Adult education (2)

29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Starting Over

12
The year was 2013. I quit my job without a plan and needed to convince myself that it was the right decision before I could convince my loved ones…and then the ‘world.’
I was constantly looking for signs and any positive feedback or bright light shinning on 4040 qualified. Similarly, when too many humps came my way, I would re-evaluate my decision and contemplate going ‘back.’
Around that time, I got nominated for the ‘Heroine of the year award’ by the Young Achiever’s awards.
I was excited but also extremely anxious😢

To begin with, I didn’t feel worthy. That award had previously been won by Dr.Matthew Lukwiya (rest his soul) whose heroism saved several lives when Ebola hit Uganda hard. He literally sacrificed his own life. I, on the other hand, was a rookie at most.
Awel, who put the awards together, mentioned that I was the only one who really needed to pitch what I do since all the other winners were in a competition of sorts, and were established themselves. Way to go increasing the ‘puresha!’ (Pressure)

I decided to use my fear and anxiety to fuel my preparations to speak at the event.
D-day arrived and Victoria Hall, Serena was filled to capacity (it isn’t small by any standards) Luckily, I had managed to ‘smuggle’ extra invitations for my team and knowing that they were in the room, along with some members of the family, helped. Sadly, I couldn’t make eye contact with any of them as nominees sat separately.
I kept hearing the names of the dignitaries present,titles like Queen, C.E.O, MD flew over the room as little ol’ me sat, shaking.
That entire week I had had trouble sleeping..I had dreams, scratch that-nightmares.
Once I was tripping in high heels, then in another, I was stuttering as I spoke.
I always woke up in cold sweats.

Well, when I was finally called to the podium I realised why I had been afraid. It was intimidating!😥

The lights, the people..did I mention THE PEOPLE? I didn’t imagine them naked (which is advice on how to handle speaking to large crowds, apparently)
I was shaking from my waist downwards..for the entire duration.Thank God no one could see that..
I received the award and then I spoke..and spoke and then spoke some more. I just couldn’t stop. I pitched with all my heart, or so I would like to believe.
I even called out the NSSF MD in my speech. *where those guts came from, only God knows*
<He would later re-appear when we won an award in 2015, story for another day>
I don’t know if I made any blunders in the speech, nor do I remember much of what I said.

 


I do remember the aftermath though.
Speaker after speaker commended our work, many pledged support.
It was the biggest crowd I had ever addressed and one of the most important too.
At the end of the event, I collected a ridiculous number of business cards and mentally noted everyone who said ‘ get in touch, let’s work together.’
Since it was December, I waited for the festive season to end.
After the new year began, I started knocking doors and sending emails.
Between those who ignored me, asked me to come back ‘next week’ for several months and played hide and seek, there was a grand total of about 3 individuals who honoured their pledges or came through months later.

It didn’t matter, okay it did..it kinda hurt too but more than anything it toughened me and prepared me for a lot worse;Not to mention I have had countless speaking engagements since..and although I am always anxious, I like to remind myself of some of the lion’s dens I have been to and survived.

Aluta continua

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

Google image

 

Happy tears :)

While I was chatting with Barns last night, after we won the award, he ended with “I will await the blog post.” So..here it is!
For the past couple of years I would see the advert for the NSSF torch awards but I felt we were not ready. We needed to have something to our name and present a good plan. This year, when I looked at it, I felt it was time.
Thankfully, when I shared with the team, one of the members, Benjamin said he had a plan. It was then that a small team came together (virtually) to concretise this plan and send in our proposal. We joked about winning for a bit but then went back to work and ‘forgot’ about it.
A little over 10 days ago, I received a call. We were shortlisted and they needed to visit our offices to shoot a video as soon as possible. I was unavailable and found most of the team was too.  Trying to put  all of it together took the joy out of the News. We agreed to do the shoot that Saturday (18th) We participated in a charity walk organised by Wakisa Ministries to raise awareness for teen moms and then walked slowly to the office (because we had so much energy that need to be exhausted) to await the Nssf team.
When we saw the camera crew, it began to sink in. We asked about the other nominees and I can swear my insomnia worsened from that night onward . What if we win? What will this mean? Can we actually do this?
Fast forward to last night. I was glad we were able to secure invites for everyone who worked on the proposal so they could at least have a nice dinner if we didn’t win. We noticed early in the evening that we were the ‘wohoo’ table. We made more noise for the other winners than they did for themselves.
The past winners shared their testimonies and renewed our hope in humanity. Then came this year’s nominees and their incredible work from making sanitary towels for school girls to providing training for secondary school students left us in awe.

I am a bowl of nerves whether it is a competition or a celebration so you can imagine what was happening. It was so bad that Zindzi, a team member said she had felt nothing from the start but our anxiety quickly spread to her as well. We were leaving no one behind!
Different regions were awarded as we tensed up and held hands, cracked stale jokes and sang along to the band’s music. Anything for a distraction! Finally, they got to Central region and we were NOT mentioned. The young lady who won happens to be called Esther. She is only 19 and working to protect young mothers under her organisation Child care and Rescue Program. I was amazed by this teenager!

We celebrated her while trying not to think about our own disappointment. Only one award was left, the national award and that couldn’t be us. Could it?
There was some suspense and finally they mentioned that the next organisation had impressed the most and would win the coveted Ugx 20 million cash prize handed over by the First lady, Hon. Janet Museveni. That group happened to be…Yes, you guessed it 4040 !
What happened next is still a bit of a blur. We pretty much broke into tears at the same time. There were cameras, people and.. more cameras and more people. Somehow, we got strength to walk up to the podium.
I kept crying and the handshake with the First lady quickly ‘evolved’ into a hug. There I was weeping and she took me into her arms and it was not awkward at all (really?) The team that had gathered around hugged her in turns. *this was all normal*  She handed over the award and dummy cheque (for 20 million shillings!!) along with Hon. Bahati, the NSSF Managing Director Mr. Richard Byarugaba and his pleasant Deputy, Geraldine.

 

gloria hug

first lady
We were ushered off the stage for the guest of honour to give her speech. She spent the first few minutes applauding our work. I can’t confirm this for sure because I was high on emotions but amidst my astonishment, I think I heard her say that ‘Uganda’s future is secure if it has young people like these (4040) doing such work.

This was the exact moment actually. No lie! She is gesturing towards us on the left. Nope. I t wasn't a dream.

This was the exact moment actually. No lie! She is gesturing towards us on the left. Nope. I t wasn’t a dream.

 

After a few photographs, she left the function (before we could exchange phone numbers, sigh)

group
A three course meal was served but you can’t pay me to tell you what that tasted like. I also have no idea what I said in the acceptance speech.

These were all side shows after we saw that cheque.
Breaks into song “It’s not about the money money money, We don’t need your money money, money.” *NOT!*

I kid. That moment itself, in its entirety was really everything.
While at the washrooms, a lady came in and said “Congratulations.” Just as I was completing my thank yous, she added “But you are so emotional!” Neither her tone nor facial expression suggested this was a compliment (Apparently washrooms are not free of judgement) While the other ladies who were with me exclaimed at her reaction, so many thoughts quickly went through my mind. Wouldn’t she be emotional if she had gone through what we have? Does she know how many proposals we have written and been turned down? Could she comprehend the gravity of this win for us? Well, I guess my questions shall remain unanswered and it’s okay because I certainly do not think anyone needs to justify their tears, or laughter for that matter.
We stayed and danced to every song the band played and when they were done, we turned to the DJ’s music. Thankfully, Mr.MD stayed for a while so we had more time to ‘celebrate’ but sadly, every good thing does come to an end. What an amazing Monday it was!
I barely slept and my poor mother has confessed that after we spoke just before midnight, her sleep did not return till much later. I did realise in that moment, as I do now that not everyone gets an opportunity to chase their dreams, have a great support system and also live to tale. It is for that very reason that I will share this story for as long as I can talk, write and breathe.
Unlike many of the previous awards, the public’s vote did not count. A panel chose us from the over 350 applications received from all over the country. However, if it wasn’t for the public’s support up till now, we would never have achieved enough to achieve the level of credibility we can now boast of and for that we are eternally grateful.
Our (winning) proposal *yaay* was for a children’s community library in Luweero because we believe in education and strongly advocate for literacy. Even if this amount can have us complete our dormitory in days (literally) we have to stick to what it was meant for. The good News is, by the end of this year we shall have a dormitory and a library up and running. How awesome is that?
This award means more to us because a Uganda company is supporting us, a Ugandan organisation. This represents one of the core messages we like to share which is that we are perfectly capable of writing our very own happy Ugandan tale, and essentially African tale by supporting our own. It takes a village to raise a child and we have plenty of villages..and children, so why not?
Thank you NSSF for believing in us and other local organisations. I am also grateful to everyone for supporting us thus far and the amazing behind the scenes 4040 team.

To God be the glory 🙂
A luta Continua!

I knew I loved you before I met you

The song ‘I knew I loved you before I met you’ by Savage garden has some of the cheesiest lyrics of the past century. As a teenager, I always thought ‘really, would I believe these words in real life?’

As I started to write this piece though, I realised that I did indeed love this being before I met her, in fact, from the very first moment I knew she was coming into the world- our love story began 🙂

For nine months, this precious jewel was ‘carried’ around by her mommy. I have a ‘few’ things to say this little one.

Dear star,

I have a not so short tale with details about the journey thus far. You better learn to read by the time you are three. We plan on having you speak at least two other International languages so perhaps your reply to this shall be in French. Oui?

No pressure.

Your mommy is the life of the party you know, and even when she was rocking her bump, she made sure to rock the parties too. She was always the one suggesting where we should go and what to do while everyone was thinking “Shouldn’t you be resting.” We even went to one of her favourite places, Bule island and took part in some pretty daring activities. Of course my heart was somewhere in my foot but I had to force smiles and scream ‘yaay.’ Nonetheless it was a lot of fun.

When you grow older, we shall surely visit so you can enjoy the breeze and later take part.

When we went for the scans, I longed for the part when your heartbeat was on ‘loud speaker’ then grinned like a kid at Disney World. I even got my very own autographed picture of you at about 5 months, to say I had fomo would be an understatement.

As for the day I found out you were a girl, hehe, let’s just the hospital almost called security- sheer excitement!

Random Side note: Mommy has OCD and I can’t help with that because it is contagious so oba we accept early enough and deal with it? Deal?

Fast forward to your baby shower at the beginning on this month. See your mummy looking radiant, special food plus cake  and excited aunts 🙂 It was a good day, and it was all in your honour. Stars are born or made or… I don’t even know where I am going with this but, you will understand the randomness with time.

glo 1

 

Your arrival was slated for Sunday March 16th, it was for sleeping with phone volume on 100 and practicing calm responses each time I got a call from your mom, but alas, you were nowhere to be seen. It was so bad that I even visited her twice during that week and she was just ‘chilling.’ I guess you were also chilling 😛

We accepted that you were planning a grand entrance and pretended to go on with our lives. Meanwhile your poor mother was getting messages of ‘anything yet’ constantly. The pressure was killing her. The ‘sharp ones’ decided to stalk other ‘sources’ for the info. Hihi, it was hilarious.

My system decided to slowly crash and I carried around a migraine for 96 hours prior to your birth. I made a mistake and told your mom so even when the labour pains began, she said nothing. We would text and talk like everything was ‘normal.’

Sadly for her, I am an afande (story for another day) and was soon in on it.

Friday 21st March is when she was finally admitted at the hospital and I had to stalk your aunt Damalie for updates. Poor girl was also far from the hospital but she knew a guy who knew a guy who was the doctor 🙂 (another story we shall happily expound on)

When I finally sent your mummy a text I asked only one thing, that you wait till Saturday when I can be present. After planning to hold her hand through labour, how could I miss it? No please.

She barely slept that night, I was also there in between prayer, anxiety and excitement and before dawn arrived, I was up and ready to start my walk to hospital. Yes, you were born five minutes away from my home 🙂 These are destiny things 😉

Your mummy was in pain but I mastered the art of calmness. What my heart was going through, only God knows.

We had long awkward silences. At about 10 a.m the nurses said she was going to the theatre, asked me to get your clothes together. They later returned them ‘mbu we gave them a whole shop.’ smh

We said a prayer and then waited and waited and waited. The doctor finally came at 12.00 p.m and took your mommy in. That moment was pretty emotional for me but never to break (I practiced for this day)

I kept getting up each time a nurse came out carrying a baby, including a set of twins. The doctors told me to sit still. “How can you stand up after seeing a nurse in pink yet the one who went for your baby is wearing white?”  I had to be fine.

The way your birth was being anticipated meanwhile, I was getting messages of ‘uh huh, any news?’ even from the diaspora.

Eventually the nurse came back to get your first clothes, socks and gloves and I knew it would only be a matter of minutes before I saw you. She obviously took forever but you were worth the wait!

It felt like hours but a little after 12.30 you were brought…to me!!! *shriek*When I held your not so little body (3.4kg) in my arms, the world became still for a moment. You were(are) so beautiful and peaceful and and…..sigh.

I asked about your mommy and the nurse said she would come out.

I handed you to one of your many grannies and she too was amazed. So we just sat and stared at you while complaining about your mum’s delay.

Eventually she came but was still drugged so we had to wait a little longer before unveiling her miracle.

When she awoke, the first thing she said was “Is she hot?” We burst into laughter and I knew in that instant, a wonderful story had began.

The first time she held you brought tears to my eyes, it was simply magical!

The bond between mother and daughter is surely the most amazing of them all.

Here we are, 8 days after your birth and I still think about you everyday. As for your mommy, you are without a doubt the best gift she has ever had.

Now let as talk about your names (coughs)

Estella Athena Karungi- Spanish origin, then Greek, then Ugandan 😉

Do we have to spell out that Estella is a version of Esther? No? Okay moving on…

Together, your names mean “A beautiful goddess – a star.” What more can we say?

Here is to years of watching you become the star that you were born to be.

We shall keep your photo for when Times or Forbes asks. People should visit and see the ‘live copy’ 😉

Much love from mommy, the endless queue of potential God parents, aunts and uncles.

Also, welcome to the 40-40 family 😉

Xoxo