I had a dream

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

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

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

****

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

sauti tweet

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

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

faith thanks God

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

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

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

band laugh with kids

kids peace

polycarp baby

Sauti kids happy

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

high 5

Bien speech

 

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

hearty laugh

See this pure happiness! So infectious!

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

Photo credit: Daron

 

Thank you Sauti Sol 🙂

Keep believing.

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Home is where the heart is

Do you really know what your brother/sister/uncle/aunt (insert other relatives) does for kyeyo in ‘outside countries?’

Have you ever asked or are you content with simply receiving the fashionable clothes and turning to them each time money is ‘scarce?’ I have always had great admiration for people who leave their home country and start a completely new life with meagre  resources. I am even more awed by their resilience, accepting that despite being away from their loved ones for a long periods of time, they shall be in better position to provide for them. It is a difficult decision to reach given what you have to sacrifice. Lately, I have heard many stories of people in these situations and while I feel like I’d find it difficult to ‘survive,’ I also know that desperate situations call for desperate measures. Sometimes. you just have to learn on the job.

Linda will soon mark two months since she left home. Everything has changed. Everything has remained the same. She has experienced all the ways life can humble one and learnt how to deal with the agony that distance can sometimes turn into. Birthday parties have been ‘attended’ on skype and whatsapp, new jobs and promotions have been celebrated with an array of emoticonsshe has only been able to commiserate over the phone with loved ones who are mourning and in a couple of weeks shall miss a wedding where she was meant to be a maid of honour. She will not be able to hold Juliet’s hand as her momma undergoes surgery next week and there are many more moments that will sail by as she watches on, helpless. An  ‘adulting manual’ would probably have a chapter on this. Any writers ready to embark on this project?

While being away from everything one knows and loves can be difficult, it also presents so many opportunities. Linda decided to create new moments. On Tuesday night, at exactly midnight,her skype showed it was Jacob’s birthday exactly midnight. She made a mental note to talk to the other scholars about doing something to celebrate the day. The next day, while at the library, when she mentioned it to Milly, she found out the day before had been Norah’s birthday too. The more the merrier, she thought. She only had a few hours to plan a small do. The easiest, most practical thing would be to purchase a cake and have them cut it. When she mentioned it to Nadia, she was quite astounded by the response. “There are cakes at the supermarket at 2 pounds, which can be heated in the microwave then shared.” Quick calculation, approximately Ugx 10,000, for a birthday cake? Linda thought out loud before she could catch herself, “I’d definitely not want a microwave cake on my birthday so I shall not buy one.”  Nadia quickly remarked that if she wanted expensive things it was up to her. Linda had already decided she would not ask any of the group members to contribute as it’d prolong the simple process but this moment reaffirmed her resolve. She found a restaurant and luckily they had a chocolate cake that already had the words ‘Happy birthday.’ She had about 4 hours to get everyone together and ensure they kept the little secret. As you can guess, it was dramatic. If it is difficult to get friends together, imagine how much harder it is for near strangers. From people showing up late, to the the ‘guests of honour‘ failing to fall for the lies while everyone hid in a dark room waiting to scream ‘surprise!’ It was a pretty funny experience. Eventually it worked. Jacob and Norah couldn’t have been more clueless! Vanessa carried some drinks and it all made for a nice little treat.

Owing to the fact that there is a difficult, yet important assignment that they all have to hand in soon, there was a shadow over everyone’s head. Sadly, this shadow was spoken about for longer than Linda would have liked. During the toast, Lillian mentioned the assignment more times than celebrating life or happiness which were essentially the ingredients for the little do in the first place. Linda decided it was probably her who was ‘unserious’ enough to put this time out above all else. Nonetheless, everyone was quite pleased as they had not met in one place since their first week in London. Before long, they were asking Linda to organise more meet ups and tours for the whole group. She laughed at herself later that night when she reflected upon the habits she had carried with her all the way to her ‘current home.’

home-is-where-the-heart-is

While Norah and Jacob were elated and couldn’t stop thanking her for the surprise , Linda knew her own joy was up there with theirs.

 

Hello:)

Hello from the other side. Which other side you may ask..? The other side of the .com!

You may or may have not noticed but we discreetly graduated to dotcom status. I was equally surprised when this new development came to my attention. A little fairy was working overtime to deliver this package (Thank you Gloria :-*)

Last week when I received an email from WordPress asking me about this website kaboozi, I simply moved on and refreshed my inbox. Oprah might finally reply and I need to be ready on that day :p

celebration

 

If you are good at this stuff and can make this look like a ‘proper’ website without losing its identity, please help a sister out. My only skill lies in clicking the ‘publish’ button so it is unlikely that I shall succeed on my own.

In the meantime, as I try to push aside all the internal puresha (pressure) to make the page more appealing, the show will go on. It has too.

 

Xx

We came. We fell. We got up.

By this time last week, my situation was ‘a calm state of panic.’ We were at the Uganda Museum for our third edition of croak and rhyme. While many things were going right, an almost equal number of irregularities seemed to come up every now and then.
The funny thing about being a leader is that you have to strike a fine balance between optimism, realism, patience and unwavering determination during the most demanding situations. I do not think I am even half way there. Therein lies the beauty of time, experience and the lessons that come along the way!
The concept of croak and rhyme, like many of 4040’s ideas was random and uncomplicated, during one of our many meetings over two years ago. As one of the group members suggested the name, we laughed and then fell in love. Just like that, it was adopted and here we are. When I saw the bold words ‘croak and rhyme’ in one of our dailies this week, I grinned as I reminisced. Humble beginnings can surprise you!
This year’s edition was quite taxing. We came up with a theme and then needed to figure out how to work around it. Our wish list was loooooonnng (yes for emphasis) In fact, last year we toyed with the idea of bringing Sauti Sol for the event. *mental note to review my sent items folder for good laughs years from today* The irony that this blog post is coming out when they are in Uganda already for tomorrow’s show! Eh! Perhaps I could get a word with them. No? I digress.
We contacted tonnes of artistes. Some said no, others yes, a few said maybe and some simply led us on because they did not know how to articulate their negative response. I can look back and chuckle now but when it was happening, it was far from funny. We had legends with us though :D. This madam made my waist do things, good times!

These were 'our days'

These were ‘our days’

This event comes with a lot of pressure because of the expenses involved in putting it together. It is nothing short of a gamble and I must admit some of the lessons have been learnt the hard way.

Our first edition brought in a full house at a small venue. The management expected a small crowd and gave us few chairs that they did not expect to fill. Before long, we were trying to create space for the overwhelming crowd. At the end of the event, after realising the profit from their sales that night-they were asking when our next event was and more than willing to provide the venue.
The second one was taken to a bigger venue to accommodate the growing numbers. While we paid attention to that detail, other factors came into play. The World cup quarter final fell on the same date. Additionally, both traditional and social media were awash with announcements from the police about a terror threat to the city. I cannot count the whatsapp forwards I received on D-day warning me and basically asking that we discontinue our plans. These factors worked against us but we still had a sizeable crowd. The event was well organised and raised the bar for us. Armed with these lessons we set out to do even better this year.
The rain during the day got us on our knees, some of us even started yelling at the skies (yelling at God really) and thankfully the weather behaved. The drizzles during Maddox’s performance were hardly felt as the crowd sang along. Blessings just 🙂

maddox 1

crowd 2

 

 

I realised the ‘power of alcohol’ when I was confronted by a reveller who said he could not stand to look at me, knowing beer had run out at an event I organised. Eh, I took cover immediately. We must admit the crowd overwhelmed us and found us under prepared. We take full responsibility. There were other faults that we have certainly taken note of. Be sure to see changes next time 🙂
Despite the massive turn out at the event, the figures were not as exciting as we anticipated. We found out that an unscrupulous individual stole ‘tags’ from our entrance and started selling them to attendees before they reached our team. As a result, payment was made to him and sadly, it will never reach our dormitory.
That Sunday night as we tried to count, recount and then count the proceeds some more, we silently hoped that some of the coins would morph into notes and the ‘1K’ notes would transform into ‘50K’ notes in the process. This was not to happen. BUT. It could be a lot worse! We could have made an investment and then failed to break even. We could have planned this event for months only to have 50 people attend. That did not happen. Yaay!
The artistes gave energetic performances, moreover at no cost. One of the artists’ managers on our wish list insisted that we were making stuff up. There was no way any Ugandan artists could perform completely for charity. Oh ye of little faith! I hope one day they’ll understand that- *It’s not only about the money*
So, as I type this I am over the ‘we could have done better’ and now onto the ‘we shall do better’ state of mind. Everyone who attended and supported us even when we erred, the artistes who resisted the urge to become ‘divas,’ simply offering their talent and the service providers who have stuck with us, you made it possible.
Special thanks to those individuals who could not make it buts still sent entrance fee or directly contributed to the dormitory.

To the team that was behind the scenes, having pre-event nightmares and fighting then making up, then fighting again because you believe in 40-40 and what it stands for- you are invaluable.
We are now Ugx 11 million away from completing the dormitory. It seems like a little. Or a lot, depending on how you view your glass.

Nonetheless, I will be back here with pictures after we complete that building. Until then, please do not tire of answering our call. We are doing all of this, together for Uganda’s future, for a generation that will outlive us and learn from our dedication.
Till then, keep being the change, even when it hurts!
X

The fault in our stars

That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.

When Raymond gave me the movie “The fault in our Stars.” He warned me that there would be lots of tears involved.
It is for that reason that I put it very far from me, waiting for the ‘right moment.’
They say ‘misery loves company’ but I find that when I am at my lowest, the last thing I need is to find out that someone else is in pain.
I had been having one bad day after another and as a result, I did not need any pain inducing movies or activities.
What I needed was a few happy endings and perhaps a chance to be invisible for a while. *Didn’t happen*

When I realised things were not changing, I decided to give the movie a chance and it is from it that I heard the phrase “That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.”
Not that this was an epiphany or anything but it perfectly summarised what was going on inside.
Ever been in a place; where you did not want to hear phrases like “It gets better,’ or ‘Hang in there?’ Have you had to pretend that everything is okay when in fact it is the exact opposite.
Are there times when it was your ‘duty’ to be strong and so you did precisely that even if you dealt with fear after fear?
Did you ever need to turn to someone only to find they were not there?
It happens to all of us, at some point.
It is in these moments that self pity might creep up and you seek every ‘portion’ you can find that will bring even a speck of positive vibes, if only for a minute.
Although the movie mainly centred on victims of cancer, it was beautiful in so many other ways. Yes, it had me unashamedly wailing like a little child.
The tears might have been induced by the characters, but deep within so many emotions were aroused.
Aches from the thought of death, the real victims I have encountered who have lost the battle to cancer or are still struggling with it. The families, friends and care takers who are learning to adapt albeit sorrowfully. It was pretty devastating.
It ended. I meditated. It stayed with me.
Fast forward, to a few days later.
We were all set for Akiba, ready to pain the house, put up playing places and material for the kids who are struggling with cancer and make merry.
I was excited and restless.
The skies seemed to have other plans and I began to anticipate the “It’s raining, I can’t make it’ messages. A few of them came in but I was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up despite the terrible weather. The kind of loyalty you do not find everyday.
We played indoor games during the downpour and it was so much fun 😀
When the tea arrived, it was just what the doctor had ordered. A huge ‘tumpeco’ (mug) all to myself 🙂
The cleaning, painting, building and at time demolishing (ssshhhh) finally began. People were like worker bees. I have not seen that amount of dedication and team work in a long time.
They did not even want to have lunch before the work was done.
My heart was just all kinds of warm and fuzzy watching all this.

akiba paint

akiba washing

paint 2

One pose then back to work

One pose then back to work

I had to run and give a talk at a women’s conference but I felt like missing even a few minutes of the ‘Akiba pimping’ would kill me. I know. I know.

Akiba with kds
You know how a young mother can leave her son with a sister or even her own mother and call to check almost every 10 minutes? Even if she knows the little one is in safe, experienced loving hands? Yep. That is the best way I can explain it.
Immediately after the talk, I rushed back to see what was happening. Not before a young lady, Daphne* asked for my contacts.
I shall share an excerpt of the email she has sent me.
Thank you so much for what you do to bring a smile to children in Uganda. Growing up as an orphan made me go           through various challenges but luckily, I was able to study and graduate.
I have no stable job but believe I don’t need a lot of money to help the less fortunate. I believe I can volunteer with you and bring a smile to some children.
I therefore request to be part of your team and look forward to changing lives.
After reading this email, I was reminded of what 40-40 is all about.
It is not easy or painless but it is certainly worth it. (Also, pain demands to be felt so we shall have to accept these demands, no?)
The feeling of joy in my heart from the experiences this journey has brought me is almost palpable.
It is also quite evident that I have been blessed in more ways that I ever could repay.
Related: Christmas is here 🙂

baby Jesus