The Sunday market

Don’t you just love it when a title forms itself? 🙂
I have been planning to check out the Sunday market on Luwum street since its inception many months ago. Sunday is such a tricky day, when it is not a completely lazy, family-filled one, it is occupied by chores, leaving no room for extensive movement.
I finally made it today!
After church, I thought I would take a nice stroll but the sun had other plans, then I decided a quiet taxi ride would be a decent plan B, there was none in sight. But why?! I was avoiding boda bodas. I need a day off from them but alas! I had to settle for one.
Upon arrival, I bumped into my friend, Ruth’s mom. She didn’t even have an idea what was happening as she was simply passing through. Her cheer set the pace for me and I happily checked out the selection of items on sale thereafter.
It is quieter and more ‘peaceful’ than shopping downtown but busier than an average mall. I thonk it also depends what time you go (or time of the month?)
I was looking for work out clothes, bottoms mostly. However, I started to notice that I needed 432 other things as I walked around. Thankfully, I did not have much money so it was easy to control any unnecessary urges.
I did get some pairs of socks and vests but the unbearable heat made it difficult for me to search further for more items on my list. It did not help that I was still a bit tired and hungry too.
I am always amused by the gentlemen who chant, make up songs for their merchandise and generally spice up the shopping experience (or annoy you depending on the mood) This particular one had ladies tops at 2,000 shillings. (Yes, seriously..hurry) He called upon passers-by, shooed men away (unless they were shopping for their wives) and then mentioned he had tops even for women as ‘big and shapeless as cows.’ Eh! At this point I walked by faster.

Photo : Google

Photo : Google

My favourite spot was definitely this particular stall that had handmade bags. The gentleman was quite calm and friendly too. Earlier on in the week, I had seen a laptop bag I liked (African print) although I did not want to purchase it without checking out a few other places. The solution was right before me! Bashir (who actually makes the bags) showed me around and his asking price was Ugx 10,000 lower than the other shop. I asked how much he sold them at his shop and he mentioned they charge an extra 5,000. His rate today was specifically for the market. Not one to miss an opportunity to bargain, I convinced him to lower his price a bit more. Finally, I purchased it at Ugx 15,000 less than shop X. It’s quite pretty and I finally get to return the one I’d borrowed from a friend and become too comfortable with. *Win*
Meanwhile, I got Bashir’s number in case you are interested. I contemplated ordering a custom made bag with specific colours but I feared these shillings would be no more by then. He also makes school bags, clothes, hand bags, shoes and more. I am always happy to support young Ugandan entrepreneurs like Bashir. I’ll definitely send people his way.
Now that I have a good idea what to expect, I am sure I shall come back on another day with full armour, hat, umbrella, shades (depending on the weather that day)
Most traders have clothes (for children and adults), bags, shoes,hats, scarves..If you have time, there is definitely potential to snatch some good buys.
Did I mention the music? Yes, you can sing along as you shop. That was definitely a plus for me, considering I went alone. The guy who speaks over the music, mmh, not so much.
There was no cat calling, pulling and shoving (the things that make me loathe the downtown shopping experience) until I made for the exit. Mr. sir tried to convince me to look at his dresses. I was too tired and my forehead could have easily fried at least one egg at that point. I politely told him I wasn’t interested and continued to walk. He grabbed my hand and held on till my wrists began to hurt.
I must have used every synonym for ‘leave me’ when he finally let go. It was at this point that he said “Okay, before you go, what’s your facebook user name?” Haha,what? I could NOT deal!
I recommend that you support these Ugandans. Yes, even that guy.
The market is open from 8 a.m to 6 pm.

I’m running

Don’t you just love the rain? I do! If I could be paid to wear nice warm jackets and boots, sit outside and sip tea, with an assortment of pastries- reading and/or writing I would be rich!
In real life, I brave the rain on boda bodas, arrive looking like a scruffy kitten and try to make up for it with liveliness. Close?
This morning I was up slightly after 5 a.m and like most days, I silently grumbled. Why can’t I just sleep?! I ‘pretended’ to sleep some more, but quickly quit the charades, as I usually do. It was raining so I focused on that. Before long, I realised it was nearing the jogging hour and this rain wasn’t about to halt. I called my partner to discuss this bump in our plan(s) She decided to exercise at home while I chose to try out a new course.
When I got out, the drops weren’t as fierce as I had expected. The first person I met was a little girl, couldn’t have been over 10. She extended a cheery ‘Good morning’ and right there and then, I knew I was doing this.
*****
I ran my first ‘marathon’ around 2009. The marathon is in quotes because an actual one is 42.195 km long and I took part in the 10km race. Nope, not even half! That year, I listened to the ad once and encouraged my roommates to join me.  We weren’t fit but there was still time. We jogged a bit in the subsequent days but were not serious with the training process. It soon came to an abrupt end.

Everyone I told I was participating made a joke about how I would collapse or asked me what I was smoking. This only made me more determined.
At the end of the race, in which I surprisingly did more running than walking, an aunt of mine started a mission to fatten us. Her office’s tent had plenty of bites and for University students who relied mostly on ‘rolex,’ this was heaven. So, uhm, I didn’t collapse. I don’t know if MTN was doing this for everyone but my aunt later send me a printed copy of a photograph. In it, I was running probably at kilometre 9.5 because my facial expression was one of sincere anguish. Good times.
In the years that followed, I took part in some more, halted for a bit and then ran again with the 4040 team at the Rotary cancer run last year.
This time round, I am looking forward to participating in the Hope ward run. While I have no problem with multinational companies extending a helping hand, I have first-hand experience in the struggle of smaller, non-profit initiatives. The Hope ward run is organised by the charity arm of IMG (International Medical Group), International Medical Foundation. Over the years, the Foundation has performed complex surgeries for children, provided cancer treatment and worked on victims of the LRA war in Northern Uganda who required plastic surgery, among others.
The proceeds from the run are used to support the less fortunate through their health complications. Depending on the situation, patients can receive up to 100% discount on the procedures. Having worked with the disadvantaged and seen many loved ones struggle with not just health issues but also a mostly appalling health system, I am more than happy to support this cause.
10 year old Bernard, is a beneficiary of the initiative. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. Together with the Uganda cancer institute, he started chemotherapy and was discharged on 10th April. He still receives treatment from the Hope ward.

This year’s run is dedicated to children born with birth defects. Through the funds raised, the foundation shall partner with the Paediatric association of Uganda to provide surgery and/or treatment.
Over 1,200 children and adults have benefited from lifesaving treatment through the Hope ward initiative (I just love the HOPE in that!) since 2006.
Through my work, I have seen what Ugx 1,000, 10,000 or 20,000 from several individuals can do – A LOT!
To participate in the run you only need Ugx 20,000. You can also register as a corporate team for Ugx 500,000 or 1,000,000.
I urge you to save the date November 15th and participate in this marathon.

Hope Ward Run Flier 2015
Overtime, I have heard people say, “these days people don’t want to just give, they have to get something out of it.” I do not subscribe to that school of thought. However, you can choose to make this a day out for your family, a group activity for your friends, team building with the colleagues or simply use it as a training/testing ground if you’re a fitness buff.
Whatever your reason, please come by.
I’m running, are you?

runningSaving live

A letter to my teenage self

Last week I got two blasts from the past. I was invited to give a talk to S.3 students at the school where I studied and completed my ‘O’ level. A few days later, a friend sent me a letter I had written to her during my ‘A’ level studies. The former reminded me where I came from, the latter showed me how glad I was to be who I am today.

I thought I should write a letter to the girl that I was, because…well, she didn’t have much of me then.

Dear me, isn’t it such a great time to be young?
Look around you. Do you see how blessed you are? You might not have everything you want but you certainly have everything you need.
Those Visiting days when some of your friends stay in class like it’s just another day, you move about anticipating the arrival of at least one representative from your family. They do not have that. I know you don’t fully comprehend it now but I have noticed that you empathize with those that lack, do not stop.

You have been picked on for the way you look, by tribalists and other judgemental people who think small= helpless. It will probably not stop soon and it isn’t like you are going to going to transform overnight. Embrace it. When you can, politely engage those often ignorant people that offend you. However, when in doubt, always choose silence. It can be a weapon in itself. Like most things, time might not necessarily heal those wound, but it does prepare you better, for the next time.

You will be undermined even when you are older. Try not to be offended. Laugh. Try to laugh each time you’re faced with conundrums from myopic people.
Laughter will take you through some seemingly unbearable situations. As difficult as it may seem, look for any angle of humour in the darkest of moments. Sometimes laughter is all you’ll have.
Oh darling, I have seen how you vex yourself trying to make everyone happy. Stop.
Those who like you will continue even when you’re dressed in rugs and those that do not, well, they’ll find fault in everything you do.
The sad reality is that there’s only about a handful of people who truly care about you. Focus on those. Everything that you do should be with reason, may that reason never be to compromise on your integrity or seek favour.
Your folks are great people, you should be thankful to have them alive, caring for you the way they do. Go out of your way to make them proud but don’t lose sight of what you truly want in the process. When they see you chasing your dream(s), they will respect you. Whether or not they agree is another thing all together. Honour them but allow yourself to be you.

Try to be comfortable with who you are because you are the one person you guaranteed you’ll spend your life with.There’s always going to be someone better than you. I know that when you compare yourself to others, you feel inadequate. That’s okay, it happens sometimes. Do not let that feeling rule you. If you must keep it, use it to build a better version of yourself. Did you hear, I said of ‘yourself’ not anyone else.
Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them. I kid. You’ve met your fair share of spineless boys, I assure you that many more await you in the future. Thankfully, you’ve grown up with kind, respectable and all round amazing male influences in your life. That should tell you that there are others like them out there.
Do.not.settle. You’re probably too young to be hearing this but then again, you’re probably not. Many of the little injustices we that consume us begin as ignored hints of pain swept under the rug. We shall talk more about this when you exit these teenage years.
You think those migraines are the worst form of pain you have felt? I hate to tell you, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet.’ However, I have some good News. Your high threshold for pain will be a huge plus in the coming years. You remember that time when that teacher whose name you’ve conveniently forgotten beat you up so bad you thought you were going to die? Remember how he maliciously caned you and said he wouldn’t stop till you cried, and you inwardly held all your tears with everything you had because you weren’t going to let him ‘win?’ Well, it seems that was good practice for the life ahead. You did not cry then. The more aches life gives you, the tougher your skin becomes. Keep being strong, sometimes it is all you will have. On emotional pain however, do not attempt to control it. Let your fears and tears be. I only ask that you determine what/who can get away with hurting you. They berra be worth it!

You are young and your dreams change every other day. You like to see the best in people,even when you have been disappointed.
That belief is one of your greatest strengths and weaknesses but I will not advise you on that. Your intuition will guide you,mostly. Need I add? Keep listening to that inner voice. It’ll help you through some pretty tough mazes.

Follow that which makes your heart smile, dare to be wrong, to be alone, to be different.

You are not the coolest girl or the brightest, your outfits can be pretty ancient and there’s no real talent to point at when anyone is describing you.
You argue more than you should and do not always listen..

Despite all this, you have managed to forge meaningful friendships and keep a good head on (most of the time)
You don’t spend much time in the school canteen because you’re always saving for  God knows what. I remember that Christmas circa 2003 when you bought gifts for the entire family with about 30,000 you saved throughout the year. Keep the spirit of giving and use any excuse to celebrate, life gets too complicated sometimes. You’ll need the memories.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, that saving culture will help you out when you make some crazy decisions in the future, like say quitting your job with no financial plan, or any plan for that matter.

Above all, trust God. Believe in him, glorify his name.
Do not wait for the world’s approval on anything. It is your life. Live it.

Love more than you should, forgive even when it hurts. Dance. With or without the music, just dance.
No matter how much you achieve, remain humble and constantly remind yourself of where you have come from, who was there, who left and why you do what you do.
God will take care of the rest. I know this, because…I am you.

letter

Sincerely,

You.

The luxury that is food..

A quick internet search led me to a few statistics that left me quite uncomfortable. Sometimes, you see and hear things but cannot quite comprehend their intensity.

The World Food Programme website gave me  a bit of that;

  • Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished.
  • Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.
  • 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.

Can you let that sink in? Honestly, that can take a while, and it would still not really sink in. At least it hasn’t for me.

The world ‘celebrated’ World food day last week and the good people at  Hello Food decided to do something amazing for the less fortunate among us.

They are giving away a kilogram of rice, sugar, beans, maize  and flour to Elohim Development Centre (where 4040 is building a dormitory) for every comment you make on this particular post on their  facebook page <<

As if that is not enough, every time you share the post, the children will get double. So, if you posted sugar, they instantly receive two kilograms of sugar 🙂

I can’t think of a more meaningful way to commemorate this week. Even if you will not leave the comfort of your home/office, all the work will be done ‘for you’ with just one simple click! (or two)

This offer ends on Thursday 22nd October.
I urge you all to spare a few minutes, visit the Hello foods facebook page <<here and get clicking. Uhm, now would be nice 🙂

 

 

hello food

Thank you in advance 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

To belong…

Years ago when I was in High School, I envied the girls who had a group to which they belonged. Most of them went to churches which had activities for teens like camps during the holidays.
When they spoke about them in unison, I felt like I was missing out on a significant part of growing up. Later on, they would confess that they declared a longer period of the camp to their parents so that they would have some extra days to indulge in different kinds of fun. It is such declarations that made me rethink my envy. If I tried those tricks, my nose would definitely elongate akin to Pinocchio’s.
Time went by and I realised that I did not need a group. A few meaningful relationships were more than enough. Instead of being with people who shared one common interest, I could have several and each of them could represent a different world.

belonging
Without noticing it, 4040 became a hub for my teenage desires interconnected with bonds that I had not even anticipated at the time. This enigmatic mix of different characters who may have a common goal but still stand tall as separate individuals with their fears, joys and everything in between.
For the past three years, we have had an ‘overnight’ as the year comes to an end. This night starts with music,games, ordinary (or not) conversations, food and culminates into different variations of prayer and sharing.
They have become more serious over time. You can literally evaluate growth when you are there. At least I find myself doing it sub consciously. Who was here last year and is no longer with us. Why? What does this mean to us? What did we pray for last time and how far have we come since? These and other questions go through my mind even as I laugh heartily at a joke or internally sob when a member describes a traumatic incident from their past year.
Over the weekend, as we sat around, making light of difficult moments and going silent when it mattered, I was reminded of how brittle we all are as human beings. I felt the crumbling of hearts as we stripped our souls, as if oblivious that there was an audience. Once again, I saw how easy it is to meet and talk to people almost every day and still have no idea what goes on in their lives when the curtains fall.
As we gave our testimonies and shared tales, there was this young man who happened to be in the house although he is not part of the team. I shall call him Eric. He sat in a corner with the largest of headsets and a laptop in front of him. From the onset, I could tell that he was neither listening to music nor watching a movie. Despite not making any eye contact with these strangers who were now in his abode, he quietly listened.
Time went by and we wondered when he would go to bed. Time check 4.30 a.m. I was in ‘my zone’ for several reasons. On an ordinary day, I would be struggling with the hunt for some shut eye alone while the whole world is asleep. This time, I had some of my favourite people in one room and we were all wake! Ha! All I could think was *must maximise this* I digress.
We called upon Eric to share his own pain and/or testimony. He declared that he’d been going through an experience similar to one that had been mentioned by one of our very own. Like with everyone else, we offered advice or support where we could. It was now almost 5 a.m and time to pray over everything. Most people were beyond sleepy at this point. Eric declared, he had forgotten how to pray. He had not done so for years.
Sigh.
I cannot say I know much about prayer. I am as bleak as the next guy. But. I feel that the spirit sat with us and in that moment, shone upon Eric. I thought, perhaps this entire night had happened because of him <God’s mysterious ways, you know>
As we huddled for the final prayer, I felt relief wash over me. There was no bright light, rather a whisper that one could easily miss, saying “It will be okay.”

light
So, yes, I found that ‘group’ but it wouldn’t be of any importance if it wasn’t valuable too.
The older we grow, the more difficult and weird it gets for ‘just friends’ to have a ‘sleepover.’ You might find that the only times this happens is in times of anguish, at a hospital, a vigil…
If you can create the environment before any of these, by all means do. Who was it that said people are generally more honest after midnight? *wink*
I honestly find that many people need to be aided in order to admit their ‘dark side.’ I mean if we sometimes find it difficult to share our achievements, imagine how we feel about that pain that resides deep inside? No matter how you do it, it is important that you make it easy for your loved ones to admit their brokenness. Be very deliberate about it.
Age has led me to become more intentional about my relationships. Who deserves my time, who doesn’t? Who needs it but won’t say? I teach myself to procrastinate less when it comes to my loved ones. The truth is, excuses will always be in plenty but meaningful relationships won’t.
As a parting shot, regarding our parents/guardians/elders, my approach is standard, give them all the time they request no matter how inconvenient, and then do it again and again…

Trudge along..

At the beginning of last week I received an invitation for a three day holiday, out of town, all expenses paid. I’d been talking about seeing more of Uganda and visiting new places for a while. In fact, on more than one occasion, I mentioned travel writing as the next dream to pursue.

travel

Imagine my shock when the one opportunity finally arose and the only thing I could reply was “Sorry, I cannot make it but do have a great trip.” I almost wept after that phone call. My reason? 4040 had an event that weekend and I could not imagine myself bird watching while the rest of my team hustled through all the caos that comes with these events. Two of the colleagues I told were unsupportive of my decision. The first one assured me the show would go on perfectly without me, while the other asked if she could go in my place. Heh! I just replied “It’s not you, it’s me” and ran off.

You know how you plan everything that can go wrong and subconsciously pull together a plan B? Well, most of it just went over and above the expectations.

Before the event, there was some bearable bad News like a sponsor casually pulling out despite a one year agreement. There was no time to even seek closure.

So, on the eve of the event I prayed for the sun to be scorching and God did just that. I did not want to confuse him and ask for any more requests when the heat got unbearable. For that reason, I sweated with no complaints.

The biggest mishap was the food situation. You know how a party isn’t a party with no food? Well, we experienced it first hand. We were a little shocked to see the caterers carry only barbeque grills that morning. However, we were assured the other materials would be brought since our menu had been extensive. So much so that we discouraged other service providers from bringing food since these ones assured us they could do ‘everything.’ Big mistake!

Long story short, the attendees started to starve as the grilled meat could not be ready fast enough. A few left and did not return. Some came back all the same * bless their souls.* In the background, we were calling anyone and everyone asking them to bring anything they could prepare in the shortest time possible. Some showed up, albeit late (who could blame them?) Others didn’t and we could not do much. I found some people leaving and they could not find it in them to tell me the truth so they would just say “We are coming back,” even if we both knew the cause of the situation. You are awesome 🙂

Now, there are people who walk in without a basketball and walk out with one of ours shamelessly. I thought it was difficult to understand those ones. Imagine my shock when I found out someone was caught packing chairs, that aren’t his, in a car at a charity event! You think you have seen it all, then this. Unfortunately, we were late. He had probably already taken some to the ‘drop off point’ earlier. The service providers are yet to give us our bill.

It’s funny how amidst all the hustle and bustle of the event, you have to look out for people with itchy fingers too.

The numbers have been bigger before, that’s for sure. Then again, people have also been fewer.You begin to always expect an upward curve although that cannot always be the case. I smiled when people who had last been to one of our events years ago marvelled at the growth. I certainly wasn’t going to rain on their parade.

Even if you make a projection for Ugx 10 million, and make only half , at the end of the day it was only a projection. Accept it. Move on.

The beauty of each experience, however terrible, is the opportunity to pick out a lesson. I meet people who ask “You mean 4040 is still there..?” I am about to come up with a witty remark similar to President Mugabe who wondered out loud where the people of Zimbabwe were going when asked when he was planning to say goodbye to them.

I remember a meeting we had two and a half years ago, “Ahmed.” who was running an NGO at the time warned us that people would move on and we would find ourselves struggling. He had gone through the same thing. At the time, I must say I believed him. Over time it wasn’t about whether it would happen but when. One must keep on moving, nonetheless, no?

As you can imagine, it is difficult to keep reinventing anything, whether as an individual or an organisation. That doesn’t mean it is impossible though.

I vividly remember mum telling me in the past, “You started it, end it whenever you want,” each time she noticed my frustration. That possibility was there but I do not think it is anymore.
While the easiest option would be to run away and nobody really has the moral authority to convince one otherwise, the eternal optimist in me knows things will get better. In fact, things have to be bad before they can be better.
I know I’m not the only one feeling the things that I’m feeling, whether it’s a new business, job, relationship or any other responsibility. There are many days when what you put in will not have visible output. Do it anyway.
Meanwhile, there’s a good chance  that what you’re doing, what we are all doing is doomed to fail. As in, it wasn’t even meant to be in the first place. However, the only way you can find out is to keep at it, trying anything and everything. At the very worst, it will teach you what you do NOT want/need and that’s good enough if you ask me.
At the end of the day, we really have to choose who/what is deserving of our heart, blood, sweat, tears, the whole shebang.

Here I am, doing the absolute best and most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. Nonetheless, I do it and will continue to for as long as I can. I can’t imagine waking up at 40, (or God forbid earlier) wishing I’d done more and knowing I could have. Be small, do little but if it makes you content, I think that is all that should count 🙂

Comparing

I find myself thinking on end about ways to become a better leader, wondering how we can improve the organisation. What can we do differently? What do we keep, what do we throw out..?
I laugh at myself thinking ‘Which kind of person stakes absolutely everything they have and then just sits back waiting for something to materialise?’ While I’m busy critiquing myself, a relative or acquaintance will ask me as if on cue “So, uh huh, what’s the plan?” Or “When will you stop all this and find a real job?”
I’ll want to share my inner most desires, bare my soul open, utter my deepest thoughts and fears.
Instead, I’ll give the first template response I can think of and quickly change topics.  I am always amazed at how we human beings, think we are in better position to figure out everybody else’s right now and even their tomorrow.

You know how single people have the ‘best’ advice for couples and vice versa? It’s quite easy to watch from the side lines and perfectly diagnose then treat a condition, no matter how ignorant.
Even during soccer games, you’ll hear someone say “If only he’d passed the ball sooner..” In more fictitious circumstances, you’ll find yourself ‘telling’ the good guy in the movie “Turn around! They are coming for you” As if he can hear you.

When it comes to real life, we don’t always see the stop sign before our next turn. We have no idea if the business cards we hand out are in a huge dumpster or being saved for a major project. It’s not possible to tell that the guy whose arrogance irked you will become your life partner or that the bossy girl from school will contribute a tenth of her salary to your dream, monthly.

At the end of the day, even taking a bath is a risk. You could slip and break a limb or two but we do it anyway.

Find that which you are willing to put at stake and risk on!

xx