My Neve’r’nder… #CelebratingNevender

I am beside myself, lost in an overwhelming sense of grief. Since I heard, I’ve had brief moments of sanity that last no longer than a few minutes then disintegrate back into loss and disbelief.

All it took were three messages, three messages that propelled me from a lazy Sunday morning (debating on whether to go to Church or do homework) to a state of numbness with intermittent clouds of sanity. I rushed to the UGBloggers group and there was nothing there about this news, so perhaps these people were wrong. Patricia wasn’t among the three, so surely there had been some form of miscommunication. We had our group, the three of us. A group that was initiated by the fact that some agency would not pay us for the work we had done and we needed coordinated strategies on how to communicate with them – You were the more diplomatic of the three of us. We called it TeamReview. A group that later turned into a place where we could quickly check-in with each other. TeamReview had nothing about this news – I rushed to ask Patricia but she was only finding out herself.

You were gone.

This wasn’t a crisis that you were going to recover from. There wasn’t a message looking for volunteers to help cover the event because you were not feeling well.

This time, you were gone.

Gone for good.

I am still having a hard time processing this (whatever processing is supposed to mean). I know that 60% of my tears are selfish, in the fact that I cannot believe I will not see you when I come home, I cannot believe we are not going to have a tea date. I cannot believe that you are not going to post anything on TeamReview.

On my birthday last year, you bought me a copy of Flame and Song! You knew I would love it… You got my weird taste in literature and always encouraged it. You told me to get Kintu, and I wasn’t having it – then Jackee gifted me a copy when I started my writing journey and I fell in absolute love with that book. Tail between my legs, I returned back to you with my verdict and had that I-told-you-so look all over your face.

I usually say we met back when blogging was the dope in-thing – complete with awesome pseudonyms. Yours was Nevender but for some reason, there were those (I may have been among the ‘those’) that added the ‘r’ and boy did it irk you royally! Almost like how Rogue King would sometimes be called Rouge King, and he never liked it either. I remembered your reaction and for the gentle soul in you, I couldn’t see you being annoyed over this, so the name stuck for me.

I later found out that we were both at Nakasero Primary School, class of ’97. The ones who prided themselves in the fact that we studied with the years – Lol! I realise that this is such a Ugandan thing to say. So the truth is, we were always meant to be in each other’s radar.

I fought with you constantly in those early blogger years – Looking back, I blame the momentary disease called ‘the-twenties‘. Even still, you were steadfast in our friendship – the solid one who held onto his beliefs no matter what was going on around you. I became your review board, you shared your graphics with me and I’d give you my rather novice-biased opinion at the time. I just scrolled back to our earliest emails, there are some horrendously atrocious designs in there – from banners I made about your thoughts, to BlogBpirit banners to UBHH banners. You won’t mind if I share some, would you?

When you were changing your website template, I was once again on the review board, and the first design would always be a “hmmm… this is not working” and we would work through why together. Basic Family, when it was just starting out and you told me about it, we looked over what the logo would look like, t-shirts.

Similarly, you encouraged me on my writing journey. I remember confiding in you about taking Jackee’s class and you telling me to go for it. The book reviews I got, I was trying so hard to write like you and I was failing miserably. At one point, I sent you an IM in distress… this review thing is terrible, I lamented. You said to use my own style, not to try and mimic you. You told me to be authentic and find my own voice. And I did, and you said that you like my review-style, which for me was the highest form of praise.

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This year did not start out great for me, and I remember posting in TeamReview and you reaching out after the fact – kindda like a followup conversation, but I wasn’t ready to talk so I actively avoided you. You wouldn’t have it, because I opened my eMail and there was a message from you. So I deflected to how you are and how you are holding up. You told us you were losing strength, and we would not have it. Not our Joel, so I got even more serious about praying harder for you – because for me that is my default. Let’s pray for a miracle, let’s pray for these crisises to stop, strength – anything rather than the thought of losing you.

There was a different plan already in motion…

We’ve talked about a lot of things over the years, from faith to music to literature to relationships to the trending twitter wars. We have spurred on some of them and shared frustrations about some of them. There is so much I want to write, but I’m 1 word shy of the 1500 mark and I remember having a ‘serious’ discussion with you about the length of your posts. I know that you always read my blogs, some days you were the only comment I got (You knew about my obsession with analytics).

This is going to be the first one you will not read.

We were supposed to write my memoir together. Now who is going to help me? You were always one step ahead of me, though. I did not know about Pumpkin Soup, I am not sure why – or maybe you told me and in the story that is my life I did not hear you say it.

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You wrote that. Why would you write that? If I’d read that, I’d have berated you for writing that! I’m going to miss you so much, Joel! I should be saying RIP, I cannot believe I’m writing that, but I can’t. I cannot physically bring myself to say those words out loud.

I had a dream about you, Joel. You were so happy in this dream. So happy I could feel it, you were working with someone famous – I knew who it was in the dream, but wouldn’t figure it out when I woke up. We had each been having a crappy month, so finally something good, even if it was just a dream. I rushed to tell you guys and you both told me to remember who the person was, but I just laughed it off.

I sat at the front of Church today, I wanted to stare God in the face and ask why? Every single song sounded like you saying bye to me, Joel. So of course I cried my-way through the first half hour. After Church, I half walked half cried my way around Oakland, and walked straight into another Church. A catholic one, this time, I just sat at the back and just sat there – lost. I just needed time. Time process – there is that word again… I knew if I went home, it would be real (indeed I got home and couldn’t speak, just cried even more in Judith’s arms). After the service, I lit a candle for you. I looked for the tallest one, it looked new, I hope the flame won’t get blown out. Just like your flame will not burn out in my heart.

They say that time heals all wounds, but what they really mean is that soon, you will forget and forgetting is the band-aide to heartache. I cry because while this a reality of life, I do not want to forget you. I do not want to forget your laugh. I do not want to forget your voice.

In many ways, you were my counsel and support. Your ear was never far and your heart always attentive to what I was saying or trying not to say. You were both sensitive and attentive to those that were around you. Your wisdom and conversation always widened my perspective. Your essence always a calm wind to the turmoil that I would bring to the table.

Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa, my Neve’r’nder.
You are gone.

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Photo Credits: Mostly Facebook/Twitter.

Funeral Arrangements are in the graphic below and details on where/how to send mabugo.

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…the pieces of december…

What do you do when life doesn’t go the way that you have planned? What do you do to gather yourself up? What do you do when you only have two questions, but literature laws demand that you should write three?

December was a hard month. The plan was finish my first semester well, then order pizza and stakeout at the cinema. Lol! Yes, I was planning on watching Pitch Perfect 3 at the cinema… And Jumanji… And The Greatest Showman… And Ferdinand… I was even going to throw in a Kiyindi because why nont? Probably would have become broke in the process.

7a9b73e56b43b3fdee13166a1d0a2a6aLife had other plans, and as I headed into my final week of the semester –  it took physical effort to focus and finish well. I might have cracked and fumbled with the ball for a second, but we made it through with a bang.

My mind wanders to what might be going on under the surface for those around me. School/Work/Life doesn’t stop because your are having personal challenges, instead you discover a new way that you can stretch without breaking.

The challenge with facing these pieces of December, is the absurd sleeping patterns that are trying to reign this January. I love my sleep and will try to jealously guard it however, as it type this, it’s 4am and not a wink or yawn.

Instead of lying in bed and bargaining with God on the merits of sleep, why not get up and dust the cobwebs off this blog. Perhaps this – the act of blogging, will act as a confessional and give my mind the release often associated with sharing a burden.

Yes, you read right, I’m trying to trick my brain. I have a new appreciation for the under currents of resilience and the difference that proximity of family makes.

At last… A yawn! Success!! See you all on the other side
Instead of our normal Calvin & Hobbes, we are mixing it up with one of my favorite scenes from One Piece.

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Image Credits: Google & Pinterest

 

#55UGBlogs An Awakening Dawn

Sepia.

It’s the filter on the land today. An orange-brownish hue was fallen on the land. The leaves aren’t rustling as they were yesterday, wind will not be interrupting them today. Not today.

There is a rhythm seeping through the land. If you are still enough you can hear it. Well, the African hear it. You can feel the slow pounding in your chest. The pounding the raises goosebumps on your arms and neck. Can you hear it.

The air is crisp. That type crisps that hurts your nose when you breathe in, but you do it anyway, because this what is what fresh smells like. For tonight, we are one. We stand as one. United by this land and our roots that grow deep with every generation.

68 years is a long time, a long time to live without acknowledgment on your own soil. To live in gratitude to our guests, for who allows someone into their home – only to them take charge of every aspect of their existence. Perhaps after tonight, we will have a chance.

Our chance.

A chance to escape a pre-determined destiny that had been awaiting many young adults. These adults had been piling onto buses and pickups headed to the city, many excited – their minds filled with wisps of the aforementioned chance, some of them indifferent and even some worried. Worried about the uncertainty that waited them at the dawn of this seemingly new era. But then again, was it really new, for before the start of the 68 years, we existed even though history might choose not to popularize it much.

The uncertainty that lays ahead can only be described as daunting; the idea of master would eventually have to fade and in it’s place, an awakening to hopes and dreams turned reality.

***

Evening is here and they’ve been dancing for what seems like eternity. Were his hands are sweating, I wonder. Does he know the significance of what he is about to? Does it press it’s weight on his shoulders?

They announce that the Bwola is up next. The Acholi are dancing with an energy that pulsates at that same rhythm. This is important. This night is important. There are kings in the stands… The Omugabe, The Omukamas, The Kabaka and The Kabazinga – The 5 kings are in the stands. They too watch as they wait for the hour. They are dancing the Nankasa now, waists moving to the same rhythm. Even the battalion of the Kings African Rifles can hear the rhythm.

Midnight is here… the rhythm is at it’s peak.

He is at the flag pole. The dreams of a nation on his shoulders. He lowers the Union Jack, as the nation watches in wonder. Could this really be happening? Are we once again our own?

He hoists for the first time, the black yellow red symbol of hope. dreams. freedom.

Our symbol of Independence.

credit: Anonymous Creative

**

This blog is part of the #55UgBlogs campaign by UgBlogging Community and Kafunda Kreative. 7 days where storytellers will come together under the hashtag 55UgBlogs and tell their stories of Uganda, what it means to be Ugandan. 

On 9th October 1962, Uganda attained her Independence from her British colonial masters. This piece is not all fiction, I did a little digging around the interwebs before writing this. I’m ashamed to admit that despite always longing for this holiday to fall on a Weekday, I had little knowledge of what actually transpired on the day. Aside from the usual photo or two, the details were just never of particular interest to me. As usual, the Internet does not disappoint, I found an old 4-hour video of the day, that might be interesting. 

If you are still reading at this point, then I welcome you to take some time and log onto twitter – follow the hashtag and discover who Uganda truly is. Read. Share. Submit your experience. Work that narrative!

RIP Prof Zain…

I’m scrolling through this section of code, my mind trying hard to focus on my task today – but it keeps repeating the lines that it read the night before. In an email, that has left the veins on my temple pulsating hard at the mere memory:

Prof Zain died today

The clouds are gathering in the ominous way that Kampala weather has resorted to these last few days, and the weather is a reflection of the sombre mood that has shaken the CMU Africa community.

We have lost a passionate mentor, a professor and a friend. 

I bit my tongue and purse my lips to push back the tears that have been threatening to pour all morning.

I want to ask how can he be dead? Why now? The unfairness of this makes it even more heartbreaking. Not that death is ever fair, for it always robs us of life that we were not yet ready to let go of.

The last conversation I remember having with Prof Zain was in 2015, and it was about getting a job. I told him I had an interview lined up with a company in Kampala called Fenix Intl but he had never heard of them – neither had I, actually. He wanted me to apply to a couple of other companies as well but I was pretty insistent about coming to Kampala. He helped review my resume and I left his office with a couple of other companies that I applied to.

He was always passionate about seeing us reach our full potential – a kind and friendly person who was concerned about our wellbeing.

Another incident I remember was in 2014, I lost a lot of weight, I remember him stopping me after one of the seminar classes, concerned about whether everything was alright. Funny thing is that we digressed into a discussion on diet and how he was planning on cutting out some foods.

Most times, as people, we tend to be too busy to stop and notice or even ask.

He took criticism in stride and always worked toward being better – in one class discussion, I challenged him on getting more Ugandan examples and the next class he did.

There is so much I’ve left out, so much that can be said – We, as a community, have truly suffered a big loss. I cannot even begin to imagine what his family is going through. It is my prayer that God would truly comfort them during this time. May He comfort us all.

Prof Zain, you inspired and spurred us on to greatness. Your passion to see this region harness innovation will live on through us.

Rest in peace.

image: igihe.com

#UGBlogWeek: Blesser (Part 3)

Kahill wants a vacation and Twonjex wants to go for KoiKoi East, all very nice. All very pleasant. But I want something else… Not a trip to an exotic island with actual sand and clear blue water or a trip to discover my beautiful country amidst beautiful people and fun conversation.

Yes, you may proceed to roll your eyes at the character that is me.

I have seen mention of a Blesser on my timeline, and seen mention of the definition of a Blesser (see Part 2), but I am choosing this definition of blesser: a person with a heart of gold and filled up-pressed down-shaken together-running over bank account.

Yes, the bank account must be overflowing because books are expensive and my mind is thirst! Yes! I need books, more books, more than what I have already… I need to be able to stretch out and pick one when the whim attacks me. I want to be able to read and re-read all of my favourite ones.

Until they are torn and in tatters, pages missing from months and months of loving use. Yes, loving use can lead to a torn book… Or so I have been told. Truth is, I can tear my book but you cannot. If you did, your name and biometrics would be sent to Interpol, and you would be put on the International Book Offenders list.

Next to my library, I want a chair. Not the leather sort that is filled in almost every showroom in the city. No. I want the kind that I can sink into. The cushonie-kind. The kind that can support my reading gymnastics as comfort is of paramount importance.

Oh Blesser… My heart is literally skipping at the notion of it all.
Won’t you hurry and bless my mind before thirst consumes my mind.

books

Chain #1: The Vacation Adventure
http://pkahill.com/blesser-part-1/

Chain #2: The KoiKoiEast Adventure
https://djtwonjex.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/blesser-part-2/

#UGBlogWeek: Pocket full of shy (Verse II)

This was started at DJ Twonjex’s blog – Verse 1. As part of UGBlogWeek Chain Stories week, here goes my continuation of his story!

That was the last time,
the last time I pushed and you pulled.
They say that I shouldn’t give up,
I should keep nudging.
The gentle pushing and prodding,
that in time you will take notice of what is before you.
Rather who is before you.

A me.
A tired me.
A lost me.

My identity sacrificed at the altar of you,
hidden in myriad attempts to capture your attention.
Grasping at our fading memories…
When you smiled and it kissed my eyes.
When you laughed and my ears rejoiced.
Your feather touch that shook my core.
A core now shattered in reality.

My reality.
A sad reality.
Our reality.

A reality surrounded in that fact that,
You don’t even know my name.

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#Chain 1: Twonjex’s Pocket full of shy
https://djtwonjex.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/pocket-full-of-shy/

[#UGBlogWeek] Your ballad, hidden in my soul…

Let me write about you.
Let me write about who I see.
Let me write about you.

Permit me to paint a picture of your smile.
Permit me to tell of the wrinkles that surround your eyes.
Permit me to remember the way your eyes light up.

Let me dream about your crooked smile.
Let me dream about that shadow of a dimple that draws my eyes.
Let me dream about your yesterday’s stub that tickles enough to make my morning right.

Can I tell them of your heart?
Can I tell them of your heart and the way it bleeds for people?
Can I tell them of your heart and the way it longs for justice?

And your fingers, the firmness of your grip reminds my heart of your presence.
And your arms, in them I’ve found where I belong.
And your lips…

I would write about them.
I could write about them.
But like Billy Ocean said…

You’d first need to get outta my dreams
Then wake me up before you go…
and tell me it’s real.

Happy [early] Valentine to one an all.
You are reason enough to celebrate love.
On this day and all future days to come.

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Don’t be too serious… Spread some cheese and corn this month!!

Chain #2: She turned the ballad into vows… https://skyagaba.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/my-diamond-among-simple-stones/ – 

Chain #3: What is the color of heartbreak?? https://cynthiakyofuna.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/ugblogweek-i-painted-my-valentine-red/

Chain #4: The frustrations of the get-to-know each other fairytale… 
https://lakerfiona.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/frustrated-in-love-ugblogweek/

Chain #5: Won’t you stay…
https://djtwonjex.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/a-promise-to-stay-ugblogweek/


Do you have what it takes to keep this story going? Add your chain by continuing where Twonjex has left it…