Growing Up Together

Son, like my uncle told me years ago,stay curious and avaricious for knowledge and if you should pause for a rest, take a nap but do not stay sleepy.

Son, like my uncle told me years ago,stay curious and avaricious for knowledge and if you should pause for a rest, take a nap but do not stay sleepy.

My son Emitono turns six on 24th July this year and it seems with every day that passes he gets to ask us (mom and dad) more and more questions besides reminding us that he will be six this July. He has already asked for what gift he would like for his birthday come 24th – an iPad straight from America. I wonder what he intends to do with but sure he will have a lot more uses than I have with my smart phone which he uses better than I can,

Besides the iPad, Emitono has also asked us to have his birthday party at school where he can share the joy of that day with his classmates and friends. I am afraid, he might not get the iPad this month since I have not yet ordered for one but he will at least celebrate with his friends and classmates.

Like I said earlier that the list of questions from Emitono is growing by the day as his birthday draws closer, his mom emailed this afternoon to say that he asked why she married me. I wondered what is at the back of his mind like when he asked me who gave me my current job and I answered it was my boss, he said that he did not like my job because it takes me away from home. Well, the mom says that she said that she married me because I asked her to. And he also asked where she was living before she married me and she said that she was living with her parents.

That is not the first time a similar question has come up from Emitono. Back at Easter, he asked her when we were visiting my in laws who took mom away from their home and she had told him that dad did so. Earlier on that he had asked my uncle who took away his grandma (my mom) from their home and why> he also asked how my uncle had a different mother from my mom. That was quite a tough question my uncle because Emitono wondered how a brother and sister could have two different moms? The issue at stake was nothing more than the fact that our grandpa was polygamous and the young man is yet to know that some men marry more than one woman. For certain the question why some men marry more than one woman is on the way.

Not very long ago I was knocked on the knee by a boda-boda (motorbike taxi) and when I narrated to Emitono what had happened to me, he not only asked if I had reported the case to police but also if the accident was potentially fatal? He went on to ask if his mom would have got them another father had boda-boda killed me? I told him that I would not know if their mom would get them another father because in my dead state I would neither know nor influence his mother’s decisions.

We went together to collect milk last week and Emitono asked the doctor from whom we buy the milk how his cows make the milk and he was so dissatisfied with the doctors answer that the cows makes the milk in its body, that he kept on asking how does it do it until I chipped in with some plausible explanations.
Homework time last week was equally tough for me, for Emitono disagreed with me over several answers and methods of work which I gave to question and requests which he made – he said several times that I was either wrong or confused.

I am afraid that come 24th July, besides inviting me to school, he might also ask me to give a speech apart from blessing the cake. Unfortunately, I will not be in Entebbe, for I will be more than 700 km away from home in the capital of South Sudan doing the job he does not like.

While our son has been growing up and asking may questions, so are we – at least I am asking myself more questions each day more than ever before and I just seem not to have enough time for all that I want to do before the Lord can call me home. I am also between two generation – my father’s and my son’s and I have to try to be home with my ailing parents and I also have to be home with our children besides being at home with my own generation.

Son you were made to thrive, please ride on and do not look back, for you will be an over-comer.

Son you were made to thrive, please ride on and do not look back, for you will be an over-comer.

Well, if I were to give a speech for my son, I would punctuated it with three quotes – one from a movie, the second from a book and the other from a song and this is what it would be: Son, when you grow up and life throws up its waves into your face, please roll with the blows and do ask for who moved your cheese, for you were made for so much more than just survival – you were made to thrive. God bless.

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Reflections in Juba – How the powerful and mighty fall

When I am indoors back home in Tororo, I sometimes look at the outside through this dining area window and reflect like I do here in Juba

When I am indoors back home in Tororo, I sometimes look at the outside through this dining area window and reflect like I do here in Juba

Like it usually happens, my travels to Juba to do the work of Sudan Advocacy for Development, my time away from family and the many responsibilities and attractions or distractions from home, offer me a golden opportunity (as they say silence is golden) to look through the window of life into the our world and also the world within me.

The rain that has been bucketing down since morning has finally subsided leaving a bleak atmosphere over the city and it all quiet here at the office/home except for the sound of the diesel generator. As I turn to the Tv the news of the expected peace between South Sudan’s warring sides comes on. I also turn to our local channels back home in Uganda and they are full of politics pointing to the forthcoming general elections in 2016. The intrigues and the endless promises to the people fill the air. From Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Ukrain, Central Africa Republic, Egypt, Lybia, Nigeria and  even the US come stories of power struggle and death.

I cannot help but wonder while I remember men like Pinochet, Sadam Hussein, Amin Dada, Col Gadafi, Hitler, Mobutu who was buried in a common cemetery in Morocco, Stalin, Jonas Savimbi, Nebuchadnezzar; the list is endless, how far men will go to gain wealth, power and fame and what finally they do with it when their sunset finally comes?

The righteous Biblical man Job had this to say about man in chapter 14 of the Old Testament book of Job
Chapter 14:

The Mogerts
1. “Man, who is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble.
2. He comes forth like a flower, and is cut down. He also flees like a shadow, and doesn’t continue.
3. Do you open your eyes on such a one, and bring me into judgment with you?
4. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.
5. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his bounds that he can’t pass;
6. Look away from him, that he may rest, until he shall accomplish, as a hireling, his day.
7. “For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, that the tender branch of it will not cease.
8. Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stock dies in the ground,
9. yet through the scent of water it will bud, and put forth boughs like a plant.
10. But man dies, and is laid low. Yes, man gives up the spirit, and where is he?
11. As the waters fail from the sea, and the river wastes and dries up,
12. so man lies down and doesn’t rise. Until the heavens are no more, they shall not awake, nor be roused out of their sleep.
13. “Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would keep me secret, until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
14. If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my warfare would I wait, until my release should come.
15. You would call, and I would answer you. You would have a desire to the work of your hands.
16. But now you number my steps. Don’t you watch over my sin?
17. My disobedience is sealed up in a bag. You fasten up my iniquity.
18. “But the mountain falling comes to nothing. The rock is removed out of its place;
19. The waters wear the stones. The torrents of it wash away the dust of the earth. So you destroy the hope of man.
20. You forever prevail against him, and he departs. You change his face, and send him away.
21. His sons come to honor, and he doesn’t know it. They are brought low, but he doesn’t perceive it of them.
22. But his flesh on him has pain, and his soul within him mourns.”

 

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Reflections in Juba – Rain and more rain

Afternoon rain back home in Tororo,, Uganda. It has been raining here in Juba like no other time I have ever experienced here.

Afternoon rain back home in Tororo,, Uganda. It has been raining here in Juba like no other time I have ever experienced here.

It has been drip-drip here in Juba since day break and it is past 1 pm now and there is not a single sign that the rain is about to stop. I was in town for the newspaper distribution and surprisingly the vendors who were not to be seen any where yesterday when it was dry, turned in droves, albeit wet from the rain. I just wonder how much they will be able to sell in this very wet weather.

Unlike the newspaper vendors who braved the rain to work, non of my colleagues from the editorial department has shown up at the office. One can hope that they are out there “covering the rain.” I had the unfortunate opportunity this morning of giving sanctuary from the rain some vendors of Nigerian origin who engaged in all kinds of obscenities in the van to the pleasure of their South Sudanese counterparts who laughed and laughed when I just wished the guys would get out of the van.

I have never seen so much rain in Juba and it is pretty cold too. I have turned off the air-conditioning but there is hardly any difference. When we arrived here on Saturday afternoon, I was sweating even while I bathe because of the heat which anyway I have become accustomed to in Juba. Now, with this very wet and mostly filthy conditions in Juba, I wonder what the conditions inside the camps of the displaced people at UNMISS bases might be like. I just hope, it will not worse the cholera epidemic which so far seemed to have been contained.

Unlike what the Nigerian newspaper vendors were wishing to be doing at home in such weather, back in my village, the hamlets would be smoking with maize roasting, for this is the main maize season The herds boys, though, would wish there were no cattle, for surely this kind of rain used to be my worst nightmare as a young herds boy back yonder.

I am told that it is raining all the way to Kampala which gives me a bit of worry about the road back along the Juba/Kampala highway which normally gets flooded near the border this time of the year. I hope we shall not have to go winding through Yei and Arua like last year when there were floods near Nimule. The colleagues in Kampala have nothing to worry about today with or without rain, for it is a public holiday over there – the so called Heroes Day. Meantime, I just have to enjoy the new Juba weather as we hope for something new from Addis between Salvar Kiir and Riek Machar.

Here is something to reflect on:

One half of life is luck; the other half is discipline – and that’s the important half, for without discipline you would not know what to do with luck.

~Carl Zuckmeyer

 

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Reflections in Juba

My wife Trudy, one of those people with whom my thoughts were with today.

My wife Trudy, one of those people with whom my thoughts were with today.

It has been a quiet Sunday for me here in Juba. I was out early morning for the distribution of the New Nation newspaper as it turns out, hardly any vendors who did get their supply of the current edition of the paper showed up at the distribution point at the CBD. South Sudan is never short of surprises for me and each time I am here presents another learning opportunity. South Sudan’s third independence anniversary is almost here and I had better remember some lessons learned in the past two anniversaries about work during public holidays, rainy days and weekends.

Trudy, Linda and Shadrach on a visitation day some years back at King's College, Budo

Trudy, Linda and Shadrach on a visitation day some years back at King’s College, Budo. Photos, like good music have a certain effect on my life.

Well back the in office home it has been quiet time for the three of us who happen to be around today; the driver, the security guard and me, each minding their own business.

Philemon and Mercy out and about recently in Entebbe. Philemon called today and said that I am bad mannered for not being certain when I would be back home.

Philemon and Mercy out and about recently in Entebbe. Philemon called today and said that I am bad mannered for not being certain when I would be back home. Pictures of my kids usually have a tendency of lightning up my heart and a day just does not seem to pass without me taking a look.

I have kept away from my room and watched TV and taken coffee for the greater part of the day concentrating on Christian channels and NatGeo Wild and as a dog lover, I really enjoyed “Caesar to the rescue”, learning new skills on dog handling and dog behavior. Obliviously, as I watched TV and sipped coffee, my mind occasionally wandered far and wide, sometime back in time and place. Thank God in it all, I have not been anxiously – a good sign that I have been able for at least a while to tame the workaholic spirit within me. I also calmly took several telephone calls, both local and international while I watched TV.

The sights and sounds of home, one of the things I was reflecting on while I perused pics from the HOUZZ website on home design. Like President Museveni one time said that his cows are not just cows but also his friends, these geese are my friends too.

The sights and sounds of home, one of the things I was reflecting on while I perused pics from the HOUZZ website on home design. Like President Museveni one time said that his cows are not just cows but also his friends, these geese are my friends too.

I am now back into my room doing what I had originally planned for the day – listening to gospel music on internet radio (Klvv’s My Praise Fm)on my bed. And I am obviously typing this blog entry even though I did plan to do so. I am really glad that I am able to write a bit, for my mind was a little cloudy and my heart kind of heavy when I left home for Juba on Friday evening.

The fish pond in the middle of our compound back home that I was working on its expansion and beautification just before I left for Juba

The fish pond in the middle of our compound back home that I was working on its expansion and beautification just before I left for Juba

This has been a and better day for me than yesterday. I have also been able to browse photos and videos shot by myself in my laptop’s photo gallery with great elation and some moments were quite humbling. I leave the Lord to take care of the things done and words which I can neither undo nor retrieve – His Grace Finds me, so said the song by Matt Redman a moment ago.

Good Night and great week.

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.

~Thomas H. Huxley

 

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A Gift Like No Other

Mercy n Philemon ready for school play with a smart phone.

Mercy n Philemon ready for school play with a smart phone.

Whenever I travel home from Tororo or Juba to Entebbe where my wife and children live, my son often asks me after a hug what I have brought them. If I am from Tororo, I often tell him that I have brought them some fruit and he might as well say that he did not expect something like but something like crisps, chewing gum – something ready to eat here and now. And if I am from Juba, he usually expects some cookies, sweets, Pringles, cornflakes etc but sometimes I have also learnt tease him a little bit by holding back the gift and saying I have brought him myself. Amazingly, he has learnt to smile at it while saying that that was not what he really meant but rather something sweet to eat. And when I bring out the gift, he often gives another hug and says,” I love you my daddy”, rather say thank you daddy.

Philemon n Mercy in the village earlier this year where they raised the question about who gave my current job to me.

Philemon n Mercy in the village earlier this year where they raised the question about who gave my current job to me.

Having said that, one would think that something sweet for instant gratification is all daddy is good for to the little ones. I have learnt, though, that that is hardly the case, for many a time having had a bite or two of what I have brought them or even if it were a toy, they will soon abandon in the living room and return to the bedroom if I am still in bed because of fatigue. And very likely they will come with their pillows from their bedroom and each one of them place them on, one on the right and the other on the left and lie there asking questions, After which, they likely to ask me to leave bed and go to the dining table for breakfast with and watch cartoons with them.

Before I got my current job, I was mainly occupied by farming projects which anyway I am still pursuing whenever I am off from the office job which kids now love to hate for obvious reasons.

Before I got my current job, I was mainly occupied by farming projects which anyway I am still pursuing whenever I am off from the office job which kids now love to hate for obvious reasons.

Last month when I told my kids in the middle of their first term school holiday that I was returning them from our country home in Tororo to Entebbe in preparation my return to Juba, my son asked me one early morning who gave me the job in Juba and I told him that it was my boss. Before he went on to with the conversation, I thought that my son was appreciating the fact that I had a job because I remembered the time in the past when he asked me why I did go to work in an office like his mother and I said I worked in the farm. Well, that is very far from what the little gentleman I had in mind. “I don’t like your job”, came the very surprising answer and the reason was simple, “because it takes you away from us. We want to be with you all the time.”

The kids are always happy to have me around to see them off to school.

The kids are always happy to have me around to see them off to school.

I told my son that I would be in Juba for just a while to earn money to finance the projects at home which would keep avail me more time to spend with them and also be able to buy them the things they like and be able to take them out as often as we could. That helped calm his nerves for at least the course of the trip from Tororo to Entebbe. When I told him that I had a few hours to go before leaving for Juba, he said that I should not make him cry and miss me a lot. And for that he asked me to them from school whenever I am around rather than be dropped by the school van and also take them to play at the Lions Club Children’s playground plus taking them for evening walks.

A beaming Philemon back from school n happy to find me waiting at the door for them.

A beaming Philemon back from school n happy to find me waiting at the door for them.

Last Wednesday when I arrived in Entebbe from Tororo for the night journey to Juba, I was very hungry having left Tororo early morning before breakfast but I did not ask the house helper for food even if it was lunch time because I was looking forward to eating with my beloved who was due home for lunch. To keep myself busy as I waited for her, I decided to rake the grass from the lawn that had just been mowed. However, when she arrived, she made a beeline for the dining table after greeting me.

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When it took longer than I expected to be invited into the house for lunch, I walked into the living room to find my beloved eating and you can imagine how I felt. Well, when I asked my beloved why she had not invited me in for lunch, she said that she thought that I would not have liked to be disrupted from the raking till it was all done.

Walking back Trudy to work after lunch together at home in Entebbe.

Walking back Trudy to work after lunch together at home in Entebbe.

I let my wife finish her lunch and I went back to the raking, and had reluctantly had lunch alone when I was done with the lawn and she too had returned to work.

In the past we did a lot more things together like this day out and about shopping in and dining in Kampala with Trudy.

In the past we did a lot more things together like this day out and about shopping in and dining in Kampala with Trudy.

Like my kids, I had missed one of the greatest gifts any beloved would give to their loved ones – QUALITY TIME.

These kids wish t have me all day long from waking to when they are in their pajamas ready to bed.

These kids wish t have me all day long from waking to when they are in their pajamas ready to bed.

We made up, though, for the missed lunch date later that afternoon by going for the kids from school and shopping together before I left for Juba.

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Whenever I had time to relax and reflect this week, two lines from two different old Christmas songs have rang out in my mind – “Do not save it all for Christmas” and the other line – “It not the things that you do at Christmas but the Christmas things you do all year round…”

The kids are usually glad to spend time with loved ones like in this photo on a holiday in the village my sister and her kids.

The kids are usually glad to spend time with loved ones like in this photo on a holiday in the village my sister and her kids.

Please, please, if you have loved ones, spend quality time with them. It might be well the best gift you will ever give them to avoid wishing you but being glad you did when the future is here with us.

At Mbale Resort Hotel pool over the Easter holiday.

At Mbale Resort Hotel pool over the Easter holiday.

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South Sudan my second home – Reflections of a stranger in a strange land.

Just when I thought I had found another home away from my native home in the Eastern Ugandan district of Tororo and my second home in Entebbe in Central Uganda, South Sudan, the world’s newest nation “spat in my face” by some presage of an act prior to the eruption of violence on December 16 2013 (if you remember or read the account of what happened to me on a jogging routine out of Korok Guest House).

Being an expat in this country I have tried my best to make it less of an impediment for me to feel at home. To begin with, my skin complexion is as dark as most South Sudanese and more often than not I am mistaken by a lot of people to be South Sudanese. But the escalation of fighting in other parts of the country following the alleged attempted coup by a disgruntled faction in the ruling SPLM party in December, I am increasingly feeling like a stranger in this country as I am find less and less of the things that made me feel at home disappear.

Many of the young South Sudanese young men, both Nuer and Dinka are not seen any where in Juba or places like Bor. Before the events of December 2013, there at least three Nuer guards and two policemen at our office who were pursuing primary and O level education who often consulted me on several subjects and had become my friends and family here in Juba but I cannot find any after my return to Juba after the long Christmas break due to the conflict.

I had Dinka friends in Bor whose mobiles phones I cannot reach now and at least a brother of one colleague in Bor was killed by the White army in Jonglei State. Another friend who hails from Akobo County in Jonglei state and formerly reported for the New Nation newspaper from Bentiu and worked briefly for the American funded Eye Radio in Juba is now reported to be living in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.

With reports of mass killings of civilians and gang rape of women in Upper Nile and Unity states, I cannot help but wonder with deep sorrow what might have become of the Ugandan nurses whom I met on my last trip to Malakal and the Kenyan business people in whose tavern close to the WFP compound I spent my last night in Bentiu. I keep thinking of the young boda-booda riders whose transport I relied on to get around town when I visited those places. What about my friends from Mombasa at the Freedom hotel by the River Nile in Bor where I spent several nights on my last visit there before all hell broke loose?

When we left Juba in December, I remember a soldier at a security checkpoint along the Juba/Kampala highway saying to us after searching us, that he wanted us to return safely back to South Sudan after peace has been restored. He added that the search was meant to stop those South Sudanese committing crimes in Juba from fleeing the country. Indeed we saw a number people who were stopped from proceeding to Uganda. That statement seemed to be an assurance that our return would be welcome and lately with the resumption of publications, I have returned my duties as The New Nation’s distribution manager but this place that I had increasingly become familiar with has increasingly become strange.

The vibrancy of life in Juba seems to be all gone despite the buses from Kampala to Juba still seem to be parked with people coming to Juba. There is a lot more bribery at the several police checkpoints along the roads. The traffic police have on several occasions issued our driver penalty receipts bearing less amounts than what they ask for and some of them just smile about it. There are no more weekend police parties at our guest house where I used to see both Dinka and Nuer officers revel freely with one another. My weekends at the office are just gloom and glum like this one when I have nobody coming around and I cannot go hiking or jogging in the neighboring bushes as I used to, for there is no human activity any more save for makeshift army barracks in abandoned incomplete houses and formerly busy kiosks whose owners are now IDP in the UN camps.

As now watch an Aljazeera Lifelines documentary on the eradication of the guinea worm in South Sudan – the only country in the world where it still exists and with many of its victims being poor rural folks whose plight may become worse if the conflict prevents health workers from reaching them.

I can only hope and pray that the Lord honored that prayer in Addis after the signing of a peace deal between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar. May the Lord grant grace and patience to those working and praying for the peace of South Sudan. For now I can only remember the Christmas song, “The Christmas card” by Steven Curtis Chapman which kept playing in my heart as I reflected on the people of and situation in South Sudan when I traveled home to Uganda for the Christmas holiday. What a holiday gift the leaders of SPLM had given the people of South Sudan!

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Taxi Tales – One in a million

The book of 1Kings in the Bible records a conversation between God and the prophet Elijah in which the prophet during trials and tribulations thought that he was the only faithful one to the Lord left in Israel but the Lord surprised the prophet by telling him that there were some thousands out there who still had not bowed their heads to Baal.

Recently, on an omnibus taxi home from Kampala to Entebbe, I was delightfully surprised to overhear a mobile form conversation in which the passenger seated next to me told the person on the other end of the conversation the about his whereabouts as opposed the usual lies of statements like this, “I am not far away or I am this or that place” which may be kilometers away from where they actually are. Not just once did the gentleman tell the truth but as many times as the person impatiently waiting for him in Entebbe called.

I was reminded of some time in the past when I was dashing to The National Psychiatric Referral Hospital (Butabika) to the east of Kampala where my sister had been admitted with a mental illness and somehow I left my mobile phone on a taxi seat next to the drive. On arrival at the hospital’s gate where I wanted to call my cousin to inquire about the ward in which my sister was, I realized that my phone was missing and quickly rushed back to the taxi stage to look for my phone. The taxi driver immediately remembered that I sat next to him and he handed me my phone. What a relief it was for me to have my phone back at such a time when mobile phones were not as common in Uganda as today and they were being stolen from left and right, even snatched through car windows. One person had done the uncommon thing of being honest like the guy in the taxi who spoke the truth.

Not even the elderly like telling the truth any more in our society especially politicians. I was having a conversation with a Rwandese national not so long ago in a hotel we were residents in Juba, the capital of South Sudan about the state of roads in my country an opposition politician of advanced age from country joined in. I was telling my Rwandese friend how bad the road between Mbale and Tororo was for several years and it was taking a lot more time for travelers on the road between the two towns which are about twenty miles apart. The old man who joined our conversation said that it was taking an average of three hours for a taxi from Mbale to get to Tororo because of the bad road then – he had actually multiplied the time by more than three. I looked up and wondered whether the old man had a conscience and suddenly lost interest in the conversation.

Thank God, though, that there still some faithful people out there who speak and face the truth as it is.

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