Saturday, February 28, 2015

When Knowledge Matters

All is not well at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Media reports have it that High Commissioner and Ambassador are worried about their futures because contracts have expired with no sign of them being renewed. Others live in dilapidated missions, while some wait for Appointing Authority’s signature.

Foreign Affairs say Ministry of Finance has not released money and Appointing Authority has not had the time to sign appointment letters. The appointing authority is President Museveni. But I obviously know better. It has nothing to do with money or a signature, but global social norms.

Chew on this.

In the UK, the Foreign Office in a review of its diplomats came to the conclusion that they have to undergo a stint at The Diplomatic Academy before taking up a posting. The academy will train them throughout their careers from foundation to expert level because “the world is too complex for individuals to grasp without help and where it was once a matter of elites talking to elites, now it’s about having to operate in many different registers in public, private, on TV and on social media.”

Here and during the Idi Amin era, before our athletes went abroad to compete, they went to camp to learn the ways of the host country – ‘the-what-to-dos’ and ‘the-what-not-to-dos.’ Today those camps don’t exist.

When we go abroad – athletes, diplomats and all, we simply hop onto Emirates but, we have little knowledge of the social cultures and norms of the countries we are going to because we figure as long we can read, write and speak a language that sounds like English, we have the knowledge.

I have never been to Finland and neither had our ambassador – until he got the posting. Until he got there, I bet he had no idea that Finns don’t like being hugged or kissed; that two or three minute conversations are common and should not be interrupted? Did Johnson Agara, our ambassador in Istanbul, know the Turks get deeply offended if the sole of your shoe faces them before he went there? I doubt. And neither did our ambassador in Malaysia know that insisting on eye contact and saying: “Hello, I’m Galabuzi” (or Nampeera), is not the done thing.

While M7 has not told me why he’s is not signing any foreign appointments, am sure he won’t do so until he has the right calibre person to send. He simply can’t pluck people out of the depths of a Mawokota, Kamuli, Kamwenge or whatever village and post them to Azerbaijan, Montenegro or the UAE, for who knows what diplomatic storm they might whip up when they do the wrong thing.

Fifty years ago we lived in a monoculture and all that concerned us was that corner of Uganda that we lived in. Today we are surrounded by other cultures and increasingly, we travel and do business abroad. But wouldn’t we be more successful if we were able to understand how the different cultures and societies operate?

If Foreign Affairs also open up a diplomatic school, they might as well open it for all of us. Knowledge you see, would have helped that man who sat next to me on a 12-hour KQ flight to Thailand. While I ate and quaffed enough Carlsberg’s, he looked on with envy - his throat all dry and a stomach that rumbled in hunger. When the trolley passed, he’d bark at Stewardess: “I don’t want!”

Ten minutes to landing he whispers: “Eh, are you not worried about your bill - you have been drinking since we left Entebbe?” Seeing I had the knowledge, with a smirk I told him: “Bill? All drinks and food are part of the cost of your ticket.” With that, his stomach rumbled even louder as I cracked open another Carlsberg.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

When Life Is All About Being Idle

TB: “Yo Dude, you good, you paying, what you up to?”
Dude: “Ah bleak TB, just passing time.”

The conversation with Dude was to the point and lasted a mere three minutes. What I found interesting was the notion of him “just passing time.” Passing time is a saying – if it can indeed be termed a saying that I have heard of, but really don’t know what it means.

Is it a Ugandan invention and something that we own the exclusive worldwide rights to? If we do own the rights, where are they kept? My guess would be in the vaults at Uganda National Bureau of Standards. So I placed a call to them.

“You want to know if we keep the rights to just passing time” so Lady on the other end of the phone shot back. 

“Yep, I want to know if Uganda invented them and if we did, do we own the copyright.” The line went dead shortly after. I called back but as soon as Lady heard my voice, she hung up.

I tried Google and he too was not forthcoming but one person who ought to know would be 18-year-old Nephew and this is what he had to say. “But uncle, you must know. It’s passing time, like I can wake up and decide to spend the morning passing time.” I was not with him and sought further clarification.

“Okay, sometimes I don’t have anything to do so I go into town and pass time. You know how it is these days, don’t you?” We obviously weren’t playing the same chess game but after more probing I came to understand that it had something to do with being idle.

In Uganda, it’s seemingly no big deal if one is idle. In western Uganda for example, Munyankole Man passes time by squatting at the roadside to watch speeding Gagga buses en route to Kigali. In Kampala, Muganda Man passes time by tugging at his crotch as he watches cars being clamped. In Gulu, Acholi Man is still fascinated at the way his Casio ‘disco watch’ flickers, with the Langi’s absorbed in trying to work out how many different ways they can rotate a tooth pick inside their mouths while we Basoga, stare intently at our toes waiting for the next jigger to hatch.

Passing time so I later found out is not exclusive to Uganda. The British also pass time and they do it by writing letters to a granny called Deidre. Deidre then passes her time by answering and plastering their letters in The Sun newspaper so other people can read her response as they pass time waiting in reception to see Doctor. Check out Robert.

"Dear Deidre, I have always wanted to be a woman. I feel I was born in the wrong body and had hoped the feeling would go away, but it just gets stronger. I am 26 as is my girlfriend. We cohabit but she is talking about having kids and I feel it would be unfair to bring them into a relationship knowing I want a sex change. I don’t know what to tell her.”  

Robert really has the time to pass to be writing silly letters to Deidre and I can understand why she would respond to him and the rest who write in. She’s a granny and if grannies are left to pass time, they end up senile and perhaps that is why The Sun gives her two full pages a week.

That said, I really hope that kesho when I wake up I have something to do, for if I were to spend the day passing time, what would I do? Would I write to Deidre and tell her how I’m off to Mbarara to meet Munyankole Man so we squat by the roadside while tugging at our crotches as we count the Gagga buses speeding by?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Will Getting Rid of Pork In Books Appease IS, Al Shabab and Boko Haram?

The world is in disarray and part of the problem has to do with religion. Here, Muslim Cleric is being assassinated. In Nigeria, Boko Haram is on the rampage – abducting school children and killing innocent civilians. Syria and Iraq have IS who want to behead anybody they come across for a dime while Al Shabab contend themselves with sending Suicide Bomber into neighbouring Kenya.

With all this insecurity, we look to the powers that be - Ban Ki Moon at the UN, Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, the UK’s David Cameron and more importantly, our own Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa, who holds the chair at the UN Security Council to sort out the mess.

While Kerry and Moon rake up frequent flyer air miles shuttling in and out of the worlds trouble spots in the luxury of their private jets, they do little except utter two words they both have in common. “We denounce....” They denounce what’s been happening in Syria, Iraq, Paris and Kenya and leave it at that – words that do not solve the problem.

Enter Oxford University Press (OUP). OUP is a printing press and they print books. In fact, OUPs only contribution to the greater good of mankind had been to publish its bestselling reference book – The Oxford English Dictionary, plus the Oxford Annotated Bible and a number of kiddies books which, have made their way into classrooms all over the world including Uganda. And I guess we have to thank them for that.

With their successes in the literally world, the folk at OUP now figure they can make a contribution to solving some of the world’s problems – especially those that offend the Muslim world.

Their solution is so simple, it will have Moon, Obama, Kerry, Cameron and Kutesa kicking themselves and saying: “Eh WTF! How come we didn’t think of that? The solution has all along been right under our noses!”   

Three weeks ago, OUP banned “pigs, sausages or anything else which could be perceived as pork...” from its books because it would “avoid offending Muslims.” Now you see why Moon, Obama and the rest will be kicking themselves?

However, and this is where I roll out the upper cased BUT. I am no expert on foreign policy and neither is Pork Roaster at CHOGM in Bunga or those in Ntinda, Wandegeya and Luzira but jeez, I really don’t see Boko Haram, IS, Al Queada and Al Shabab saying: “OUP nailed it! Getting rid of pigs from their publications has over night solved the 200-year-old feud we have been having with the Christians.”

Also Muslim Friend has never indicated to me that he won’t buy a book because it has a picture of a pig nor has he demonstrated or thrown stones at pork joints that are close to mosques as they are in Ntinda and Wandegeya and I have not seen him or his kids hiding under tables or throwing up when a pig has idly wandered past. Khalid Mahmood, a British MP and who is Muslim criticised OUP saying: “That’s ludicrous. That’s absolute, utter nonsense and when people go too far that actually brings the whole discussion into disrepute.” Hear, hear. 

Seeing OUP has made a non-issue a big deal, what will IS, Al Queada and Al Shabab do when they see Book Hawker selling innocent children’s books that contain the words “pig and sausage.” Will he become a marked man?

That said, I am not taking any chances and I have taken the precaution of tossing my OUP printed bible onto the sigiri because there is mention of pork – Isaiah 66:17, along with the kids ‘piggy bank’ and will scatter the ashes in Lake Vic to get rid of the evidence just in case Suicide Bomber decides to drop in. Better safe than sorry.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

When Women Throw Parties For Their Ovaries

Some men argue that women in their quest for liberation are taking matters a trifle too far. I am not one of them so I think. However in Saudi Arabia, Imam is up in arms because some women want to drive cars, a practice which for women is illegal in the kingdom while in Iran, Imam insists that if women are to play football, they must still wear the hajib.

In Pakistan, Cleric will behead his daughter for having a boyfriend while in Afghanistan, Taleban is disgustingly appalled that some families allow their daughters to go to school - an act they deem heinous and punishable by death.

In Uganda 2015, I think women do as they please, though it’s still a crime for them to talk about their vaginas in a monologue and in some cultures, eat the chicken gizzard.

Despite that, women still march forward. They started off with household parties - swapping kitchenware, then on to lingerie parties where they bought the skimpiest of underwear from women who had travelled abroad and brought back the latest offerings from Ann Summers.

They didn’t stop there. In came the sex toy parties where women who we (men) thought were prudish and shy like the ones who work for Sunday Vision, NSSF, Centenary Rural Bank and Sanyu Babies Home snapped up the toys to...hmmm, let’s leave it there shall we, followed by Senga and her explicit ‘how-to-pull’ parties.

With women blazing up the corporate ladder and holding down top jobs, they find themselves in a dilemma of having to juggle family aspirations against career ambitions.

Yesteryear they would have given up on a career due to the dictations of a ticking biological clock but, not anymore because an exit clause now gets them round that hiccup – ovum or egg freezing, and what’s more, is that they are doing it in style.

Abroad, women are not just going to see the doctor for a private consultation and leaving it at that, but throwing egg freezing parties. These parties have many of the same components as an Ann Summers lingerie party or Senga party – music, shrieks of laughter, wine, beer, nibbles and all set up in somebody’s home.

What women are forking out for after agreeing to attend one of these parties is not a new airtight container from the supermarket, but oocyte cryopreservation – otherwise known as a possible extension to the fertility sell-by-date: a batch of frozen eggs. One doctor throwing such parties in London is fertility expert, Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh whose patients call, “the egg whisperer” and whose attendees to her parties get a 10 per cent discount off the 
cost of egg freezing.

So why throw a party? Dr. Eyvazzadeh says: “The parties are meant to empower women to learn about their fertility, so they know what options they need to consider in the future.”

Egg freezing works with women having to inject themselves with hormones for 10 days before the eggs are harvested and it’s not cheap with London clinics charging £5,000 (sh21,500,000), plus an annual storage charge of £250 (sh1,075,000) and £6,000 (sh25,800,000) for the eggs to be re-implanted.

While egg freezing parties give women an opportunity to fulfil their careers and still have children, Taleban, Cleric, ISIS and Imam – basically men in general, don’t have sperm harvesting parties – probably because we are embarrassed about having to reveal how our sperms are harvested.

Plus from the depths of Mattuga, Muganda Man would flip and descend on Bulange while throwing stones and making noise for Katikkiro because his all important sexual machismo is being stripped away by an unjust wife who has refused to settle for menial jobs like being a receptionist or a secretary but, jeez, she wants to be a CEO and sit at the helm of the boardroom table!    

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