Definitely. Maybe

I am typing this from the 40-40 office seated on a couch that isn’t even ours. Uhm, no we did not steal it 🙂 These chairs belong to the landlord and although we need the, he set a price that is quite high. Since we can’t afford them yet, we have decided we’ll custom-make our own set of chairs when the shillings trickle in. In the meantime, we are storing the chairs safely. Win-win! Side note: They are really comfy! My legs are stretched out and if my sleep wasn’t for beckoning by reciting petitions, calling an intervention, taking spiritual baths and chanting spells- I’d probably be dosing off by now.

These ‘borrowed’ chairs are a significant change from the mats we used to sit on during meetings. If you arrived early, you could snug yourself a cushion to comfort your behind. If you didn’t, you’d suddenly know the number of bones in areas you did not usually give much thought.

I vividly remember wondering where we’d get the money for 6 months rent before we set up shop. We needed an address. We’d registered the organisation and opened a bank account. Can you imagine before that, our budget depended on how much Banura and I had on our mobile money accounts? We’ve certainly come from far. An office seemed like the biggest step in the world. It was at the time. Thankfully, dad gave me half the amount, and I got soft loans from other friends who were willing to take the ‘risk’. Bless them.

It has been three years since I took a leap of faith, quit my job and staked all I had (and didn’t have) on 40-40; and here we are. My feelings are all over the place. I am happy. I am sad. I am confused. I am emotional.

This period coincides with my date of birth. I am fast approaching the big 30. In a couple of weeks, I will be one step closer. As you can imagine, all this comes with deep retrospect and quite often, regret follows. Thankfully for me, I am too busy musing at how things turned out to even feel remorseful.

See, I have accomplished NONE of the things I thought I would have by now. None. This means professionally, spiritually, relationship-wise and everything in between. Do I sometimes look over the fence, with envy watching my peers’ green grass? Certainly. Do I let that deter me? No. Everyone is entitled some moments of weakness from time to time. No? Now, when Fred purchases yet another piece of land and Joan starts construction of her new house; when Rachel is promoted and Melanie brings her third angel into world, I celebrate them fiercely. We all have different journeys and oh what joy to watch how the stories unfold. My friend Suzan says when I die, the one thing I should leave her in my will is my 7,213 notebooks. I have come to accept that these are, in fact, my only ‘assets’… for now.

I’ll just zero down on two themes from this past year and the two before.

Who are you?

Do you know who you are when you are in different environments? Do you take the time to understand what makes you tick, what annoys, how negative/positive vibes affect you? In my opinion, the best way to figure this out is by being alone for a while and critically thinking about it. *If you haven’t already, please create this time, as a gift to yourself*

This year, I was away from home for 3 months. During that time, I learnt quite a bit about myself. I’ll highlight only one lesson for the post’s sake. The best gift I gave myself was a gift in the art of letting go. Until this period, I’d shunned all opportunities that required me to be away from my people and my work for long periods of time. Even when I applied, I secretly prayed I didn’t get in. Guess what? I didn’t! This time I allowed things to happen naturally. I kept my distance. I was content with receiving updates about 40-40. Many times I was tempted to suggest that things be done a certain way. However, I controlled myself. My way definitely isn’t always the right way. I accepted that even if what I am saying is ‘right,’ sometimes people need to make mistakes themselves so they can learn better. If you can afford to, let them.  I got to watch from the side-lines (something every leader needs) and was very proud of what I saw.

Once you learn exactly who you are and how you flourish(or not) around certain things and people, you are more in control of what you do, whom you let in, what you give your attention/avoid and it can be very liberating.

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What are you doing?

Very close to who you are is what you are doing..or for some, what you should be doing. While I was thinking about this piece, my friend John shared this letter which I agreed with entirely. Do you find yourself wondering what you want to do with your life? Do you feel inadequate or worry that you are ‘running out of time?’ I know many of us do and this fear is often heightened around our birthdays or the end of the year. At least it does for me.

In that letter, Hunter. S Thompson explains that we should pay more attention to who we are and not our goals, because essentially our experiences change us and our perspectives also change. <Look to the man, not the goal> So here we are, counting 4 months to the year’s end and thinking how unaccomplished we are when we should looking at ourselves, our changes, our experiences.

When people tell me they want to leave their jobs or start a non-profit/start-up and thus need my advice; the first thing I do is to assure them that no two stories are the same, might be a bit similar but the variables are diverse. Some people excel as leaders, others are better off following. We need producers as much as we need consumers and the list goes on. That is how we achieve balance.

This brings to mind the story of Irene. Irene believed NGOs are a lucrative ‘business’ and decided starting one would fill a void in her life and also give her a quick buck. When I spoke to her, I explained that her image of Executive Directors driving 4×4’s visiting projects once a month and living the good life wasn’t the full story. Unfortunately, like most people, she had translated 40-40’s media attention to mean great wealth on my part. The first thing she asked when I arrived for our meeting was “Why are you using a boda, don’t you have a driver or something?” I laughed so hard! She was genuinely ‘concerned’ when she found out I don’t earn a 6 figure salary. Dear reader, I know the look of pity all too well and of all the ones I’ve seen, Irene’s is etched in my memory for life. I decided to give her a short class since I have met too many ‘Irenes’ over the past few years. I started unbundling the myth for her bit by bit. In fact, I made a strong case for her to keep her day job. The last thing this country needs is another person deluded by wealth, willing to disguise their greed in a nicely coloured coat. By the way, do not get me wrong, we all need to make a living and indeed good intentions don’t put food on the table; but wouldn’t it be much more meaningful if that which you chose corresponded with who you are?

Once you know who you are and what brings out the best in you, you can easily choose a path that best utilises your personality, skill and true being. I am fortunate enough to have stumbled upon my path, almost accidentally. When I think about it, everything that I am doing espouses who I truly am. My love for people and affinity for children; my attraction to stories and storytelling, planning events and seeing things grow out of nothing. I derive so much pleasure from seeing other people happy and I couldn’t think of a better way to attain it than through what I do.

The truth is that this kind of life can be really challenging, probably even more than the ‘let’s see how this goes’ lifestyle. The satisfaction it brings though, I cannot relate that to any sensation yet.

This month I celebrate another year on the planet, and another year of not having a boss, a regular salary and of course pretending I don’t like shopping 😉 My broad and eclectic experiences have made me who I am and I’m even more ecstatic about the future <also quite scared but the glass is half full>

I started by admitting that I haven’t achieved any of the goals I set for myself way back when, what I didn’t tell you is I am glad I haven’t. I would not trade what I have now for anything.

 “A man who procrastinates in choosing a path will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”

Enjoy September and may the last quarter of the year be kind 🙂

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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.

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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*

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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!”

Humps ahead

Temperatures are now as low as -2 degrees in London. A normal person would probably succumb to flu or cough at most, but no, Linda had to go and attract some other bugs.

After an almost ‘too good to be true’ fortnight, the universe decided that this lady needed to calm down a bit, thereby sending some ailments her way. Unfortunately, she had sped past the sign so all of it came as an unwelcome surprise.

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Monday was deadline day for an important assignment. 5,000 words can seem like a small novel, especially when it is on topics that don’t exactly include one’s interests.She started to feel sick but could not let herself accept that this was happening at such a crucial hour. Denial it would have to be, until further notice.

All the pain and discomfort was put on hold until she clicked ‘submit.’ “It is just fatigue,” she thought, and went to bed with the hope that everything would be okay the next morning. Unbeknownst to her, she would not be able to leave bed the following day.

It was finally clear that Linda would have to seek medical attention but possibly the next day. She freshened up and went on to fix herself the first meal of the day at 6p.m. In the kitchen (that also serves as a common room), sat the excitable , Jack. “Would you like to sit down and have a beer?” he offered. She declined, trying to seem as ‘normal’ as possible. Upon reaching her room, she realised that more people had been streaming in and music was starting to get louder. She had lost count of the parties these undergraduates held every other day. At first, it seemed like a weekend thing but gradually grew into a ‘when we feel like’ tradition. She tried to watch a movie to pass time until she received a message from her classmate. The list for people who handed in the assignment was out and Linda’s name was not on it. Talk about bad luck! She checked the email and indeed her name was not mentioned. Too disturbed to comprehend the situation, she decided to shut out the noise and find some sleep.

She thought of the people around that she could confide in about her illness but did not want any of them to have to leave work for her sake. She decided to send one message to one of the scholars, her new Kenyan friend, Grace. She hoped Grace would offer to accompany her to the clinic. Plan B, would be to ask her out rightly and if she was busy or unable, plan C would be to find it on her own. After sending this text, she closed her eyes.

Morning came as early as 4a.m,Linda  tossed and turned as she awaited daylight. The plan was to stay in bed till enough strength was amassed. At about 9 a.m, she heard a knock at her door. Still groggy and clad in pyjamas, she opened to find a concerned Grace. “I took a shower and came as soon as I read your message,” she said. Phew! Linda felt a huge sigh of relief. Grace consequently left to make them breakfast as Linda got ready.

They both didn’t know the location of the clinic but it was that much better getting lost as a pair. Linda was dizzy by the time they arrived. It turned out seeing doctors was only on appointment except for walk ins that began at 2p.m. They had over two hours to kill but at least there was comfort in knowing they were in the right place.

Time moved slowly until Linda started to notice the students who were coming in. Those registered needed to only mention their date of birth and the receptionists would find them in the system. One by one they walked in “July 2nd 1995, November 30th 1998…”
“Whhaat?!” The ladies began to muse at all those ‘babies.’ Linda played a game where she guessed the years as soon as they walked in. Some looked pretty young but others could fool anyone as being closer to 30 years than the 20 they really were. Time moved faster with this exercise.

Finally the hour came and she saw a nice doctor who understood her condition. Armed with a prescription, they found a nearby pharmacy. She thanked God she had carried emergency money because the bill brought semi-squints. She made a mental note for the 1000th time not to convert to prices to shillings.

They decided to take a bus back and look out for sites on the way to their residence.

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Grace heated up some food for Linda upon arrival as she dashed to her room to make a call to her husband and son.
All Linda could do was thank her endlessly for sacrificing most of her day to take care of her.

This morning the other two Ugandan scholars showed up at Linda’s doorstep. “We have heard the News,” they yelled. She could only laugh as she questioned their sources. “Bad news travels fast, they replied.” C’est vrai.

Grace later joined with a cup of hot chocolate for Linda in tow. The ladies shared tales of their experiences on this journey so far.

Linda found out Racheal had spent Sunday night crying because she missed her son terribly and kept promising him goodies each time they spoke. The son’s father walked out on them last year. Jane’s bosses were not paying her salary for the period she’d spend in London but she was still grateful for the opportunity.

When they left, Linda was immersed in deep thought about everyone’s journey and how nothing is guaranteed. She was reminded for the umpteenth time, how blessed she was.

Although this sickness had come at a bad time and slowed down the pace of her progress, she knew deep down that a testimony was unfolding before her very eyes. All she needed to do was be patient.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Out and about

The life of a student is a complicated one, especially when in a place away from home. You want to work hard and excel but you also need to take in the sights and sounds, uncertain whether you shall get another opportunity to indulge.

Linda is no different. She looks at her to do list and then turns to her ‘to visit’ list soon after. Imagine her joy when she realised some of the must see places were next door to her residence!

When Linda was certain she was going to London, she shared her address with her brother. He looked it up and exclaimed what a great location it was. Filled with anxiety and related emotions at the time, she did not fully comprehend what he meant, until Sunday.

On Sunday, she arranged to meet her brother’s friend James.* He had agreed to take her to church, and show her some sights.

The walk to church was practically 5 minutes, a great relief for her knowing her Sundays were sorted. Westminster cathedral stood there, in all its grandeur and poise. Staring would be for later. First the mass.

It was a beautiful sermon that recreated Jesus’ baptism and its meaning to the lives of Christians. The message may have not been very new, but its delivery was.

After mass, the two took a short tour of the chapels and James wondered aloud, why African churches did not also adopt the concept of little chapels within the cathedrals.

With a variety of restaurants to choose from, they settled for an Italian restaurant called “Zizzi.” Not in the mood to experiment, Linda ordered a pizza, as did her host.

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It turned out to be the right decision as the pizza was scrumptious. The olive oil availed to use with reckless abandon was a plus.

What followed was nothing short of a little adventure. The walk to various sights was like a scene from a movie, or perhaps more than one. From Buckingham palace to Hyde park to the Houses of Parliament and a quick stop at Downing street, it became increasingly improbable for Linda to keep her eyes from widening (or her jaw from dropping)

Piccadily circus, surrounded by theatres, cinemas and restaurants offered a great atmosphere filled with energy and lights, lots of them. This was followed by a walk through Leicester square which houses several theatres that are often used for movie Premieres (All those red carpet moments seen on t.v suddenly struggled to be remembered)

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big ben

As James and Linda walked returned from their view of Big Ben and the London eye, Linda couldn’t help but make out the sounds of Sam Smith’s, “stay with me.” When they turned around, a gentleman, with chubby cheeks, probably in his twenties, stood there belting out the lyrics, guitar in hand..and guitar case filled with coins. His voice was sultry and seemingly effortless.

She asked James if they could stay and watch. Before long, a small crowd formed. His rendition of Passenger’s ‘Let her go’ was tear-worthy (in a good way) At this point it was 4 degrees and the wind was unamused too. They left shortly after this song. This was not before James passed Linda a pound to tip the talented young man. It was quite possibly the best pound she’d ‘spent’ since she got there.

They started to walk back. Next day being a work/school day.  Time seemed to have stopped in Linda’s head.

At a cinema en route, they stopped for warm beverages. Linda looked at the cinema’s prices. Movie at £18??Sssh…Surely Channing Tatum ought to give you at least a hug during the movie at that rate, no?

It was quite difficult to do much when Linda got back to her residence. She ate the leftovers of her pizza and gave thanks to the Lord for opportunities, kind acquaintances and life.

Images : Google

Market day

Linda and two of her friends had agreed to check out the Brixton market on Friday. Part of the fun is figuring things on one’s own and as such, they did not have a chaperone. Thankfully, this stop was on the same line  as theirs(Think one of train stops on the same route)

Right after they got to the station, they did not know where to go. They decided to  turn left and then come back if they failed to find it (or ask along the way) Voila, the market stood in its glory just a few metres after the lucky turn.

It was easy to tell because of the buzz that surrounded ‘traders.’ In just a couple of minutes, they had seen bananas, avacado, mangoes and pretty much everything that screamed ‘home’ to them. They decided to take a short tour and then return to make some purchases.

Brixton UG

Do you see that flag, do ya?

The walk seemed to uncover something new with every step. The population in this area is mainly of African and Caribbean descent. As an African, you would feel right at home, as the trio did on this cold Saturday afternoon.

They agreed that they needed to taste food from at least one restaurant before they left. The pick was what seemed like an Italian restaurant with a varied menu that had everything from curries to french fries (chips). Milly and Christine settled for chips and chicken, while Linda had a beef curry with rice. The prices are quite pocket friendly. In fact, the train fare, meal and drink were altogether cheaper than a meal at the street where the students live.

They agreed to try out a new restaurant whenever they were in the area. What better way to ‘travel the world’ than through discovering different cuisines, right?

BRIXTON restaurant

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Ahead of them lay a cosmetics shop that had everything from weaves to the hair oils they know and love. Milly purchased a few brands she was familiar with and then they were off. Before embarking on the ‘food trail,’ they chanced upon a little Christian bookshop that turned out to be a gem. It had beautiful messages, books and gifts that left the ladies wishing they had a shopping allowance. Milly suggested a group Bible study for the East African team after finding a book that would serve as a guide. Christine and Linda happily welcomed the idea and made their contribution so as to purchase the book.

After spending more time than they should have in the lovely, store, they decided to concentrate of their purpose for the visit. Most of the items were sold at one pound each. For those that seemed greater in quantity like apples, oranges and onions, Milly and Linda split so that each could take home a fair share that could last them a week or more.

brixton food

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While looking for flour, to make chapatis, Linda bumped into a shop attendant of Indian descent. He did not even ask her where she was from and immediately started a conversation.
Him: Gyebale nyabo

Linda: *quizzical look on her face* Kale, naawe gyebale

Him: Olyotya?

Her: Gendi

Him: Oyagala matooke..?
Her: *giggle* Nedda ssebo

After a while, Christine pulled her aside to ask if he indeed knew ‘her language..’ They did not find the flour but Linda made sure to buy some items from him.

It started to rain (as it often does, out of the blue) and the ladies took shelter for a while. The bags were too heavy and too full to stand the burden of umbrellas.

The ride back was quiet after 3 or so odd hours of ‘shopping.’

With Linda still struggling to keep up with the change in time zones, her system dictated a long bath and some rest even though the night was still young.

P.s

  • The shops generally give shopping bags in this area although it is best to carry a big one in which you can throw everything
  • It is also a great entertainment scene, with several bars, Ritzy, picturehouse, the largest independent cinema in the UK, Brixton academy that hosts live shows and live music. There are also several other items ranging from clothing to jewellery, new and second hand. Perhaps Linda will have more to add on this in future.
  • Apparently, Brixton’s crime rate is considerably higher than most areas in and around London.. but there were no incidents to report on while the ladies discovered bits of this vibrant area.

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.

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Google image