Mr Francis Senteza Kalibala, popularly known as Frank was a nice guy. A strong guy. A man whose convictions were as strong as his muscles. That’s why he was in Uganda Presidential candidate Bobi Wine’s security team. Every day when he sprung from bed and sprinted to work, he did so because he believed that a better Uganda was possible. He believed not just in Bobi Wine’s ability to deliver that better Uganda, but also in the limitless people power of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans that he had saw daily in Bobi Wine’s campaign rallies. He saw their hopeful, joyous faces as they listened to Bobi. He loved these people because they had the courage to dream of a better Uganda.
On Sunday 27th December, Frank stopped seeing these faces for good. He was run over by a military police patrol truck that had blocked Bobi Wine’s convoy in Busega. He was among a group that was rushing Kasirye Ashraf, a key member of Bobi Wine’s Ghetto Media team, to Rubaga Hospital. He had just been shot by police.
Frank may be no more, but his dream for a better Uganda is very much alive. May the strength of his convictions and muscles live on in millions of other Ugandans.
He is avoiding eye contact with her, looking to his right, as if wondering why that tree across the street is dancing so wildly yet the breeze is gentle. All her attention is in the French fries before her. She is forking the fries with elaborate precision, focusing on the left side of the plate, starting with the part nearest her. After a whole three minutes of not talking, she mutters some words for a fleeting ten seconds. He doesn’t reply, instead taking a long sip of the white tea in his white cup. I bet you can all relate. You are out on a date with your loved one but are not alone. Simmering conflict and tension are also seated on that table with you. You would like to say sorry but you are convinced that s/he should be the one to apologize. Why can’t they see your point of view? Why are they so self-righteous? Sometimes this person across the table really gets on your nerves. In fact, these days, it seems as if it is not sometimes but most of the time. You sigh and steal a glance across the table. At that exact moment, s/he is also stealing a glance at you. Your eyes lock and you both sigh simultaneously. The silence lingers on.
2.37PM. Waiting room, Gertrude Children Hospital, Donholm Branch. The guy seated across me has a pot belly that is stubbornly evident despite the white baggy shirt that he is wearing. A black mask sits tightly on his face. His broad forehead is so high that it seems as if it is eager to keep a safe distance from his sharp nose. His eyes are closed but he is not sleeping. Daydreaming? I wonder about what. I wonder too what’s in the black bag that is resting gently on his laps. It’s a laptop rucksack, sturdy and stylish, just like mine. Which means that probably, there is a laptop in it. What’s in that laptop? Photos of his kids’ birthdays and outings? Even more photos of his wife? I doubt. Judging from his drastically receded hairline and what seems like a lone wrinkle just below his left eye, he is probably in his early fifties. I doubt that he is taking monthly trips with his wife and consequently amassing hundreds of photos. That’s how hundreds of photos of Ma Reine (my queen) have been accumulating in my laptop lately.
Back to the middle-aged guy with a black bag. He opens his eyes and looks around frantically. Then he smiles. A smile so joyous that the wrinkle below his left eye disappears. I follow his gaze. Fiddling with the water dispenser a few meters away, is a little girl. She has her father’s high forehead.
I am seated in a black metallic seat right outside the chemotherapy wing of the HCGCCK Cancer Centre. But for the grace of God, I would be here for a chemo session, not to pick medicine for a friend. The reception area of this chemotherapy wing looks so spick and span. Even posh. The floor’s large black and white tiles are so smooth that I feel like sliding on them. Large squares of glistening smoothness. Yet most of the shoes that step on them are ferrying terrified cancer patients.
Maybe some of those patients are unable to put on those shoes. Maybe some care less about those shoes and all shoes in general. Its hard to hug your shoes when cancer is choking you. But maybe for others, those shoes are a source of comfort. They remind them of the little joys of life that they still have control over.
A fit-looking, broad-shouldered man has just walked past me. He is walking slowly, as if he is strolling on a beach somewhere in Kenya’s famed south-coast beaches. He is wearing a black cap. And navy blue Reebok shoes.
I can only hope and pray, that those Reebok shoes are not ferrying a cancer patient.
A couple of weeks ago, La Reine (The Queen in French) and I visited Fred’s ranch in Isinya, Kajiado County. It is named after its owner, Fred Obachi Machokaa, a famous veteran Kenyan journalist. After taking our seats in a well-manicured garden, La Reine needed the wifi password. She glanced up and saw it on a wooden placard that had been pasted on one of the trees – listen. But upon closer scrutiny, she broke into one of her playful smiles when she realized that it wasn’t referring to a wifi password. Rather, the full message on the placard read thus, ‘wife password – listen.’ Witty stuff! How true though. I read somewhere that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Listening is not as easy as it seems. Listening means that you fully open the doors of your mind (and occasionally the heart too) so that you can soak in the words and body language being communicated by the speaker. When you do so, you can be able to comprehend not just the spoken, but the unspoken too. In the words of Bwak the Bantu poet, ‘listening is the key that unlocks the treasure box of wisdom and knowledge that hides in other people.’
Do you remember the last time tears streamed down your cheeks? Your eyes moistened then you felt some wetness as a little river erupted from the depths of your heart, into your eyes then down your cheeks. You sniffed, fished out a napkin from your handbag and wiped those tears. Or maybe you just wiped them with the back of your hand. But the more you wiped them, the more they shot up, then down. Up from your heart, then down your cheeks. Remember why you were crying? Maybe life had fled from a loved one's heartbeat. Or maybe life had walked away from a once-loving relationship. Or maybe trust had walked away from a once-beautiful friendship. Or maybe you had walked into an experience that had touched you to the very core of your heart. Don't run away from your tears. Embrace them. Tears cleanse the soul and strengthen your spirit. Tears are a river of strength, not weakness. It could be, that women live longer because they swim in this river more frequently than men. So whenever you feel like jumping into this river, do so. It flows from a place of strength. May your tears fuel your strength and keep you away from the Pity-Party island.
By Bwak, Kenya
She loves him. She really does. He thinks he loves her. He hopes that with time he will love her as much as she loves him. She prays he does. They are on two different pages. On her page, he is the only one. His big, playful eyes that remind her of his carefree nature. His large forehead upon which she has launched countless teases and pats. He doesn't have a beard which is just fine with her because she is not a fan of facial hair. This face, this smooth face with playful eyes and a large forehead, is the only one on her page. On his page, her pretty face, ever etched in a warm smile, is not the only one. Although it is the most visible one, there are other other faces too. Maybe two or three. One of them isn't even the face of an actual, living person. It belongs to some ideal lady in the distant future. Why settle for the current lady when that ideal lady remains a distinct possibility? He is walking away from the prospect of real present love and emrbacing the illusion of ideal future love.
By Marjorie, Zimbabwe
As she sinks deeper into the beautiful emotion of love, confusion engulfs her like a whale does the smaller fish. She doesn't like this. Did I mention just how much she loves him? Yea a lot, but she doesn't like this confusion, the uncertainty, a constant need to second guess her worthiness and even her beauty. "Love is not for the faint hearted" This is a song her mother used to sing whenever she taught her about the need to be long-suffering in marriage. It rings ever so loud in her mind as she continues to visualize those playful eyes. Oh boy, perhaps all this would have been easier if he wasn't so easy on the eye.
There are times when you give those that you care for a listening ear then a shoulder to lean on. You do your very best to be there for them. You go out of your way so that you can meet them at the point of their need. You wipe away their tears. Then share laughter with them. Then help them to dream even when nightmares overwhelm them. Ah, how you trigger their dreams. You then go ahead to hold their hand and walk them towards realization of those dreams. Then once they get there, in that promised land that they had been dreaming about, they clench their fists and hit you on your helpless nose. So when you extend a helping hand, don't expect a pat on your shoulder. Don't be surprised if you get a bloody nose instead. When you help, just do so because its the right thing to do.
Find out about the river that is nearest to you. For me it is Nairobi River. Take a walk to that river’s riverbank. Etch your feet into the soft ground and fix your gaze on the river’s flowing waters. As you do so, whisper this to the river, “am deeply sorry for having let you down.”
Listen keenly to the river’s flow and continue with your riverine confession, “am sorry for allowing your purity to be compromised.”
Because the river cannot voice words like you can, there will be only one way of knowing if you have been forgiven - restoration. The day that you walk to that same riverbank and find that the waters are no longer colored by the black of industrial effluent or by the brown of human waste; or by any number of pollutants that keep harming it, you will know that the river has forgiven you.
Let us restore our rivers. Let us restore that transparent color that reveals our reflections when we gaze into the river; let us restore that gentle, yet powerful flow that never, ever ceases. Even better, play your part in restoring that awesome river that flows nearest to you.
7.30AM. I start reversing, eager to get started with my trip to western Kenya. The rearview mirror reveals a little boy walking towards my car, a blue plastic chair on his head. That lady, in black leggings and a black top matches into Mburu’s shop with a pink non-plastic paper dangling in her left hand. When I drive into the Southern bypass fifteen minutes later, I find cyclists all over the place. It must be a popular cycling route. I should try it one day.
Half an hour later, I refuel at a Shell in Lari then speed off past Lari town. This road here has taken a whole two years to fix and it seems far from over. Why do our roads take this long to complete? It’s because of me. Corruption whispers into my ear and I frown at it.
On the right hand side, I see Soko Mjinga. It looks different. One hundred meters later, I notice that there is a new Soko Mjinga. Am certain the traders don’t like is as its further from the road, not next to the road like the original Soko Mjinga. On the left I see a safaricom mast. I wonder how much Safaricom invested in these masts that dot the country! Billions probably.
The Growler, my beloved car, roars into Kinumbi, that infamous climbing stretch that can drain even the strongest of cars if they are having a bad day.
Nakuru. Java Coffee House. I am responding to Ofhani, sending her a quotation of her latest order and sipping Fanta, because it is the cheapest drink. And now am taking off. See you tonight.
I will run the first kilometer in less than 5:20 minutes. I will then run the second kilometer in less than 5:40 minutes.
These two resolutions were ringing in my mind as I slipped on my purple running top and marched out of the house into the biting cold of a July morning. Bariki, our long-serving neighborhood shopkeeper was still asleep, as was evidenced by the darkness in his shop.
Four minutes later, I was at Kamuti’s butchery, the starting line of my morning run.
On your marks… I told myself… Set… Go! I sped off, eager to complete this first kilometer in less than 5:20 minutes. After the first few steps, I breathed a sigh relief. My hips, knees, thighs and ankles felt good so I gradually increased my speed.
I knew that this would be a good run when I ran effortlessly past a STOP sign where I normally pause to rest for a few seconds. When I finished this first kilometer, I was thrilled to learn that I had completed it in 5:10 minutes. Awesome! I fist-bumped the cold air.
I ended up finishing the second kilometer in 5:16 minutes and the third one in 5:15 minutes. Because I finished the fourth and fifth kilometers in 5:44 minutes and 5:23 minutes respectively, my total time for the first 5k was 26:48 minutes.
By my standards, this was a blistering pace that set the tone for the rest of the run. It took me 1 hour, 6 minutes and 8 seconds to complete the 11.57-kilometer run. This translated to an average pace of 5:42 minutes per kilometer – a new record that beat the old one of 5:46 min/km by a good 4 seconds.
In the words of Bwak the Bantu Poet, ‘consistency delivers the sweet taste of victory.’