I was born normal. Details are sketchy, partly because I’ve never sat there and thought. Hmm, this would be a nice time to put the chicken wing down, call my Dad and ask about the day I was born. I know it was a Thursday, or past midnight on Wednesday. But from the fact that I have a birth certificate, with the name of a hospital and not GPS coordinates of a river bank, I believe it was a normal birth.
It becomes rather interesting then when, at age 26-ish, I’ve been called weird almost 1000 times (figure may vary based on inflation). I don’t eat glass, no. That was some French guy I saw on the dumbest Guinness world records. Admittedly when I eat, it’s hard to understand what witchcraft is at play. It’s like quantum physics, a lot of food goes into this small vessel and releases no tangible effects. No extra heat, fat, energy, nothing. It is just released as a shadow of itself, usually in the morning, at times with a sigh.
Was that weird? I’ll probably stop asking. This is a monologue of sorts, a polite rant. I was once staring at traffic from the balcony of the flat I like to call, my flat. Traffic at this time was heavy, as it was every day at that time. But I wasn’t just staring like someone without the ability to look at meaningful things. My brain, who I like to call my namesake AKA Brain, was processing what we call random stuff.
Brain; there’s something about this traffic, I don’t know. But let me rub your chin a bit”
Brian; As Brain rubs my chin I know what you’re trying to do. You want to find something almost no one would think of while staring at traffic. And by that, create a conversational ripple effect. A different way for people to look at traffic.
Brain; stop thinking, that’s my job
So the staring continued, fancy cars driven by sexy ladies distracted me a bit. It was a Friday, and it was getting dark. Oh how a warm body would be nice. Maybe she could lie on my clothes and leave them less creased. Or on me, and leave a part of me less creased, I dunno. But at this point, Brain had a light bulb moment.
Brain; I’ve got it
Brian; What, a way to move this Friday from the balcony to one of those ladies’ thighs?
Brain; Shh, you’re weird you know. Now, look at the exit of that basement parking lot.
I turn my gaze about 10 degrees left, or south, whatever. I notice two cars, parked next to each other. A red Audi A7 and blue VW GTI. Both were waiting for a gap in the traffic so they could join the rest of the commuters. But the wait was taking a while, and the cars started to look good together. It’s like they developed feelings for each other. At this point I turned to my boy, who was standing next to me all this time;
Brian; Imagine if cars could fuck, and you get a mix of an Audi and a VW. People would be getting together because they want a mixed car breed…….
MyBoy; Dafaq, you’re weird bruh
At this point, I had to explain how we got here. And Brain wasn’t cooperating. Apparently, as these thoughts were being fired up by Brain, Brian was sipping Heineken.
Generalisations, the scourge that plagues the minds of many people. See, even that statement itself is a generalisation. I personally disagree with the notion that one, or 100 people is big enough a sample size to draw conclusions on character, appearance etc. Heck, give me a big enough sample size and I’ll still argue that there is an exception somewhere, even if it’s one person.
People, in my opinion are just too unique to be classified by general social structures such as tribe, country, race, literacy or residence. Stereotyping as they call it. It’s however this belief that has made answering one of life’s commonest and perhaps most important questions difficult for me. That question is, what is your type?
See, whenever this question comes up, a leg is either close or being planned for and advise being sought. It’s common because, well, who doesn’t want some pussy every now and then. Also, for some reason, that question has appeared more often than some that I’ve studied for.
How important is that question you say? Well, a correct answer and or identification of one’s type is like knowing your blood type. In both cases, they ease the act of transfusion. For one who has a type, the search for a mate becomes less of a gamble, and more of a “skinny chics are always at the beach” situation.
I on the other hand try my best not to generalise in as many aspects of life as I can. I have friends from different religious backgrounds, countries and character. I look back at the ladies I’ve been with and they are as diverse as what makes up the atmospheres of planets in the Milky Way galaxy. OK, maybe not that diverse. But they’ve been tall, short, light, dark, skinny, chubby, heavy, dimpled, bald, screamers, moaners, criers, you name it. It’s this history that leads to my default reply, “I have no type”. I then usually either get a look of disbelief or further convincing that we all have a type. Others go further and call me a male whore or just a desperate chap. To those I raise my imposing middle finger.
Anyway, good news is I think I’ve found my type. A recent visit home helped me get to this conclusion. And no, it’s not like I met the one. I met the usual variety of ladies, most sharing just their gender in common. They however all lit up whenever I said something silly, which was quite often. Talking to me seemed like enough, and they all for some reason liked me. So there we have it, my type is ladies who like me, and I don’t mean on Facebook.
Black skin is amazing. I used to think we were dark because well, we live around the tropics and it’s hot over here. Anything I had subjected to heat in my 10 or so years of existence by that time had turned darker, getting to my skin tone, then darker to purplish black. The whites therefore were light because it’s colder where they be. I reasoned. Physics later added to my opinion when I learnt that white reflects heat, but then why weren’t Africans white? All this heat being reflected back would have been an effective weapon against global warming. And what about the inhabitants of the Sahara and Arabian Deserts? Long story short, I used to think about quite a few things and I still do. However, I now also think black skin and cold weather don’t mix, at least mine doesn’t. Ash to ash, dust to dust
Lotion and Vaseline fall under the same category as makeup in my book. Since I started dressing myself, I’ve applied little to none of that stuff. If I’m wearing closed shoes, why apply lotion to my feet? That was the norm, and it worked. Admittedly, my body would get ashy, in those ash friendly places like between the fingers, elbows and feet. But never has my entire body gotten ashy, until recently. It was like someone dusted a blackboard eraser all over my body. DaFaq was going on? Winter was turning me white, and not the privileged type. Anyway, as someone who cannot identify as metro sexual or whatever, I don’t believe men should wear makeup. If you’re an actor or staring in a music video to launch your career as a sex symbol, cool. But after that, wipe that shit off. Even ladies I believe shouldn’t wear makeup. Why? Because it’s probably the reason the special ladies in our lives take ages to get dressed. I say special because I won’t wait for any insert random female name here. Also, its fraud. Plain and simple. Makeup is obtaining food, compliments, sex, money, attention, affection etc. under false pretence. But the a shyness got to extremes, and I decided I may need to apply makeup. Makeup, You? Howly?
Normally jokes are shared between two people, or a group that has its major defining feature as their proximity at that very moment. In my case however, the person I was with started laughing, then people around us also started laughing. And we were walking, so this was like a live feed of a joke. The problem was, I didn’t get the joke. A chuckle, choke and a few tears later, she asked me a question. Why are your legs so ashy? And burst out laughing again.
Now I got it, I was the joke. I looked down at my feet, and yep. It’s like I had a second skin, some places were grey, others black. Others glittered as the sun hit at weird angles. This wasn’t funny, I was scared. My legs and feet had never looked like this. I was wearing my most famous shorts, the things I’ve worn almost everywhere. Every trip around Uganda, my one trip to Europe, in the swimming pool and recently, to South Africa. And never had my bottom half looked so much like the walls of an abandoned smoke house.
This therefore called for drastic measures. See, I usually buy a bottle of lotion and use it for about a year or so. Between my fingers, on my fading tattoo and my feet when I’m in my trademark African crafts. Since the Ashy day however, that has changed. I apply that cold stuff whenever I’m not in a hurry; on my legs, the parts of my back I can reach, chest and my drumsticks. At times I just avoid exposing too much skin. But this is a lie. Isa Lie?
My lotion is like it was designed in an experimental army base. The terms used range from intensive care, multi-layer to micro droplets, all of which should help “restore dry skin to reveal its natural glow” and “soothe extra dry skin”. Yep, that’s what I needed, unless ashy skin isn’t dry skin. But after over 3 months of applying almost daily and the bottle running out, if I miss a single day, the ash is present. What kind of scam is this? You promise one thing, but deliver only if used daily? Isn’t this slavery of some sort? Vaseline-did I think this would be possible.
| Abong Brian
The Omweso board is usually carved out of wood; according to Mukwaya, the preferred hard woods came from the Omukebu (Cordial Africana) and Omugavu (Albizia Coriaria) for durability.
“The board game is probably one of the oldest in Uganda. Many ethnic groups appear to have played it for centuries, yet its origin is still obscure, although some people have suggested theories which have not yet been satisfactorily substantiated…,” says Michael B. Nsimbi in his book, Omweso, A Game People Play in Uganda.
However, the scarcity of these trees has forced the carvers to use whatever is available.
One square or hole of Omweso is called essa (plural amasa).Brown seeds called empiki from the Omuyiki tree (Mesoneurum welwitschianum) are used as pellets (counters or men).
The Omuyiki tree takes 20-40 years to mature and its fruits are used to make a foamy concoction used as soap.
Each player in a game has 32 pellets. At the start of a game each player distributes his empiki four to a square in his first row.
The center horizontal line of the board divides it so that each player has two rows each of eight squares.
The object of the game is to capture all the opponent’s pellets or so to reduce them so that he cannot make a move.
The players sit or squat facing each other with the board in the middle on the ground or a stand.
All the 64 pellets remain in play until one player wins. This is not a team game and a player upsetting the board automatically loses the game.
Modifications to the traditional rules of the game have helped in cutting short the duration of a game.
Whereas one game used to last between 10 and 20 minutes, today, it lasts between three and even minutes. |
I love food. Many people who hear this usually join the ever growing list of people who believe it. A few good ones take on a caretaker role, and indulge me in one of my few legal pleasures. One thing is certain though, all these people’s roles in life change once they start believing I love food. From questioning the validity of my statement, to trying to understand how I’m capable of certain gastric feats. It is in light of this that I’d like it to be known that I won the inaugural eating contest at my former workplace. I did it all for love.
As with all love however, prevailing conditions determine how much is present at a given moment. Key of these is the presence of an object of affection. Forget all that rubbish about loving yourself, that shit isn’t worth it, nor is it comparable to loving someone/something else. You may be a selfish bastard, but you don’t care that much about yourself. That’s why you empty your account to please a lady, or try new positions and can’t walk the next day, all for someone else. Jesus surely wouldn’t have died for himself. Even you wouldn’t die for you. I guess what I’m saying is, I love free food more. In fact, I believe a wise person once said free & food are the best words in the English language, and probably any other.
Where am I going with this?
In Uganda, food is cheap. I’ll pause as Ugandans mumble, argue and later agree with me. If you pull away the obsession with aesthetics, location and status, a good meal is accessible to many, at least one a day. Street food brings this cost even lower with the now famous Rolex, such a popular meal that almost everyone has a favourite Rolex joint. This is usually a vendor along your commute route (how do rhymes keep popping up) who knows how you like it done; fresh tomatoes, eggs well done with loads of veggies and wrapped up in two warm Chappattis. There are also many ladies who sell full meals served by the spoonful at the roadside. There you can take your pick of beef stew, some Mulokony (Cow hooves), offals (Mohudu in South Africa) rice or anything. This is beside the restaurants and multinationals also fighting for this same hungry market. Then there are those who go to the market, buy fresh produce and cook their own food. My full membership to that club is still pending.
Now transplant me from my Uganda to a place with more fast food places than bars (you have to visit Uganda to get that), and what you have is a moment of personal reflection.
You See, Reflection
So obviously I didn’t board the plane totally unaware of what to expect. I knew where I was headed wasn’t Uganda. That meant a lot, but as a food lover, it also offered an opportunity to sample some new foods. The sharp chap I am is however always aware that plans tend to be straight lines, a step by step guide on how to get from A to B. While life on the other hand is like a winding river, only occasionally crisscrossing the path of your plan. It’s only at those intersections that life goes according to plan, so I wasn’t overly optimistic. But that’s just me.
Anyway, my first plan was to indulge in junk food. We Ugandans are raised organic, stew at every meal and the occasional junk food to spoil yourself. I was going to shock my system as much as possible. For a fortnight, my body was going to be a temple of deep fried meaty food. And I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. After all, I don’t grow fat, I develop a sort of aura instead. I was also staying at a hotel so even the gods that be couldn’t judge me for ordering from the kitchen. This plan was surprisingly easy to achieve since fast food, is food here. Wraps, spicy wings, fish, and even fresh chips at 5 Rand (1300shs) in some places. And the best part, no little ketchup packets like back home. There’s a condiment table, with everything from barbecue sauce to something in a white bottle that I’ve never used. With these, you can drown your chips in ketchup and smear barbecue sauce all over your meat like Vaseline jelly on a 90s baby.
The universe however had other plans and as I moved out of the hotel, I realised I would probably have to leave my fast food behind. But for a while, all I had was a frying pan, so I just spiced up the junk food with visits to restaurants that served African food. I was finally eating some stew again, and animal parts that many back home would sneer at me for eating. From chicken feet to cow innards, a Goat’s head to pig legs, a meat lover would enjoy what’s on offer. I also learnt that Posho (Pap) here is enjoyed dry, like the Kenyans with their Ugali. This obsession with maize mill seemed Pan African, I realised early on. I thus couldn’t carry my Ugandan prejudice around with me. See, unlike many people who are never force fed Posho, Ugandans are. It’s one of the reasons I hated school. You can’t have Posho as your school staple, day in, day out, then occasionally find it at the home dinner table, and still love that meal. No way. It’s outlived its worth, the taste buds meant to enjoy it have retired, and I believe they’re no longer with many Ugandans.
But to have a pap meal, whether bought from KFC (yeah, Posho at KFC) or any other place, away from the connections to school and its memories, is different. It’s only then that I realised the white stuff is actually nice, and I no longer need a litre of sauce to wash it down, nor do I need a spoon or fork.
A frying pan can only do so much however, so I now have some pots and pans. After getting over the initial shock of seeing onions the size of mangoes, I am now capable of creating aromas that make my neighbours want to be my friends. It’s safe to say my love for meat has grown exponentially, considering I haven’t had pork in over 2 months, that’s saying something. But when I cook maize, it comes out as it went in. Perhaps I can’t fully digest it, or maybe it wasn’t fully ready that time.
Brian is a journalist. He is a writer, radio producer and presenter, web designer and he’s currently studying animation and design in South Africa. He has written creative pieces for some Ugandan national newspapers but for a long time, creative writing had taken a back seat, till now! The first time I saw Brian’s facial caricature in a weekend newspaper, up there with the article headline, it took a while to sink in that the guy who’s article I was about to read sleeps next door to me in my university hostel.Brian started writing again and Wshop has provided the space to publish his articles for the meantime. Without further ado, Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Abong Brian.
When people said the world was big, I never really took time to imagine the scale of that. Sure, some with more active imaginations will think up notions based on a number in square miles, a Google map memory or even sci-fi. But you can never really get to terms with the scale of it until your world changes. I’m not talking about finally fulfilling a resolution or one of its effects, marriage. I’m talking about war, or something gentler, like an extended stay in a “foreign” land, away from what was your world. Friends and their connections, habits, family, that small cocoon of variables that when put together, were your life.
I’m writing this from Johannesburg, my home for the rest of 2017 and maybe longer. I was supposed to have written it during my first weeks here, I didn’t. It’s however here in all its glory, about two months after I arrived in the City Of Gold (Egoli). In this first installment of what the inside out characters in my head have termed “The Big come back, Last Chance, It’s never gonna work,” I’m going to recap one of the things I’ve learnt about myself.
Homeless people make me uncomfortable.
True, seeing less fortunate people makes a lot of people feel something. Pity, disgust, maybe even love, I don’t know. But mine is a feeling that’s getting on my nerves. Hmm, I guess that’s why they call them feelings.
Anyway, the homeless or whatever the politically correct term are like traffic lights here. Back in Uganda, traffic lights hit the news before the road. There’s an announcement, bids, occasional controversy, artistic impressions follow and then works start. My point is traffic lights are few, leave the city and that list is even less arousing.
In Johannesburg, the case is different, the city is laid out on a grid. This means all roads intersect at some point. At almost all of these, is a traffic light. And for each of the colors on these lights, there’s probably a homeless guy around.
This became a real problem as it took on a mathematical dimension. The odds were in favour of the homeless. I bet that’s never been said before. Anyway, the sheer number of them would puzzle anyone from another African country. In Uganda, our beggars are usually people who physically can’t fend for themselves. In Johannesburg, they’re able bodied bi-linguists at least. And they are at the pick and pay, the KFC down the street and 6/10 times, the guy tapping your shoulder.
So what exactly is my issue? Well, the number of these chaps has made me start acting like that the stereotypical woman. And before you spit at your screen, I mean that I change my mind like the stereotypical woman changes clothes. Case in point, when one looks at my smile, it’s evident I have more than one sweet tooth. This neglected medical condition makes me walk to the shop for some of the least essential things known to man, candy. Chocolate, sweets, jelly things with weird shapes, you name it. But the presence of a haggard looking fellow, standing close to the entrance, empty cup in hand, is enough to make me temporarily forget the candy. Now there I am, having had to muster energy to leave whatever wherever, heading back with cash in one hand and broken dreams in the other. The feeling I tell you is one I can’t explain. I can however say it’s similar to guilt, shame and anger having a hungry baby.
This hybrid mutant feeling I have now discovered, is my fault. I’ll explain why.
When I first arrived, my mind was foggy. To reiterate, my world had changed. In this new world, I tried out a few new outlooks. Most of them in front of the mirror. One of the more practical ones though, was a sort of ambassadorial role (I like how that rolls). Seeing as I was not from here, my actions could impact people’s opinions of where I came from. On realising I’d come up with such an idea, I immediately gave myself a pat on the shoulder for possessing the power of logical reasoning.
I was then thrust into this heavy role when right outside my hotel on the first morning, a teenager in what I initially thought was Kanye West inspired fashion approached me. Don’t blame me, it’s South Africa, many things are different here. Anyway, after failing to register that no communication was taking place, I informed him I didn’t understand the language. I however had an idea what he wanted because of the universal language of gestures. No one rubs their tummy and points to their mouth to say “hey, punch me in the gut so we see what comes out of my mouth”. This was confirmed later when he spoke English.
Now my reaction based on the chosen outlook that day was, Ugandans aren’t stingy, but we aren’t ATMs either, so here you go, but don’t bother me again. I thought of it like buying protection in those Mafia movies. This quickly proved to be a shit idea as the next day, he treated me like a long lost friend. By the end of the first week, the number of people I knew in my new world was 40% homeless people. The other 60% later told me my approach wouldn’t work, a fact I’d learned firsthand. This made me feel dumb, and in my chosen outlook, my nation too.
Keeping with my allergy to stress, I quickly switched my outlook so as to move on from the guilt. That outlook’s effects are however here to stay. I can never spend money at a retail establishment and walk out the same. I’m less of an impulse buyer now, more of a bulk buyer. Thanks homeless fellas, you made me uncomfortable.
Wshop is slowly growing into something bigger. Initially, I was running this blog alone but with time some few people who appreciated where I was going with the blog volunteered to take part in the content creation process.
They join me in the field to look for content which is great for many reasons but mostly, it’s a great security measure. See in Uganda, as most places in the world I assume, walking around dangling an expensive camera on your neck or shoulder is bound to get the attention of people who would want to keep it for themselves. Walking around in a group reduces the chances of camera theft which gives me a sense of security and lets me focus on shooting.
Shooting in a group is more fan and, being an introvert, it gives me the confidence to take shots I would have otherwise chosen not to for fear of having to engage strangers in conversation and, often offering explanations to what I am doing.
One of these volunteers is Kawooya John, aka Jon JFK. I’ve known Jon for about 12 years now. We met at the beginning of secondary school and it’s been quite a ride. I asked Jon to write something about himself for the blog so that you, the blog fans and followers, can know a little more about those that contribute to the blog. Ladies and gents, here’s Jon;
Hello!! I’m Jon JFK!! If your wondering what the initials stand for, that’s a story for another day. At some point while growing up I thought I had a plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to my destination. I thought of life as a straight clear road, only to take a turn after spotting the ‘signs’ as I rode along…
As a child I did love the camera, the mere sound of the flash amused me. The film strip (as it was known in the 90’s) of the gadget itself used to fascinate me. I think back then all this was a sign for me to realise my talent. If you would have told high school me that I was going to grow up and fall in love with photography, I would have been shocked. I had a dream once; studying law. I dreamt about joining an awesome law firm and even had hopes of saving the world through helping others. Like most dreams, mine came to an end shortly after graduating from university.
I then embarked on a path to self discovery. This path opened me up to a number of things photography being one of them. Photography is an art I use to tell a story. In a way I believe that can save the world too. I shoot anything that has a story I can tell. I take shots of birds, weddings, models and consumer products. With every story I tell, I am grateful that it’s out there for someone to relate to.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain