Poor reading culture in Uganda

The culture of reading was imposed upon me as a child, I went to a primary school with an enormous library filled with novels, magazines and text books. The school had a subject called “Summaries” that was compulsory for all students from P.1 to P.6  and required a student to write a one page summary of the novel they had borrowed from the library. Each class borrowed novels twice a week and exercise books were submitted for marking two days after just in time to borrow the next novel. Failure to submit the summary was a serious offence and one could get punished, also, there were certain novels one could not borrow depending on their class, just as you were growing in all other things, the content one was reading was expected to grow as well.

So with this, I was forced to learn to read and write authentic summaries as copying from behind the book for the author’s summary was also punishable. It became a common sight to see most of the kids read their novels during break time, lunch or at the end of class as they waited for their parents. It also became a common practice that we booked to read each other’s novels after either was done or make the switch during the next library visit. What started as a burden became a culture that bonded the kids together, for example; if someone from another class had the novel you wanted to read next, you’d have to approach them to ask for it. We were connected through our interest in the literature.

I later went on to join a high school that had peers with primary schools similar to mine, most of us loved to read but few of us could afford to buy new novels every term so there was a lot of exchanging, booking and narration if you were too far down the list. I guess we had a book club of our own, full of girls and a few guys who weren’t friends per say but interacted enough to switch novels amongst one another.

I could say that my love for reading started way back in primary school with me passionately reading my novel so that I could write a mind blowing summary that would be shown off to the entire class by the teacher. For the other students to know how I viewed the characters from a unique perspective and that my summary wasn’t just a brief of the book. Or I could say that I expanded my taste so that I could have books in common with my high school crush. But no, we were all required to have summaries but we didn’t really have to read the books, I became passionate about reading because I was transported to a different dimension altogether every time I opened a book and as a generally shy and quiet child, the characters became my best friends.

However not many youth in Uganda have this opportunity, libraries in most primary schools only have text books and educational material, which is good but what do the children read to relax? There are barely any recreational novels because they aren’t taken seriously which is sad because I believe this is when the reading culture should be properly cultivated. For many, the first intimate interaction they will have with a novel is in high school where the books are shared during literature class. With this, it can take about three months to finish a book and by the end of S.2, many will drop literature after reading utmost four novels and that will be it for them.

I believe this is the cause of the poor reading culture in this country, quite a number of young people are discouraged from reading books which aren’t academic that they generally don’t want to read anything at all.

For this to change, there needs to be a collective effort from the Ministry, literature needs to be compulsory at the lower levels of education. Parents need to encourage their children to read more recreational books that could spark their creativity and imagination. And young adults like me, need to guide the younger generation by recommending good reads on our social media in order to mentor and empower them to read more. Book stores need to expand their collection from text books and atlases to more recreational books specifically promoting Uganda literature and local writers.

What else to say.

Hugs and Hearts,

Esteri ❤




Isn’t it hard, all of it but worth it at the same time

It’s quite interesting how the year starts in one time zone and ends in another. When you were in the first time zone you wanted to go back to the second – which was always the first, because you missed everything about it only to go back to it and realise you miss the one you were just in.

It’s annoying to be asked out by guys you aren’t romantically interested only to have the one you like not like you back. Even worse, not to be able to find exactly what you are looking for – and yes you know what you want!  You can’t be with one because he is too much for you, your beliefs are clashing but you can’t be with the other because he values your beliefs and doesn’t want to hurt you – which makes you like him even more.

Can you go back to the past and change the choices you made then because they are who you are now? Or do you boldly move forward and learn from them – you seem to never learn. You always date the same kind of guys, you let them in too quick and they hurt you, you make the same type of friends, same kind of drama – why won’t you change?

To have to feel beautiful everyday yet you don’t love what you look like – but you love what you are and would not want to be anything else. You feel small at some people  comments but stand unaffected by others – which is it, do you care about people’s opinions or not?

Everything at work is not that easy, new journey, new role, new tasks – some of which you have no clue about but you are learning as you go. That’s good, learning is part of life but then are you sure you aren’t a liability?  You hope everyday they didn’t make a mistake by hiring you over the next person because of your one missing skill set.

You are back to being a drone, sometimes your soul feels empty – wake up, work, eat, t.v , sleep and repeat. You don’t read as much anymore and are seriously struggling with your writing. What can you write about anyway? The bad in your life sometimes feel like a punishment for all the naughty things you have ever done and the good – you are grateful for and pray it lasts longer.

Sometimes you don’t feel good enough. You keep messing up – everyday! You think you are above somethings yet the things you think you deserve you have haven’t worked to deserve. Your heart feels heavy and all you want to be is accepted, respected, loved and seen for who you really are. But mostly, you want to learn to love yourself and accept God’s love for you.

How about your spiritual life, are you one with Christ. You say you are a believer and most of the things you do or don’t do are because of your faith. But is it real or an excuse? You pray but feel like you are talking to walls, maybe you should change your style or maybe remain confident in grace. What to do?

Am proud of you though, you seem to know who you are – or have had luck figuring that out. You know what you like and don’t like, you have started to figure out where you want to go, your career is thriving, look at you! You become confident when you talk about your work, the trips and exciting new project you are managing.

You would give anything to work abroad again, that way you escape all your mistakes and have a good reason for not letting people into your life – you are leaving soon anyway. But you want to be close to people, it’s just that you need them to find you. Careful though, can’t have them know everything about you.

You and I are quite similar. Maybe we should both do something about us before we lose our minds.

Hugs and Hearts,


The Dutchess is back – with rants!

Greetings friends!

It’s been long, too long indeed. I have been back to Uganda for almost two months and it has been a bit hard for me. However hard change is, it is good and we must embrace it.

First, Old memories versus the current situation. Most of my friends have sort of moved on, which is sad for me. I did not expect them to freeze their lives just because I was away for a year but it has been extremely hard to find that in the time I was gone, people got engaged, married and some even have children with new life plans altogether. (But quick side note: how have I been single for a long time and people meet other people and get engaged within a year?)

Anyway, am extremely happy for all my dear ones but it’s like I travelled back to the past expecting to find things as they were only find people left me for the future in a time machine. But I finally got to meet my niece, Zoe, who was delivered in my absence and she is precious ❤

Second, Food and weather. I always have “tummy issues” every time I change my food palette, am sure my stomach is always sighing “make up your mind woman!”  But now everything is back to normal. When I left Johannesburg, it was quite cold as it was winter but when I landed at Entebbe…Jesus!! I was wearing a winter coat, turtle neck, boots and a sweater, safe to say I was extremely overdressed. Both my flights had been delayed, I got home at 11 pm, sweaty with loads of luggage from my 9 months in SA, I was pissed and tired..

Third, My limited patience towards racial issues in this country. Before I left the country, I was for a lack of better words, “not bothered” by issues of race. Am Ugandan, I never had to think of this or even how to define it because it is who I am. After travelling to New York City, I quickly settled into the role of being “African”.

South Africa was honestly a bit harder for me, I experienced xenophobia in different forms. Sometimes, it was subtle, other times it was the full on mean and rude. Questions of  “where you from, why are you taking our opportunities and when do you leave”  became a thing of the day.. Never any physical violence towards me though, bless the Lord!

There was a bit if racism too and it was honestly annoying. I lived in SA longer than I did in New York and over time learnt not to take any of the comments to heart, they were hurtful but I was not going to let how other people felt about someone’s black skin ruin my shopping..or my time there so like most things, I let go.

After being back, my eyes have been open to so many things that I didn’t care about in Uganda. Like how some people will think you are cooler because you hung out with white people or how European beauty standards still prevail “You are hot if you have fake hair extensions, the kinky hair looks utterly dirty and messy” and how the black people at certain embassies are rude to fellow country men but for some reason the white people who work there are more polite?! (different topic but still…who trains them to be so?) and bunch of other stuff which is really disturbing but am still figuring out how to diplomatically write about them on my very public blog…

Let’s just say that I have become “more socially aware” since I travelled and came back home, I now have zero tolerance and minimal patience for anything that insinuates racial superiority of one race over another in my home country. I will quickly admit to Uganda having a lot of tribalism, it’s like an internal version of racism and it disgusts me.


“Why are you so angry Esther?” my friends ask

“Because nothing hurts like being treated like a degenerate because of the colour of your skin, and for some, not even realising that you are treated so”

End of Rant.


Image source: Clarke Sanders


A love letter to my NYC Fam

Greetings from chilly Johannesburg!! Lord, it has been so long since I wrote I wasn’t even sure how WordPress worked anymore.

As my time in Johannesburg quickly comes to an end, am making due on my promise to share more about my travel to New York and the beautiful people there that changed my life.

This is a love letter of the sorts, to show my appreciation that I couldn’t show in word and action.

Victoria aka “Mama Bear“, thank you for being just that, a mama Bear to all of us “young cubs”. For believing in us, inviting us to New York to represent your passion, for fighting the good fight on our behalf and for being the coolest boss ever! For picking us over others, being understanding and always present and supportive. We all love you very much.

Prateek, thank you for being YOU as well. For being dedicated and passionate about what you do, you were an example to each of us. We all love you very much and wish you all the best on your new journey.

Craig, thank you for chilled words of wisdom and tolerating my rants. You have been there every step of the way and have witnessed by growth. For the support and help, am truly grateful and will always remember your words of encouragement every step of my professional life.

To my new sisters that I hold dear in my heart;

Rand, you are amazing, sophisticated and extremely talented. Thank you for bringing everyone together, you’re kindness is heartwarming. You were like a big sister to me and gave me a new perspective on so many things. You have changed the status quo on so many things and have a positive approach towards everything. You taught me to be more confident and more outgoing.

Olivia, you are smart, hardworking and kind. Thank you for your organised mind, it challenged me a lot to be more responsible. You’re a joy to work with and your dedication to your responsibilities and honesty were such an example to me. You are always wearing a smile and have taught me to want more in my professional career (whichever I choose..eventually) and to be dedicated.

Sakhile, you express your emotions proudly and that is something not many can do. Am thankful you came with me to Jo’burg, as am terrible at conversation, thank you for your bubbly personality and keeping the environment warm. Your passion towards what you care about has challenged me to search within and find out what am really passionate about and hold onto it.

Erika, you are knowledgeable, funny and such an implementer 🙂 Thank you for being very welcoming towards me and letting me tag along. Your independence, insanely cool computer skills, your dedication to what you do and very chill yet stern personality definitely taught me a lot about balancing my work / commitments and personality. Thank you for your jokes, they cracked us up.

Souzana, you are gorgeous(I insist you become a model), well poised with a strong heart. Thank you for your honesty, you don’t make excuses and don’t use what you are going through as one either. You have taught me to be responsible and work hard, no excuses! Thank you for your warm smile and generosity towards others, your maturity and character have had an impact on me.

Sandy, you are witty, dedicated and extremely passionate towards women and their rights. Your bold personality is beyond your beautiful petite figure. Thank you for showing me that when finds what they are passionate, one can become bold to express (figuratively and literally) that passion. You walk the talk with what you believe in and that is very inspiring.

Irem, you are natural born leader. You’re ability to balance between your personal and professional profile is one many never grasp (one I still struggle with). Your natural ability to quickly adjust to different situations is admirable. Thank you for your mature perspective and for being an example in many ways.

To Kobi and Jen (whom I felt an unexplained connection with), thank you for being you. For helping us to dig deep and encouraging us to be the best versions of ourselves and not to shy away from our greatness. I love you.

To Megha, DanielaAlia and Sana thank you for your dedication and passion towards us and the programme.

While many of them may never read this post, it feels good to reflect and hold onto what they mean to me and how they have changed my life. I have been in a vicious cycle for the last couple of months, working hard but also trying to figure out what my future may look like. There have been many sleepless nights, deadlines and times when I was sure I was going to lose my mind…literally.. But I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

There has been a certain amount of growth that comes from living / working abroad by yourself, no family, new friends and having to figure out things again. The long nights of missing family but also having to force myself to close my eyes because I know I want to keep working on an international level.

Besides everything, am grateful for the people above and the friends from Johannesburg who I will write about another time.

Hugs and Hearts,

Esteri 🙂

Weekend in Cape Town

Greetings from Johannesburg dear ones. It has been a while and I decided to start talking to myself and thinking aloud again so that I could write.

I guess I had lost myself in the Jozi routine of work, gym, home, eat, movies and sleep for a couple of weeks that I had not reflected in a while. While I appreciate routine, I can only stand it for a short time and will start to feel suffocated after a while. I was starting to get bored and really passive towards everything in Johannesburg that when a friend suggested we take a short trip to Cape Town, I was completely on board.

We had been talking about doing it for a few weeks but had never committed to a date so the whole trip was quite last minute and that made it even more exciting. Anyway, to share of my tours and travels, here’s a few pictures from the trip;


My friend and I got a room in a guesthouse (listed on airbnb.com) in this area and I must say that I loved the neighbourhood. Downtown location in a very chill area surrounded by food places and a few minutes from all the places we wanted to visit. The houses around the guest house looked like they were straight out of an ancient painting. The view of Table mountain was a plus and it was amazing 🙂


Robben Island Museum;

I knew I wanted to take a tour of this museum even before getting to Cape Town. I love history and I wanted to see these things for myself. However, the museum was small and this prompted me to take the cruise to the actual Island. The picture of the beautiful lady with a head wrap on the right is Mrs. Winnie Mandela. Seeing the letters that relatives wrote to request for permission to see their loved ones stirred up a few emotions. The visits were only 30 minutes long once every six months :(( this changed after a long time.


V & A Waterfront;

This place is so many things in one and is extremely big. It is also a must see if you plan on visiting Cape Town. It’s a dock, has a shopping mall, a few rides, space for performances, a bunch of restaurants, the Robben Island museum, among others. We spent a few hours there and did not cover it in its entirety. It was something…


Long Street;

As the name suggests, this street is quite long and goes on and on for a couple of blocks. We covered about 3 – 4 blocks in the quest for food but my friend went back at night and he says there was much more to see. The street has shops in categories, for a few blocks each, there are food places, bars, clothing stores and other random stuff. This street is definitely a must walk, give it a few hours on a well fed stomach, by the time you finish you will be hungry I promise. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the street but I do have indoor pictures from a cute small cafe called Rcaffe that we ate at.


Table Mountain;

It is one of the seven wonders of nature and I completely agree. Table Mountain is amazing, its view from the ground and from above is breathtaking, I was blown away – literally, by the wind..jeez, my phone almost fell down the mountain..hahaha..but even figuratively, it’s a must visit 🙂 It is beautiful. We took the cable car up the mountain but there is an option to hike your way up there (as if 😉 ) One can see the “Lion’s Head” mountain, Signal Mountain, the World Cup stadium, the beach and a beautiful view of the city from up there.


Camps bay Beach;

This beach is so beautiful and the view of the sea and of the backdrop is breathtaking. The winds were strong and the water was quite cold but still, I enjoyed my time there. There are a few restaurants across the street and the food was really tasty.


Robben Island;

I was not going to go to the Island at first but after visiting the museum, I felt drawn and booked our tickets for the trip. Am not new to the history of South Africa and the period of Apartheid, as we studied about it in primary school and I took on History further for HSC but nothing prepared for what I would feel when we were given a tour by an ex prisoner and listen to him explain how they were treated.

Mr. Nelson Mandela’s prison cell is the picture of a prison cell with a maroon bucket (which was used as a toilet) . He spent most of this stay in the prison there and has been maintained as he left it after 18 years at Robben Island. Also, fourth row, second from the left / right is a burial ground for the Leprosy victims. Much earlier, lepers from the main land were taken to Robben Island to die there without infecting anyone. The tour guide said that the lucky ones who were given headstones are the ones at that burial site otherwise, those that did not have are still buried somewhere on the Island.  Also, most of the political prisoners were buried by the Government and their bodies lie somewhere on the Island and have never been found.

The issue of racial profiling is still a painful topic for most South Africans and Africans in general, I can only empathise. It stirs up questions that we tend to avoid; Do the white people who psychologically and physically tortured the South Africans feel guilty ? (because some are still alive), What drives one human to treat another human like animal just because of their difference in colour (slave trade) ? Why did the white people leave their home land to come into another person’s home land, in most cases uninvited, only to treat their hosts like savages (colonialism) ? Where is the crime in one standing up to oppose the white man’s rule in his own country, is that not taking back what was yours anyway (political rebellions) ? Food for thought…

Most of the prison is maintained as it was left after the Independence of South Africa.



Hugs and Hearts,

Esteri 🙂

Christmas at the Balubuliza’s

Greetings from Johannesburg and Season’s Greetings as well.

Hope everyone is okay and is feeling festive for this beautiful season.

Thank you so much Joel for tagging me on twitter. Even though am not home for Christmas this year, writing this piece will keep my heart warm as it will remind me of what Christmas looks like in my family.

Christmas at the Balubuliza’s means:

  • Giving out everything we don’t need or want anymore to the local Church to be shared with those in need.
  • My mum will also share her abundant garden harvest with our neighbours and the neighbours usually do the same. (This gets really exhausting when am sent to like five houses carrying eggs, matooke and avacado) But because am the youngest, I am always the victim, the process takes like 30 minutes.
  • Decorating the Christmas tree on the 23rd or 24th. It’s because everyone is always “extra busy” until the very last moment. In all honesty, no one ever wants to do it and I always suffer the fate of being a last born and eventually having to do it.
  • My mother insisting I pin up old Christmas cards from different relatives and family friends from way back when. Dear Mummy, no one gives Christmas cards anymore except Fuel stations and Banks. But I love my mum and I always have them dangling on a string somewhere.
  • Waking up early in the morning to help with making breakfast. On Christmas Day, everyone MUST help out with the process.
  • Eating a heavy meal for breakfast, usually katogo with offal and plenty of other food. Which is why the point above happens.
  • Listening to Calvary Cross Choir songs before heading to Church. (I don’t know how many people remember this Choir but they have really amazing music, they are initially from Namirembe Christian Fellowship…if that rings a bell).
  • Phone calls to everyone in the village. These are usually made by my parents but will have the rest of us yelling in the background…”Sekukulu Ennungi !!”
  • Wearing our Sunday best (that we hurriedly bought that week) to the Christmas Day Church service. I still don’t know why we always wait for the last minute to go shopping.
  • Lunch at some place nice and fancy. I always buy a loose Sunday best outfit for this moment. One MUST NOT play games at lunch time.
  • Listening to the Boney M Christmas album after lunch while eating cake. I mean, this album changed our lives..and I know it’s not just us. My dad is always the DJ on Christmas and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • My parents talking about how the Christmas Day was for them in each of the years my sisters, brothers and I were born.
  • Spending quality time and having a conversation with my whole family that is purely and strictly about the good memories from the past years.
  • Giving and getting gifts from each other that we all know we can share e.g umbrellas and chocolate (everyone wants some so you would have to share…jeez..). But thank God, this has changed over the years.
  • There was a time when my mum would lead us in reciting Psalm 23 (Zabuli 23) in Luganda together at night before we went to sleep. Of course, it was just her and my dad who knew all the words and the rest of us would just mumble our way through right till the “Emirembe ne Mirembe Amina…”

Writing this makes me miss home so much but it also makes me grateful for the Family I was given. I love them and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Holidays dear ones

Hugs and Hearts

Esteri 🙂

The Haircut

Greetings from Jozi dear ones, how are the Holidays so far? I have been swamped with work but I promise to write more.

A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to change my appearance a little because I decided I was bored with how I looked (like most girls in their twenties), I decided to get a hair cut.

I have had the same hair styles since I was 18 honestly, it was either in braids or out. As those who from Uganda or are familiar with policies there, most public schools, both Primary and Secondary, don’t let girls grow out their hair. So throughout puberty, you go around school with one inch of your natural hair constantly questioning your beauty (the sudden boob attack and pimples don’t make your internal rantings and monologues any better).

To make matters worse, i went to a Boy’s school (technically mixed but was once the best Boy’s school in the country). Those boys constantly reminded us how we looked just like them and were not pretty at all. We were always reminded about the beauty of the girls from the All girls schools, it was hard.

I promised myself that after I was done with High School, I would never cut my hair ever again. I guess constantly hearing from my peers that we would only look hot if we grew out our hair also intensified the promise to myself.

So from 18 – 23, I braided my hair, had it straightened out and braided it some more so that it could grow out faster. It was painful sometimes, quite expensive but I was getting “prettier”. I did have a few guys from my old High School ask me out at the University now that I had grown my hair out, I was quite flattered.

But a few weeks ago, while thinking to myself, I thought that my beauty should not be defined by hair, or how much make up I wear or how curvaceous I am. I get that looks are important but they should not be why you date me.

I asked a few guy friends for their thoughts on me getting a hair cut and a few were quite supportive, I was glad. Others were flat out typical, “You won’t be pretty anymore” they said. It is for this reason, among many that I opted for this cut, some guys need to stop associating women’s beauty with long hair, curves and all that.

Quickly..on a side note, isn’t it hypocritical for some guys to say they totally don’t like girls who are fake (as in hair extensions, lots of make up) and how they appreciate girls who are all natural but will be the first to call “all natural” girls too plain and will almost kill themselves for the “fake” girls. Guys, please be real, if you like your girl with extensions and lots of makeup, say that, it’s not a bad thing. All girls express themselves differently and each of us have different characters.

Anyway, I went ahead and booked a slot at the saloon. I was scared out of my mind so I decided not to cut it all the way (hahaha…i was terrified), I had hair up to my shoulders and i cut it half through.

I like the hair cut, am considering getting a shorter and more edgy one soon, maybe in maroon this time 🙂 Am also learning how to comb out the fringe every morning.

I feel free, now that I have done it once (VERY different from school..that was forced), I can do it over and over and I don’t feel so attached to my hair anymore. And that’s a good thing.


P.S: You are beautiful by just being you

Happy Holidays dear ones

Hugs and Hearts

Esteri 🙂