Like this!

My middle daughter turned seven yesterday. It was a strange day that started on a low note for me. Not for her though; she came to my bed and kissed my sleepy head and reminded me, “It’s my birthday!”

I had not forgotten. I was battling a stubborn headache that had started the previous day and persisted through the night. I don’t remember when I last had one like this. Even as I typed this yesterday, I am still in pain.

But this post is about my little girl. Seven years feel like they just whizzed by. I have received all three of my daughters, having been present in the labor room. I can still remember the day she was born. I rushed home from work when the Twin called and said: It is time!

I had left the car at home and taken public means. With hindsight, I think that was a bit dumb. The public transport in Kampala is notoriously unreliable. I sat in one of those loaf-like things and waited for it to fill up, then bit my knuckles as it started-and-stopped its way to Entebbe. I kept looking at my phone, expecting to get a call that the water had broken.

But those who’ve done these things many times know that at that time, when a baby is on its way, the father is the least lucid in many cases. So I was reading too much into it. I got home, strapped my wife in and drove to the hospital, which is situated along the same road I’d just used to go home.

And the baby just popped out; we got there and a few minutes later, we had a healthy baby girl. The the pain was soon forgotten and we all started looking forward to raising this new person. And what a journey it has been!

So, seven years later, I have grown to respect this little person. She’s got her own unique way about things. She’s the first person I ever thought of as a genius as a baby. I do not throw around that word recklessly because I understand it is not well understood. But I observed the way she interacted with her world as a baby and that’s the word that kept on coming into my head.

My daughter is a piece of work. She’s so stubborn; she gets under my skin all the time. She will do exactly what I tell her not to do, I think just to tick us off. She’s two years younger than our first daughter but she’s always been the bully. She’s always been the one we defend against. She pulls hair, slaps, and does all sorts of things. The latest fight has been about cussing; she discovered the F word. Needless to say, she got a whooping though from experience, I know that will not stop her from using it.

Being orderly and a stickler for rules, this abrasive side of my little girl rubbed me the wrong way in the early years. I did the disciplining in the appropriate years (I believe children can only learn from spanking between three and five. After that, its useless, they wont learn from spanking). After some time, I just stopped. I put on my fiercest look when she gets out of line and threaten her but I think we both know its all just talk.

I grew to like her though. I learned to appreciate her as a different kettle. She is stubborn but this quality might actually save her life or come to be what makes her stand out later in life. I started defending her. I home-schooled her the first year of her life because which self-respecting Ugandan teacher is going to take the crap of an inquisitive child who just wont shut up?

And like all amazing children, she drops gems a dime a dozen. Any given Saturday, (which is the day on which we gather as Ugandans and family in our small enclave in Vacaville) she will quip some wise saying, calling out the bullshit of the adults around her. With a straight face nonetheless. The adults are learning fast to be on their best behavior when she’s around.

She’s the one who is always providing a new way of looking at a problem, the one who’s always telling her sister the answer out of the blue as I scratch my head trying to keep up with the all-knowing dad facade.

My amazing daughter made seven yesterday and I am fast realizing time’s growing short. Soon, she’s going to have so much to fill her time, she’ll stop asking me to play ‘Kings and Princesses’ with her.


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Staring Common Core down


It’s 8pm and I just came out of a teacher-parent engagement. And I just realized we’re not in Kansas anymore. Like literally, for my case.

I mean we had engagements with the kids’ teachers when we lived in Kansas but those meetings did not come close to the detail in this meeting.

Parents were sat down and given a math lesson. Common core math, now pushed by California, is what’s considered the next big thing. And the school believes parents need to understand it well.

Before this, I would just sit with the girls and help them with the homework. I mean it’s fourth and second grade math, for Chrissakes! Alas, the math I was introduced to was nothing I remember doing back in Budo Junior School.

New applications with a focus on real world application is the main point.

So I can monitor my child’s progress on computer at any time. I have no excuse for seeing my kids slide in school. The teachers are showing exactly what they are doing and inviting me to observe in real time.

Somehow, the old cliche that the world has changed for ever has never been truer.

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I’ve been reading about writing and the importance of writing at the time the feeling that you are currently experiencing is at its most felt.

At any other time I have basically shied away from my blog because I do not feel very secure when strong feelings come flooding out of me.

But like the sage I read today, and the others who’ve said the same things through the years, writing is hard because only the brave can put their feelings out there like good writers do.

I’m feeling depressed today. It is not a new feeling; I admit, I struggle with depression and I have for years. It comes at the most inconvenient times and I have to work around it. Like I had to today.

My bee in the bonnet was to do with the job. In addition to all the BS that the job market keeps throwing out, lots of other maggots find a way to slither out of wherever they hide and make a bad day even worse.

So my supervisor called and said I could pick up more hours. Then as my shift ended, she called and said, “oh, change of plans, you should go home.”

That might sound like a small thing but when you’re having a bad day, you do not want to be yanked around like that. So I just went into this funk. Knowing that taking it home with me was going to mess up my home environment made it even worse.

The reason I am even saying it is because I want to believe there even a remote chance that this could be therapeutic for me. Writing used to be therapeutic. I used to create worlds and live in them when I was a child. I used to write and feel safe.

Of course I didn’t know it then but the way I’ve been feeling terrible for the last five or six years since I stopped blogging, I know my younger self was onto something back then.

So I started using this Google Docs feature that allows me to dictate my thoughts and then edit them into coherence. I am liking it.

My dad wrote diaries for years and it seems to have kept him sane. I am going to do the same thing and hopefully keep it together.

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California beginnings


I just had my interview. Well, it was an interview but it also turned out to be a first meet.

My interviewer turned out to be a lady. There was an awkward moment when I had to apologise to the lady because all along I assumed she was a man.

Seriously mothers, stop naming your kids ‘Jordan’.

We laughed about it and she said I should blame her mom.

It turns out I have to go for another one. I guess that should be a pat on the back because if they are not impressed, they’d not be inviting me to drive two hours to Modesto if they’re not going to give me the job.

And it also turns out my previous experience with Acosta is working in my favour as the lady seemed to approve of the company. What is required of an MTC agent is almost 20% of what I did with Acosta.

face up
It certainly looks like I have come a long way from my very first job in America

Unfortunately I have to drive about two hours, maybe tomorrow. I guess it’s going to be tomorrow. I need to plan with the Twin.

I could just think of the good side of the experience. Like my ‘whoooosa’ mantra. I do not ever want to drive for that long but if the main office is there, I might not have a choice. It’s like driving to LA!

I could think of the scenery. I could think of the different things we’ll be able to accomplish if this comes through. I could think of six months from now when we will be established.

This is home now. Kansas was never home; I never felt settled. It always felt like it was a halfway house and I couldn’t wait to get out. Now that we got out and are in a different state, we are going to really start on our American journey.


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Phenomenal teachers


They leave a huge impact on our lives yet many times, they are forgotten the moment we leave their classroom. From the earliest experiences of formal education, these ever-present influences illuminate our lives, changing the course of history without even firing a shot.

In grade school, Budo Junior School, there was a great man called Mr. Maseruka. From the moment I joined the school, I wanted so badly to get to his P.7 class to experience some of that awesomeness. The stories told about his classes were legendary.

Long before I could get the honor to call him my English teacher, I had heard about Don Quixote and Oedipus. Granted, the kids from Grade 7, probably because they could not reconcile the differences language and pronunciation, spread the word that the greatest knight of them all was called Don Kwizot!

But all of us, P3s and P7s alike were all familiar with the knight and “Give me time to unleash my mules” was well known and subject to editing to suit different situations.

And all this fun was brought us by Mr. Maseruka.

Mase, as we called him was unconventional. While the syllabus was clear, not that we cared about what was on the syllabus then, it seems he had been given free rein to teach as he felt like. So even when we did not expect to be asked questions about Greek mythology in our PLEs, we left Kabinja with these ideas broiling in our heads, courtesy of Mase.

I can remember singing “Lil Liza Jane” and about Dr. Forster, who went to Gloucester in a shower of rain. Singing songs written at the turn of the century in Victorian England in the P.7 classroom! Of course we were embarrassed. Kids in P3 and P4 were not singing rhymes anymore and here we were, a few months to the finals and we were singing.

I had already met Capt. Nemo and his Nautilus in the school library before I got to Mase’s class, but Jules Verne’s way of thinking took on an important new hue for me when I got to P7. Mase made fiction seem cool; it was okay to dream.

But we were learning deep values. Learning about life not defined by David Ongom, who was the UNEB secretary then. Many years later, sometimes, I still have visions of Mase when I am looking for a solution. Not as dramatic as Mufasa appearing in the sky…but you get the drift.

But it was not just Mase who shaped my outlook on life. Many other teachers are constantly in mind, not for the algebra or organizational theory or some such thing. It is because of the unconventional, the unique touch they had when they did the things teachers are not expected to do in a country like Uganda.

It was Christine Kasule who taught RE (Religious Education) and brought the image of the Apostle Paul to life with her Sunday School-like teaching (Peter in Joppa, Paul with Priscilla and Aquila, Paul with that serpent…or that story about Peter and the vision of unclean animals and God telling him to “kill and eat”). Christine Kasule loved to teach. And she loved to see the impact on our lives.

It was teachers like Paul Wadango later on in secondary school. An Agriculture teacher, I had little reason to get attached to him since I just couldn’t remember all those biological names (plus I got a 9 in Form 3 before I dropped Agric). But Wadango was unconventional; I was obsessed with Riviera, a European soap that was on twice a week. Now at a boarding school, one wouldn’t be expected to keep up with Gabriella and Sam and whatsherface. But Wadango let me and a few other kids watch at his home, even while knowing the show ended past midnight.

Of course Mase had, a few years before, let kids into his house to watch Roots, which aired Sundays. I guess there’s a link in there somewhere.

Phoebe Kata, Sam Ssebuliba (RIP), Ernest Kavulu, Stephen Mugumbya (RIP) and all those other heroes who came into my life and did their part without really knowing where it would lead.

Here’s to unconventional teachers.

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Faith hot potato

Sometimes I wonder what was really going through the minds of those Jewish men in the boat with Yeshua, during the storm as he slept. Apart from the limited quotations about them crying out to him to save them, did they maybe look over at him and then one to another, and ask, “Is this a drill?”

Humanity is often called to embrace faith; to walk out boldly and take what rightfully belongs to them. Many times though, the actual implications are not considered.

What does it take to close your eyes and jump off a cliff?

A few years ago, I got a call to write for a new society website in Kampala Uganda. It was called In Kampala (har har!). The site was offering good money and they seemed to be very professional. The run was good enough while it lasted, but I knew even then that this was going to be just a season. I had been here before.

When that call came, I had recently stopped writing for African Woman, another Kampala magazine. I had written for AW for years and I had made a tidy sum over the years. Every month, I would submit one or two or three pieces and they would bring in additional money for gas and milk for the babies and for salon for the Twin.

Like many writers experiencing hidden unemployment, I spent years working for a national newspaper that did not pay enough for my family and I to be financially comfortable. Heck, many writers at these papers keep their jobs just for the address. Little wonder that there’s no real zeal to do transformative journalism; those who are in it for the love of journalism are weighed down by the rest of us idealists who are trapped in a time warp.

So AW and In Kampala and a host of others brought in more than what I was earning at the end of the month at my day job. Moonlighting was the truth!

But this is about faith. When one has been at some station many times in the course of their lives, what seemed to be miracles in the early days, becomes normal. Except that I knew it was not ordinary, see. I knew that this life I was living was different.

I have been writing since Grade school. I filled up those 32-page Visa and Kasuku books and gave them to my classmates to read in Kabinja. I edited the school newspaper in high school and I started writing for national newspapers before I left high School. One would say, then, that I probably had a lot of experience writing so I became an expert.


I have met other Ugandan writers who are better at this craft and they figured out way earlier how to make their skill make money for them. I only moved forward because I kept stepping on the stones ahead of me. In many cases there was no choice but to keep on moving. So I moved.

The East African Entertainer, AW, In Kampala (site long dead), Music Uganda, Edirisa, Artmattersand others. I think I even did a piece for Zenji before it collapsed.

Something has always told me there’s going to be another gig. Always. That’s faith. When one gig dries up, I am always almost certain another’s around the corner. Somebody’s going to come up and ask for a writer. And among all the awesome writers there are, I am going to be given that gig. For a season.

And I am going to enjoy that ride as long as it lasts.




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Anniversaries and stuff

So yesterday, June 23, my family and I should have been celebrating, if that were our kind of thing. We should have marked two years since we arrived on the boat… We did not. Life has a way of getting in the way, you know.

On this day two years ago, a family of four people walking and hauling luggage, and a fifth inside her mama’s womb, made it through customs and stared with disbelief at America. We were lucky by many counts; we had a network of friends who had been waiting for us. People we’d never met but who wanted our transplantation to be smooth. And they went out of their way to make this happen.

How time flies!

But, like already mentioned, life got in the way. America, this great idea, has turned our lives up side down and right side back up again and changed us in a million ways. In this time, I have remained plugged into my Ugandan life, the only life I knew for 35 years and the only way I knew how: social media. Thank you, Tim Berners-Lee.

But along the way, I realized that change cannot be escaped. Even though I want to remain in my cool zone and talk only to the people I have talked to for ever, that’s not really going to happen. Two years later, I have learnt that I have been co-opted, colonized, adopted by this new land.

The change is inescapable; the rest of the family fell into a pattern, carried along by the river of monotony and I had to shape up. I started noticing the changes not long ago. Small things like the urge to unfriend some people whose rants started to grate. Things like going days without checking out Facebook…

I have quit social media before as an experiment to disprove positions I was reading a few years back that one can never quit social media once they get in. I did. I returned on my volition. I realized these platforms can be useful in other ways than just spreading rumors and spilling bile.

What have you done lately?

After a series of many fortunate and not so fortunate events, I realized I need to come to terms with this double life. Of course, I could just kill off one of them, the old one, and concentrate on building a new one. That’s not going to happen. So what would a Ninja do? Start a parallel blog, that’s what. This one stays as the one that looks on life and comments when the urge (and the mojo) require it. The other one basically explains Surprising America.


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