heed the call of the peacock!

Posts like this encourage me to read even more. To better tell stories, to learn and to have richer conversations. Now you know my next read. Read along friends…

scare-a-hero

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A FEW WEEKS ago as I arrived at the Pearl of Africa Hotel for the launch of ‘The Call Of The Peacock‘, I noted how gentle and professional the Special Forces Command officials were as they guided us into the celebration room.

They were markedly different from the soldiers I grew up dodging, and from the parking lot to the very entrance to the ballroom I kept thinking of the term ‘Customer Care’ and musing at how it could now be used in reference to some of the toughest soldiers on the Continent.

At the entrance, I burst into a laugh when a plainclothes officer politely asked, “Is Madame not coming?” as he inspected my card.

He knew neither “Madame” nor myself, since the card didn’t bear our actual names. But he was quite polite.

These were small signs of how things have changed in Uganda since the…

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My War Room Encounter

Life does know how to test us and  can easily cripple us till we lose sight of the goal we were aiming for. But while all that seems unfair, no one promised us a smooth journey and for this very reason, we ought to constantly recharge our faith and commitment to our journey. Problem is, many of us have forgotten the source of our faith, and have become so lost, frustrated and think we can fix it ourselves.

Two years ago, I thought I was wholly in charge of my destiny. I had a few things going for me and was in a relationship whose red flags I was so blind to because I thought ‘I got this. I know what’s best for me’. All that came to screeching halt, leaving me for dead and in the worst pain I never thought would happen to someone like me. Emotionally devastated, and physically maimed, I lost everything I prided in. Money, self-esteem, ambition and my motivation to face tomorrow. I told no one about it for a long time. I was a shamed that it happened to me, because I thought I was in control and should have foreseen all of it.

Warroom dvd

A great friend and Life Coach helped me kick start my healing journey and along the way, I stumbled upon the movie WAR ROOM, a Kendrick Brothers film. The story follows a young couple, the Jordans, who had great jobs, a beautiful daughter (Alena Pitts),  a dream house and seemed to have it all. Appearances can be deceiving, however, as husband Tony (T.C. Stallings) flirts with temptation and wife Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer) becomes increasingly bitter, crumbling under the strain of a failing marriage. Their lives take an unexpected turn for the better when Elizabeth meets her newest client, Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie), who encourages the couple to find happiness through prayer.

Miss Clara became my spiritual mother from that moment. I remember painfully pulling myself up to a sitting position and screaming out to the Heavens. I prayed and cried. The truth of what I had lost sinking in even deeper but this time followed with a calm wave. I did not know what it was but I felt so relieved. Loved. And in that moment, I chose to forgive. To forgive myself, but especially the one who had betrayed my trust. It had been six months of bitterness, regret and so much mental torture. I was depressed and cared for nothing else.

Karen
Karen Abercrombie’s character in War Room ‘Miss Clara’

Hearing Miss Clara explain how we face our battles with the wrong strategies, watching her use the lukewarm coffee metaphor to illustrate how we have taken our creator, provider and protector for granted was a wake up call. That day, how I face life changed. Along the way, I have constantly fallen back into the old routine and approach to life but the Grace of God never fails. He litters reminders along your path, and always makes sure you aren’t completely lost.

I was raised Catholic, and I am deeply rooted in my faith. My mother is one of the most faithful and committed women I know. I have always admired her relationship with God and wanted to have a piece of it but reality is, it’s a personal relationship and I had to forge my own with God. But many times, I have felt incapable of being that good a daughter to Him. With these doubts in my mind and heart, I went to attend a Christian Women’s gathering in Ntinda yesterday. The special guest, we were told, was one of the leading actresses in War Room, but I didn’t know who.

Funny part is, I had totally forgotten about this meeting. On Saturday I usually sleep in, but my eyes chose to open at 6:00AM. I honestly tried to sleep again but couldn’t. Moments later I pick up my phone and checked my messages. Then a message (about the War Room star) from one Inspired Leader, Connie, calls to me and shoot, I was out of bed and ready to leave my apartment in under 30 minutes. Talk about excitement. But I also realized I did not share the same with other friends, because I had forgotten about it.

The special guest was Karen Abercrombie, the lady who acted as Miss Clara, the spicy 80 year old prayer warrior in the film. It was an emotional experience. While we waited for her to join us, I listened to the testimonies of other women, whom the War Room experience has touched. It was hard maintaining my composure as these faithful women shared some painful experiences and how the power of prayer helped them through. And then our guest took to the stage and swept us off our feet with her own testimony. She shared her life and how the movie role came to be hers to play.

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Karen and I

Patience, unshaken faith and unceasing prayer are the best way I can summarize her life experience thus far. Did I forget dramatic? Oooh she is animated, with a very striking personality, very warm to others and she was blessing everyone she met. Being me, I knew that was my moment to make sense of some experiences and generous she was, helping me look beyond my human incapacity unto Him who sees all, knows all and still loves me unconditionally.

Everyone needs a Miss Clara in their life, because we very easily think we can control every aspect of life yet in truth we can’t handle it all on our own. I bet she didn’t know how many people she would touch worldwide, when she took up the role. But I know she prayed that every woman be reminded of God’s infinite providence through the lessons imparted in the movie.

I am one of those she inspired. Meeting her in person was a privilege and left an impression on my soul.

 

Love

This is the closest I have ever come to writing about love, thanks to Muwado’s Roland for the constant nudge to pen something for Valentine’s day. It’s one of those things I am surprisingly shy about. Do not ask me ‘Why’ because I have no answer, but here I am, thinking of love in a whole new way. This I will attribute to one word-smith I encountered recently through social media and this particular Twitter post stood out for me on the eve of Valentine’s Day, 2018. It says;

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One of the deep short pieces by @iambrillyant

Now to say these words didn’t cut through to my heart would be a lie. I read and re-read these words and pondered on what he really meant. Then I watched Flicka, a 2006 movie about the Wild West and a wild horse (Mustang) that wouldn’t be tamed except by LOVE, the love of one girl. No force but love would settle this wild beast. And to crown the story, she had the following words to say;

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Kathleen McLaughlin – Flicka (2006)

“I believe there is a force in this world that lives beneath the surface, something primitive and wild that wakens when you need an extra push just to survive. Like wild forests that bloom after the fire turns a forest black.

Most people are afraid of it and keep it buried deep inside themselves. But there will always be a few people who will love what is untamed inside us.”

These two messages got me thinking about love and my ‘supposed’ experience of it and asking myself if I had ever truly appreciated what love is. Do I even know what love is? At this rate, I think not. I have mixed feelings about all this now and I am trying to work through it.

First and foremost, I acknowledge the Love of God. This love by the Lord Almighty, my true Father and source of all things true. For every moment I have pondered what a force love is, I have grown closer to Him who gives it. He has nurtured me through it all, even when I looked the other way and momentarily forgot about Him. He never blinks and never tires. Oh how many times He corrects me. I love how He reminds me that it is Him I need. And how fresh it feels to acknowledge His presence in my life. Read Proverbs 3:11-12

If you have never known the love of an earthly father, you may have nothing to compare with the heavenly Father’s love. His love is more gentle than a mother’s breast and stronger than a father’s arms at the same time. It is more intimate than a lover’s caress. It is more consistent than a child’s affection. It is agape. It is God’s love. If you could ever fathom it- His love alone would heal the aching of your broken heart. He absolutely adores you.  – Bishop T.D Jakes

And as I stumbled around some more, trying to understand love as we humanly perceive it and find clarity, this post found its way to my space. It’s a conversation between Kiah McBride and Billy Chapata, whose tweet I captured earlier in this post. She asks;

Would you say this generation has a false perception of love? What’s your perception of the current state of love?

Billy: I think this generation of love is just very skewed, and it’s very misleading.

……….

… we base love on the premise of it being a feeling, and the problem with feelings is that feelings are fleeting. So if you feel happy or you feel sad, whatever the case may be, feelings are fleeting—they come and go. And the problem with basing your idea of love on the fact that it’s a feeling is that you’re also giving me (read: your loved one) the permission to just come and go as well.

“Love, in all honesty, is a choice.”

Read the full post here.

Do you now get why I am confused about this whole love affair? The hustle is real, I tell you! But in all this, and after looking back on the few relationships I have had in the name of love (count family and friends too), I believe I got it all wrong.  While I so much wanted to love the other person and make them happy enough to stay, I forgot that if I didn’t love myself first, I would never be truly able to love another person. Nobody else can make me truly happy. They can contribute to feelings of joy and satisfaction but happiness is my responsibility.

More importantly, you cannot give what you don’t have. Oprah says it best; “It’s okay to be full of yourself, because it’s only when your cup is overflowing that you can be able to serve others.” You can’t keep giving from an empty place. You have to keep yourself grounded, full. This may sound selfish but I have experienced it. I am at a point where I feel tired, drained and now I know, I have been giving a lot of what I did not have. It tires you emotionally, so you have to pull back a bit and take care of you first. Give the love to yourself first.

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Written by Billy Chapata (@iambrillyant)

 

My third decade just dawned and with it, Hope. I hope that I will love harder than I have ever loved. I hope that I will have someone deserving to share this love with and who will truly love me back.

My twenties were a roller-coaster ride, graced with enough bumps to summon maturity out of me, just enough to appreciate the life and experiences I have so far. And above all, to learn to love right and to never forget myself in this picture.

That said, I celebrated myself on Valentine’s day. Not by doing anything out of the ordinary, but by renewing this relationship with me, and committing to myself in a way I had never done before. Allowing myself to feel and get lost in the motions of my emotions, taking note of every moment. And so it will be all year through and beyond. Therefore, to myself I say;

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Another piece from Billy Chapata

 

Lastly, a few titles I will be reading as I enjoy this self love include; Billy Chapata’s Sour Honey & Soul Food, for obvious reasons and A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson because every excerpt screams ‘it’s worth a read’ and Lupita N’yongo endorsed it. I’ll leave you with a famous quote from this book.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

#BreakingLymyts

 

Only the Best that can Be

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Sipping on a glass of wine in my awfully quiet little apartment (no one else is home) and I am so lost in thought, I didn’t see the lights go off nor be aware of the darkness wrapped around me until the lights came back on. My mind is invaded by troubled thoughts.

Genesis:

Today, 21st February, 2018, the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) released the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) 2017 results and the pressure I felt from the former candidates was alarming. I am seriously concerned for these young people and this feeling brought to mind my own experience of this very moment, 11 years ago.

I was besides myself before the results were known to us. Unlike today, you had to wait about a week or so for the headteacher to pick the results from the city (if you studied from an upcountry school like I did) and you could then visit the school and check for your results, which would be displayed on the notice board for all to see.

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Post to the UNEB Facebook page by a former UACE candidate

The pressure of not knowing what a certain group of people decided your brains amount to, the shame of being reduced to a failure if you didn’t get the maximum (read other people’s expected) score, the broken dreams because you didn’t satisfy society’s standard of academic excellence, all weighed down on my youthful hopes and dreams. Suddenly what could be, seems unachievable and you’re doomed to fail for the rest of your life. At least that’s what every influential figure in your life will make you feel. And by influential, I mean your parents, your immediate family and close friends.

For some reason, even if you scored the required minimum to be accepted into a decent university, it does not count. Whether what you scored is enough to get you into your dream career, they do not care. You simply didn’t score what they wanted and for that, you failed. You failed them, and they will make it clear to you. It won’t matter that you could cry tears of blood, no. They will make sure to make you feel their disappointment for all the wasted resources invested in your education thus far. And today, this hit close. My emotions were stirred and my heart cried for my girls and other young adults in their position.

Two of my nieces were part of the expectant lot, and as fate would have it, they didn’t score what their influential figures wanted. One of them, I delivered the results myself and made it clear to her that she made it, no matter what anybody else says. She can get into a decent university and set course for the rest of her life. She shouldn’t be discouraged. Right away, she started researching about possible careers to choose from. Great attitude.

The other unfortunately, I got to hear from her after she had literally starved herself all day because she had failed. Just so you know, she performed far better than her cousin but the feeling that dad and mum would not hear of it brought suicidal thoughts to her mind. She told me they would kill her and asked for the deadliest poison she could take before they came home. My heart was torn apart while reading her messages. She didn’t have to be feeling that way because she did well enough. Far better than many. But that wasn’t enough.

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Newspaper headline

When I got my results, I felt awful. Not because I had the worst marks but because I had buried the only person that had promised to support me just a couple months before the results were announced. He had promised to help me enroll for the course I wanted regardless of what the results said. But that year, God had other plans. And my dad was called home exactly a week after I wrote my last exam. For me, he went with my dreams. Little did I know, I actually owned my dreams and had 100% potential to still achieve them. Instead, I was let to believe I was a failure and with that, I decided there was no point trying. I stopped trying and ‘let what come may’ became the motivation of everyday of my life for a long time.

Hearing these girls’ lamentations triggered a new feeling. The urge to protect them from the naysayers, parents especially. Because they aren’t to blame. Their parents are because their methods were wrong and that’s why they feel disappointed in their children. They did not empower these children to excel academically. The WHY was about them as parents and not the children. The children who excel are; 1. Already smart (they pass even with little effort) or 2. They have a strong reason to pass their exams. Which reason might as well be to leave their parents’ house for one reason or the other. Basically, they have a strong WHY (reason) to pass.

Food for thought:

So here’s what I have to say to parents:
If that child didn’t register an F, they they did well. Celebrate them. Maybe they could have done better, but that’s a by-gone. That’s as much as you empowered them to perform. Yes, I mean that. You only focused on what you expected but did not sit with your child and make them comfortable enough to share their troubles with school or even better, help them clarify a vision for themselves to motivate them beyond your encouragement. Even worse, some of you think paying school fees was enough and didn’t engage your children further. And another percentage of you thought that by enrolling your children for all the extra curricular activities was enough to say you sacrificed a lot for them to pass.

I know because if anyone had paid enough attention to what I loved, it would have been different. I was prohibited from participating in many activities that excited me, as opposed to help me learn the balance between the two. And even for my first university experience, I juggled two (boring) courses because someone else chose them. I had never been taught to object to anything an older person said. I was taught that being young, I didn’t have any right to an opinion. Still stands today in many ways, but I know better now.

I am grateful to have discovered my gifts before turning 30. Now, all I have to do is work on monetising them. For many, including you parents, you do not know your passions yet nor how to make a living with something you’re truly passionate about. It’s all about a job that pays you to survive and that’s the doctrine you are passing down to your children, the reason you are frustrated with their results. But times have changed.

I say, let them be. Congratulate them for passing through high school and not getting an F, or being a public nuisance. Then show them how the next step is up to them and that whatever they choose, they are solely responsible for. Help them appreciate your sweat to earn their livelihood and education. Take them to work. A real job to earn their first pay and save it for shopping for university. And whatever it is they choose to save for, totally exempt yourself from contributing to it. Key point is to teach them to be independent.

You’ve let technology be their master and then wonder why they do not respect you. Technology is good, but you are giving it to them the wrong way. You are not involved and are so distant to notice what they are doing with it. Its a force much needed but only the wise can benefit from it. Many are killing themselves because of all the negativity coming to them through their gadgets. They need a balance to overcome this. And that’s your love and support.

So calm your nerves and celebrate the child for completing high school with two principal passes or more. Help them choose their next step wisely. Show them the bigger picture. We sell to them shallow visions and wonder why they do not excel. Now’s the time to help them build their own vision. They still have a few months, get them a job to aid that vision. But in all you do, avoid negative criticism. Its the biggest crippler of a child’s (anyone’s) self esteem, which they need to make it through tomorrow, lest they crumble and be the failures you are calling them now.

Tomorrow is theirs, not yours. Forget about what you want them to do, we agree that you want the best for them, but it’s their life to live, their mile to walk. And no matter your best intentions, you can only make it worse from here. They are now adults, above 18 years of age. Your role in their life has now changed from being in charge to being a support system. If you truly want the best for them, hand them the steering wheel of the vehicle called their life and trust them to make it safely and with excellent decisiveness.

You may break your back trying to force your way on them, but the time will come when you will lose them to resentment against you because you got in their way of being the best version of themselves. And often times, as parents, you impose certain standards on the child because you aren’t happy with where you are. You are not living your dreams.

So forget about what you want for them, and guide them to find their path. Trust them to do the right thing and they won’t disappoint you. Stop looking for what they are not and focus on who they are now. See their strengths and nurture them. Your belief in them will make them apply the best of themselves and achieve the results that will make you proud as a parent.

They did not fail their national exams, they did their best.

#BreakingLymyts

Books, Tents and Buddies

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Part of the team #EscapeToJinja

Talk about #breakinglymyts and you will describe my last weekend of 2017 fully.

I have, for a long time wanted to celebrate the holidays differently. And this year, God answered my prayers. Although Christmas found me gloomy and broke, the new year weekend fully compensated for this.

I arrived from a burial in Kanungu district, in South Western Uganda on the morning of Christmas eve, tired and sore. The journey to the town had been tedious and extremely uncomfortable, given the multitude of boxes and suitcases packed in the isle, leaving us sitting with our hand luggage and squeezed to the toes. I always travel comfortably with the Rwanda bound buses, which strategically pass through my hometown(Kabale) and have a thing for comfort of their passengers. Not only was my first trip to Kanungu tiring, it left me with swollen feet, something I had never experienced. I was scared to bits by what that meant, even though everyone else seemed familiar with the phenomenon. I had to stay an extra day to allow my blood pressure to normalise and my feet to lose the swelling.

The journey back, although a little more comfortable, was longer than normal. The transport team made a stop in Rukungiri district, and without any communication whatsoever, parked there for three hours. The passengers on board were agitated but what could we do? We eventually noticed the bus tyre was spoiled, thanks to the driver’s hasty driving through the rocky paths from Kanungu. It was frustrating because not only do the buses strictly move at night, we were subjected to a long wait without a place open to find food or water. While we were supposed to arrive in Kampala at about 5:00AM, we arrived at 9:00AM. I couldn’t wait to alight from that bus.

Fast forward, it’s yet another exciting weekend and there was a trip I was looking forward to. You can only anticipate what it will turn out to be but can never prepare yourself enough for the reality of how the events unfold.

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The whole crew #TeamEscapeToJinja

A bunch of strangers meet at the New Vision Head Office in Industrial Area, and head out to the unknown. Among the group we were travelling with from Urban TV, was the famous Tinah Fierce, who hosts the show, Scoop on Scoop. I am not one for TV but every popular show will always find its way to my space, and I always look it up. I had watched the show a couple times and was shocked by her boldness as she called out on the most popular personalities in town. I honestly, was looking forward to meeting her and super careful not to make news for her. Lol!

First stop was Griffin Falls, a place well hidden in the mighty Mabira Forest along Jinja road. An hour long nature walk through the forest and we finally get to the activity I was highly anticipating above all those prepared for us. Zip Lining. Yes, I had decided that come what may, I was doing it. And bold I was, while getting the gear on, until the climb started. Mother of God!! I have never been so scared in my life. By the time I got to the top of the first tree, I was shaking like a leaf on one of those trees. I even thought I would throw up when the reality of how high above the ground I was hit me. The gentlemen handling us were kind, and by far the most patient people I have met. A little pep talk and I am reminded about my resolution to do this. Conquer this fear girl! And then came the push, Looooooorrrrddd!!! If they hadn’t specifically told me to pay attention to the person receiving me on the other end, I would have closed my eyes all through, while screaming my lungs out, which I so sharply did by the way. But then, what’s the beauty in not seeing the life above which I flew?

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I, ready for the zip line experience
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And the journey begins
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Somewhere in the trees
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Climbing up to the starting point

From the first tree to the sixth, I swang with the monkeys high up on the tree branches. And with every tree, my fear diminished. And just when I was getting the fun on, I had to descend back to the ground. How disappointing! And especially, what a thrill it was. If you want to defy death, or at least convince yourself that you are, Zip Lining should be on your list. It’s now checked off mine, with Bungee jumping and White Water rafting to go. Don’t ask me if I will dare, all I know is I have to try.

By now we are all friends, cracking jokes and laughing away like we knew each other before that day. A few puffs on the cigarette here and a couple swallows on beer there. We were quite a sight of excited comrades.

The venue was lit, tents prepared ahead for us, Goat roasting waiting for us and we can now call out a few names and faces off head already.

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We were warmed all through the night
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Yummy yummy yummy #GoatMeat
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First tent experience

The Itanda falls was a force of nature to reckon with. Tales of rafting and dare-devil swimming on these waters were only imaginable. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would risk their lives like that. But then, I want to join the club, don’t I? So, my comment was reserved.

Earlier that day, something hilarious happened at breakfast. Someone opted for a beer and ripe banana instead of tea like everyone else. It was the talk of the moment, and all kinds of jokes were told around it. Who chooses beer and a banana for breakfast? The art of drinking alcohol was redefined for me, and I will never brag again that I have a strong head for that thirst quenching option. I met the champions. Hats off for these guys.

Many, many, many pictures later, it was time for the long awaited boat cruise to Samuka Island. What a fun ride on the waters of lake Victoria. A brief stop at the source of the Nile, and about half an hour or so of drinks, music and dancing, we get to the island. Beautiful place. I wanted to stay. It’s been added to my bucket list.

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Our ride to Samuka Island
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Itanda Falls
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Beautiful sunset

The trip back to the mainland and campsite at Kingfisher resort, was memorable too. Blessed by a beautiful sunset, accompanied by the best DJ mixes, we danced ourselves tired, drunk enough to evoke endless happiness and in this moment, became a family.

At dinner that night, the person that is Tinah Fierce struck me so. I wondered how she became the person she is, what or who is her inspiration, the principles she lives by. And if any, the books she reads. Fierce suits her. I looked at myself and saw shy and timid in comparison, but she was strong, with a presence you couldn’t escape. All I kept thinking of was that I want my daughter to be as free to live as she. If anyone will be remembered most from this trip, it’s her. D’zyre too. The loudest duo on the team. Hahahaha.

The team from Ranges Expeditions, led by Comfort, was so creative in putting this trip together and keeping us engaged all through. This is one activity I would spend my money on every other season for the love of adventure and travelling and I look forward to more trips. And again, for company, these people would be my first choice.

I missed the final night of the trip. We went to Jinja town to watch the fireworks but especially, to experience the Jinja night life. We forgot one detail though; the entire Eastern tribe would be convening in the same town, filling up all the bars and streets alike. There was barely any place to stand and as soon as the fireworks danced to their last tune, we opted to buy drinks and head back to camp. After all, we were enough entertainment for ourselves. Unfortunately for me, by the time we arrived at camp, I could barely keep my eyes open and made straight for my tent and was soon after completely oblivious of the fun going on a few feet away. I only heard the tales at breakfast, on our way back to Kampala and they still continue, thanks to Whatsapp.

It was hesitant goodbyes as we parted ways but we also had missed home. At least I did, especially with the bugs crawling all over the same ground I had to sleep on. Not fun at all, I am still nursing an itchy skin from that dreaded encounter.

Bottom line, we had a great time. My twitter buddy @arthurtotally was part of the group and he has a tale of the Namawojjolo chicken, which he shared here.

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Comfort and I
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Myself, Aurellia, D’zyre and Agatha

What a trip; I read and finished a book by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist. Major achievement. I dared face my fear for heights. I made new friends and there’s still a whole world out there, waiting to be explored, and this was just the beginning.

Therefore, here’s to life and adventure.

#Soar

Must Read: Selfish Mediocrity

THIS week I caught an interview on the radio in which an Iranian-born Professor and defender of human rights used a phrase that hit me right in the gut when it landed. I knew both words in that phrase and have used them before, but the power of the combination of those word s was […]

via stop living a life of selfish mediocrity — scare-a-hero

Above is an article that has given me perspective, in a way I had never seen it before. Simon Kaheru shares in depth about two words that we know and use every other day but had never put together. When used together, the meaning is deep. Before you #Slay, read this.

I had to share it.