You win some. You lose some

During the month of World Cup, there was no avoiding it. Whether you were a fan or hater, it followed you in one way or another.

The fans have probably recovered by now while those who couldn’t wait for it to end are thinking “What was the fuss anyway?”

Football has a way of revealing emotions in an admirable manner. The raw energy, excitement and heartbreak can be a sight for sore eyes. For some people, it is either a win or loss but even a curious observer like me knows that it is worth much more. The joy of seeing an underdog excel as the mighty fall (at least for me) or just watching your favourites get better and better can be gratifying.

The finesse, the stolen hearts, the adrenaline rush-all of it makes for proof that this seemingly simple sport holds a lot more than meets the eye. I am a firm believer in lessons from pretty much anything. As dark as it may sound, loss can be good for you. Perhaps it would not have been wise to say this to a player from Brazil after the 7-1 loss to Germany but well, when it is all over- you look back and start to see it. If you are lucky, it teaches you something to prepare you for the future.

That is the most I shall ever attempt to write about soccer so let me dig right into why I actually wrote this. Losses or wins, in my life that hold a lot more than meets the eye.

“Sometimes not getting what you want is a brilliant stroke of luck.”

Before 40-40  ever had office space, awards or beneficiaries, we had a dream. However, we needed space in which to sit together and throw ideas to make this dream come true. Everyone had a job or was looking for one so we set aside one evening weekly to meet and plan, you know make sense of this dream.

The first space was too small. The numbers were a bit scary even for me. To get to the bigger space enough to accommodate these numbers, we needed to pay a certain amount the next time we came. We did not return.

The next week we moved to a more spacious restaurant that had a ‘laissez- faire’ feel to it. No one really complained about our numbers, in fact the waiters and waitresses became friends. We knew them by name and they knew our orders by heart.

It was win-win.

For one year, we met there first every Tuesday and then every switched to Thursdays.(because some of our team members had lectures) We had no qualms until one ‘fine’ Thursday when the manager of the establishment decided to show us his true wrath. It was so sad that it was funny.

He told us we were too loud yet his other clients had come to enjoy silence. He showed us these clients, a table of about 10 girls in their late teens/early twenties. They were anything but quiet but hey, what do I know. He assured us that his rent was in dollars (is 300$ ‘greater than’ 300 million UGX? He didn’t specify how many dollars so I am just asking) Many unkind word followed before he concluded by saying he did not want us to return.

The strangest thing is that on that day of all Thursday we were battling despair as an organisation and the last thing we needed was such antics. I remember even the loudest amongst us being speechless that day.

Fast forward to us ‘restaurant hoping’ in such of a new ‘home.’  We finally got one. On a random Thursday the manager calls me to inform me that he had noticed our consistency and yet there is no increase in sales. Also, do I know that other restaurants charge for this sort of thing? I told him to be straight forward. If he wanted us out, he needed to speak like a man and not beat around the bush. I was distressed but let that go.

A week later he called me aside. “I have noticed that you are a good leader and know how to mobilize people. Do you think you can help us get more clients, especially using social media?”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sometimes you need to act first, think later

Several years ago I was in boarding school, I though those were the most dramatic years of my life until I grew up.

During the rainy season, so many of the girls got asthma attacks. On this particularly cold night, so many students were admitted at the school clinic and I was present because had taken a roommate.

The nurse was overwhelmed so she asked me for help. Before I knew it, I was connecting IV tubes (drips) and searching for veins. It didn’t dawn on me at the time that it was unsafe, let alone illegal. I had been around enough patients to know generally what is expected but didn’t think I would practice this ‘knowledge.

Thankfully none of the patients got a needle stuck or badly connected drip. I was in the right place at the right time with almost the right ‘experience.’  Needless to say, I have since retired from this ‘profession’ but who knows, right?

Standing out

Social media is pretty pretentious. You are one person in real life and transform into the exact opposite when typing out your ‘thoughts.’ We want to impress everyone and end up losing ourselves in the process.

You share photos of ‘bliss’ on instagram to cover up for the actual depression you are going through.

We share so much information about the world outside , fill our heads with all of it but know nothing about the actual lives of people with whom we share houses, cultures, and friends.  For every perk, there are two disadvantages but hey- whether you love it or hate it, it still exists.

That is when I bring you the exception to the rule-

There are several causes that have actually benefited from social media and businesses that are flourishing by maximising the reach, access and low cost of using this platform.

I happen to have evidence 🙂 While I loathe the pretence, cyber bullying, hypocrisy (etc) that is magnified by this particular type of media- I can admit that without it 40-40 would not be where it is today.

I have actually tweeted different people about 40 days over 40 smiles. Some scrolled through and many do not even run those accounts. I am sure others did read them though CC John Legend, Michael Kiwanuka, Ellen, Bill Gates and even our very own President Museveni.

They are simply waiting for the right time to join us J Jokes aside, even with those tweets that we simply cast like a net, hoping for a big fish to put its head out, so many everyday heroes have joined us and believed with us. On July 4th, we got a call from the office of the Prime Minister thanks to #CroakAndRhyme. He read our tweets and was moved to contribute to our cause. As you can see, we are just getting started. (Waves at Hon. Amama Mbabazi) *wait till we are on first name basis-heh!*

Speaking of #CroakAndRhyme, this is actually a good example of winning and losing. Of course as an optimist, the glass will always be half full.

See, the event we had before this, which was #5AsideUG  pulled about 1200 people. We needed to at least be close to this number. We had the world cup  ‘against’ us and an obscene amount of terror threats going around.

There was only one thing we could do, have faith and give it our absolute best, and that we did.

Did you guys see Maddox Sematimba? I mean, everyone thought it was just a stunt but we surely did have him on stage- LIVE (this is repetition but it is for emphasis) He nailed it and wowed us all.

maddox

 

All the amazing artists who spent that evening giving their best on stage and left us in awe. We didn’t pay them a single shilling. What an honour!

 

The jump c&r

After two years of 40-40, this was the best teamwork I had ever witnessed. That was a real plus!

Now we did not make the amount of money we thought we would and it was a bit difficult to explain to the beneficiaries…but…but..BUT..There was a lot to be thankful for. Some things you needed to be there to understand  (I am not saying we pulled off what some promoters can’t but…wait, I think that is what I am saying. Bye)

Getting out of your comfort zone

I went to journalism school to be able to do one thing- tell the stories no one was telling so that the readers/listeners could get inspired or at least angry/happy enough to effect change.  I knew that a by-line would be suffice and I would ensure any photographs or other information would be ‘kept’ in the background.  I did not get to practice this besides a bit of free lance work, life had other plans.

I am happier behind the scenes which is something few people believe because extroverts often relish attention. I do not.

Last week, I happened to have a profile in the New Vision.

My mom asked ‘Did you hate having your photos and information shared because you were waiting for  it on a large scale like this?” We both laughed.

The spread was quite generous, bigger than I expected. People even asked if I paid for it. Whhhyyyy? *shakes head*

I tried to be discreet with personal details, so much that the reporter even inserted his own ‘spices.’

I know that these interviews shall continue. People need to put a face to certain things, even if I have a large team and I am constantly trying to push their faces out there too 😉 Whether I like it or not, it has to be done.

It is a price that needs to be paid (as minimally as possible when I can help it) but it does have its advantages. Perhaps the next time we walk into a corporate company, they will recognise the name or a face and need little to no persuasion 🙂

I have met a few ‘strangers’ since then who were responsive. Last Friday a gentleman met us just before we went for a meeting and said he had planned to seek us out anyway. It was fate that he had bumped into us.

He mentioned three areas that 40-40 is passionate about and said he would be happy to help.

The truth is, whether he does or not, I have learnt to find joy in right now and put hope in the future.

Some promises might never materialize but at that point when you hear them, it might be all you need to keep on.

 

 

 

“Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything.”

Advertisements

Against all odds

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” 

 

A confident 30 something corporate lady walked into the board room at an investment firm. She was one of four short listed candidates for a top job.

She was asked several questions among which was the popular, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” She didn’t hesitate. She explained that she could not see that far and would rather discuss the ‘now’ because it is more realistic. She went ahead to add that her past five years had been filled with impulsive decisions that made her who she was today and she would rather not play the game as it should be but rather re-invent the wheel. Her job experience was impressive and her eloquence matched it. The panelists exchanged looks and promised to call her back as they parted ways.

She was the last interviewee and upon her departure, two out of the three panelists scoffed and sneered. In short, she was not traditional enough. Only one defended her ‘out of the box’ thinking.

Yesterday as I was filling an application I got into a similar mental dilemma. I was asked for my 5 year career plan and I quickly filled all the dreams I have for 40-40. I re-read the question and realised it was personal. That meant my replies needed to begin with ‘I’ instead.  As if that wasn’t enough, the next question was “What is your long term career plan?” I am sorry, 5 years was not enough? I closed the page and moved on to other things hoping I would later be inspired.

It is about 8 months since I got out of gainful employment and it seems there is no limit to what can possibly be learnt about people and life in general. I have had to ‘cram’ responses to questions like ‘What next?’ because to them what I am doing is temporary and I should soon snap out of it.

On Saturday a close relative said to me, “ Why don’t you go back to school and do something with your life, you are not Mother Theresa, you know? ” Hehe,  the comeback for that one took a little longer than usual. However, yesterday poor Mother T (rest her soul) ‘came back’ for me. A concerned well wisher asked me what I wanted to do to grow career wise. We discussed options before he remarked, “I understand if your purpose in life is to be Mother Theresa and inspire people. I shall not hold it against you.”

He must have wondered why I burst out laughing after. It was just a weird coincidence that she had come up one more time. Is it strange that I am discomforted by this ‘association’? I haven’t even sacrificed 0.000000001% of what she did for the poorest of the poor. This is not even up for discussion (shakes head), let’s move along.

Why do we have to label everything? Why can’t someone just be who they are?

You are single or married, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, a believer of God or an atheist. When are you just you, a human being?

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 

Joy, is 36, unmarried and more independent than anyone I know. She has had a series of bad relationships, the most recent being the most peculiar seeing as guy X ran away with several household items because he was apparently broke. She has more money than she can spend so this not so wise gentleman might as well have swallowed his ego and asked. No? Theft works better? Yes? Okay.

Before that she went from one guy to another simply to ‘fit in’ wit the married lot but she has decided to take a well deserved break.

She has reached the peak of her career, takes annual vacations and has pretty much anything money can buy. Is it her fault that she isn’t ‘settled’ yet? What is settling any way?

Society does not want to know her past. This person called society is more concerned about the ring-less finger and her poor ovaries. How shall she manage? Bambi..

Eve, on the other hand, played by the book. We graduated from University at about the same time. Months later she got married to her High School sweetheart and has two adorable children. This is how it should be done, right? She is settled and ‘knows what she wants,’ yes? So how come her and Mark only appear at church and parties together but don’t share a room in their own house? Why does she want to get a divorce but is afraid she will not get custody of her children? Is it her fault? Did she not do what she was ‘supposed’ to do?

Joy and Evelyn represent a world of women and men stuck in situations that are not new or surreal. It is just life being life and male, female, millionaire or pauper, we all have a story and it is even more beautiful if it is uniquely yours!

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

You, dear reader, know countless stories of people that are living a life that is not theirs, heck you might be too. The decisions you make are entirely yours to deal with. God knows all the mistakes I am constantly making are copyrighted. I shall not let anyone take the blame let alone consciously blame them!

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

The business executive who might not get the job because her responses weren’t conventional enough sleeps a lot better than the rest of us who walk with our heads up high because we are conforming to society’s idea of who we are or must be.

I can’t emphasise enough the value of being true to oneself.

If you find people struggling to label you, to explain where you belong or even ‘force’ you to belong somewhere because it will make them feel better, make them understand you or worse still make you just like them, that will be a good time to slowly walk away.

The road to the top is lonely and also narrow, you decide what or who gets to take it with you.

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” 

be you

And then there was 5 Aside UG…

If you have organised an event before then you know that while everyone is chatting and having a good time, chances are you are battling a few ‘demons’ behind the scenes. The bride isn’t talking to the maid of honour; truck carrying the drinks gets involved in an accident minutes before the function begins, the guy with the public address system is a no-show and all his numbers are off. Does any of this sound familiar? If it doesn’t, you are one lucky lad!

You can plan an event for months and even fix provisions for the worst case scenario, only to be shocked by scenarios worse than the ones you envisioned. The universe has jokes I tell you.

On March 8th , 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation organised an event dubbed “5 Aside UG,” we had planned it for quite some time and were pretty anxious to see the outcome. Meetings, whatsapp threads, late night discussions, stalking service providers- we did all that.

We began approaching ‘potential teams’ six weeks before the event from within our networks. The response was overwhelming. Our target was 32 teams but even before we launched the campaign, about 35 had committed to getting players. When things seem too good to be true, they usually are.

A few weeks later when we contacted the team captains, the number dropped by more than half, some even denied ever hearing about this tournament or even 40-40 for that matter. It was hilarious. Not.

We went back to the drawing board and decided to accept our fate. We were going to close registration with or without the teams we had earlier planned for. In the background, we tried to make registration as convenient as possible but the day before the deadline, we had 15 teams. We agreed to close at 16 and make fixtures based on that number.

Closing day :The ladies in charge of registration had been called all sorts of names and had their patience tested for the past weeks. We didn’t think it could get any worse. However out of nowhere-literally, we had an avalanche of teams. In fact, the number exceeded 32 and we had to call people to ask them to withdraw.

I will give you a few examples of the drama that surrounded this.

-‘John,’ whom I actually know had no idea I was the one who picked up the phone because my colleague whom he had called was driving. The conversation went something like this. “You have to register my team. I got held up and delayed but money is not my problem. If you don’t register I will call *insert name of 40-40 member whom he was sure had a ‘higher rank.’ (The organisational structure of the foundation is unlike that of most bodies and thus you will not find titles like C.E.O, C.F.O, U.P.D.F etc) In fact, I was more agitated that he thought he could talk down to someone he had never even met!

-This next guy we shall call Bosco. He didn’t speak to me but here is an excerpt of the conversation. “You need to register my team; do you know how many influential people and potential sponsors I can bring to your event?” (Please! All the guests we had already invited are ‘influential,’ enough if they are supporting a cause that is bigger than them) I will save you from other such tales and move on to us eventually settling for 40 teams. Did I mention the teams that came back to claim their money because they thought ‘5 aside soccer’ was actually basketball? Hihi. Bambi we returned it in good faith 🙂

The day finally came and if you were at Bush Court, I need not go into details. As if the 40 team shocker wasn’t enough, people came from all over to attend this event. From the parking lot alone, you would think it was ‘Enkuka y’omwaka’ (I have no English translation for this)

Yes, we had a few hitches and the team at 40-40 apologises for those. If it is any consolation, we were attacked by the more vocal ‘victims.’

As I made my rounds, this lady walked up to me and asked if I was Esther. As soon as I gave a positive response, I realised that a lie might have made more sense. She had a stick that wasn’t so much for beating as it was for gouging my not-so-small eyes. She explained how her team had not been called, deserved to win, the team which ‘cheated,’ etc- all the while moving the stick an inch from my eyes. I remember constantly repeating ‘I will see what I can do’ while taking short backward steps. Competition is real. The dramatic encounters were not few but I will share just one more.

I met another gentleman who told me he had only played three games and thus needed ‘compensation’ before he left. I was trying to comprehend this. Was each game worth 2,000 shillings so that he gets 4,000/= in change? Just before I could respond, a tipsy girl tapped me.

Her: Happy Women’s day

Me: Thanks, Happy Women’s day to you too

Her: Do you know that you are a woman of substance? (sips Guiness)

Me: *crimson face*

Her: You got me to get into a taxi all the way from Kansanga to come and contribute the little I have to change a child’s life. (sips beer) I don’t even go to church and yet here I am supporting charity. Thank you.

She walked away and when I turned around, Mr. compensation was gone too. Overall, it was a very humbling day. I am actually not over it, a whole week later.

We learnt several lessons and are very grateful to everyone who took the time to participate and was patient with us throughout.

.I wish my team could get a month off or more, for all the hard work and sleepless nights. You guys rock!

Unfortunately now that we have raised the money, the work has to begin. Just to reiterate, we managed to raise 11,376,700 on that day, after an initial investment of 4,712,600. That means we have 6,664,100 surplus that we shall inject into our programs starting next month. Literacy and numeracy as well as food and nutrition shall be our focus as we continue to better the lives of those less fortunate than we are.

How do you like our custom made boots and medals? I just love my team’s creativity and how they are constantly re-inventing things that would otherwise seem so ordinary!

boot 1

boot 2

medals

Congratulations Team Wesonga (Winner) and Team Benezeri (Runner up). The finals took place using ‘DIY flood lights’ and it worked!

This was our biggest event yet, with over 1,000 people present and we don’t take it for granted. Keep spreading the word and being the change! The numbers are great but having you as part of our movement and programs is even better.

To our partners, friends and well wishers, the team at 40 days over 40 smiles says thank you! It is because of you that we have made 2 years and can’t wait for the decades to come.

Stranger at home

Yesterday I was reading the Sunday Papers( Yeah, I am one of those people) when I turned to read http://apenyo.com/finding-tracy-tears-and-wine/ , a beautiful piece by Mildred Apenyo  that opened my mind to so many thoughts and memories. 
Growing up, it did not occur to me that I was ‘different’ in any way.
At home we spoke English, Swahili, Kinyarwanda and Luganda. None of it seemed out of the ordinary really. Some of these languages were best articulated when you did something wrong, others were for normal conversation.
 
I started school when the time for it came  and made friends. Everywhere I went I made friends and went about my business like an ordinary child, without putting much thought to where they came from.
 
When teachers made fun of the name ‘Kalenzi,’I simply smiled but later got irritated. How is it that everyone who heard my name for the first time had to say ‘Kalenzi-Ka-boy’ or ‘Kalenzi, why not Kawala?’ Were they that un-creative? I needed a new joke so I could laugh as hard as they did, but it never did come.
 
Before I even turned ten,a kid around my age walked up to me and said “You must be from Rwanda. Mum says your dead bodies are all over Lake Victoria and we can’t eat fish anymore.”
Never mind that the Rwandan genocide had ended three or so years before this conversation. I stared at him. Dumbfounded.
This was the beginning.
 
I don’t remember ever asking my parents about it, but it was the first time I started to feel like I did not belong. I didn’t know much about my ancestry but all my relatives were in Uganda. I am one of those lucky ones that did not lose any close relations in the genocide. I had something to think about.
 After a while, our body features became more pronounced as adolescents and I started to realise that my body was often given as an example.
Needless to say, there were females endowed far more than I ever would be, but I was an easier target I guess. The hips were for people from ‘that side.’ As a teen, these are not issues you want to deal with. As if the new ‘baggage’ isn’t enough, now you have teachers bringing it up too? 
Somehow, I survived this phase.
 
Before long I was in Secondary School and something incredible happened. Suddenly it was cool to have ‘Nyaru’ blood. Girls started tracing their family trees to Rwanda as far as their grand mother’s mum. They would tell me how they are sure we are ‘related.’ The only thought that crossed my mind was, “Why now?”
 After knowing only Uganda as my home, it became increasingly difficult to explain why my village was in Masaka or how come I spoke better Swahili than Kinyarwanda or French.
Like all fads, this ‘being a Munyarwanda is cool’ phase came to and end. The ‘loud whispers’ soon began like they never left.
I soon moved to an institution where teachers, matrons and even the Headteacher based their attitude towards me on my origin. I did not tell anyone. I was not about to worry my family or seek pity from friends whom I wasn’t sure shared these sentiments. I pretended it was ‘okay’ and went on about my business despite the prejudice that surrounded me almost everyday.
 
girlie
 
I was more exposed after High School. When I walked alongside other people, the taxi touts hurled insults at only me. It was ‘normal.’ Whether or not I wore the most decent of clothes to cover up my body shape, a remark would be made in my direction. I later discovered my facial features had also been classified. What was I going to do, wear a mask?
 
The moment I hit down town Kampala and other crowded areas, I ceased to be Esther. I was the intruder.
 
I remember one afternoon a few years ago when I got into a taxi in the New park,I took a seat by the window and waited for it to fill as always. Hardly had the journey started when one of the passengers began “Naye abanyarwanda bano batwagaza ki?” ( Loosely translated- What do these Banyarwanda want from us?) I didn’t pay much attention till at least 9 of the passengers joined in and argued, insulted, cursed Banyarwanda in my presence. To be honest, there was no ‘real’ message being shared but they were emotional and this scared me even more.Could they hurt me in broad day light? Weren’t their words hurtful enough?
 
None of them was on ‘the other side.’ I cringed.I wanted to break down, to jump through the window, anything but be in there.
If I didn’t know better, I would think it was orchestrated for my ‘benefit.’
I was mad. Why me? What had I done to deserve it? Did they know who I really was? Would they condone such behaviour against their daughter,sister or friend? Did they care? Why couldn’t humans just get along? There were no answers.
I decided against jumping out of the taxi and waited for my stage.
 
I got home with a heavy heart  that evening and when my mum heard this story she said to me, “For as long as I am around, you shall not use a taxi ever again.”
I nodded, while suppressing tears but knew deep down, it was impossible and that it was no solution to this prejudice.
 
On my way from work last year, a guy selling apples in Wandegeya came to the car I was in amidst traffic jam. After he laid eyes on me he yelled, “I can’t sell to you, you are a Munyankole” and he stormed off. I was too shocked to react.
Speaking of traffic and cars, as soon as I learnt to drive, a can or huge colourful worms was opened!
When they noticed I was in the driver’s seat, it only emphasises how ‘we were stealing their money.’ Never mind that no car I have ever driven belongs to me.
These incidents have become so common I have grown accustomed to the ‘treatment.’
I am whoever they choose to think I am because of what I look alike and at that point, it does not matter what my beliefs are or who I am on the inside, because these people want to turn me into a victim yet I know, I am worth more than that.
 
Last year when the Lukwago madness ensued, I told the boda guy I had taken not to use the Kisekka route. I could foresee trouble. He obliged but later connected to it any way.
 
While riding through there, the not so gentlemen kept shouting how ‘my people’ had destroyed the country and how they were going to come for me. They assured me I needed to be careful.
If it wasn’t so sad, it would have been funny. I have worked for government institutions before that opened my eyes to filth I live each day trying to fight, but here I was being blamed for what, the Kampala mayor’s problems? Ha-ha.
 
Writing this is a reminder of how far we are from achieving equality.
Most nations that wage way based on ethnicity deal with at least two ethnic groups. Uganda on the other hand has over 40 tribes. The constitution recognises all of them, including Banyarwanda who like some other tribes are constantly reminded that they ‘don’t belong .’
What is even more disheartening is that some of these people who are happy to denounce certain tribes, have strong ties to them in reality. You might very well find they changed their names to avoid prejudice against them but are happy to inflict it in ‘their own.’ This reminder alone is revolting!!
 
I consider myself lucky, to be able to share some of these tales ‘lightly.’ These incidents had the power to break me but I  didn’t let them. What distresses me is that they are not over yet.
I can think of many others I left out and know other Ugandans out there who have been preyed on by their own or people who thought themselves better, more equal.
Mildred suffered for being Luo as if she had anything to do with the family she was born in.
 
Is this really the kind of example we are willing to set for our children and their children, in the 21st century? Have we learnt nothing from History? 
I remain baffled but I hope that if we begin discussions around such ‘silent evils that are crippling development, we can create a much better society for those yet to come.

The Pressure!

I went for a job interview once. Years later, I happened to get access to the evaluation form that had been used as I spoke.

I had scored highly on confidence. I laughed so hard! How was that even possible?! I had been a total nervous wreck. All my clothes looked like rugs, my vocabulary was at 2 on a scale of 1-10 and my heartbeat could have been at the level of a marathon runner. Somehow the facade worked.

Fast forward to this week, I am supposed to receive a Young Achiever’s Award, “Heroine of the Year.”

It is an honour I couldn’t have foreseen at the beginning of this year or even dreamed of.

When I checked for the dictionary definition of ‘hero,’ this is what I found “a person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

For a heroine, it applies and just changes to ‘woman.’ Who am I that I should be considered one?

40-40 first got honoured by the Rotaract Club of Kampala South in October this year, we went on to win a Social Media Award last month. As if these pleasant surprises weren’t enough, there is one more in store just as the year ends.

This week’s award shall be an opportunity for my team to get great exposure and possibly have more ‘influential’ people listening and joining in. I am excited at this prospect but shaking like a leaf at the thought of that large audience. Woah!! :O

Despite the fact that I have known about this day for several weeks, it is still surreal. I have been getting nightmares even during the day and it doesn’t help that these past couple of weeks have been extremely trying.

The obvious thing is that I am being given an opportunity to speak about something I am passionate about, that is my life, not some random theory that a genius came up with hundreds of years ago. This should make it easier, right? WRONG! The pressure is even rising with each letter I type here.

For fear of sounding like a drama queen, I shall henceforth compose myself. If we meet and I can only nod or shake my head, just go with it. I have warned you.

Did I mention the cold that decided to attack last night? As in on top of tripping at the Serena, stuttering as I pronounce the dignitaries names, now other thoughts of ‘achhhooo’ after every sentence have began to fill my imagination. Over 600 people shall see this, in 5D :O. Isn’t life grand?

nervous

Drama aside, I have only ever attended one ‘Young Achievers’ event. It was three years ago and I got an invite for my friend and I from a pal who was part of the organising committee.

The event was so big; we barely saw or heard anyone. Instead we chatted and giggled for the most part of the night. I remember clapping for a few winners and when my friend was commended for assisting the team. The rest is a blur.

Everyone left with a ‘Young Achievers Awards’ bag and a magazine among other things. I have used that bag to carry snacks to work and sometimes a laptop or reading material since then.

It only occurred to me recently that this bag is actually symbolic of a dream that I never even dreamed coming true.

Whereas I am still overwhelmed by “Heroine of the Year ,”title  and everything it represents, I am also honoured that anyone would think of me this way, let alone have an award dedicated to this sentiment.

However, one of the most puzzling bits of this state of affairs is the fact that I am convinced what the team and I are doing isn’t extraordinary. Not only did Jesus teach us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, it should also be natural that as human beings we look out for each other because we are ‘One.’ Notwithstanding belief in God, race,tribe,level of income or any other ‘barriers.’

Our successful events, accolades and attention are just an added part of the package but really all we are doing is fulfilling our purpose, as we should.

That said, I am extremely proud to represent 40 days over 40 smiles, this award is acknowledgement of all your hard work and perseverance plus proof that HE who started a good work in you shall surely see it to the very end. You chose to join a good fight without any coercion and have remained vigilant despite all the toils and snares. I need you to always remember that I am eternally grateful for each prayer, helping hand or donation; the team’s long days and nights when we have an event, never ending meetings and constant call for sacrifice; everyone who has followed or supported in any way. It is not something I take for granted.

To my amazing family and friends who have accepted to dream and believe with me, I can’t even begin to try and repay you for I shall fail miserably.

To the organisers of the Young Achievers Awards, thank you for the recognition, not just of our work but youth in Uganda generally. It is no secret that our time is now, and we need every platform we can get.

To the Lord, the author of it all, we can only try to ensure we colour your pages with grace.

In case you hadn’t noticed, this is my feeble attempt at some closing remarks so that if I am dumbfounded on D-day, you can refer to this blog post 😉

Bless you!

You are ‘enough.’

Every time I have an ‘interesting’ encounter with  a boda boda rider, I document it, it can be in form of a facebook status, or perhaps a note in my book or phone that I shall probably look at in the future and smile.

From the perverts to family men, engaging them often leaves me yearning for a longer journey that would in turn mean the conversation can carry on.

Over the years I have found that the one thing they usually exclaim about before we become acquainted and begin to swap tales is my ‘genuine’ interest in talking to them at the same level. The more shocking bit  for them is that I am female and ‘young.’

I will share the most recent experience. It was at the beginning of the week and I had to take a boda boda so I could hitch a ride home, after the few pleasantries and no bargaining, (This particular route, I have a standard fee, take it or leave it) I sat on the bike and started to make small talk. Before long we were speaking about the economy and believe it or not, the power of God!

I had had a particularly long week and it felt extremely comforting to pour out my grievances to a stranger in the ‘dark.’ He would probably never recognise me and vice versa. Mid-conversation, however, he asked me where I come from. I shall try to translate this.

” Where do you come from? In all my years as a boda boda rider, I have never had a passenger who is a ‘girl’ speak so politely or even speak to me for more than a few seconds. They are always so rude, showoffs (bepanka, how do you better translate that?) and sometimes they even take us to places and disappear without paying”

The mere fact that I have heard similar remarks meant I did not have to linger on this issue so I mumbled a thank you and quickly moved on to another subject.

He later blessed me and said he hoped things work out for me as I want them to. You know what? That was the highlight of my day even after a ‘fancy’ meal and several laughs.

Ndi ku Digi

Ndi ku Digi

I certainly don’t think highly of myself because of this incident but it got me thinking.

When I was younger and probably to date during moments of weakness, approval from the people I value(d) the most meant success, no matter how small but we need to know better (berra :P)

You do a piece of work to the best of your ability and then after the boss scrutinises it, it ceases to look like something you even worked on. Several changes later and your time might as well have been spent watching paint dry.

On a different occasion, after you have clearly done a good job, said boss just thanks you for sending the report on time and moves on to distribute it and use it as the default template. No, you will not get an applause. If you think that is too much, you shan’t even be commended for a job well done, not verbally at least. You know what? Deep down you know that the layout was superb, you need to teach yourself to accept that your thoughts and dedication are ‘enough.’

This works for so many other aspects of your life. You pick out that smashing dress that you got during the week. The one that made everyone in the boutique compliment you and almost drool when you finally got out of the dressing room. With just the right amount of makeup and comfortable heels, you get to that dinner. You expected your friends to ‘woo’ like they usually do  to show appreciation but no, nothing. Daisy even helps you pull a thread from your hair,quietly; Janice asks if those are the earrings you bought together but that is all you are getting that night.

Wait, no, that is not all. The men seem to love the outfit, they can’t get over it but because you believe they have ulterior motives, or you just wanted your friend’s approval, suddenly you do not feel ‘hot’ any more. What changed? You were gorgeous when you bought it, you accessorized it perfectly as you smiled at your reflection in the mirror. Suddenly, you are not beautiful?

You certainly are!!! You just DON’T need to hear it from friends who might  be jealous in the first place. You simply need to be comfortable and accept that you are ‘ENOUGH,’ with or without the consent of those most important to you.

Who am I kidding? This is impossible. Well, you know what? It isn’t, in fact nothing is impossible. *ignore all cliches, will you?*

Whereas opinions should matter, they should not constitute 100% of your decision making or esteem for that matter. Love of self begins within and ends…within.

I have grown to accept compliments or criticism from strangers or near-strangers a lot more than remarks from people who are ‘supposed’ to know and understand me the most sometimes. This isn’t to say that I do not listen to their advice, it is just that you can’t know what their ulterior motives are and in some cases, they do not even realise that they are toying with your feelings.

Our sad selfish lives have made it even worse, now because we are unhappy, everyone else should be? NOOO!!

Mum told me about this ‘friend’ she had in college. She picked on the girls who hadn’t fully discovered style or self worth. She convinced them to trash their clothes which she then wore and went on to ‘eat life’ without any remorse.

I have met this lady. I would hate to link her current state to her ‘antics’ from back in the day but it gives me more conviction, to give credit where it is due and only share discomfort with genuine reason. Of course I stumble and fall but hey, what are mistakes if we do not learn from them.

I realise now that my themes have gotten jumbled within this story but I hope there is some sense left.

*Your opinion (and God’s) about your life should be at the very top. Bosses, nosy neighbours, over achieving guardians, unsupportive spouses, relatives or friends are all secondary-

* Listen and speak to people from whom you expect nothing . It is quite possible they will leave you with nothing indeed but when they ‘give back,’ it counts for a lot.

* Oh and boda bodas are very dangerous but when you do take them, make a friend 🙂

I had more to say or rather write, I know it..but let us stop here for today.

You are beautiful

You are beautiful

xoxo

Yup, That friend…

There are times in our lives when the people who know us the best are the ones who understand us the least..if that makes sense.

Sometimes you know a friend of yours doesn’t like something but you do it anyway. You know they will pull their hair out slowly if you keep them waiting but either it is beyond you or you think “Surely, what is the worst that can happen. After I say sorry, we shall enjoy the evening.” There are other people who do not even give it much thought.

See, the thing about human nature is that we want what is best for us, to be in our comfort zone to be well, happy. Sometimes, it comes at the cost of hurting other people but well, it is okay..as long us we get what we want. .right? Not.You realise eventually that you can’t expect to receive 90% for every 100% you put in. In fact, you shall be lucky to get a little over 50..but do not despair, you will also give another close person 40% when he is at a comfortable 95% for you. It isn’t tit for tat, but you get my drift.. Sad, isn’t it?

We are all different and thus it is unfair to gauge people based on others and yet it is simply inevitable. Deep down we want to be appreciated the same way we appreciate others…as a matter of fact, we want even more. Selfish,yes. Human? Double yes!

I used to ‘grade’ my friendships based on (mostly) trying times. Have they been there for me? Do they call? Are they interested in listening or simply hearing? Do they care what I am saying or they simply can’t wait to add this to the rumour mill? The list goes on.

It got exhausting.  Love is about accepting each others differences. If it is worth it, you fight for it. If the fights are more than the laughs..erm, no prizes for guessing what happens next. Along the way you get to find out where each of ‘your people’  lie. If you are lucky, you will ‘guess’ right. Sometimes though, you will ‘sleep with the enemy’  whose left hand is holding  a nice sharp dagger under the pillow while her right holds you close.

C’est la vie.

friends

Here is a real life scenario which I didn’t even intend to analyse. It is quite simple but can also be very telling.

I invited some friends over for lunch recently and each of them reacted differently. Here is how;

*Do you see yourself here, once or twice? Do you now which of your friends would sit around, support or simply run? Please share your experiences, I would love to ‘hear’ them.

1. The one who called to RSVP

2. The one who never bothered to respond to invitation

3. The one who said they would come but did not

4. The one who didn’t say they would come but did

5. The friend who called to ask ‘how can I help?’

6. The one who simply called and said “I shall be there early to help,” Didn’t have to ask.

7. The friend who walked in and went straight into the kitchen to cut up some salads

8. The friend who hovered around the kitchen waiting to be given a duty/discover a way to help

9. The one who had somewhere else to be but dropped by to say hello then left

10. The person who made jokes throughout the gathering

11. The one who noticed when her neighbour was ‘going to be sick’  and followed her to the house, just to check then brought her a glass of water

12. The friend who mingled with everyone she found

13. The friend who sat quietly waiting to see someone he is comfortable with

14. The one who called to ask what they should buy on their way

15. The person who didn’t ask but carried some drinks and snacks

16. The friend who kept cleaning up after everyone

17. The friend who called to say he was running late

18. The one who didn’t pick calls because they knew they were late

19. The friend who updated me every step of the way

20. The one who kept asking how many people had come so he only arrives when others are there

21. The ones who stayed after everyone had left just to make sure things were okay

22. The one who stayed to simply…talk

23. The friend who called days later to ask how it went

24. The one who sent the RSVP after a week, because they saw me and had an ‘oops moment’

25. The friend who said he knew I had spent a lot and gave me a contribution when we next met.

Hehe, it goes on and on. What am I trying to say? I do not love each one of them any less.. I accept them as they accept me.We are just different, beautifully so.

F1