Steady Progress; We shall get there

Dear Mukyala Kasujja

Today early morning I called you and we had a short conversation, I could atleast answer the question you put to me and ofcourse,Lule and Cathy were on my mind, it’s what I do every weekend to call a few friends and say hello to them. Now the response I get from whoever Iam calling is that the words are becoming clearer, one may argue that it is a way to motivate me but still some friends insist on hearing the word over again which makes me repeat what I am saying and ensuring that I am heard. You asked a fundamental question,Are you now walking? My faint reply was,’not yet’

Well let me break it down, whenever we are faced with a battle in our lives, there’s is a likely possibility that one can lose and I am not about to give up on this one. Our long term objectives are to walk and talk and right now I use a walker to practice walking, you see Stroke is funny, everything is retrained to achieve the purpose which should be walking. As I have written before the body has imperfections in the knee joints and pelvis and perhaps the back. The major imperfection is the foot drop and in simple speak this is where the foot cannot wholly touch the ground and this is related to the tendons.Now this even happens in perfect health but the challenge is with a foot drop you can’t walk perfectly the feet has to touch base with the ground which is why assistive devices are needed to correct the said imperfections. One of the devices I have gotten to correct the foot drop is the Afo cast. The way it works is keeping the feet in a neutral position touching the ground otherwise we are keeping on the fight and giving up is not an option. One thing that the stroke didn’t take away is my writing (I use the right hand as the left one is paralyzed) and my intelligence.I promise to give faith a fighting chance.

Reading is Liberating

Every night just before I sleep, I stare up at the ceiling and think about my future. I can already see my house. It will have a large room converted into a study. Oh, the books I’m going to keep in those big shelves! Milan Kundera, Mariama Ba, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Charles Mungoshi, Pixley Isaka Seme, Dambudzo Marechera, Assata Shakur, Marcus Garvey, Vladimir Lenin, Kaoberdiano Dambara, Ama Ata Aidoo, Wole Soyinka,Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Chinua Achebe, Amilcar Cabral, Aime Cessaire, Dr Chinweidzu, Isabelle Allende, Paulo Coelho, Peter Stiff, Buchi Emecheta, …
I can already see that room! The nice couch overlooking the window, where I’ll sit under a starry night, every night, leafing through the pages of books I’ve always wanted to read! In the background, I’ll have Dave Koz “Cuban Highway” or Vusi Mahlasela’s “Silang Mabele” playing silently. I can see the small table beside the couch where my Ethiopian Coffee will be placed as I navigate through the labyrinthine complexity of Petrarch-an sonnets, odes and iambic pentameter. The pentatonics will whistle silently. The flower from a strong bloodline will be seated just across. And quietly we shall review the books, with different view points certainly. The Sonnets of Pablo Neruda will guide us.

Reading is liberating and to some of us who think that Africa is a country, we get so much from reading about societies. My last post could be mistaken for a zimbabwean because of the mini reviews I was making on the country but actually I am a Ugandan who loves reading. Reading helps us understand societies from a social political context. The reason I have been able to make friends from across the continent is because there is something to talk about and that is mostly written in a book.

Reading is like eating to some of us, we cannot therefore be praised for doing and loving something obvious.

In October last year, I was spotted by Afrobloggers a platform for emerging digital voices in Africa and this has bettered my writing. I have been a guest blogger on some blogs and made amazing leaps in my blogging so today I celebrate Afrobloggers.

Iam African, and sadly, we are a country

The reference to Africa as a ‘country’ may perhaps be out of ignorance because we are 54 countries. But on further reflection, I think it is safe to say that we are a country because what happens in The Gambia equally happens in Ethiopia from a Political context. The characteristics are similar going from bad leadership, rigging of votes and corruption

Going through my old books and i fell on Dambudzo Marechera’s House of Hunger . I re-read a line i had underlined. It reads:
“The freedom we craved for – as one craves for dagga or beer or cigarretes or the after-life – this was so alive in our breath and in our fingers that one became intoxicated by it even before one had actually found it…”
Marechera was, of course, talking about the student movement (or rather, the mood of students) in Zimbabwe pre-1980 (the year that Zimbabwe got her independence).
Marechera wrote House of Hunger in 1978, towards the end of the Second Chimurenga. What I like about this particular passage is that it speaks to the situation in Uganda and Many African states. The freedom that our people craved for, the excitement that our people had before colonial times about freedom, intoxicated us. We had such high expectations.We thought democracy would mean a lot We thought poverty would be history. We thought we’d achieve genuine equality.

Fast forward, looking at the post independent States and how they are organized politically, it’s safe to conclude that the excitement and aspirations were lost at the altar of leadership.

Liberation Movements and Coups; Upon grant of independence,many states were divided along ethnic lines and failed to agree on a way forward as dictatorship and other vices set in. This led to the start of Liberation movements which reasoned that the post independence governments were didn’t lead the people on the democratic principles and rule of law.

The contradictions; Most of Africa’s liberation Movements turn out worse than the so called bad governments they overthrew. Just found myself re-reading the speech that comrade Joshua Nkomo made at the funeral of ZIPRA Commander, comrade Lookout Masuku, in 1986. He makes a profound point about how a liberation movement that fights for the independence of a people can transform into becoming the oppressor that it defeated, and at times even commit worse atrocities than the oppressor. This made me think on a more general level about how as human-beings we so often fight monsters only to become exactly like them. In other words, that is how ZANU had turned into the oppressor overnight. There are a plethora of examples to mention in Africa so when we say that Africa is a country, we are pointing out what went wrong.

Lastly on the Armed Forces in African states,they are used to beat up and shoot at the government opposition. Iam reminded of the poignant words,

“When you are carrying arms that can spit fire and death, and when you receive orders standing to attention in front of a flag without knowing who will benefit from this order or these arms, you become a potential criminal who is just waiting to spread terror around you. How many soldiers are going around such and such country and bringing grief and desolation without understanding that they are fighting men and women who argue for the same ideals as their own? Children of workers who see their parents going on strike against reactionary regimes, join the army and accept to fight for the reactionary leaders. So a soldier without any political or ideological training is a potential criminal…” – Thomas Sankara, The Upright Man. So looking at the Tigray region in Ethiopia and Uganda and how armed forces have shot and killed innocent people, the #ENDSARS in Nigeria, it is safe to say that Africa is a country.

Boulevard of uncertainty

So at 27 done with lawschool and waiting for a masters which had been offered, life had other plans. Waking up in the morning of 15th November 2016,he couldn’t turn his body and couldn’t speak, luckily he had his phone , so he called his brother and the first person they called was Dr Jennifer who suggested that they do an MRI brain scan and that was in Kampala so the journey to Kampala began they kept in contact with Dr Jennifer who wrote a scan request form and the lab was owned by the Chinese on a building next to Crested Towers ground floor,he was wheeled into the place and the attendant at the lab brought some documents for the elder brother to sign as is the practice.

So in simple speak, Mwene could not talk nor move . That was devastation, all his life,he had dreams of writing and being in the academia and was a research assistant on a PhD writing so life was being kind to him. The first months he was in self denial, he could hardly believe this was happening and so when it was decided that he comes to the rehabilitation center, he was brought amid a first setback, due to motion sickness he had to feed through a tube and it was mainly yoghurt which would be pushed down the tube.At the time his friends found out and wondered why he had been off social media. You see to some people social media is the social capital and Mwene is one such person. Friends led by Mashansha and Mugambaniguru organized for a meeting at Forest Mall Lugogo and resolved to set up a fundraiser and quite a significant sum was raised which offset most of the bills. Now a fundraiser is successful based on the cause and the people behind it. Some of the people who came on board had actually never met him,they used to read his Facebook posts and had an online character in their minds so perhaps the social capital had huge returns on investment. Mwene was a good guy but he wasn’t a saint either. To describe him, I would say,a good ambitious human who was living his life.

So suddenly his life Titanic had been hit by an iceberg of illness. What did that mean? He was literally walking on the boulevard of broken dreams and uncertainty.

Right now Mwene is 31 and still pushing on and like he says, ‘I will recover’. Now as for resilience,I guess it is a combination of factors and these are,a strong support system of family and friends. Friends who come to check on him don’t come because they are going to make him walk and talk again.They come because they want to identify with him in the journey to recovery and create a connection. Good friends may come in their free time but awesome friends free time to check on him.

Mwene resumed blogging in 2019, because literally that is his speak and he calls himself a story teller. One friend told him,’ Mwene, you are under the water but still breathing fine’. This is my story.

Love in pain; the guest on Valentine’s.

I have previously written about love in pain where basically the best thing you can do for a friend in pain is be there for them and understand their pain in whatever way. So I have unorthodox views about reactionary days like this one but one thing I can never dispute is that love lifts us up at our lowest. So today an amazing friend passed by to check on me, we go long back, this was her second time the first time was in 2017 I remember the day like today, I last spoke to her in the festive season and she was on vacation,we always have beautiful conversations and even in perfect health we did, the last time was at House of Java because I love my coffee right. So she was one of the people who was devastated upon learning of my illness (understandably so)

One thing I love about this amazing friend is her name,it is the traditional ones not the western ones she is Kamusiime Ayebare literally meaning, let me thank him and he deserves the thanks. So to reflect on her names and looking at the attributes of the most high God, we should be thankful for the fact that he has preserved me and I am still going strong. I have had bad times, been unconscious for days but the Lord protects me and he has plans for me.

Finally,I promised her that I will keep keeping on and with love like hers,I will be uplifted. I can safely say that my Valentine’s day went well

A wreath for my valentine

Life asked death?,”Why do people love me and hate you passionately?”.
Death replied,’It is because you are a beautiful lie and I am the painful ultimate truth’ . Today marks six years since my niece breathed her last after getting into an accident off the swing, she must have fallen off and hit by a large blunt object causing head trauma and breathless she lay. A song that captures the emotion is cinderella by Curtis Chapman and here’s a brief background. Her clock didn’t strike at midnight but rather on Friday the 13th 2015
“Cinderella” was written by Steven Curtis Chapman one night after helping his two youngest daughters – Stevey Joy and Maria Sue – to take a bath and after putting them to sleep.Several months later, in May 2008, Chapman’s youngest daughter, Maria Sue(5 years), died as a result of an accident in the Chapman’s driveway(when his oldest son, Caleb, accidentally ran her over in their drive way), and the song took on a whole new meaning for the Chapman family. While the song had originally been written as a message to love and cherish parenthood while it lasted, it acquired another message of the frailty of life and how suddenly it can change. After his daughter’s death, Chapman had said he was “pretty sure [he] would never sing the song again”. On July 11, while singing on stage, he felt God talking to him through all his songs, confronting him. Chapman felt that he needed to believe in the hope he proclaims in his songs, and bring that hope to others by singing the song.

So that is why I blog about songs and their meanings because songs bring hope. Shiba was my niece and I was her godfather so literally I can say that she was my daughter.Getting the call from the dad, I could hardly believe the news and wished it weren’t true but the beautiful lie was over and the painful truth had stared us in the face. You see even the current situation hasn’t broken me but nothing broke me like Shiba’s death. I pleaded with God,’ you should have taken me,iam a sinner and she was a little girl’

But I guess the beautiful lie we call life was no more and she was gone.

One of the greatest lifelessons I have learned from my elder brother is that you don’t have to fight to be a man, sometimes walking away heals the soul. The lawyer in me started thinking of negligence and duty of care and thought,why not file a case against the school but I thought even if the case was filed and the school was found to have been negligent, was it going to return Shiba? Was she worth any money that upon payment,we would feel better, I therefore said to myself, the beautiful lie is gone now let us deal with the ugly truth and the Palestinians say that nothing is heavier than a child’s coffin because of the grief. Shiba’s clock struck on Friday the 13th and she was gone. One thing that amazes me with the undertakers on burials is the gusto with which they do their work and it’s like they are ensuring that the person who is being burried doesn’t see the light of day ever and I lay the wreath on her grave and we returned to this beautiful lie called life.

Love in pain

To describe my illness as pain would be an understatement,if I were in perfect health, I would have completed my masters, perhaps writing a PhD. So when the stroke came in November 2016, I was in self denial well knowing that the acceptance letter was on the way

So that is how things were to me, I thought that atmost, the stroke would take two years and I would be in perfect health again but stroke is not an illness that will just go, recovery is slow and continues throughout life.

Acceptance upon acknowledgement that the stroke wasn’t about to away,I now looked to recovery, now in such a state of desperation and anxiety, what carried me was love from friends, that is empathy, friends actually fundraised for my rehabilitation bills and continue standing with me in the journey with stroke. Now you know when life throws lemons at you, you don’t sit down and cry, rather you make fine lemonade and that is what I am doing. I said to myself, the masters may be gone but you have to live on and dare to live. One of the greatest lifelessons I have learned is that love in pain lifts us. Now as for friends identifying with me in the pain and frustration has perhaps made me a stronger person than I was in perfect health.

The Beautiful Pain

I do love songs for their lyrical content because I relate to them now the song,’beautiful pain’- Eminem is on my mind its chorus goes like,Iam standing in the flames it’s a beautiful kinda pain setting fire to yesterday, find the light find the light.

Now have you ever been at rock bottom and life seems useless and literally, there’s nothing to live for. That’s where I was a few years ago. You see stroke comes suddenly but takes its sweet time to recover, even with recovery comes with body imperfections like limping and even speech is not going to be perfect as it was in perfect health.

The Beautiful Pain perhaps is the one during the physiotherapy, now under normal circumstances one is supposed to respond positively to physiotherapy. I was brought to the rehabilitation center in February 2017 and by April,there was progress on the walking, Facebook is like my journal entry so I write about my journey

So that is how beneficial physiotherapy is to a stroke survivor, but life had other plans,I left the rehabilitation in June and continued getting physiotherapy at Mulago.

The Fall

Now the worst thing that can happen to a stroke survivor is a fall during walking as it takes you back to square negative ten. Now to compesate the figures back to square one is painful and really long. I was using a walker and walking but under guidance. For some reason the caretaker assisting me to walk didn’t watch me well and I lost balance and the next thing I was on the tarmac. I must have landed on the left side of the leg and this affected the joints and muscles in the pelvic area, The physiotherapist Sulait, suggested that we do a pelvic x-ray because of the way I was walking. I remember contacting Solanki a physiotherapist who recommended that we go to Norvik hospital where we sought an appointment with Dr Patel and upon assessment it was recommended that I had to do some passives and stretches to get the hip joint back to rotating normally. That was the most painful exercise. I even wondered why I could scream out so loud yet I had speech impairment but now I know more about language centers in the brain. The brain is very amazing it is like the CPU of the body. Right now as you read this, the medulla oblongata is controlling how you breathe so I don’t buy the argument that we came from monkeys. On a lighter note if we came from monkeys,why are our tails infront not behind (if you know you know) I believe in the intelligent design theory call me an apologetic yes I am one and believe that we are wonderfully and beautifully made.

As I write this, I can say that on the scale of ten,we are at four trying to perfect the imperfections and any pain that comes with the exercises is beautiful pain.

Empathy not Sympathy

Now these two words are used interchangeably to mean the reaction after an adversity but for the purpose of this post,it will be illness.

What we need in life is empathy not sympathy because sympathy doesn’t understand,it doesn’t create a connection while empathy creates a connection and tries to understand.

In 2017, I was brought to the rehabilitation center a friend came over and he said,”Roland,I know what you are going through, I got an accident and was in a wheelchair for a month, so I know what you are going through”(at the time I was in a wheelchair) now that was sympathy because the friend did not know what a paralyzed body is,I mean he got an accident and was back on his feet. I want to think that it was unknown on his part to bring up such an example.Sympathy is like finding someone in a dungeon and you say, can I bring you a sandwich?”
Now empathy is walking in a person’s shoes not literally but showing them that you understand the challenge and want to know how they feel in that way, you have shown empathy

Now there are some friends who come and visit me. Yes whereas I communicate with them,they take an extra step to pass by and know how Iam fairing. That’s empathy. So to everyone reading, we simply need empathy and not sympathy and empathy lifts people even at their lowest. Sympathy says,“its unfortunate but what do I do to make myself feel better. Empathy says ,”its unfortunate but how do I become of service to the person and understand their pain .

The divide; Education during covid-19

In Outliers’ ,Malcom Gladwell makes a profound observation about the difference between vacation for rich children and working class children. He argues that when schools reopen, the rich children are ahead academically while poor ones are behind. It all starts with the activities. Poor kids are left on their own, if they want to be on the streets getting up to no good, they do. There is no supervision and encouragement to continue learning because the responsibility of learning is left to the teachers. This is why wealthier kids remain ahead of their underprivileged kids

Then the Chinese flu happened,schools were closed and education literally stopped because of overcrowding and fears of infection. The middle class kids had everything sorted,they got their tablets downloaded zoom and got acclimatized to the new normal. Assessment continued and online exams were done so in essence there was nothing lost. The child of the peasant was the most affected,stayed home home and waited for government to bring radios and are still waiting. The girl child was the most affected,got pregnant and probably tried to secure unsafe abortions. It is now more than ever that government should think about sex education and encourage contraception because we can hide our heads in the sand and pretend all is well but young unsupervised adolescents will likely have carnal knowledge and the parents have to deal with the consequences.

If there is one lesson covid-19 has taught us is to create a class of the ones who are on online education vis a vis those waiting for radios from the government and we expect that all those kids will grow up and find similar opportunities,we are infact brewing a greater kifeesi and they will be robbing the tablet kids in future