Time Flies

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My time with the kids has taught me what it means to be in mom’s shoes and I appreciate.

My time here in Entebbe is nearly up and what I appeared like a century when I arrived last Thursday with the kids from Tororo for the school third term has vanished like a whirlwind. When the kids asked me to spend ten days with them while their mom is away on a working trip before I return to Tororo, I wondered what I would be doing in the house all alone by myself each morning they left for school.
Monday was particularly challenging. After I had dropped them at school, got them registered and escorted each one of them to their classroom, I visited our future family home which is less than half a kilometer from the school. There is not much semblance of a home there anyway but a vandalized foundation and fence, (column twisted bars and barbed wire were cut off by thugs looking for scrap metal), banana plants, a few trees and a bushy garden that is beginning to take shape despite the weeds. When the state of that foundation vs. what we left behind the last time the builders where on sight begun to depress and make me angry; I decided to check up with the metal fabricator who is making the fittings for our house. Having made no appointment with him, it was no surprise that I did not find him in.
No matter what I tried to do on Monday, I still found the day too long compared to my schedule back home in Tororo where I sometimes wished the sun could delay to set by some more hours, thus often working in the garden up to 9pm having returned from the farm probably about 6pm.

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Here at the farm, there isn’t just any room for boredom or anxiety.

Tuesday morning started with a stern warning from my son not to break my promise and slip off to Tororo while they are at school. Although, I had toyed with the idea of breaking off to Tororo for a day or two, Tuesday found me armed with a program that would fully banish my anxiety beside the routine that I was already getting familiar with.
The Muslim morning call to prayer at 5.30am from a nearby mosque has been my reminder to leave bed to get the kids ready for school by 7.15am, the time the school van arrives even though I wake up much earlier than that.
I usually start my day with two hundred stretches of my feet (lying on my back) which generate a sweat before I leave bed. From bed, I get to my knees for a prayer/devotion before I brush which get me to 6.15am, time wake the kids up. We start with the toilet, followed by teeth brushing, bath and into school uniform depending on the day of the week before we hit the breakfast table. I usually get the break served in between bath and dressing so that nobody complains that any food is too hot or not served.
Once I have seen the kids off to the van, I slide into the sofa to watch Hurricane Irma on TV and the devastation it has left behind in the Caribbean. I had my taste of the taste/vagaries of nature earlier this year when the stream bounding our farm burst its banks and floods swept away more than two tons of fish, kitchen, goats and a perimeter fence worth millions of shillings which I had just completed. That, for me, was more than baptism by immersion but by storm. I had not experienced anything of that kind in my life but slowly we have picked up the pieces and trying to learn lessons.

So much for CNN, off for a brisk morning walk before settling down to my PC to browse and edit photos, read mail and revive my Facebook account; things I had not done in a very long time, which in a way have got me blogging again.
You can imagine how packed my day is now, with so much on my mind that has been revived by my stay here which I need to write down before I return to the farm.
I break off from the PC to a movie or a TV series like “Supreme Justice or Preachers of LA”, before napping. Before I know, it is nearly 5pm and I have to prepare the children’s fruit salad and have their changing clothes ready and here they arrive, each with a set of questions right from the door-way; “Have you spoken to mom, have you been to Tororo?” The girl accuses the brother of rushing ahead of with his own questions making her forget what she wanted to ask. Another day is gone and mom is nearly here to take over.


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How I Met Your Mom

Their eyes and ears are open to see, observe and listen. So are their mouths open to speak.

Some years back, I used to watch a TV series called “How I met your mother.” I was not married then and thought that it some comedy that somebody came up to make people laugh. I could not then relate to it in any way. Lately, my children have been asking me all kinds of questions; some academic, political, religious, scientific and social nature. In the school term holiday which has just ended, they seemed to have asked more questions on my relationship with their mom than at any other time. And the more the questions came, the more I flashed back to that time in my flat in Ggaba, Kampala where I used to watch, “How I met your mom.”
Not only have I been reminded of that TV series but most importantly, I have also had to ask myself the question, “What if I was not available to these kids at this stage in life, who would they ask these questions and what answers would they possibly receive?”
The other question that has also bothered me is about so many kids about the same age as mine “roaming” my village with absentee fathers. To tell the truth, some men in my village view me as some kind of weirdo for spending so much time with my children, as they tag along every where I go in the village and play with them, unless they choose not to.

When they watch videos in this manner, I might think that I am out of trouble, but only for a moment, for the more attentive there, the more questions after.

Before we set off to Tororo from Entebbe in August, I went for a church service with my children in the church (St. John Kawuku, COU) we were wedded in Ggaba, Kampala. When the service ended, the kids said that they had a great time because that church held a lot of precious memories for them. The visit to Kawuku seems to have set the stage for what was to follow in the holiday.
First major and difficult question from the boy, “Daddy, why does mommy say that I disturb her when I ask questions but when I ask you, you answer all of them?” I had to respond with not just one short answer as “I do not know,” but also with some explanations like; “mom is different and probably she gets stressed by work and cannot cope alone with many questions in my long absence.” That question was asked though to give him some future guarantee that whatever he asked, Daddy will give some kind of answer and boy I had to try my best even when I so exhausted or seemed not to have the best answer.

Nothing is too little or obscure to ignore, not even this signpost at Entebbe Zoo which many adults would rather not read.

Besides dating and wedding questions such as; “where was your first date with mom, were you nervous and did you kiss on your wedding day, how many people attended your wedding, how did you arrive at number, did you argue about the number, how old was the flower girl, why did choose her, how old is she now, when did you last see her, why were we not in your wedding?”, there some very serious questions.
For instance, questions about divorce and remarriage popped up after movie “Long Walk to Freedom.” Daddy, will you remarry if mom died now and the other way round. And I said mom will answer her part. That conversation ended with statement, “Daddy, don’t die now, we are still too young to take care of ourselves.”
One day I decided to leave the kids home and went to the farm and do the deliveries to town alone. When I got back home a rather different kind of questions where waiting for me. They were different in the way that they seemed to have some preconceptions. I could deduce that somebody had given them stereotypical answers and they expected mine to match.

What could possibly pass these curious minds?

I was asked by both kids whether mom vomited or rejected certain foods while she was pregnant. To the contrary, I said that mom did not exhibit any of that behavior in both of her pregnancies and strangely she had a ravenous appetite. Then I was asked what food she liked most and how did I know she was pregnant, did we go together for the pregnancy test, was mom excited, what about me? The questions went on to the hospital and the hour they were born and which doctor delivered them.
Now back to my suspicions; this statement came, “But L says that women vomit when they are pregnant.” Once I had given my explanation that was settled just like the boy asked while on an evening walk, “Daddy, how do we call the thing we use for urinating?” Once I gave the simple answer, “Penis”, he has never brought it up again; neither does he call it my naked or the thing animals use for mating. Similarly once the girl understood that her private parts are indeed private she has taken it seriously as such.

Never too early to learn: Emitono learns to milk at Kipirio Mixed Farm

I could go on and on and may be think that our children are too young to understand or do not deserve so much attention, but that would be to both their detriment and the family.
My son once asked me not only about police brutality in Uganda but also in South Africa when he saw the Mariakana Mine massacre on Aljazeera V. One would think that at the age of 7, a child would have no interest in such matters.
Thus as the good book says in Proverbs 3:20, “Train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is grown, he will not depart from it”, let us endeavor to give our children both the answers and the attention they need.

Kipirio Sunset: Before you know it another sunset is gone and you wonder “Oh how the years go by?”


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My Vocation

The garden, geese, ducks and chicken,livestock besides family and church are the things that occupy much of my time these days.

It has been a very long time since I last sat down to type something on my PC. It is probably three years now, for I remember last posting something to my blog back in 2014 before leaving South Sudan for Uganda. I have lately received some emails of people following me despite my very conspicuous inactivity at mosrubn.WordPress.com. I have also had a few calls from friends and college mates whom I have not met in a long time, wondering where and what I am up to these days.

Since I left South Sudan in July of 2014, I have been in my ancestral/country home in my village in Tororo District in Eastern Uganda. Some of you who might have read my last post to WordPress might remember what I called “My America” – that is Kwapa; my village – the “Green grass of home” I shall always return to if the Lord wills. That is where I have been for the greater part of my life. I occasionally travel to Entebbe to see my family or pick up the kids for the holiday in the village or return them to school.

Small scale mixed farming and family-raising could best describe my preoccupation since I ceased to be Distribution Manager of The New Nation newspaper at Sudan Advocacy for Development (SAD) in Juba.

I married late (at 40), therefore my children are quite young and need lots of attention and guidance even if they just two kids. They are quite a handful. On the other farming can be a very demanding activity. Put those two together, and find myself with very little time for my pastimes as blogging and internet based activities.  That may explain why I am not so active in such social forums as Whats App and Facebook. Not when I have more than two hundred direct questions to answer and two hundred more indirect ones to give explanations to from the duo.

Nothing passes their eyes.

In the holidays, they are with me literally everywhere; in the kitchen, dining table, garden, on the road, at the farm, movies, church, wedding ceremonies and walks.

Family and friends whom I have kept in touch with are those I can easily reach by phone or physically.

If anyone thought that I am unemployed or idle because I am out of formal employment, think again. I am occupied and I have no regrets despite the various challenges which are here and there.

Family, farming and the class of two that I have to guide or train up, that is more than a man can ask for.

A young lady recently looked at me in pity when I seemed to be so exhausted after some hard work at the farm and she asked me why I could not look for a new job. My answer to her was simple, “I have one and I enjoy it.” Then I added, why leave home at 50 for a job I do not know where and how far it will take me from my family when I already have one that is for keeps – farming.

Sometimes the smell of goats, especially the billies, may put off some folks but if you are an Etesot, you probably might have had this question: Are there flies in their home?

Unfortunately, that is the attitude of many folks around here, especially those who have “papers.” To such folks, either out some stupid pride or ignorance, farming is some dirty or accursed activity for those who have no other way to be economically employed. Some of them would rather sell everything to travel to the Middle East work slave like conditions or board the modern-day slave ships to Europe rather than get a vocation here at home.

The Mogerts feeding fish at Kipirio Mixed Farm.

To the contrary, through, experience and observation, I found out that farming is both exciting and rewarding. And real good and profitable farming needs people with papers (right knowledge) and capital. To do proper farming, you must of needs, as they say in KJV have interest and passion. I love my farming, in the same way I love my gardening.

I have had many folks wowed by my country home garden and have asked if they could something similar. My simple answer to them has consistently been “yes, but you must have both interest and passion besides patience and perseverance.”

To that effect, I supplied plants, ideas to a number of folks and even designed for them garden but a few months down the road; there is no sign that anything was planted. If I asked what happened to the garden project, these are the common answers: The goats ate the flowers, the heat was so severe and there was nobody to water the plants, the plants just died or the guy asked to weed could not differentiate the weeds from the ornamental s or they were too expensive to maintain.

Sometimes I would rather enjoy the sunset from my garden after an exhausting rather the pleasures that technology has to offer.

My dear friends, do not ask call me for a job unless your consulting me to supply you milk, fish, chicken, beef, eggs, goat, ornamental plants and gardening ideas for a fee. It seems whenever I give people free ideas on gardening and plants, they fail because they went through little or no pain to get them.

Well, if you are to succeed in whatever you do, put your all to it.

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Thanksgiving -Eridadi and Ruth Odeke 1932 – 20…

Papa n Toto on December 26, 2015

Papa n Toto on December 26, 2015

Finally we got to count our blessings and there was a thanksgiving ceremony for the life of our parents and above all to Thank God for all that he has done for our family,
They started two back then in the early fifties and today we are nine living siblings out of ten, one having passed away at the tender age of three. There are several grand children and a few great-grand children, Please be kind to me not to ask exactly how many grand children there are, but I can tell you for sure that I have two and I am aware that Omalut has none, Olive three, Owenya five, Rachel three, Aswatt seven, Grace one, David three and Epuwatt has four. So, that is how big the Odekes’ family has grown.

Thanksgiving Cake

Thanksgiving Cake

For the first time in a very long time we were all home for both Christmas and International Boxing Day which was the day for the thanksgiving ceremony. There was joy, laughter, fun, a lot of eating, challenges and like the author of Secrets of Happy Families put it about siblings; – “disagreements.” Siblings may disagree but they have work with each other if they want a happy family.

Epuwatt starts the introductions. Rest of the photos refer to gallery or my face book page.

Epuwatt starts the introductions. Rest of the photos refer to gallery or my face book page.

Our parents are Octogenarians now and for most us, like our parents, our heads are rapidly graying, even the one who has no kids yet has a few gray hairs. Sometimes I wonder how the years have gone by, that I now see the picture of my departed grand parents in my parents – grey heads, poor eyesight save for Toto who is still able to read with glasses, feeble knees and taking a step at a time with support of a cane. It makes me feel both young and old at the same time, depending on the direction of my mind. My son was surprised to learn that I was disciplined by my parents when I was a kid, like I do discipline him. He probably never imagined I was a kid and my parents were never young and agile.

Papa n Toto cut the tape as Aswatt cheers on arrival home from church.

Papa n Toto cut the tape as Aswatt cheers on arrival home from church.

My daughter on the other hand does not think she is growing older in any way. Recently we were listening to music together and when she heard a verse in the song, “Your Love” by Brandon Heath which says, “I am growing older each day and I am running out of dreams”, she said, “Daddy, that is for you because you are old but I am still young and full of dreams; I even had a dream last night.”

Christmas day lunch 2015 under the same old mango tree where we have had so many meals on this day in the past years.

Christmas day lunch 2015 under the same old mango tree where we have had so many meals on this day in the past years.

Well, it is a blessing to have our parents around at that age, but it is one which comes with challenges, for they are ever more immobile and delicate to handle. They need both much care and great amounts of patience and listening in almost every aspect of their lives.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Back Home To “My America”

Some unfinished business in Little Garden in My America which would call for another term at The New Nation, fortunately at home my term is limited by how well I use my time and resources at my disposal. Rome was not built in a day, so the sages say.

Some unfinished business in Little Garden in My America which would call for another term at The New Nation, fortunately at home my term is limited by how well I use my time and resources at my disposal. Rome was not built in a day, so the sages say.

Here I am back home where I belong after three years of service in South Sudan. I’m trying to get back on track gin in pursuit of my dream of becoming successful farmer but things have already hit snug. I have returned to bit of gloom with something mysterious wiping clean the fish in one of my garden ponds leaving paltry seventy fish out of stock of two thousand five hundred fish. But s reminded by one of those tidbits of wisdom which I pick here and there from books, movies, sermons, conferences etc.; “I have to roll with the blows” if ever I am to get where I want to go to. I had so many blows to roll with in South Sudan and endured them all. Like the prophet Jeremiah said, “If man falls down, does he not get up?” Sure, I have to get up and move on.
Meantime, there are so many challenges to be overcome and short term goals to be met. In my village things like trespass seem to be completely absent in some people’s minds and neither do they practice the “What is good for the goose is good for the gander”, principle. So, my ponds in the wetland have become watering holes for some people’s cattle and my tree plantations grazing grounds. Some others have been tethering their cattle to the elephant grass which I planted in preparation for my own cattle which I have planned to introduce in the near future. When thinking of socioeconomic transformation here, one has to brace up for a real uphill task, with many thorns and slippery ground on the way to the top. The perimeter barbed wire fence round my piece of land has been broken in many places. And young men and women have been all over the place stealing wood for fuel. That reminds me of what some folks used to say here whenever the idea of tree planting was touted by some leaders – “Who is willing to spoil his land with trees” and some others would say, “When will the trees mature?”, as though they were born running or fighting like the Patagonian devil’s babies.
Well, I have to swim and swim against the tide and move against that ever increasing force of entropy with each step I take forth. If you out there have some magical way round these problems, you are welcome to fight along my side. I very often see how our government is going in circles with some folk here with this so called NAADS (National Agriculture Advisory Services) program. Some folks here are just practicing what the Americans call madness – doing the same thing again and again yet expecting a different result. With ever deteriorating soil quality and without fertilizers they go on to plant several maize or bean seeds per hole. Talk of growing pasture, and they will think you are insane. Yet the government keeps giving them seeds, livestock and poultry with very little in the way of deliberate change in attitudes and farming practices. Some, people still have this attitude that they cannot treat chicken when they can be eaten if they fall sick. What point is there in giving a peasant farmer layers without adequate financial support and training, only for the farmer to sell off the hens in the local market when they are about to start laying because he cannot afford to feed or treat them?
2016 general elections are at hand and politicians are at it again in every village funeral, ceremony and Sunday morning church services lying to the people in the name of the people. According to my own observation, very few of them are honest and some of them are not in it for the desire to serve but are outright job-seekers. with very little if anything to offer in terms of development or legislation. Some of them have the audacity of claiming the high moral ground without ever realizing how wrong it is to make every funeral or church service a campaign or propaganda ground. Funerals are for mourning and churches for worshiping God, and weddings for celebrations; NOT for politics. Some folk, though, either out need for financial support or ignorance, or just following the trend (for we’re very good at coping each other), go ahead to invite politicians to speak in this places.
I was t funeral where I heard a politician promise the people fisheries expertise from the Philippines but five years down the road I have not seen any short brown men guiding the villagers on pond construction or fish farming. He also advised the people not to sell their land because it has lots of “minerals.” But he did not show them any possible alternatives to selling their land when they are in desperation to pay university fees for their children. How I wish that the people learn to call politicians to account for their time in office; maybe there will be fewer Africans looking to the shores of Europe and America for hope.
Meantime if you have a garden to design or one in need of a facelift within my reach, you can call me up, for I need some capital to keep moving on. You do not want to see hear that I drowned in the Mediterranean Sea heading to Lampedusa Island or arrested by the French Police while trying to get into the Channel Tunnel to England; would you?

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REFLECTIONS IN JUBA – Independence South Sudan

The same sun shines up on and warms us all, and the same God created us all in his image that we might shine with acts of righteousness to his glory but we have created war instead, It started with Abel and Cain but Christ came at Christmas to point us back home to God. And it is possible to make a change; it starts with you.

The same sun shines up on and warms us all, and the same God created us all in his image that we might shine with acts of righteousness to his glory but we have created war instead, It started with Abel and Cain but Christ came at Christmas to point us back home to God. And it is possible to make a change; it starts with you. I hope for a new day of peace will rise over South Sudan.

Today is South Sudan’s fourth independence anniversary and it is my last day of  work here in Juba as far as my current contract with the New Nation newspaper and the Sudan Advocacy for Development (the NGO that runs the newspaper) as such. It is therefore a public holiday and the folks here will be largely celebrating,  but s for me, I will be busy making my final reports and packing my bags ready for the journey home tomorrow.

I went to bed last night with a bit of trepidation, kind of expecting the repeat of the “carol of the guns” of December 15, 2013, for the South Sudan’s former vice president Dr Riek Machar had given President Salvar Kiir an ultimatum earlier in the day to resign by midnight Wednesday or be overthrown. He asserted that the president is solely responsible for the current mess in the country and the only way for a return to peaceful nation would be by the president resigning. But like one analyst in Nairobi said on an International TV, “that ultimatum would come to nothing,” and indeed I woke to a quiet morning except for the sound of jubilation at dawn from some citizens celebrating independence.

Some in South Sudan would say they have no reason to celebrate since the country is in turmoil and deep economic crisis which has brought  much suffering to the people of South Sudan. But I would beg to differ, for despite the current civil war and the untold suffering it has caused many civilians, for those  who can, there is good cause to celebrate, for the yoke of oppression by the Khartoum/Arab masters and forced Islamization is  now a thing of the past since July 09, 2011. I believe that the people of Darfur and Abyei would largely agree with me and arguably envy the people of South Sudan despite the current civil war.

To me  conflict between brother is much simpler to resolve than foreign oppression or exploitation. The Biblical Jacob and his brother Edom (Esau) fought but had to talk again. Joseph’s brothers sold him to Egypt but he forgave them and took them beck into his arms. My son and daughter often fight but soon or later get back to play together.  And if you mess with one of them, you will have to deal with the other in the manner of the brothers and sisters in the movie “Ours, Mine, Yours”. (I hope I remember the title well). Like the author of the book, The Secret of Happy Families said ,” You will always have to deal with the very siblings you disagree with.” (paraphrase mine). This is my hope for South Sudan, that the brothers will come to their senses and come together again for the good of all.

The Europeans fought each other for many years before they made peace with each other and now they have the European Union. That may explain the passion with which they are dealing with the Greek financial crisis. Even the former so-called “Sick man of Europe”, you know whom I m speaking of, wants to Join the EU.

The Americans fought each other after throwing off the British yoke but finally came back together and thus there is the United States despite the fact that some whites still want to keep their African brothers in subjugation who God created in equal.

I still believe there is hope for South Sudan to avoid the path of  failed state despite some disturbing signs. I took  bod-bod ride back to office from the field last week and the rider told me that all that they the youth of South Sudan are growing up for is war, and that they will bring down all the big buildings the ministers are building now while the rest of the people wallow in poverty. He went on to say that they know that President Salvar Kiir whom he also blamed for the current troubles of the nation is still in power because of President Museveni support and time will come when Ugandans will suffer for it. I shuddered at what he said and wondered if he knew he was carrying a Ugandan passenger? I had just watched the movie, “Into the Woods” with my kids the previous week back home in Entebbe before returning to Juba, and I thought that this boda-boda is like Mr Wolf who said to the little girl with the red cape that you are talking to your meal – this guy could kill me if he had the opportunity. That is possibly the reason I went to bed with  bit of trepidation last night should Dr. Riek’s threat come to pass anyway.

Well, God willing, I will be going back to my America tomorrow for that is the place where I will always return to like Spirit of the Cimarron.

My village Kwapa, whose name incidentally means my land in my local dialect Ateso from Tororo, Eastern Uganda is what I refer to s my America. I started referring to it as such lately. whenever I could sit with my wife to watch TV and we would be bombarded with images of African immigrants drowning in the Mediterranean Se trying to cross to Europe and may be to the rest of the Western World for  better life, either because they ere fleeing political persecution or extreme poverty from home. The other images on the TV which seemed to have overtaken ISIS beheading were those of police brutality in America on unarmed African-American men, which to me made the feeling of that often quoted American dream very remote from my mind. Thus I would say to my wife, “As long as there is peace and economic opportunities here in Uganda, I will never ever dream of any other place better than home. So, my rural home where I can literally do anything that I can conceivably do is my America. Of course I get depressed by the leaders of the AU who never seem to have the issue of Africans immigrants high on their agenda.  An Italian woman in Lampedusa said that with her small brain she has tried to give help which could to the African immigrants but she believes that the leaders back home in Africa with big brains who can help these people. She wondered why the people with the big brains cannot help their own people? I too, can only wonder? My be it is selfishness.

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