Silver linings

24

Yesterday I made some follow up calls again, to potential sponsors for our anniversary dinner. Indeed, some people avoided them-again.
Cathy picked up.
She knows who I am but she let me go through a lengthy introduction. That was fine.
Finally, I reminded her that I had been following up and needed to know when the best time was for me to check in for the verdict.
Her: Don’t call me. I am the one who will call you!
Her tone! Gosh,not even the tinniest ant was bigger than me in that moment.
I said thank you, hang up and looked up to the heavens like ‘WHY, God, WHY?!
It seemed like for every two steps made, I go back 10.
A few hours later, I went to the 4040 meeting and we discussed our plans. The memory was fresh in my mind, along with all the disappointments that seem to occur daily. Then during the meeting, I had a moment.
I looked around, I was in the company of 4 friends, two of whom had their babies back at home.
Each of these individuals could have been anywhere else but here they were brainstorming away, past 9pm on a work day. The staff of the restaurant started to clean up as a hint, but there we were planning away.
Them,together with several others have sacrificed a good chunk of their time,resources, skills,emotions and so much more to make the dream work.
Some have come and gone but their impact is still felt and they made their contribution.
In the beginning, I did almost everything single handedly because I couldn’t bear to be let down by another;to have someone else to blame. But here we are, 5 years later; still meeting weekly;bonding over that black tea🍵 and doing whatever it takes to stick together like the family we now are.
I do not take that for granted.

 


So, of course these ‘worldly disappointments’ will knock me down now and again..but I hope I never lose sight of all the little miracles that have come my way along this journey. One of these miracles at the very top, is this amazing team that I am proud of, now, always.

Originally posted on 24th March

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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 😉

E for Enough.

Story 4
For a long time, very few members of the 4040 core team had cars. That meant that the few who did were burdened with the responsibility of transporting items..and people whenever we had an outreach and before/after.
This one time we happened to be in Joseph’s* car.
Joseph is one of those people who is knowledgeable about cars and gadgets and he is quite pragmatic. As with most people who ‘know their stuff,’ it is difficult for him to accept that when he is wrong.
I am one of those people who can poke you till you want to throw them out of your car. 😤This background 《will be helpful for the next part.

We were leaving a community one evening and picking up items from a Good Samaritan who had kid’s stuff to spare. I peeked at the fuel gauge and noticed it was warning so I mentioned it to Joseph. “I know my car, this fuel will be enough.” After a kilometre I asked again. Same response. Another few kilometres and I start pointing out fuel stations along the way.
Him: “I can’t take fuel from those fake petrol stations. Let me know when you see SHELL.

empty-gauge
I showed him one last ‘fake’ petrol station then decided to give up.
500 metres after we past it, the car got stuck..wait for it..On a slope, blocking several cars as it grew dark, in the middle of nowhere.😧
Guess which petrol station Joseph went to..? Yup, you get a cookie. You guessed it! The last ‘fake’ one.

I would like to tell you that this is the last time such a scenario occurred with our dear Joseph, and his car, ‘Esmeralda’ but you my dear readers, do not deserve to be lied to.

Belly joy

 

“Laughter is brightest in the place where the food is.”

 

Over a week ago while going through the posts on popular Facebook page “Kampala Food Network” I noticed one of the administrators, Kavitha had asked a question, with a prize attached. It was actually a comment within a post so I am not sure how I stumbled upon it. There was a picture of what seemed like sea food and Kavitha offered a four course meal, prepared by her as a prize for whoever got the answer right. By the time I started reading, a one Petero had given the correct answer, “cockles.” I did not even bother to google. I just commented with a crying emoticon, jealous of the feast Petero would get to encounter. See, I stalk Kavitha and her cooking. Everything from meats to desserts, the sight just makes my stomach somersault. While I have been present at functions she has catered, somehow I never get a chance to really indulge in her food because of the work I am often doing. I digress.

I followed the comments thereafter and imagine my shock and utter glee when I read a comment from the winner saying he was nominating Shamillah (another fan who’d commented) and ‘Esther’ as recipients of this meal. Why? Because he is out of the country and could not make it. What? How? Scratch that *insert not-so-coordinated dance moves* How exciting! Kavitha, Shamillah and I took our conversation aside to agree on dates away from the post. Yaay!

So many things happened before D-day and I was afraid I would have to cancel. The month had been a wild mix of heart-rending events and I decided the meal would very well become a priority to add some much needed colour.

Finally, the long awaited day I arrived. I ensured my breakfast was light and my taste buds fully alive. I arrived at Kavitha’s lovely home well before time. After a brief catch up, I let her get back to work in her spacious kitchen which would probably make my mom green with envy. Her boys kept me company as we waited for Shamillah to arrive.  Had I stayed longer, family secrets would have been spilled: P

Our thoughtful host had set our table on the patio because of the heat and boy was it a treat! When Shamillah arrived, we just went straight into it. Below you will see the pictures, and a description of each meal.

appetizer

Amuse bouche : Guacamole in tostone cups topped with spciy diced chicken

 

soup

Soup Butternut squash soup with toasted French bread

main

Main course: Tandoori lamb chops with mint chutney, matchstick fries and sweet lemon, cherry tomatoes, orange salad

nohito

Watermelon nojito featuring Shamillah’s hand

water

The boys kept asking why we have two drinks. Hehe, why not? Orange water

dessert

Chai masala cake with vanilla ice cream and date sauce

 

Needless to say, everything tasted as good as it looks, probably more! I’m hunnnngggrrryyy! *wails*

Between cooking, checking on her boys and dealing with clients, mixed orders et al over the phone, Kavitha was still engaged and pleasant during the course of our meal. She served us, brought more drinks when the glasses were emptying and even had time to throw in some recipes. Superwoman!

The most difficult part of it all was when she asked which of the 4 our favourite was. How can you punish one with making such a choice? The second most difficult point was having to get up after all of that eating. By dessert, Shamillah and I were struggling to find space. Nonetheless, the aromas and presentation could not keep us away!

The four course meal was prepared with love, and you could taste it. Our taste buds were tantalised and left asking for more. As a slow eater, this is definitely my kind of set up. Conversation, bits of different foods brought at different intervals, no rush just basking in the enjoyment of different flavours. I felt like a Princess and feared that going back into the ‘rea’ world would taint this newfound serenity.

As if ALL of this was not enough, Kavitha had a surprise ‘goodbye package’ for us; a box of cookies each, with red ribbon. Was this m actual birthday and no one told me?!! We were overjoyed! When I looked at my dinner later that evening, I was underwhelmed. How to ‘dilute’ all those mouth-watering dishes with my simple cooking? Suddenly tea with cookies and left over cake seemed like the best option and that was how it went down!

This experience, in its entirety was just what the doctor ordered 🙂

I have encountered several business people in Uganda who have forgotten how to be humans first. Somewhere along the way, they lose their soul and succumb to pressures, leaving only profits as their driving force. I am glad to know a few who are exceptions, and Kavitha is one of them.

When I narrated the tale to the mother, she was stunned. She assured me one of these days I will win something huge, if I can even be gifted prizes that weren’t mine to start with. I tend to agree: P

 

Very special thanks to Petero, whom I have never met or spoken to, for nominating Shamillah and I to partake in this feast. Gratitude to Kavitha for being an awesome chef, host and all round wonderful human being and last but not least, my new friend Shamillah who was my partner in oooohhs and aaahhhsss.

P.s: Kavitha, next time you and the hubby need a romantic getaway, I am happy to babysit your lovely boys 😉

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.

 

Free food!

The day started out cold and rainy. All Linda could think of were the excuses people would be making to cut work or make their way out of appointments back at home.

She found a colleague and they set off for the train station.

Controller at the train station : Are you Kenyan?

Linda: No, Ugandan

Guy:  *In heavy British accent* Ogamba ki?

Linda: *Wide grin* Gendi mani….

The ride to the University was smooth and fast.

The venue for the ‘new’ student’s meeting was a bevy of activity as Linda settled in her seat.

She said hello to her neighbour who happened to be Australian. As they got to talking he asked her if she knew the singer Roberto and if he was from Uganda 😀

Linda: The one who sang ‘amarula?’

Him: Yes! Is he Ugandan?

Linda: I wish. He is Zambian

Him: I love that song!

Great ice breaker. Before long, they were catching up like old friends.

With a few hours to spare before the next session, Linda and her friends took a stroll to pick up their student IDs. The campus seems to have a new building that pops up every other minute.

At the orientation, the group had been told about a gentleman who serves free lunch daily and had been toying with the idea of trying it out.  Free food in London? Why not?! Some of the other students were sceptical but Linda was happy to try anything at least once.

By 12pm, the queue was filling up. They were curious about the food for that day’s serving and quickly joined in.

It turned out to be rice, some bread, mushroom sauce and even strawberries! (for dessert perhaps?) The portions were quite big too. Best of all, it was hot!

hot food

 

Daniel, by far the funniest guy in the lot, started to exclaim that he would not buy any food for as long as he was at the University. He started mapping out a route in which he would head to school daily, with or without lectures just for the food. Daniel even vowed to get a seat in the library with perfect view of the serving area so as to arrive on time.

This is the same guy who earlier said he had  plain ugali (posho) for breakfast that day because he was unsure when his next meal would come 😀

Linda could not get over the guy who cooks and serves this food and made a mental note to get him to tell his story, at a later stage. If this happens, we get to ‘hear’ it here 🙂

 

More next time.

 

On being thankful…

On being thankful

The year is stealthily coming to an end! It feels like every month was shorter than the last.
September was different for me though. I made a conscious decision to enjoy it. Most of my feelings were intentional. I let happy moments linger and ensured that negative energy took a back seat, way back! I am happy to report, it worked!

thanks 1
This month, I picked up one of my countless notebooks and started a page titled “Thankful September” Here, I jotted down at least one incident that brought me joy on any given day. Some days were more joyful than others but that’s a great thing so the lists could be as long as possible.
Some days brought out the best of mundane moments, others were truly special because people went out of their way to ensure this. Sometimes, I went out of my way to milk that happy ending out.
I am hoping that this can become a habit. I remember Kathy asking me how I was a few weeks back. I replied that I was great and would be the same for the foreseeable future. A few days later she asked again. “Yes, I am still great, just like yesterday and the day before.” “I like you like this,” she remarked. Me too! Me too! I thought…
There is no such thing as a perfect life and of course there are many depressing moments that have come my way. The only difference is I chose to count it all joy because it can always, always be worse!
A good friend of mine has a patient in hospital whose condition has been deteriorating daily. She called me last night and I gasped before I could pick up the phone. I feared the worst! When I heard her tone, I let out a loud sigh of relief. I explained that night calls give me palpitations but this particular one came with an even bigger scare. At this point, I could only cry out to God. I have faith that it will get better and for life, we are thankful. That there’s hope means there’s even more to be thankful for.
I shall pick out one day from my month of thankfulness.

Last week I visited a couple that welcomed a beautiful angel into their family. I had been ‘on my way to visit’ for the longest time and the guilt was ripping me apart. The moment I got a few free hours, I made my way there. It rained heavily that day, as if to mock me. Thankfully, by the time the taxi reached their stage, only drizzles could be seen.
I called my friend, ‘Tim’ so that he could pick me up but he was on a boda boda so he did not hear it. I decided to wait near a supermarket. I noticed a lady, probably in her late 30’s staring at me and figured I just looked like someone she knew. She slowly walked up to me and said “Thank you for all the work you do, we appreciate it.” I shrieked! She walked off before I could start my ‘what, where, when, who…?’ By the time Tim showed up, my cup was already full but the day wasn’t done with me yet.
We got to the house and I finally met the little (now grown) lady and Tim’s business partner. The lady of the house joined us later. Now, I would not say Tim and I are close friends. We went to the same school, and were acquainted then. We have probably met a total of 5 times since (unplanned) but I keep tabs on his work and he does the same with 4040. I have invited him for pretty much all our events but he almost always has work. Nonetheless, he makes that known and applauds our little milestones.
We got to talking about work and life and then something happened during the course of the conversation. He stopped saying “4040 should….” Or “You need to think about….” Instead he was saying “I think WE need to consider a,b,c…” Now, this might not be a big deal to everyone but it was to me and I am not sure I can illustrate why.

See, I stopped seeing 4040 as ‘my thing’ a while ago and try to, (in both word and action) ensure that those who work with us can feel like they have a huge stake in it. That one person’s failure is our failure and any success is ours too. I am the first to admit that it is a lot to ask but, I do it anyway. The few who get sold to this are…enough.
Additionally, there are those days when you feel like you need new blood, new ideas to increase your momentum. You know that you need to innovate but you have been at the frontline of things for so long that you doubt your ability to sit at the side-lines and sincerely critique your very foundation. Do you eve get that feeling?
Well, Tim had some great ideas and seeing as he has a tech background, I was even more intrigued. We had a mini brainstorm and it took everything in me not to pull out a notebook and give timelines. Gosh, this was meant to be a casual visit!

He beckoned his business partner, ‘Ivan’ and asked that they dedicate one of their sessions to some of these ideas. Whhhhaaat?! As if that wasn’t enough, he named them in order of priority and even set his own targets. My little heart did so many backflips, I thought they could see them.

Later that evening, I had a ‘post birthday’ dinner with my uncle and spent my journey home humming with glee.
It’s a few days to our event and I am a nervous wreck, as I often am. There are several hurdles that need to be overcome. Nevertheless, I am thankful because it means I have something that I care about. How incredible is it to love so much that you literally feel the passion on your skin, in your heart and everywhere in between? Yes, there is always something to be thankful for!

thanks 2
I am hoping I can carry my September challenge on for months to come. Try it?

 
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