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 ❤

 

 

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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,

Esteri

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.

*SIGH*

“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.

Esteri

Image source: Clarke Sanders

 

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;

Woodstock;

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 🙂

Greetings from Jo’Burg

Greetings my dear ones, it’s been forever and I apologise. It’s been a month since i have been back from New York. I had a three week break at home before I had to head out again, this time to Johannesburg to continue my Fellowship.

I just arrived a week ago and so far, it’s okay. I miss New York so much of course, I miss my second family that I made there, especially the girls. I promise to write about each of them in my next piece.

Being in Johannesburg has sort of helped me quickly filter what I want and don’t want to do after the Fellowship. I feel like 23 is a little early to decide on what I want to ultimately do with my life but I also feel like I have seen a little of what I don’t like and that I don’t want to go back to it.

As I will be here for 8 months, am trying to find the balance between making the most of this amazing opportunity, seriously thinking about what I want to do next and also acknowledging but I may not necessarily like a few things or be good at some others.

Hugs and Hearts,

Esteri:)

All of a sudden am Black !

Having lived in Uganda for all of my life until now, one would say i had not been culturally exposed. While i went to multi cultural and racial schools, nothing could have prepared for me for the cultural shock i had when i came to New York. You must understand though, our country is one of the most culturally diverse, there about 50 tribes and even more languages and i have seen White and Asian people before and interacted with them so i was confident i would be just fine. Moving from a place where my skin colour is the majority, i had no insecurity or thoughts about my skin colour, i was always just me.

However, the moment i got onto the plane from Brussels to New York, i started to feel really different, there weren’t many “me-s” around. I was getting a few stares too, not mean ones, just inquisitive ones. The ones i used to give foreigners i saw back home, with questions in my mind like; where are they from? what’s it like where they come from? what’s their story? why are they here?  Looks like that. I was suddenly the black girl .

Moving to New York, the first month was the hardest, i still felt out of place and an outsider but people were being nice, some inquisitive about Africa in general, a few people would not get what i was saying some times (because of the accent and pronunciation) and the form of dressing was a bit interesting (Uganda is a little more conservative). Others were fascinated by my braids and thought it was my real hair (i wish!!)

I like New York though, it’s very culturally diverse, the highest percentage of people living here aren’t even from here which is more comforting for me. I also appreciate the diversity in couples, i feel like i have seen almost everything ( white&black, Asian&white, Asian&black, black&black, white&white). It puts a smile on my face every time i see a mixed race couple, the gap is being bridged, we aren’t there yet but we have come so far as well.

I also had the opportunity to do a photo shoot for my extremely talented friend Rand Jarallah, she’s amazing . We wanted to show that there’s two sides to everyone in the sense that even though am black, there’s so much to me . There’s my colour and background but there’s also me, Esther Ndagire.

I have attached the pictures, hope you love them :)) Also check Rand’s Instagram and Facebook on https://www.instagram.com/randistic/ and https://www.facebook.com/randistic/?fref=ts

Hugs and Hearts

Esteri:)

 

 

New York In Pictures

Hello Everyone, greetings from sunny New York (turning into rainy!!). Hope you are all well and that the Good Lord has kept you. I wanted to share some pictures of New York, am not really featured in most but i hope you can get the feel of it. Am still here for a few more weeks so i will share more . Am going to try and describe every picture so that you can identify them. Thank you so much for the support :))

  1. Central Park ( i also made sure to check out the spots where a few scenes of Gossip Girl where shot)
  2. Lincoln Centre, Mostly Mozart Concert (side pic, sorry!)
  3. Museum of Modern Art (Moma)
  4. Me smiling for the cam :)) HOPE:))
  1. Broadway, ( I really want to watch School of Rock)
  2. Inside the UN HQ (International Youth Day)
  3. Columbus Circle
  4. I was somewhere in Harlem, for sure!!
  1. Coney Island
  2. China Town
  3. Times Square (BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL AT NIGHT!!)
  4. Brooklyn Bridge ( I walked the whole bridge, i was super proud of myself!!)
  1. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue (side pic, sorry!!)
  2. Rockefeller Centre (again, side pic..sorry!!)
  3. Mercer Street, SoHo
  4. Very fancy building right across from our house….:)) in Sakura Park
  1. Rockefeller Centre (at night)
  2. Somewhere before we crossed the bridge (inside Dunkin Donuts:) the building has a beautiful colour, i could not help myself)
  3. The view from the Brooklyn Bridge
  4. The Chrysler Building, It’s really tall:)) , tried to get most of it in the shot!!

 

As usual, Cheers!!

Hugs and Hearts,

Esteri:))