*This was in the traffic jam 😀 *
Sunday, 4th November
I thought I was calm and composed about this trip. I wasn’t telling the world about it nor was I counting down the hours to the minute I board the plane. However, yesterday night I woke up thrice, went and put on the lights then went back to sleep. Woke up again and went back and put off the lights. The third time I put on the lights again. It was a very restless night. I woke hours later checked my phone, it read 5:33 a.m. I hurried to wake my dad’s room and informed him he is late for the morning prayer. My mother asks, “How comes we are not hearing the prayer going on in the mosque?”
“Perhaps they are done.”
My father wakes up and checks his phone.
“It is 3:33 a.m. not 5:33”
“Really?! But I HEARD the prayer going on in the mosque! And my phone confirmed that!”
“It is 5:33. Go back to sleep.”
I go back to my room and check the phone. It is truly 3 a.m. I sigh.
Anxiety Mahn 😀 I should have known that staying calm for me is impossible. But would you blame me really?
This was my first time being invited for an international writing workshop. A publishing fellowship by African Writers Trust (AWT).
First time meeting writers from different parts of Africa.
First time going to Uganda.
First time meeting the writing/publishing gurus.
First time boarding the plane.
Keep calm? Not a word in my dictionary.
The flight was amazing apart from the dizziness whenever the plane bumped a bit. My mother said I’ll be fine during my second flight. I wasn’t. During both the flights I was still holding onto the chair, thinking of all the things that could go wrong yet still, I loved it. I realized how underrated the clouds are because I couldn’t stop wondering how nice it would be to touch them and feel them.
We arrive at Country Lake Resort Garuga in Entebbe around lunch hour. I quickly go to my room to drop off my things. The room is big. The bed is bigger; I could have five mini-mes sleeping on the same bed. It has a small, lovely balcony that faces some tall trees and smaller plants. Perfect place for a cup of coffee. Only that I don’t drink coffee and I am scared of being alone in this room and in this balcony precisely. The silence is deafening and the trees seem to be whispering. I don’t know to whom precisely but they are definitely creepy.
I take a walk around the big resort and it is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. This place is the definition of art and nature. Definitely the best place to bring writers to, and family, and your friends and everyone else. Everyone should see this place. It faces the majestic and grand lake Victoria and words can’t explain how breath-taking it is. Someone should sponsor me a ‘vacation’ to write a book over here. The air just clears your head and that obviously makes it the best place to think, contemplate and come up with the best ideas. I salute the one who chose this location for this workshop. And the owner is definitely a genius!
I go back into my room as soon as the sun set.
Now here’s the thing, I come from a big family so there was never a time I was ever alone by myself. Almost never. At first I was excited about experiencing this but dark has set in and sleep doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon despite my exhaustion. My heart keeps racing and I am a nervous wreckage right now like a character in a thrilling story. So much suspense with no climax. So I’m just here staring around in all corners, saying lots of duas and breathing deeply while under my blanket. Qur’an is playing from my laptop at the background. The lights are on. I want to sleep now.
Monday, 5th November
Last night I dreamt of some people breaking into my room. My big, lovely, beautiful room. The room that should see no harm yet people still found a way to break into my room out of the many rooms in this big resort. Only it was a dream; a long one nonetheless. I curse anxiety. Wouldn’t let me enjoy the serenity even.
I leave the room around 6:30 a.m. to watch the sunrise. A divine scene. Stunning. Spectacular. *Inserts all the synonyms of breath-taking* It is so beautiful I want to cry. I want to cry because I haven’t felt this kind of warmth in a very long time. Just chirping of the birds, the calm sea, the silence, the peace. And no people!! Oh the peace! I couldn’t get enough of it. But today was the day. The D-day. The start of the workshop and I had to fully prepare for it.
It is not every day you meet legends especially all in one place. Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, founding publisher of Indigo Press from the UK, Demere Kitunga, a publisher, mentor and translator from Tanzania and Catherine Mark, a writer and a poet from the UK as well. Mama Goretti who is the founder of AWT. All these fellows from Africa. All with very valuable experience and knowledge and mistakes to learn from.
We had 18 fellows from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Tanzania. I was among the 3 Kenyans selected and the youngest, or at least among the youngest. This calls for a celebration.
Everyone introduces themselves and what brought them to the workshop. We have publishers in the room, editors, writers, poets and trainers. I am overwhelmed with all the stories from everyone. No one’s had it easy. No one just woke up and had an empire ready. It is really REALLY inspiring and definitely makes me more hopeful for the future and the future of my group in Mombasa ‘Creative Writers League’.
The Magnificent Ellah Wakatama starts off on the editors role and the different kinds of editors in the publishing world. I am amazed. So many things I had NO idea of. For example, I never knew there were so many different editors each with their own specific role. Or that even in poetry, there’s a specific way of arranging the poems such that they be in sync with each other and flow perfectly. The group works are mind-blowing and eye-opening. We go on with the life cycle of the book and many other interesting issues about bringing a book to life. The food is tasty. The interactions are hilarious and lovely!
I am exhausted but what I’ve learnt in this single day is more than I ever taught myself in all these years as a writer.
Tuesday, 6th November
It rained heavily last night and there was thunder too. I was scared of course. Is that even a question?! When one of our sweet facilitators mentioned how she hid under the bed and was praying desperately when she heard the thunder because they don’t have thunder where she lives, I was relieved 😀 I am not the only scared freak.
Today we critically analyzed some short stories and it was so remarkable how you notice a lot more things when you read a story out loud and break it down into chunks and pieces. Even more interesting is how each one of us view the same things in very different ways and how one’s favourite story turns out to be the least liked for someone else.
We learn a lot more on roles, structuring, responsibilities, planning and several other important aspects of editing.
Wednesday, 7th November
I am a regular morning walker now, plus I got a partner to watch the sunrise with. It was the only thing I kept asking everyone about. Have you seen the sunrise?! Oh you don’t know what you’re missing out on! So Rachel, the program organizer joined me. Then she joined me for the evening walks. And all the time walks. It wasn’t just about the walks though. It was more about the deep talks we’d have any time we were together. Rachel and I connected immediately and I really appreciated it because I rarely have such profound bonds with people.
The learning is going on. A lot of questions, discussions and comments. Every creative needs such a space honestly. This is like meeting your long lost family because you automatically belong. You find your people and you understand one another. How beautiful is that?!
Thursday, 8th November
Mama sent me an email via my sister because she was worried, she couldn’t find me on phone the whole day. This is despite me informing her upfront that the wifi is poor and I have little access to the internet. But I get it. I am highly likely going to do the same to my children. I am my mother’s daughter and anxiety runs in the family 😀 But I am also daddy’s girl because he is very patient and understanding. I mean, when I woke him up at 3 a.m. he wasn’t angry despite him loving his sleep a lot. He said ‘You were anxious’ when I wanted to apologize the next morning. I think I’m the perfect combination of my parents. An anxious wreck with a lot of understanding. The most patient, impatient person on earth. 😀 I am a living paradox.
Today, I come to the realization that we, as creatives, have the same similar struggles despite living in different countries and having different backgrounds. One of the fellows mentioned he would charge 1 $ for a full-day training yet only five people came. And I was like, ‘Same here bro. Same here.’ Another lady also mentioned on the same struggle of acquiring trainees for writing. It is such a shame that we have so much talent within us yet still choose to sit on it because the training ‘is expensive.’ It is mostly a matter of priority and we choose to keep our talents out of the priority lists entirely. How sad.
In the afternoon we meet another creatives’ group sponsored by British council at a different resort. It was nice since they had visual artists and graphic designers that we didn’t have in our group. A great network opportunity for everyone. Lots of laughter, pictures and sharing of contacts.
Friday, 9th November
Adrenaline. There’s something about adrenaline that I love. The thrill of it. The shouting-on-a-roller-coaster feeling. The sky-diving feeling. That makes me an adrenaline junkie I guess. But I’m also a stress junkie so you see the irony there 😀 More of a dilemma on what really makes me who I am.
Two of our fellows are ahead of us, Hiwot from Ethipia and Lucky Grace from Rwanda. Its their first time on the bodaboda and you can see it on their faces the tension. I laugh. I laugh because I have been on the bodaboda before, several times and i’m still scared; of it. But I’m seated with Fatma from Sudan who has also never boarded one. I feel like the hero in this case. Behind us is Rachel and Abu Amirah who are used to bodabodas but then they shouldn’t ruin my feeling of being the hero here. So I tap the bodaboda guy and ask him to go past our fellows ahead of us. I keep nagging him to go faster. Fatma laughs, “Do you want to kill us?!” just as we go past them and I am shouting to them ‘Byeeee.’
“This is the moment you shout ‘wohoooo'”
She just laughs. We are in the interior side of Entebbe with so many trees around us and barely anyone passing by.
“Seriously…” I tell her.
“You start,” she says.
I have never been an influence in my life. At least not on the silly stuff. I just do it myself.
“I do it then you do it,” I tell her and she nods.
So I scream ‘Wohoooo’ as my sound disappears into the bushes, air kissing our faces. She just laughs.
I am disappointed. “You are supposed to be my partner in crime.”
“Okay let’s do it again. On the count of three. I…2…3…wohooooo”
We both shout but I can only hear her voice under her breath. I am probably the bad influence here because Fatma is extremely quiet and introverted like Hiwot. They both smile so sweetly, very lovely souls and it is very evident with how they carry out themselves.
I always thought I was an introvert until I met them. The other night we sat by the sunset deck watching the stars and I was talking a lot until I realized how quiet the two of them were. Each was just staring into the horizon, each in their own world. I was the noise maker and I’ve never really been a noise maker with anyone except people i’m really comfortable with. Man, I need a different identity. I am not introvert.
Anyway so Fatma asks me we do the titanic pose as the bodaboda speeds on and we stretch our arms open. She is learning 😀
We are heading to Kampala and the journey is so long. Rachel, who is Ugandan, volunteered to be our tour guide and took us for shopping. Kampala pretty much looks like Nairobi. From the crowds to the chaos to the jam. The JAM! Took us two hours to get back to Entebbe. The Jam was so bad the driver would frequently put off the engine as we wait.
This was our last day of the training. The week went so fast or maybe it was just too wonderful it should have lasted a month?! It was sad parting ways with fierce individuals, lovely souls and very hardworking people. The Ugandans checked out the same day, leaving the international visitors who are to check out the next day.
Saturday, 10th November
We (the Kenyans) are leaving this morning together with the Tanzanians. Hiwot, Rachel and Lucky Grace came to say goodbye and Fatma was overtaken by her sleep so we didn’t get to say our farewell.
I wish I could stay at this place longer. The solace you feel here is tremendous. Psychiatrists and psychologists should prescribe a visit to this place as part of the therapy sessions. Like ‘Mandatory vacation at the Country Lake resort Garuga-Uganda. Failure to do so may lead to increment of number of days at the resort.’ Plus it will be lovely if they sponsor the vacations. Can we get an ‘ameen?’ 😀
I have learnt a lot from our great facilitators and honestly from all the fellows. I was quite moved by everyone’s passion to make a difference and especially for the facilitators who come from far just to give back to the society. Mama Goretti and her AWT team did everything so perfectly, no one could complain. I mean, this is the most organized and timely event/workshop I’ve ever attended, special thanks to Rachel for ensuring the anxious me has nothing to worry about 😀
Our trip to the airport is rather quiet. I remember when we were first coming to Entebbe and the three of us (Kenyans) had EVERYTHING to talk about. We were so excited and thrilled, we talked the whole way. KK (Kingwa) comments on how silent we are in contrast with how we came. We all laugh. We are already feeling nostalgic of the place and all the people we met. Most importantly, there’s a lot of restructuring, planning and changes to be made in our writing careers. A lot to think about.
This will be quite a tiring journey since we have to stop by Nairobi first before going to Mombasa but I can’t wait to be home. I missed my nephews A LOT and everyone else of course. Plus my mum is waiting for all the details of the entire trip. She loves details. I love details. Did I say I am my mother’s daughter?