Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Snippets From My Birthday Week!




I worked the WHOLE week (Yes the whole seven days), but I still found stretches in the day to reflect on another year of life on this planet. If I'm honest I am grateful I was working, it's no secret among my close circle that I love what I do, but seeing as this was a special juncture in the year, I put aside a few minutes each day just for me so that I could write about it here, on the blog.

So without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen here are some snippets from my week....enjoyπŸ˜ƒ.

This photo got many likes on my Facebook timeline, why? who knows?


Day 1

"He leads me beside quiet waters,
     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths"

(psalm 23;2:3) 

I woke up early on Sunday.

You know that moment when you first wake but keep your body still.
You refuse to allow yourself to move, instead you remain exactly where you are, listening to the very first sounds of the day... your closed eye lids providing that last barrier between your body and the reality of the waking world. 

I cherish those first bits of the morning. I feel like I am closest to God then. I once read in book about the strange idea of the soul taking opportunities to wonder from the body during sleep. The author believed the soul returns to heaven during the night to get some relief from the harshness of the world, and in the early hours of the morning it returns refreshed and energized, ready to take on life's challenges. 

 I like to imagine that in the first waking moments my soul still has God's ear. So I use that time to speak candidly with Him about matters that are most pressing in my heart. 

On this particular  morning, the first of my birthday week, I am asking for it to be a fruitful week.

 I am asking for His presence throughout the journey.

 I am asking not to lose sight of my purpose on this trip.

Day 2

"This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, 
for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
(Nehemiah 8:10)

On the second day of work, we meet a Nurse at a district hospital. 

It's the day before my  birthday.

 Her uniform is sparkling white and ironed so well that I wonder if it's a sign, because I am immediately reminded of my mother. She was a Nurse too. She loved her work. As a little girl I used to flip through our family album and admire  how smart and beautiful my mummy looked in her uniform, with her cap perfectly balanced on her neat Afro,
thanks to those very reliable black bobby pins.

Crisp white uniform. Smart Nurse/Midwife 


I miss my mother. 

I wish she was here, because she would be the first to call me on my birthday.

I wish she was here so I could vent unjudged in dramatic fashion about things that once I had a chance to really think about don't mean much at all. 

But these are only wishes and I am grateful that she was alive for the time that she was, maybe this was her way of being the first in family to say "Happy Birthday. I am here. I see you."

Day 3

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart"
(Colossians 3:23)

It's my birthday today. No grey hairs were found in the mirror this morning. 

I am grinding away in a refugee settlement in Arua, the heat is affecting my ability to multitask. I put all my energy into getting my work done. No time to reflect. A friend tries to call from Columbia with birthday greetings, another from Kampala but I miss the calls cause the phone is on silent and data switched off to save battery.

Boy is it hot! A litre of water feels like a box of candy. 


A family home  and some well needed shade

Part of a homestead

Kitchen?


Just a road, a boda boda, and a truck in the distance

When my nieces and my brother call me in the early evening to sing Happy Birthday, I am happy because it's been a productive day. 

Day 4

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.

(Proverbs 16:3)

We are welcomed into a homestead with these silver glasses, so the millennial in me, takes a quick lopsided photo. Heat is still trying to break the team, and  now we have time constraints so greetings done , we start slogging away.

 I was here in the settlement last year when all this was still bush, when they were still making preparations for the new influx to come. Now I am struggling to differentiate it, from all the others I have visited.

Silver cups

The process of resettling and building a home in a new country..

Every time I come, I am always fascinated by these little houses on sticks ..why? I don't know

Day 5

The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:5)

Moyo district just struck me as the most scenic district this week. Gleaming greenery and an abnormal abundance of mangoes! I think of our mango tree at home which is always full of flowers and yet barely produces a fruit, and how the neighbor's kids climb our wall and pinch the few that do grow before we have a chance to eat them.

This district would be the perfect spot to hid away when rest is needed, I imagine I could try and figure out how to make rum out of mangoes...No? 

Trying to be creative taking pictures on my phone 
Old trees, wish they could speak and tell us what they have seen. Wouldn't we learn a thing or two?


Collecting water

What path will my choices lead me on  this year?

Thinking we need a secret holiday hideaways in Moyo district 
We cross the river on our way to Adjumani. Exhausted from the day's work, my nose full of snot because I have the beginning stages of a cold.  I have packed my pockets full of white tissue to avoid embarrassing myself with running nose on the ferry. 

If you'd told me 10 years ago that this is where you would find me....that Maria wouldn't have believed you. She was set in her ways like that.

Taken on the ferry from Moyo To Adjumani 

We arrive at our booked accommodation and there is a chapel in the corner of compound, I sneak in for some unscheduled time with God before going for dinner. I want to thank him for hearing my prayers on Sunday and guiding me through the week.


Chapel at Multi Purpose Training Center in Adjumani 

Day 6:

"Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint"
(psalm 6:2)

In the settlements again, it  is humid so the rain is welcomed, cause it has been a long long long week. I wasn't so reflective today though, so there isn't much to write about it. 

Child Friendly Space in Maaji Refugee Settlement

Last stop is Gulu, my body is starting to feel the strain. I have a headache which I can't shake even after two glasses of water. I run off in search of Panadol. 

Even with the trusted painkiller, the ache doesn't go πŸ˜–πŸ˜–πŸ˜–. Once our  diner arrives we merrily eat, our work is done and we shall be back in Kla tomorrow. We start to talk and share our stories. Before you know it we are laughing, and in the middle of  all the snorts and giggles I notice the pain is gone. For dessert, I buy myself a yummy chocolate cupcake and a delicious Nutella  and peanut butter cookie a  mini party for  myself  before the real celebrations
with family and friends back home.


Spotted in Gulu at the Iron Monkey, Best Cupcakes I have tasted all week!

Thanks for reading! Do drop by again soon

"Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,
 because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."
(Genesis 2-3)


Saturday, 7 April 2018

Some Bread Please ? ~ Bad Poetry





Bread.

Fresh-Out-Of- The- Oven-Bread

That arrives in it's own woven basket, with a white napkin in tow.

That makes me close my eyes so my taste sense has no competition.

That makes time stop..... cause who cares what's happening around me when I am eating this bread?

B.
     R.
         E.
            A.
                 D.

Melting on my tongue and muting all noises so that I can hear my own heart beat.

Why? 


This must be witch craft... cause how? Just Wow.

The Devil is dusting of my chair in hell.

Haven't I broken the first commandment?

On a Palm Sunday as well?


I came here to have a quite lunch and catch up on my 'serious' writing

But this bread has put the future eternity of my soul in jeopardy, it's left me sideways. Yes it is that goooooood 😍😍😍
 
 I try to buckle down and to be fruitful. I want to write something worthy of praise, something that will make my critiques talk.

But all I can think about is how gooooooooooood that warm slice of fresh white bread tasted and how much I wish I had bread like that everyday.

I am not the same woman I was before this bread.πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Honestly.

Good bread does that to a woman.

How can I go back to the same s..... everyday? The one we buy at the supermarket, that tastes like paper, that annoyingly falls apart as you make a sandwich.

*Takes a long deep breath*

 How can bread do this to a person? 😲😱😲



Sunday, 18 March 2018

She said the WORD outloud...





I flinched when she said the word.

It’s not like I hadn’t heard the word before.

It‘s the way I expected the word to be used that was my problem. 

The word is often said in hushed tones, not to be repeated regularly because it's a repugnant word. Thoughts that trigger shame, humiliation and even trauma. We don’t want to pressure the victim into re-living the situation and we don’t want the picture to remain in their mind for too long. Subconsciously we want the word and the incident to remain separate from us and our current reality. 

I flinched  yet this isn't the first time, I heard this particular girl's story. I read the short bio they provided before I came. We chose her specifically for her experience, and to provide her with the opportunity to speak for others that have been unable to do so in the past. We wanted her to speak up so that the right help and support can be provided for all, especially those rendered mute by the  heavy shackles of shame.

I must confess I doubted that she could do it, I have been here before and many girls have bulked at the chance to speak up. And that's okay. They need to make the best decision for themselves, we need  to help them do that and provide a safe space for them to feel in control. Being able to say 'No' is a decision we support too. 

All though we say our opinion as society is changing for many girls there is a wrongly attached stigma to the word which follows the victim and never the perpetrator. In Roxanne's book 'Bad Feminist' she shares her harrowing experience in the thought-provoking essay " What We Hunger For".  Advance Warning! This essay will remain with you long after you have put the book down. But it's a necessary read that encourages deep reflection especially on sexual assault and how we process violence against women.


' The boy I thought was my boyfriend pushed me to the ground. He took my clothes off, and I lay there with no body to speak of, just a flat board of skin and girl bones. I tried to cover myself with my arms but I couldn't, not really. The boys stared at me while they drank beer and laughed and said things I didn't understand because I knew things but I knew nothing about what a group of boys could do to kill a girl. ' ~ Roxanne Gay - Bad Feminist  (p.143)

'I sat perfectly still and tried to concentrate, but all I could hear was the hiss of the word "Slut". That shame was one of the worst things I have ever known. " Slut" was my name for the rest of the school year because those boys went and told a very different story about what happened in the woods."'
~ Roxanne Gay - Bad Feminist  (p.144)

I was heartbroken when I read this essay. I didn't sleep that night, because I vividly saw the younger Roxanne carrying this shame and burden herself. My nocturnal clock was turned upside down, because I know there are many young girls that have this similar experience, and many boys & men who have never paid for their sins. Undeservedly the victim is tied to the baggage of shame and humiliation that in my opinion belongs only to the perpetrator for not respecting the sacredness of another person's body.  It is unfair, but how can we talk about fairness and rape in the same sentence?

So why did I flinch when this girl told her story?

I flinched because the product of the action was sitting in this girl's lap contently breastfeeding and just a few months shy of their* first birthday. I flinched because the word, 'RAPE', rolled of her tongue with such confidence and certainty . She made eye contact with us, she was lucid. The word was clear, it was enunciated and not one person in the room could ever say when recalling this conversation that they did not understand what she had said or what she meant.

That is what was new for me.

The fact that she could assertively call a spade a spade. Usually when I hear their stories, the girls don’t even use the word rape. The councilor or the caregiver will always use the correct term, but it’s been rare for me to come across a girl that comfortably uses the word. They will say ‘he hurt me’ or ‘ he forced me to be with him,’ or even ‘he forced himself upon me’ .  Sometimes they won’t even discuss it, there will just be a big gap in their story, and when you revert back to the part for clarity, they may be unable to articulate it in words. She may simply look down or get lost in thoughts and you are left to imagine the worst based on their facial expressions. That part of the story is usually discussed in lower tones, sometimes in whispers and no eye contact.

This girl-child was different thanks to months of counseling plus family and social  support. This girl didn’t look away from our asking eyes, she didn’t lower her voice and fumble with her words. She clearly announced “I was raped.”  while breastfeeding her baby in her lap.  This healthy baby was born nine months after the incident. 

The fact that this girl could state what happened to her without hesitation is what shocked us. 



She took that negativity and threw it right back
 at that man who totally disregarded her rights as a child. 

She removed the shame & humiliation from herself and her child
and hurled it across borders, right back at this man.

 Experiencing that moment was profound. 

He was a family friend. A grown man who approached this girl-child and she rejected him. When conflict broke out in her country and the whole village fled to the bush for safety.... he took advantage in the chaos and raped her. He may never be prosecuted for this crime. He tried to crush her budding teenage self-esteem. Place cracks in the first foundation stones of her female confidence.

 A grown man could not  take rejection from a child so he raped her.
Think about that for a moment...
A grown man could not take rejection from a child.
Pause for a few seconds before you continue reading.
Take that thought with you.
Because it doesn't matter how many conversations we've had,
We need to keep talking till perpetrators know, they don't have a right to any body's body. 

In the moment that she used the word rape, it sounds clichΓ©, but I understood what they mean when they say 'She took back her power’ .This young girl had dreams for herself and her baby and she told us with drive and conviction in her voice that she believed they could be achieved 

 She called a spade a spade. 

I am also learning to call a spade a spade, thanks to her bravery.   

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Dear Queen - Thank God You Lost Those Sunglasses...




Dear Queen,

Happy New Year! Also Happy Women’s Day!

Facebook with their memories brought you too my attention again, and you know that we are a generation sensitive to triggers. In order to allow these triggers to harmlessly pass through and not possess us, self reflection is now a must.

I apologize for my neglect in 2017. Only two letters.

I have been so focused on developing and perfecting new skills, that I completely forgot to write you. 

How are you? Dear Queen, the woman in the photo from four years ago, tell me how are you?

I look at this photo, facebook shared. 

I know the thought that is running through your bones at that particular moment.

I know the thought that is trying to control your life. 

I know what you are trying to hide behind your every breath.

I know the feeling you try to mask with the pretense of 'coping well', because you want your loved ones to not worry about you so much.  For months now they have been propping you up.

 And now you are doing your best to conceal your true feeling.  

Fear. 

You are hiding it. Though it's another badly kept secret cause your eyes give you away. But that’s okay you can easily keep your head down in conversation so that people don’t notice.

There is a scared girl behind those ‘questionable’ sun glasses. Oba where did you buy them from? Thank God you lost them.

Fear is ruling your heart.

Fear that  the monster that is grief will take over when your people leave you to get back to your daily life alone. You are petrified it will overwhelm you and you will be stuck in a maze of emotions unable to find your way out. 

But your biggest fear is just knowing that you are going to be alone. Left to your own devices.

How will  you make decisions again? For months people have been deciding for you.

There is a space there…. where your mother used to be, and you are not sure yet what to do with it.

 They have kept you in a safe bubble for the last couple of months.

They have done what strong women do,  fiercely protected you from the world and from yourself. 

And now they have to leave, back to their lives they must go.  One is planning a wedding, another is returning overseas to pursue her doctorate. 

 
At night you wake up terrified, and you can’t tell if the nightmares are the birth child of sorrow, anxiety or anger.

You don’t know how you will cope.
You can’t remember the last time you felt this alone.

So I am here to tell you something about you…. I am the women from four years later.

You are okay.
You survived.
You are doing well.
You are on track
You are focused.
We pray. You and I. We pray a lot.

Also next year you give yourself a well deserved  mini break. It will change your life.
Well done Queen for being brave enough to go. 

By the way they will check on you. These great friends of yours will check on you.  These are your people. You are not  alone.

Okay so now you know.  

So until the next facebook memory comes along. Don’t worry so much. We are fine. 

Stay well. Continue to learn. Continue to grow.
You can handle it.
Do you.