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 bodies' 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.  


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.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Fitness Update #1 : My Motivation to Jump Rope for 30 Minutes Each Day.

So what had happened was...

Somebody took a photo of me....

Posted it on facebook...

 And I was shocked to see myself....

No amount of filters could have hidden what I saw...

I don't know who those hips belong too?

Where did they come from? How did they arrive without going through immigration? Do they have a valid work visa? I am pretty sure they are inhibiting my body illegally...How long are they planning on staying? I had gotten used to the belly fat but those hips...those hips didn't sit right with me.

I promptly decided to get active.

I knew I wasn't going to diet. 😐😐😐

I loveπŸ’˜ food far toooooo much to diet. So It had to be exercise!πŸ˜’πŸ˜’πŸ˜’

This video JMS Vlogs on You Tube was what motivated me. His belly fat melted off in the video, I needed the same transformation. Not to mention the numbers representing his weight dropping on the right hand corner of the screen as he skipped each week; they helped me visualize my weight loss happening. Now I have already written about weight gain on the blog, and I am sticking to what I said the changes to my life style must be healthy and they must be done because I chose it, not because others have forced me too. 

When I was younger I used to skip every day during the school holidays. My Dad was worried I'd get lazy from watching TV all day so he added skipping to my routine along with some other sports activities. 200 jumps everyday was my required amount. No more. No less. It's actually one of the few exercise I enjoyed so  I knew I could do this.

Fast forward to the present day, I started my daily workout with 15 minutes of skipping every day. I would jump 100 and take 10 second breaks in between. JMS Vlogs has a guide video on skipping for beginners, intermediate and advanced . I incorporated what I could for a 'beginner'.

From all  the googling I did on skipping, I learnt that it is a good exercise to choose if you are not a fan of jogging. I had tried blogilates last year and though it was good, it didn't seem intense enough of a workout for me. However now that I am skipping I may add some blogilates back into my weekly routine just to switch things up.

Gradually by the end of January I was able to skip for 20 minutes and now I am up to 30 minutes. It feels great! There are have been some challenges though...

In my next  fitness update I shall talk about the benefits and the challenges I am facing.

Have you incorporated any exercise into your daily routine?
 What motivated you to start?
 Comment below.  

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

My 1st Mini Getaway in 2018: Gloria The Hippo & Murchison Falls National Park ( Part 2)

Day 2

Tent number 7, my home until tomorrow.

Last night I sat by the fire getting acquainted with my new travel companions. The Red Chilli Staff also informed us about Gloria, the resident hippo who just had baby. Actually what they really did was give us a stern warning. They warned us that late night trips to the toilet may result in a serious casualty if we didn't mind our way carefully.

So at 5.30am my bladder is full and merciless pleading to be relieved. But I dare not leave my tent. Can you imagine them talking at my funeral?

"On her way to the toliet, attacked by a hippo, they found her lying in her own pee.."

We shall wait bladder, we shall wait.

At 6.00am torch in hand, I dash to the communal bathrooms, pee for what seems like the longest time on record, shower,then return to the tent to get ready for the day's activities.

Yesterday, as we were settling in to our tents, the staff cautioned us about leaving food in our temporary accommodation because the resident warthogs had been known to destroy tents and everything in them in search of food. Warthogs have very keen sense of smell. So you just picture my face when I discover while getting my small backpack ready for the day, that I forgot an open packet of crisps in my bag over night. God is merciful people! Once again just imagine what they would say at my wake,

" Over a bag crisps..... both her and the room mate..... the tent ripped to shreds and Maria was drenched in her own pee, just drenched..." 

Our breakfast, ordered the night before is packed and neatly labeled with names and we are allowed a cup of coffee or tea before the mad rush for the ferry. We need to be on the very first one to get to the game park early. 

We make it! Our travel van is number eight in the line, so we line up and wait for the ferry to depart. As we are waiting we notice tons and tons of white stuff floating upstream, at first I thought it was pollution, and am deeply embarrassed for my country but as the ferry crosses the river I notice it's a bubbly foam. I am relived it's not plastic bags, but gosh what the heck is it?

This was taken later in the day but you see the same bubbly stuff..

I later learn that it is caused by the speed of the water, the air, and a certain type of algae living in the river.

We pick up our game park guide on the other side of the river, the sun is slowly making an appearance despite the grey sky so we head on to the park. 

We saw quite a few animals, but I was taking pictures on my phone which as mentioned in the last post does not do the trip justice. Never the less here are a few to give you an idea..

Gloria's extended family



We learnt about how the palm trees in the picture below came to be in Uganda. These palm trees are responsible for  palm oil, which if you have natural hair, is part of the hair gold family . Elephants , being the natural  guardians of the earth that they are , brought the seeds of this marvelous palm tree all the way from South Sudan in their poop! Yes elephants introduced a new tree species to Uganda; they contributed to the environment through their poop. Your poop on the other hand is NOT that special... your πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’© left unattended and not disposed properly is every emergency response NGO's nightmare.... a potential cholera outbreak 😐😐😐

The last part of our safari was this building, which we were told by the game park  guide was built by Idi Amin ( President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979) and when he lost power they just abandoned it. It is the most peculiar thing to see in the park. This worn away building with overgrown plants spelling out raw forgotten feelings about the past.

Sad about no lions being spotted, we headed back to camp for a quick rest and lunch; then at 2.00 pm we headed for the next adventure...a safari boat ride.

This was just fantastic! 

The holes in the picture below are homes of a particular species of bird which gets thrown out mid way through the year by another species of bird. I am told this is a reoccurring cycle. I can't remember the names of the species because I was starting to doze, the steady lull of the boat and my delicious lunch was getting the best of me. 😴😴😴

Ernest Hemingway crashed his plane near the Murchison falls ( see picture below) a rescue plane was sent to collect him and guess what that plane crashed too...😧😧😧  Though I felt mortified at fate's cruelty towards the great literary legend that Mr Hemingway is, it made for a great storytelling session by our tour guide. In fact I was waiting for the guide to add that sometimes amongst the  shadows of the trees his ghost is seen scribbling away in his little black note book, jotting notes inspired by his thoughts and observations, notes that will eventually become the first original draft of another best selling book. But that's not the case, the fall is not haunted by a famous writing genius.  *sigh*

The hippos we saw on boat ride, I can only assume are  Gloria's immediate family, and she must be joyfully bobbing amongst them. Hi Gloria, glad we never met on a late night toilet trip. πŸ™‹πŸ™‹πŸ™‹

Can you see the mother crocodile protecting her eggs? 

still fascinated my the white form...

Day 3 

We wake early once again hoping to spot the lions on our way out the park but alas the big cats and their cubs have shunned us. The only evidence of their existence are fresh paw prints crossing the road. I am happy none the less,  it's been a good trip and I have seen another side of my country. As always I can't wait for the next opportunity to do so.

Thanks for stopping by! 
Click Here to read part one in case you  missed it.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

My 1st Mini Getaway in 2018: Red Chilli & Murchison Falls ( Part 1)

You need to visit cause my phone photos just don't do it justice.

Day 1

 I wake up at 4.00am because of a nightmare.

 A nightmare about cannibals.

 I was in a safari van heading somewhere with cannibals *Cue any Hitchcock movie soundtrack*.

A week ago when I told my Dad that I was going to be away for a few days, he said,

“You’ll be eaten by animals! ”

This isn’t the first time he has tried to talk me out of my random mini annual breaks. Still I have no idea how his animal warning turned into a-cannibals-on-safari-nightmare!? I suspect my creative subconscious dug deep in the well of my memories and pulled from a forgotten horror film. I am starting to realize I have been programmed to think the worst, worry shall be a familiar companion on this trip.

I give myself thirty more minutes in bed before I get up to prepare for the journey. The special is collecting me at 6.00am. Once I have woken up, dressed,  and finished packing a quick glance at my phone’s clock tells me that I am running late. We finally set off at 6.26am. 

I arrive at Red Chilli Hideaway at 7.00am, it’s definitely hidden because we missed the turning and have to be guided back by a boda boda. After nervously checking in, I am told I have time for a cup of coffee.  So I head up stairs to the restaurant to have some breakfast. 

“Maaaaaaaaria!” Shouts a lady from the rectangular window linking the kitchen and the restaurant, her voice effortlessly projects across the room. She’s done this many times before.

I am a little bit startled by her call, it reminds me of school and I feel  caught in some mischievous wrongdoing by the headmistress. You see I am sitting in the corner, engrossed in my odd behavior of observing other people. I walk up to the  kitchen window; she points at the milk and sugar and hands me my breakfast. This appears to be a common feature of the Red Chilli team, the staff memorize your name to plan your accommodation, your meals and tour activities. A nice touch in my opinion, it helps ensure consistency in their customer service.

We leave around 7.50am. There are seven of us in the safari van. Still recovering from my dream last night, I am naturally reserved and so is everyone else except for one. We have a talker amongst us. Someone who is determined to bring everyone together with the warmth of their character. He has travelled with his wife and friend from Canada  and is just soooooo enthusiastic about meeting everyone. First he makes us all go through a group introduction using our names and nationalities.

Once introductions are done , I pull my novel out and glance out the window as we go. The talker continues his conversation with the lady behind me, and I can’t help but eavesdrop.  He tells her he was 18 years old when he first came to visit Uganda, and two months after his arrival Idi Amin took over, becoming our third President. The talker loves Uganda, you can hear it in his voice and every time the van stops he makes an effort to talk to everyone and anyone in luganda. He can’t contain his excitement, he makes  jokes along the way, and gradually his joy becomes contagious. This man is a much needed addition to our group, without him we would all have stayed very much to ourselves.

It’s around 2.00pm when we arrive at the falls after a long long long journey with only two proper stops to stretch our legs. Given the amount of distance we have to cover and all the activities we have to pack into a few days, it is understandable. Tummies rumbling we finally sit to eat our packed lunch, then it’s a 45 minute hike/walk to see the falls. Our assigned guide,  Daniel, informs us that there are two falls, Murchison Fall and the Uhuru fall. Uhuru was formed in the year of Uganda’s independence from Britain. How fitting that the water represents our path to freedom, making a way through the sharp black bolders until we were finally able to push our way over the edge to independence. There used to be two tribes living on either side and each tribe had a name for the fall until Samuel Baker came along and named it Murchison after the President of the Royal Geographical Society. In fact the tribes used to make regular sacrifices at the fall, a goat would be killed in hopes that good fortune would follow. If a man wanted a wife from the other side of the fall, he had to wait for a special day when they would line up all the single women, and then to demonstrate his love, he would have to jump across the falls. If he made it, he got himself a wife!

where we ate lunch.

Our guide, Daniel

It is beautiful.  I am exhausted from the heat and hiking but it is beauuuuuuuuuuuuutiful. The view is worth it! There is something about being near the water that’s refreshing, even in the blistering heat (my toes are sweating) . The sound of the fall stills the self, and makes me stop and take long deep breaths. I am always struck with a sense of gratitude that through such opportunities I can see the earth show off it's magnificence. Doesn’t it deserve too though? It’s put up with us humans all this time. 

Show off Mother Earth, you’ve earned it!

Would you jump across for love?

Uhuru and Murchison Falls

Uhuru fall

Murchison fall

The Uganda Wildlife Authority has really taken care of the area, there is no rubbish around. The railings to help you keep your balance while walking/hiking looks freshly painted. If they were rusty I didn't see it.  The signs are still readable and placed in significant areas. There are litter bins around. There are rules that must be respected.

No litter...Not one piece of annoying plastic

 It’s been a good day. As we head to camp, my sweaty sticky body is looking forward to a shower and a hot meal.

Wait! Don't leave! Here's the link to part 2, Click here