Adult education (3)

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*Third and last installment*
After a difficult first year, I dealt with a dreadful second year.
If there is anything I have learnt over time, it is resilience. You can fake it at first but eventually it becomes who you are; you hang on to hope even when reason tells you not to, you somehow manage to drown out negative energy from external sources (not always I must add) and you get up nonetheless.
You get up and you try again.
I did just that. I persevered, painfully.
I was often my best friend and worst enemy, sometimes in the same breath.
When it came to time to write my thesis, I had an opportunity to pay tribute to the reason I had got the scholarship in the first place.
I chose to write about volunteer motivation and guess what my case study was?
Yup, you guessed it! Forry forry(4040)
Even better, I excelled. Yes, this story ends well.
In a couple of months I graduate with an M.A in Education, Gender and International Development from a University that ranks amoung the top 10 worldwide.
That isn’t as big a deal to me as the mere fact that I completed amidst all the trials.
I will not be able to go to London to show my maalo and wave my ‘degree’ incessantly at strangers..but when that transcript appears in my mail, I intend to give all the glory back to God, celebrate him and find a small way to mark this milestone.

 

“I am sure of this, that HE who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Adult education (2)

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When I received the email that I had made the shortlist, I was in shock! How?!

Then the second round came and I was elated to find that I was one of the 15 East Africans chosen. Euphoria!
We went for a training session in Nairobi, to get to know how to use the system, interact with alumni and get ready to begin.
I was the youngest least qualified person in the room. Some people were doing their second or third Masters,others were speaking of PhDs; They worked in established institutions and here I was trying to explain the mothful that is “40 days over 40 Smiles Foundation.”
In the afternoon, one of the Professors who had flown in for orientation asked, “How many of you got permission from your bosses to pursue further education?” Hands went up.
He turned to me and asked why I hadn’t put up my hand..then added “I forgot, you are the boss!” Everyone laughed. I didn’t. Deep down I felt intimidated and undeserving.
It was the continuous joke from then on. I perfected my poker face.

One of the requirements for the scholarship had been to explain how you would develop your country after the degree and I had given an elaborate plan; my vision for 4040. It was all I had. It had to work.

Little did I know that getting in was the easy part.
We received our first major assignment and boom, another blow. I fell sick and doctors could not figure out how/why despite tests. I hated to be the new student asking for extra time but I had no choice. It was granted and I literally
The next assignment came with it’s challenges. I mistakenly used a phrase without crediting the author-plagiarism! I received a stern warning thereafter. My undergrad hadn’t prepared me even by 20% for this new system.
I continued struggling though. After year 1, I was convinced I would fail.
I said it to myself and anyone who asked.
Whenever results were about to come, my body went through pretty much everything but a stroke.
I knew if I had been paying my tuition I would quit but I kept telling myself this scholarship could have gone to anyone and I was privileged, how could I ruin this? I decided to hang in, albeit painfully.
The work load was crazy. I didn’t really have a break in my own life and there was no one who understood. My classmates were miles away, dealing with their own issues. The few times I tried to reach out didn’t yield much.

I had no clear time table because there was no physical class to go to. That meant, more often than not, everything else came before school.

I jumped in and out of depression. Some weeks I simply stayed in bed all day, cut off the world and then eventually willed myself back up again.
Trying to work in this state was futile which in turn frustrated me and left me feeling like a fraud, a failure completely unworthy.

Trying not to write books under the pretext of posts😞
3rd and last installment comes tomorrow.

Our first 4040 baby

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Dear Penda,
When your mama first told me she was expecting you, I laughed. She always has a joke up her sleeves so I didn’t think she was serious.
The drive home from Bugolobi got a little quiet and I started to wonder if she’d actually meant what she said.

Before long, she started to glow. Pregnancy certainly looked good on her. I am sure by now you have figured out where you got your good looks, and free spirit..and and…
The journey was exciting and it was also a learning experience for me. Being a last born myself, I didn’t really get to watch all these beautiful steps to motherhood.
Your mama was incredibly active, even when we begged her to slow down.
You attended meetings, ‘worked’ at events, paka-chinied, eh, your womb experience must have been an adventure! No wonder you can play for hours on and and it is incredibly difficult to put to bed.

Your mama also loved bread! When they say bun in the oven, they don’t mean her because she had a bakery in there😁
I like to tell the story of how she would carry her loaf of bread to 4040 meetings and some members of the team would tease her. That is before they would punch a slice or 3😒 (Names withheld)
I anticipated your arrival like my life depended on it.

March 22nd
I had been under the weather that week and feared that you’d make an appearance in my absence. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. As fate would have it, your mama was admitted to a hospital next door to home. *You can see why we are neighbours😉*
That was one loooonnngg day.
Your mama paced, paced and paced some more.
Then they took her to the theatre and it was my turn😧
Pace. Sit. Stand. Pace. Repeat. Text a friend. Call mum. Stalk the medical personnel.Pace. Sit. Stand.
Finally, the nurse came out and handed you to me. My heart, oh my heart!
It burst like that ribena berry (I will need to show you video evidence of what I mean)
When your mommy saw you, everything fell in place. You are her life.

You have grown at a scary rate.This morning, I was looking at your baby pictures in awe. I now kind of understand what parents go through watching their children grow too fast.
You’re such a joy to be around,the only therapy that I need.
Your smile, infectious laughter, killer dance moves, ever-growing vocabulary, crazy energy and everything in between.

For many of us, your aunties, the 4040 team, you’re our baby too. When we dot over you, relish it, it’s from the deepest corners of our loving hearts. We promise to be here, for you, for mummy, for always.

It’s an absolute pleasure to watch you grow. As you find yourself, I pray that you continue to know. I hope that your bright light will continue to shine because it allows others to shine too😊

We thank your mama for giving us the opportunity to raise you, to spoil you, to be there every step of the way. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store!

As you watch frozen for the 4,519th time, we celebrate you. Because of you, we have an extra reason to be happy today.
Happy 3rd birthday our Penda, you’re a blessing to us.

 

With so much love,
Your lovestruck God mommy.
Xoxo

Note: Originally posted on 22nd March.

Mother’s day

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Four years ago, on Mother’s day, I sent a friend, Hannah, a mother’s day message.
She replied “Happy Mother’s day too.
I told her she’d made a mistake.
Hannah: No, I haven’t. You have 90 children. I have only 4. You deserve it even more.

 

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Since that day, I have thought a lot about motherhood; paying special attention to children who have not been lucky enough to receive a mother’s love, those who lost it along the way, those raised by a single parent or none; trying to understand adults whose actions reflect absence of role models.

I have also already made conscious decisions about the kind of parent I want to be, and how I hope my partner and I will complement one another; when I have a family of my own.
This entire experience has opened my eyes and taught me things I would probably not have learnt had I been placed anywhere else in the world.
I do not take that for granted.

Croaking, Rhyming n’ebigenderako

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We have come up with the wackiest names and some catchy taglines.
It is mostly spontaneous and often when we over think concepts, they don’t work quite as well as we planned.

Croak and Rhyme was one of the more effortless ones. We wanted people to croak (sing off key) and rhyme (as in poetry)
That Friday night in 2013, at Lion’s bar, Sheraton, an event that was organised for a little more than 100 people spilled 5 times over. The hotel management even asked us if we could do it every weekend because of the killing they made from drinks.


That night, the turn up was mind blowing, and the venue wasn’t that big. We only collected entrance fees and it was our first night event but in a couple of hours we had Ugx 5 million.
I remember the nervous break down I had when I found out a reporter from a popular tabloid was in the area.
One of my biggest fears had always been waking up to find a ridiculous story undermining the efforts of our work with their colourful language.
In the end, the proceeds impressed us so much that we made the decision to raise the balance (from 28 million) to construct our very first dormitory for 210 children.

 

This one is for YOU

I wrote this 4 years ago and recently discovered it when Gloria asked if I ever shared it on my blog.

I decided to post it here. May it remind someone, today that they are never alone.

 

This one is for the girl who can’t sleep at night because her father is coming late yet again with woman number five, six oops she lost count

It is for the single mother who raised her daughter but has only gotten insults and lies in return, tales she can’t recount-

This isn’t for the ‘perfect family’ that goes to Sunday brunch or spends their weekend in Zanzibar

It is for the ones who don’t know where their next meal will come from because daddy is always in the bar, mummy’s pennies hard to come by-

For the girl who lost her youth to chores and fending for her younger siblings when she would really like a day off, okay maybe that’s too much. How about an hour or two just for her?

 

Here is one for the man whose father abandoned him as a child and still wants nothing to do with him many years later –

The daughter who did not get to meet her parents, unsure if they are proud of her wherever they are

The son whose dad and mom left just before he achieved his dreams

 

Today isn’t about the curvy confident girl who walks with an aura of splendour

It is for the one who is uncomfortable with her sexuality

Lesbian, asexual, transexual-

 

That girl who often hears words like fat, plus size, overweight, weight loss, exercise, gym bla bla bla gosh, when does it all end? So, I love juicy chicken, sue me.

But ooh, that isn’t all; the ‘small’ girl isn’t safe either. She is skinny, she is dieting, and she must be anorexic. Do you ever get clothes that actually fit? they ask. You must be spending all your time on fashion magazines, they add. Have they ever heard of genes? I guess not-

 

This one is for that boy who was bullied throughout school and thought the world would be more sympathetic

But all he has got is cruelty and thoughts of suicide. Surely everyone would be happier without him

It is for that girl who lost her self-esteem as a child and is still waiting for it to somehow grow back. Mummy can you hear her? No, wrong selection, it is she that took it away in the first place.

It is for the boy who doesn’t belong

Who stands in the middle of a crowd and feels all alone

It is for the girl who wants to know God

But can’t take the first step

The one who tried to walk the path with Jesus

But had no one to hold her hand through it all

 

This one is for the wrongfully accused that still serve sentences

The individuals whose existence is questioned because of their resemblance- to this tribe, that terrorist group, no matter how unrelated-

It is for the virgin who was shunned by her partner

The repentant thief that was judged by an angry mob

The girl who was abandoned after her last abortion

Even if she did it to please the man she so dearly loved-

The mother who held her baby for the first time and smiled

Blocking thoughts of the father that fled-

The girl whose little angel didn’t make it to her first birthday

The boy who only hears stories of birthday cake

 

It is for the broken hearted man who swears to stay alone forever

Because the love of his life said she would never leave but sort of meant;

I will never leave you, Mark, James, Earl and pretty much every guy that comes my way

It is for all the smiles you put on another’s face

Even as you weep profusely thinking about your life-

 

This one is for the hidden truths

The silent cries

The secret lives

The unspoken pain

The broken families

The poker faces

This one is for you…not the ‘you’ that the world sees but the ‘you’ who battles every day;

The real Y.O.U

 

lonely

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Don’t judge me. Let me judge you.

When is the last time you judged someone by their appearance only to be completely surprised when you found out they were the complete opposite of what you anticipated?

I will give you a minute to think.Mine was quite recent. I was watching an episode of America’s got talent when these four guys came on stage.

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I thought to myself, they will probably do some hip-hop. The tatoos, all black outfits, chains? Not the kind of guys I’d want to start small talk with.

Acapella? Really? Who would have guessed? Not me. Certainly not these judges.>>

shockThat beautiful rendition of ‘Somewhere under the rainbow‘ gave me serious goosebumps. I was severely awestruck!

When asked why they’d come to the show, the response was “This dude right here, he’s a big dreamer. We got together because of his huge dreams.” *refering to the group’s leader Montre Davis*  Don’t we all need that big dreamer in our lives? Sigh.

It reminded me of Susan Boyle, the then 47 year old who auditioned for Britain’s got talent in 2009. The judges and audience were visibly unimpressed by her appearance, when she got on stage..up until she sang her heart out.

susan boyle

She went on to release her first album later that year. “I dreamed a dream” topped charts and became UK’s best selling album. She has released 5 others since. I mean wow! It really is never too late to pursue one’s dreams.

*******

Thinking of these people who were easily judged on the big stage made me reflect on life’s ‘small stage’ scenes. I recently met someone I went to school with many years ago. After a few pleasantries were exchanged he said. “I was surprised to read about the charity work that you do, you don’t look kind.” I was both perpelexed and dumbfounded.I wasn’t sure how to react so I kept quiet. I wanted to ask about the features kind people possessed. I wanted to point out that up till that moment we’d never actually had a conversation. Instead, I wrapped up this awkward roadside encounter. I decided that the silver lining was he’d told me how he felt to my face. I actually agree with Chimamanda when she says “There are people who dislike you because you don’t dislike yourself.” Best believe we shall judge you for being too happy,positive, confident or successful. How? Why?

We have all been on either side of similar situations. You are an introvert so we tag you arrogant, you’re naturally friendly (to both sexes) but you’re labelled slutty. You spend more money than we are accustomed to so of course you are a show-off.  These and many other assumptions are made daily about people we don’t really know and may never even get to know. However, when tables turn and we are judged wrongfully by others, we are agitated. How dare they?! They don’t even know anything about me, my life, my struggles; But that’s exactly the point. We don’t have to know. In fact, we don’t want to know. Why, when it is just easier throwing a label, believing it and quickly moving on…?

“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

A thought just occured to me about the thousands of self-proclaimed experts that have been unearthed by social media. At first I only noticed them when it came to seemingly obvious targets like politics,fashion, food and lifestyle. Alas, that is not the end. Now we tell you how to write, how to sing,how to be a leader, how to draw,how to speak, how to run, generally how to exercise your position,skill or talent. Once we are done with that, we need you to understand how to deal with fame/attention when it comes your way ; not too nice, not too needy,but also kind of available; slightly aloof but also approachable.

As if this isn’t enough though, we have a view on how you should think. Don’t you dare deviate from the norm but also be unconventional. Generally, be yourself, but don’t be yourself. Either way, we shall be here, waiting, judging. You can count on that. Also, one more thing. By all means,don’t judge us, this is a one-way road.

Good luck!

“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”