When you bury someone from abroad

funeral flowersAn article by Nora Fakim in the Guardian newspaper a few days back carried an article as  ‘Why Africans in the UK pay so much to send relatives’ bodies home’ – “home” defined as being in a given country on the African continent.
This article struck a chord primarily because I happen to be of African ancestry/origin and have experienced some of what was raised in the article. I also believe I stand to experience more if not similar occurrences of these in the coming future of my residence outside of Africa.  After witnessing the often distressing scenarios where relatives back home have sold off ancestral burial grounds or constantly make financial demands towards various funeral rites, most persons I’ve come across have all but resigned themselves to being cremated or buried here in the UK.
My first experience of having to deal with returning a deceased relative back home was in 2008. My paternal aunt and adoptive mother had passed away after years of residing out of Uganda for over 30years. Without a written Will stipulating what she wanted, it fell on me and my siblings in the UK to ascertain from her religious affiliates what she would have wanted done pertaining to her burial, alongside that of our elders and her living siblings back in Uganda. Her religious affiliates were very clear, she didn’t mind her body being cremated and ashes scattered in a chosen garden or her remains returned to her ancestral home.
We opted to go with the latter given the insistence of our father, who was the brother to the deceased. However in so doing, the financial aspect of organising for all this fell upon us here in the UK. Fortunately, my adoptive mother had life insurance and honest religious affiliates in the likes who assisted us in overseeing all that was necessary to get her remains returned to Uganda without the need to seek or mobilise fundraising requests from the Ugandan community in the diaspora etc.

 

The one aspect I find contradictory to the argument for returning our deceased to the African continent irrespective of whichever genesis of reasoning comes down to economics which more often than not, falls on those in the diaspora to fund-raise. Namely, the cost of returning the remains of the deceased, the burial costs and the maintenance of the grave. Most often, all this is expected to be undertaken by the person(s) in the diaspora.

There are factors that need to be weighed by all. Those in the diaspora need to hold frank conversations amongst themselves, companions, relatives or families; over what they would want to see take place in case of their deaths. Persons need to be proactive in setting a plan of action that is transparent instead of opting to push their Will in a shroud of secrecy or cultural/religious dogma. There’s often a taboo about discussing their Will I’ve found when the subject has been raised.

There is no one rule fits all. Options need to be explored by diasporans especially if they’ve been in paid legal employ during their years of residence abroad.

The options to look into; 1.) Life insurance: – that can help towards returning a deceased back home and which persons can pay a regular contribution towards in the course of their residence in the UK.

2.) The cost of a plot of burial in the UK which can range from anything like £3,000.  Such information is readily accessible with such co-operatives like http://www.co-operativefuneralcare.co.uk/arranging-a-funeral/immediate-concerns/paying-for-a-funeral/?gclid=Cj0KEQiAno60BRDt89rAh7qt-4wBEiQASes2tRl6uJDOtL8nP9JEPF45mabvc29O4Hd-dXhhmVcv-cgaAgPj8P8HAQ

Not for the love of water alone

John Legend heads under water

It appears to cost nothing to pause…and breathe. Yet it can be the most challenging action for most of us to take especially in times of emotional and physical conflict.  The pausing to breathe I am talking about isn’t that experienced by an asthmatic or anyone with compromised breathing. It is the breathing of a being not compromised, be that human or not.

Pausing, gives one time to re-align themselves and focus on what is truly the most pressing or urgent priority to the given situation they find themselves in. Not only does breathing provide your body with necessary oxygen, but it also rids the body of waste like carbon dioxide.   When conflict threatens to invade our space, our ability to protect ourselves often becomes at odds with our ability to remember to breathe properly.  What often ensue are harsh words or actions to deflect any perceived threat.

Not long back now my mother’s habit over water came to make sense.  Whilst most of us reach for our mobile phones as escorts to everywhere we go, for my mother a full bottle of water has been her companion.  She will make sure her drinking water bottle is filled up at every given opportunity irrespective of seasons of the year.

A water bottle - mum's constant companion

A water bottle – mum’s modern ‘gourd’

Initially it concerned me, thinking she might have an underlying medical condition that made her feel thirsty so I took to running all sorts of tests to rule out everything and anything my inquisitive mind could think of until I was satisfied there was nothing to remain concerned about medically.  I just accepted she loved her water. At least that was what I thought until realisation set in.

calabash/gourd

A small version of this gourd/calabash was used not only for water but sometimes local brew

How I came to finding out why this habit of carrying a water bottle had become such a defining factor to my mother’s way of living was actually by accident whilst listening to a song Buladina by a well-known Kadongo kamu artist – Paul Kafeero.  Now in this song among much advice, the father advises his daughter on how to avoid being quarrelsome or how to remain calm by way of sipping on water which she should always keep in a small gourd (ensumbi y’amazzi) by her side.

This song along with having observed my mother’s relationship with her ‘drinking-water bottle companion’ is what brought me to the realisation of the benefits of remembering to breathe so as to avoid not only physical and emotional conflict, but to stay healthy.

Taking a sip of water aids in forcing me physically to pause and breathe…whereby I avoid saying or carrying out impulsive actions in a reactionary fit.

Being thankful…even in times of challenges

Nature-Holiday-Uganda-Murchison-FallsI’ve been living in a sort of chaotic haze the last couple of weeks.  Becoming a grandparent of two by my two daughters in a space of four days had left me in sort of a suspended limbo operating on auto-pilot going from one emergency to the next. It sort of brought back memories of my nursing days in trauma care. The beautiful blessing that they are, has only unraveled as the haze clears.  Challenging and difficult as this new phase of my life is, I am very thankful.

Only a couple of hours ago, I learnt of the death of young Elizabeth Nyanzi in the prime of her years – almost similar in age to my eldest daughter. I cannot even begin to imagine the emotions the parents are going through right now.  I never knew the family personally, but I was very close friends with the cousin to the family.  I pray for them all…

It is ironic that the topic of death seems to intertwine with life at almost every turn.  My father was reported to have died on the 4th of July.  I say this because as with most information about my father, one cannot be too certain of what is fact and for peace of mind one learns to accept whatever is said.

His death had not come as a surprise.  It was inevitable when one takes in to account the complexities involved.  What was surprising was the animosity of his co-wife in holding all of us (by this I mean my siblings and extended paternal family members) to financial ransom initially at  £5,000 refusing to release our late father’s body for burial and threats of killing any who dared intervene with her plans. Ironically she had not been so vocal against us when a month prior to dad’s death she had accepted our financial assistance to get dad admitted for medical intervention.   She pulled this off whilst parading armed guards and some other female claiming to be working in the President’s office and a royal princess who now miraculously claims to be a relative of ours! One really wonders how each and every domestic issue nowadays in Uganda somehow ends up involving the President or some chief judge officials.

For someone (co-wife) who claimed to be so much concerned about dad’s health, keeping him at home even when his deteriorated physical appearance alone dictated otherwise, seemed her only plan.  It had only been on the off-chance of us requesting one of our nephews to go check on dad that we learnt of his condition. Intriguing that with older siblings and children on ground in Uganda, she hadn’t felt it necessary to inform anyone of dad’s condition.

The chosen family

The chosen family

After two weeks had passed upon dad dying, possibly when the co-wife and this “newfound grand-daughter princess, Bwanga Flavia Namirembe” plans of getting as much cash from the Ugandan President had come to fruition did they declare the funeral of our father.  Interestingly these two persons saw fit not only to use the death of my siblings that had once served in the NRMO army under the current President as leverage for a ‘cash pay-out’, but also to return the body to grounds that are kept and looked after by the very persons they had initially excluded from all funeral processions.  The fact of using my deceased brothers is my main bone of contention.

We (my siblings) have been handling and burying all of our loved ones including one of the brothers (Capt. David Kato – RIP) used in this leverage without so much as a penny from the President or State in past funerals. So burying our father didn’t require us knocking on the President’s door for financial support unless of course those involved had their own ulterior motives.

My mother who now resides in UK went through a lot of during her course of marriage to our father but fortunately she is not a bitter person by nature and is far well-brought up to lower herself to such.  These two women using mum’s dead sons as leverage for material gain without so much acknowledging her role pissed me off big time. To add insult to injury is their continued death threats to her remaining children in Uganda.

Uganda is a very interesting country where persons can fraudulently fabricate and photoshop themselves on to families that they have no blood kinship – and this appears to be sanctioned by persons from even high up in her judiciary and governance.  It is indeed the case that ghost employees don’t stop in government offices or rigging, but in many areas of Ugandan life.

I am thankful that after such a tumultuous month of July that saw us bidding our father his final farewell; my two daughters have given birth to sons who could almost pass for twins – whereby the re-birth that were my dad and the twin brother I never knew. In this new phase, I appreciate and embrace the new beginning.  In the ruins, there’s always gems.

I hope you are at peace dad – I wished you well in all.

Dreaming of nsenene… and it’s not pretty

800px-Ruspolia_nitidula02

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!

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

Transit is no-man’s land without a passport

Our driver to Entebbe airport was right on time and as it was an early morning flight, the journey was pretty much straight forward as there was hardly any traffic which Kampala roads are famous for, apart from the mad road etiquette. Hoping that my bouts of fever and visits to the toilet were not going to give cause for concern necessitating a delay to our departure, I took another swig of the herbal medicine hoping I’d finish the whole bottle before boarding given all the excitement that surrounded carrying liquids on board..made a mental note to check on it as the cap didn’t close properly, which meant I’d have a mess in my bag…

Checking that my stash of medicine in my clutch bag was still intact after the heavy dosing I was taking, I relaxed in the knowledge that my partner was on hand to take care of all that what was needed. 🙂 These are some of the perks to having a caring partner or traveling with someone that cared… The medication was a herbal mixture my nephew had obtained for me in a small bottle – it must have been good – I couldn’t feel much and soon most of the symptoms I’d had prior to taking it disappeared, replaced by sleep which was so seductive.

Part of the check-in process was somewhat of a blur but somehow, made it through to the boarding area.  Looking forward to spending the remaining cash in duty free at Istanbul in transit, I checked my clutch bag which held my passport and wallet before blissfully falling asleep for the 6hr flight. Whatever was in that herbal mix I was just grateful that it did the job of keeping me “together” as opposed to becoming quite familiar with the toilet or the paper bag.  Made a note to ask partner why it was that luggage tickets always got placed on my passport but sleep must have won…

Given the great discomfort in the outbound journey with Turkish airlines from London coming to Entebbe, I cannot claim to have felt anything on this first leg of the return journey to London other than welcomed sleep that hadn’t been effected from overdosing on in-flight alcohol.  Mind you, it was still a case of little leg room and putting up with families that had to carry babies on their laps…Glad that I was ‘out of it’ for the greater part as the hostesses were not all that happy either. There was this old man who had two girls lapping up everything he did and another one who opted to move seats to where I was to apparently give the couple with the little baby some room to spread out…Yeap. The herbal mix was definitely worth it.  The announcement that we get ready to land was a welcomed reminder.  I needed the bathroom to sort out my frazzled appearance after sleeping through.

Istanbul airport is an intriguing airport…reminds me somewhat in part of Portobello market.  However this romantic vision soon came to a halt when while standing in line to have my documents checked I find I don’t have my passport on me.  That’s when the any drug-induced haze evaporated…because that was the unraveling of a traumatic twelve hours of my life spent at Instanbul in transit before boarding a plane back to Entebbe. It was the time when I learnt that simply being a British citizien held no water for the British consulate in Turkey who were unprepared to come to the transit area. It was the realisation that I had become a person of no nation/land that awoke my senses.  This was no movie! This was a living nightmare and I was an unwilling participant.

It was then that I appreciated my motherland Uganda, that irrespective that I had become adopted by Britain, Uganda would still welcome me back and assist me in sorting all that was needed to carry on my return journey to London. That the immigration officers at Entebbe airport were more humane to the traumatic experience as opposed to the Turkish airlines officials who had left us to make the necessary and expensive communication to the British Consulate officials etc.  It was also the realisation that being honest in accounting of events did not get you any where but instead complicated matters, hence the brown envelopes which thrive so well.

Not being antisocial, they just have differing priorities

Been meaning to write about this for some time now.  I have literally had to put sleep on hold so that I could do this right now as opposed to putting it off yet again.  In case I make any typos, the excuse is already given.  I’m writing this under the influence of sleep.

I am wondering how many persons out there have had to deal with being referred to as being antisocial, sometimes even resulting in to them losing out on being considered for a promotion or even a post deserving of their skills and abilities in relation to their job. This can only be comparable to situations where persons, usually women, complained about being passed over for jobs or promotions simply because those in charge of consideration of such promotions or allocation, often belong to gentlemen’s clubs such as  golf, where females (unless they are of  service or the entertainment variety) do not partake.

A recent observation brought this practice to mind.  Most work places hold what they term – social gatherings, mostly on Fridays when salaries have been paid.  This entails employees along with senior persons or employers congregating at some chosen venue – usually a drinking hole/pub.  It is meant to be a social gathering encouraging work persons to socialise.  I have absolutely no qualms about such and if I were to bring up my file from younger years, I’d probably rate as one of those pioneers to such gatherings.  Mind you, in my younger working years, any social gathering was welcomed with open arms.

Thing is, some persons priorities to such gatherings with work colleagues can differ.  There are persons to who their work or job defines all that they are about such that everything they breathe and live is interwoven with their job/work.  This is admirable – especially if it gives the person practicing it, joy.  It does not however translate that everyone feels the same. For most persons, they work at a job simply to pay the bills or keep the bailiffs at bay!

On a serious note however, it does cross boundaries of disrespect when persons who define their lives in accordance to their job or work; expect everyone else in their employ or working environment to mirror their passion or zeal.  Writing off fellow colleagues or workers as being anti-social simply because they will not hang out with you at a social event and to later use this as reason for not hiring or promoting them to reflect their skills, I think is just plain petty and stupid.  Their inability to join you in to these social situations may just be down to their personal priorities outside of work requirements.

Just as you don’t have time to take in to account their personal situation, you don’t have a right to dictating how they should spend the time when not contracted to be working with you or for you.  Perhaps if these social events were clearly defined as being work related and paid for accordingly, then clarity from the onset should be done and observed.

Work colleagues or employees have differing domestic and cultural settings.  These factor in how they priorities their time, when out of working hours.  So keep in mind, just because a fellow colleague cannot join in with everyone every other Friday of the month down at the pub, it does not translate that they are antisocial. They simply have differing priorities for their time in relation to yours.