Friday, 18 December 2009


When I was growing up, the end of the year was observed as a time of thanksgiving, reflecting, and praying to God for the coming year. I still do that, but of late the New Year has found me sleeping, and at least once, in a club. I think I will be sleeping this time too. But today is the end of the working year at our office, effectively marking the end of the year career-wise. On Sunday I head to Nairobi, proceeding to the village mid-next week for Christmas and perhaps the New Year.


• I’m thankful for family, my job, and my new friends
• Thankful for old friends
• Thankful for great health
• I feel like I’m on track to get a grip on my finances, and for that I’m thankful.

Taking Stock

• It’s been a hard transition, getting into a somewhat different culture, learning to manage people, upping my ‘diplomacy’ skills, and negotiating skills. Not easy at all, but I strive to be better. Everything has a start.
• I’ve had fights with loved ones, some hard talking has had to be done, and all has ended well. We love each other deeply, though we rarely say this to one another, and I can’t wait to see everyone. I’ve made new friends, two who are very close
• The Man. Not sure where this is going. While Kisumu may be nearer to Kampala than Kigali is, it is farther away from Nairobi than Kigali is from Kampala. I aspire to aspire to be in Nairobi. I feel like I’ll be singing a different song when next year comes to a close. Ah, relationships! I’m not so good at them. Well, maybe I am, probably a tad too idealistic. I will never say never again .I’ve said this before , “I can never be ina long-distance relationship again”
• Houses. Nice, affordable housing in Kampala is not easy. How to say this? You can get a nice affordable house in a neighbourhood that doesn’t match the house. I moved into a new house in February. The rules? Not everyone who comes from Kenya should come to your place. Only have visitors on weekends, don’t come in after 10:30pm, 10:55 at the latest, that’s when the gate is locked. I’ll admit I got into this one with my eyes wide open, because after a long search that was becoming expensive, I had only one weekend before heading to Nairobi for a week. Couldn’t wait for the last Friday of April, by which time I’d found a house to move into the following day (having paid two months’ rent to the only guy who could accept as few). So I went out that Friday and came back at 11:30 pm. After all, it was my last day there, and wasn’t too late. That mzee tukanad me sana sana sana. Words like malaya. Then came to kick me out in the morning, as if I hadn’t already packed. And repeat the same scene in broad daylight. I was in tears. Funny thing is his wife is from Kiambu (yes, I knew this when I moved in. The broker said I’m muna-Kenya and she responded with “Uhoro waku?”) and she just stood there. I got the feeling the guy is the lion of that home. I moved to the Mengo area, not far from the Buganda parliament. This time it was an apartment, with the owner living in a separate house. I moved on out after the four months worth of rent expired, careful to give the required notice When I went to collect my deposit after moving to my new place, she informed me that one socket had burned out, and had needed UGX 35,000 for a replacement, and UGX 15, 000 for the service. Must have happened between when I’d moved out and came back for the deposit, but they had done the replacement already-and there was soot on the wall. There went my UGX 50,000 (Ksh 2,000). I didn’t contest it. And the broker who helped me locate the apartment had disappeared with my UGX 200,000 (Ksh 8,000) as a deposit on another house that we had been on the lookout for before the apartment materialized. That house was taken by another couple at a t time when the broker told me he had been imprisoned. He eventually gave me UGX 130,000. After going to the Local Council 1 chairman, who asked me for UGX 15,000, and various phone calls and visits to the broker, and threatening to go to the police, I gave up. I worried he could after me, hata kama he didn’t know my new place.
I like my current place. The landlord got his six months worth of rent in August, which run out at the end of January. He has been asking me for a copy of the lease (which I’d given to his agent). The agreement is that from January, I pay rent in three month instalments. Yesterday he called to say he has a tumour, and wants a year’s worth of rent at the end of January. The agreement clearly states that any notice shall be in writing, and each party shall give the other at least two months. I feel like contesting this, but then I like to go home to a place I look forward to going home to (God, I love my place, and no doubt it’ll be hard to find a place like it), where there is goodwill between the neighbours. If I contest his ‘request’, I’m not sure we’ll be talking to each other. Then, I’m scared for my safety. I live with his two siblings and two relatives on the same compound (mine is a semi-detached unit from their house), and the watchman is their relative. So if anything was to ‘happen’ there would be no neutral party. I don’t want to think about it right now. I just want to go home for Christmas, and a week’s leave on first week of work. If things turn out that I have to move, my friend is moving back to Kenya, and the house agent she worked with sounded like they’d be willing to have the house vacant in January if I assure them I’ll move in come February. It’s furnished, so I may have to dispose off my bottom of the range furniture. She lives across the street from me. I don’t intend to move after that, maybe when I eventually go home.

• My family
• My finances
• My country,my region, my continent
• My career
• Some personal things I’d rather not put out here
Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, 11 December 2009


Last Saturday I went for my colleague’s wedding. I am still trying to make the best of my Luganda by speaking it as much as I can. On our way back from the weddo, I wanted to say how good I thought it was, so I asked my other colleagues for the Luganda word for ‘wedding’. Somebody said ‘Embaga’, which could also translate into ‘Party’. Thought that was cool. Didn’t realize there is no difference between’ wedding’ and ‘marriage’ in Kikuyu (uhiki), though older people refer to it as 'home'. Not home as in house, but home as in family e.g. the home of PKW’s parents is nice/difficult. I take that to mean marriage is all inclusive, not just between 2 people. Not so cool. The Kikuyu word for a (married) woman is Mutumia. Directly translated, it means ‘the one who shuts up’. A (married) man is called a Muthuuri, from the verb guthuura (to choose). I once thought that was cool because it meant the man had chosen the woman. But I can’t tell you how many weddings I have attended in the village and hear this advice: Muthuuri etagwo muthuuri ni guthurania maundu, nake mutumia etwagwo mutumia ni gutumiria maundu (Loosely: a man is called a man because he chooses between different things, and woman is so called because she shuts things up within herself when issues arise). Not cool at all.

Oh, there is one more phenomenon as far as weddings go over here. People have what is called a kiwani wedding. A fake wedding. As, in ome people do actually fake weddings when they want to raise money, not get married. Look what happened to Straka, a local TV presenter.

On the other hand, marriage is called Obufumbo in Luganda. Directly translated to English by me, that comes to something like ‘the cookery’, or ‘the place of cooking’. I’ll stick with the first since the names of most places or to be more specific, regions, start with Bu e.g. Buganda for the Baganda people, Busoga, Bunyoro, Bukonzo and (as learnt on Tuesday) Buddu,etc. A Buddu post might see the light of day someday.

The verb that Obufumbo comes from is okufumba ; to cook. Small wonder there is such variety when it comes to food over here. On a regular day, for lunch, I have the following choices: matooke, posho/kaunga (ugali), ebinjanjaro (beans), binyebwa (groundnut paste), mucheele (rice), olumonde (ngwaci), Irish potatoes, kyenyanja (fish), kaawo (I probably made that up-cow peas), enyama y’e mbuzi/nte/enkoko (goat/cow/chicken meat), juni (arrow root), nsuju (pumpkin), muwogo (cassava) and assorted greens and fruits. Depending on the area, that costs between UGX 2500 (Ksh 100-USD 1.5) and UGX 8,500. A lot of the time I pack my lunch.
Did I mention earlier that chips and chicken is not food, but a snack? Try walking into a restaurant one fine Sunday afternoon and ordering what’s on the menu. Chances are you’ll be told “we don’t cook food on Sundays, we have snacks only”. On further inquiry, you realize the said snacks are chips and chicken. I think that’s food enough for a regular Nairobian to eat Monday to Friday. And you wonder why the Kenyan man goes on and on about the beauty of the Ugandan woman. One told me that beauty is a package.

Onto okufumba. You may know that matooke is the staple food in Uganda, which probably explains why they are the only net exporter of maize in the region. Maize is not even grown with much zeal. Making matooke is not as straightforward as I thought: peeling bananas, putting them into water, bringing to a boil and mashing with a cooking stick once soft. No, that would make the matooke whitish, and it would also harden when you get it off the fire. Instead you do it as follows:
1) Peel the bananas, leaving them whole
2) Look for a piece of banana stem, cut it into pieces small enough to fit into a sauce pan (if a town dweller, you won’t get access to banana stems, but are likely to buy a bunch of matooke. Use the middle part, where the bananas get attached)
3) Pour water into the sauce pan
4) Put two large pieces of banana fibre (if in town, buy) onto the banana stems, making a cross.
5) Put banana leaves(have to buy if town dweller) onto the banana fibre
6) Carefully arrange the peeled bananas into the banana leaves, making them into a round shape
7) Steam for the appropriate time (~45 minutes). If you need more water, make space between the sauce pan and the banana fibre and pour it, using a cooking stick to ensure it does not come into direct contact with the bananas.
8) When cooked, knead with your bare hands.
9) Once ready, serve (along with rice/muwogo, juni etc) with groundnut paste, and/or meat beans, fish etc greens. Kneel when serving your husband.

I thought you may need to be leaving work at 3pm if you have to cook matooke like that everyday. Some people make Ugali in a similar manner, taking up a couple hours to make it properly. Apparently, if you have a big sauce pan, you could make all the different dishes in separate bundles of banana leaf wrappings and bring them all out at the same time.I mean, matooke, meat/fish, rice etc in one sufuria without mixing them. Meat made in banana leaves is called Luwoombo. It’s an art, I tell you. How does a Kenyan mama compete in such a market when your expertise is making ugali in 15-30 minutes and pushing the week? Doesn’t that also make it unviable to commercially produce matooke flour? At least for the Ugandans, it does. Kisiis, the Kenyan matooke experts, would probably buy it.