Tuesday, 9 February 2016


A sunny Sunday afternoon in the garden

There is something magical about Sunday afternoons
Something that makes us mellow and less prune to tantrums.
Ignore Facebook, ignore Twitter, you can answer your whatsapp messages later.

Just stop working already...
Be relaxed.  Let that warm champagne bubbling feeling of silent bliss spread through you, turning your insides golden, like those cheeky sun beams that peep through the white lace curtains temporarily painting the house a beautiful lazy yellow haze. 

Can you hear the sun calling?

It’s beckoning you to come outside and play. Don’t you remember how it used to call you when you were a child, when you and the sun were such close friends. Remember morning sunlight was the only thing that could scare the monsters away…

Don't hesitate...

Don’t hesitate when the Sun calls, I know you are not 8 years old anymore, but please trust me on this one. Leave your phone on your desk. Carry your current novel and go. Make sure it’s a novel packed with stories from other realms. It should be filled with names you can’t pronounce. Even when you say them quietly in your head, you should still hear the imaginary sounds of stuttering and pausing as you connect the phonics like a five year old learning to read again. This story should have lands that unapologetically defy the laws of physics. It should feel like you’re holding up a silent middle figure to that science teacher who tried to fail you in secondary school. The one that said you daydream too much. Can you imagine… who says that to a child!? Here’s what you’d probably NOT say to him/her now,

“SURPRISE! I am an adult now Teacher. Despite your reservations, I made it. In fact I did better in the sciences than I did in the arts. But guess what Einstein liked to day dream too! But most importantly…It’s MY Sunday afternoon and I shall spend it imagining....”

On Sunday afternoon, it’s okay to be still. The bible tells us so. You know this, because you have heard this verse quoted many times before but you are not sure exactly where.

Today is the day for your creator and you to officially catch up on life matters. You’ve just spent the morning putting on a decent dress so the ladies in church won’t gossip about you, but you know such ladies they can’t help themselves, 

“Still single at 30, can you imagine? Let us pray for her soul. Let us pray out the demons.”

Let them pray the demons away, Lord knows you've tried.

You had to use your energy reserves to fight off fellow worshipers with your elbow and handbag, so that you could atleast have that wobbly plastic white chair by the side of the entrance, only to give it up 15 minutes into catholic mass when an elderly man with a cane and a bad limp stumbled in. He stared you down, waiting for you give him the chair. Reluctantly but humbly, you tiptoed to the side of the church and scanned the premises for another vacant space to seat. After mass you drove home, pondering to yourself the meaning of the second reading, but you promptly give up trying to figure out how to apply it to your life, when you found yourself aimlessly wondering through the baby clothes section of the small supermarket, where you stopped on your way home to buy a few household items. Now after the morning’s struggle to be close to God, this afternoon has to be a little easier.

All your anxiety driven thoughts can wait, chase them away like the neighborhood mongrels, tell them to come back later at 10.00pm when you are about to retire to bed. By then you’ll have some leftovers for them to fight over and feed on, giving them the strength to nag you, slowly nibbling away at your confidence and self-esteem through the night, and then most importantly through the week as well.  

Outside in the garden on this special afternoon, use your eyes to look at all that is around you, and your ears to witness the sounds encompassing you. Allow yourself to focus on being present, to hear the birds chirping, the leaves rustling, the goat at the bottom of the hill bleating, the children next door cackling, the house girls gossiping, the teenage lovers quarreling…. 

You can just exist

You can just exist. You can watch your chest move up and down. You can stop taking your ability to breathe foregranted. You can marvel at how your body keeps itself going, despite you failing to appreciate it.  Can you hear your heart beating? Quiet yourself down so that you can hear the subtle “THUMP” it uses to announce it’s presence to your body. I always imagine the heart as the lion of the savannah of my body, and the ‘THUMB’ is it’s roar reminding every organ who is really in charge of this life. The brain can die while the heart is told to beat by a man made machine, but when the heart goes, everything goes with it. How many beats per a second can you hear? Count them. Stop and be comfortable. Be unbothered by the need to please others. Instead, right now, please yourself.

Send those guilt ridden feelings on a charted flight to Monday. Don’t make the mistake of mishandling them otherwise they will betray you, they will use your body to expose your worst secrets, so send them gently on their way and agree to a meeting place.  A meeting place like your paper swamped desk at work, it's the one with the dust covered yellow post-it notes all over your cubicle walls.

Today is about God and you. Aunty Solitude can be a daunting and scary relative who’s visits you have been conditioned to dread, but just imagine, on Sunday afternoon she is the one who arrives with a suitcase full of your favorite treats. .

I remember when we were young, after church, we’d spend the afternoon at a swimming pool while my mother napped peacefully on a mukeka in her favorite fetal position, her A line plaited skirt pulled and tucked under her legs.  Using her colouful lesu as a light blanket and one of our sweaters as a  pillow, she would find a nice welcoming area under the shade of a tree or one of the metal  umbrellas. We’d splash around pretending to be dolphins, Super Heroes or Olympic champions, until the cold from the water forced our bodies to shiver and our teeth to loudly and uncontrollably chatter…then we would slowly remove ourselves from the pool and lie on the warm concrete square slabs waiting for the sun to warm us up again, after which we’d dash back into the light blue pristine sparkling water to begin the circle of activity all over again.

Occasionally, as if on cue,  my mother would sit up from her slumber, and look around to ensure that no one was drowning (those swimming lessons are worth every shilling), but also so she could count us  to make sure no one had wondered off. When there is so much greenery around, it’s very tempting for children to slip away and hunt for fairies, because according to the laws of story books this is the perfect environment for them. Especially if you knew that fairies could make wishes come true. I am sure we all had a list of wishes somewhere. Yes you once wrote them down on colorful Mickey Mouse paper with a blue crayon because you couldn’t find the yellow one. The yellow one is always missing. This was the time when being able to draw the letter Z in the right direction was a serious accomplishment.

On a rare Sunday afternoon, when my father wasn’t working you’d find him with us in the kitchen making kabalagala, (banana pancakes). The melt –in- your-mouth-full–of-sweetness kind of pancakes. Munching and swallowing kabalagala still warm and fresh from the fryer, our hands covered in flour, we’d often wonder, “What is Dad’s secret?” “How come mummy’s are not as soft as his?” Never mind that we’d just spent an hour and half kneading the mixture over and over until he was satisfied.  We thought it was magic.  We forgot, he brought a logical scientific approach to everything. That he had calculated the precise measurements of ‘how long’ and ‘how much’ for each ingredient to create the perfect round pancake each time.

On a sunday afternoon, walking barefoot through the garden for no reason at all, suddenly seems like a fabulous idea. When does an adult have the time to do such things? Who cares what the nosey neighbor will say? Today is about God and you, and on a serious note, your long lost friend the sun just called you out to play.

Your  old friend

This grass and your feet used to be so familiar, or have you forgotten? Don’t you recall running barefoot upon it when you were 6 years old dreaming up new adventures with siblings or playmates? Sticks became swords. Basins became shields, bicycles became horses and trees became fortresses. Let’s pretend that mum never saw you climb up a tree in dress. Shhh.. Let’s just pretend.

The local church with it temporary silver tin roofs and donated brown red earthy bricks, is still carrying out praise and worship at 3pm. Their young enthusiastic pastor received his calling to build a church just seven years ago, when he woke up after an alcohol and drug filled night in a large ditch full of rubbish and sewage in Bwaise. He could not fathom how he got there, but he is very sure that God spoke to him. Anyway, who are you to judge? It’s Sunday afternoon, it’s supposed to be magical.  

Can you hear that sound from far away? The local church choir is sending soothing old-school hymns across the many fences along the hill, up to fill the air around you. These are the kind of songs that can heal the broken-hearted and the defeated. The type of songs that restore and renew your faith like that first time you heard psalm 23, or the song ‘Amazing Grace.’

The singing helps you to privately carry on with your Sunday praise, you find yourself bobbing your head and humming to the music, as you wonder through the garden, allowing your feet to become familiar with your old friend, the grass. 

If you have been struggling to take a nap, this is the opportune time to take it.  In your dreams, your soul reminds you of it's bountiful capabilities.  Have you forgotten, you are not of this earth? You are merely visiting. You are an immigrant passing through on a life time holiday package experience. No visa required…. or maybe your physical body is your visa and passport to life, all rolled into one…..who knows?

You can drift in and out of a Sunday afternoon nap undisturbed on the foldable beach chair that was bought from the side road hawkers. The purchase was made out of boredom induced by the back-to-school traffic . Or you could tentively steal away Omukulu’s rocking chair that was a gift from the last Kwanjula. Pick up your book and disappear into another world for the next three hours.  You are safe, no one will come looking for you.

Just pick one and get comfortable..

Not a problem.

No thoughts coming through.

Just space.

Empty space.
After all, it’s one of those magical Sunday afternoons designed to make sure you enjoy being.

****Inspired by all the things that go on in my head and 'Big Magic' by Elizabeth Gilbert****

Monday, 1 February 2016

Sometimes You Can‘t Fix It!

I am sitting at my desk. It’s 2.00am and I am unable to sleep.  Although it is silent now, just two hours ago I was screaming down the phone, while the rest of the house was quietly settling into their warm beds for the night. They were smart enough to stay in their rooms and ignore my outbursts. I would have been just like them, if I hadn’t gone against my first instinct. I decided to answer a message without properly thinking it through, and now I am sleepless sitting at my desk with my laptop writing this.

I am trying to figure out where I got it in my mind to help people fix things.  Where did I get the idea to sacrifice for those that are close to me. I am trying to think back to that particular moment where it was ingrained in me to help.  Most likely it was my mum…. possibly my Dad…. but mostly I think it was  my mother. No wait…my father too. My mother would fix things for us. My father would fix things for others.  She would help us.  He would help others. She would sacrifice for us. He would sacrifice for us, but also for others. Between them both, I learnt that my parents were always helping others. Always, there was some relative or family friend who needed antiretrovirals drugs, or who’s child needed school fees. I remember the young ladies who came to stay with us while studying a vocational course, but somehow got pregnant instead and were sent back. Always, my parents were helping.  I remember I would always get into trouble if I appeared ungrateful.  To this day I still suffer random pangs of guilt for moments where I forgot to say thank you, where I may not have shown sufficient appreciation. The moments are lost. The people are gone from my life, but the lesson is too deeply embed that the guilt lingers.

I feel myself settling into adulthood, everyday. And with that comes painful pinches of wisdom every now and then. One of them is removing myself from drama. A lesson I learnt from my father. Sometimes to see  issues clearly I must dig up all my emotions one by one and send them off .  I tell them to come back two or three hours later. Then I take a deep breath and figure out the first step 

And so I sometimes have noticed I take on unnecessary drama, because I like to fix things. I was comfortable lying in my bed, and now I am unable to sleep because of an unnecessary disagreement.  When I am done with this next paragraph, I will quietly tip toe down to the kitchen and make myself a cup of hibiscuis tea, then I shall patiently and calmly wait for sleep to come, like a wife who feigns sleep waiting for her husband to return home from his escapades. Since I am awake I might as well write, or I will feel the urge to fix things.

When does the line of parent and child change? When does a child become an  adult? When can a person start to do things on their own? They say our generation will be worse off then their parents. Or is that we are already worse off?  They say that our generation has been taught that it is special, and that is why we will fail. We don’t know how to work hard for anything.  How long are we allowed to expect our parents to drop everything when we need help? I thought at some point it becomes a choice for us to do things on their own. Some people start fending for themselves in high school. And just how much can one relay on their family to fix things and how much should we be willing drop everything to fix things? If you can see that your helping is unwanted or causing too much drama should you just stop?  But my mother would fix things so I learnt to fix things

When I left to go the Canada at sixteen years of age, all I knew was my parents and my  siblings. That’s all I knew. Them and school are all that my life evolved around.  Whatever I needed, I asked for it and it would happen. All I had to do was wait. “ Mummy, the teacher says we need this…..” And somehow my  parents would fix it. “Dad, everybody has this, May I get one too?”  Of course after school we would make our way to the shop, and if it wasn’t expensive I would get it. I never had to save money to get something. I would ask for it and wait till there was money. So it really was shock when I got to Canada and had to gradually make decisions on my own. I think I spent $200 during one supermarket trip and all I had to show for it was a life size teddy bear.  At sixteen I really wasn’t ready, but I had stubbornly insisted to my mother that I was.  Thank God I was blessed with a great homestay family. They were such a much needed blessing but that is another story for another time.

Late at night as I sit and type this, One moment sticks out for me.  I hadn’t seen my mother or any of my family members for one whole year. As most students abroad , you get by with just phone conversations, because sacrifices are being made daily for you to be there, so you mustn’t be ungrateful.  At 17 years old I had decided to apply for a UK visa on my own and messed up the whole process, so I was unable to go see my mother for the holidays.  I was very upset. But my mother did what she does best, she fixed it. She applied for a Canadian visa and came to see me. I was so overjoyed when she told me on the phone.  It was late in the evening, I was speaking to her on brand new silver cheap mobile phone, preparing for my first summer in Edmonton, in a new apartment with my roommate. Completely, unready to  be living on my own, but some great life experiences and lessons ahead of me.

The day came to pick Mum up from the airport and show her my ‘ grown up’ life in Canada.  I made my way to the airport and waited at 'arrivals'. Out she came through the door, trolley in front of her, she was already twisting her head from side to side eagerly looking for my familiar face among the small crowd. But something in her appearance shocked me. For the first time, I realized my mother was getting older. As we walked towards each other, I noticed more grey hairs than the last time I saw her, a slight hunch in her back. I don't think I would have noticed these changes with having spent so much time apart. Yet my mother’s eyes were so concerned and fixed on me. She gave me a big motherly hug. The kind you sink into  and remember that you are taken care of. Then she procedded with her motherly interrogations…. Where did I live? Was I eating? How was school?. When i look back I think that is when my change started, because although we acted as though we always had, I had seen some human fragility in my mother.  I recognized it was selfish to make  her take on so much.

So our relationship shifted, ever so subtly, because my mum was no longer invincible in my eyes. I let her continue to fix things. Even when I was worried it was too much, I learnt that parents need to feel like they can fix things for you.  Though I have been trying to learn how to fix things myself ever since. I have failed  many times along the way learning my lessons as they come. Since her death, l fix things for myself and I fix things for others.  But sometimes you just can’t fix everything. Sometimes you have to let some people trudge through their own mess and figure their own way out because if you fix it for them, they will walk right back into the mess because they never acknowledged what got them there in first place and they never had to figure their own way out.

So here I am late at night. I was about to sleep but can’t sleep. I’m telling the many thoughts bouncing around in my head to stop. Stop looking for a solution! We are not going to fix this. We always fix things. But we are not helping because the situation does not improve. No more BandAid. We have used the last one.  This time we are done fixing things.