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
Your teeth may have not started having conversations with each other, but everything you touch seems wet. When such weird and seemingly unnatural things start happening, you know you are experiencing your first winter as a Ugandan.
Now as one, I’m sure many of my country mates harbour at least a dream of experiencing winter. Snow and its magic have been sold to us and swallowed hook and sinker. Who can blame us, it was getting a bit too hot in Uganda when I left. But these winter dreams always involve some location in the west. Europe, America, those who know a bit more about the world talk of Siberia, Canada, Japan and even Burma. What never comes to mind is traveling down south, over the vast beautiful continent of Africa to South Africa.
I always knew there was a winter down here, I mean, geography is one reason I’m here. In class we were taught that the tropics exist to define the area between the tropic of Capricorn and Cancer. Outside these, you get the famous 4 seasons. But South Africa isn’t that far from the damn tropic of something. So never did I think winter here would mean anything more than visiting Kabale (coldest district in western Uganda) dressed in only shorts and vest.
Well there’s always a time to be wrong and this wasn’t one of the best.
Get rained on
I’m not a sporty person. I tried a bit of basketball in primary school and hurt my middle finger a week to final exams. In the words of a famous Ugandan comedian, my finger looked like a sausage. Later in life, I run the compulsory qualifying for the school sports day. We did it according to class streams and I came third. Still didn’t sign up. But a while back, I was in Midrand, home to the only grand prix track on the continent. I like formula one, the mix of man and machine, skills and luck at play. So the Kyalami track in Midrand is like a football fan visiting Old Trafford or going to that camp in Spain. There was no race, and my experience with the track was being driven alongside and having it in my background for the rest of the evening.
See, following in the footsteps of my aunt, I had cousins visiting South Africa. They were here for a work function in Midrand. Their timing however wasn’t on point. The previous morning snow fall had been reported in a neighbouring province, I was like DaFaq? When I got to Midrand, it was wet, wet and freaking cold! Luckily the function was in a conference centre. Unfortunately, this meant every smoke had to be taken outside, and there was no veranda. So every 15minutes or so, there I was striking up conversations with random people in the sub-zero drizzle. I woke up the next day with the mother of all colds. Now this cold was like no other, I felt sick, and it lasted 2 weeks. Winter was here!
A long-sleeved under shirt
See Uganda is at the equator, the sun kisses us every day, at times giving us some tongue even. In this situation, most people, myself included, wore vests underneath whatever. This basically kept the back of your shirt from attaching itself to your back, by means of sweat. But a good vest would probably make you feel hotter, since it may have been thicker than your shirt.
My Johannesburg vest usage is a little different. It’s possible to wear the vest, and nothing else, during the summer days. Its winter now though, and the vest has given way to a long-sleeved under shirt. Everything goes over this thing.
Deodorants no longer serve a purpose
Similar to the vest, moving without wearing deodorant in Kampala is suicide. If you don’t die from the stench of your own pits, someone next to you probably will. This meant I run through a stick of deodorant in about 4 months. The stick I brought with me in January is still in use, and barely half way.
The shower and you, a romance in its infancy
I’ve never liked showering. It falls in the same category as laying a bed to me. Why bother when you’ll just have to do it again. I grew up however and at least appreciated the hugs and smiles a showered body could bring. This still didn’t mean that I would shower just to chill home on a Sunday. With winter however, a warm shower is more helpful than coffee. Get in there and just stand till the bathroom is full of steam. The warmth you’ll feel is only comparable to being in the womb, or at least its outer entrance.
So there you have it, if you experience any of the above. You are experiencing your first winter. Pick up your Mu summer card on your way out.
Have you ever wanted to be shocked? Not like emotionally or whatever, not that bull shit. I mean being shocked by electricity. My first knowledge of electric current was when I was about 5 years old. A lot was going on around me, unlimited sodas from my Dad’s job, a dog called tiger and my elder cousin getting thrown across the room for poking his fingers into an electrical socket.
Don’t be sad though, he’s alive with two kids now, and he’s an electrical engineer. Not everyone is Ephraim, but if for some reason you may be one of the people who think going through similar circumstances makes it easier to achieve greatness, you probably read self-help books too. So consider this a chapter in one.
Becoming an Engineer
Uganda recently introduced pre-paid electricity. We call it Yaka and you load that shit like airtime. Among my hopes when I got to SA was they somehow didn’t have Yaka. Leaving Tambo airport, I realised that wasn’t going to be the case. I sat in a CLK Mercedes Taxi, and was driven onto an 8 lane highway. Audi and other international brand factories and stores peppered the route. Pre-paid electricity surely couldn’t defeat these chaps.
A few weeks later in my flat and I realised it hadn’t because right at the door, was a prepaid meter. As luck would have it however, I’ve never paid a cent. The damn thing doesn’t work, or should I say works for me. And it’s next to the sink. So if you ever want to be an electrical engineer, pay me a visit. Ill feed you, and give you a chance to do the dishes. And hopefully, you’ll get shocked.
Securely & Shockingly moving on
Today’s entry however isn’t about career guidance and wall mounted keyboards. This article is about personal insecurity. That shit where you doubt yourself. Does she love me, do I matter, or in my case, am I stupid? That kind of shit.
How many of you have University degrees? Now how many of you can say that getting that shit was easy? I definitely can’t. See, despite believing I didn’t work hard, I did more than I was comfortable doing to graduate with my first degree. When I got that piece of paper, I forewent the usual social media euphoria of posting grad pics and went straight to upgrading the freelance job I had at the time. That ship sunk like a titanic built somewhere in Katwe. Four years later however, here I am. Presented with the honours of doing an honours. I guess this is how an MP feels.
But after two months of honourable studies, the assignments don’t make sense to me and the few results I’ve received insult my intelligence. It’s like intelligence is relative. But how can that be?
See, when a runner starts failing to hit the times he/she is used to, when a musician can’t hit the notes they used to, that is a scary moment. Now I’m not comparing myself to a fading Olympic star or an out of date singer, but I used to think of myself as smart. Smart enough to do anything half assed and still pass. That was my thing.
Recently, I realised I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. I actually felt stupid. No one told me. But a realisation came over me. My mental arsenal looked ill equipped for the battle ahead. It’s like all the machinery and tactics I had were out of date. Almost like Arsenal the team. But I digress, these are more serious matters.
So what made me feel stupid?
It’s crazy, but I think it’s true. I suck at keeping promises, especially those I make to myself. I swore I’d never touch a cigarette, this was when I was about 6 years old. I’ve been smoking longer than I’d lived by then. I also swore I’d never return to school, and that university graduation would be the final day. Unlike all those mock things at the end of Primary, O Level and A-level. This was going to be the real deal, I would say bye to that Prison that had held me for 19 years of my life. But guess what, having escaped the system the right way, it grabbed me again. Perhaps I was too dangerous to be left free, I’d probably radicalise the youth with my ideas, raise a bastard kid outside formal education.
So I’m back in a mental institution, one of higher learning that is. And admittedly, everything else is going alright, except for the god damn essays. I know it may seem weird, a writer moaning about writing. But fuck you, are puns allowed in essays? I don’t know.
I last wrote anything academic five years ago, four for anything creative. I was bribed by the system, after a few character building jobs, I landed one that allowed me have a rotating chair, the occasional trip, per-diem and the chance to live a little. All I had to do was show up and do my job. This meant writing took a back seat, at the end of the bus. Soon, I was planning my retirement. 30 is the golden age, I still believe. I could still make it if I finish this degree in time, make some good money and find something to invest it in.
Anyway, school was the furthest thing from my mind, even as I sent the applications, I still didn’t believe or want to get admitted. But alas, here I am. At least it’s a prestigious university.
So anyway, with a mind reset of almost everything academic, here I am faced with analysing and writing essays. After scoring two 50s and one 40% in my short essays, the fact that I have to write a final paper shocks me to the core. I was so scared when it hit me, I let out a little laugh. The kind you make when you’re not sure whether to laugh or scream. In this small panic, I wrote my first blog article in 3 years. Yep. That’s how this came to be. And I realised, maybe, just maybe, this is how ill cope with the essays. Practice makes perfect, but if you stop practicing, your perfection will be in the past. So what’s that thing they say about clouds, yeah, they bring rain sometimes?
Anyway, 2 months is shorter than how long most stupid people have been stupid, surely I can jump out of this before it becomes a permanent condition. Because that saying that no situation is permanent, isn’t understood by stupid people.
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.