Lights, Camera, Action

19

As a child, I was anything but timid.
I found my true-self when I hit the stage.
MDD (Music Dance and Drama *Musilu Ddala Ddala😛* was my calling. At the time it didn’t matter that your voice didn’t sound even remotely like Adele’s. I know this because I got away with solo performances and I can’t even sing to get free rolex😭
I played local instruments in the instrumentals, I participated in pretty much every traditional dance, the folk songs and even performed poetry.
I loved acting the most.
All this was at school during class competitions and later when I joined the School choir.

Over the weekends, my brother  and I provided some back up dancing services to live bands. You didn’t need to call our manager or book in advance. We just showed up with our folks and got in formation shortly after. We were reliable like that.
We also got paid handsomely by revellers. That was until mum kept the money for us😒
I am sure you know how that story ends.
When we asked for our $$, we were given a list of all the things we had not paid for since leaving the womb😞

 

Fast forward to adulthood.
I dislike crowds. Along the way I lost the childhood innocence and became self conscious. I become shy even when everything in me tells me there is no reason to be and getting on stage is not fun for me anymore. It is scary.
Younger me would definitely scoff at this boring version.😳

All my dreams of Actor-Model-Writer-Airhostess-Lawyer-Journalist-Writer again (in that order, I think) have not quite materialised.

Nonetheless, I would like to believe every stage along the way prepared me for something else. Many of my public speaking sessions are probably fueled by that past acting spark to be honest. I get up intimidated by the crowd, anxious,nauseous, stomach rumbling and somehow manage to speak sense (or so I hope) and leave without fainting. Little miracles those ones.

Don’t get me started on this 5 year journey of ‘begging.’ It is difficult for me to even ask a friend (not stranger or acquaintance) to lend me a small sum of money let alone give me something I can’t return. And what do I have here? A 5-year ‘career’ in hounding friends, acquaintances, strangers and the internet world at large to give,give,give-time,resources, skills, everything!😮

I recently met someone (with whom I am acquainted) on the street and they asked “What are you collecting money for this time?” I chocked a little, afterwhich I responded, “Good afternoon, how are you?”
Basically,his mind told him that the greeting I now deserve is “How much do you want?”

Most of this journey has been filled with ironies, in different shades.
We are complex, ever-changing and if we embrace change, it opens our eyes,minds and hearts to the multiple things that we can be, that we can become. We need to allow ourselves to change, to grow, to learn.

Human beings are not one-dimensional;we are multi-faceted; not even what you see on the surface is a representation of who someone truly is.
We can be weak and strong; we can be bullies and still be emotional, confident yet anxious and so much more.
There’s so much beauty in being unapologetically authentic.

There’s no use watering down who you are or toning down your awesome because the world isn’t ready. Make them ready💪💃and if they fail to be, their loss😈
On that note;
Perhaps at 68,someone will write a script that will touch my heart and I will hit the stage one more time. Maybe I’ll act the role of a granny in denial, asking her grandchildren to call her “Aunt Essie”
Till then;
Go forth and explore the multiple versions of the amazing soul that is YOU.

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Politicians and Tabloids

14

Two years ago we organised a medical camp in Kibuli. Once in a while we would tag ‘big wigs’ and invite them to put events but they would never show up.
This time Amama Mbabazi replied. Nonetheless, we didn’t think that he would show up so we made a joke of it.
That Saturday morning as we dropped volunteers, the conversation began; we discussed what would happen if the State found out he was appearing at our event soon after leaving his position as Prime Minister (of Uganda). Around this time, there was speculation that he would run for President.


My friends (and colleagues) assured me they would delete any evidence of having known me. *True friends are rare* Others assured me they would lead any security operatives straight to my home..and then disappear; if it came to that. We laughed it off.
As the event came to an end, I found several missed calls and notifications when I checked my phone. The first person I called back helped explain the situation. Amama had tweeted asking for the location of our event.
Wait. What? How? Which? There were so many questions. Someone went and picked him at the point which he had gotten lost.
Meantime, we had mentioned the camp would end at 5 and here we were cleaning up, a few minutes after 5. He arrived and we (the remaining group) talked for a bit as he asked questions here and there. It was pretty harmless.
A few photos were taken and then he left. That night, only a few people spoke about it online and I was relieved. It was soon forgotten..or so I thought.
The next day (Sunday) we had a stategy meeting at the office. I got a call from a Red Pepper reporter asking for a comment from the day before. My response: No comment.
He called again countless times. I found he had also followed me on Twitter and sent me a friend request on Facebook.
I ignored him..and I also became extremely uncomfortable.

Seeing as tabloids can make up a story in a split second, I started to think of all the possible scenarios. A political angle maybe? No money had exchanged hands but I imagined that train of thought was also a possibility. That night I made the mother pretty uncomfortable as I told her to expect the worst in the next day’s papers.

Poor woman who is always at work by 7 went even earlier and sent for a copy of the newspaper.
She didn’t need to look further as our picture on the front page greeted her.The newspaper was promptly delivered to me🙇
Story on page 2: Apparently, Amama was launching a youth campaign ‘We are the change we want to see’ campaign or something like that (The 4040 tagline is “be the change you want to see”)
My no comment had developed into a paragraph on page 2😐
To be honest, I had expected a lot worse and my dear friends had promised to deny me so..we thank God that didn’t end badly 😉

Strange firsts

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

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

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

Google image

Google image

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

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.