Last weekend on Sunday, I , plus a group of 30 people, embarked on the longest walk I’ve ever made by far. We covered a distance of about 23KMS in approximately 6 hours. I was able to do this in the company of the Mountain Slayers Uganda who organized the walk.
I was introduced to this group by a Brian, a friend who is already part of the group. Mountain Slayers Uganda are a group of people who are passionate about traveling, mountain climbing and hiking. The group was started in 2015 after Paul Lumala, one of the founders, had an amazing experience climbing mountain Rwenzori. The group has been to a number of places in and out of Uganda some of which include mountain Mt. Muhavura, Sempeya Hotsprings, Mt.Rwenzori.
I had always wanted to join them on one of the trips they had planned this year but my schedule and finances had never allowed until the 7 hills chapter which was happening in town, a one day event and practically free. I had to go! Plus, it had been long since I was out shooting so it was crucial for me to get out there and shoot.
Arrival time at Lugogo was 6.30am and we began the walk at 7am. We covered these 7 hills; Nsambya, Kibuli, Rubaga, Mengo, Namirembe, Old Kampala and Kasubi hill. It was a tough one! The weather was great at first but we got roasted by the blazing heat in the afternoon. The dust, the dehydration, the salt sweating, and the traffic congestion made the walk less enjoyable but made the feeling of accomplishment all the more worthwhile at the end. We made it to the last stop of the walk which was at the Kasubi hill. After resting for a few minutes we jumped into matatus and returned to Lugogo for a scrumptious lunch at Torino.
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.
Mornings are sacred. That quiet time between 5am to 9am is meditation time; something I’ve always been comfortable with since childhood and something which was reinforced during my time in secondary school. At that boarding school, students hardly spoke at that hour. We all had to be up by 4.30am and had to be at our desks for the morning prep session by 5.00am. No one spoke in class at that hour. If you weren’t busy reading your books, you were busy fighting to keep your eyes open to read. One would hear voices after the morning prep session.
Quiet environments are the way to go. They are holy in those real quiet moments. But when you live in some areas in or around Kampala, Uganda silence is the first thing you have to forget about. You will get it once in a while. If you use the public transportation system which is a network of privately owned commuter taxis (yes, I know), you should never expect to have quiet for too long during your tenure in that particular taxi. Someone will decide to catch up with long lost friend at 7am and also talk about the weather among other topics and you have to listen in and not complain because it’s a taxi and you have no ownership privileges at all.
The taxi ride this morning was added to the list of the worst experiences I’ve had in a taxi by far. As soon as I entered it, two men seemed to be discontent with the fare that had been set for those who were getting in, the same fare as those who’d been picked up kilometers back. These men thought this was unfair. Which they were right about. One of them occupied the seat behind me and the other was seated on my right. I was literally in the middle of their conversation. They continued on about the fuel prices which weren’t making things any easier. They paused for a few seconds and I thought they were going to go into silent reflection and keep quiet for a while but boy was a wrong!
I was skeptical at first because come on, who’s going to talk for that long with the rest of the passengers quiet? These two men talked without pausing for more than an hour. They talked about a variety of things. They talked about health care, the issue of corruption in the nation, inadequate representation by the current young and naive members of parliament. They talked about the high cost of sugar, their sick relatives who survived death narrowly because some medical personnel were focused on earning money from the patients than treating them. They talked about their fear for the young generation. I remember being very glad they weren’t showerers aka spitters.
They talked about how corruption is now the order of the day. They talked about the large puddle of water, a result of flooding, that the taxi had to go through. They compared some of our national systems with those of countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Canada and two other countries I’ve forgotten. These men talked for what seemed like forever! At some point it felt like I was listening to a morning radio talk show. The traffic jam doubled the torture because we their loud voices pierced through the silence like small sharp ninja daggers. I must say I was impressed on the other hand by their ability to maintain conversation covering some national topics and issues.
They talked for so long, It was pointless trying to fight listening to what they were saying. I was there receiving their first conversation sound waves. I thought about putting my earphones on but the ones I currently have aren’t the noise canceling kind. Plus I didn’t want to risk being a topic of conversation in case my attempt at seeking silence was noticed. I stopped fighting. I gave in and listened in against my will.
It was sad that during the entire conversation, these men didn’t have anything good to say about our country. One could simply say that these were just two men talking not the majority and yes, these were only two men talking but it felt like they were the voices of many. I’ve heard bits and pieces of similar conversations through the years and it’s sad listening to such talk. Perhaps because beneath all the comparisons, the jokes, the subtle laughter, there are deep truths that go down to the very core of how many things have gone wrong.
As we soaked in more of the conversation our taxi was stopped by a traffic female officer who signaled to talk to the taxi driver. The two men immediately start speculating that we are all going to be forced to get another taxi to town when the officer realises something is not right with taxi registration documents or license. This was no surprise because it has happened to many in Kampala. It didn’t take long for the taxi door to slide open. We emptied the taxi and left the driver and his assistant (conductor) behind negotiating with the officer.
I guess that was a final illustration of what the two men were talking about the entire time; a broken system that needs long term solutions.
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.
A few volunteers taking on the snake challenge at the 2017 Uganda Tourism Expo. The challenge is aimed at showing the public how harmless these types of creatures can be if not provoked. UWEC, Uganda Wildlife Education Center, which conducts this activity hopes to get the public to think preservation too as an option when they encounter some of these beautiful creatures.
No animals or human beings were harmed during this challenge
That child-like blissful feeling that grips you when you receive something new is both scary and so damn enjoyable at the same time. It is for me at least when it comes to gadgetry or anything with buttons really. And when something new and gadgetry is added into the tiny arsenal I own it feels great.
First off, I’ve never owned a camera so most of the content you see here that was shot by me was shot with a borrowed camera. It’s because of awesome people like Jon, Eric, Kobel, Trevor and Moses who’ve been so generous to let me have some access to a camera when I needed one, that content on this blog has been fairly consistent lately.
Anyway, a while ago I realised I wasn’t showing my work enough. Perhaps because I wasn’t ready then to take on the judgment and criticism part of others if any came my way or perhaps I was just lazy to. Most of it was just lying around in my archives, being piled with more folders each week so I suddenly started showing my work to random people, who would mostly assume I own a camera. A very humbling assumption. It started becoming so frequent it got to the point where I decided to save up and buy a personal camera. It was time to “fit into” the role. Kidneys were cut, arms were sold, and I finally got a personal one.
How cool is that guys? I had wanted to tell you about it before it arrived but superstitious side of me since I was a kid, to this day, still thinks I need not reveal or open my mouth about certain things before they happen or risk jinxing it all. So I had to keep my mouth tight lipped till everything was finalised.
it’s a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera. The 18-55mm kit lens was part of the package. I bought it used off eBay and it’s in such great condition it looks barely used. Finally having a personal camera means a lot for me but in 5 short sentences it means;
1.I get to share more content with you
2.I get to share more sights and sounds of my country with you
3.I get to take my time to think and compose better without worrying about returning the camera
4.I get quicker work flow which means more projects completed and,
5.I get to try out some video concepts I’ve had for a long time
Here are a couple of pictures I took for you guys. What do you think?
PS: I just put the black tape over the Nikon logos. According to Casey Neistat’s vlogs covering up the camera logos and camera model number with black tape helps reduce the chances that your camera will be stolen by someone who can easily know its worth just by looking at those two things. Let’s see how that goes.