Moving On

My first real encounter with young passionate Ugandans chasing a big dream came in form of the Lantern meet of Poets. Man they breathe(d) passion! I vividly remember the day Lillian told me about the group and her subsequent excitement as they planned their first recital. It was a mix of eagerness and fear. Last year she reminded me that I sat with her backstage until it was her turn. Frankly all I remember from that recital was sitting proudly in the audience and resisting the urge to whisper to all my neighbours, ‘that’s my girl.’ I marvelled at her effortless ability to command the stage, her eloquence and confidence. I watched the other poets in awe, some visibly anxious and others whose performances said to us “I was born for this!”

lantern

Lillian and I had tested our rhymes as naughty teenagers in High school. She would pass a note that read “What do you think of the colour red?” and I would reply “Let us start by looking under the bed” or something silly along those lines. Before we knew it, we would have a complete poem, mostly full of stupidity, I might add. This would go on for most of the lesson, particularly the Political Education class which was most relaxed. I caught Mr. Miwa noticing me, noticing him, noticing us a few times but he never did penalise us.  I guess he decided our grades would speak for themselves or he just let ‘children’ be children. I don’t remember us failing though, it was quite an interesting class. One of the few for me, actually. Ask me about Physics though, I’ll come at you with a pendulum clock.

Fast forward to several years later and the Lantern meet partnered with my alma mater. It brought a certain joy to my heart. I thought if they had existed in my time, I would probably have joined in. At that point in my life, words were surely my escape. Perhaps I wouldn’t have gathered the courage to hit the stage but I would have liked to be in the presence of those realities, admiring the string of words and stories woven.

Speaking of words, I have never really found myself worthy to critique writing, any art really. I feel almost as if I would be dictating how the artist should feel, how they need to express their emotions; how they should interpret their thoughts and package them for the audience. I find that a tad unjust. While the audience certainly matters, I feel like sometimes we lose ourselves, our original message, trying so hard to fit into their expectations…but that’s just me.

I can still hear the echoes of “This revolution will not be televised” and how I left that evening thinking “Woah! What a time to be alive!”

Each time I got a chance to watch the Lantern meet at the National theatre, it brought back fond memories of my relationship with the place. As a Primary school pupil in the school choir, making it to the theatre was the equivalent of the Olympics. We participated in competitions that were held in schools all over the country but only the crème de la crème made it to the finals at National theatre. I suppose it would have been even more exhilarating if we had to travel miles to get there but unfortunately, I studied only a few metres away. Nonetheless, it was a thrilling experience for my young excitable mind. We weren’t half bad either. I remember crying inconsolably when I was about 10 years old, after we emerged second, nationwide! Ha! If only I knew then what I know now, I would tell little Esther to celebrate that ‘win’ and savour it. I would assure her that life would present so many more reasons to cry and this was one of the better days. Thankfully, ‘we’ never lost the passion and we did lose that competitive gene. Now, doing our best is good enough and I wish mini- me had known that.

After almost a decade, the Lantern meet of poets has decided to bow out. I have not had the chance to get the scoop on this scoop. I know for a fact that I would have loved to have them around forever but then again I am sure they have their reasons.

I would like to salute you for dreaming, for growing, for reminding us to appreciate the power of poetry, of words of rhythm and rhymes.

You were just but University students armed with a dream and a canvass when you began, look how much beauty you left us!  You created a movement, a force to reckon with and we are indebted to you for that.

 

I started this hoping to write a short piece celebrating the Lantern meet of poets and inviting you all to the last recital but 800 words later here we are. *smh*

If you are in Kampala this Saturday, come and say goodbye to them in style. The show will begin at 7pm. Tickets go for Ugx 20,000 and are already on sale at National Theatre.

lantern-meet

 

Your stories gave us light. Thanks for the memories!

 

 

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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

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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