Politics…

gumybears and unicornsThis word politics conjures up a variety of emotions and reactions from us all mostly guided from past and present experience and perceptions with persons, rules or laws you have interacted with. On the whole, it will boil down to where you are geographically on planet earth and your exposure to the workings of us humans.

For instance you give an opinion over something in governance in some countries in Africa – and immediately you are perceived by most to be an aspiring politician! At worst you are seen as a threat to the sitting president, MP or local council official, who in turn will try and find a way of eliminating you – even say you are a terrorist for daring to mess with the order of play! This word politics is not easy my friend.

The word politics in itself is quite varied and can have a variety of meanings to differing persons.  Some, including myself, might define politics to simply being a combination of many little lies of coercion, with the aim of manipulating to attain a given aim or goal

However, I will go with this definition if only to keep those waiting in the wings to sign me off to the loony bin: Politics, in the broadest sense, is the activity through which people make, preserve and amend the general rules under which they live. Mansoor Maitah

However. As with everything in life, nothing is as ever black or white. Grey areas exist and you are probably wondering what politics has got to do with my ramblings today.  Those concerned I’m about to rant on about the main political parties here in the UK, relax!! Far from it. Those guys have their own platforms and media to put anyone attempting such a fit to shame.

You see the other day I was sharing a coffee with a colleague. She had been threatening to leave her present employ for quite some months now as she felt unsupported by those managing her. This time around she was voicing the same sentiments. She had requested to be paid in money her annual leave that she didn’t want to take but been denied this by her line manager. (In effect she was seeking to be paid double for the period she worked during what should have been her annual leave). In return she’d escalated this up to the next Manager who it soon became clear wasn’t going to back down from the decision made by the first manager.  Now my colleague’s annoyance over being denied her request was compounded by two major issues she voiced that struck a chord in me.

  1. She thought the line manager was way younger than her and as such felt he was ill-placed to be telling her she had to use up her annual leave or lose it.
  2. The previous line manager had allowed my colleague this request the past year – so she felt she had a right to it.

The first issue resonated with me because once upon a time in my mid 20’s, I’d risen up the ranks of managing persons who were older than me. My age and the speed my promotion had come at seemed to irk plenty of my older colleagues and they often showed their “discomfort” over this in how they opted to refuse to carry out tasks asked of them – even when I gave them full professional respect when engaging them to do so. It wasn’t long before I started seeing the camaraderie which once was when I had just started with them disappear and in place, often undisguised dislike.  For some it was my position, others it was my race, but mostly it was my age that seemed to attract so much conflict.

The second issue made me recall the sort of working relationships employees and employers weave – a sort of ‘I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine’ whereby it is not written anywhere but is at the discretion of those directly involved. Now discretionary acts I have often found add human elements when assessing and dealing with fellow beings. However as with gentleman’s agreements, it calls for the ones exercising discretion to be on a similar wave length. If you have a manager with whom your personalities clash or who is unable to exercise professionalism over work matters, getting a discretionary ruling on anything might be stretching it too far.

Over time in various employs ranging from nursing right through to medical secretarial then management, I’d learnt that there was always a form of politics with fellow colleagues which one had to keep in mind that didn’t get written into job descriptions. I also learned to respect positions of all personnel be them under my management or above – they simply were doing roles they were employed to do for the betterment of the whole company or institution. Office politics are usually to do with persons vying to protect their space/job in a given employ and some will go to varying lengths in acts to do that.  The trick is being able to decipher how persons play or get played.

So now when I have young students or managers coming with all the confidence of a young spirit, I simply appreciate that I still have some role in the bigger frame of their dreams. I don’t see them as competitors but merely as young trees to carry forth the baton.  Where needed or asked, I will offer my thoughts/input. I respect their zeal and youth and hope that they in return do same for my seniority of the knowledge archived.

Dreaming of nsenene… and it’s not pretty

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Ruspolia_nitidula – Edible Ugandan (nsenene) grass hopper

This preoccupation with nsenene is surely not healthy for me. Most of us have weird dreams once upon a time in our subconscious times of sleep. Some we put down to what we are troubled by or thinking about over the course of our supposedly conscious daily activities.  I  mean  how many of us can raise our hands to dreams of teeth falling out of mouth like corn or maize from a cob?

Well, I figured it best to write this intriguingly crazy dream I had last night before today’s events took over my mind.

Nsenene-after-thier-wings-and-legs-have-been-plucked-off-ready-to-be-fried

Nsenene after thier wings and legs have been plucked off. Ready to be seasoned and/or fried accordingly.

There was me visiting a couple and their kids who were friends of mine  in this dream.  I say this because in the real world I don’t even know these people!  They had adorable children – or at least I think they were adorable – see dreams can be so deceitful as when I try to recall, I can’t even remember what these kids looked like but I know in the dream they appeared to be. It started off congenial as one normally finds visits go, all of us sat around the lounge sharing titbits, husband moving off to busy himself with stuff away from us ladies and leaving me and the sister to yap about whatever seemed to gather interest. Then the sister left to go prepare something in the kitchen and I was left with the kids to entertain me.

fried nsenene

Fried nsenene

As I am playing with the kids, I spot some flying insects and I make a go at grabbing one. To my amazement I recognise these to be nsenene and shout out to the kids to help me collect them. They jovially join in the chase. After about what appears to be 10mins (dreamtime) I realise the nsenene are increasing in swam, there are starting to cover the whole lounge, so call out to the sister to come give us a hand. But the kids stop me doing this saying their mom’s clan is of nsenene and in any case, their dad brought back loads of it from his recent trip to Uganda which is in the freezer.

This is when my dream brain kicks in asking why in the hell then I’m I running around collecting these things in their lounge and where in the hell are they swarming from?

This is where the dream plays a nasty trick on me…and I wasn’t even watchin horror movies in the days prior or last night! No sooner has the question of where are they coming from than I start to feel something crawling up my legs. Looking down, I see its nsenene crawling out of my back passage!  This is so gross!! The kids are laughing at me and I’m embarrassed not to say the least!  As I’m looking around to make my escape the kids parents reappear to say dinner is about to be served and btw, they have some nsenene they would like me to have take away.  Now if I ever see nsenene again, it will be too soon. This was a nightmare to exorcise my obsession with these things!

Dying to cook something to eat

17th edition split load consumer unitYesterday I almost got electrocuted by a beside lamp I had just relocated from another room in to my freshly painted and furbished bedroom.  The crystal candles had passed the induction, now I wanted to have the warm ambiance of the bedside mushroom lamp to meditate as I whirled away the aches of the weekend DIY.  Fortunately the installed circuit breaker is quite efficient. The sparks and noise before the supply cut out was all that told me something wasn’t quite right. Thing is, even as I made to reset the circuit breaker and returned to remove the plug from the socket; a repeat of the cut out played out. Which again seemed odd.

I put the whole lamp out of the way and waited for the morning when I could get a clear look at the plug and lamp.

Thing is, this business of electricity in my home has been treating me to quite a few strange happenings.  About 3 weeks back I kept getting electrocuted in the bathroom, especially whilst using the shower or touching the window pane to use anything on it or place anything on it. I worked out it was because the string to the fan extractor had broken a while back while the extractor was still on. I’d not thought anything of it and instead just switched it off from the mains outside the bathroom until I could get an electrician out to repair the broken string. Given we planned to do some DIY around the whole house, I’d hoped to do this when I got to doing the bathroom..  But this episodes of electric shocks made me call in an appointment sooner.

However, I figured out it was because of condensation building up in the extractor fan when it wasn’t switched on that was causing the electric shocks to occur – especially as the fan was on the same side as the window of the bathroom.  So that mystery was solved – no more electric shocks whilst showering.

Then the fluorescent tube light in the kitchen decided it’d had enough and needed to rest in peace! Getting a replacement has proved to be something of an obstacle challenge though and I was getting quite adept at cooking by candle light until a trip to Halfords got me a lantern.  The lantern is cranky though. It charges on speed-dial and after 5mins it requests to lie down and recharge. If anything, I’ve become very adept at cooking 5 minute meals on the gas hob.

Antique_and_Vintage_Table_Lamps

I return back to the lamp in my bedroom of which I hold quite fond memories as it was one of the items of my late aunt Margaret. My partner took the plug aside after he had patiently listened to my near-miss at burning the house down.  When he opened the plug, he pointed to where the fault was..

Somewhere somehow in the lamp’s history, someone had installed a copper wire on the fuse to act as a fuse. Please don’t ask me why as I’m as baffled as to why one would do this given the cost of fuses is not that much or expensive. I asked my partner why anybody would do something so dangerously risky especially as this lamp was previously owned by an elderly person?!  Surely this could have caused a fire if the place the lamp was in didn’t have a circuit breaker etc to pick up the fault.

The discovery of this copper wire being used as a bridge for a fuse in a plug led to conversations of fires in school dormitories in Uganda.  Stories of how students, due to hunger, would resort to makeshift heating devices such as using mattress spring rods, wires, bypassing fuses of the mains, to avail them cooking devices to heat or cook all sorts. The stories of using makeshift devices with hindsight are quite incredulous though at the time, these were normal occurrences among students who literally were dying to cook something to eat by any means feasible to them.

Sadly I suspect, it is most certainly such makeshift cooking devices using electricity in school dormitories that could explain the tragic and fatal fires that resulted in so many students losing their lives and not necessary a result of criminal arson as is always thought.

As I get more joy doing DIY around my home, I am becoming all the more aware and appreciative of the importance of having a circuit breaker in the home.  Knowing the pattern of your home’s wiring circuits and how your electrical service panel is organized can be a big help when a circuit breaker trips ..Perhaps if this critical area of planning for a building was given attention, a lot of students lives would have been saved

.electrical_circuit_mapping

A lesson from a source unexpected

Sunset Gold and Blue

A week back an occurrence took place to someone close to me while out with his young son.  Whilst walking past a local park, his son had spotted a group of 5 Asian children, similar in age, playing football.  Being a keen and enthusiastic football player my friend’s little boy had asked his permission to check out with the group of boys to see if they could allow him to join them and play. On consenting to this, he’d walked over to the group and asked them if they’d mind him joining them.  One of the boys from the group who appeared slightly older told him to hold off first whilst he checked with the rest of the group first.  The group appeared to go in to a sort of a secret ballot over this request before one of them returned and told him they’d decided not to have have him join in with them.  To this response, my friend’s little boy nodded his acceptance of their decision and thanked them anyway before walking away to rejoin his dad.

You might be wondering why this episode had a profound effect on my friend, the dad of this little boy.  It made him reflect how effortlessly his son in his innocence had simply accepted the decision of the other little ones not to have him join them in play. He didn’t push to be accepted nor complain that they’d turned him down. He simply accepted.

Well. Usually as adults especially, when we are met with rejection, the immediate reaction is often anger and the need to voice what we see as an injustice done to us by the other person(s).  In this instance, one might even have taken the rejection to be based along the lines of racial prejudice.  And the reasons for the other person(s) rejection might just as well be down to prejudice. Or in the situation of these little Asians boys, that they were about to pack up and leave the park.

Most of the times, I believe that rejection is simply a state of the mind of the individual(s) in that given moment and not in any way connected subjectively to the individual being rejected.  Even so, I like to believe that the rejection in one area is opening me up to be accessible to other areas that I need in that given moment. It is to my best mental health to hold that view than to allow negativity to fester in me.

My friend’s son revived that lesson of acceptance. When one accepts a situation, they remove the weight of evoked anger, whilst they over analyse and stress the motives of an issue. They don’t necessary agree with the act or decision, they simply accept it is not their call to get worked up over it.

vegetation-savanne-afrika

In a chronic state of mourning

flower18News of a celebrity mother in Uganda losing her only son to asthma yesterday morning came on the fresh heels of another celebrity losing her grandchild to a road traffic accident involving a boda-boda.  However this was not the end of such tragic and unnecessary loss of lives to be reported out of the country to come about as a result of inability by citizens to address the causes and take on a proactive approach to limit such occurrences from staying as normality.

What strikes me in this tragic end to a life so young is the issue of a child having to be flown from Uganda to the neighbouring country, Kenya, to seek medical attention for a medical condition such as asthma or complications arising from poor management of this chronic ailment.  Unless there were already pre-existing medical conditions and for which this child was under a specialist(s) care in Kenya, I am left wondering what this has to say for the paediatric care of chronic medical conditions within Uganda in general for persons who can ill-afford being flown out of the country.

At what point will persons/citizens that are educated, financially well-off and/or powerful politically; be able to wake up to investing in the domestic healthcare such that they don’t need to fly out their loved ones abroad for treatment?  With the outpouring of cash donations in condolences, perhaps it is time to revise what such donations could be worth spent on with the aim of long term and sustainable benefit for many.

The issue of poor delivery of healthcare has been lamented on for years albeit some individuals have privately tried to address this and recently more so the funds coming in from WHO will address aspects of this.  The challenge remains three-fold; from the mentality of those that end up requiring the services, those that are employed or tasked to deliver, coupled with insincerity of government political will to regulate this sector transparently at both local and national levels.

We have hospitals (Uganda) built from our colonial past that are not fit for purpose, in deplorable conditions both for those carrying out care management and for those being admitted to receive care. It is true there are building new health centres but the problem of salaries and missing medication that should be given at nominal costs keeps rearing its ugly head…however this is development that keeps my spirits up.

It is definitely to be commended that there are young persons like Esther and Sheila on ground in Kampala who are taking to being proactive in doing what they can to bring about positive change.    Perhaps these actions can be emulated elsewhere in the country by other communities.

Even in developed countries, communities/individuals/private organisations carry out fundraising activities to support local and foreign charities.  Donations do not necessary have to be in monetary terms – volunteers can offer their skills and times to clean up or assist target areas where needed.

The issue of the road traffic accidents and the ensuing loss of lives or injuries sustained is one I’ve had to hand over to the gods!  For they alone can take pity and remove whatever is clogging the minds of every person who assumes they have right of way and urgency to reach their destination by any means necessary whenever they get inside a vehicle or any kind, and hit speeds only rockets vie for.

This complacency in accepting poor practice and relinquishing responsibility over our own contribution to what sustains such unacceptable practice needs to stop…like yesterday.

The struggle of fundraising in black or African communities

Two weeks back I came across a lady who posted in a UK-based black on-line social community on Facebook seeking to have sponsorship and or support from fellow black persons, in her drive towards the Sickle Cell Society-UK.sicklecell

Now this online social network group on Facebook which I recently joined, currently has about ~16,000 members who I do believe are actively involved in receiving notifications of all that is posted. It is a group after all that you request to join and not at all just open for the global public.  So I am assuming that all members have at some point before being added have wanted to be added with the overall aim of furthering development, support, education etc,  among the black community here in the UK.

The current numbers within this group total ~ 16,000.  You would have thought or hoped that given a cause such as Sickle cell sponsorship or support  would have provoked this amount of membership to respond to.

sickle-cell

Sickle cell anaemia/disease or trait is after-all synonymous within us all the black people irrespective of where you happen to be born on planet earth.  When you do the calculations from the the 16k membership, and with the minimum contribution of each member of £5, based on everyone donating the minimum of £5 you would have had over £81,300 towards this sickle cell charity which this lady would have worked positively for this lady ; and that’s at the bottom end of the scale.  It is embarrassing  that out of the membership numbers, only a couple of persons (~3) responded to the call.

It certainly could be the case that such social networks groups have differing objectives hence why such call outs for practical call out for such redress are not positively responded to.

The reason why I was one of the persons that responded to this call out for support is partly down to past experience. About three years back Ida Horner, a friend of mine in Surrey had set up a social enterprise charity through a belief that persons needed to be assisted with help to enable themselves to help themselves reach their potential as opposed to the usual route of charity. I’d believed in Ida’s ideology and still do, but soon found that the challenge was to get the Ugandan diaspora community to get on board.  Various fundraising ventures were put in place, advertised etc, but still when it came to the realisation of these ventures to raise the much needed funds, we fell short of expectation. The community we were calling upon to give support or involve, just didn’t appear interested.  The realisation came to be that the persons who heeded our call to support were completely out of the social or  community of target.  This has been a recurring pattern on so many occasions that in the end we ceased to even bother or try to reach out within the target community for support.  The conflicting irony is that the black community upon seeing that the supporting persons are from the non-black community, react negatively and with suspicion.

Check the situation with Jazz music and performers or unique ethnic artists and you might begin to see…the audience that supports such artists is predominantly not from the black communities.  Believe me, I have attended the some the shows in the South Bank during seasons when African artists are given a platform.

I work within both the NHS and academic or research sectors of UK’s institutions and have observed what the impact of Sickle cell anemia-1 copy_detailSickle cell anaemia or disease has had on the black community in relation to treatment, management, research and funding. In addition, I have also observed cousins back in Uganda that have been fatally affected by sickle cell disease.  Thus the call this lady made was of interest to me on two great and important fronts.

I fully understood the daunting or challenging task she faced having experienced similar in past fundraising ventures.

In all this observation, I am left with  questions:-

Why is it so difficult or challenging within the black community/communities to enable, or encourage us black people to support persons who put themselves forward to raise funds that will give redress to finding solutions or management of ailments?

What can be  done to get the black community to participate in a proactive manner towards resolution of  issues that directly affect us all without coming across as politically motivated?

 

 

The alternative voluntary job

parenting1Having recently discovered Viber I got chatting to a friend from Uganda who put me to task about my blog page that appears to have gone rather silent. It wasn’t for lack of topics to blog about, the real reason was down to my restlessness and poor practice in using my time.

To kick-start off my blog I’ve been asked to give my take on parenting. First of all, this is one definition on what parenting is about…

Good parenting happens when a person creates for a child a stable, nurturing home environment, is a positive role model, and plays a positive and active part in a child’s life. Good parents provide moral and spiritual guidance, set limits, and provide consequences for a child’s behaviour. Good parents accept responsibility for the total development of the child and guide the child in making sound, healthy, life decisions through open communication and mutual respect. – US systems policy, 2002

Most people think that a good parent is someone who has “good” kids. The truth is, however, that good parents can have any kind of kids and for the worst part not at all reflecting their goodness, but rather the genetic character of the child. What parents can claim credit or blame for, however, is their own behaviour.392683_10150447486643558_228102923557_8866395_670180841_n

Parents can do a good or poor job of parenting: socializing and educating their kids and providing a healthy model for them to emulate but whether or not the character of their child/children opts to emulate is an entirely different matter. In my native language of Luganda there is a saying which loosely translates, “we [mothers] give birth to the body but not personality”…tuzaala mubiri so si mwoyo.

Whilst definitions of parenting get isolated in to “good/bad/poor”, I am not keen on the use of ‘good parenting’; instead I opt to say positive parenting practice. Reason being: seeking to add what is positive or focusing on the positives in all situations adds motivation both to the one practicing the parenting and the one being parented.

Parenting style and family factors

The approach to parenting differs dependent on personality, character and existing family factors. It can also be compounded by cultural and/or religious beliefs and practices.

Whilst I have been accorded some beautiful compliments over how well my daughters are maturing in to young ladies, I do not accept the credit is all down to my parenting alone as a single mother/parent over the years. This was before I met my current partner of the last five years and hopefully one to spend my old age with. My partner has actually accentuated my parenting role.

A whole system of support way back from birth not least their genetic makeup has played and still is playing a part in how these young people are maturing in to as adults. Verna Springer, a friend, mentor, sister from another ‘mother’, midwife being  one of many!

Overall and in effect I owe my parenting skills to my late aunt who nurtured me to become the person I grew in to. Authoritarian and stern, but effective.

My older brother ‘Uncle Beno’ has been a pillar of support since I can remember, taking on the role of a male figure during the girl’s formative years and still does to this day. This is not to say the girls’ father was absent physically from their lives.  He was…at least until they were teens. Enabling the girls to grow up balanced was more important than indulging my revenge for the adult issues that existed between me and their father.

Mind you, divorce or separation where children are involved does have an impact on all concerned and this is where parenting skills can truly be challenged. This and the teenage years are the critical periods of parenting  where I’ve been advocating for parental support from the social system here in the UK.

When parents separate or divorce, it is imperative to support the children to not take the burden of the issues the adults have between them.  When the affected parent(s) are hurting it is sometimes very difficult for the characters/personalities involved to put the interests of the children foremost.  Hence why it is imperative for social systems to give this area redress and support.

Comparisons

Nostalgia allowing and if I am to compare the brief childhood time spent in Uganda, parenting was a practical and community affair entailing physical care and practical education. The business of psychological or emotional care was predominantly the preserve of grand parents – assuming the grandparents had welcomed your mother! If not, well you just forewent the luxury of wallowing in a grandparent’s dotting and instead faced up to reality early.

Everyone older than you was a parent and could even discipline you as they saw fit. A child belonged to the whole clan in which shared responsibility was expected. Note: I said nostalgia. I cannot vouch for what is taking place now.

These ends (UK) when you become a parent and find yourself to not have a supporting network of friends or extended family members, then I’m afraid you need to imagine yourself as someone that has just taken on flying a plane for the first time. I remember having to take my eldest daughter with me shopping for groceries 72hrs after she’d made entrance in to the world. It certainly wasn’t for wanting to show her off – I simply didn’t have anyone to leave her home with and Tesco hadn’t started doing home deliveries then! That’s another thing that comes to mind…it is rare to find new-born babies with their mothers shopping or in public places in Uganda. Give it time though…

Whilst reading up on parenting books may help, and hopefully if you’ve had exposure or even practice looking after other people’s children, the reality of you being in the driving seat can be overwhelming. And that’s only in the early part of parenting when the little bundle of joy has not yet learnt to assert his/her rights other than exercising the vocal chords and lungs.
It’s the teenage years that can make or break you as a parent when you alternate between losing the will to leave and wondering if somehow in your labour pangs you picked up the wrong child. Accepting I was the most hateful person and yelled at for refusing to agree to what was deemed to be cool became part and parcel of my teenage parenting drill. Remember I had this on rotation of 3 girls.

Teenage yearsP3

Teenage parenting is the period when you have to reach deep to use all your skills, both mental and physical as a parent to keep the communication open while remembering to remain mutually respective to your child. It is important to get in there first before external influence does it for you in exploiting their naivety. I remember my telepathy skills went up a notch monitoring what was spoken or not spoken, taking interest in friends made or dropped, then the sleepless nights when the rebellion phase hits. Repeating the mantra of focusing on their beautiful positive characters did save the day and my sanity.

P4In the process I also learnt that reacting to inappropriate behaviour made it worse resulting in the behaviour becoming an attention seeking method. Instead I would pay attention to appropriate behaviour by rewarding or praising it. I find as humans even in my working environment, praise or show of sincere appreciation wins big time in motivating people. As does genuine respect. of an individual’s input no matter how small in age or status/social standing  – well all need to feel appreciated and respected.  If I was practicing empathy, customer care skills, management etc at my workplace, why not put it to use on the most precious investment in my domestic setting?

Of course this is not to say or believe all at home was like Little House on the Prairie! In between I’d experience moments of wanting to send them to Uganda to be straightened out or until their hormones calmed down. I am aware some parents in the diaspora have taken this option, however this was not for me.  I’d remember that my role in their lives did not just extend to just the pleasurable aspects of their existence but in all stages of their growing up to hopefully become responsible persons.   Using that option would simply be passing on my inability to learn how to deal with the effects of their changes and instead giving that stage of their development to someone else. I guess  I like doing things the hard way!

Sending them off to boarding school like had been part of my earlier childhood was not an option and besides, boarding school fees here in UK unless your earnings are well over £40K, is not an option. I missed out on that boat soon as I had the 3rd child and was looking at a single parent income.

Conclusion

It is my belief that family therapy is vital in as much as parenting support to all of us parents especially when we lack any kind of extended family or community support. It gets parents to re-evaluate how they interact with each other as a family and seek solutions on how best to communicate taking in to account each other’s personalities and characters.  No one method fits all – parenting skills are an acquired skill on the job moulded to fit in accordance to the personalities, quirks or individual characters that make up a family unit. Open communication remains the key in all and sometimes this key can only become visible when family therapy or support is in place.

The experience has shown me the value of having taken a career break in the first 5yrs of my daughters lives. It put me in a better position to study and learn their characters and how best to communicate with them as individuals – something I wouldn’t have been able to perhaps do fully if I’d placed them with another person. It also made me realise why grandparents always seemed to know more about the characters of their grandchildren than the parents. However, this has been my experience and my journey.  It shouldn’t translate to be a template for everyone. but rather as a reference point on some issues that might come up during parenting.

I wish every parent the best and for them to enjoy the experience. I have.