I started to write this while I waited for my flight back home, but then I got so emotional and I did not want to be the “African” girl crying at a European airport, so I closed my laptop and went to the Mac shop to try all the lipsticks, I knew I could not afford. Being at the European Development Days 2019 has been the highlight of my year so far. So much that the entire time I was in Brussels, it felt like I was living someone else’s life.
It would have been great enough if all I had to do, was attend but to be able to participate and speak is one of my proudest moments. The look on the face of the lady who gave me my speaker’s badge was of shock. As if my bomb hair was not indicative enough of the fact that I traveled to Europe to speak, she was surprised that I was picking up a speaker’s badge. In her defense I came through the participants’ queue because the security person at the entrance did not believe me when I said I would be speaking and I did not know enough French to start a protest. People really need to pay more attention to my hair.
Any ways on to the greats!
- Making it to Brussels and by making it I mean appeasing the visa gods and seeing that Schengen visa sticker in my passport. Best believe I took a picture for my entire family. We had hanged another medal from the Olympics of “traveling with a Ugandan passport”.
- Black women gather. I still feel the warmth in my heart from sitting around that dinner table at Kekeli’s house and just eating, drinking, eating some more and telling our stories. My heart and face smiled all through because that is the energy we all deserve to be around all day. It was a thing of beauty, Utopia, like feminist church, the highlight of my trip and I am so grateful for the invitation to bond.
- The Forward Stand. Standing/sitting there being able to interact with people and telling them what Tuwezeshe is all about, was a separate kind of special. I first watched and listened to Jenine do it, and there was a part of me that was avoiding it because I felt insecure about my accent and that people may not listen to me (I know the nerve!) but I did eventually find the courage to speak up, ask people to make pledges and at the end of the days, I had my own little speech of “who we are, what we do, and why we deserve all the partnerships to continue the work we do”.
- The sisterhood. Sharing a room with Angela was awesome. Before she came I was not sure what living together when we had never met would be like. But then I met her right outside the hotel before she checked in and between the time it took her to check in, to riding the elevator to get to the room, she had become my favorite roommate that I had never lived with. We even went out together to get her food and myself ice-cream immediately.
Zethu of the beautiful bouncy hair is my favorite person to be with, in a foreign city. Her sense of direction got us through our first trip back from the venue plus she knew where all the restaurants were.
Jenine, girl after my picture taking heart. So many receipts from the trip because every time I asked for a picture, looked like I was about to ask for a picture, she volunteered to take several. With her I also had some of my favorite conversations. She is coming to Uganda, I am going to Sierra Leone, that is it.
Angie Muruli, first the way she moderates a panel is a work of art. But what she did for me was be exactly who I needed when I felt like I was not getting anything right. She made feel safe and that there was absolutely no pressure to be or do anything but be myself and that took away my performance anxiety, at least most of it.
- The great European explorer. My wallet was not matching my privilege enough to pay for the organized tours of the city. But between a website on what to see in Brussels, Google Maps and I, a tour of the city happened. From about 9am to 1pm I was naming roads, asking locals to take pictures of me and discovering malls and buildings of the native city of Brussels.
The Not So Great.
- The visa Olympics although won, did a number on me in terms of preparing or we can just blame my lack of faith. The uncertainty did not allow me to do as good a job as I would have wanted on my presentation but also logistically.
- Jet lag, an unco-operating computer in a foreign city and a presentation whose format I kept changing.
- I do not know if we are allowed to say this, but talking to white people is exhausting. We need an app.
The Take Aways.
- Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. And when I am done to prepare some more.
- I own every room that I get into even when I do not feel like it.
- To ask google what kind of sockets a country has before travel and purchase the appropriate charger.
- The work we do is important and we should keep doing it.
- I should have paid more attention in French class.
Compiled by Fiona Komusana
Tuwezeshe 2018 fellow