Dear Nevender, this is about me.

Dear Joel, I used to find eulogises posted on blogs and social media platforms really weird. I doubt people in heaven get a break from whatever people in heaven do, to check their facebook notifications or something.

Then you died and for the life of me, I can’t stop posting things about you and that’s when I realized , it really was about me. I don’t know how else to mourn your death except through lots of words posted everywhere.

I skipped the first stage of grief and went straight to rage. I found out a few hours after your passing when #RIPNevender was already trending on twitter.

For all your denial of being a big wig, you really have people sad. Out here where pain still exists.

The day you died, I had just finished reading your review of the queen of Katwe. I wanted to text you and say I agree with you but I was low-key mad because you hadn’t responded to my last text.

You were never the friend who didn’t respond to texts, so I figured it’s because you were busy with the Uganda Blogging Community meet up. I told myself I would call you later because I didn’t want to explain why I didn’t show up and as it turns out neither did you.

You were somewhere, dying. When I specifically asked you not to. You can understand why I started by being mad.

But today, as I travel for your burial, the anger towards you has been replaced by pain. It’s like physical pain without the specific body part to match. It’s in my chest then in my head. Then in my stomach. It’s everywhere and nowhere.

You were incredible. I doubt I told you enough, because God forbid you took my compliments. You were always too busy building people up that you didn’t allow yourself to be the center of all my cheering. Or maybe I knew that and milked your selflessness for everything it was worth.

I can’t believe I am writing about you in past tense. We have so much unfinished business like going to great burgers and me replacing your tired purple scarf.

I even saw a purple scarf the day before you died but it just didn’t feel like the one. I guess I should thank you for saving my money.

I miss you;

Your conversations about God.

Your poetry. Oh your poetry.

Your ability to be strong in the face of excruciating pain.

Your resolve to write through it.

The quiet way you paid attention.

Watching you steer the conversation about writing and reading in Uganda at all the bloggers happy hours.

Thank you;

For gathering us and making sure we stayed.

For being honest.

For being vulnerable when you needed to be and being strong when you didn’t have to be.

For checking on me.

For allowing me to call you Jajja.

For calling me muzukulu.

For writing that book even though we haven’t had a party to launch it.

For introducing me to the song, “Learning to breath”

I hope;

That there are grapes in heaven and music by switchfoot and lots of paper and pen.

That you are allowed to check your social media pages , so that you know how much you touched thousands of lives through your gift.

That we can uphold your legacy as a blogging community.

That your death doesn’t tear us apart.

Rest in Power Jajja Nevender.

Photo Credit: No idea. It was on social media.


Leadership in Uganda is a boys’ club and a big joke a.k.a about #FasiFasi

What were doing yesterday at 8:30pm?

On your phone while watching TV? Stuck in traffic? Having drinks with friends? On a date?

I was sitting on a couch, in front of a TV, feeling all kinds of pain for being a way from my phone and watching Fasi Fasi. A show whose debut was last week on NBS TV. The point of it is conversations about women empowerment.

The literal translation of its name is make way . Let me volunteer some context about this name.

In down town Kampala when you hear a yell “fasi fasi”, coming up from behind you, you move to the side as fast as you can because the person telling you is carrying luggage big enough to cover his eyes which could hit if you don’t make room for him to pass.

Before it aired there was more hype on social media about the show’s hosts (Becky & David) who have been in our media spaces for a while than it was about the message. I am guilty of tuning last week just to watch them host and maybe that’s why I tuned in again last night but I stayed and I feel good enough about it to write a review.

The conversation was about the perception of women in leadership in Uganda. It’s 2018 and this conversation is an emergency considering how exclusive leadership positions are in this country. 9.9 times out of 10 our media outlets will host an all male panel and justify it as having called women to show up but they didn’t’. Every week social media is awash with angry feminists asking for inclusion of women on social, economic and political panels in media and every week nothing changes.

It’s one of the most infuriating things to watch men make decisions that affect women without so much as a consultation for example reproductive health rights being discussed by a male headed health committee. Patience Akumu one of the guests on last night’s show puts it rightly; “Uganda is like a family run by a very bad father and we are still playing by patriarchal standards”. Watch every gomesi-wearing- kneeling -for-votes-as-she- campaigns- for-a-seat-in-parliament woman and you will see her point.

The problem or at least one of them is that “politics and public offices have been crafted around the man and it will take more than affirmative action to make it a truly human space” says Jackie Asiimwe a human rights lawyer and a guest on last night’s show .

We need to stop treating women leadership as a token, “hey here are a few parliamentary seats for you.” Women aren’t a minority because in Uganda 51% of the population is female, and we need to “stop treating exclusion of women with gloves”.

There are a few places to start schools for example shouldn’t be teaching children things like the father is the head of the home. It’s that type of messaging that creates a bias against girls taking positions of power.

Men have historically had so much power and we can all agree, they have done a horrible job at leading our communities and country. Therefore having women in leadership isn’t just the right thing to do as human beings but it’s also the smart thing to do as an economy.

Otherwise how are you doing?

Did you watch the show? What are your thoughts about it?

The Politics of Comfort because it’s a better title than 2017.

One day while I sat in church I randomly started thinking about how I value my comfort above a lot of things. I don’t even know why I was so distracted but I got my phone and wrote, “The politics of comfort” knowing it would make a great title for a blog but..
I have a friend who is so bad at texting he replies to my texts every 6 months or four if I am lucky. (I hope it’s not just me) For my own sanity I saved his number with the initials WTB, (Won’t Text Back). Anyway said bad texter recently found the Lord and for about 10 minutes he was responding to my texts and told me about a product he is making with a very weird name. When I asked him what inspired the name he said no creative juices were flowing at the time of composition.
Kind of what happened to my blog on the politics of comfort. After church no creative juices flowed but I love the title so much we are keeping it.
This is also going to be a long read so thank you in advance for enduring it.
I woke up at 4am today to head to my village for Christmas. Why 4am? If you are the family member who ate the school fees for driving school, you travel when those who graduated say you travel or you get stuck with public transport which at this time of the year could buy me my own little car or at least a Tuku Tuku.
So I am writing this on the road. Travel and early mornings are also supposed to make me a writing genius & Alicia Keys’ “This Girl is on fire” is playing on KFM so that’s a sign.
I will start with something cheesy like ” What a year!”
2017 has been two years for me.
In the first year I was a student, whose greatest worry was how to survive writing my dissertation without killing myself and or my supervisor.
I survived and ended up on a graduation list which made my mother ask how much money I would need to purchase a graduation outfit. I was telling a friend recently that if I knew that was the last time my mummy would ask me how much money I needed, a zero would have been added to the figure.
Graduation came, gifts were exchanged & legs broken from playing the extreme sport called wearing high heels.
Then I entered the second year. This second 2017 is the year I got lost.
For the first time I cried myself a lot to sleep & blamed allergies or poor sleeping posture when asked about it because I honestly had no idea what was making me so damn sad.
People really should give school a lot of credit for shielding us from life’s harshness. The surge of emotions came full circle as I was confronted with my new reality. Like “look, you are an adult now, here is a list of demands. First what are your plans for the future?”
I missed my friends because they all decided to follow the natural course of legal career events & join the bar course immediately. I couldn’t join with them because my brain and I decided during the last semester of school that we would take a break from the study of the law at least for a year. Not the smartest choice according to numerous sources but well, my brain and I decided. Which means I had to find some new friends, something I am not so great at despite my rather pleasant personality.
I also missed fellowship so I struggled with what to do with most of my evenings. There was a crisis of faith for some time and I found myself failing at doing the bare minimum like praying.
Due to all the self induced chaos in my mind, a lot of writing was done but non of it deemed worthy of sharing, but in the spirit of Christmas I would like to summon my sentimentality and give this year a worthy balanced review. I thought it should be a 7 days of Gratitude Series but who am I kidding?
Enough jibber jabber let’s start get in to.
2017 Thankfulness.
All millennial whining aside. I had a great year.
1. Everyone I love is alive and well. Mother dearest called me every beginning of month to remind me of how special I am( probably part of the reason I am not coping is because the world is not quite treating me the way my mummy does). She prayed for me, preached words of encouragement and some times told me she loves me. My sister dropped me to work when it rained in the morning even though it meant I would have to lay her bed for a month.
2. I made some new friends. The most incredible thing about this new phase of friendship is all the food involved in all the gatherings. Food eaten with good vibes is really the most therapeutic thing that has happened to me this. Some of these new friends have even been extra special to sign me up for paying side gigs where payment was never delayed. I don’t even know how to say thank you.
3. Graduation.I loved my graduation. It was a long time coming. It made my mother happy. I looked like a million bucks and then some. I got plenty of gifts and cash plus my mother told the crowd how she didn’t raise me to wear short things and therefore Kampala has spoilt me. I translated that to mean, I have grown and become my own person.
4. Reality check. In May I was privileged to participate in the Reality Check conference on employment, education and entrepreneurship organised by the good people of Konrad Adenuer Stiftung. It taught me several things, put me in a room with some great people and put me up in a hotel for a week. It was almost immediately after school and God knows I needed the break.
5. The job. My job is exactly where I thought I would never be but one of life’s little miracles. I knew I didn’t want to go to school straight out of undergrad but I had no idea what I would be doing and then all of a sudden, I was rafting or drinking the nile, getting filmed by CNN, sitting on panels, travelling, ziplining, hanging out with the coolest people on a daily basis and getting paid for it. (Wish me luck explaining what exactly I do for a living at the family dinner later today)


2017 FIRSTS.
I did plenty of things for the first time but most notably;

1. I went to the cinema. It’s 2017 and I had never been to any cinema to watch a movie. It’s one of those things I didn’t understand. I am more of a series kind of girl and there are no cinemas where I can go and watch an entire season of Grey’s anatomy yet. Finally someone convinced me that I am not saving an lives by not going to the, movies and I have gone to the cinema two more times since. I still would rather binge on Grey’s anatomy but oh well

2. I contributed a story to a book project. I didn’t even believe I got the job until it was a week to the deadline for submission. I was doing it with some of the best writers, photographers and illustrators in town. I spent a lot of time being intimidated and smiling in disbelief but alas, I summoned all specialness my mother tells me about, enlisted an editor in chief in the form of my Xhosa Girl Sinawo Bukani and wrote a story. I can’t wait to know what being published feels like.

3. I started jogging and exercising for the time since I left high school and despite my inconsistency I had myself convinced I was fit enough to run my first marathon so I participated in MTN Kampala Marathon and discovered that I was not fit enough after all. I slept for 6 hours straight after and felt pain in places I had no idea were on my body the rest of the week.

1. Choosing boda bodas that have both side mirrors.
Merry Christmas . Don’t drink and drive.

Why are you running?

If running/ walking 10kms and sleeping 6 hours straight after  doesn’t inspire me to write something here, then I may as well hand in my resignation. Yesterday I participated in my first ever marathon. I was overwhelmed by the number of people or companies that have paid 20k to a telecommunications company to just sweat it out on a Sunday morning until google told me that, more than 800 marathons are held throughout the world each year.  So I guess we are not special.

Despite all the other races in this city  the MTN Kampala marathon has to be the most anticipated  maybe  because it started this whole sweat for a good cause business before any one else in Uganda as far as I know and there is always something to be said for pioneers of things. The causes that filled our billboards/ TV screens for which we ran this year are , to improve maternal health and reduce children’s exposure to cancer by removing and replacing asbestos roofs from classrooms.

I never picked a cause. I knew I was running for myself , just to try the marathon once. See if it will kill me. Use it as a yardstick to measure my fitness. Break Sunday morning routine. Push myself. Take  a nice picture or 6 and say I accomplished something other than graduation in 2017.

I coped better than I had hoped but I reached some place and I was officially done running, so I started observing and asking friendly people why they are running. The conversations went like,

Me: Hey

Friendly Humans : Hi

Me: So why are you running?

Friendly Humans: Huh? What do you mean why am I running?

Me: Why are you in your running shoes on  a Sunday morning, sweating  in the middle of the city and ready  to pass out?

Friendly Human 1: I was an athlete in school, so running is a passion of mine.

Friendly Human 2: It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to work out for the rest of the year.

Friendly Human 3: For fun. I have been doing this since 2008. It is a lot of fun.

Friendly Human 4: For the cause.

Me: Oh which one? Do you know you are the first person I have asked who has said they are running for the cause?

Friendly Human 4:  I don’t know what you mean by which cause. Does it matter?

Me: Of course not.

Friendly Human 5 : For the cause. The one that has to do with cancer.

Friendly Human 6: I am running for myself. I have been practicising and everything.

There is supposed to be a deep mysterious analysis from these responses but I am in  no position to do that considering my own reasons.  One thing is for sure though, the thousands of us who decorated the streets of Kampala with our marathon kits, perspiration and body odor  on the day of the Lord in the name of a good cause care very little for the same.

It  is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is, a whole lot of  money is still collected and if MTN Uganda and it’s partners treat it with more respect than it does our data bundles, then we have accomplished things our own government is seemingly incapable of. We are  doomed if they don’t, because we most likely won’t be paying attention to ask  for accountability.

For now we shall enjoy the thrill of reaching the finish line intact, hanging out in our corporate tents with friends, bonding, taking selfies, posting them with long inspirational captions,  until the next marathon.

Otherwise how are you doing?

Photo Credit: Someone at New Vision






Don’t Die on The Inside

You have spent the last few months trying to write and failing miserably.
Laziness is a powerful weapon.

It messes with your creativity long enough to know that you caught the disease with no cure called writer’s block.
Then before you know it, your smart phone runs out of space, and you remove the blogging app to create room for videos of the parliament’s fight club.

Your computer catches slowness syndrome and you convince yourself you suck at writing anyway (not in a sad way but in a life-is-teaching-me-something way).

Until you go for a run.

It was supposed to just help you feel less guilty about your junk consumption but while you lie panting on the ground, you remember this is the most alive you have felt in a while.
You run to your phone to write #somethingabouthealthyliving on Facebook and realize you really shouldn’t be making any kind of commitments to this exercising thing.
But you want to write, you re-download the app and do those things of resetting password because you are determined to write something today and that’s all that matters .
It’s also a new month and some thing about new things is supposed to be inspiring.
You feel inspired.

Enough to say, the writing struggle is real.
But whatever you do, don’t die on the inside.

Continue reading

Of Storytelling & The Future

DGnTUpPU0AAA-Jp#UgBlogWeek is always a welcome opportunity for me to psyche myself into thinking I can write consistently everyday for an entire week. Today is day three & this is my first post but who is counting?

This time we are envisioning the future of storytelling. We are already in the future if you ask me because I almost fell in love based on emojis. Before you judge me, I saw a tweet the other day about BBC having an emoji translator, so first be humble.
According to google average human being with access to the internet spends about 5.6 hours a day on their phone.
While book stores are still in business most are struggling because  we are the generation that prefers the sight of a swipe on our phones to the sound of paper turning.

We would rather have our discussions on topical issues in whatsapp groups, brainstorm ideas on slack and open links on Facebook than sit in a book club. The book club community in Kampala is unknown to most. It presents both a problem and an opportunity.
A problem because Uganda is a country with the youngest population t(at least according to a fancy report by World Population Review on google) and if that population doesn’t read, we are in trouble.

We may not have a country to grow old with if that happens. It’s an opportunity because, there are numerous platforms from which we can tell our stories. There is a joke among twitter users twitter users that, the revolution will start on twitter.
I don’t go the stall to buy newspapers because I know that when I open twitter in the morning, all the news making headlines will have been summarized for me, maybe in a thread or a link while facebook  will  have caught me up on all the world’s problems in an attempt to manipulate me  into “typing Amen”

When I am not in time for my favorite South African soap, Scandal, because  Kampala traffic is having a worse day than usual I just catch up on YouTube.

I can miss a concert and have enough information about it to write a review and blogging has made all of us who want writers.
The way we tell our stories has evolved, the platforms are endless and this is the part where convey our gratitude to the inventors of internet and their cousins who made smart phones.

It  presents us with an extra ordinary opportunity to reduce books into blogs of 500 words and newspaper articles into 140 characters so that our minimal attention span can cope.

We have seen hashtags backed by proper execution create successful campaigns (Ask any #savesomeone )  and overnight stars being born because their dance video went viral.
So while we mourn the death of reading of white pages with black ink,  & while book clubs are tight knit circles we also have a lot of power.

To shape the stories the 78% young people in Uganda consume. I don’t know if Mills & Boon, Sydney Sheldon,  Daniel Steele,  John Grisham, JK Rowling are still teenage favorites,  but I know that the 1st thing my 17 year old sister asks for whenever I pick her from school is her smart phone (which by the way is better than mine).

What she reads, watches or talks about is up to everyone who considers themselves a story teller. Flood this place with Ugandan stories, pictures, videos nebirala and I can guarantee, if she spends 6 hours every day staring at that stuff the entire month she is on holiday,  she will start to think it’s cool to wear an outfit by a Ugandan fashion designer, attend Bayimba Festival instead of some pop star’s  concert in Hollywood or just read a Ugandan blog in instead of an article advising her on how to keep up with the Kardashians.

We are already in the future, consider yourself invited to define what it should look like . The Writivism Festival is a good place to start. ( This is not an Ad😀)


Drinking the Nile.

My relationship with water except the one I drink and use in the bathroom was no- existent until yesterday when it turned abusive, then exhilarating then almost romantic.

A combination of work, an opportunity to be interviewed by CNN, recklessness and the wrong friends, had me rafting on River Nile.   I have always wanted to try it. Wearing the helmet and life jacket felt like preparing for an epic battle. I couldn’t wait to have a picture taken in my rafting gear.

It was all fun and games until   I fell in the water for the first time for a training session on what to do in case the boat flips in the middle of the rapids. I decided in that moment between breathlessness and yelling at me not to panic, that I had drunk enough River Nile for the rest of my life.

I wanted out. There were 8 of us on the  team and I was ready to be labelled, ‘chicken’ “quitter” and every other name that comes with giving up, what I was not ready for was dying in the name of the Nile. I was so scared I could swear I felt my troubled heart shaking. Pep talk was fully launched by the rest of the group.

“Just focus on your breathing”,said Daudi as he practiced with me.

“ DNA,we are all scared I promise, but we got you. We can’t let anything happen to you.” implored the Kreativ Adikt

“Sunshine you will be so glad you did it after,” encouraged adrenaline junkie Joanne

“It’s going to be fine, you got this”, Bob said.

“ Fionah, listen ,nothing is going to happen, you will actually have a good time, ” Joel Jjemba , another very reckless soul voiced.

“This river is 1000% safe. It is the safest in the world.  There are no crocodiles, There will be kayakers at the end of every rapid to get you in case you end up being a swimmer. The safety boat will go ahead of us and you are wearing a life jacket just lie on your back, breathe and someone will get you, stated the comically  accented instructor, Big J.

It went on for a while and my answer to everything was,

“No I will not be partaking in this cup of crazy, thank you. I am out of will. Take me back to the shore. See you later. I just graduated.  I am too young to die.”

I thought I had convinced them to let me go when I was asked to leave the boat and join the kayaker, except I did not want to get off the boat into the water. I managed by the power of an unexpected push from Big J. The team continued their training as I enjoyed my kayak ride to what I thought was the shore. I relaxed, closed my eyes and started a conversation with Sula the kayaker.

I have never experienced so much treachery in my life than when I realized that Sula was taking me back to the boat not the shore.  My heart hurt. It’s not like I could swim my way back to the shore. I could hear the rapids or what we named, “the sound of recklessness”. The only shot I had at surviving the Nile was getting in the boat, holding my oar, putting my game face on, and hoping that God doesn’t punish us for the stupidity we had engaged in, despite missing the training.

We stayed on top of the first rapid for a few minutes as we waited for the filming crew to set up. It gave me an opportunity to summon whatever brevity I had left but it helped to have no choice.

We got our signal to go and down the rapid we went. Big J kept yelling things like, “Paddle forward, harder, get down….”. I have never followed instructions so dutifully in my life.

The first one was a 3 meter waterfall named “overtime”. I was staring at it’s beauty, floating at the bottom, and whispering a “thank you for not swallowing me”. I was feeling things too. A little thrill. A little fulfillment.  A desire to worship God in the beauty of His creation. A need to break into a victory dance among other things.   We went through two other rapids. One named “retrospect” and the other whose name I have forgotten. Which you can blame on the amnesia caused by the events of the last rapid- Itanda it is named.

The short story is it was  the highest or the fastest I don’t know. These rapids are measured in numbers. 6 is the toughest of them all. Nobody rafts on it unless they have the training and have signed in what Big J called, “The Black Book”.

Itanda was a 5. Big J did not tell us that until after. Prior to that, someone asked if the boat was going to flip so we can have the full experience.I hoped not but Big J had a mischievous look on his face

Also unlike the first 3 rapids we rafted on, we got a chance to see Itanda beforehand. All I saw was whiteness. All the fear at the beginning came back to me, but it was go big or go home time. I had come too far. Nothing was going to get in my way. We double checked for the tightness of the helmets and life jackets, waited for our signal and set off.

I did not raft on this one. The last thing I remember is holding on to the rope of the boat, realizing I am out of the boat and letting it go. I was not going to fight the Nile.

Remember those instructions? The only ones I remembered were, “relax, lie on your back, breathe, and don’t die.” I floated, disappeared into the waves, came back up and floated some more until I got to the bottom of the rapid.  This all happened in the shortest quantity of time. A kayaker saw me or I him and I found my way to the boat. Out of the 8 of us, four stayed in the boat when it flipped or did not flip. Control freaks I shall call them.

During my rapid dance with the waves, away from the safety of the boat, I was not scared anymore. I gave up control. The powerlessness of that moment was liberating. I can’t explain it in anymore words than these, except dare you to try it at least once.

What we were told by the people of Raft Uganda is, only a handful of Ugandans participate in these activities on River Nile. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t even know they exist but now that you do, go either with us on the next #koikoiug trip or with your other reckless friends. Lose some control and drink some of that Nile. After all we are the source. Let’s tell these Ugandan stories.