5. Thankful

Mark Twain said  the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.
This may not be the exact date when I found out why but it is when I began the journey that led me there.
Allow me to introduce the birth-date of the 40-40 story.
I recently took off time from most social commitments and social media platforms so that I could re-evaulate this dream and dedicate it further to the author of all things.
I critically assessed the past and present from my eyes, my mind, my soul.
I dreamt of a wonderful future that is not in my hands and thought of the legacy that I hope we will leave.
Along the way I met a stranger and as we spoke, his eyes widened. They glistened with hope as I unconsciously went on and on about this life that chose me and I in turn, chose.
At the end he said “So, in essence you are planting trees whose full benefit you will not experience in this lifetime.”
I smiled. I swallowed hard. I nodded.
He understood.
I have been a planner ever since I discovered ideas and lists, and here is the irony- the single most life changing decision I ever made came without a plan..at all. Even more transformational for me, was my decision to stay.
Note:Yes, planning is important but sometimes you just need to LEAP.
In many ways bits of the goal  remain changing even after pre-pre-pre-planning; But I think I like that. Most days.
I thought of all  the things I could say on this day which fills me with a truckload of emotions and the resounding message that came to me is/was THANK YOU..and that is what I will do.
Dear you who is reading and has been part of 40-40 in one way or another,
Did I add you to that first group without your consent? Did your timeline fill with campaign after campaign until you wanted to hit the mute/block buttons long before they existed?
Did you wonder what the fuss was about and even doubt the nobility of our intentions?
Did you come for porridge and kabalagala (pancakes) at the monthly breakfasts or was it that mystery dude with the dark humour whom you met at Hoops for Grace? Speaking of Grace, did you ever wonder who Grace was and why we were ‘hooping for her?’
Did you know that each hashtag, name and basically every creative title we came up with was mostly spur of the moment? Simplicity always beat overthinking.
Were you coerced into your first interaction with our programs? Did spending time with the children move you closer or push you further away after listening to stories of what their little hearts have had to endure?
Did you feel warmth in your heart each time we completed a project you contributed to? Did you do a happy dance each time we received recognition? Did anyone ever tell you those wins were because of you and that your input meant everything to us?
What if I told you today that many times I almost gave up but when I thought about how far you helped us come, I stiffened my upper lip and ‘womanned up?’
You may not remember that day when you said “I am proud of you” or “You inspire me.” Perhaps not even the time I thanked you and you responded “Anything for 40-40.” It may have slipped your mind how we were struggling to get work done and you volunteered your time or those moments when we weren’t hitting our targets and you made a generous contribution. Gosh, you even brought your tithe to 4040 and we weren’t sure whether to feel guilty or humbled.
Remember how I didn’t have a plan? Yes. I called you and you stayed. And then I suddenly started throwing the word ‘team’ around and you didn’t object. Just like that. A team was formed. It has changed over the years and also remained the same.
You joined at the start and left along the way.
You joined mid-way, had your doubts but still you remained.
You came to ‘check it out’ and never left
You called your sister, your brother, your friend and asked them to join
Your family became my family
You felt out of place because it seemed like everyone knew everybody else. Nonetheless, you took it like a champ. Now you’re one of us.
You attended meetings when you were broke and walked home after
You volunteered with us when you were between jobs
You took time off work when we had an event
You travelled from a nearby district, country to show support
You send in contributions from several continents away. I forget that you aren’t physically here with us.
You got into trouble when your boss noticed you were spending a lot of time on 4040 work
You spent your weekends and public holidays in office as we strategised
You used your own resources to run the organisation’s errands
You told the 4040 story to anyone and everyone who cared to listen
You wore your 4040 tee till it faded and asked for Heelllpp..and then you quickly replaced it
You trekked Kikubo looking for the most affordable price for children’s items
You called in favours until they were all used up
You prayed with and for us. Most importantly, you showed up when it counted.
There are days when three people behind the scenes made the outsiders think there was a looming earthquake.
The passion
The dedication
The sacrifices.
Unmatched.
For all this and more,
I would like to salute you, to commend you but mostly to celebrate you.
This day if for you and only you.

I can’t mention each of you by name even if I tried.
I may never be able to convey this message in person.

Today I ask that you share this thank you note with someone, who introduced you to 4040; or gave you company when you invited them, to a loyal supporter who reminds you about a campaign or an event, to the wonderful team behind the scenes that is truly a gift that keeps on giving; to anyone and everyone who supports us discreetly, regularly or with the utmost PDA you ever did see.

I would appreciate it if they got the message. You, yes you are loved and I am extremely thankful for you.
I do not feel like my vocabulary (or any for that matter) will ever do justice to that which I want to convey to you.
Nonetheless, accept this note laced with my sincere gratitude,love and admiration.

You are living proof of what a small group of determined people can do for a community, a nation; you are the restoration of faith to humanity,
The truth is, without you, there would be no US, no 40-40. You are the reason that we have 5 years to celebrate and we would love to do it with you.
thank-you
Above all, the glory and honour goes to God, who started this journey, has sustained it and will see it to the very end.
P.s 1: This year’s 40 days (where it all began) start on Wednesday 1 March. To commemorate 5 years, we shall collect stationery, story books and text books for children. Any learning/fun materials that support our literacy dream. This collection will last, you guessed it, 40 days 🙂
P.s 2: We shall host a fundraising and anniversary dinner on Friday May 5, at Victorial Hall, Kampala Serena Hotel. Save the date and save the coins. It will be our utmost pleasure to have you present, celebrating with us.
5-year-sticker
‘Dedike’
We are the world- Michael Jackson
With all the love and appreciation in the world,and then some,
Esther.
Xoxo
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31

Can you sniff 2017? I know I can. Once I begin inhaling the fragrance of Christmas, the year’s end is often the next thought.

Last night I was at a vigil when the mother called in tears. I could barely make out what she was saying but I quickly figured it was news of another death. I went silent.

It feels like this year, I have attended more funerals than celebrations. When it isn’t a beautiful young soul who was just starting out, it is a parent leaving behind innocent little ones or even ‘unfinished business,’ which I feel like we all have. On top of all the salty seas that have constantly had to dissolve, this anguish has greatly affected how I think, how I feel and how I live. Fortunately, some of the outcomes have been positive.

While I have for the past few years been a great advocate for ‘leave whatever job, relationship or other situation which brings you more sadness than joy,’ my conviction has developed by leaps with each sudden farewell. The fleetingness of life increasingly affects my decisions and I find myself imposing these ideals even on poor unsuspecting victims.

A couple of months ago, I found myself ‘lecturing’ Carol about her choices, giving 150% to a job that only milked her, stole her sense of self-worth and lowered her self- esteem. It was only on my way home that I realised I had only met her once and should probably have found a more neutral topic of discussion, climate change? I shrugged it off as ‘motherly instinct’ and consoled myself in the knowledge that I did it in good faith. Last week she sent me a Facebook message explaining that she had suffered a breakdown and her doctor attributed it to her working environment. Carol has since tendered her resignation.

Unfortunately, many young people I interact with have convinced themselves that they should settle for less. On the surface they seem confident, ambitious, happy, and vivacious even. However, they are in bad relationships because “all women/men are the same.” They work crazy hours for little pay and no potential for growth because “it is the same everywhere.” Sadly for the latter, even I have to advise cautiously because I understand that the unemployment burden is very REAL. I also know that we can’t have passion and dreams for breakfast and dinner.

While it is unlikely that you will love people into changing their world view, it is also important that we support our loved ones. We need to take it upon ourselves to reignite their flame when we realise it is burning out, to have the courage to speak out even when we know the truth will sting.

I know there is a thin line between meddling and some of us might prefer to keep silent and ‘keep the peace’ but in my opinion, that is stealing a portion of what we need to give our loved ones.

 

What would you have loved to see/hear when you were younger? Did you (not) have someone holding your hand and showing you direction? Did their presence, or lack thereof affect the person you are today?

What happens when our would-be mentors in the work place are the biggest source of negative energy? What is the expected outcome when our parents tell us we are worthless and/or compare us to siblings/other families without giving us a chance to shine in whichever path we have chosen? Where do we turn when our partners, our friends who were meant to be our biggest cheerleaders become the greatest source of darkness?

Hurt people, hurt people. Can we think about this the next time we inflict pain on others or feel like we too have been wounded?

Many a time we go through life like we are immortal, other times, like we are untouchable. Once in a while, we acknowledge that we might be gone tomorrow but quickly forget and go back to our old ways. I know how guilty I am of this. While we don’t know the day or hour when we shall say goodbye, we do know what makes our hearts smile. We know what it feels like to be broken, betrayed, unloved, alone, forgotten, alienated..ashamed. It is because we know and have felt all this that we should not inflict such pain on others, and yet we still do.

dessert

The year seems like it is already over but in reality we have plenty of time. 31 days.

31 days to

love yourself

pamper yourself

remember yourself

teach yourself

31 days to love others, unashamedly-

31 days to say

I am sorry

I was wrong

I forgive you

I will change <and mean it>

31 days to let go,

Of that which steals your light and shine

31 days to chase

That which brings you joy, even if you don’t catch it <now>

31 days to be that person whom you wish you had in your life.

 

I can’t promise what the outcome will be, but I hope it will help you with a fresh start, or better still, a happier journey that will flow into the new year.

Xx

 

fear

 

 

 

Belly joy

 

“Laughter is brightest in the place where the food is.”

 

Over a week ago while going through the posts on popular Facebook page “Kampala Food Network” I noticed one of the administrators, Kavitha had asked a question, with a prize attached. It was actually a comment within a post so I am not sure how I stumbled upon it. There was a picture of what seemed like sea food and Kavitha offered a four course meal, prepared by her as a prize for whoever got the answer right. By the time I started reading, a one Petero had given the correct answer, “cockles.” I did not even bother to google. I just commented with a crying emoticon, jealous of the feast Petero would get to encounter. See, I stalk Kavitha and her cooking. Everything from meats to desserts, the sight just makes my stomach somersault. While I have been present at functions she has catered, somehow I never get a chance to really indulge in her food because of the work I am often doing. I digress.

I followed the comments thereafter and imagine my shock and utter glee when I read a comment from the winner saying he was nominating Shamillah (another fan who’d commented) and ‘Esther’ as recipients of this meal. Why? Because he is out of the country and could not make it. What? How? Scratch that *insert not-so-coordinated dance moves* How exciting! Kavitha, Shamillah and I took our conversation aside to agree on dates away from the post. Yaay!

So many things happened before D-day and I was afraid I would have to cancel. The month had been a wild mix of heart-rending events and I decided the meal would very well become a priority to add some much needed colour.

Finally, the long awaited day I arrived. I ensured my breakfast was light and my taste buds fully alive. I arrived at Kavitha’s lovely home well before time. After a brief catch up, I let her get back to work in her spacious kitchen which would probably make my mom green with envy. Her boys kept me company as we waited for Shamillah to arrive.  Had I stayed longer, family secrets would have been spilled: P

Our thoughtful host had set our table on the patio because of the heat and boy was it a treat! When Shamillah arrived, we just went straight into it. Below you will see the pictures, and a description of each meal.

appetizer

Amuse bouche : Guacamole in tostone cups topped with spciy diced chicken

 

soup

Soup Butternut squash soup with toasted French bread

main

Main course: Tandoori lamb chops with mint chutney, matchstick fries and sweet lemon, cherry tomatoes, orange salad

nohito

Watermelon nojito featuring Shamillah’s hand

water

The boys kept asking why we have two drinks. Hehe, why not? Orange water

dessert

Chai masala cake with vanilla ice cream and date sauce

 

Needless to say, everything tasted as good as it looks, probably more! I’m hunnnngggrrryyy! *wails*

Between cooking, checking on her boys and dealing with clients, mixed orders et al over the phone, Kavitha was still engaged and pleasant during the course of our meal. She served us, brought more drinks when the glasses were emptying and even had time to throw in some recipes. Superwoman!

The most difficult part of it all was when she asked which of the 4 our favourite was. How can you punish one with making such a choice? The second most difficult point was having to get up after all of that eating. By dessert, Shamillah and I were struggling to find space. Nonetheless, the aromas and presentation could not keep us away!

The four course meal was prepared with love, and you could taste it. Our taste buds were tantalised and left asking for more. As a slow eater, this is definitely my kind of set up. Conversation, bits of different foods brought at different intervals, no rush just basking in the enjoyment of different flavours. I felt like a Princess and feared that going back into the ‘rea’ world would taint this newfound serenity.

As if ALL of this was not enough, Kavitha had a surprise ‘goodbye package’ for us; a box of cookies each, with red ribbon. Was this m actual birthday and no one told me?!! We were overjoyed! When I looked at my dinner later that evening, I was underwhelmed. How to ‘dilute’ all those mouth-watering dishes with my simple cooking? Suddenly tea with cookies and left over cake seemed like the best option and that was how it went down!

This experience, in its entirety was just what the doctor ordered 🙂

I have encountered several business people in Uganda who have forgotten how to be humans first. Somewhere along the way, they lose their soul and succumb to pressures, leaving only profits as their driving force. I am glad to know a few who are exceptions, and Kavitha is one of them.

When I narrated the tale to the mother, she was stunned. She assured me one of these days I will win something huge, if I can even be gifted prizes that weren’t mine to start with. I tend to agree: P

 

Very special thanks to Petero, whom I have never met or spoken to, for nominating Shamillah and I to partake in this feast. Gratitude to Kavitha for being an awesome chef, host and all round wonderful human being and last but not least, my new friend Shamillah who was my partner in oooohhs and aaahhhsss.

P.s: Kavitha, next time you and the hubby need a romantic getaway, I am happy to babysit your lovely boys 😉

Moving On

My first real encounter with young passionate Ugandans chasing a big dream came in form of the Lantern meet of Poets. Man they breathe(d) passion! I vividly remember the day Lillian told me about the group and her subsequent excitement as they planned their first recital. It was a mix of eagerness and fear. Last year she reminded me that I sat with her backstage until it was her turn. Frankly all I remember from that recital was sitting proudly in the audience and resisting the urge to whisper to all my neighbours, ‘that’s my girl.’ I marvelled at her effortless ability to command the stage, her eloquence and confidence. I watched the other poets in awe, some visibly anxious and others whose performances said to us “I was born for this!”

lantern

Lillian and I had tested our rhymes as naughty teenagers in High school. She would pass a note that read “What do you think of the colour red?” and I would reply “Let us start by looking under the bed” or something silly along those lines. Before we knew it, we would have a complete poem, mostly full of stupidity, I might add. This would go on for most of the lesson, particularly the Political Education class which was most relaxed. I caught Mr. Miwa noticing me, noticing him, noticing us a few times but he never did penalise us.  I guess he decided our grades would speak for themselves or he just let ‘children’ be children. I don’t remember us failing though, it was quite an interesting class. One of the few for me, actually. Ask me about Physics though, I’ll come at you with a pendulum clock.

Fast forward to several years later and the Lantern meet partnered with my alma mater. It brought a certain joy to my heart. I thought if they had existed in my time, I would probably have joined in. At that point in my life, words were surely my escape. Perhaps I wouldn’t have gathered the courage to hit the stage but I would have liked to be in the presence of those realities, admiring the string of words and stories woven.

Speaking of words, I have never really found myself worthy to critique writing, any art really. I feel almost as if I would be dictating how the artist should feel, how they need to express their emotions; how they should interpret their thoughts and package them for the audience. I find that a tad unjust. While the audience certainly matters, I feel like sometimes we lose ourselves, our original message, trying so hard to fit into their expectations…but that’s just me.

I can still hear the echoes of “This revolution will not be televised” and how I left that evening thinking “Woah! What a time to be alive!”

Each time I got a chance to watch the Lantern meet at the National theatre, it brought back fond memories of my relationship with the place. As a Primary school pupil in the school choir, making it to the theatre was the equivalent of the Olympics. We participated in competitions that were held in schools all over the country but only the crème de la crème made it to the finals at National theatre. I suppose it would have been even more exhilarating if we had to travel miles to get there but unfortunately, I studied only a few metres away. Nonetheless, it was a thrilling experience for my young excitable mind. We weren’t half bad either. I remember crying inconsolably when I was about 10 years old, after we emerged second, nationwide! Ha! If only I knew then what I know now, I would tell little Esther to celebrate that ‘win’ and savour it. I would assure her that life would present so many more reasons to cry and this was one of the better days. Thankfully, ‘we’ never lost the passion and we did lose that competitive gene. Now, doing our best is good enough and I wish mini- me had known that.

After almost a decade, the Lantern meet of poets has decided to bow out. I have not had the chance to get the scoop on this scoop. I know for a fact that I would have loved to have them around forever but then again I am sure they have their reasons.

I would like to salute you for dreaming, for growing, for reminding us to appreciate the power of poetry, of words of rhythm and rhymes.

You were just but University students armed with a dream and a canvass when you began, look how much beauty you left us!  You created a movement, a force to reckon with and we are indebted to you for that.

 

I started this hoping to write a short piece celebrating the Lantern meet of poets and inviting you all to the last recital but 800 words later here we are. *smh*

If you are in Kampala this Saturday, come and say goodbye to them in style. The show will begin at 7pm. Tickets go for Ugx 20,000 and are already on sale at National Theatre.

lantern-meet

 

Your stories gave us light. Thanks for the memories!

 

 

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

Google image

Definitely. Maybe

I am typing this from the 40-40 office seated on a couch that isn’t even ours. Uhm, no we did not steal it 🙂 These chairs belong to the landlord and although we need the, he set a price that is quite high. Since we can’t afford them yet, we have decided we’ll custom-make our own set of chairs when the shillings trickle in. In the meantime, we are storing the chairs safely. Win-win! Side note: They are really comfy! My legs are stretched out and if my sleep wasn’t for beckoning by reciting petitions, calling an intervention, taking spiritual baths and chanting spells- I’d probably be dosing off by now.

These ‘borrowed’ chairs are a significant change from the mats we used to sit on during meetings. If you arrived early, you could snug yourself a cushion to comfort your behind. If you didn’t, you’d suddenly know the number of bones in areas you did not usually give much thought.

I vividly remember wondering where we’d get the money for 6 months rent before we set up shop. We needed an address. We’d registered the organisation and opened a bank account. Can you imagine before that, our budget depended on how much Banura and I had on our mobile money accounts? We’ve certainly come from far. An office seemed like the biggest step in the world. It was at the time. Thankfully, dad gave me half the amount, and I got soft loans from other friends who were willing to take the ‘risk’. Bless them.

It has been three years since I took a leap of faith, quit my job and staked all I had (and didn’t have) on 40-40; and here we are. My feelings are all over the place. I am happy. I am sad. I am confused. I am emotional.

This period coincides with my date of birth. I am fast approaching the big 30. In a couple of weeks, I will be one step closer. As you can imagine, all this comes with deep retrospect and quite often, regret follows. Thankfully for me, I am too busy musing at how things turned out to even feel remorseful.

See, I have accomplished NONE of the things I thought I would have by now. None. This means professionally, spiritually, relationship-wise and everything in between. Do I sometimes look over the fence, with envy watching my peers’ green grass? Certainly. Do I let that deter me? No. Everyone is entitled some moments of weakness from time to time. No? Now, when Fred purchases yet another piece of land and Joan starts construction of her new house; when Rachel is promoted and Melanie brings her third angel into world, I celebrate them fiercely. We all have different journeys and oh what joy to watch how the stories unfold. My friend Suzan says when I die, the one thing I should leave her in my will is my 7,213 notebooks. I have come to accept that these are, in fact, my only ‘assets’… for now.

I’ll just zero down on two themes from this past year and the two before.

Who are you?

Do you know who you are when you are in different environments? Do you take the time to understand what makes you tick, what annoys, how negative/positive vibes affect you? In my opinion, the best way to figure this out is by being alone for a while and critically thinking about it. *If you haven’t already, please create this time, as a gift to yourself*

This year, I was away from home for 3 months. During that time, I learnt quite a bit about myself. I’ll highlight only one lesson for the post’s sake. The best gift I gave myself was a gift in the art of letting go. Until this period, I’d shunned all opportunities that required me to be away from my people and my work for long periods of time. Even when I applied, I secretly prayed I didn’t get in. Guess what? I didn’t! This time I allowed things to happen naturally. I kept my distance. I was content with receiving updates about 40-40. Many times I was tempted to suggest that things be done a certain way. However, I controlled myself. My way definitely isn’t always the right way. I accepted that even if what I am saying is ‘right,’ sometimes people need to make mistakes themselves so they can learn better. If you can afford to, let them.  I got to watch from the side-lines (something every leader needs) and was very proud of what I saw.

Once you learn exactly who you are and how you flourish(or not) around certain things and people, you are more in control of what you do, whom you let in, what you give your attention/avoid and it can be very liberating.

grow up

What are you doing?

Very close to who you are is what you are doing..or for some, what you should be doing. While I was thinking about this piece, my friend John shared this letter which I agreed with entirely. Do you find yourself wondering what you want to do with your life? Do you feel inadequate or worry that you are ‘running out of time?’ I know many of us do and this fear is often heightened around our birthdays or the end of the year. At least it does for me.

In that letter, Hunter. S Thompson explains that we should pay more attention to who we are and not our goals, because essentially our experiences change us and our perspectives also change. <Look to the man, not the goal> So here we are, counting 4 months to the year’s end and thinking how unaccomplished we are when we should looking at ourselves, our changes, our experiences.

When people tell me they want to leave their jobs or start a non-profit/start-up and thus need my advice; the first thing I do is to assure them that no two stories are the same, might be a bit similar but the variables are diverse. Some people excel as leaders, others are better off following. We need producers as much as we need consumers and the list goes on. That is how we achieve balance.

This brings to mind the story of Irene. Irene believed NGOs are a lucrative ‘business’ and decided starting one would fill a void in her life and also give her a quick buck. When I spoke to her, I explained that her image of Executive Directors driving 4×4’s visiting projects once a month and living the good life wasn’t the full story. Unfortunately, like most people, she had translated 40-40’s media attention to mean great wealth on my part. The first thing she asked when I arrived for our meeting was “Why are you using a boda, don’t you have a driver or something?” I laughed so hard! She was genuinely ‘concerned’ when she found out I don’t earn a 6 figure salary. Dear reader, I know the look of pity all too well and of all the ones I’ve seen, Irene’s is etched in my memory for life. I decided to give her a short class since I have met too many ‘Irenes’ over the past few years. I started unbundling the myth for her bit by bit. In fact, I made a strong case for her to keep her day job. The last thing this country needs is another person deluded by wealth, willing to disguise their greed in a nicely coloured coat. By the way, do not get me wrong, we all need to make a living and indeed good intentions don’t put food on the table; but wouldn’t it be much more meaningful if that which you chose corresponded with who you are?

Once you know who you are and what brings out the best in you, you can easily choose a path that best utilises your personality, skill and true being. I am fortunate enough to have stumbled upon my path, almost accidentally. When I think about it, everything that I am doing espouses who I truly am. My love for people and affinity for children; my attraction to stories and storytelling, planning events and seeing things grow out of nothing. I derive so much pleasure from seeing other people happy and I couldn’t think of a better way to attain it than through what I do.

The truth is that this kind of life can be really challenging, probably even more than the ‘let’s see how this goes’ lifestyle. The satisfaction it brings though, I cannot relate that to any sensation yet.

This month I celebrate another year on the planet, and another year of not having a boss, a regular salary and of course pretending I don’t like shopping 😉 My broad and eclectic experiences have made me who I am and I’m even more ecstatic about the future <also quite scared but the glass is half full>

I started by admitting that I haven’t achieved any of the goals I set for myself way back when, what I didn’t tell you is I am glad I haven’t. I would not trade what I have now for anything.

 “A man who procrastinates in choosing a path will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”

Enjoy September and may the last quarter of the year be kind 🙂

I had a dream

Last year, we brainstormed during a meeting, out of ideas on whom to headline for Croak and Rhyme, 4040’s annual music fundraiser. The year before, we had surprised many, including ourselves and brought the legendary Maddox Sematimba as our main act. We needed to match up to our own expectations. “What about Sauti Sol?”  we thought. They are terrific musicians and would put up a good show, plus they are in the ‘neighbourhood.’ How would we pull that off? Obviously, we could not afford them. Our ingenious plan was to find an airline to give complimentary tickets, an up-scale hotel to sponsor the accommodation and then we would convince the group to perform at no cost. Easy peasy right? Not.

One of the best and worst things about my team and I is that we dream massive dreams. The more difficult it seems to pull off, the more we want it. We did not go far in this dream. We soon found out that Talent Africa was organising a show in Kampala for the afro-pop group. We took a seat.

The tickets to the show did not come cheap and while I was thinking of which organ to donate, Jem sent me a message that read “ How badly do you want to go for the concert?” I replied with few words and multiple emoticons. She made it happen. I anticipated their performance so much that I literally booed performer X off the stage because his set seemed to be endless. I assured Jem as soon as the band showed up, we would not to be sitting anymore. We’d have to take our spots at the front to dance and scream the night away. We did move when they were finally coming (for real) because at these concerts the main act can ‘appear’ 431 times before they actually show up. They gave a great performance as only they can. They have truly mastered the art of stage presence and performing live. My only regret was that they didn’t stay longer.

****

Last week on Monday morning I tweeted about a dream I had had.

sauti tweet

While I was minding my own business, trying to work on my dissertation, I took a break and went online. I found a message from Joseph saying he’d read my tweet and that I should call a number (which he shared) to continue the conversation he had started. I asked him to quit playing games with my heart right away *hands up if Backstreet boys came to mind as you read that. No? Okay. Moving on *

He assured me that it was real since Sauti sol was coming for a show that weekend. What? Which rock was I living under?I did not even now about the concert. When I checked twitter, I found most of the replies to my tweet were referring to the upcoming Club mega fest where the group was scheduled perform. Here is what followed, I loaded an amount of airtime my phone doesn’t usually subscribe to, said a short prayer and made the phone call to the +254 number. I shared the details with their publicity person and when I was done, I sat on my bed thinking ‘Could this really be?’ That is when I did what any normal person who has faith does. I opened my closet and looked at my vast collection of 40-40 t-shirts.(the only clothing item that is upgraded almost regularly) I chose the t-shirt that I would wear if my request was granted.

faith thanks God

Over the next few days, I asked those who understood my anticipation to pray as I tried, albeit, unsuccessfully to think about other things. Lo and behold! I receive a program and guess which team has a slot with Sauti Sol? Breathe, Esther breathe!, I had to remind myself.

It is one thing to enjoy music by a musician or group of musicians, it is totally different when you realise that they are more than that. To blend talent and compassion for humanity would seem obvious and yet it still remains a reserve for a specific kind of individual. Knowing Sauti sol extends their time and resources to children through their Soma soma initiative struck a chord with me while we dreamt of bringing them to Uganda. As with everything else, God had other plans. He needed them to come and be part of our literacy program (recently christened Angaza which means to shine) that resonates with their belief in education and encouragement of young people to pursue their education.

When Bien, Polycarp, Austin and Savaro met the children, it was magic from the start. They were exhausted from their long weekend of activity but that did not stop them from sharing some love and energy.

band laugh with kids

kids peace

polycarp baby

Sauti kids happy

The group encouraged the children to stay in school and value their teachers and education. They emphasised the importance of finishing school, which they, themselves, did alongside their musical career.  Having met at Upper hill High School themselves, it was easier to illustrate real life examples of some of the benefits from their time together. When Polycarp was introduced as having graduated in Actuarial science, the children were asked if they knew what it meant, there were several resounding ‘Yeses’ in the audience. I was laughing too hard to google the meaning, for my neighbour of course.

high 5

Bien speech

 

Would this session have been complete without some music and dance? Nope! The children got to learn the chorus to Sura yako and the cherry on top was the lipala dance. They were overjoyed and kept singing long after the band had left.

hearty laugh

See this pure happiness! So infectious!

As a friend remarked, the adults might have been more excited than the children. I can’t speak for everyone but how often do you have a dream, literally and watch it come true, before your very eyes- soon after? In my life, I can’t say often and for that, I am all kinds of grateful.

Photo credit: Daron

 

Thank you Sauti Sol 🙂

Keep believing.