She parked the car just at the edge of the forest. She sat in her car after turning the engine off, wondering if this was truly what she wanted to do. She remembered the conversation she had had with Tibi last night, his disappointment and frustration at her for the choice she was making.

“Why would you want to do this? What is so bad about our lives that you want to leave it all behind?” He screamed.

“Its not about it being bad, its about me wanting something good. I need a fresh start Tibi. I need to forget my past, it’s the only way I can move forward.” She said, trying to de-escalate the conversation.

“You mean me? You need to erase me from your memories so you can have the perfect life? That’s not how things work. You’re going to make the same mistakes, you’re going to end up right back here.”

“You don’t know that, and neither do I. I need to do this for me. If I end up back here then fine, but I still need to try.”

“Well I guess you’ve made your choice. Don’t wake me up in the morning.” He said as he stormed out of the living room and into the bedroom.

She took a deep breath, grabbed her bag and made her way out of the car. She entered into semi darkness as the trees covered most of the sun’s rays that had previously showered her face. She focused on the path as it led to one destination, the Morayman. She continued through the forest until she was hit with the smell of burnt offerings. She could smell the newly burnt flesh of whatever animal the Morayman had demanded for his last sacrifice. She slowed her step as she saw the hut in front of her.

She couldn’t believe that these still existed, remnants of the ancient world and the old order. She saw the red clay coloured triangular hut. She saw the roasters leisurely walking around the compound. She saw the herbs planted to the right of the hut. She slowly made her way to the front of the hut, wondering whether or not to enter the doorless entrance.

She entered the hut and was transported outside, except this was a different part of the forest, different from the one she had just left. She saw the Morayman in front of her, dancing the dance of the ancestors, already in the midst of the ceremony. She wondered if she was late or if she was interrupting someone else’s ceremony.

She slowly approached the Morayman and the Voice rang through her head bellowing “Sit!”.

She obeyed as the Morayman continued with his dance, as if oblivious to her presence.

“Welcome my daughter,” said the Voice, “the bank transaction has been cleared. We can begin your ceremony. How many years do you want erased from your life”?

“Just the year 2020” she said “that was when it all started.”

“Very well my daughter” said the Voice, “let us begin.”

Thank you for reading.

Kulika Omwaka

Today I learnt a new phrase in the Luganda language. Instead of saying “Happy New Years”, the Luganda speaking people say Kulika Omwaka, meaning “congratulations on surviving the last year”, and what an appropriate phrase it is for this year.

2020 was the year of collective trauma, a year of unfulfilled promises and cancelled plans. And if you are reading this, it is a year that you survived, so I say Kulika Omwaka.

Every year I usually write a list of resolutions/ goals that I plan on accomplishing. However, this new year’s day, I will do no such thing. Instead I will focus on surviving each day at a time and leave the rest to God.

So again, I say Kulika Omwaka.

Thank you for reading.

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

A few months ago, I asked a friend to recommend a book for me to read. However, the condition was that it could not be just any book, it had to be a book that changed her perspective and outlook, a book that made an impact. With that in mind, she recommended The Handmaid’s Tale.

The novel, written by Margaret Atwood, tells the story of a handmaid, Offred who is assigned to the Commander, so that she can produce a child for him and his wife Serena Joy. The couple, who I imagined to be in their 50s, are unable to have children, like most of the population, due to an overabundance of chemicals which have caused a reduction in fertility.

The idea of the handmaid’s tale came from the story of Leah and Rachel, the sister wives of Jacob (in the Bible). Rachel, seeing that her sister Leah had given birth to sons, whilst she remained childless, asked Jacob to take her handmaid instead, so that the child born of the handmaid could be her child. Both Leah and Rachel used their handmaids to produce children for their husband.

Reading The Handmaid’s Tale as my final book of 2020 was a great choice for me. The book, like 2020, is a world where everything changed from what we used to know in such a short period of time. Of course, I’m not comparing staying indoors due to a deadly virus to being a handmaid assigned to a man as a walking womb with no freedom, no relationships, and zero choice. However, the handmaid’s description of a world she no longer recognised felt familiar to me.

The novel is one of intrigue and anticipation, as we never know entirely what is going on as we see everything from the perspective of Offred. We see the new world through her eyes and only know what she knows. The reader is constantly left with unanswered questions as we, like Offred, do not know who to trust and who to be weary of.

I found the novel to be well written as I was fully immersed into this new world. Atwood does a brilliant job at navigating the reader through the different aspects of this new world. The novel follows the form of flashbacks as Offred takes us back through her memories of her life before, one where she was married with a child, one where she had a job, friends and freedom.

Offred’s character, although not revolutionary, participates in subversive behaviour as a form of rebellion against the regime. Through these small subversions, we are left anxious but overjoyed at the small bonds that she forms with others. We are excited for her little victories.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel, and I am looking forward to starting the sequel The Testaments in the new year. Especially since the sequel won the Booker Prize 2019 along with Girl, Woman, Other, as joint winners. I rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you for reading.

Semester One Update

Its the end of semester one of my PhD. It has been fun and sometimes stressful. From funding applications to contacting publishers for potential projects, it has been an amazing experience.

Top Three things I’ve enjoyed this semester:

  1. Being considered an expert (although prematurely) in a specific subject area. With my thesis question being an area that has not been explored before, it is exciting being known as the go to person for that specific topic. And its also great that so many people are excited about my thesis and the outcome of it (even though this can also be very daunting at times).
  2. Being able to read all the time and to read things I’m interested in and its all part of my future career. I love that I am actually doing things I love to do and all in the name of a PhD. Its been great growing my knowledge of my topic area.
  3. Making new friends (virtually). Although COVID has made it very difficult to network and connect with others, I have been able to gain small wins and was able to set up a film club with a small group of people. Here is to another semester of making friends awkwardly online.

Top Three things I’m looking forward to next semester:

  1. More reading. I cannot wait to start doing some reading again. I am officially giving myself a week away (next week) from my PhD and will be spending the last week of December focusing on non-reading PhD work, e.g. administrative tasks, so by next semester I’ll be ready to go back to my reading.
  2. Starting one of my thesis chapters. I have to write 10,000 words by June 30th, and I am so excited to begin. I love my topic and just wish that there were more hours in the day so I could read everything I need to read. I cannot wait to begin writing some of my thoughts on paper. I believe that my 365 Days of Writing challenge last year has prepared me for this. I’m so excited.
  3. Planning my research trips. Ideally, I will be spending some time in Africa next year as my thesis is on African Literature, although COVID might have different plans. I cannot wait!! I will hopefully be visiting a few African countries and spending a considerable amount of time there. I haven’t planned a trip since COVID started and I am itching to travel again.

Here’s to semester two being just as productive, less stressful and more new experiences and exciting opportunities.

Thank you for reading.