Monday, 23 November 2009

MTN Kampala Marathon

The MTN Marathon has been around a few years, and it’s getting to be serious regional event. Jana I ran the 21km. It was my second as I ran the Stanchart Nairobi Marathon last year. This time I’d prepared. I improved my finish time with 15 minutes. I’m sure I’ll do better with more practice for one, two or all (I kid you not) of Safaricom Lewa Marathon, Stanchart Nairobi Marathon or MTN Kampala Marathon next year. Needless to say, Kenyans outran Ugandans. And the Ugandans who really run are Sebeis from Kapchorwa and other places in the East. Really, the Kalenjins of Uganda.

What did I like?

-It turned out a good way to keep fit. I find it easier to exercise when I am working towards a goal than doing it kiundutho. My body doesn’t hurt like last time, too. That was funny. I hadn’t done any practice, and then realized I had to come start working in Kampala the following Monday. I hadn’t been to my Nyeri village in years. So what did I do? Go to my shags on Friday, get back to town on Saturday night, wake up Sunday morning and run (rather, mostly walk) the 21 km, come to Kampala in the evening, start my job the following day, asking the receptionist if I’m walking funny. My body hurt all week. None of that today.

-A good time for me and my few, mostly Kenyan, friends in Kampala. I like their sense of humour. Like when we were waiting for the marathon to start and wanted everyone within hearing distance to know that we are Kenyan. That meant we were there for the money, but thighs don’t lie. You can tell a Kalenjin, sorry, a serious runner by their legs. And then we started saying stuff like Eldoret having been a good place to practice, Mt. Kenya being higher altitude than Kampala, having finished only a few minutes behind Jelimo, Tergat during practice season. Talk of psychological warfare. Good thing is, no one knew that one of those who had registered for 21km decided to walk 10, calling it a change of strategy. Still, it was impressive for him to ‘finish’ 21 km among the 10km finishers. The numbers on our shirts were in different colours so you could tell who was running what distance. Not that he was among the first, say, 100 to ‘finish’ the 21km

-Better shoes, so my feet don’t hurt and none of my nails died this time.

-Better logistics. Last time I got into a matatu, and got off in the middle of town since a lot of the roads were closed. I was getting late, and had to run to Nyayo stadium before starting the marathon. I was exhausted by the time I got there. Jana I arranged for the cab guy to pick us up at 5:30am. 'Us' because my buddies drove and packed at my place. Turned out we all could have slept a little more, but no loss.

-It’s cheaper to register for the MTN Marathon at UGX 6,000 (about Ksh 240) or 5,000 if you use MTN MobileMoney. Stanchart Nairobi marathon was Ksh 1,000 (~UGX 25,000).

-I can be a feel-gooder at times, and it does feel good to know that my UGX 6,000 will somewhat help in the resettlement of the people of Northern Uganda. How? Simanyi.

-Food after finishing, thanks to a friend whose former company was represented. Dude came back from Nairobi to run the marathon. People have drive.

-The souvenir MTN-branded water bottle that reminds you of FIFA 2010. MTN is an official sponsor

-Those Chinese or Japanese guys and (maybe) Ugandan driver driving slowly among the runners on the last hill in Kololo in a new sleek Nissan Navara. I wondered if you paid to market it on an MTN event.

-Who said I can’t put that on my CV?

What I didn’t like

-The prize, only UGX 5m (~Ksh 200K) for the winners. Not that I was the winner, but that doesn’t compare with Ksh 1.5m for Stanchart Nairobi Marathon, or USD 125K for the Boston Marathon the last time I checked. It’s a start, though.

-I didn’t get a cert, or a finisher’s medal like last time. I only know my finishing time because I kept it myself.

-The whole thing was a bit jua kali. The loudspeakers were not audible down at the airstrip where most people were gathered. When you finished, you went into the packed field in the air-strip, gave back your chip, and then got the bottle. Where was proof that someone actually finished? I didn’t think that was the best use for the ChampionChip. Then there were the people hustling to steal bottles
-The guy who took our pictures and my number in the morning, promising to bring back prints by the time we got back. No word till now. Ssebo, get serious.

Overall, a great event, getting better each year.

Friday, 13 November 2009

The 'Other' Woman

General Kazini died in the early hours of Tuesday this week. More like, he was killed by a 28-year old woman, purported to be his mistress of 5 years. That has been the hot item in the press most of this week. Lydiah Dralu Atim claimed that she hit him with an iron bar in self defence. I hope that everyone gets justice. M7 attended the mass yesterday and was looking visibly upset on TV, saying that a lot of former soldiers die from 'wreckless living'. I felt rather sad for Phoebe Kazini, the general’s official wife, and their most adorable daughters. I mean, it’s difficult enough to deal with the loss, but the manner in which they lost him doesn’t make things easier.

Incidentally, this week I discovered Esther Passari’s website via someone I stalk on twitter, probably on Tuesday evening. On her relationships page, she talks about dropping the bombshell during the International Women’s Day about having been the hidden wife. She makes reference to living a lie, the fact that there are many 'other woman' out there and we shouldn't ignore that. The fact that kids have to live the consequences of their parents’ lifestyle made me think several times over.

The ‘living a lie’ line and General Kazini’s death got me thinking; maybe it's time to accept that these 'things' are here and will probably take a while to go away completely. For some women,and I think most men, it is a lifestyle of choice. Some women just happen to be the other woman by accident, but IMO, a lot of women actually know that a man has an wife, probably even has a document lying at Switswiller (??thanks again twitter) Amos Wako’s office, meaning that unless he gets the last D in DIVORCED done, if he is planning to, that is, he isn’t likely to marry the other woman. I’ve had men I know to be married hit on me, and once gone on a blind date, only for the guy to show up with a wedding ring on, and pics of his kidos on the phone screen. I am wrong in assuming most women know that some man is married and has no intention of leaving his official wife?

In that light, I'm kinda tired of women acting the victims most of the time. Let’s face it, women. In Kenya and Uganda, there are more heterosexual men and women than gay. Chances are if he is cheating, he is cheating with a woman. And if he is cheating with you, chances are he will cheat on you with some other woman. We can’t really call men dogs without calling a lot of women, urm, female dogs. The only victim I see here is the official wife, and, having never been married, I am not in a position to accuse them or defend them for choosing to stay, sometimes in the full knowledge that the man has a roving eye, and other organ. Thinking about it, I have no idea how I would react. When I was younger....let’s just pray and hope it doesn’t happen if I ever get married!

Aside: I was once watching Oprah and a woman was confessing to having been the 'other' woman for several years. Our culture and theirs are a bit different but it still surprised me that they found where 'she went wrong' when growing up concluding that she didn't always feel loved, and could always settle for second place. I think it's more of a personal choice than a psychological state of mind.

In other matters sexual, it would appear like we have more issues to deal with in the heterosexual community than in the gay community. Uganda may be passing what someone called the Homophobia Bill that will make it legal for someone to be jailed if they are assisting a gay person. Kenya is passing another one that will let a man marry more than 1 wife (outside Muslim and traditional marriages, where they do, currently) legally in a civil marriage on one condition: he tells the first wife before he marries her. IMO, that’s a practical take on the reality of sexuality in Kenya. I hope that they will require some hard evidence like signed documents should the first wife want a divorce citing infidelity. Because if it’s his word against hers, many a man will say they had said so. Currently, if a woman marries a man under the customary law she can’t divorce him on that basis of marital infidelity. And it’s illegal for her to remarry, remember Kamangu and the other man?

Now, let’s go ahead and make it legal to be gay and make marriage inclusive of gay people.

Thursday, 05 November 2009

The Wedding Show

No, not the one on TV, but hopefully, a final rant about money. First, a disclaimer: God, please understand that I’m grateful for the opportunities you’ve given me, so please don’t take this as a complaint. I feel like I'm financilly responsible, and this post is about that. OK, I understand I should give more......but IMVHO, not for weddings! This is not out of pride but what I feel to be inconsiderate requests for money. So, shall we?

OD had one up some time ago about weddings and exploitation. I don’t publicly express my opinion about wedding committees and harambees/pre-wedding ‘parties’ for fear of losing friends, but what the heck, I will say it on blogger, I don’t approve! Juzi a colleague brought me an invitation card to be part of her wedding planning meetings that take every Thursday beginning last week till the first week of Dec. With a wedding budget to boot. The budget came to around UGX 12m, ,excluding attire for the bride, groom, page boy, flower girl and rings. I’m told this is on the lower side. I honestly felt that she was a bit inconsiderate, seeing as is it is that we haven’t known each other for six months, and they have been living together for some years. I skipped the first meeting on Thursday last week but told her jana that ‘I can’t come, but will give you what I can afford’. She was very nice and said she’ll appreciate what comes from the heart. I was tempted to say my heart is a blood-pumping organ and not a wallet nor a bank account. But social correctness dictates otherwise. I’m still debating what exact amount to give her, but honestly, it won’t be beyond a certain amount I’m too embarrassed to put on here. Call me tight-fisted. Or whatever. I digress: my place of work is a place to make money not spend it. OK, I won’t complain for when people lose relas, but when people leave, shouldn’t we just go to some place, eat, buy drinks, etc and pay instead of coughing up UGX 20,000K per person every time? I suggested the former but someone said contributing 20,000K each is more of team-work. I think it’s more of communism. Especially because I don’t like the taste of beer and think it’s unfair to order wine when the bill is split equally among all the drinkers.

Back on topic. Flash back to sometime early this year. Buddy from Nbi and I had some plans to do income-generating activities (NGO-speak, go figure) together but none of us really followed up, so I guess that particular idea died. July this year, dude calls me and says long time! Have you seen my email? We need to catch up with the plans! I say, I’m out of reach by email, will get back to you nikishasoma. Buddy calls me later, and I say, no, sijasoma niko mbali bado. And later. And then says, I can as well just tell you the content of the email over the phone. Which was: his small father (paternal uncle younger than his biological father) was admitted in hosi, needed lots of dough, his friends including those abroad and the area MP were meeting some evening etc. I think that’s the right point to ask for financial help. As in to save the victims life, not to bury them. To cut the story short, when sending my mum her monthly allowance (yes, that’s how we roll, not the other way round), I ask her to M-Pesa Buddy some small amount, which she did but he didn’t acknowledge until I called to ask if he got the money? Well, he later acknowledges receipt via an email to say thank you, and there is a harambee to clear the hospital bill.

Week of October 17th. I’m in matatu, just passing through industrial area on my way to work. Buddy calls to say long time and have I read his email? I say, not yet, will read nikifika job and get back. So I come and the email says just that: long time, we need to catch up. Buddy catches up with me via chat and informs me he is going to see his future in-laws on 17th October, and then they will know when the wedding will be. Please pray for me and give me moral support and assist me in any other way that God will help you. So I promise to pray. I actually think it’s not culturally right to ask a mama for money to pay dowry. Well, he didn’t ask for money; I could have interpreted ‘any other way’ the wrong way.

Then jana. I catch up with Buddy on chat and ask how did the the ruracio go? He says, very well, in fact I should send you videos when they are out. After the niceties I ask when’s the wedding? 28th this month, I have asked the secretary to send invitation cards and I understand he hasn’t sent them: you are invited. Why don’t you stand by me at this time of need? Can you be part of my planning committee? I say, well, I’m in UG and wasn’t planning on travelling to +254 before Dec, so, sadly, I may not even make the weddo. Reply: the meetings are virtual, by sms and email only. At this point I want to say, cut the chase and use plain Gikuyu....ureenda mbeca cigana? But you see, I’m getting better by the day at being diplomatic. So eventually, I say, well, that’s a bit of a short notice on my side (he says 3 weeks is sufficient, in fact, that’s the regular time interval to invite people for a wedding. I think he forgets he’s asking me to be part of the committee). I can’t really make it, especially because it comes in with less than a month to the weddo, halafu it’s also within the same month (translation: yenyewe I’ve already spent some of my November money and don’t think this is a reasonable enough request to disrupt my budgetary plans for the rest of November).

Guys, weddings rarely, actually never, come by surprise. I imagine people know they’ll have a wedding at least several months before the date. Let’s stop abusing the harambee spirit. What’s wrong with having as much wedding as you can afford, really? See, I don’t think I’m going to be part of the crowd of friends and family contributing 350K when you have 300K when you could have been married with 13K after ‘buying’ the wife, aka paying dowry. I'd hate to be the one raising the money but not being invited for the wedding. An expensive wedding doesn’t make you any more married than a cheap one, much the same way a cheap funeral makes doesn’t make you any less dead. School fees and medical emergencies I will understand, but a weddo, please! Am seriously probably not going to give anyone else money for a wedding. (Hey you, hope this hasn’t made you change your mind about 20th Dec, si ndiyo?-or is it au sio?)Nitakuja bridal shower,baby shower, etc.

To use OD’s friends words, it’s your responsibility and if you can’t afford a wedding, please consider putting off the marriage coz marriage is more expensive than a wedding.

Wednesday, 04 November 2009

"Chikuyu or Ruo?"

50th post today-that’s a milestone.

I often get reminded of times when Ethiopians in DC would ask ‘Habesha?’ when I was waiting for the bus or train. Apparently DC has the biggest concentration of Ethiopians outside Addis Ababa. This happened more often when I was spotting some curly black hair extensions. After a while I got to know that meant ‘Ethiopian?’ and would respond ,” No, I’m Kenyan”. I read that Ethiopia used to be called Abyssinia (?) way back, but I think Ethiopians (used to?) call it Habesha.
Interestingly, some Ugandans think I look like a Munyarwanda . I feel kinda flattered :0). Some guy in Nairobi once told me the only reason he’d go work in Addis is because of the beautiful women.

Lakini the one that initially used to surprise me is when I tell someone I’m Kenyan and they go , “Chikuyu or Ruo”. The letter K is often pronounced as ‘Ch’ in Luganda (and the G as ‘J’ hence ‘Mijingo’-but not Ujanda). Like us Agikuyu, many Baganda (and I think Banyankole, too) replace the L with the R in many words. I haven’t come across an R in Luganda, and there is no L in Gikuyu. I guess that’s where it comes from. I feel no offense when people ask me about my tribe, so I will promptly say “Chikuyu”. It’s the “Chikuyu or Ruo?” that gets to me. Because I think many non-Kenyans only knew about Kikuyus and Luos just because of the 2007 elections aftermath. Sasa, I can’t claim to know what tribes are in what countries. I know there are Dinkas, Madis and Nuers in Sudan because I had a Sudanese room-mate, there are Shonas in Zimbabwe because Mugabe and Makoni are Shonas :0), Zulus and Xhosas in SA and Igbos in Nigeria because they are popular, Oromos and Amharas in Ethiopia because I had a Ethiopian school-mate (and read Michela Wrong’s ‘I Didn’t do It for You’) Sukumas and Chaggas in Tanzania because I had a Chagga/Kikuyu friend in college. But I think it’s a shame I forgot or don’t know what tribes my other African friends were from, and haven’t bothered to find out what tribes occupy which countries.

I also thought a colleague was a tad bit more ignorant when she asked me why Kenyans fought when there are only two tribes (Chikuyus and Ruos) whereas they have so many tribes in Uganda yet don’t fight. Well, if you know any history, you know that they have had more and longer fights in Uganda than in Kenya. Only that they were not along tribal lines. In fact, Baganda helped M7 because he recognized their kingdom and those of others, when Obote had abolished all tribal kingdoms in the 60s. He recently officially recognized the Rwenzururu Kingdom. And some guy who was working as a nurse’s aide in the U.S. is the King. Talk of tables turning.

The most interesting but not surprising is that we fight over our identity yet our origins are the same. You can’t convince me that a Mugisu in Uganda is different from a Bukusu in Kenya, or a Japadhola in Uganda and a Luo in Kenya, or a Sebei in Uganda and a Kalenjin in Kenya, or a Maasai in Tanzania and a Maasai in Kenya. So I think tribe is over-rated. Or underated, depending on who you ask.

Here’s some Luganda for you:

Okuja-to come
Okugula-to buy
Okulya-to eat
Okunywa-to drink

Some two words in Kinyarwanda

Orugendo rwiza-safari njema
Ijana-One hundred

Yeah, we are totally different, aren’t we?