I\’m jus\’ sayin\’

September 25, 2008

Of flavors and teas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bwandungi @ 3:06 pm

A while ago, I purchased flavored tea at the local grocery store close to my place of work.
President's Choice herbal tea

It took me back.
Come walk with me.


Like sleepy zombies that had suddenly espied a good breakfast, the girls in my class from the dormitories close to mine rushed to get to laboratories, outside which our early morning dance classes took place. The morning was overcast and slightly cold and the sleeveless short uniforms we’d been assigned were unable to protect our legs from the cold.

I could faintly see the outline of Ms. Cutler and her faithful dog rush  ahead of us so I took off my rubber slippers and ran to catch up with her so when she called my name during the roll call, I’d be there to quip “Present” in my most cheerful morning voice. By the time I got to the location of the class, my feet were completely wet and some of the grass from yesterday’s mowing had attempted to fashion a sock near my toes. My parents, like many others, couldn’t afford sneakers, but the grass was always so soft it really didn’t matter. Most of our sports were played barefoot.

I stood across from my assigned partner as the classical music we were going to dance to began. Sometimes I led, other times she did. All in all we shed our sleep and let our feet find the rhythm of the music while we twirled and danced to foreign music in the  complicated formations that are usually reserved for period movies. Most of us enjoyed this exercise not only because it meant the half hour reserved for housework was cut short, but also because our bodies enjoyed the rhythms of EarlyMo as we called it.

My housework leader sometimes let me off housework on the days I had EarlyMo. I’d still have to report to whatever location I’d been assigned, but I’d either find she’d done it for me or someone else had done it and I could go clean up the grass that had dried on my feet. This morning was no exception and she sent me off to get ready for a day that was packed full of as many activities and classes as could possibly be crammed into a couple of hours.

The dormitory to which I belonged stood on the edge of the school grounds, close to farmland that was tended to by University Agriculture students. We never saw them there, even though we could see the tall stalks of maize waving in the breeze. Somedays we would sit in the grassy area behind the junior wing and dream of the day when we would become university students too. I jogged all the way back so I could get a spot in the bathroom before housework was over and the bathroom rush began.

The bathroom consisted of two large rooms with a rough floor, a series of taps on one side and a drain that carried the water away. On busy mornings we’d line up to get into the bathroom with our basins or buckets in one hand and loofah and soap in the other. Any semblance of shyness had been erased within the first week of  school and we’d all learned to have a grand old time getting clean and splashing water everywhere. Luckily, there was only one other girl on the senior side of the bathroom and I could take my shower without worrying about a waiting crowd.

Just as I wrapped the belt of my uniform around my waist, the breakfast “gong” pealed out signalling the arrival of tea in the dining room. The gong consisted of an old metal angle bar that would be hit with some other metallic object. For breakfast we’d have numerous choices that we could pick up and then carry back to our dorms and depending on the amount of time that had elapsed since your folks had been to see you, it could be a breakfast of champions, supplemented with goodies brought from home or just a cup of lukewarm tea.

Tea was served in large saucepans that were placed on the tables with metal jugs. On one end the senior saucepans stood, on the other end were the junior saucepans and in the kitchen, the A-Level students poured tea out of a dispenser into their cups. Sometimes weak maize porridge or millet porridge or soya porridge was served. Towards the end of breakfast time, evidence of sloppy serving and unstable hands and feet was on the floor of the dining room or on the way to the dorms.

My parents visited my sisters and I every fortnight, bringing with them fresh fruit, toasted loaves of bread and cookies which my mother preferred to make rather than buy. I sat on my bed with my rapidly cooling cup of tea and simultaneously read from part 2 of one of Jeffery Archer’s novels while nibbling on a cold, but fairly delicious slice of bread that had been toasted with margarine. 

The tea always had a musky wood flavor since it was prepared on a wood stove and the fresh milk that was purchased from the agriculture school close by also had a distinctive flavor. It complimented my toast and lifting my eyes briefly from the adventure of Archer’s hero, I smiled contentedly and thought, my life is good.


September 8, 2008

What I’m reading…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bwandungi @ 3:29 pm

My parents were unable to buy a television when we were growing up. For some reason we never really felt deprived. It sucked being excluded from conversations about shows at school, but generally speaking Uganda Television has never made me feel like I missed something.

To entertain ourselves we invented games like Huffu Puffu where we’d chase each other around the compound in some weird game of tag. Or one of the more famous marching chants instigated by our very own composer, Follow Me. Or we’d cook leaves and stones in tin cans.

Our parents encouraged us to read and we had a ferocious appetite for books. The Chronicles of  Narnia were shred to pieces, and we had children’s versions of A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. As a result, we all have pretty wild imaginations and can dream up ANYTHING! We’ve written plays, poems, songs, stories… and the list goes on!

Children’s books will always hold a special place in my heart, and so you can imagine the pleasure I received when I read a book I found in the guest room at my brother’s house. The City of Ember takes you through a plausible journey of post-apocalyptic societies trying to make a way for themselves in the new world. It outlines the struggles that have existed since humans have and the undeniable pull towards strife and war that permeates through us.


I dragged my poor sister-in-law to the library to look for the sequel The People of Sparks and ended up picking up 3 books by Eva Ibbotson.

A movie based on the story comes out this October, so I know where I’m going to be October 10th!

September 2, 2008

Luke 14:27

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bwandungi @ 4:36 pm

My cross lay on the ground. It felt like I had been carrying it forever. I could see the places where my sweaty hands had made marks on the wood. The smoothness of some places on the wood bore witness to the fact that my body had had continuous contact with it over the years. The testimony it bore was not one of periodic and brief encounters.

There was a splinter in my hand. The fact that it was even there frustrated me. I was tired. It was hot. Sweat poured down from my face and neck and made little pools in my bra. Why did this come now? I couldn’t keep a good grip on the wood with this nasty pain in my palm. Why did it have to happen? I can’t continue and I don’t want to stay here. You would think that nineteen years would be sufficient time to grow calluses that would protect me. My skin was still so soft. Was my body always going to be this slow to get with the program?

I plonked myself by the side of the road, tears brimming in my eyes, blurring my vision. All will power gone, I turned my eyes to He who promised He would walk beside me. My tears welled over and mingled with the film of sweat that covered my face. Would He even see them? Would I have to sob aloud first before He saw the pain I was in and my abject sorrow?

Nineteen years.

During this time I had become a woman. I had changed. When I looked at things they just didn’t seem the same. What had happened to the innocence? The joy I had experienced every time we took a turn down the road and the excitement of what was to come, had been lost. The business of carrying this cross invoked a gripping weariness in my soul and I found myself paralyzed and emotionally unable to cope. This journey had turned to drudgery somewhere along the way, much further back than I can remember.

I can’t go on. I cannot do this. Take this cup of suffering away from me. You saw it coming, you didn’t warn me. Now here I am, defeated, tired, hot dirty and thirsty. I put down my cross and you didn’t even bat an eyelid. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Or maybe it is I. You don’t like me like you used to. Or maybe you just don’t care. In any case my mind is made up. I am tired and this is where it ends.

Like a spoiled child, I pouted and folded my hands as my chest heaved in a frustrated anger. I let the sobs come our as wildly as my heart would allow and turned my face away from His.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see him move. He had not said a word. Kneeling in front of me, He took my hurting hand in His own. I could feel His heart asking me to lift my head, but my shame at my failure kept it bowed and I knew that I couldn’t take His love – truth is I didn’t want to. The pain started to ebb out of my hand as He gently caressed the hurting spot and very soon it was gone.

My hand didn’t hurt anymore, but my heart did. And when my sobs subsided He was still there, kneeling in front of me. I took my hand out of His and attempted to wipe the tears from my eyes. Sheepishly I looked up at Him and there I met his gaze.

In a moment all else around melted and was insignificant. I was transfixed by what I saw reflected in His eyes. The deep sorrow and pain, immense overwhelming love, never ending compassion, understanding, strength and fire. Like a fireball, in whose path I stood, all those powerful emotions came rushing toward me and hit me like a bolt of lightening. I was transported to a place far away from the dusty path to ripples of laughter and shouts of joy, moans of anguish and cries of despair. A place where light danced before my eyes and thunder and lightening roared. My eyes were opened and I saw and I knew.

With the hem of His garment, He wiped my face and smiled. I smiled back. Now strengthened, I stood up and walked to my cross. Hoisting it up on my back I set my feet on the Narrow Path again.


Through my eyes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bwandungi @ 3:21 pm

WritingI am a spoken word artist, a blogger, I write short stories and metaphorical narratives and love to do it.

Recently I was asked to recite one of my poems at a function, BUT because the crowd was a mixed crowd, I was asked not to bring any of my feminist, oppressed African woman poetry and find something that was a little more general and translatable by all attendees.

I stayed home to write while my friend went to visit family and after 24 hours  I only had vague sentiments on paper that I had stared at all day. A mediocre piece of shit. Friend was ill the rest of the day and so I had to excuse myself from the event.

A quiet desperation had begun to settle on me because the same passion that causes my fingers to fly across my page was suddenly absent. Should I write about my faith? No, it’ll turn into a rant, describing in detail the botched up way in which  religion dictates that the expression of my faith be an exact replica of someone else.

Surely if I wrote about love that would resonate in the hearts of all people present. I bent down to scribble some thoughts and still, a rant came out. Human beings, prejudicial, judgmental, argumentative and filled with hatred and disgust for one another find complex ways to fuck up love too! So much so, it’s lost all meaning, with fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, elders in the community find ways to molest children saying it’s an expression of this love.

Love was out
Faith was gone
Being African, too controversial
Being a woman, too uncomfortable
Sex? Ha! Try talking sex to a group of people not getting any and watch them lose their minds!

So is there something wrong with me? Is it impossible for me to look at a topic and just write for the pleasure of writing without getting into a rant? Why yes of course, but it’s not going to find itself in my Spoken Word statements. Because when I present, it is for social change, to speak on behalf of those whose voices have been stilled. When I present, it is to uncover injustices ignored by people who live comfortably and quietly but surely turn away when they see these acts committed. When I present my spoken word, it is to deliver the untainted word according to Gloria.

The whole experience for me has been quite enlightening. My passion for writing spoken word, for drawing squiggles on a piece of card-stock, for putting my paintbrush on a canvas, stems from a deep well inside me. This well is fed by my experiences and perception and comes spilling out onto my keyboard or whatever other media I have available to me. I will not be ashamed of it and I will not hide it.

For your pleasure (say it out loud and with feeling!)

Mirror Image

The mirror positioned in front of me
Shows me something no one else can see

I spend some time examining the evidence provided
The gruesome verdict concocted in my mind has decided
While angels try to convince me my opinion’s lopsided
Undivided they try to steer me provided
I follow

But the image staring at me haunts my soul
because I know what’s in there
waiting to come out…

My non-existent neck robbing my babies of a place to snuggle
Plain shoulders unflattering against spaghetti straps I tug on
My hairy double chin always tucked in will not give a hard-on
Nondescript lips desperately longing for that kiss on
My large flat nose destroying a probable Don Juan

My eyes which swim upon my face
Are sometimes too far apart
sometimes too close
My hairless brows require a donation
from my hairy chin

And deep within
the flogging continues

The mirror positioned in front of me
Shows me something no one else can see

Look into my eyes
Lemme show you what hides there

A deep seated fear of the needles nurses hold
The gross looking nature of cellular slime mold
Uncertainty looming before my dreams unfold
My deepest secrets to the entire world being told
A life ruled by tyranny and dictatorship controlled
Unable to see my way because of a forced blindfold
Spirit crushed by torturous evils and sins untold
A cage locking me into an image like a head hold
Death unnoticed by those I’ve loved, history all told…

I should be gripped
Gripped by the kind kind of fear that paralyzes
and sterilizes all my actions

Tell me am I worthy of the love I crave?
A diamond ring embracing my finger engraved
With knee melting sensitive words that I’d save
in my mind reciting them till I went to my grave

The words of my mother come floating to me
Baby girl you’re a beautiful gem, can’t you see?

Let’s stand together in front of the mirror

She kissed my hand and told me
Your name was given by your father’s grandmother
A beautiful name for a woman like no other
But pride she didn’t show but rather
let kindness her enemies smother.

Those legs are your father’s I’m sure you know that
Turn around baby girl and see  muscles not fat
Your skin complexion was mixed in a chocolate vat
And that my darling is nothing to laugh at.

Take a look at your face interesting features lie bare
A bit of myself in here, a little of your father in there
An even mix of our favorite features, quite an affair
There’s nothing on your body to declare

The mirror positioned in front of me
Shows me something no one else can see

The strength of a thousand black women that came before
The ability to rise above iniquity and soar
Long arms to spread wide and send my love forth
Soft lips whispering a language bursting with metaphors
The gentle touch of hands accustomed to providing for
families teaming with with children galore
Understanding that everything in life doesn’t mean war
And that when it counts, when it matters
I’m there for you.

A queen.
Bred to be a wife, mother, lover, friend
A warm place for you to be free to be you.

The mirror positioned infront of me
Shows me something no one else can see

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