Hey all, whether you are in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, Uganda, or Kenya, I really wish you a blessed new year in 2010!
This year was one of the most challenging of my life– but also the most rewarding. Many times I felt as if I had slammed my head
or fell over my feet (both metaphorically and in the real sense!), and other times I prayed for a crystal ball that would let me go back in time.
Do things differently.
I can’t say this enough- Hindsight is 20/20. Hindsight is 20/20. But mistakes offer the most powerful lessons of all. In many ways, I entered 2010 with
a gigantic blindfold over my eyes, and had to let reality be my teacher. I realized I was scrappier than I ever imagined, but simultaneously blessed
in more ways than I could fathom.
2009 was a year of writing for Women’s eNews, Saturday/New Vision, and the New York Post. It was a year I began in Jackson Heights, Queens, shifted to Brooklyn, moved to Kampala, returned for respite in Long Island, and relocated back to Brooklyn. It was my first year that I was not in school. Where my interview subjects ranged from the president of the Kampala ghetto (with a cabinet, no less!) to Felix Kulayigye, Manhattan garage owners, NYPD officers, bicyclists, colon cleansing patients near the Old Taxi Park (I kid you not), and a woman who survived living with HIV, a white blood cell count of 0, poverty, and cancer– but now weighs 80 kilograms, runs a support group for discordant couples at Mulago Hospital’s Infectious Disease Unite, and has reunited with her husband. Her name is Zam.
It was a year of launching the Ugandans Abroad website and social networking site, and making our first e-commerce store at our Africa Connections ebay website. I used all sorts of proxy sites to access Facebook at New Vision, tweeted quite a bit, started this blog, and temped at Iconix.
I got horrific food poisoning at Shell Club, was cheated dramatically Abii Clinic in Wandegaya, and attacked by bugs in New York’s Central and Highbridge Park. When I would cough in Uganda, people feared I had swine flu. I began paying back my students loans in June. I skyped a bit, but mainly used gmail chat
as my favorite form of communication.
My father gave me a red Blackberry Curve for Christmas, allowing me to file from the field. It was definitely an upgrade from my kiboko phone. Or is it a
kikumi phone? I can’t remember.
To go further back… I spent New Year’s 1998/9, ten years ago, in Sayville. I was 13 years old, and went to an awful laser show with my then step-brothers.
I was in eight grade (S2 for my Ugandan readers!), and had glasses, stringy brown hair, and pants that were too short for my rapidly growing legs. My favorite past times were chatting on AOL instant messenger, drinking Mountain Dew, playing Mario Kart and Sim City 2, as well as Grand Theft Auto.
In 2000, I moved back to Oyster Bay, where I enjoyed history lessons, diatribes about Hillary Clinton (haha well maybe not that part! My family and I are lifelong Democrats), and learning about ancient Greece & Rome from Mr. Levorchick. During a world history moment on Africa (an afternoon’s worth of coverage in 4 years of high school), I nearly blew off the assignment, disinterested in ancient Mali. I lived in Karen Court, and did spring track with Grace and Stephanie. I was awful at the 200 meter, but at least I got in pretty good shape. I took my first and only photography class with Mrs. Crowley, who was terrified of peanut butter but loved my photos and writing. The key quote from her is- “Has anyone seen a lens cap?” It was when Mrs. DiMaggio was Mrs. Scudieri, and I tried to get through Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.
In 2001, there was 9-11. My biology teacher, Mr. Billelo (spelling?) told us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, and we turned on the radio. I figured it was an awful accident, then saw my best friend Stephanie in the hall. I told her, and she gave me a startled look. Mr. Rose, our history teacher,
told us that two planes had hit the World Trade Center, and the White House was on fire, the Pentagon attacked. We thought he was kidding. Mark Mitchell burst into stunned laughter. Classmates began calling their parents who worked in the New York City. I came home to my teary father, who hugged me and paced around the living room, devastated. We went with a friend of his he had been seeing to a temple the next day to grieve. On September 12th, there was a terrible smell of decay. Only a week before, my friends and I had attended a boat tour of the NYC skyline for my friend Lisa’s sweet 16– the last time we would ever see the city whole. I was writing for my high school newspaper, and we debated what to put in the next issue. What should be our focus? Our teachers refused to turn on the televisions to keep calm, but students went to computer labs that week to download images of the crumbled towers.
In 2002, I took the PSAT, AP exams, and had my first boyfriend (no comment, but tragically, he loved anime, a type of Japanese animation). He fetishized East Asian women (I hate the idea of racial/ethnic fetishes- shudder!), and dumped me for a Korean girl, hoping she would be “submissive.” Glad that relationship didn’t survive! I looked him up on facebook, and found him overweight with long, greasy brown hair to his waist, working in IT.
In 2003, I proudly served as my school newspaper’s features editor, and applied to colleges, a mess of anxiety. I was accepted early decision into Sarah Lawrence, and felt more dread than excitement about university life. In 2004, I finished up my freshman year in a difficult semester, full of drama and disappointment. I joined facebook– back when just a few universities could participate! That summer, I interned at the Anti-Violence Project, and was fired from IHOP for being a shitty waitress. I handed out copies of my poetry chapbook to my office coworkers.
In 2005, I took economics, history, and had a difficult summer at home. The following year, in 2006, I spent the summer interning at the U.N. I lived in the Columbia dorms (hey- where Barack Obama went to college! yay), and hung out with my friends who lived nearby in International house. In 2007, I traveled to Uganda and Rwanda for the first time for a study abroad program with Makerere University, living with Ugandan host families in Kampala (Kanyanya) and Busia. My life has never been the same since then.
That fall, I began my master’s in journalism. While I had been in Uganda, I debated whether to go into international relations, development studies or journalism after getting accepted into three different master’s programs. My heart was in journalism, so for better or worse (I didn’t realize the extent of problems in the industry), I began my new, exciting life at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism– community board meetings in Queens, living at International House with Adeola, Nadia, and other amazing friends, and (not) doing ballroom dancing or salsa (I have two left feet, to put it mildly!).
Through CUNY, I got a grant from the Knight Foundation to intern at New Vision, and ended up going back to the English daily to work after graduation. I also got a grant from CUNY to start my Ugandans Abroad website and Africa Connections company, which launched at the end of November.
I have no idea what the next decade will bring. Journalism? Marriage? East Africa? New York? Someplace entirely new? Children?
God, I am staying tuned… please love and protect me in these years ahead.
Surround me in your love, and help me to grow as a person, writer, journalist, daughter and friend.