Adult education (3)

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*Third and last installment*
After a difficult first year, I dealt with a dreadful second year.
If there is anything I have learnt over time, it is resilience. You can fake it at first but eventually it becomes who you are; you hang on to hope even when reason tells you not to, you somehow manage to drown out negative energy from external sources (not always I must add) and you get up nonetheless.
You get up and you try again.
I did just that. I persevered, painfully.
I was often my best friend and worst enemy, sometimes in the same breath.
When it came to time to write my thesis, I had an opportunity to pay tribute to the reason I had got the scholarship in the first place.
I chose to write about volunteer motivation and guess what my case study was?
Yup, you guessed it! Forry forry(4040)
Even better, I excelled. Yes, this story ends well.
In a couple of months I graduate with an M.A in Education, Gender and International Development from a University that ranks amoung the top 10 worldwide.
That isn’t as big a deal to me as the mere fact that I completed amidst all the trials.
I will not be able to go to London to show my maalo and wave my ‘degree’ incessantly at strangers..but when that transcript appears in my mail, I intend to give all the glory back to God, celebrate him and find a small way to mark this milestone.

 

“I am sure of this, that HE who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

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In the beginning

When Linda dreamt of travelling the world, she figured it would be only for pleasure; to relax, learn about different cultures, meet several people, make friends out of strangers, experiment with various cuisines, write and then live to tell the tale. As with most dreams, the package was considerably different when it arrived.

Her chance at a London experience showed up in form of a scholarship that she never imagined she would get but that is a story for another day.

Linda’s departure was mostly heartwarming with a hint of pain that was safely tucked away for future reference. She spent time with her loved ones, most of whom passed on a word of advice or a gift and lots of laughter. Others shared something even more precious, time. The distractions were quite welcome as she did not have too much time to think about the changes that were yet to come.

At the airport, she shocked herself when her friends left and no tears welled up in her eyes. Progress, she thought.

She took a corner sit and drank a cup of tasteless overpriced coffee. It wasn’t long before her stomach reacted and begged to be released from that misery. It could have been the anxiety, the terrible coffee or both. She did not care. She needed to be physically prepared for the 15 hours ahead. “Will there be enough leg room, will I manage to catch some sleep, shall my neighbour snore?” were some of the questions running through her head.

When she spotted Maureen*, whom she had not seen in years, she smiled to herself. If Ian had been there, he would have started a long speech about how she knows someone in every part of the world. She walked over to Maureen and tapped her shoulder. Maureen turned around and her face could not hide the surprise. They caught up for a while before an announcement was made. Boarding would begin shortly. They exchanged contacts and Linda caught up with the other two Ugandans with whom she was traveling to London.

Helen* was wearing a ‘kitenge‘ dress and open shoes, much to Linda’s surprise. Was this an attempt to bask in the glory of African heritage in the meantime or did she not have any warm clothing? Linda decided to pose the question as she could not imagine how Helen hoped to deal with the winter upon arrival in the UK. Her fears were confirmed when Helen explained that she planned to shop in Doha during the two hour layover. Linda started to spell out that the prices would probably be outrageous but quickly realised that her counterpart was quite unruffled. She then offered what little garments she had in her hand luggage and went on to scroll through the available entertainment.

The intern was an easy choice as she needed something with a simple story line and a chance for laughs. Alas, the laughs came with tears too. It was difficult to tell if the emotions were entirely brought on by the movie or if it was simply the spur that the heart needed to face its imminent situation.

The hours flew by, laced with drama from the little toddlers sitting next to her,some depressing music from Adele and failed attempts at sleep. The minutes before landing at Doha were a complete delight, everything sparkled like a collection of jewels. All she could think of was the vastness of God’s empire and its boundless beauty.

The two hour layover confirmed the fears about airport prices. Helen found a pair of jeans at $200. She settled for a pack of socks at $21. Linda caught herself a little too late when she  started to ask Helen why she had not shopped in Downtown Kampala where things would have been much cheaper. There was really no use crying over spilled milk.

The group grew larger when the Ugandans got to meet the group from Kenya (which is the biggest) and the lone Tanzanian. They were reunited, a year after their first encounter. Odd hugs and handshakes were exchanged as everyone tried to remember each others names and grab a seat pending the connecting flight to Heathrow.

Linda later found a seat further away, prior to boarding. She met Isaac,* a Nigerian who had traveled back home for the holidays and was returning to work in London. He tried to convince her that Uganda had pyramids until they agreed that he must have meant Sudan. He was quick to offer tour guide services when he learnt it was Linda’s first time in London. Mmmhh.

The remaining journey was longer, ‘bumpy’ and did not have enough distractions. Attempts to sleep as late as 3a.m were futile but Linda did not stop trying and frantically looking at the clock. Alas, there was no winning.

At 6.40 a.m, after what seemed like decades, the plane finally landed at Heathrow. This marked the final step, in the beginning of this new journey for 15 East Africans, many of whom are parents, continuing with their Masters’ degree, several miles from home.

In the following weeks, we shall stalk Linda and all her ‘maalo’ as she meets people,discovers places and deals with her very first winter.

Google image

Google image

 

 

Little joys

Time check 17:40. I can’t believe this day is actually coming to an end!

We are a little over two weeks into November and my goodness, what a month! I will save you the details and focus on the past few days.

I have been battling insomnia for a while now. I honestly can’t remember a time when I had 8 hours of sleep. Thanks to my predicament, I appreciate rest more than the average person. I respect people’s sleep because I know exactly what it means to live without it.

The past few weeks have been worse than usual. I am now averaging 1-2 hours no matter how tired I am. Whether I have been working my brain or my body for hours on end, my eyes shall refuse to shut. When they do, the brain will refuse to become inactive. The result is a bed that hardly serves its purpose and a system that is akin to a Zombie’s.

Recently after failing to sleep, I thanked God that I wasn’t in pain at least. Imagine that combination. Must.find.the.silver.lining.

So, last night as I worked on an assignment, the universe connived with my data to run out at 11:50 despite a deadline I had to beat. Additionally, I had spent 80,000 in two weeks on internet that just kept  disappearing when I most needed it. I cringed!

I soon remembered that I could buy a night shift bundle and tether my phone. Oh the glee! I quickly worked. At 2.30 a.m, my system failed. I could watch the video but not decipher the words. I could read but nothing made sense. What could be worse? I was still unable to sleep. Earlier in the day, I had called my doctor friend and asked him to prescribe a drug that was strong and could give me a quick fix. “All I need is some sleep, any sleep,” I begged. He wore his professional hat and instead recommended another doctor. All I wanted was sleep. *Sigh*

I was out of bed by 5 a.m, internet zero, brain alert, magical sound of  raindrops. Perfect weather to sleep, right?

I was ready to leave the house by 7 a.m and look for a place to work as I figured out what to do with all the future assignments. I decided to clean as distraction to my heavy heart. The rain continued for a while and I decided to stay home till my meeting, whether the rain had yielded or not.

Upon arrival at the coffee shop, I quickly realised their internet was also not as fast. The buffering would mean I would not be able to do much work. The meeting was short. I peered over my shoulder and noticed an acquaintance sitting not far from me. When I gave a brief of my predicament, she let me log on to her wireless internet. How kind!

It wasn’t long before it got messy too. The hour long sessions on video would get to 20 minutes, black out and require a complete start over. I was devastated. I could not binge on anymore tea because tea in this city is more expensive than imported alcohol *dollar yalinya* even when I know I could have flasks on end at home. <Is this why people fail to leave power and accumulate embezzled funds? Is it because they remember their past hustle and think never again?>

I digress.

I decided to read the notes that could withstand unstable internet. If I fail, what reason will I give? I am from a third world country? I think not.

I ignored all phone calls. I couldn’t know if it was good or bad news and honestly I feared I would snap at either. It was easier to stay away from any other unknown situations

It was then that my angel walked in. Someone whom I met a few weeks ago.I don’t even have her phone number and the second time we meet, she simply saves my day.

She had lunch as I had ‘kaboozi (conversation) I decided to rant. After all, It seems much easier to speak to someone you don’t know well about certain things. The worst she can do is ignore me the next time we meet so I did not have much to lose.

She ate. I talked. She spoke. I talked some more. We shared experiences, including about how worry will not solve anything. Yes, I said those words even as I worried! *Do as I say not as I do*

We laughed. Oh laughter, I missed you!

I forgot that I was hungry,tired and devastated.

Before she left, she suggested I go to her office and get my work done. The coward in me was already asking if her workmates would scold her for it instead of jumping at the offer in a heartbeat. She assured me it was okay and their internet would probably not disappoint me.

As I type this, I have successfully completed the lecture and downloaded 3 hours of another one that I can attend to tonight. I can even go by the 4040 meeting for a bit before my trek back to reality. How cool is that?!

I have just realised I last had a meal in the morning and that many of the troubles that existed before this still do but that’s farrrrr besides the point. I got the work done! Yaay!

I am not too sure about tomorrow but I am sure about right now and about God’s impeccable timing. He sent me this angel right when I needed her.

Meanwhile, I can’t thank her enough.

Trust me to make an essay out what was meant to be a short tale. *shakes head*

BYE!

time for

 

On becoming a champion

On November 9th last year,I watched this young lad perform. His song was fairly new and not many people knew it or him for that matter. About a handful of people were singing along while the rest quietly watched or chatted with friend.

After his performance, he walked up to me and said “Thank you for the opportunity to perform here.” I do not know if he could see the shock on my face.  Whereas it wasn’t the first time 40 days over 40 smiles had been in contact with artists at our events, it was rare that they would be the ones to show gratitude and not the other way around.

He later added that he was so impressed with the work we did, he wanted to have a concert and have proceeds dedicated to the cause on May 8th 2014.

The Champion Concert was indeed held on May 8th 2014 and Benezeri fulfilled his promise.

Big dreams

How does a 20 year old choose to have a concert on a Thursday at the MTN arena and expect people to come? There is work/school the next day and this is not the most convenient location. Also,it is Hip hop for crying out loud, it isn’t even that popular. What? You want people to donate books too, and carry them to a concert? I knew you were crazy but that is plane insane.

There were over 500 people who came out that night, they sang, danced and screamed. They watched artists who have been around for a while and then got a taste of some ‘newbies,’ they were were the first audience to listen to Benezeri’s maiden album and they were given exactly that.

Books? Oh yes, people carried books to a ‘Hip Hap’ concert, about 120 of them to be exact, in boxes even.

benezeri with gloves

There are several Ugandan artists who are comfortable with having a few hits that they are known for, which they shall perform at ‘grand events’ but the best position they can take is that of a ‘curtain raiser.’ They have no album to their name and that isn’t such a big deal because they still make money off the hits and remain popular. Other have made great videos. You look at them and can’t remember what the song was about but you know that this person invested in his product. Others shall have album launches every other day, it doesn’t matter if there are 8 songs including remixes of songs from the one before.

A couple of days ago, Benezeri decided to put his entire album online for free. That is right, all of it.

You don’t believe me? Check here Champion or here yup, FREE!

I caught up with him to find out why he decided to make such a bold move and also picked his brain a bit on music and life.

benezeri 1

 

A little over one week later,how do you feel about the show- the support the hip hop fraternity gave you and the fans that showed up for the Champion concert?





The night of May 8th seems like a dream. A recent dream.  It was such a glorious night. So many people to thank. Every musician that came through and spared a few hours to be, and perform, at the concert, I’m really grateful. I can’t remember any time I saw all those people in one place, especially just out of love and support. It was deep. Im forever grateful to the people that came through to attend the show. It was such a humbling and satisfying feeling to see each and everyone of them. The support I received after too, was special. It’s like everybody was genuinely happy for me . It’s been a rewarding experience.

 

What were some of your biggest challenges as you planned this concert?

I think the biggest challenge was finding the resources to pay for the venue, the events company and many other costs.

Lessons learnt?
I learnt so many lessons. But one of them was that if you believe and trust in God, and you back that up with persistence and a good team, nothing is impossible.

You have decided to put your album up for free download, this isn’t something you hear everyday. What drove you to make this decision? What has the reaction been so far?

As expected, I have received a lot of condemnation and criticism, but mostly from “industry” people. I have got tonnes of calls, whatsapps and messages asking me whether I’m in my normal mind frame. The consumers though, are very happy and are listening. They like the songs which is such a huge reward for me.

I put up the album for free download for many reasons. The main reason being, I really wanted people to listen to the album and share it. When I made this album, I wasn’t thinking about how much money I wanted to make. I was thinking about how much I wanted people to hear it. 


Secondly, if Kanye West or Chris Brown or even Ice Prince releases an album, I will be able to access and download it the next day.It  doesn’t matter whether or not it’s the artiste that puts it  up for download. What matters is that it is accessible and it indirectly benefits the artiste because people are able to listen and that is every musician’s greatest reward.

Next, the people that buy CD’s  don’t do so because they can’t find the song somewhere else. An avid fan will first download the songs and then if they have the money, they will purchase the CD. The 2 are not mutually exclusive. Actually, people that buy CD’s in this day and age consider the CD a souvenir or something they can look at and be proud of and keep. That’s why the “Champion” CD can also be bought at Soundcup (Garden city) for UGX 20,000.
Finally, ‘it’s not about the money, we just wanna make the world dance.’ Of course not literally, I’m not a dancehall artiste. But, I definitely will not let money cloud my judgement and decisions. As somebody said in one of the online debates that ensued after my announcement, “Open your eyes, money is not the only reward in life”

What is next for benezeri?

The next thing I’m working on is a few very nice videos for the songs I have recorded. Look out for those.

Slowly by slowly,I shall also be working on  my next album for 2016. I’m also hoping to graduate in early 2016.

What message do you have for young dreamers?

My message to young dreamers is, no one else will ever see your vision as clearly as you, so stop wasting time debating it with people and seeking their approval. Instead, get started. Also, people are fond of “advising”and discouraging. One of my favorite quotes from Kanye West is “How are you going to convince me that I will not succeed in something, by giving me an example of how you failed in another?” There’s always a first time for everything.

There you have it, follow the links for Benezeri’s free music and purchase a copy of the CD ‘for free’ at only 20,000 UGX. Sound Cup (Third floor,Garden City Mall)

Happy Listening!

Writer’s Note: If we look close enough,we shall realise that all the role models we are looking for are right here, at home-doing extraordinary things with the least resources. If we support them, their limitless potential shall have limitless results-