Sunday, 14 October 2018

"But Sir, How Far to the Moon and Back?" - Stargazing in Maropeng, South Africa!

Photo Credit: Pexels

Three weeks ago we lost a great, gifted and much loved human being, my primary school teacher Ms Gumoes.  Her former pupils are scattered across the global fulfilling their life missions with the gusto and zeal she planted in us, but on the day the news of her death digitally spread through the alumni, I am sure all of us stood very still for long while to remember the children we once were and the safe cocoon of our dynamic primary school. It's only in adulthood that you truly appreciate the valuable life lessons your teachers impart on you, and it's rare that you will get the chance to share your gratitude. I think I wrote Ms Gumoes only once after leaving school, and regrettably never again. I have no idea what the after life holds for us, but for all the children that have passed through her wise and loving hands, she deserves her place amongst the stars.
 I am dedicating this blog post to her.

ARDUUS AD STELLAS Ms Gumoes.

When I first heard that they were taking us stargazing, I will not lie to you, I felt my time would be best spent with a night trip to the mall for some late night shopping.

Why is it compulsory? I pondered.

"I am sorry but we must begin, Saturn is about to set and I don't want the group to miss that opportunity," said a bearded  white man with a grey black slick ponytail, dressed in black pants and matching black waist coat.

But I thought only the sun sets...

We were hurried out of Hominin House dinning hall with unfinished cake & custard pudding in hand to a corner of the parking lot, where a black telescope stood in place waiting to receive us. If you had told my younger self that one day many years from now you will be rushing to see the planet Saturn before it sets, on South African soil, at a UNESCO protected site called the Cradle of humankind, I would have told you, "What a great beginning for a fairy tail, Sister tell me how does it end?" Yet here I was watching my school motto materialize before my eyes.

Our guide through the universe that evening was Vincent Nettmann, Maropeng's Resident Astronomer. Just imagine that... a place with it's own resident astronomer! 👀👀👀👀


"How long will it take us to reach the moon by car?" he asked  the group.

...... blank stares....

" Exactly 4 months and 10 days," Vincent gleefully answered himself.

Blanks stares turned into raised eyebrows and WOWs

Throughout the evening, Vincent frequently asked such questions to keep the group engaged and to help us better understand the size and scope of the universe.

I have to admit that sometimes I take our existence as human beings forgranted. I get bogged down in the earthy things and rarely take time to think of  what's beyond the ozone layer. And I also don't want to ask the big questions like " Ummm....why are we here?" . It's too much for my mind to contemplate. However,  looking out into the night sky, watching the astronomer point out parts of the galaxy with a simple red lazer light,  and hearing the large aperture telescope quietly buzz and twist as it responded to typed calculated directions, made my earthy concerns minuscule in the grand scheme of things.  I felt limited and limitless in the same moment....how?...I really can't explain.

"I am only rushing cause it's a cloudy evening and I want you to see as much as possible."

The celestrial sphere is not static, it doesn't just humbly wait for humans to look up and admire it. It has its own rhythm as beautifully demonstrated in Van Gogh's starry night, and Vincent the director, wanted to give us a great show, but with little control over his cast (the stars and planets) he could not make promises to us that he could not keep. And really....who were we to command the heavens? so I finished my pudding and obediently settled into the show.

We made a small circle round the telescope and took turns looking out into the night sky. Vincent instructed us to take our time because if our eyes were positioned wrong, instead of seeing stars and planets we could be frighted by the darkness of the plastic protecting the sides of the lens.

As the minutes ticked by, he showed and shared with us so many more interesting sights and insights, that we forgot about the late evening chill and became more fascinated by the secrets behind each twinkle in the sky.

Afterwards, we went inside and watched a presentation on planets, galaxies and universes. We learnt that South Africa is currently building one of the world's largest telescopes. Just think more children in Africa will be able to add astronomer to their dream career lists now.

I wrote it ALL down... all that was said in the presentation so that I could share it right here... in this post, but I regret to inform you, I lost the paper so you'll just have to take a trip to Maropeng and experience it yourself. My sincere apologies. 😊😀

Last year I shared a blog post titled  "Maybe your dreams aren't big enough". Only my post had focused on the magnificence of the earth, so in light of my stargazing experience , let's extend it to our galaxy, then the universe too!

As mentioned earlier, this post is in honor of Ms Gumoes, so it must be short and sweet and straight to the point as she would have liked it. 
Thanks for stopping by, See you again soon!


Spotted in Maropeng.

Cradle of Humankind

Friday, 17 August 2018

How to love yourself - August 2018


Get your nails done!
I suggest Sparkles.
Have you ever tried their pedicure chairs?
They will shake every last piece of fatigue out your bones. 
Take your headphones with you when you go, because you have to go! 
Plug into your fave music on your phone. 
Proceed to zone out until further notice,
Or atleast until the turquoise nail polish is dry.

On a quiet morning when there is not much to do.
Start writing your feelings down.
The ones that have plagued you internally, draining your energy for weeks.
Wait..wait..actually..Paint them!
Yes...YES! Make a glorious mess on paper!
After all today is the day you don't need to follow the rules.
Paint your emotions. 
Give them colours.
Especially the ones that can't be described by words.  

You need to keep your body active
We hate lethargy.
I know life is tough and defeating sometimes
But we cannot lie cocooned in defeat all the time.
As the great Maya Angelou once said
"Still I Rise" 


Have you got some fave Beyonce songs?
Add all the female singers that make you feel like a strong woman achieving things.
Mix in some Tiwa Savage, Rihanna, Cardi B, and Nicki Minaj too
Call it your  'Not today Satan' playlist
Exercise to it for 30 - 45 minutes.

On Sunday go to church.
After mass carry out all your feminine duties
and obligations quickly and quietly.
Then nap for two hours  guilt-free in the afternoon.
No one will die
The walls will not collapse.
God will not let your house burn down.
Some cups and plates may get chipped or broken.
The adventurous children might get some scraps and small bruises.
Heck..the curtains might get singed just a little.
But Trump will not press the nuclear button
And North Korea with not launch those missiles
Don't listen to family members' protests.
They will be fine.
How did they survive before you?
Don't worry, they will figure it out.
I mean...Were you born into stupid?
Did you marry stupid?
Are you raising stupid?

On Wednesday ...
While everyone else is at work..
That strawberry cheesecake you said  'NOOOOO' to two weeks ago
It is still very much needed in your life.
Go eat it!
He likes your hips
And dresses need curves!
Oh... and buy that lipstick
That dress too
That handbag
Do you need those shoes?
You decide.
Maybe a new book too. 


Watch Sarah and Duck with your niece.
Because who doesn't love Sarah and Duck
You must be mad not to...


Stop reading a book that has been boring you for months.
You  have tried..really tried to like this book.
I mean.. it has Former President Obama in it.
But sadly the author isn't really a talented writer
Just someone who got offered a book deal.
Shame because you really love books that celebrate Obama
But this one my dear is for chucking...
Chuck it on that big-disappointment pile you have in the corner of the room. 
Now start a new one dear... you know you have plenty to get through!
Like Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Did you pray?
Did you meditate?
I say it all the time.
You know you need to.
Switch off your phone.
Make time for God.
You soul needs it.


On  Friday text your best friend
Make time to met  and catch up
Watch a movie, have dinner with some cocktails 
Vent about stuff
Consult on serious matters
Laugh for one hour, Cry the next, then laugh again
It is all part of the joys of friendships. 
Give her the late birthday present  you promised
Drive home feeling rejuvenated about future goals and projects.

Carefully dispose of your weighing scale.
You are on leave...
This week you shall eat,
and who wants to be harassed by kilograms?!
Besides your writing buddy has invited you to  Zumba class on thursday
Never mind that you'll be eating calorie-heavy food and cocktails afterwards..

In the evenings
Try a face mask
a muddy one
a cucumber peel one...
a honey and oats one..
a coconut milk and brown sugar one...
take your pick
there are so so so many!

Sleep at night.
The Sunday afternoon nap is not enough.
Politely tell the worry monster to ***** off.
Tell him/her all about Matthew 6:25  .
Give yourself the good gift of sleep.
A lot of healing occurs during good restful sleep.
And when you wake...
Stay in your comfy pajamas till 2.00pm.
Ignore family members' burning stares.
It's only for one day anyway...
Return to bed.
Watch that series you've not had time to finish. 

At midnight when the neighborhood is still,
Open your curtains look at the stars.
Remember how the little girl in you once saw magic in twinkles?
Dare to ask that little girl inside you tonight,
"Are you happy?"
"Did we do what we set out do do?"
After all she's the one who dreamed up your present.
The dreams she confidently discussed with loyal doll and teddy bear friends,
Over 'tea' in her much loved neon pink plastic flower patterned toy tea set.
 'Tea' consisting of cold tap water and mushed leaves pinched from a flower bush in the garden,
and a slice of white bread stolen from the fridge
when Aya Rose was busy 'illegally' watching Benny Hinn on TV.

It's the day before you return to work,
Thoughts are swirling as you prepare for the rush of tomorrow
My oh My
What would Aya Rose say to the woman who you've turned into today?
A grown one now.
One that irons her real work outfit and sets it aside for the next day.
One that gets her real hand bag out and organizes her REAL things in it.
One that has real make up to shine her face for the day.
My oh My
What would Aya Rose say?
To the girl who once fell into a pond chasing a plastic bag she thought was a fish!


Appreciate the fact that ALL this
Taking time to love yourself
is a sweet luxury. 
Be grateful that you can.
And brace yourself
It's going to be a busy week
Your phone is already buzzing dear. 

Thank you for dropping by, please do again soon.  

Monday, 6 August 2018

SOME FICTION: Nothing In the Pit of her Stomach....



Pinks roses, baby's breath and yellow carnations in a cute little bow peep basket,
hand delivered by Jjuuko's Flower shop on Monday morning.
There's a tiny note attached from ever persistant Charles
 'Mama' Helen the elderly receptionist smiles at Martha.
"Beauuuuuuuutiful!" she chuckles as she hands the basket over.
You don't seem excited?" she prys;
 Twenty five year old Martha dashes up the polished marble stairs of the accounting firm,
balancing herself as best as she can in her purple pumps and a sleek black dress.
She is pleading with the universe to allow her safe passage to her desk unnoticed.
But the universe duly denies her request.
She bumps into Agnes on the second floor.
"Have you seen Kirabo, I need her input for these PSA messages? Oooooo... those look lovely,
Bambi enjoy it," She romantically sighs, "once you are married
those things stop happening."

 At her desk, Martha quickly glances at the note, before hiding the flowers
in the cabinet.
Charles must have copied a line from brainyquote.com 
He calls at lunch time.
On their first date he told her,
“When I see something I want, I just have to get it!”
 He never beats around the bush.
"Did you get the flowers? You're not replying my whatsapp messages."
"Oh sorry, been busy all morning, not had time to check my phone" she lies.
There is a long pause
She can feel his stifled disappointment through the phone.
"Thank you!" She says, trying to sound upbeat.
Her eyes quickly run through his fifteen unread messages on her phone.
The skin around her nails is pink and distressed from her picking them throughout the morning
A teeny bubble of dried blood has formed at the base of her middle finger nail.
"Listen...I'll call you in the evening. Thank you so much once again," she hangs up.
"Shouldn't I feel something for Charles?" She wonders.
But she feels nothing
There is nothing in the pit of her stomach.
If she marries Charles their lives are set.
Jobs, money, houses, their off spring in the right schools etc...
Her Ssenga introduced him to her in January at a kwanjula.
The son of her wealthy connected best friend.
"A match made in heaven for you Martha,
He may not be handsome,
 but he's  responsible and reliable and that is what counts in marriage these days.
Don't be like me Child...
For the fifth night in a row your father isn't home,
 I am alone,
 scrambling for school fees for your brother in this God-forsaken economy. "
Her mother reminds her on her return home in the evening.
“Martha, are you going to have tea? The flask is on the table.”
“No…Let me go shower.”
Martha leaves the flowers on the kitchen table.

On Tuesday she asks Ben to give her a lift home.
 She is too exhausted to struggle with public transport this evening
He cheerfully waits in the parking lot in a turquoise Hipsum
As she enters the car from the passenger side,
He grabs his tattered dairy and a stack of old newspapers from the seat,
then stuffs them in the back.
“Wait!” he panics while dusting off some crumbs from yesterday’s meat pie
“Okay…..now sit.”
“But Ben, why is it so hard for you clean your car?” Martha teases.
A friend since her university days, she trusts him with her whole self.
He is book smart, with a heart of gold, a very rare combination for an african male, according Martha’s youthful opinion
 Last Sunday morning after church service he surprised her by making it clear that he wants more.
As they drive, he sings along and taps his hands on the steering wheel in time to the music,
 After one hour of crawling through Kampala traffic, bumper to bumper,
He gives her a mars bar from a Shoprite shopping bag.
Ben’s sweet tooth never lets him move anywhere without a treat nearby.
"What are you doing on Saturday? Come with us to Entebbe.
A friend of mind is opening a new restaurant."
"Maybe...I'll let you know." She says while scanning through her messages.
Another hour passes before they finally reach her home.
She is saddened by her relief to see the gate.
The lighthearted friendly banter between them
 forever changed by that Sunday morning conversation.
"I'll text you." he says
"okay...thanks for the lift, safe journey home" she replies.
But there is nothing there for him too.
 Nothing in the pit of her stomach.
Her Mother is peering from the window
"You'll have to choose soon, you can't keep stringing them along."
Her mother secretly likes Ben, but Ssenga persuaded her Charles is best.
"Sure" Martha's says as she scampers up the stairs to avoid another lecture.
“You’re not having tea today as well? You children think I just buy milk and sugar like decorations for the house.”

"I have finally seen more land I want to buy." Moses proudly announces.
Sharing a double Chocolate Fudge Obsession desert with Martha at Java's Cafe Kampala Road
It's Friday evening. Every young person of age is looking for the ultimate party plot.
Moses knows and has access to all of them.
 His mobile phones are neatly laid out on the table as they eat.
Every now and then one buzzes and he interrupts himself to pick up and close a deal.
They interned in the same law firm two years ago.
Both assigned to record keeping,
They would laugh & joke their way through the long hours of strenuous paperwork.

Martha is wearing  ruby woo mac lipstick which complements her complexion,
Because Moses has always liked shinny things.
An  inside joke between them.
She stuffs her mouth with dessert so he won't expect much talk from her.
But he never has, a peacock in a flashy suit that loves the sound of his own voice. 
"I have a brother coming from the States, would you like anything?
How about a new phone? An iphone would be good for you."
She starts to reply, but the sticky fudge has caught her tongue
and all the words she had, are jumbled up stuck at the ceiling of her mouth
Last month he casually informed her that it made logically sense for them to date.
"You're not fussy and needy like other women, I need someone level headed like you,
 it can work out well for us. Just think about it."
The fudge loosens  it's grip on her tongue.
But the words have all gone.
 She feels nothing for him.
Nothing in the pit of her stomach
He drops her home in his  silver Benz at midnight.
She doesn't want to go to the new Snap vodka launch at Club Rouge.
As usual, her Mother is waiting for her in the sitting room.
"Where did he get the money to buy that swanky car?" she asks.
"I don't know." Martha replies the smell of sweet fudge tangled in her breath.
"Those are the dangerous ones, the Police will come in the night
and snatch him away as you breastfeed your newborn.
Is that the life you want for yourself?"

At 1.00 am Martha is seated on the edge of her bed
The house is quiet, everyone has gone to sleep
She welcomes the silence
She knows where her heart is.
It's  six feet under concrete, buried with the body of Alan.
Her eyes glazed she remembers,
the first time they met at  Malcolm's .
It is where all the students went on Fridays after lectures.
His hair was freshly cut
His beard was neatly shaven
Tanya her university room mate introduced them.
Their eyes locked 
She was whooped, and pleasantly annoyed by the cliche of love at first sight
"Oh my God, it's true!" she thought.
The intensity of his stare made her shy, as if naked
and deep down in the pit of her stomach
a spark ignited, sending warmth all over her body.

Afterwards on their many dates & shallow lovers' tiffs,
delirious and isolated in the magic bubble of  infatuation
They planned their lives together
What careers they'd create..
The home they would build together...
The number of kids they'd bear...
"Five!" He'd tease her "Maybe even seven!"
"We cannot afford that much school fees!" she'd huff and fold her arms,
pretending she didn't want to be touched.
But her body would always betray her.

A year and half later from the day they met, his sister Anne called at 1.00 am.
Rubbing sleep from her eyes " Hi Lover", she joyfully answered,
thinking it was Alan calling to wish her goodnight.
If he didn't have credit on his phone, he used his sibling's .
Expecting his smooth tenor voice, she was startled into sitting upright in bed by squealing.
Was he still at the club?
Had Anne pocket dialed her by mistake?
Then she recognized the animal like squeals were cries of shock, grief and denial
All mixed in one.
And the bubble was burst.
Stark reality came flooding through...
In between Anne's uncontrolled sobs, Martha heard words her heart refused to swallow
"He's dead....He's gone....
 knocked....knocked off a boda boda
Why did he take one Martha?
We told him not too...
We told him NOT TOO.
His body is cold Martha,
His body is so cold!"

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Random Early Morning Thoughts - Karamoja, Uganda

just imagine....we need this feature film to happen.


Day 1


4.00 am: It's dark everywhere, which means power (electricity) has gone.
In Uganda electricity can 'leave' and not tell us when it will return.
6.00 am: Must drink my small bottle of water.
Why?
Because access to toilets during the day is limited.
I need my body to hydrate and cleanse itself before we hit the road for work.
So glug glug glug... 
6.30 am: Who is that confused man loudly conversating across the hotel courtyard ?
And who is that woman replying in high pitched excitement?
Why are they so pleased with themselves so early in the morning?
She must be cleaning I can hear the splash of the rag cloth disturbing the bucket of water. 
I can hear the effort in her voice as she scrubs. 
Don't they know some of us enjoy quiet starts to the day, 
beneath the blanket warmth of our beds?
7.00 am: I really don't want to shower with cold water.












Day 2

6.00 am: Lately waking up for me has been a first world problem.
My mind is ready, my body isn't.
It's sluggish and slow.
I hear my  mind sing to my body every morning,
"Time to get up!"
And I hear my body grumpily reply,
"What's the point?"
7.00 am: cold shower again...
8.00 am: Once I have got through my morning routine,
 sat down for hot fresh katogo, 
I am actually fine.
I am surprisingly eager to begin today's activities.






Day 3

5.oo am: If I really want to know how  I feel about something,
I ponder on it first thing, ahead of the the crack of dawn.
Before that first light slips past the wonky slit in the hotel curtains
those virgin thoughts,
those untainted feelings,
those are the authentic ones.
I listen to those.
7.00 am:  Really really don't want to shower with cold water














Day 4

4.30 am: I have discovered the best prayers are the one's said in the morning.
Before the cockerel crows
Before my first yawn,
Before my first stretch,
Before I rub the tiny sticky fairy dust off my eyes, 
I begin my conversation with God.
6.30 am: On my knees, head bowed low, I continue with prayer.
7.00 am: Really really really don't want to shower with cold water.










"What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God's eyes, our best.
Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling.
For these may come from a deeper level than feeling.
God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us…off our guard."
CSLewis



*The minions are the result of discovering Facebook stories