Being Truly In The Moment

Last Saturday, I attended a wedding of a niece in Mbarara town , western Uganda. Mbarara is  about two hundred and sixty five kilometres from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.I have not been to this place in over two decades so as expected, it has changed beyond recognition. From Wikipedia I have learned that Mbarara is the fastest growing town in Uganda today and among the top five fastest growing towns in Africa! It was a relief to see a few of the old landmarks like: the Agip Motel, Mbarara, the Bank of Uganda offices and the Mbarara University of Science and Technology. They helped me to get my bearings once again.

The church service was held at Saint James Cathedral, Ruharo. We the elders dressed in our flowing traditional attires and the men in suits, mingled freely with the young dressed in the latest seasonal collection as we waited for the service to begin.
The young groom looked at his best in a grey suit, white shirt and pink tie, surrounded by his four groom’s men.

My heart skipped a beat as the proud father walked his angelic daughter to the aisle followed by two pretty flower girls in white and four bridesmaids in peach.
With child-like excitement, we all sang the wedding hymns with gusto. By the time the couple said “ I do,” with focused determination to each other, I could not help but get emotional. The Bishop’s sermon was short and to the point: putting God first in their marriage if they wanted it to last and then following it up with love, respect and open honest communication with each other.

Two hours later, the newlyweds , a picture of joy, enjoyed a relaxed lunch with their guests at Wagga Resort, Mbarara. They could not have chosen a better place. It is a magical place full of trees, shrubs, manicured lawns and uneven stone drives and walkways. There are orchards of oranges, guavas, tangerines, lemons, graviola(soursop) and a variety of palm trees. Tall, green trees mark the boundary of the place. Dotted among these are a number of red-tiled holiday cottages.
About seven snow-white medium –sized tents decorated with roses and carnations accommodated us while a live band played the most popular wedding songs of the time.
The trees, the shrubs, the stones and wooden fences reminded me of the farms of the well-to-do in Nyeri central Kenya in the early 90’s. I used to attend training and workshops in contraceptive technology in Nyeri and each evening the organisers would arrange for the group of doctors from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to be hosted by one family. I used to be mesmerized by the richly furnished homes , the big gardens and orchards!
Interestingly, I seemed to be at one such place that evening. Over time, I have learned that when I am in such an Alice in Wonderland place, I just relax and soak in all its beauty. I become part of the beauty and this helps to define my place in the universe.

Similarly, my brain switched off everything else and was just in the moment. Being among family and friends in such a beautiful place, celebrating the union of a young couple whose eyes and body language exuded genuine love for one another; I remembered in piercing detail a day like this some thirty-seven years ago! We the parents and most of our friends had added thirty seven years to our lives. We had been changed by the years but we were still young at heart. Noticeably absent were our parents and in particular the grandmother of the bride who passed away a few months back. It was comforting to note that our continuity lay in our sons and daughters now dressed to the nines and accompanied by their well-groomed spouses and equally smart young children.

The bride later changed into a floor-length pink party dress and a silver tiara. She looked effortlessly beautiful holding on to her Prince Charming. In the brief speeches that followed, friend after friend and sibling after sibling talked of the groom’s steadfastness and dependability and the bride’s love and concern for others. No doubt each one had found ‘the Beloved of their Soul’. As they stood beside each other to give their speeches, they looked to be a winning team ready to face the world together. Relaxed, happy and confident, they took to the floor to dance the first dance and thereafter a lot of laughter and surprises followed.

By the time we the elders left at 9pm, my emotional battery had been recharged to the full. It would last me to the next family wedding in August. We left the young to dance the night away on this big day.
All in all, I was so glad that I had been part of this great celebration. My silent prayer was that the couple would live to share in all the blessings that marriage can bring.
Mignon McLaughlin says:“ A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.’’

Thank you for reading this post. Kindly leave a comment about it and feel free to share it with family and friends.

Writers Read

I am working extremely hard to live my dream of becoming an outstanding writer who writes great books that are read by many. I want to write the kind of books that change people’s lives for the better.
I am now as busy as a bee, writing, writing and reading and attending live webinars by the masters of the craft to learn how to write great books.
I have been warned by the American author Joseph Harold Bunting of The Write Practice that a writer never stops learning how to write so I have started on this journey of a lifetime.
This same author has come up with 10 steps that a writer should follow to become a great writer who writes great stories. You have guessed it , number four on this list is: to keep reading books; books you fully understand and others you do not understand. He advises that I keep reading those I do not understand until I do!

At one point in my life, I looked for the books I had enjoyed reading while growing up. These included: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations , Oliver Twist
Jeffrey Archers’ As the Crow Flies, Honor Among Thieves, Sons of Fortune.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm
Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers
Peter Wright’s Spycatcher
To my amazement and delight I picked up more meaning and depth from each book and understood the stories better.

As I write articles to post on this blog, I read widely about each topic since I am writing to inform, educate and entertain the readers. The more I read, the easier it becomes for me to bring out the good and ugly about anything. Reading opens my mind to other people’s view and opinions and this helps me to understand the world better. It also stretches my imagination which in itself helps me find the significance and beauty in my life. Once my imagination is let loose then I can be more creative in my writing and my capacity to create stories in dreams and fantasies in enhanced. I keep learning new things then I change and grow. Reading makes my writing better, more detailed and more lifelike.
Joseph Harold Bunting advises a writer to learn about anything without becoming an expert. He is of the view that once you become an expert, you can no longer learn anything new and once you stop leaning anything new, you become stale and uninspired.  By sheer coincidence ,the theme for my blog is : Learning is a Lifetime job.
This same author believes that a writer never stops learning how to write.

The books I read influence my style of writing so if I read great books by great artists then my writing would get better over time.
In this respect, he quotes T.S Eliot, the great modernist poet: “Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make into something better or at least something different.’’
It is normal to steal ideas from great artists. This is step number six on his list.
He also advises me to build my own community of people who inspire me and some of these should be writers for no one becomes a writer on their own. Creating great art requires maturity, skill and wisdom.

As a writer continues to read and write, he/she has to be a keen observer of her/his surroundings to draw attention to the injustice, evil and deaths and good things around.
The pain, loss and suffering in our own lives and in the lives of those around us shapes our lives and influences the stories we write.
The author Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten, even so, they have made me.’’
And author Madeleine L’ Engle said: “A book too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”
Let us keep reading and writing to grow and develop at a deeper level. After all, learning is a lifetime job.

Thank you for reading this post. I would be extremely grateful if you left a comment about how  reading, reading and writing have transformed your life.

 

Reading to Remember

Many times I have watched my octogenarian mother walk to her bedroom only to come back empty- handed and bewildered. Then she would look me into the eye and ask,  “What was I looking for?”
Occasionally she forgets what she has forgotten. It is a frightening place to be.
This age-related forgetfulness has been creeping in slowly and her only consolation is that she is still mobile, independent and remembers the names of most the people around her. We both know what this is all about and that it will get worse as time goes by. I try to reassure her, encourage her to use her brain by reading some of the books she has collected over the years. Being a traditional Catholic, she has many books about the Church in Uganda and about the Uganda martyrs. I have been encouraging her to read all these books mainly to engage her brain and slow down the age-related memory loss. I know very well that just like any primary school child who assumes that the teacher knows everything, my mother would trust her physician more than me. So each time she visits her physician, he reminds her of the need to keep her brain active.

“We age differently. As we grow old, the brain function declines,’’ he has explained to her a number of times. “Like any muscle in your body, the brain cells need to be stimulated. The more you engage your brain, the slower it takes its function to decline.
She has taken this as a law so she will not allow anyone to help her find a contact in her phone. So far so good. She is concerned about the body aches but content that she can do many things for herself.
The physician advised her to spend at least thirty minutes exercising every day. Physical activity improves mood and sleep. Exercise stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of the brain cells. He advised her to eat the oily fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acid at least three times a week. The Fatty acid improves central blood flow and reduces inflammation. She also takes a supplement of Omega 3+6+9. He advised her to eat plenty of spinach and kale for Magnesium and Zinc necessary for good brain function.When the physician and his patient are discussing such important issues, I the attendant fall silent.
“What about prayer ?’’
“It relaxes your body and mind so it is good for you too.’’

Juan Rulfo said: “Nothing can last forever. There is n’t any memory, no matter how intense that does n’t fade out at last.’’
As we travel back home, my mother is scrolling through her phone contacts quietly. It gives me time to think of what I have taken from the whole experience. Twenty years from now, I could be where my mother is now. However, I could slow down the brain aging by keeping the brain as active as possible. I could take up some new skills or even learn a new language like Swahili. Thankfully, filling crosswords is one of my staples. “What about trying SUDOKU , the number puzzle video game?’’ I ask myself out loud.
I have been a voracious reader since the age of six and now I am doing a lot of writing. I believe my brain must have grown big enough to resist showing signs of memory loss for long.

Suddenly I remembered that my youngest son installed a Brain Workout CD from the HAPPY-neuron Website on my Desktop four years ago. I should even be ashamed to admit to you that I have never gone beyond “Warm Up” training exercises. From Warm Up, there are Coach exercises: chosen for me by my Brain Workout coach. These are followed by “Challenge” to test my skills. At the end I was to get a personalized analysis and feedback from the website.
I shook my head in disbelief, “Sure, I’ve never begun. I need to do more with my mind to slow down age-related memory loss and maintain mental function. It is my life and the choice is entirely mine.
As they say : Forewarned, forearmed.

Norman Doidge said: “Not all activities are equal in this regard. Those that involve genuine concentration- studying a musical instrument, playing board games, reading and dancing- are associated with lower risk for dementia. Dancing which requires learning new moves, is both physically and mentally challenging and requires much concentration. Less intense activities, such as bowling, babysitting and golfing are not associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s.’’
I would add that like learning a foreign language, the earlier you start the better.

Thank you for reading this post. Kindly leave a comment about it and feel free to share it with family and friends. The biological clock is ticking and demands that each one of us prepares for the future.

 

 

 

 

Writers Write,Write and Read.

The best way to become a good writer is to keep writing, writing and reading. The more you read, the better you become at writing. The more you write, the better you will get. Reading grows your mind while writing expands your soul. I am a regular reader of books, magazines and newspapers for pleasure and empowerment but at the same time I do a lot of reading about the topic I am writing about for the blog. Good writing comes from good reading. Each article I write helps me to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As I read, ideas come to me and that is how I get to choose what topic I should write about. It is not surprising that when I am not sure what to write about I just pick up a book or magazine to read and this usually starts my creative juices flowing. A notebook and a pen are my handy writing tools. Writing things down in my own handwriting tends to clarify them for me.

As I read, all my senses including imagination are stimulated and my mind comes up with new ideas. I get immersed into the author’s thoughts and feelings. Reading makes me empathetic and this makes me understand others’ thoughts and feelings better. It improves my vocabulary and refreshes my memory. I gain greater knowledge of literature, science and practical knowledge.
I tend to feel exciting new experiences; others force me to revisit my childhood while others help me to see things as though I had never seen them before.
Vera Nazarian an Armenian-Russian writer said: “ Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”
Proverb 15:23 of the Book of Proverbs of the Bible says: What a joy it is to find just the right word for the right occasion.
Sometimes what I am looking for is a simple word or phrases to slot in my post and on most occasions I find it in a book, magazine or newspaper that I am reading. You may not be able to imagine the smile on my face under such circumstances.

Studies done in USA and Europe have shown that a lifetime of reading preserves mental ability, preserves memory and slows down the signs of dementia.
To fully enjoy the benefits of consistent reading, one must start early in childhood. Maya Angelou’s advice still holds true. She said that : “ Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.’’
For any avid reader, it is exciting to be alive during the Digital era. The Digital books can be easily downloaded using your e-reader, smart phone or a mobile tablet. The biggest challenge now is finding the time to read all those books.
The writers will continue to write the best books they can and we the readers will go out there to buy them and read them for knowledge, entertainment, adventure and fun.

Thank you for reading this post. I would love to hear how consistent reading has influenced your life. Feel free to share this post with family and friends.

 

Obsession With the Written Word

Reading books has been an integral part of me as far as I can remember. I started off with the simple, timeless Lady Bird books and before I knew it , I was reading newspapers daily then graduated to the African Writers series. I can never thank my late father enough for giving me this great gift. Each morning he would buy the London’s Daily Mirror, Kenya’s Daily Nation, Uganda Argus and the local Daily. We read for pleasure but as well as to understand and late in the evening to discuss the main issues with him. The Missionary school I attended for all my years of formal education had one of the biggest school libraries in the country and this boosted my obsession. I was introduced to classical literature, poetry, biographies and fiction novels. These books captured my curiosity and imagination and I cannot remember how many times I was found hiding in the pantry literary on my knees and immersed in a book after the 10:00pm Lights Out siren. I always served the punishment in silence. Since then I have read books on public buses, trains, planes, in washrooms, in a clinic while waiting for the next patient to enter.

As a teenager, I experienced wonder as I read the books and over time, I was touched by them. I learned much about life, was changed by what I read and was greatly empowered. They say that: Knowledge is power; I have always acted on the knowledge I had acquired to improve my life.
Reading has helped me to keep abreast with scientific breakthroughs, literature and global events. Through the books I have visited almost all the countries in the world. For the price of a novel, I had become a global citizen long before the Internet came along. At one time I was a self-appointed tracker of the Cambridge Five. These were British intelligence members led by Kim Philby who worked as double agents .Then I followed the Nazi War Criminals who fled to South America. The capture of Adolf Eichmann the Holocaust mastermind and the trial of 94 years old of Oskar Groening, the Book keeper of Auschwitz are among the most captivating reads. A few other war criminals now in their nineties are still alive and I am still following them in print. Currently I am following up a number of other historical events locally and globally to make sense of them.

Then, in come the Internet and this changes how we read, write and share information forever. I can now follow anything, any writer or artist that I am interested in. The e-books offer a steady supply of books to read on your fingertips. I am a member of Scribd, a digital library, e-book and audiobook subscription service. On many occasions it offers me to read free a number of novels of my taste for 30 days. My biggest problem is finding the time to read even two of the Top Picks for me. Having said that, it has never been as exciting as it is today to be a voracious reader. I am really spoilt for choice. As I get older, my preferences change, I now read more biographies than fiction to learn from real experiences and attain more wisdom. What I know for sure is that I am now an unstoppable reader.

While researching material for this post, I looked up the benefits of reading consistently. I was not surprised by what I found for I have known them since my junior school days.
Reading keeps the brain active and engaged and slows down the progress of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It opens you up to new ideas; renewing your mind and heart.
Losing yourself in a great story reduces stress and relaxes you.
It improves focus and concentration. This is important in this digital era where we all tend to be multitasking.
It equips us with analytical thinking skills. As you read you have to weave things together.
It gives us knowledge which we can use to overcome challenges in life. The earlier you start to read consistently the greater the benefit. You just keep growing and no one can take that knowledgeaway from you. On the other hand, reading is a form of free entertainment.
For emerging writers like me, reading teaches us better writing skills: you hone your skills by learning from the masters of the craft. The more you read, the better you write.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o ( formerly )James Ngugi , East Africa’s most prominent writer said:
“Stories, like food, lose their flavor if cooked in a hurry.”

I conclude by inviting the young and old who have not yet developed the habit of reading consistently to start after reading this post. It is never too late to pick up a good habit. You are missing out greatly on acquiring knowledge of literature, science and practical knowledge.
Victor Hugo said: “ To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled is a spark.”

Thank you for visiting my Blog and reading this post. May it inspire you to continue reading consistently. I would loveto read your comments on how developing a reading habit has transformed your life. Please feel free to share the post with family and friends.

 

 

A Catalogue of Names

A few years back , I stood in a queue with my daughter at the Zambian border. It was a warm, sunny day with clear blue skies. Both of us were dressed in blue jeans, T-shirts, sneakers and baseball caps.
Call it perfect timing, there were not more than ten travellers in the queue and before long, we were handing in our two passports to the immigration officer. He greeted us with a smile then combed through our passports one at a time.
As he handed my daughter her passport he said, “ Young lady, with this catalogue of names; you’re either the only girl in the family or the eldest child or the youngest .”
My daughter smiled, “I’m the only girl and the youngest of the three children.’’

Before setting off, I checked my daughter’s passport. She had six names in all compared to four in mine!
I even do not know how they had managed to copy all the names on the birth certificate straight into the passport. Instantly I remembered how we had arrived at these six names; her father had given her his maternal grandmother’s name, one of his aunt’s name and I had given her my mother’s name and one other name I had always admired. A week after she was born, one of the paternal grandmothers had come to welcome her into the family. She had taken one look at her and said, “Oh! She looks like my third sister. She should take her name.”
On seeing their interest and amusement , I accepted. For the aunt, a child symbolized the future while a grandchild symbolized continuity and conveyed permanence.
Names give us identity, roots and a sense of belonging. Each one starts off as an individual belonging to a family, community and a country. Belonging is being accepted as a member or part. The psychologists tell us that a sense of belonging increases meaningfulness of life. You go through life without feeling alone and this boosts your intellectual level, social skills, mental health and physical health.

I for one was the eldest girl in the family and I was named after my paternal grandmother, my only paternal aunt and my mother’s best friend in the Nursing and Midwifery Training School. The aunt also ended up as one of my godparents. She took her responsibility seriously and as I grew up, she became my friend, mentor and sponsor. She made sure that I grew into a well behaved, disciplined and helpful young woman. I admired her relative independence in the home and her kindness. I learned a lot of good things from her like sharing the little you have with others, putting your family first and using your talents and skills to lift others up. Looking back now, I have to admit that she influenced my life positively.

The names we are given give us multiple dimensions of our identity. The surname or family name links you to your family and lineage. This has been going on for generations and in the Bible when the boy who later grew up to become ‘John the Baptist’ was given the name John, the friends and neighbours were surprised. They raised their concern, “But you have no relatives with that name!’’
Marcus T. Cicero( 106BC-43BC) said: “ The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.’’
The living has to pay attention to the names he/she is given and grow into them without losing her/his identity. Indeed you belong somewhere and it should make sense to you.

Thank you for reading this post. I would like to hear the story behind your names. Please feel free to share this post among family and friends.

 

The Things We Take For Granted 11

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To live and enjoy your own life, you have to willingly understand and accept the reality of death.

This photograph of a  sweet,relaxed great-grandmother in her nineties was taken by Jane Nannono.

 

Two weeks ago I retired to bed around 11:00 pm fit as a fiddle. I was happy I had at least completed two of the big tasks I had  set out to do that morning. This was a great achievement compared to how things run around here.
To my great shock and surprise, by the time I woke up at 7:30 am the following day, I failed to lift my head off the pillow and my lower back hurt . A quick assessment of the body systems confirmed that I could take a deep breath easily, lift both legs and move them in various directions. I struggled for about fifteen minutes to sit up in bed .This had never happened to me before but then there is always a first time for everything. Finally I got out of bed ,walked to the bathroom and gave myself a long, hot soak in the bathtub. It helped to reduce the back pain. Knowing what I had lined up to do on the laptop for the day, I had to take some simple painkillers.

The nagging back pain demanded that I made an appointment to see a surgeon before the end of the day. By 6:30 pm, the surgeon was giving me a thorough check up then he tried to localize the pain along the vertebral column.It turned out to be muscle pain and we both agreed it had to do with the many frequent trips that I had made to the village during the last three weeks. He prescribed me some pain killers, an inflammatory gel and some physiotherapy exercises. For the following three days, I undertook the physiotherapy exercises but hardly worked on the laptop. I had first to get well to continue with the writing. This is when it hit me that many times we take things for granted: you think you would wake up the following day and get on with your to-do list. The time I spent home reminded me of my mortality and I seized the opportunity to read around life and death. It helped me to appreciate the progress of life from health and vitality in youth to infirmity and weakness in old age.

Life and death are said to be two sides of the same coin. Accepting the inevitability of death helps you create meaning to your own life. Close brushes with death, help you recognize how precious life is and you clearly begin to determine what really matters in life. You learn to give up and let go of everything that no longer serves your life’s journey. From this moment on, you live your life like a marathon runner who begins with the end in mind and then plans the race accordingly. The psychologists also tell us that all the losses suffered in life serve to prepare us for death. So we should learn to die well by developing the ability to accept all life’s losses and disappointments. If we learn this, then we stand a chance of enjoying living our lives.

Mark Twain said: “ A man who lives fully is prepared to die any time.’’
For a few of us, close encounters with death render us so powerless that we give up on life. The psychologists then remind us that what we deny in our conscious minds will possess us. It would take a lot of courage and counselling to get such people to own what owns them. Once they do this, they open themselves up to the possibility of living purposeful lives. They will recognize the greatest irony of life: that death is the source of life.
Kahlil Gibran said: “For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.”
Since then, the back pain has cleared and I have resumed my normal routine. Each time I wake up every morning and I am up and about, I thank God for the gift of life. As every gift has a responsibility attached to it, the gift of life demands that I use the time to become the best person I can be and to do much more for myself and for the common good.

Thank you for reading this post. May it inspire you to live a purposeful life. I would be grateful if you left a comment about it, shared it with family and friends. I would love to learn how close brushes with death transformed your life.

The Things We Take For Granted

There is an old saying :“ You do not know what You Have Until It’s Gone.” It reminded me of what I am missing most currently.
There are many things that I had always taken for granted until they were denied me or taken from me. Among these was order and discipline.
The psychologists define discipline as the ability to adhere and conform to the codes of ethics and behavior and the ability and stamina to concentrate and focus on what you do which is a fundamental quality to achieve success.
I grew up in a family where my parents like all parents of their time, instilled in us order and discipline in preparation for the challenges of life in the future. They passed on to us what they wanted to preserve in their culture: Unity, integrity,humility, discipline,fairness, humour,commitment, and hard work. They knew very well that order and discipline stimulated creativity potential and stimulated growth and development in an individual. I have no doubt they would have agreed fully with F.D.Roosevelt had they compared notes on parenthood.
“We may not be able to prepare the future for our children but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt. 32nd President of the United States of America.

They say that Charity begins at home but what I failed to pick from home, I was able to pick from the missionary school that I attended for my fourteen years of formal education. I learned order and discipline most as a member of the school’s athletics team, netball, and hockey team. Sports taught me self-discipline, punctuality, self –respect and respect for others, patience and commitment. I learned how to strive to win other than be a mediocre. Through self-discipline I learned how to get more done in the day by staying focused.
By the time I joined the medical school, order and discipline had permeated all aspects of my life. I was quick to understand that any compromise on discipline would slow down my growth and development.
I remember reading a quote about discipline by Katherine Hepburn, an American actress (1907-2003)
“Without discipline, there’s no life at all.’’ I have carried it with me all these years.

Later when I sought better opportunities and choices in Botswana , I was the richer. Botswana is an oasis of good governance and impressive economic growth. It is one country in Africa which has tried to preserve its old values of being community –orientated and of high ethical values along with democracy, development, unity and self-reliance. Here things flow smoothly into each other and the people conduct themselves in an exemplary manner. Seeing a government minister in a queue at the Automated Teller Machine or in a hospital is not a rare sight. From childhood, the Batswana are prepared as to how to become good citizens and have learned to work for the common good. For the two decades I lived and worked in Botswana, order and discipline remained with me and helped me to develop commitment to whatever I chose to do.

Fast-Forward and I am back where I started but now in a digitally connected world. According to the Uganda Population Census of 2014, 78% of the total population is under 30 years of age. Those living in the urban areas have phones and are globally connected. They mix things up to create something new without considering the consequences. Order and discipline are being compromised.
There is a lot of disorder and indiscipline around all of us. It causes distractions, frustrations and drains one’s energy. The tangled traffic in the cities makes working in such areas feel like a struggle or sacrifice. Every day you have to decide on which route to take or where to park your car for the day.
For those who have to cross the streets in the city, looking out for the boda bodas – motor cycle taxis which apparently can appear from any direction and suddenly knock you down also drains your energy. When you finally settle down to do your actual work you are less productive since you have already spent your best energy on the less important. The cycle continues throughout the year so your personal growth and development and that of the institution you work for tend to lag behind.

Situations like this make me cry out for the order and discipline that I have always known. You may consider me rigid and locked into old ways but at the back of my mind I know that I have to change a few things to survive and remain relevant in this rapidly changing world. The young generation must have heard of this phrase: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Even in this Information age, you thrive best where there is order and discipline. You start off by trying to manage what you can control under the circumstances. It is still plain and simple: Charity begins at home. You have to create order and discipline in your homes first and then move out to the work place and any other place where you have control. It is the only way you can contribute what is most important and give of your best.
Resigning to the disorder and the indiscipline is like giving up on life itself.
Find comfort in these two quotations:
“ If you dedicate your attention to discipline in your life, you become smarter.’’ Russell Banks, an American writer
“ I am , indeed a king, because I know how to rule myself.” Pietro Aretino, Italian Writer(1492-1556)

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this post. May it inspire you to change what you can other than let the circumstances change you. I would be happy if you made a comment about it and also shared it with family and friends.

 

We Are Products of Our Time

 

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Three generations: Batswana. This photograph was taken by Jane Nannono.
Yesterday, 8th March, was International Women’s day. It got me thinking about the progress that women have made in the development of our country. Looking around I can see them almost everywhere: they  are mothers, government ministers, permanent secretaries, heads of corporations, universities and are in many jobs previously considered as men’s . It started in the early sixties when more girls were encouraged to access quality education. It increased their options in life by allowing them to take on jobs along their male peers. They found themselves having to work harder in our patriarchal society. Power and authority still belonged to the men. The period of rapid change in Uganda came after the July 1985 United Nations End of the Women Decade conference in Nairobi , Kenya. Those who had attended the conference lobbied the then government to adopt policies and programmes that would promote equal access to education, equal access to employment and equal access to adequate health care services.

By 1987,Uganda had a Ministry of Gender and Social Affairs and a woman in parliament representing each of the 39 districts in the country. By 1990, an affirmative action scheme that awarded female students an extra 1.5 points to increase female enrollment at the national Makerere University was in place. Makerere University established the School of Women and Gender Studies in 1991. Free universal primary education was established in January 1997 followed by free Universal secondary education in 2007.All these schemes are ongoing and are being regularly monitored, evaluated and improved. A few other locally appropriate ones have been added to ensure that the girl child stays in school for as long as it is possible. It will increase her options in life. I thank the government for all these local efforts for promoting gender equality.

It always seems to be running reasonably well until I travel to my own village to visit some relatives. Like any other developing country, 70-80% of the population live in the rural areas and still follow the traditional cultural roles: men lead and women follow. The women are the primary caregivers; looking after their husbands, children, the sick and the elderly. They attach great value to this role and find themselves consumed by it. They hardly get time to take care of themselves.

After the government has put in place what it can to advance and empower women and girls, we the women have to exploit this to the maximum. Any woman who has benefitted from the strategies of the last thirty years has to take the responsibility to lift up the emerging ones. It is our responsibility to teach these women their basic rights, human rights, legal rights and to be made aware of their needs and how to get them met. The women themselves and their children have to be healthy to participate fully in development. Their voices should be heard from their local villages to parliament. They have to be brought into the main stream of things.

You know as well as I do that the struggle to advance the women’s status is an ongoing process; the women of the United Kingdom won their right to vote in 1928, their representation in both public and private sector senior positions peaked in the 1990s and is now 32% far from the desired 50/50 split!
In a few Tennis tournaments, the female players still earn less than their male peers. Serena Williams, the global tennis legend is working hard to change this unequal pay.
Fellow women, we have to live the old adage: All for one and one for all while at the same time recruiting as many men as possible as associate members if we are to get where we want to be in our time.
The struggle continues.

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Catherine: a trailblazer

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1st March 1936-22 October 2017.

On the 22 nd October 2017, Catherine Zawedde Kisumba passed away peacefully at her home in Muyenga, Kampala. She was an outstanding mother of four, a grandmother of three and a great- grandmother to two boys. Outside home, she was celebrated as the first woman pharmacist in Uganda(1960) and among the first in East Africa. She came from a privileged family; her father had been the finance minister of the Buganda Kingdom in Uganda. She attended the prestigious girls’ school- Gayaza High School up to Ordinary Level. She excelled as an all-round student but had a knack for mathematics.

In her quest to become a medical doctor, she had to transfer to a co-educational school- Kings College Buddo to study chemistry and Physics at Advanced Level. By then Gayaza High school was not offering those two subjects. After some months of uncertainty and teasing, she and her best friend Alex Sempa settled down comfortably. They both passed so brilliantly that they won themselves Buganda governmemt scholarships to study pharmacy at Bristol College of Science and Technology in the United Kingdom. Alex later changed to Human Medicine and graduated five years later to become the second Uganda woman medical doctor after Dr. Josephine Nambooze ( 1959)

Catherine graduated as a pharmacist, worked for some time then returned to Uganda in 1962. She was that unique person who had brains, beauty and modesty so it was no surprise that in the same year she got married to an old Budonian: Dr. David Kisumba who later became a professor and head of Orthopaedics. Much later in 1976, Catherine’s niece : Winnifred Kalagi Senoga, another mathematics wizard from Gayaza High School was among the first women to graduate from Makerere University Faculty of Engineering and Technology . She currently works with Eskom, the South African electricity public company. A year later, Sarah Nalumansi Senoga graduated among the first women engineers from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Catherine worked diligently as  a pharmacist in many hospitals in Uganda including Mulago, Gulu, Masaka and Bombo. She rose through the ranks to become a Principal Pharmacist and a tutor at the Pharmacy Technician training school at Mulago Hospital. After ten years of exemplary service, she joined the private sector. By 1980, she was running her own pharmacy: Equator pharmacy along Johnston Street in Kampala. For many years she was a member of the Executive Committee and Pharmacist Advisor of the Uganda Red Cross Society. She also represented the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda on the Committee on National Formularly.

I have known her for more than four decades. She was an extremely intelligent person, was passionate and terribly confident. She was every inch a pharmacist both at the office and at home. She was incredibly organized; everything had a place and there was a place for everything. She defined her image and statement and lived them then protected them jealously to the end. She carried herself with dignity and respect and was treated likewise.
At the Equator pharmacy, she always looked the part as the managing director and the staff always welcomed and served us with a genuine smile. It was very reassuring to know that whatever product you bought from the pharmacy was the real ‘McKoy’, be it the simplest cough linctus or cream for eczema. You always went back for more. She was a warm and loving person who cared about people and made them know about it. She valued her friends and was incredibly loyal to them. Adelina Lubogo her best friend since childhood can attest to this.
As a mother, her family came first; she nurtured, guided and sustained them with a lot of love.
Her greatest joy was when she served on the board of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda along with her daughter; Jennifer Nakabugo Kisumba. Jennifer is currently a practsing pharmacist in Los Angeles, USA.

Catherine lived her life with purpose; mentoring and tutoring many young girls and men. Throughout her life, she was always willing to give back to the two schools that shaped her. She gave of her time, energy, knowledge, skills and money.
In her last years, she was enormously grateful for what she had achieved in the fifty years or so but as a trailblazer she was greatly unsettled by the huge shortage of trained pharmacists in Uganda. Uganda has a population of close to forty million yet it has less than five hundred licensed and practsing pharmacists! This works out to one Pharmacist serving 100,000 people compared to the recommended World Health Organisation ratio of 1:1,000. However she was lightly comforted that Makerere University which started offering a 4-year degree course in Pharmacy with 10 students in 1988 was now admitting about 60 students annually. Catherine created her success, managed and protected it. Her success left indelible footprints for others to follow. She opened the way so it is now for the young ones to pave it with gold as they write their own stories.
The following two quotes are very relevant to us today.
“All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.”
– Jim Rohn (1930-2009) American entrepreneur and author.

Shannon L. Alder- inspirational author: “ Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.’’

Catherine, I had to share your story out of my admiration and immense respect for you. Thankfully, a part of you became a part of me.

 

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