Stocktaking : 2021

From a distance, 2021 looked like a sequel to 2020. People made jokes about going to the bush after the election yet deep down prayed for peace. The truth is, this year has been a lot; from the election to the second wave of Covid-19, to the endless lockdown to the elusive COVID relief… I’m just grateful we’re alive to reminisce about it. Let’s catch up on the highs and lows, shall we?

The year started well.

My blog got nominated in the 2020 Afrobloggers Awards in the Personal blog category and I was first runner up. As my first win of the year, it was the light I needed going into the tunnel.

The badge of honor. 🥂

I traveled to Kichwamba.

I’d never even heard of the place but when a friend invited me for Easter, I packed my bag and best friend and went. The journey was long but offered beautiful cites to see. The best part was definitely the drive through Queen Elizabeth National Park. I felt at home, probably because the park was named after me. 😊We saw elephants, buffaloes and kobs on the drive. We were disappointed by how tiny and creaky the bridge over the Kazinga channel was, but the beauty of Lakes George and Edward made up for that. When we finally got to Sayari Lodge, the view was to die for. Below us was a valley that could actually kill you if you fell into it. It was breathtaking. While there, we learnt how to play pool, and throw darts. Every night, we would sit by the fire, drink and discuss racism, feminism, sexism, colorism and all other -isms.

Kichwamba looked good on me.

I took pictures.

There’s something magical about freezing moments and carrying them around forever. That’s what I think photography is. My favorite picture this year is one I took of the Tororo Cement factory. I’ve been told it looks like Winterfell from Game of Thrones. That’s a compliment I can’t argue with. 😉

Tororo Cement Factory, Uganda’s oldest cement factory.

I was crashed.

For the third year in a row, a thief visited our kraal. Two bulls were taken this time. When the police sniffer dog came, it traced scents and in the end stopped at our neighbor’s; it entered through the back door, walked through the house and stopped at the front. He’s the same guy who stole our pregnant cow last year. He was taken by police then released on police bond two days later. Last year I was angry. This year I am livid.

When I heard the news, I went numb. I curled up in my bed and sobbed. I wondered why God would let this happen to us, a third time. Was this what he meant when he said his plans were to prosper and not to harm us? How much did the locust have to eat before He began the restoration? When I called mum, I could barely hear her voice. She was blaming herself, saying she shouldn’t have slept so early. Dad said we didn’t have to worry. That Nyasaye knew what to do. That’s when it dawned on me that God is still God and He knows all things. We wouldn’t even have cattle if He didn’t make them. I remembered that the devil is the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy but my God, my God is good, His loving kindness endures forever.

The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

Nahum 1:7

He knows us who ask for justice from Him. He knows us who cry out to Him. He knows us and He listens to us, so someday in His perfect time, He will answer us.

I received a book

from an internet friend in Kenya. Books are the surest way to my heart, books and Kenyan mabuyu. And my friend Otieno sent me both. Those were the best gifts I received this year.

The gift, Thursdays by Biko Zulu.

I published an ebook.

I started working on it last year and I had meant to publish it before my birthday but certain things came up so I couldn’t meet my deadline. The book, entitled These things, is a collection of poems written for anyone who knows the joy of love and the soreness of loss, anyone who knows what it’s like to dread home, and for everyone on the journey of healing from things we don’t talk about. It’s my biggest achievement of the year and I hope you’ll relate to any/some of the things I write about. You can get a copy of the book on Amazon or Kobo. Nice reading. 🤍

The book cover, designed by the talented Bob Archist

I finally discovered my favorite color.

All my life, I’ve loved black and grey but I recently realized how beautiful the color peach is. It’s somewhat cute, it’s loud but not too loud; much like myself. I can’t believe it took me this long to find it but that’s also what makes it so dear to me.

I bought my first piece of land.

I’m still letting it sink in but yes, I did it. I’m a whole land owner!

I moved to Gitega.

Gitega is the cultural capital of Burundi. It is where the King lived before the kingdom became a republic. In the midst of closure of schools in Uganda, I applied for and got a teaching job in Burundi. I didn’t think I’d get it because I freestyled in the interview. What happened was, I had over prepared, then the interview got postponed. I didn’t prepare when the new date was communicated because I’d lost morale. I told God he would have to carry me and he did.

The journey to Burundi would have been smoother if the Uganda-Rwanda border had been open. Instead, I had to go through Tanzania. Travel amidst the pandemic isn’t something I’d wish on anyone. The whole COVID test thing is tedious and no one tells you how much Swahili you’re going to need until you’re at a restaurant in Mutukula trying to remember what mchuzi means.

Somewhere in Kyaka, Kagera, Tanzania waiting for the bus to Ngara to arrive.

The longest part of the journey is from Karagwe to Ngara through a game park. It’s a murram road so the dust is unseeable-through. When I got to Ngara, I’d missed the Kabanga bus so a charming boda guy tried to con me. He said he could take me to Kabanga at 20,000 Tz Shs. I knew it was a scam so I refused but he had already put my bag on his tank. I told him to just find me a probox and fortunately, he agreed to.

At a fuel station, we found one. The driver opened the boot to put my bag in and there were four guys seated inside. The back seat had five people. The front had two chubby women. The only space left was for the driver. He told me to take it. I asked where he would sit and he said to just trust him. I laughed and sat behind the steering wheel. Somehow, he found a way to sit beside me.

That’s something I learnt about public vehicles in Tanzania, there’s always room for someone else. You may not see it but the driver sees it. That, and there’s no COVID so there’s no point social distancing. In the taxi from Mutukula to Kyaka, I was actually asked to take off my mask because “hakuna corona hapa.”

At Kobero, the Tanzania-Burundi border, I experienced for the first time what history calls “language barrier.” I had forgotten to exchange my Ugx to US dollars and yet that’s the only currency accepted for the rapid COVID test. No one would take my Ugandan shillings because they’re “worthless.” The guy receiving the test money said he only spoke French and English yet I couldn’t make out anything he said in English. The guys exchanging money spoke fluent Kirundi and a variant of Swahili I’d never heard before. Yes I said variant, not dialect, because I wouldn’t be trying to get US dollars at an African land border if it weren’t for COVID.

While I was stranded, two guys came to test. Unlike me, they had their dollars. Sensing the chaos, one guy offered to help. He wore a yellow Lakers’ vest, blue jeans and brown sandals. He spoke broken English coated in a French accent. I realized I liked it immediately. He took my suddenly-useless Makerere University-English and transformed it into Kirundi for the exchangers and French for the test guy. He bargained for me like we were related. We got the dollars for all the Ugx I had, plus whatever Tz shillings I was left with.

Inside, Olivier, my Congolese hero “tipped” the doctors so that he wouldn’t be tested. His friend and I got tested. When results came back, all three of us were negative. Olivier asked where I was going, I told him Gitega. He said they were going to Ngozi so we could go together. After clearing, he “tipped” the security guard so our things couldn’t be checked. He said he doesn’t like being inconvenienced. I smiled because I knew exactly what he meant. My entire journey had been a big case of inconvenience.

I experienced Burundi.

As soon as you enter the country you’ll notice the roads are scary. It’s like being in a game of Snake. There’s a bend every two minutes. What makes it even scarier is how small the roads are. Additionally, because I’m Ugandan, it feels like the driver is always on the wrong side of the road. At every bend, it feels like we’re going to ram into the coming car. However, if you stop looking at the road and take in the views, they’ll take your breath away.

The one thing I found most beautiful about the culture is how when someone is handing you something with their right hand they use their left to touch their right elbow as a sign of respect. It humbles me every time.

Life in Burundi has been delightful; the people are generally nice. There’s no sudden load shedding. If power is going to be off, you’ll receive a notification the day before so you can charge your gadgets. I’ve seen both men and women at construction sites; doing the same work. – That was a shocker. Internet bundles, like most things, are cheap. On Econet, I get 1.5 gigabytes at only 1000 Burundian Francs and it’s actually 1,500 megabytes, unlike whatever theft Ugandan telecom companies have majored in.

One thing I didn’t quite understand is how Instagram music is available in my country when I’m in Bujumbura but as soon as I get to Gitega it’s not available, yet it’s the same country.

Speaking of music, I tried out nightlife in Gitega. I had to; I wanted to get the full experience. Besides, the semester was done and I needed to unwind. There was no entrance fee at the club we went to. In true Burundian style, all age groups were represented – teenagers, young adults and old adults. Burundians don’t go to club to sit and watch people dance (like I do.) They go to dance. The dance floor is like one big TikTok video; with mad energy and seamless choreography. I couldn’t stop watching.

I learnt French.

I didn’t exactly learn the entire language, just a few words and phrases like c’est terminé which means it’s over. I know basic greetings as well. What I must now learn is numbers because even though Burundians speak Kirundi, when it comes to money, they count in French.

I visited the Gitega national museum.

You learn a lot about a country from their museums. For instance, did you know Burundi is referred to as the Heart of Africa because the country is shaped like the human heart? Also, turns out Burundi believes she has the source of the Nile. I didn’t know that. I also didn’t know they have a pyramid not far from the source of the Nile.

The Gitega national museum.

I learnt some pretty fascinating stuff about the kingdom of Urundi.

1. Back then, girls only wore skirts made from tree barks. Their breasts were left bare so that they could be observed for signs of pregnancy. It was only upon conceiving that a girl could wear upper clothing. A pregnant woman wore a motherhood crown throughout the nursing period. Interestingly, a woman who bore 7 or more children received a crown made of papyrus strips or sorghum stalks as a symbol of honor.

2. As soon as a boy grew pubic hair, he was given a spear. It was a sort of rite of passage into manhood.

3. The king’s (mwami’s) bed had to be high enough for his cheerleader to fit under. The cheerleader’s job was to cheer the leader while he made love to his wife. The cheerleader was sworn to secrecy; if he told anyone of the king’s expertise or lack thereof, he was killed.

I visited Bujumbura.

Bujumbura is two hours away from Gitega. It’s hot compared to Gitega. The city doesn’t let boda bodas into the Central Business District which makes it a lot more organized than Kampala. I took a tuk-tuk (an auto rickshaw) for the very first time. Since there’s no ice cream parlor in Gitega, I looked for one as soon as I got to the city.

My long lost lover; ice cream. 😋

I visited Bora Bora beach so I could see Lake Tanganyika. The waves were loud and rough, but pleasing to watch.

Lake Tanganyika.

I ate pringles.

Pringles became my solace on Tuesdays because they were my busiest days – I had 6 lessons. I’d get home tired and Pringles felt like the perfect reward for my hard work. I tasted every available flavor from Sour Cream & Onion to Barbecue to Salt & Vinegar to Hot & Spicy to Cheesy Cheese and obviously the Original flavor.

I watched.

That’s probably why I barely read books all year long. I was busy watching Christmas movies, and a few normal movies. My best were Coming 2 America, Malcolm & Marie, King Richard, Locked down, Resort to Love, and Love Hard.

I also did some catching up on Prodigal Son season 2, Good Girls season 4, The Neighborhood season 4, Bob hearts Abishola season 3 and most recently, Emily in Paris season 2. Of course I’m #TeamAlfie. There’s just something about him. Maybe it’s that he doesn’t bring drama to Emily’s life, he is the drama. 😂

I climbed the Tororo rock a second time.

The first time was on 31st December, 2020. Today I meant to just live in the moment but when I got there, one of the photographers wasn’t feeling well so he couldn’t hike. I had to step in for him. Today’s hike was hectic because we set off at 11:30am when the sun had warmed up. Last year we started climbing at 5pm, the evening was cool so we didn’t sweat too much. The hiking experience is always fun because I get to meet new people and stretch a little. Today, I even beat people at Ludo and witnessed and photographed a surprise marriage proposal at the top of the rock. It was beautiful.

The view of the golf course from halfway the rock.

I was faithfully single all year long.

No crushes, no hiccups, no nothing. Just sheer bliss. 😂Actually, if we are being honest, I did have a crush on some guy but I heard he screamed like a baby during a nasal swap PCR test and the crush on him crashed immediately. Otherwise it’s been a plain year with no romantic heartbreak of any kind. I think I’m finally ready to go back into the wilderness. 😂

This was the 2021 mantra. 😂

God really carried me through this year. I don’t even want to imagine how tough it would have been without Him. Glory to Him.

Anyway, how has your year been?

34 thoughts on “Stocktaking : 2021

Add yours

  1. Congratulations on the milestones and adventures of the year.

    Thanks for the lessons and the reminder to share the Highlights of 2021

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ❤❤ You moved to Burundi!! Working with a company that has ties all over Africa, I always wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to move for a job so I personally know how much courage and determination this took. You have grown so much in your writing too!

    Liked by 1 person

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