The Voter

I open my new notebook and gaze hard through the frosted window thinking what could I possibly write? It’s been a while; my mind is blank and my hand shaky. It is a struggle focusing, maybe am listening to the wrong music as Lorde screams Royals in my ears.
Down below the Madagascar coastline dissolves into the distance giving way to the dirty blue of the Indian Ocean a reflection of the gloomy skies higher above. It is three more hours to Nairobi and staring at me are two cans of Tusker lager and a tray carrying my half eaten food. Disappointing meal today, the beef lacked character a little rosemary could have done the trick with a sprinkling of paprika on the miserable potatoes.

In the distance the sky breaks into bright light riding on a sea of fluffy white clouds as the aircraft escapes the clutches of a dreary sky. It is like the breaking of a new dawn but I know dusk is fast approaching, chasing us from behind like a rabid dog. As we cruise over the Comoros archipelago I can’t help thinking about home, about Uganda. Like a vampire trapped between the safety of the twilight and the lure of abundancy that dawn brings we are undecided. The past haunts us but the promise of the future flatters to deceive.

Darkness slowly envelopes the aircraft from behind and I can’t help but pray that the past doesn’t catch up with us. We are at historical crossroads and our future will be decided largely by a populace that has known nothing other than the despotic monocracy. Today we stand on a precipice and history will judge our generation by the decisions we make on the 18th February.

It’s a week now since my boy made his first two steps. Should I cry, be scared or buy him a present? It feels like the first time all over again but these are monumental steps in his and my life. Soon we shall be walking to the football field together and before I know it he will be walking out of some girl’s life inflicting the first heartbreak of his manly life. I pray when he says his first sensible words he doesn’t call me uncle like his sister! Soon the reins of this country will have to be handed to his generation and the decisions we make next week should forever be a lesson in courage and bravery. The time to standup to the illusion of peace and stability is now. The time to be written in the annals of history is now. Come 18th the sun will stand still in the high skies until the battle is won.

Down on my foldable table it is three down and one to go, outside its pitch black as the aircraft slices through the palpable darkness to a beacon of light and safety far off on the horizon. Soon we shall land and I am now dreaming of the lounge, a hearty meal and Chivas in plenty; there is light at the end of the dark mass.
I raise my head and still I wonder what I should write about…

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Congo – Here I Came

After a frantic rush to the airport on the ultra-wide Kinshasa roads with the maddening drivers, we made it to the airport. Sammy the protocol officer met us in the dusty parking lot and after bellowing a flurry of words the driver asked for my travel documents. Sammy quickly disappeared into the shanty lobby of the airport documents in hand his wanton swagger a sight to behold.

For a company sanctioned 25USD, Sammy was able to check me in, rush me past unfazed security officers and dodging immigration control to the single boarding gate. This ladies and gentlemen is Congo DRC and this is N’djili International Airport; you pay over 200USD for legalization of Letter of Invitation, 60USD for a single entry visa, 50USD to the protocol officer and 50USD international exit tax.

Arriving 45 minutes to departure I had managed to skip the numerous bureaucracies and within 20 minutes I was snuggly seated next to two bubbly Congolese women dressed like they were off to a traditional ceremony in colorful Congolese attire.

 

In complete oblivion of my arrival they rumbled on in a mixture of French and Lingala. Ignored by my bubbly neighbors I wondered what I could do to kill 3 hours as the now traditional Veronica Mars movie filled the tiny Kenya Airways movie screens.

Buoyed by three glassed of wine and the melodies of Taylor Swift and Lorde, I pulled out my notebook and pen ready to write down something, anything.

 

My two neighbors were now awake and engaged in animated conversation after a hearty meal. I thought about Chinua Achebe and his writing as Veronica Mars and the familiar Inspector Derrick storyline dragged on.

Chinua Achebe one of the greatest African writers of this age had a great gift; his writing was so vivid, I always felt like I was part of the story.

I remember reading his most famous accomplishment Things Fall Apart more than ten times.

As the sounds of Konshens screamed at me through my Beats by Dre headphones I was teleported to another place.

 

In the middle of the village square in a sweltering dusty heat the drums rising and falling with the colorfully dressed dancers I saw Amalinze the cat warming up in the distance.

Dust rising over the possessed crowd I looked out for my father Unoka who represented everything I detested in life. As the crowd roared us on I advanced towards Amalinze the cat.

With the guile of a cat he moved away from the shadows to the center of the opening. For a moment the dust seemed to hang in the air for a second longer as our eyes locked. I could feel the palpable anxiety of the crowd urging us on, our torsos twitching with fear of each other.

 

In a rush of madness I could feel Amalinze’s rough hands on my upper arm pulling me down. Opening my eyes that had momentarily been blinded by the dust, I see the embroidery of my bubbly neighbor’s sleeve rubbing on my upper right arm.

I wake to find five miniature wine bottles on my tray, empty. On the PA the captain is telling the crew to prepare for landing. I steady myself and pull away from the sleepy outline of my neighbor putting my seat upright.

 

Wondering what could have come over me, I smile as I remember my hero Chinua Achebe.

Drunken stupor or travel back into time? I might never know but what I know right now is that I want to be like my hero.

The Wrong Clock End

If you are an arsenal supporter, you probably know about the famous clock end at Highbury stadium. Owing to its legendary status in Arsenal’s history, it was moved to the new Emirates stadium and it is a relic of the 1930’s Art Deco revolution.

In our daily lives, we are used to two clock ends; the start and the end of our work days. Most times, these two clock ends are cast in stone with most organizations starting their work day at 8am and closing it off at 5am.

Many a manager will rebuke their employees and go to the extent of warning letters when they consistently fail to make the 8am time in the morning. They will consistently strive to have those directly reporting to them in by 8am because this is an easy KPI that their own managers will be looking at.

Achieving this seemingly low KPI however does come at its own cost. It is often easier to arrive at office after 8am than it is to leave before 5pm. Most employees I know would not mind putting in an extra 30-60 minutes after 5pm in order to reduce the next day’s workload but push them to the morning limit and you will get only what you ask for and nothing more.Not only will you have disgruntled and sleepy staff in the morning, their work rate will also be low. It is easier to have a late night than an early morning.

A good manager should intricately maintain a smart balance between strict enforcement of the early clock end and its laxity. If you are quick to condemn those that fail the early clock end you should at least be equally quick in appreciating and heaping praise on those that work beyond office hours especially outside their own will.

Sincere appreciation and recognition will spur on most people and encourage them to put in even more time. It gives a sense of satisfaction that money cannot give.

In many companies, first line managers (Level 1 or L1) are not really empowered and are only used as the upper echelons’ enforcers, conduits for harsh decisions and they always take the brunt of the employee’s reaction.

Ask the L1 manager to ensure that staff report by 8 in the morning and they will do just that. It is low hanging fruit and they are directly measured against it. They will not think about the repercussions irrespective of how unpopular the directive might be. They will stand and watch as the early birds initiate shutdown at 5pm and will be scared to ask for favors after that time unless they are totalitarian.

Using company policy as a guiding framework, L1 managers should be empowered to manager those under them as they see fit in order to get the most out of them. Contrary to what most people think, a good manager should be a friend and a nice person. People will always be willing to put in an extra two cents for those that are nice and listen to them.

If you are a manager and have always looked at one end of the clock, you have been looking at the wrong clock end. Look at both ends if you have to or else you will learn the law of diminishing returns first hand.

One Day

One Day,
It Will All End
I Will Stare And See Not
Blink I Will Try And Blink I Will Not

One Day,
Tears Will Flow No More
Crying, A Pleasure Foregone
I Will Stare For Eternity
Yet Not Tear

One Day,
I Will Pain No More
Pain, A Feeling To Crave
The Final Pain
So Close Yet So Distant
IMG_0118
One Day,
I Will Love No More
Yet Be Loved
Kiss No More
Yet Be Kissed

One Day,
I Will Be Remembered
Yet Remember Not

One Day,
The Music Will Play
Yet I Dance Not

One Day,
I Will Say I Love You No More
Yet You Will Love Me Forever

One Day,
I Will Not Come Back To You
Yet Be With You Forever

One Day,
I Will Be The Wind
Rustling Through Your Hair
Yet Be Dust

One Day,
I Will Die
We All Die

My Kitchen

Alone in my apartment I seat,
I stare into the dim lit kitchen
I have always wanted a kitchen like that
One day I will chop onions in there and roast me a fine turkey

The dinning is a little on the side
I wanted it to open into the kitchen
the fresh cooking wafting in
swelling the diners’ appetites

Paintings hanging on the wall,
I sure will want some
Black and white I think
to grace the colorful harmony
a beautiful kitchen

A maid I will do without,
I will soil my hands to make her happy
cook her the onion bean stew
just like grandma used to make from her mud kitchen

Cassava for breakfast,
we all loved it
fought for it
I will make that in my kitchen too
I hope she loves it

The kitchen counter breaks into the living room,
I close my eyes and imagine
a basket of fruits,
so fresh and staring at me
straight from the market

Mahogany cabinets hanging over a marble working surface
cutlery hanging from ornamental metal work
And I working the stove,
gas stove I think

I imagine myself,
drinking coffee from the tall kitchen stools
its aroma so pungent
readying me for the journey ahead
Yes,thats what I want,
thats my kitchen

Days Gone

Gone Are The Days,
When Life Seemed Useless
So Desolate And Frustrating

When My Soul Thirsted
Parched By An Insatiable Desire
A Burning Desire

On The Edge Of Insanity I Toiled
Awaiting The Day When It Would End
My Life, A Story Of Sorrow

But You Came Into My Life
A Candle In The Dark
Lighting Up My World
A Glimpse Of Hope
In The Face Of Demise

A Fortress On The Horizon For A Lost Soul
Giving Me Hope Long Forgotten

You Came To Me,
Like A Gazelle In The African Savannah
So Majestic And Graceful

Your Touch
As Gentle As The Morning Rays
Bouncing Off A Rose

Your Love,
So Refreshing,
Like The Nile Delta To The Thirsty Sahara

You Have Engulfed Me In Your Love
A Love So Pungent It Rejuvenates My Youth

Yes,
Gone Are The Days When It Was Like Chasing The Wind
When I Knew Not South From North

You Have Given Me Life
You Have Given Me A Reason To Live
A Reason To Love
A Reason To Live Again

Family and Work

Back in 2011 I lost a colleague and friend and this had me thinking about the work-family balance. Our employers will always push us to produce more than 100% at work ignoring the delicate work work-family balance. They ignore the fact that employees should have a life outside work. In the telecom world, a switch is designed for 75% load and when that gets to 90%, incoming calls are rejected and ongoing calls dropped. If a machine is designed to work like that, who are we to expect anyone to deliver beyond the confines of rational possibilities?

 The toll it takes to deliver consistently above that is often irreparable; there is a point of no return and both employee and employer will pay the price. Employers need to value the investment they have made in their employees because they are the most valuable assets they have.

My late friend always told me that effort is not rewarded, only positive output is. This is fundamentally flawed. Employers need to devise smart ways of recognizing and rewarding effort.

A good manager should be able to recognize and quantify positive effort otherwise failure to do so leads to frustration and poorer results. Rewarding effort will encourage employees to persevere and in the end it will bare fruit; Thomas Edison made 999 attempts before he succeeded in making the light bulb. We need to be patient with our workforce within acceptable limits and recognize and encourage every single effort.

Employers should however emphasize efficiency. We work at a rate that varies with time of day; the longer one works, the slower the rate. Employers should not expect the best employees to be the ones that clock out last. In fact employees that consistently work long hours have a poor work-family balance and are slaves to their work.

 Employees need to gain satisfaction from what they do and employers need to find intuitive ways to measure this. If you work to satisfy your employer and you do not get personal satisfaction then you are a slave.

 Companies will always continue to function irrespective of who dies; no one is bigger than the company. Apple is having a dip right now after Steve Jobs but they are still operating and raking in billions. You might leave a big legacy and even have a monument erected but it is not worth it if you never got satisfaction while you lived; the monument would be in vain.

 My advice to employers is; encourage your workers to give enough time to their families and they will be willing to give you more, otherwise we are encouraging modern slavery.