For when I am weak, then I am strong

About two weekends ago, I visited one of my aunt’s so I could spend time with her and her children.

She had recently been diagnosed with a back problem and we had lost a relative who was staying with her. I thought tea,(we both love tea) cake and some ‘kaboozi’ would go a long way in brightening her mood.

We did just that. I played with the kids, had some laughs and then moved on to the serious stuff.

She told me it would cost about UGX 40million to take care of the surgery she needed. Coincidentally, three years ago, she accompanied my mum for the same surgery in India.

Knowing how anxious we had all been when we found out mum needed an operation; I was particularly disturbed because her children are much younger. In fact, her last born was still a breast feeding baby when she sacrificed to leave her behind and stay by my mum’s side. Such acts of kindness cannot quite be repaid. I can only pray for her.

This aunt has struggled with migraines and other illnesses just like me all her life so we started to exchange tales.

The one that stood out was one incident in her post teen years when her best friend shared a ‘secret’ with her. Her friends had been gossiping that she must have HIV, otherwise why else was she always sick.

When the best friend told her this, my aunt got so mad and attacked the accusers for pretending to be her friends whilst spreading such malicious rumours. Her best friend stopped talking to her. (although they eventually made up)

I listened to all this quietly, mostly pensive because I was bursting with emotions at the time.

See, I was only in primary school when I started to battle wth migraines. Tests showed I neither had an eye defect nor brain tumour so it meant that I would be sentenced to a life of pain killers when they occurred.

I have always been of a certain weight but there is judgement that comes with it..as I will soon explain.

When I joined boarding school, my size, tribe and general appearance came with the stereotype that I could not ‘handle’ housework or sports among other things.

I know my limits and once I put my mind to something, I can pretty much handle the same amount of pressure as someone three times my size but I wasn’t going to get into this argument so I let it be.

I joined the basketball team for a few weeks. Before I knew it, a rumour had begun that the coach had eyes for me and therefore favoured me during training. In F.1, as a newbie, such a thing can torment you. Needless to say, I did not engage in that sport again.

I went through school with pain killers and doctor’s appointments that were so regular, I acquired a high threshold for pain.

The few times I was punished by caning, the one thing that would run through my mind was “Is this it?” while others were screaming and calling out their ancestors.

By F.6, the mother was convinced I would be more productive and she could keep an eye on me better if I was in a day school. I grudgingly obliged.

Funny enough, I did not get much trouble with the migraines and kept a low profile as much as I could. I wanted to go by unnoticed.

Unfortunately for me, I excelled in a paper which most people had failed at the time. Maybe I should point out that I was the only girl offering Geography then.
Soon after we received our papers I overheard a conversation between my classmates in a language they did not know I understood. One ‘jokingly’ said he would confuse me so that I fall for him and flunk. The other said he wished something would happen to me so that I would fail my finals.

Superstition aside, I was admitted with a bad case of malaria about a fortnight to my final exams. Isn’t life just grand? :0

Between the migraines, duodenitis that was diagnosed a year ago and any other ailments that choose to attack my strong (yes strong 😉 ) structure, I have definitely become tougher.

I over work myself when I have the energy because I know that when I am down, I am unable to run around as I would like. I will still try to do things behind the scenes though it can’t be the same.

A couple of days after I left my aunt’s home, doctors added diabetes to her list of things to worry about. I sat there trying not to question God. I do know though, that she is going to beat this because God tests his strongest soldiers and gives them the wisdom and courage to come out at the top 🙂

angel 1

These experiences have made me a mini-expert on health matters or at least more cautious. If you tell me what is bothering you, chances are I will hound you till you seek medical advice or give bits of my own recommendations .

I have learnt not to take anything for granted and of course I drag my friends in this just so that there are no surprises. You will be shocked to find that a ‘simple’ joint pain is actually a symptom of a condition that may lead to amputation.

It used to bother me, you know. Someone checks on you twice in five months and coincidentally those two times you are indisposed and unable to help them. They make a comment like ‘But you are always sick, or ‘Are you sure it is just malaria?’

Lucky for me, I saw this early enough and now I simply explain that I will be available after a week without explaining why(for such people). For those whom I know genuinely worry, chances are I will still try to sugar coat the situation as much as I can, lest they also fret more than they should but honesty works as well.

I do not feel sorry for myself because I know this is my cross to carry, like everyone else has their own.
In fact, this blog post is meant to encourage anyone who has gone through this or something similar. It should also help those people who do not know how to react when surrounded by suffering. (For more info call toll free 0414…) 😛

So, the next time someone tells you that they are unwell and you urgently need their time and resources, silently count to three and ask how you can help them. Put them before your ’emergency. I cannot count the number of people I have met who sound sharp but have zero emotional intelligence. It seems trivial but can be a real deal breaker.

If you have been to hospital just a handful of times in your adult life, thank the Lord for it and understand that those who have been victims do not enjoy it either. You are blessed.

I know for a fact that I am more compassionate towards patients, whether mine or parents of friends,friends of friends et al, because I have experienced it firsthand.

It is simple really, take a minute to ‘walk a mile’ in your neighbour’s shoes. It might be more enlightening than any other journey you have taken.

xoxo

The lovely empty office :)

So, here I am at our office, yes, our!! It is so surreal, I am not quite comfortable saying it yet but yes, the little baby 40 days over 40 smiles has grown! We are crawling now 🙂

What? How?

Well, I don’t know!! We had a thanksgiving on 28th July at my friend, Diana’s home.  We simply wanted to thank God for having been with us throughout the journey. After a beautiful sermon and lunch that included meat balls. Side note: Harris had prayed for meat balls for minutes on end and thank the Lord I had ordered for them as part of the menu. I think we all gave him ours. I am not sure what the situation was in his tummy that evening but, I will leave it to your imagination.

Yes, after the lunch we had a talk from a social walker. She gave us pointers on how to run a charity and then said we had grown and needed an office. Office? Ha! As in, we don’t even have any employees let alone rent. Well, she said we needed to employ someone to coordinate the activities and they would need an address. Up till then, I had carried out meetings at the ‘Chillies’ restaurant below my office and was happy telling people our offices were on facebook and twitter. Yikes! Growing up!

That night I went home and told mum about it. “Oh, I know someone who is moving out of an office near ours, you might want to speak to him,” she responded casually. Wait, what? She had no questions on how we could afford it,why now etc? Okay.

A few days later, she travelled to Nairobi for treatment. I went on about my job and my life. One day, as we spoke over the phone she asked if I had contacted the tenants. Hmm, procrastination 411. I promised to. I think I did a week later. The gentleman passed on the landlord’s number and I also kept that for a while not sure what the plan was.

Why?

As soon as August began, I made up my mind to quit my job and it actually had nothing to do with the prospect of a 40-40 office. My time had come. Mid-August arrived and I was unemployed. Suddenly I had time on my hands to ‘chillax,’ except not quite.

Instead of balancing work and 40-40, I could do the latter full time but now I had zero resources and no end of month salary to look forward to. How about we eat,sleep, read a few novels and watch lots of movies, shall we? Yes, sounds like a good plan.

As time went on, this office space thing started to seem like a good idea, perhaps I could talk to the landlord and just see the place, for ‘just.’ I consulted members of my team. It was split, some thought the timing was right, others believed we had important things to sort out and I was, well, somewhere in between. I prayed about it, worried, procrastinated and then decided to let HIS will be done.

I met the Landlord after a couple of weeks. In his words “Nga yakuwanye nnyo,” loosely translated to mean the current tenant had  showered me with praises in my absence. Apparently he had been told I was a responsible person doing a lot of great work to change the world, bla bla so he pleaded for us to get the place at the same rate even if the landlord wanted to hike the rent.(Bless his soul) I used all the Luganda vocabulary learnt, inherited and forged to ‘beg’ for this deal. He agreed to keep the rent at the current rate, but with a catch, 6 months rent down payment. Lodamacy!!(Read Lord have mercy)

I told the team what the situation was. The tenants were leaving at the end of September. Now to get these millions by then. Sigh. We needed a miracle.

When?

The team decided that each member would loan 40-40 a certain amount and then we would look for ways to top up. It seemed easy, until the pressure mounted and a few days to D-day, I did not even have half the amount required. When I realised putting pressure on people who had salaries and responsibilities was not going to yield much, I decided to think outside the box. I would just use the money the team contributed to settle the other debts as we sort out our income generating projects for 40-40. The faster, the better.

My dad pledged to contribute to the rent too and much as the Landlord put me on pressure, I did not want to do the same so I waited for him to read my mind. What do you know? On the day of the deadline, he did read my mind. He asked when the rent was due and I might have screamed ‘now!!’ He passed on his donation and along with a major contribution from one friend and a couple of other loans, I was able to carry these millions with me onto a bike and hand them over to the Landlord. Phew! If I was a drinker, some tequila would have been abused that afternoon but well, I think I made up for it with chai(tea) 😉

What next?

The office needed to be painted, an M.O.U was drafted and signed.  Over this weekend, Saturday to be exact, the Landlord called and told me everything was ready. I thanked him but after hanging up I started to panic. What in the world was I thinking? :/

Where will the money to pay back come from? What about the water and electricity bill. Furniture, no? All these things had troubled me before but now it all became even more scary.

As a team, we had decided on the urgent needs and those that we can acquire over time. Do you know what I have from the entire list? A clock. Yes, a clock! I haven’t even bought a battery for it 😀 (Thank you Pesh by the way, it is such a pretty clock:) )

Well, Monday was not a good day and Tuesday was Eid plus I had a houseful of sick people so Wednesday seemed like a good day to ‘move in.’ I woke up determined but then I ran out of data on the modem and had to house-sit at some point in the afternoon so I postponed to Thursday.

At about midnight yesterday, my friend Leah called and said we should have a party for the grand opening. We laughed so hard knowing there was really nothing to ‘show,’ except the newly painted walls perhaps.

P.S: If you want in on this party, you will have to carry your own seats,music, food and drinks. We shall provide the venue 🙂

So today, I got up early, did a few chores and started to decide what to carry to the office. A plastic chair? No, it may attract attention in the parking lot. A mat? My mum works around here, she might be judged for her daughter’s strange antics. How about a nice lesu safely tucked in my handbag? That works! So I carried that 🙂

I would love to share photos of this beautiful, spacious office which has such great ambiance but our office camera, I pad and other such fancy gadgets are yet to be delivered.

Kalango/Announcement: If you believe in us and what we do and have some items that would fill the space we have here plus be of use to us including that table you are tired of but still has four legs, and works fine, give me a call. Okay even if you know nothing about us and have some ‘useful trash,’ one man’s trash is another man’s treasure 😉

That said, all official meetings shall be held at a restaurant of your choice for now but if you are a cool guy/lady, then you will realise that the clean floor can make for very comfortable sitting right here.

Just like that, an ordinary day in October feels like the day I moved out of home,without a bed, couch or money to buy food but at least, there was a toothbrush!

Team 40-40, I think we can whisper ‘started from the bottom now we are here.’ (Whisper because our coffers leave a lot to be desired) but very soon we shall be able to sing out loud.

To say I am proud of you and how far we have come  TOGETHER would probably be an understatement, but I will say it any way.

This year has been difficult but you have stayed close, keeping the fire burning and that’s something I do not take for granted and appreciate each day. You chose to be my friends but I choose you to be my family.

This empty office makes even more sense being empty(for now) because we shall watch it ‘grow.’
Location: Sir Apollo Kaggwa road(Next to Multitech Business School)

Bless you!

Yours,

40/40 Afande/E.D/C.E.O/NRM/UNDP/WFP/GM/M.D/WHO/UPDF etc

smiley

Life has to end, love doesn’t

I have been unable to write for a while now, not for lack of time or words but mostly because many events that have unfolded have turned out to be more than I can take. Everything begins with a step so here I am trying to get my ‘groove’ back.

Last week a couple of friends planned to come over and visit mum on Independence day. I was happy when I heard the idea at first but of course I secretly worried about the financial implications that would affect all those concerned, mostly because I have a fairly good idea how the wallets are looking and uhm…it is not very encouraging. When I told ‘Chief Afande’ the plans, she had 21 questions. I asked her to just be available and leave the rest to me. She reluctantly obliged.

Monday morning had me in high spirits as is usually the case for me when a new week or month begins. I went to have breakfast and Monica told me to call mum ASAP. I did. She was sad. We had lost a family friend (who later turned  out to be a relative) and he had passed away shortly after being rushed to hospital that morning.

This Mzee was  my late grandpa’s close ally and I had met him countless times. In fact he was seen as the last remaining male elder on mum’s side of the family. He had lived with my aunt for several weeks but only felt ill in the wee hours on Sunday night. He was rushed to a clinic close by and later moved to Rubaga hospital because the condition was critical. It was there that he breathed his last. Coincidentally, my grandpa had also been ill at our home for so long but also left this world peacefully in the same hospital.

Independence day found us on the road to pay our last respects to this gentleman. I could go into details about the journey or the conversations before and after but I would like to focus on the eulogies.

flowers

His family was(is) mostly estranged so much so that the burial happened at mum’s village. Perhaps the Lord wanted him to be laid a few metres from his confidant. It could also be argued  that the cost implications and complications that would have been involved for the body to  be taken to Rwanda were immense and therefore this made more sense. Either way, it happened as it did for a reason.

The daughter: She tried to hold it together for a while. She explained that she had got a strong sense to check on her father for about a fortnight but kept ‘believing’ he was okay and being taken care of. She shook the feeling aside. She heard about him from the sister, first to explain that he had been admitted and a few minutes later to announce his departure from this world. That is how her story ends.

“Two weeks. Everything you love, own, and cherish, can be gone, liquidated, and lost forever in two weeks. Give or take a day.”
― J. Lincoln FennPoe

The son: He lives in Rwanda and came for the burial as soon as he heard. I had noticed from the moment I reached the village that he was shaken and needed support. In fact, I doubted that he could speak. The MC even gave him the option not to. Obviously broken, he profusely thanked my aunt and husband who had taken care of the deceased and the family for extending their welcome so his father’s celebration of life would be memorable.

What struck me the most, however, was his next statement. He had planned to take a trip and let his dad know he had found his soul mate and planned to spend the rest of his life with her. Sadly, he did not get to share this News.

My own father was sitting next to me in all this. I wept for a family that lost their superman but mostly, my heart went out to children who had left so much unsaid and were now empty and unable to turn back the clock.

“Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever? If so, then you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.”
― Mitch AlbomFor One More Day

So here I am, a few days later, contemplating life and all its intricacies. More questions than answers, praying for those with us and those that have departed, I guess all I can say is, live when you can. No differences should be so strong as to be left un forgiven, for to hold a grudge is to die slowly.

“Life has to end,’ she said. ‘Love doesn’t.”
― Mitch Albom