me speechless. I do not know if I have the heart to make this film.
Three children have already died in the family. One boy is suffering from advanced stages of the disease. He may go any time soon. The other three boys are still young, but already showing signs of the killer.
|What does the future hold for me? Julius seems to ask.|
It is a very depressing story. Of little boys waiting to day. Of a family living in abject poverty. Of disease and hopelessness. Of a family that has been abandoned by neighbours, relatives and friends because they are thought to be carrying a curse.
I feel helpless.
And I feel gagged.
|It doesn’t look good at all, Julius seems to say.|
There is a very bad attitude going round in the media. It has corrupted artists, writers and film makers. They say you should avoid the kind of stories that BBC and CNN tell about Africa. Stories that stereotype Africa as a place of wars, poverty and disease. The Caine Prize was once heavily criticized for picking stories that some say depict Africa in a ‘negative’ way. Some call it ‘poverty porn’. It bowed to that pressure. Sadly.
But it makes me angry. And I want to ask these stupid people who want us not to tell stories of people like Paul Kayonga and is unfortunate family. I want to ask them one question; If we all keep silent, if we only write about the partying in Kampala, and crazy sex in night clubs like in Viva Riva, and how Africa has a lifestyle and atmosphere that is similar to the good life in Europe and America and Asia — if we do not speak about the poverty, the wars, the diseases like duchenne muscular dystrophy that attacks unfortunately families and pushes them deeper into poverty, is that not escapism?
Who will speak for such people? Who will tell the stories to inspire social action? Shall we not end up like the USA, a capitalist hell where only the rich have a voice? Where only those who have means can be heard?
I think those who do not want to ‘stereotype’ Africa, and want to only tell stories of the ‘good’ side of Africa, have lived in Europe and America, or grown up in cities, and are out of touch with reality.
I want to tell this story. I think that portraying people in a positive light does not mean avoiding ‘poverty porn’. Instead, it involves painting a picture of how brave such families are. Of how surviving against all odds.
I hope I will be able to tell this story. Please God, give me the strength to tell it.
|All smiles upon getting beans from a good neighbour. Now supper is assured.|
|Mother and her children prepare beans for supper.|
|Photo pirated from facebook, don’t know who to credit|
So I’m sitting here, looking at this blank page, and wondering what I can write to make you, my dear Chewy, laugh. Maybe I should put some of the pictures I saw on facebook last week, like the one with the tattoo. But that picture gave me nightmares, so I wonder if you should really see it. I dreamt that I was in China, and this woman with a magic pen was writing on my back. When she finished, I started to grow feathers, and then wings sprouted out of my back, and I turned into a giant cock —
Ah. Not the cock of porn films. But a real rooster, and every time I tried to speak, the only sounds I could make was something like coo-ko-lilo-koko! And then there was this Chinese girl laughing at me, and telling her friends, “Hey. When did you ever see a village rooster crowing in a town?” That is supposed to be a Swahili proverb. I was so pissed with her for speaking Swahili in Chinese – whatever that means, in the dream, it was so real – that I turned my rear end on her and let out a bucket of diarrhoea right onto her face!
Recommended Video: 6.5 million views on YouTube.
What Happened in Room 13.
Stupid dream. But it isn’t as stupid as the one you had, of a Japanese ghost. The geisha in a blue dress. I think she came into my dreams too. She was rowing a boat made out of feather — what are feather doing in my dreams! – and she had a face as white as cassava flour. I was sitting with you on the beach, watching the sunset, and at first we thought she was a swan swimming through the lake at sunset. But when she got close enough, we saw what she was. And she leapt off the boat and flew at us —
And we ran further down the beach until we found a group of people dancing naked around a fire, in the beams of the full moon, we stripped and joined them and we danced to the music of a guitar. Only that it turned out they were all dead people —
I think you can guess how bored I am right now. That I’m suffering from what some fools call a writer’s block — I don’t think it’s that at all. I’m just tired. Tired of making applications. Been making them all week long. Whew, let me go cook some chicken then I’ll see how to make this a blog post worth reading.
“I love the sound of rain.” So goes the first line in the lyrics of a song Reiza is writing. “I forgot the sound of rain,” is my response to it. There’s something about rain and romance. Rain and poetry. Rain and love. And as I sit here with the darkness growing around the room – I’m too lazy to turn on the lights! – I hear the rain falling outside. I see the droplets sliding on the window pane like lazy dancers and it stirs memories of rain. Hmmm, that sounds like a cute title for a story. Memories of Rain.
|A watery view of the world. Camera art, pure and simple.|
The first time I experienced rain falling for five days non-stop was in Nepal. And they thought it was very good weather. Mostly because it cooled down the heat. But the people in places like Surkhet live in fear of rain, for mudslides happen every monsoon, and those in the plains live in fear of floods. But unlike in Uganda where a slight drizzle can bring the whole world to a stand still, in Nepal, people simply pulled out their umbrellas and life went on as though there was no rain!
|Women shop in Birendranagar, a city in Western Nepal, in spite of the drizzle.|
|A girl helps her brother go to school through the rain.|
|Hold me tight and keep me warm.|
It’s a sunny Sunday. I’ve just had a very productive weekend. Started and finished a short film. It’s a story that has been running in my head for nearly two years now. Maybe more. I’m glad I got it out. Maybe now I will have some sleep and peace, for the characters wanted their story told. They kept bothering me, yelling at me, screaming at me, distracting me whenever I was thinking about something else. A little girl and her paralyzed older brother.
A question every writer confronts at some point or the other is “Where did you get that story?” I always wonder where I get my stories. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, suggested that writers are like archaeologists. That stories exist somewhere, and a writer’s job is not to ‘create’ them, but to dig and discover them, and share them with the public.
But I think that stories are experiences in a parallel world. Do you believe in other worlds? Christians and many religions think in terms of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Paradise. Hindus believe in reincarnations. Phillip Pullman thinks there are other worlds that exist in the same space as ours. Time travelers think our histories (or is it futures?) are stored in black holes. Sci-fi nerds think of life flourishing in other planets. There is the world of ghosts and spirits. One or more of these beliefs is true. And from one or more of these worlds, stories trick into ours, through storytellers, who are like mediums.
We do not create. We only have the powers to peek into strange worlds. Like that boy in The Sixth Sense. Like Whoopi in Ghost. Like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. And when people in those imaginary worlds discover that you can communicate with them, they start coming to you. And bothering you. Until you cannot find sleep. Or peace.
I remember on morning when, the story of a rebel radio DJ, who is stuck on a wheelchair after an accident, came to me. I woke up and it was so clear in my head as if I’d were seeing a movie (well, I’d just seen two movies, murderball and Talk Radio the previous night). First, the wheelchair DJ came. Then his fan followed. For about an hour, I entertained them, poking at them to tell me their story. I wanted it to be a story about two people only, the wheelchair DJ and his only fan. But then, her husband popped up, and so did the wheelchair guy’s ex-girlfriend. I was so furious. I screamed at them; “I don’t want four of you! I only want two of you!” But well, the two late comers refused to go away, and so I’ve never gotten round to writing this story. They however are not giving me peace. They buzz in my ears, like mosquitoes all night.
Often, these strange fellows from those other worlds are shapeless and faceless — and they remain so until I experience something in this world that gives them shape, and faces.
Like this girl and her paralyzed brother.
At first I thought she was a teenage boy, and his little brother was paralyzed. But while in Nepal, Reiza suggested we visit a home where they look after children with severe disabilities. We spent a whole day there. I saw many children with various kinds of disabilities. The visit touched my heart in ways I cannot tell. I’ve posted here some of the photos I took that day.
|Angels in a window are all he’s got to play with.|
|Poor baby stuck in a chair, with an angel who committed suicide.|
It did not strike me at once, but after a long time, I discovered the teenage boy was actually a 10-year old girl. And her paralyzed brother was older, 20 years. And she had to help him.
|Let’s play. But only indoors. No way out.|
She visited me several times in the course of the last year, telling me a single sentence over and over again, urging me to write her story. But she never told me anything more than that single sentence, which went something like this, “I’m a little girl who challenges my parents and bring happiness to the life of my paralyzed brother, and to our home.”
Very vague sentence. It’s not until I sat down to write the story, on Saturday, that she told me more about herself. She sat on my shoulders, and whispered things into my ears. And when I stopped writing after only an hour, she threw tantrums. She pestered me the whole of Friday night. I had to wake up at 5am to complete her story. Only then did I discover she did not have a father, and that she was such a liar.
I finished the story late yesterday afternoon. But wow, you would think she would retreat into her world and leave me alone. But she keeps on bothering me, for she does not want me to tell her story in the form of a film. She wants me to write a folk story, something that will begin like this; “Once upon a time, a little boy lived in a dark room. He had no one to play with apart from the angels who floated into his room on sunbeams that fell in from the tiny window.”
Whew. And someone says I’m blessed. Man, this is a curse. To hear voices. To see little girls. To have no peace until a story is told — a curse 🙁
The kind of situation that makes you look for a pirate to hack into the shop and get you what you want at almost no cost. After spending years using pirated software, I think my company is growing, and so I want to go legit and buy the real stuff. But they won’t sell it to me. Because I don’t have a credit card from their stupid country. I call a friend who does, and we try to use her card, but still they won’t sell it to us because the license won’t be used outside their stupid country.
And I got so mad — and I started to wonder why the heck the process of buying and selling goods is becoming so (unsocial? mechanical? unreal? virtual?) — trading is supposed to be the heart of humanity. Whether you go to the neighbors to exchange your bar of soap for a pinch of salt, or to the market to buy a little sugar and bread for the kids — trading is supposed to be a socializing experience.
But it’s becoming impersonal. You have to buy stuff online. Using plastic cards. And when you get mad like I did today, you can’t scream at the pretty cashier who gave your a bouquet of flowers when you asked for flour.
Oh well, they do have ‘help lines’. They say, “Call this number if you are having trouble purchasing our products.” And when you call, what happens, you talk to a stupid robot that pretends it has a voice like Dolly Parton — for a few seconds you do think you are speaking to a pretty girl; you start to ask her out and then — cliche joke.
|I love the color in the markets of Uganda.
The smells as well, and the noise of traders hawking their goods amidst the traffic.
But I was saying that trading is losing it’s humanity. We have kafundas, and market stalls around every corner, and hawkers with wheelbarrows full of vegetables. But the way society changing, all these nice things might vanish. Every shop is turning into a supermarket. And the employ girls who aren’t as nice as the women you talk to when you visit the market. These girls have plastic smiles, and wear uniforms like school kids, and are often too tired to flirt with customers — or cannot because the Indian supervisor is watching them on the CCTV.
|Markets are a place where boys meet girls.|
If the world all turns into supermarkets and virtual shops and plastic cards, how will some people get married?
I know a girl who married the cake delivery boy. Well, he wasn’t really a cake deliverer, but the baker himself. Because he was a small fish in the pond, like me and my company, he could not afford to pay a delivery boy. He had to do the legwork himself. So he goes to this girl’s offices — let’s call her Pauline — and Pauline is in one room, busy typing away at her computer when the smell of cakes hits her nose. She leaves her desk, sniffing, sniffing, feeling something strange turning in her heart — “It’s just a cake Pauline!” — but she moves from room to room, sniffing, until she finds the cake.
And the baker.
He is on his way out. It’s love at first sight (though I think it was love at first smell). And she says; “I have a birthday next week. Can you make me a cake?” It’s a lie, of course. There’s no birthday next week. She just wants an excuse to get his number, and make a move.
They are now married. They have two children. And he still bakes cakes. But understandably, she doesn’t let him do deliveries anymore, for she is afraid another girl will fall in love with the smell of his cakes…..
|Girl’s love birthday cakes. I think it’s the key to their hearts.|
Ah — what was I talking about when I dragged up this cake memory? Yes, supermarkets, online shops, all those kinds of new trading that is killing societies. Including things like facebook. I feel inspired to start a movement to take humanity back to the stone ages, when everything was so simple. When you walked into a shop and either bought bread or it was out of stock. When young girls used shopping as an excuse to meet their boyfriends — noticed how they take baths and tune themselves up as though they are going for a party and not to buy tomatoes? — When you could smell of the mud, the fresh vegetables, the fish, the fruits, the sweat, and feel the noise of a busy and dusty market as you looked for a supper. Hmmm I should do that more often, while it lasts.
It is hard to forget a date in an aphrodisiac restaurant.
|Mochitos. Photo courtesy of www.or2k.org|
I remember the day. 29th May 2011. A beautiful evening in Kathmandu. The threat of a strike lingered in the air, the Maoists promising bloodshed and chaos over the new constitution, their threats keeping people indoors and cars off the street. But Thamel was bustling with life, as usual, for the worst of the threat was over. I do not remember well, but the banda was supposed to (but largely didn’t) happen on the 28th — the day she came into Kathmandu. And so on the 29th I took her out to OR2K. Wow. I’ve never been to a place like that!
Magnificent chandeliers hang in the ceilings, like clusters of stars in a romance novel. The large windows let in a gentle breeze, that made the candles dance like fairies to the allure of traditional Nepali music, the sweet and soothing whispers from a sarangi, the gentle dum-dum-dum of the madal – the flutes that hooted like birds calling their lovers — the cigarette smoke hanging in the air — the scent of opium wafting in from the dark streets outside the restaurant, mixing in with the aroma of the food on the table, next to two mojitos whose straws touched each other — and her smell! The floor was wooden. We sat on rugs, the food on low tables. Her face looked like a full moon in the low lights. Her voice whispered into my ears as though she was providing lyrics to the jazz music of the live band.
|Enjoying a meal at OR2K restaurant, Kathmandu|
I’m trying to paint a picture with words, to make you feel what it was like in OR2K, and I’ve tried to put here pictures that would make you see the place — but nothing I say, no pictures I put here, will ever make you feel the place. Unless you go there.
Still, I can sum it all up with one word: aphrodisiac — the atmosphere, the food, the music, the lights, the beautiful girl sitting next to you, sipping a green drink called mojito, all combine in a mystic way to give a taste of wicked romance.
|The paintings in OR2K give it a mystic feel.|
I’ve never experienced another restaurant the way I experienced OR2K. The food in GAIA was great, as it was in Lamas, Mike’s Breakfast, Bhumis, Royal Thandoori, The Lunch Box — but nothing beats OR2K in atmosphere.
|Dining in OR2K is ideal for groups, or just two lovers.|
Since I came back to Uganda, I have tried to look for an OR2K equivalent in Kampala, but the eating places in Kampala are woefully lacking. They do try to create atmosphere with live band music — most of whose music are not captivating, and most of who mime rather than play actual music — and they try to make it romantic with dim lights from hurricane lamps and paraffin candles. Jazzville in Bugolobi did try to compete with OR2K, but the big open space in the hut makes it rather impersonal. You feel like you are in a stadium watching a concert. In OR2K, you feel like you are in a private party in someone’s living room. Lotus Mexicana also did try to impress me, but I did not like the music, which were mostly poorly done renditions of American music (can someone please tell these musicians that there’s more joy in listening to traditional African jazz?) and the toilet put me off completely. The sink was blocked and overflowing — don’t even want to think about it!
Khana Khazana on acacia avenue offered us an okayish atmosphere as well. I liked the fake waterfalls in the middle of the dining area, and the waiters who wore costumes as they served great food. But it was painful that the waiters had no idea what food they were serving — had probably never tasted half of the dishes on the menu. The food was marvelous, though. Sadly, the atmosphere fell short of being aphrodisiac.
And so I’m still searching for an equivalent to OR2K in Kampala. Somewhere I can go and enjoy good food, good music, great atmosphere, with the prettiest girl around — somewhere a doctor can order you to go instead of prescribing Viagra, or ginseng :-))
|She’s looking bored at Jazzville, Bugolobi, in Kampala|
|Looking through the Menu of Lotus Mexicana restuarant.|
|The atmosphere aint so grand in Lotus Mexicana.|