Making memories

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”

Two months ago, on this day, Linda was all nerves and bags; the former because of the anxiety of living in a new environment, the latter carried all 30 or so kilogrammes of the possessions for the next few months. If feels like just the other day she was waving goodbye to her friends and feeling quite proud of herself for not getting emotional. The more she thought about this lone trip, the more she realised that ‘adulting’ was going to happen whether she liked it or not; the best she could do was embrace the situation and hopefully, even enjoy it.

First forward to two months later and she has actually acquired a rhythm. There is no real routine because each day comes with an almost unique schedule but Linda can now comfortably say she is ‘okay,’ many times, even better than okay.

The routes that she could not take without a chaperone in the first few weeks, are now a walk in the park, she can actually get to the school in several different ways. She knows whom to talk to when in need of a good laugh and whom to avoid when stressed because they will only aggravate the situation. She still smiles and says hello even when the grumpy ‘robots’ ignore her, but she’s often pleasantly surprised when the humans approach her instead, with lit up faces.

Linda has a favourite bookstore that she wishes had a discount on their discount and the other day she discovered a shop aptly named “Peace, love and tea.” Isn’t that all this world needs? Much as she had a class that day, it will probably be one of her go to places for whenever she needs to smile. Their tea varieties and packages got her jaw to drop. Their tea cups and sets are also to die for.
tea 1

ea 2

Linda has learnt to appreciate solitude and discovered things about herself she probably wouldn’t have without this experience. For one of her modules, she had the entire “UN” in her class. During the introductions, the diversity was a tad surreal; Taiwan, China, Japan, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Argentina,U.S.A,Scotland,Namibia, Kenya and of course Uganda. Look at all the options for holiday destinations where she’ll know at least one person! As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon for her to use a train or bus and not even hear one person speaking English, it’s like music listening to the different languages. Indeed, her solo bus rides will be one of the things she misses the most when she leaves.

What started as a daily countdown to get back home has gradually grown into a bittersweet predicament where she finds herself appreciating the experience and relationships she has formed more than she expected.  It is indeed true, that most things simply need time.

Her current mantra is to seize every little moment and savour what will make for great memories throughout her life.

travel

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Home is where the heart is

Do you really know what your brother/sister/uncle/aunt (insert other relatives) does for kyeyo in ‘outside countries?’

Have you ever asked or are you content with simply receiving the fashionable clothes and turning to them each time money is ‘scarce?’ I have always had great admiration for people who leave their home country and start a completely new life with meagre  resources. I am even more awed by their resilience, accepting that despite being away from their loved ones for a long periods of time, they shall be in better position to provide for them. It is a difficult decision to reach given what you have to sacrifice. Lately, I have heard many stories of people in these situations and while I feel like I’d find it difficult to ‘survive,’ I also know that desperate situations call for desperate measures. Sometimes. you just have to learn on the job.

Linda will soon mark two months since she left home. Everything has changed. Everything has remained the same. She has experienced all the ways life can humble one and learnt how to deal with the agony that distance can sometimes turn into. Birthday parties have been ‘attended’ on skype and whatsapp, new jobs and promotions have been celebrated with an array of emoticonsshe has only been able to commiserate over the phone with loved ones who are mourning and in a couple of weeks shall miss a wedding where she was meant to be a maid of honour. She will not be able to hold Juliet’s hand as her momma undergoes surgery next week and there are many more moments that will sail by as she watches on, helpless. An  ‘adulting manual’ would probably have a chapter on this. Any writers ready to embark on this project?

While being away from everything one knows and loves can be difficult, it also presents so many opportunities. Linda decided to create new moments. On Tuesday night, at exactly midnight,her skype showed it was Jacob’s birthday exactly midnight. She made a mental note to talk to the other scholars about doing something to celebrate the day. The next day, while at the library, when she mentioned it to Milly, she found out the day before had been Norah’s birthday too. The more the merrier, she thought. She only had a few hours to plan a small do. The easiest, most practical thing would be to purchase a cake and have them cut it. When she mentioned it to Nadia, she was quite astounded by the response. “There are cakes at the supermarket at 2 pounds, which can be heated in the microwave then shared.” Quick calculation, approximately Ugx 10,000, for a birthday cake? Linda thought out loud before she could catch herself, “I’d definitely not want a microwave cake on my birthday so I shall not buy one.”  Nadia quickly remarked that if she wanted expensive things it was up to her. Linda had already decided she would not ask any of the group members to contribute as it’d prolong the simple process but this moment reaffirmed her resolve. She found a restaurant and luckily they had a chocolate cake that already had the words ‘Happy birthday.’ She had about 4 hours to get everyone together and ensure they kept the little secret. As you can guess, it was dramatic. If it is difficult to get friends together, imagine how much harder it is for near strangers. From people showing up late, to the the ‘guests of honour‘ failing to fall for the lies while everyone hid in a dark room waiting to scream ‘surprise!’ It was a pretty funny experience. Eventually it worked. Jacob and Norah couldn’t have been more clueless! Vanessa carried some drinks and it all made for a nice little treat.

Owing to the fact that there is a difficult, yet important assignment that they all have to hand in soon, there was a shadow over everyone’s head. Sadly, this shadow was spoken about for longer than Linda would have liked. During the toast, Lillian mentioned the assignment more times than celebrating life or happiness which were essentially the ingredients for the little do in the first place. Linda decided it was probably her who was ‘unserious’ enough to put this time out above all else. Nonetheless, everyone was quite pleased as they had not met in one place since their first week in London. Before long, they were asking Linda to organise more meet ups and tours for the whole group. She laughed at herself later that night when she reflected upon the habits she had carried with her all the way to her ‘current home.’

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While Norah and Jacob were elated and couldn’t stop thanking her for the surprise , Linda knew her own joy was up there with theirs.

 

Blueberry cupcake

It is one of those weekends that doesn’t seem like one. It is quiet and the air is heavy. Today’s weather is actually not bad, Linda took a walk without a shawl, gloves or hat and it was okay. Still, something just doesn’t feel right.

It’s been like this since Wednesday evening. After a fascinating lecture led by a charismatic woman, Linda was surprised to get to her residence with a sudden wave of gloom. What had changed?

Do you ever get that feeling like something bad is about to happen and you don’t know what it is but the pressure is so strong? That’s what she felt. She thought it could have been because elections were the next day back in Uganda, but she could not confirm it. Instead, she prayed and went to bed earlier than usual.

She started to regret her decision to get off social media as the days went by, she needed to know what was going on. Linda had gone to church at the beginning of lent after she resolved to get onto social media only once a week. She’d thought she would check on a day with no activity, preferably a weekend to make her intention more ‘valid.’ However, something happened that she just couldn’t explain.  By the time she got home, the new plan was to go all out. As election week began, the urge grew stronger. It did not help that her classmates were making reference to different online activity. Her class even had references on twitter but she chose to stick to her decision, despite the temptation.

Yesterday’s class introduced the concept of posthumanism that was interlinked with human’s co-existence with technology. Some students admitted they could not live without their phones or social media and she could only grin, she still had over a month to go.  Since she had began this phase, her journal got more pages filled and the mind worked in overtime.  After realising one of the things she missed the most was Humans of New York,’ it hit her, albeit late, that besides just facebook, there was a website she could follow! That would be a good distraction from all the worry she was desperately trying to fight.

You know what else helps? Cake! After a few errands this morning, Linda chanced upon a cupcake stall. There were at least 50 flavours to choose from. That should be a good thing, except she simply stood helplessly unable to make up her mind. Finally, she settled for a blueberry cupcake. Unlike most Londoners who have no qualms about walking while eating, anywhere and everywhere, she saved her treat for when she got back to the room.

A cup of caramel flavoured tea was poured and then it was time to devour the cupcake. It is true what they say about good things coming in the smallest packages because Linda’s only trouble with it was that it ‘disappeared’ too fast.

bluebery cup cake

Perhaps, like Linda, you are in some sort of turmoil, mind, body or soul, maybe even, all the above. Find a little something to do just for you or someone else. If it is the only smile that you can afford, that’s better than none at all.

The other side

It is less than 24 hours to this year’s Presidential election in Uganda. At the last one, Linda, her mom and the entire household were up early to make the short trek to the polling station. The queues were long, the air was dry and the mood vibrant. It was like a meet up of old school mates. When the process delayed, everyone grumbled in unison and if someone cracked a joke, it was sent around in ‘Chinese whisper’ fashion until it reached the last person, who laughed last (and best?)

This time round, Linda has accepted her fate, she will have to get News 10th hand and follow updates online. Just a day ago, there were in the middle of a lecture when her Ugandan classmate tapped her and asked “Have you heard there’s tear gas in Kampala?” It would be the subject of their discussion for the rest of the afternoon during their break. It is just so difficult to helplessly look on in any situation, right? Jacob reflected on Kenya’s 2007 election violence which he witnessed and they all agreed to be positive about the process and outcome.

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When you are part of a system, and wish to complain or applaud it, first you must do everything in your power to participate. If it costs you something, even better.Linda will be praying for peace as she watches from the other side.

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

Long distance

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”

For as long as Linda can remember, valentine’s day, as an adult, always meant buying a bouquet of flowers for her momma and every other routine remaining pretty much the same. It seems like when she started having some pocket change and knew how much her mother adored flowers, she found excuses to purchase them despite constant attacks of “Why do you waste your money?” Waste? Please. Waste is when you buy an expensive pair of heels that you only wear once and wince in pain the entire day. Making someone else smile has never been a waste.

When a suitor or two chose to surprise her with a bouquet on D-day ,it was the same story, with an edited cast. Linda took the flowers home and ‘enjoyed’ them with her momma. Everyone was happy. Valentine’s day has always been just that, and nothing else.

For some people, it is just another day; for others ‘just another day’ is code for “I really hope you surprise me” and I guess a few succumb to pressure, real or imagined. Where do you lie?

This year, with the help of a good friend and a reliable internet connection, the tradition did not have to end simply because she is thousands of miles away. Flowers had already been delivered by a hard working elf and all that was left was a catch up session. Linda got up, got dressed and prepared for a skype date with her momma.

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The restaurants have valentine’s day offers and the shops are decked in red with a few sales but other than that, it will, indeed be, just another Sunday in London. Not for her though, she got to see a couple of her favourite girls and share in a great dose of love.

P.s: I am tempted not to tag #UGBlogweek because the only place I can actually write daily is my journal, but hey..even if we end up with 2/7; it will be better than none.

So……
#UgBlogWeek, Day 1.

 

Have a good one.

Out of sight,out of mind-Nope!

Midnight chat with the birthday girl,Anna, check. Assignment check-ish, to be completed during holier hours. A few plans on what the next day would look like and then  Linda hit the sack.

The next morning she decided not to attend one of the optional classes she had signed up for, to concentrate on her other modules. Staying at the residence often provided on and off distractions like imaginary hunger, loud music and conversations from neighbouring rooms but on a quiet day, it was as good as the library (with a bed)

Afternoon came and just after she had settled down for the next session, Linda heard a knock at her door. It was quite loud and she wondered who could be on the other side. Lo and behold, in front of her stood a tall handsome gentleman and he came bearing gifts! She looked down and noticed he was carrying flowers. Surely this was a mistake, who in the world would be sending her flowers at her doorstep in her little haven away from everything. He confirmed that they were indeed hers and the little card checked out with the exact name and address. When she finally got over her initial shock, she eagerly opened up the card. “Thinking of you as we celebrate my birthday :)” was the lone statement that stood proud on the cream coloured card. Whaaatt?! She had to hold back tears as she hastily dialled Anna’s number. Anna’s first question was “Has the boda guy arrived?” A few weeks earlier she’d asked for Linda’s address under the pretext of sending a ‘boda guy’ to visit. They had a conversation that was mainly filled with ooohhs and ahhhs and so many questions. Needless to say, Linda’s day had been made, probably her month too.

Flower station

Flower station

Now, whom to share the good news with. She looked around and the empty room suggested she’d have to hold that thought. She decided whoever would ask “How are you?” would be bombarded with “I am fantastic, I received flowers today.” ‘Too much?,’ she wondered. Jeff would be the first victim . When he returned from class, he inquired why she had not attended. She explained her reasons and then skillfully wove her surprise into the tale.

Jeff: No wonder you didn’t want to ruin your day with class. Valentine’s came early?

Linda: No, it was my friend’s way of keeping me involved in the birthday celebrations across the miles.

Jeff: Huh? Not your birthday, not valentines? Friend’s birthday and they send you flowers for kicks?

Linda: Now you understand I am not being childish when I tell you I miss home? I have amazing people in my life who bring out the best in me.

Jeff: Evidently. Can I be your friend?

Linda: *Laughs* Send an application for vetting.

Luckily for her, Grace also dropped by to visit and she got to share with someone who ‘understands’ as they gushed about how beautiful the flowers were, not to mention the gesture. Win.

This thoughtfulness says a lot about Anna, someone who would go the extra mile to make another feel special on a day when she should be the one receiving all the love and attention. The whole exercise can’t have been easy and yet she did it so effortlessly. Don’t you just feel a sudden surge of warmth in your heart? I know, I do.

Allow me to steal Linda’s moment for a bit as I try to add some ‘notes’ to this beautiful melody. I remember a couple of years ago when I did something for mum’s birthday and she shared her joy excitedly with a relative. The relative wasn’t as enthusiastic as she hoped. Her response was “But Esther can exaggerate her love.” When mum told me, I wasn’t offended at all, I took it as a compliment. Why not exaggerate my love towards she that taught me to love?!
I guess you can see where I am going with this, yes?

Go forth and exaggerate your love! I mean, we have only one life to live, why not spend it loving?

P.s: I hadn’t even thought of this valentine’s day train at all but if anyone asks, I am living my life vicariously through Linda;we must ‘tie’ on good things!

Love away!

Xx

Strange firsts

It is an unusually busy time at school. Everybody has a deadline here, a draft to submit there and of course there is the daunting task of the pending dissertation. Conversations have grown shorter and and everyone is always rushing somewhere. Linda feels the pressure and constantly looks for ways to take a breather once in a while. This morning before heading to school, she chose to visit a colleague on her floor who has been missing in action. Someone might be battling depression in their room while life continues for the others. Luckily, she found Patrick alive and well. He was in the process of making an omelette and in high spirits. They chatted for a while and she said her goodbyes just before it got awkward. “Do I offer her my omelette? Do I make her another? Wait, I am out of eggs…, how does this work?” and other such mind boggling questions.

When Linda realised she was running out of time. She considered using the tube (underground train) which is much faster, or settling for the slower paced, and considerably cheaper, bus option. She settled for the latter and would later be strangely satisfied with this decision. She got onto the bus and immediately went upstairs for it presented a better view of London. Even if she kept seeing the same sites on this route, it was still better than the cold, mostly unfriendly, tube rides. It wasn’t long before a foul smell hit her. She noticed the further she walked, the worse it got so she settled for another seat. One lady whose first language was probably not English exclaimed “smell!” and Linda nodded. She left. Linda waited for the next stop so she could also move downstairs.She thought the bus would stop for a while but it started without warning and then ‘walala!,‘ she ‘flew from the first step to the bottom and hit herself hard on the ‘wall.’ For a second, she didn’t know what had just happened. Breathe.Stay calm. Get up. Thankfully, she only hit her body so the head was ‘safe.’ A gentleman by the steps asked her if she was alright, and went on to talk about how dangerous those stairs were <“Is he really talking to me?”, she kept asking herself>
After all the cold stares, and false smiles she’d grown accustomed to in London, a short conversation with a stranger was definitely something to write home about. When she thought people had ‘forgotten’ about the loud thump, she walked over to a lady who had a free seat next to her “Do you mind?,” Linda asked and the lady moved. “Did you hurt yourself?,” she asked, concerned. Twice in one day? Something strange was certainly going on.

The bus was quiet again until a lady *not Mzungu* who’d only just got in stormed towards the bus driver “There is a terrible smell in this bus and I want to get out, now!,” she yelled. The poor old man got up and walked around the bus. H explained that he had a cold and as a result could not smell anything. She asked for a ‘new’ ticket and said she’d get on another bus immediately. He obliged. Now that they could ‘openly’ talk about it. The sweet old lady in front of Linda remarked, “I can’t smell anything.” Sweet old lady on the right responded “You are lucky.” Linda went on to explain that it was much worse at the top and that is why she had moved. Sweet old lady number 1 was so giddy. “I am having a lovely morning, people are usually so mean and angry, I am just glad we can all get to talk.” Linda’s sentiments exactly. She told her ‘new friends’ how she dropped her grand daughter at school three times a week and always found people to be in too much of a hurry. “They are texting and knocking everyone without even looking up,” she complained. She turned to Linda and masked a whisper “I always tell my Bell to wiggle her legs in the stroller and when they look up I’ll say, Sorry I guess you didn’t see us coming.” This naughty Jajja was too sharp 😀 The two old ladies realised they were both going till the last stop and would have to withstand the smell Linda was almost at her destination. “Is anyone still at the top?, old lady number 2 asked. As if on cue, a gentleman and a lady walked down looking disgusted. “It’s the smell, isn’t it?” she asked. They replied in the affirmative. It is a wonder they had stayed that long. The debate began on if it was urine or the smell of a corpse. *It seems imaginations run wild in places were people rarely talk to each other*

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Linda had actually began to enjoy this random kaboozi, in a random setting with even more random participants. When she got to her stop, she wished them a good day just as sweet old lady number one called out to her “We can see you are running away!”