i swear it’s satan’s jajja #UGBlogWeek

What just happened?

Comprehension fleeing from my sense of reason’s ardent pursuit. I look up and a waiter is coming toward me with what looks like the bill.

Great! Just great! To add to all the commotion, the gudu did not have the courtesy to pay the bill for a meeting he called.

You must think I’m being petty and mean, after all I have never been pregnant. I have never had my water break. I have never walked into a restaurant looking for my baby daddy to make said water breakage announcement.

Yes, I’m allowing myself to get carried away, wouldn’t you? Aren’t I allowed this privilege? After all how many of you would interrupt a ‘friend’s‘ meeting to announce your broken water? All sensitive hormones aside, of course… and yes, at this point I’m doing a hard mental eye roll.

Cold air had hit her hand as he retracted his warmth from her. A sudden look of worry and horror awash on his face. That in itself was a telling sign. That was his child. He was going to be a father. I will not be a home wrecker.

A bitter chuckle escaped my lips as I picked my bag from under the table, home wrecker my foot. The guy wanted a website, last time the world checked, web development is not a contributing factor to home wreckage.

I place the money plus tip into the bill wallet pouch looking thingie and walk out. I’m making a mental note not to get caught in this drama again.

***

He has been calling every two days since 3 days after the meeting. May be it was a hard labour. Lisa, my sister had had one of those. She had been in labor for a week, till the doctors advised her to consider a cesarean birth.

All the more need to ignore these calls. She, the girl, needed him now more than ever. He has no business calling me with such frequency.

It’s been two weeks and I wish he would just stop. Almost as if on cue, my phone lights up, his caller id flashing clueless in kisementi. I turn off the volume and watch it ring until he gives up.

 

until two days from now, I mutter to myself.

I wonder what it is with the number two, why two days? He could choose to call every day, not that that would make a difference but I wonder why two days. A loud sigh escapes my lips, and Dee glances up from her desk.

Crap, mentally chiding myself for not having better control of my emotions. I smile at her then gaze outside the window. Dee knows. She knew about the ‘meeting’, we had oohed and ahhed and sighed at all the probabilities, but none of us had put Website in the realm of possibilities.

Has Jay called again? She asked with a genuine sympathetic look on her face.

Yes, I gave her a different name. No, it’s not what you think, I am not that insecure, that I would give my friend a fake name. No. It’s just that he is Jay, in my head anyway. My short form of Jared. The name that I would end up calling him, only now he will remain clueless in kisementi.

Yeah, he did. I answer while glancing at my phone.

Perhaps you should consider picking up next time. Just listen to what he has to say. She said delicately.

Dee was the proverbial fence-mender, always believing the best in people. That day two weeks ago, I’d barged into her house while gasping and sobbing so hard, she had feared the worst. Nope. Just it was another self inflicted broken heart. I seem to be getting good at collecting these.

Let’s go book shopping today, I say to her purposefully changing the subject.

She gives me a pointed look but I avert my eyes, my tears are closer than I like to admit. I am not yet ready to face or hear him.

I can’t. John has a friend in hospital, we are going to visit this evening. 

John is her boyfriend. They have been going steady for the last 3 months, sadly with my level of self involvement, I have never met him or inquired about him. I make a mental note to get more involved in her life once the Jay Jared matter is put to rest.

Okay. I respond. I’ll just book-window-shop for a little while to get my mind off this.

***

I’m standing by the elevators looking at the entrance of Aristoc. I’ve been standing looking at the entrance for the last 10 minutes. For obvious reasons, I’m failing to go in, a reaction which one half of me finds utterly childish. Almost as if I am stuck in a Disney movie.

I turn back and head back to the ground floor and there is another bookshop in this mall. While their books are expensive, they are a welcome distraction. Yes, I know there are people out there with more serious problems than mine but what gives you the right to sit there and judge me. How would you like to have a moment of crisis and have me tell you to suck it up and move on.

As I walk into New Day bookshop, I am reminded how the last time I was here, I was chased out because I was eating ice cream on a cone. The utter irony is that the place has a mini bakery-style-coffee shop in it.

I avoid the shop attendants, today I am in no mood for small talk. I find 3 Karen Kingsbury books and 1 old Frank Peretti. I made myself comfortable in one of the chairs and started the real book browsing. The two Kingsbury books were a little bit pricy, so I decide to do the Amazon-price comparison. Yes, Amazon plus a ridiculous bank exchange rate would be cheaper for two of the books. I wasn’t really planning on buying…

Paige?

I look up, slightly surprised and slightly guilty. Nothing like being caught amazon-ing a book in a bookstore.

Yes?

I’m Bosco. You don’t know me, but I’m Jared’s friend. He has been trying to reach you.

Wait what? His sentence took a moment to sink in. Jared’s friend. Comprehension and anger were doing a tag team thing, WWF was going down in my head. So the gudu is now sending his friends to stalk bookstores in Kampala? Glad, I didn’t enter Aristoc! He is probably seated up there waiting, in which case, serves him right!

Yeah. I’ve been a little busy with meetings and deadlines, I manage to say in a controlled voice.

Is he okay, I add, feigning concern.

No, he was involved in an horrific accident at the Mwanda-Mulago junction. He was with his …

Everything else he said faded into the background. Accident? The world was tilting precariously to the right, worry and guilt suddenly making my finger tips go cold and numb.

acc… accident… I stutter in a whisper.

***

This is part three in the dandelion series.

Dandelions or Satan’s Jajja as I used to call them in primary school are beautiful and almost have a certain ethereal quality. This, however, does not take away the reality that they are weeds, plain and simple.

If this is your third read, thank you for persisting on this story’s journey with me. As I wrote this, I wondered if Paige’s reactions were realistic – If you were in her shoes, would you have picked up the phone?

Part two can be found here

 

even weeds can be pretty #UGBlogWeek

You could have said that in an email, she said while glancing at her cup.

I could have, but I wanted to see you, is what I wanted to say. I really did, but that would not have been professional.

While in Aristoc, Bosco had insisted on me keeping it professional, going on and on about Paige’s status in the industry and about how she didn’t take crap from anyone. He was in the middle of the lecture when Paige had breezed in. From the stationaries stand, they quietly watched her hand her helmet to the guard and walk to the African Authors section.

Her blue jeans had me singing that Ginuwine song, they perfectly sculpted her lower body. She wore a plain tank top and a red and white checkered shirt unbuttoned on top of the jeans. The sleeves of her shirt were rolled up, revealing her arms. Her smooth arms.

I shifted my stance to get a better look from our concealed spot, and literally felt Bosco’s accusatory stare.

That is exactly what I am talking about, Jared!

Even though he spoke in an octave above a whisper, it was hard not to overlook the urgency in his voice. What did his friend think he was capable of doing?

It’s not like I was inviting her to a 3-day getaway on an island one minute south of the equator. It’s not like I had imagined exploring every single inch of her on said island. It’s not like I had imagined waking up to the scent of her lying next to me or imagined watching her walk, the way she swayed her…

Are you even listening to me? Bosco said as he grabbed me by the arm.

Yes. I am. I will not mess this up. I replied between breaths and made my way toward her.

My palms were a bit sweaty which was a little uncharacteristic for me. There were no books at the section near her that I could use as a ruse. I mean, really, grabbing a book on IT for Dummies would not make the best opening. Winging it was the next best option.

From that point on, every thing seemed to be going fine. Well, that is until about now. Now, it felt like someone had turned the air condition on in Bistro. I could have sworn that as soon as I mentioned the website, she had sat up straighter and her tone about the email sounded different. Bosco would say I am doing it again. Noticing things that are not even there.

Email is so impersonal, I prefer meeting all clients and partners face-to-face, you know? I say while smiling. Face to face interaction allows people to understand each other better, even from reading nonverbal cues, you know when to sell harder or back off. 

Jeez! I sound like I’m a lecturer at Makerere! What am I doing?!

So what are my nonverbal cues telling you? She asked while sipping her tea.

I suppress a smile, I wonder if she appreciated how her actions had meme material written all over them. Ice. That is what her current nonverbal cues were screaming at him. She was throwing daggers of ice at him and he had no clue why

Honestly, I do not know you well enough to gauge.

That was such a lie! Why am I spewing so many lies today?! I knew her well. I’d watched her at the front of the class for three years. The last two of them spent seriously infatuated with her.

However, what I do know is that you will absolutely love this project.

During those two years, I had learned that Paige loved to get involved in children’s causes. I had volunteered at one event, just because she had gone around class giving out flyers. I was the only one who had signed up that day. That was the same day she had turned, looked at me and smiled. The world had shifted slightly that day.

I leaned over and placed my hand on top of hers, We are trying to mobilise people to visit orphanages around the city on Christmas day. We would like a place where people can sign up, but more importantly be able to give to the cause on the website as well. 

She smiled.

That same smile that made her dimple show. That same smile that elicited a physical reaction from me. That same smile from that day in class. At least this counts to progress! Global warming was hitting the glaciers.

I glanced at our hands, noticing for the first time how soft her hands really were.

I really hope… 

JARED!

Came a shriek on my right. A shriek that I know very well. I’m trying not to groan out load. Sophia! What did she want? And NOW of all times!!

She waddled while panting toward their table, with a small suitcase in tow. The waiters looking slightly confused, slightly worried about the scene that was about to unfold before their eyes

My water. It just broke! Sophia gasped out of breath

***

This is part two in the dandelion series.

Dandelions or Satan’s Jajja as I used to call them in primary school are beautiful and almost have a certain ethereal quality. This, however, does not take away the reality that they are weeds, plain and simple.

There is a mini-poll going on amongst some about the identity of Sophia and who she is to Jared. Who do you ‘want’ her to be?

Part one can be found here

just another dandelion #UGBlogWeek

I’ve been counting down the hours to this meeting. I’m calling it that because using the word date would make my heart beat a lot faster than it should. I’m getting chills even thinking about it.

He has been on my mind since that day in class, that day I turned and I looked at him. He was no longer just another classmate that I took no notice of. No. Looking at him then, he was a such the fox whose wool had fallen off. After that, every single glance elicited the dimple that has been kept hidden from the audience of the masses. I’m shocked at how long we have been in close contact and I have all but given him a once over. Talk about time wasted.

I’m here now. Seated in the Cafe. 2 hours early. Bidding time. You are rolling your eyes because you think I am desperate, don’t you? No. I am not desperate. I am just punctual. I detest being late especially to something that I have clearly been looking forward to. I mean really, why act fashionably late – keyword being act.

I glance at the clock in the cafe, it’s 1.50 minutes left. I should probably order something as I wait. God knows it might make the time go faster. I’m at the cafe adjacent to the cafe we agreed to meet at. Did you really think I’d be seated at the venue for 2 hours, come on! No. I plan to be at the venue at 2 sharp. 2pm will find me walking in, smelling fresh and smiling sweet.

Window shop. That’s what I need. I weave my way through Woolworths and Mr. Price, calling on my temperamental accent (half English-half Kenyan accent) whenever I needed to act like I’m important enough to shop in these spots. Yeah, some facades are real!

I bump into a friend as I cross the mall, now headed to Aristoc, to hide in one of its corners with a good book that I cannot afford. She is looking at me with that glance. The one that says, I am trying not to feel sorry for you in your single state. You see, we used to be tight – through out vacation and campus, we were as thick as thieves, but now she is married with twins and I’m just here crushing on a twin.

Jared.

Sigh! Who names their child Jared? Okay. Let me clarify that statement, which Ugandan names their child Jared? A Ugandan parent with a vision, that’s who! Goodness! I’m smiling just thinking about his name.

I hand the guard my helmet and look out for The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives, I find a comfortable seat and set my alarm before I start the book. I know myself, when I get lost in a good book, dusk and dawn roll into one.

I turn to the first page when it happens. I catch a whiff of a cologne that has kept me up for several nights. Some men just know how to pick the right cologne. I choose to ignore, after all, my mind is made up – Jared and I will become the real deal.

The scent is getting stronger and my concentration is fleeing. Mr. Scent smells like he is walking toward me, Dear God don’t let him sit here! I cannot cheat on Jared.

Paige?

The world stops. A prickly sensation attacks my underarms, which normally means this is the onset of patched sweaty underarms.

Control yourself WOMAN! My brain admonishes the rest of me in a very strong tone.

I look up and the hallelujah chorus is coursing through my veins. Cupid had drawn back his bow and his arrow had hit it’s target.

Jared? No way! 

My voice sounded surprisingly more controlled than my fingers showed.

I got here a little earlier and decided to spend time trolling books in Aristoc. You know hiding the ones I really want but cannot afford.

He does what? Could the universe be more specific – I do exactly the same thing!! My eyes seem to have given away my reaction because he has raised his hand to him mouth.

I probably shouldn’t have said that, you probably think I’m weird, he says while doing the African blush.

I laugh and say, weird is good. What? Did you really think I was going to let him know I do the exact same thing. Nah bruh, sometimes games are good and no, I am not being a hypocrite. Why am I explaining myself anyway, this is my story. I discretely turn off my alarm as we head to the cafe together.

We walk to the Bistro together, because face it – Bistro is where all magical connections begin. Well, at least the magical connections in my head.

His hair is cut just right and his eyes do that squint thing that I find so adorable. He smiles starts from the right side of his mouth and a shadow of a dimple is formed on his right cheek. His cologne is still driving me crazy but I like this kind of crazy. I’m watching him from the corner of my eye, committing everything to memory like that git commit command.

We are seated inside and the waiter brings the menu, I already know what I’m going to have. A. Tall. Drink. Of. Water. He orders an expresso and I go for the lemon-ginger honey tea. I’d rather have a milkshake but milk and my tummy, not for a first meeting.

We talk about the weather, current affairs, even the parking situation in Kampala. In my mind, I’m ticking imaginary radio buttons, going check. We have rapport – check. He scent is absolutely intoxicating – check. He doesn’t speak in the dis-dah-do-dem-dey – check.

Silence. Gosh, We are silent. He is looking at me intently. Crap! Did he ask something and I wasn’t paying attention?

Sheepishly, I admit that my mind wandered off, and ask him what he just said.

Will you do our website?

I’m sorry what? Reality beginning to dawn on me

The reason I wanted to meet with you was to ask if you would do our website. We have seen some of the sites you work on and my friends and I think you would make our project website really ridiculously good.

***

This is part one in the dandelion series.

Dandelions or Satan’s Jajja as I used to call them in primary school are beautiful and almost have a certain ethereal quality. This, however, does not take away the reality that they are weeds, plain and simple.

I am not yet sure where this story is heading but I hope you enjoy this journey discovery with me.

… tell me about tomorrow, today #UGBlogWeek

I’m starting off this month’s UGBlogWeek by finishing off the Vodafone Uganda series. Part one of this series can be found here.

10th November saw Vodafone make some announcements about their strategic change of direction. This blog is going to cover the last two things about their announcement that caught my eye.

Two:  Shifting audience focus to target universities as well as SMEs
Three: Moving away from traditional 2G voice and headed toward VoLTE (Voice over LTE).

VoLTE stands for voice over Long Term Evolution. Utilising IMS technology, it is a digital packet voice service that is delivered over IP via an LTE access network.

Why you will love VoLTE: Ensures that video services are fully interoperable across the operator community, just as voice services are, as demand for video calls grows; Delivers an unusually clear calling experience; Meets the rising demand for richer, more reliable services
Source: GSMA

Vodafone plan to enhance LTE network by deploying wifi in malls, universities, creating a converged network to mirror seamless connectivity for users from LTE to Wifi. These Wifi networks will not require a separate data bundle but will work off the bundle already purchased by the user.

One app targeting SMEs and University students is Chat+. Chat+ is a VoIP (Voice over IP) Application that boasts of HD call quality and messaging features that are found in today’s popular messaging apps.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line. Some VoIP services may only allow you to call other people using the same service, but others may allow you to call anyone who has a telephone number – including local, long distance, mobile, and international numbers.
Source: FCC

In addition to free app-to-app calls, Chat+ allows it’s users to call out of the application, that is to say to landlines or numbers that are not registered to use the app – users will get charged the normal call rate (SIM call rate).

In comparison to its competition, Chat+ went the ambitious route of offering all key features provided by its competition.screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-1-14-33-pm

One key note though, is File transfer and Video calling are not free due to their large data requirement. The rest of the features are offered Free, where free means you have a valid data bundle (i.e. more than 1MB of data, yeah… that’s right! No data charge unless you are using the two previously mentioned features)

The app also works on Windows, Android, IOS (imagine that!!) as well as a desktop version that is independent of the mobile app (side eye, WhatsApp and your desktop integration).

It has been dubbed the total communication package, for people looking to start a business, for students studying in groups and for people who want to engage with tomorrow’s communication today.

Now, onto the application itself… I’m looking at the IOS version on a 5.5in screen with a 1080 x 1920 px resolution.

I will confess that when I heard about the app, I immediately wanted to put vodafone to task over the fact that earlier this year they talked about putting a stop to their unlimited packages but alas! The fact that there is no data charge on all but two features, is a huge plus for them. Since the intended audience are SMEs & students, this is probably something that will be well appreciated.

<cue subtle plea> Just think of the potential of Chat+ offered together with the unlimited package! Especially for SMEs that thrive on face-to-face video communication.
subtle plea>

What would make this the ultimate communication tool for me? The integration of Stickers and GIFs. Yes! There is a certain app that allows the use of both these things and my friends on that platform know my obsession.

Also, the scale of some portions of the app seem a bit off. Blame the is the newly awoken UI junkie in me for pointing this out. The keyboard and keypad seem a little larger than they should be making the user experience just a tinsy winsy bit jenky.

Cool Fun Note
Have you ever noticed the red open apostrophe in a chat bubble? It immediately brings to mind the beginning of a conversation. Right?

Why then wouldn’t you want to talk about tomorrow, today?

vodafone_logo

This is part two in a two part series about the things that intrigued me about the VodafoneUganda announcement. Have you downloaded Chat+? What do you think about it? Did it still work on 1MB?

*Featured image source: Dignited via Google

the customer remains KING

Last week, Vodafone Uganda made an interesting announcement that might have gotten lost due to the connectivity challenges that they have had this week (blame Monday’s thunderstorm).

Three things in particular intrigued me the most:
One: Their pursuit to offer the best customer experience
Two:  Shifting audience focus to target universities as well as SMEs
Three: Moving away from traditional 2G voice and headed toward VoLTE (Voice over LTE).

Regarding their pursuit to offer the best customer experience; anyone who has used the self help portal, dubbed MyVodafone, will laugh at this goal. In most cases, functionality will trump the beauty of a user interface, however in this case, both were not appealing with many of us complaining how hard it was to use.

Alas! They finally heard our cry – Not only did the interface get an upgrade; we got an app too (and yes, Web, Android and IOS, imagine that).

MyVodafone now looks so much better, sleek, clean and almost minimal design. Both the Web App and IOS version have the same look and feel, giving the user a similar experience not matter what interface is used.

The interface allows you to do a whole host of things like track your usage (unless you are on unlimited – more on this one later), be someone else’s lifeline by gifting them data, purchase data using credit card or mobile money, details & location of their stores, usage history, payment history as well as an add-on feature that will give you dibs on special offers tailored to you.

 

Speaking of tailoring, the mobile app’s home screen will also show you available data bundles based on your usage history. However, this feature will only work if you are on a plan that is not unlimited.

As with any system upgrade come the dreaded bugs and customer groans that are embedded with the theme, ‘but the old system used to do it’. These normally get fixed in minor releases, if caught early and since Vodafone is striving to offer the best customer experience…

Bug One: Unlimited users are no longer able to track their bundle volume usage, which is a little worrying since each one of us would like to know when to cut back (which is usually 10GB left to FUP).
Bug Two: Expiry date is a bit off and has likely been set to the day that the system went live.
Bug Three: The user login for some reason will not allow autofill, forcing the user to manually enter details.

img_8411

Manzi Kagina, a Vodafone unlimited user also had a FUP balance displayed on his MyVodafone home screen

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Online chat with customer care that explains the humongous data balance that had me thinking about all the shows I’d have to binge watch in 30 days to ensure that it gets depleted

Chat with Support feature
App comes with online chat with support feature

And those are the only three that I could spot. All in all, the upgrade of MyVodafone is a step in ensuring a seamless customer experience, throwing the power back to us (see what I did there) and allowing us to access services at our convenience.

In other news, the app knows my name… Yes, I am inherently a narcissist.

img_8411

This is part one in a two part series about the things that intrigued me about the VodafoneUganda announcement. Have you used the new interface? What do you think about it?

{{Update}}
Looks like unlimited users can now track their usage… Whoop Whoop!! Round of applause for VodafoneUganda and the engineering team!
Bug One – Decimated

img_8435

 

day one: green does not define murky

There was no signage outside the gate and following the car ahead of us seemed like a good idea. Why wouldn’t a Beach House put a nice big sign post outside it’s gate, why isn’t signage something that is important to people of this country.

So I hop out of the cab and go talking to the bystander, who happened to be standing in the middle of the parking just staring at people who were driving into the parking – this seems to be another thing that we are good at, staring at people – random standing around and staring… Anyway, he confirms that it is actually the beach house and I desist from asking why the management did not put signs outside the gate.

My next order of business was looking into the lavatory facilities, after the night that I had, I am hardly sure if I have any lower intestine left. I zipped open my backpack and tried to discretely roll out an acceptable amount of toilet paper without getting any raised eyebrows from staring bystanders.

The place looked a little deserted save for three gentlemen by the bar, who looked like they were attempting to recover from the forays of the previous night. I spotted a young responsible gentleman already hard at work, doing what seemed like raking soil off the ground. He pointed me to the direction of the toilets at about the same time I heard a rumble.

I quickly shuffled along in the direction, mentally ordering all muscles responsible to tighten until I get to the destination. After a quick assessment of all four stalls and quickly establishing that the locks on the doors were effective, I quickly discover that the rumble was a false alarm. No manner of mental coaxing was working either; whatever was inside was determined not to come out. The worry came back, like the floodgates that rained over Noah, how exactly was I supposed to survive a sixty-minute boat ride with a poisoned temperamental tummy? I walked out of the stall and headed to the slightly dilapidated sink thinking, I might leave this place with more than an upset stomach.

I walked back to the car pleading with my tummy to behave, praying and speaking healing over her.

‘Hi’

Sounded like Helen, my one of my close friends from high school. She is back in the country now but we haven’t met in over a year. It’s almost like when we are in the same country, communication gets so much harder.

‘Are you here for the retreat?’

The voice was coming from the car we had followed in. Would have been another story all together if they were headed home and we chose to follow them assuming that they were headed to the same place that we were.

I smiled and nodded my head. Maria was her name, and it turns out we had met before this – her name on the eMail chain did seem familiar but I was too lazy to search through the mental archive of memories. We chatted for a little bit before I got back to the car, thinking to myself – hashtag try social. For an introverted introvert, the next four days are going to be some form of interesting. I do not particularly like being social – there I said it. People are bound to let you down, irritate you or get on your nerves in ways that make your eyebrow tick involuntarily. New things, Lynn, remember New things for 2016.

Jackee rolled in shortly afterward, such a bundle of energy, passion and joy. It felt nice being around such positive energy. Young energetic man showed up, lifting our bags onto his shoulders, like Popeye would have after a can of Spinach. We followed him onto the wooden rickety platform – okay, maybe the rickety was just in my head. The air had a funny stench that surrounded it. There was a scent of fish and something else that I couldn’t really put my finger one. Something stale. The water looked green and thick, would probably have been sticky if I had been brave enough to put my fingers in it. Green and thick but not the thick thick, the thick that forms as a result of form coming together. Like in the bath tub when you are rinsing your glorious African fro and the no-sulfate shampoo form curdles around the drainage. Perhaps this is the definition of murky, I wouldn’t know.

A couple said farewell to each other and I thought to myself, ‘Goals – these are relationship goals right here’. We had found him talking to the boatman, ensuring that the lad knew his craft and that his wife was in safe hands. In a way, this worked out for all of us, since we were travelling with Catherine – his wife.

I had to switch seats with Zahara, our uber talented photographer, which put me behind the Godfrey, our boatman. I was fine with this until I realised that he wasn’t going to sit at any point of the ride. Why had I assumed that he would sit, assumptions are never good.

On the random off chance that he had had the same night that I had had, and if by some quirk of fate farting had been his portion for that morning, I would have been one unhappy camper – or rather sailor.

As we sped off into the lake, I was reminded of another time, another place, another city, where I’d used a speedboat for the first time. Sure enough, in a manner that displayed our reaction to the finer things in life, we took selfies and posed in flow with the wind, trying to create our own titanic scenes. However, that would not be the case here – here I was to reign in all form or madness and conform to the pattern of professional creativity. As I listened to the conversation around me, I noticed that there were moments when the boat wasn’t touching the water. No – seriously. The boat was in the air every couple of seconds, I have no idea if this is how a speedboat is supposed to work but all I know is that we would make waves and then no waves; waves and then no waves. Much like the ways of life, there are days when making waves is all you do and then other seasons, you are nothing but another plastic inverted jerrycan floating in the middle of the great Nalubaale.

One minute away from our destination, Go presented to us the equator. All of a sudden it made sense why there was a campus on board. Being situated directly behind him, I’d wondered why he was turning where he was or forever taking lefts – it’s not like there are signposts on the lake saying turn here or two lanes ahead.

After a brief explanation of the lands on either side of us, I was particularly shocked at how close we were to Entebbe – I kept thinking how this would make for an excellent political thriller. As we turned toward our destination, it suddenly dawned on me – My temperamental upset stomach had been kind to me. No random involuntary reactions that would have caused a smelly scene. No need to ‘park’ the boat and have everyone look one-way as nature demanded attention.

As I staggered out of the boat, breathing a prayer of thanks before I realise that my vindictive little tummy had heard me and her response was a grumble that led to the instinctive clenching of my sphincter muscles.

As my fellow travellers stretched and congratulated themselves on getting to the island without incident – a cold sweat broke on my brow as I realised, said incident was about to happen.

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All photos credited to Zahara Abdul/SuccessSparkBrand. 

For more information about the retreat, visit this website. If you are not too sure about the retreat, sign up for the one day novel writing master class (yes, I’ve attended this one as well…)

day four: the dawning of normalcy

I stood outside among the purple and pink flowers. I have seen these flowers before – when we were younger, there were shrubs and shrubs of them. I wonder about the proverbial green thumb that seems to have disappeared with my parent’s generation.

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I watched as a bumblebee hopped from one flower to the next. I wondered if the taste of morning pollen was sweeter than afternoon pollen. I wondered if flowers were early risers or if whether they dreaded the fleeting embrace of the early morning mist.

It was my last day on the Island.

Like a fearful turtle or distressed snail about to be served up in some exotic cuisine, I slowly retreated into myself. The harsh brutality of normalcy was about to hit me hard.

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I listened to the lake and heard her hurried nature: Nalubbale’s waves were crashing into each other in a desperate attempt to get to shore. Or was it the wind’s fault, acting like a worn-out mother shooing her tardy children out the door?

This was my last day on the Island.

We came to the Island to unleash our writing potential (No seriously, it was on the flyer), we came to learn and unlearn some things; we came to learn to be authentic and vulnerable. We came because we felt our stories were so intricately weaved in the depth of our souls and we were desperate to get them out.

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Did we do any of these things, you ask? Were we all not told by those adorned in black-and-white wielding bamboo sticks, that talent couldn’t be taught? We either possessed the genes of the great or only aspire to be said great. A smile pasted her self on my face as read through this – these black and whites should have met Jackee.

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Jackee Batanda – to be exact.

She is the personification that dynamite comes in small packages – A bundle of energy, passion and infectious laughter. In spite of her obvious years of experience and training, she did not belittle some of my outrageous expectations. Hashtag, my dreams are valid.

Her company, SuccessSpark Brand runs a four-day writing retreat. Four days packed with learning best practices, structure, editing with just a hint of publishing. We listened to each other’s work and marvelled at the distinct style that each of us brought to the table. We had one-on-one sessions with the facilitators – talking through our expectations and our goals beyond the retreat.

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Today was my last day on the Island.

That Alex and his team were up to it again, the sweet aroma of freshly baked cupcakes was making my waistline flatline. Team Alex saw to it that the definition of culinary delight would soon take on new meaning for each of us.

I am guilty of slightly over indulging my imagination as we went on a nature walk one evening. Yes, I imagined the ghost kings of Safari ant colonies past, terrorising us as we loudly made our way through. We laughed so uncontrollably that when we came to the next colony on our path, jumping over them was dangerously hard.

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Solitude. Therapeutic. Serenity.

These are the words that would aptly describe my experience.

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And yet like an expectant mother being handed her baby in the theatre, came the dawning realisation that my child was here. I have always loved writing and now, I didn’t have to do it alone. After all, it takes a village, doesn’t it?

Which makes me wonder, will you be part of the village? Will I see you, at the next SuccessSparkBrand Writing retreat?

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All photos credited to Zahara Abdul/SuccessSparkBrand. 

For more information about the retreat, visit this website. If you are not too sure about the retreat, sign up for the one day novel writing master class (yes, I’ve attended this one as well…)