Kemi’s East African Invasion series: Episode 2 – The Love in Uganda edition

Hi guys, it’s good to be back. I guess it’s not quite a surprise that the best place for me to write my posts are on a plane. Yup! It seems to be one of the few places where I can enjoy the much-needed solitude required to write from my heart. I remember the very first article I wrote (the one on Japan that got published on Bella Naija) was also written on my phone’s notepad on the flight from Tokyo to Paris. My annual thanksgiving letters also happen to be written on flights. This time around, I am jamming to Ycee’s ‘too much juice, too much sauce’ track and hoping it will ‘ginger’ me to spill all the juice from Uganda in this post.

It is quite interesting that I wrote about ‘frolleagues’ (colleagues that become friends) in my last post, and then the wedding I flew to Uganda to attend happened to be that of a frolleague. I think my next post will be about money so that, you know, maybe 30 billion can fall on me 🙂

Sipping tea while waiting for the 30 billion to fall on me 🙂

So I spent 3 days in Uganda a few weeks back and although it wasn’t my usual touristy trip, it was such a beautiful weekend celebrating love Kingdom-style. Before attending this wedding, I did not quite have a clear idea of what I wanted my wedding day to look like. Not sure I have said this here before but I have never really had daydreams about my wedding – what my dress would look like, what my ring would look like, what the colors of the day would be, etc. Never. After this wedding though, the picture is getting clearer – Halleluyah!!!

I flew in on Friday morning on yet another red-eye flight that left at 3am!!! I know I said I wasn’t going to take such crazy flights anymore but that was my only option to ensure I got to Kampala in time for the traditional wedding. After all the wahala, my connecting flight from Kigali to Entebbe was delayed so I got into town a bit later than planned.

p.s there is no airport in Kampala, so I had to fly into Entebbe and do a road trip to Kampala. That road trip is a story for another day. The short version of the story is that it felt like I was driving from Lagos to Osun State 🙂  #dazall.

Anyway, by the time I landed, my hair was a HOT mess! I think the air on that Rwandair flight was different because even though I know airplanes don’t work well with my weaves, I looked like a proper village girl by the time I landed. The ‘bob’ of my weave had become ‘flick out’ and it wasn’t looking funky at all. So in my usual style, I was chatting up the driver and casually told him about how I needed to get to the salon at the resort to get my hair touched up  before heading to the traditional wedding and then he casually says to me ‘oh sister, there is no salon at the resort’. See gobe! (Davido’s spirit has really fallen on me o, lol). I panicked for like 5 mins and after asking the poor guy like 5 times ‘how can this resort not have a salon?’ I realized his answer wouldn’t make a difference, lol. So I quickly switched to problem-solving mode and told him to stop at any mall/shopping center on our way to the resort. Thankfully, we found one and my hair was restored to its original pre-flight glory. Now I was finally ready to take on Uganda, hahaha.

My face when I realized my hair game was weak 🙁

Moral of the lesson: Don’t be a snob. Talk to your driver- he/she has more information than you do, and trust me, you need all the information you can get as a JJC in a new city/country.

We got to the beautiful resort after a loooooong drive that was made longer because of traffic. I think that heavy traffic spirit is an East African thing. If I thought I had seen the worst in Kenya, Uganda taught me a fresh lesson. I got to the resort, showered, changed quickly to a basic white dress, put on some red lipstick (red lipstick makes everything look fancy sha!) and got on the road for another 2.5 hours to get to location of the traditional wedding. I had gotten a traditional outfit made and was planning to change at the venue, but by the time I got there, it was so late and the lady with my outfit said there was no point changing anymore. Chai, the thing pained me o, so I made sure I still wore the dress the next morning and took some pictures before actually dressing up for the white wedding ceremony. Desperate times, lol. It was such a beautiful outfit and I was quite bummed that I didn’t get to rock it for the traditional wedding. I am hoping I get another opportunity to wear it soon. Costume party, anyone? East African themed party, anyone? International outfits themed party, anyone? Please invite me o – I already have my outfit ready, hahaha.

Looking like an Ugandan baby geh 🙂

Anyway, since I got to the event quite late, I only managed to catch the end of the ceremony. Ugandan culture is VERY different from Nigerian culture and it was just beautiful to witness the traditional ceremony.

The gorgeous bride

First, there’s less partying and more talking. We Lagosians (the groom was Nigerian) were itching to dance and jolly but they didn’t send us o, lol. All the key members of the bride’s family were given a chance to speak. I wasn’t there but I heard her father’s speech about her was very moving. He talked about her core values and how she’s principled and smart and how her faith in God is her source and firm foundation. I am not sure I’ve heard any Nigerian parent speak about their children in public in such glowing terms. At least, not at any weddings. The DJ and the MC/comedian/alaga won’t even let the microphone get to mummy or daddy in the first place, pheew! The closest you can get is when you repeat after the Alaga “my bumbum, my bumbum”, Oh that’s one particular Alaga, okay I move on 🙂

The bride’s aunties took the microphone, gave the bride gifts and talked about the significance of each gift. The uncles too said their own. There were Ugandan traditional dances every now and then but it was mainly speeches and prayers.

The bride’s parents prayed and prophesied over them. I remember her Dad prophesying leadership, service and greatness on them, not the usual wealth and prosperity. Think about that for a moment – leadership, service and greatness. What a legacy to pass on to your children. *Selah*

Lagos office representing!

Oh by the way, the bride and groom did not sit together throughout the ceremony. She sat center stage with her maidens, the groom and his boys sat somewhere at the back, while his parents sat in front. Apparently, in Ugandan culture, it is the groom’s father that they marry the girl to. The bride’s dad however said they were balancing culture and faith and giving the bride to the groom (because they are to cleave to one another and become one) but under the guidance of his parents.

NG meets UG

After the bride changed to her Nigerian outfit and her and the groom danced in, there was a whole gift exchange session. Her sisters –in-law welcomed her to the family by giving gifts to her and her family members and then, she then handed out gifts individually to all her in-laws. Her parents-in-law, brothers and sisters-in-law, her in-law’s in-laws and all the families/older folks who came with groom’s people. She gave them gifts one after the other. This is very different from the Yoruba culture where they put all the gifts/food stuff together and leave it to the bride’s family to share at the end of the traditional ceremony. It was nice to see the bride slightly curtsying for her in-laws even though they don’t kneel for elders in Uganda. The cultural infusion was just beautiful.

Our wife!

I was completely exhausted from the travel and went straight to sleep after another long drive back to the resort. All our plans of having a chill evening catching up and blah blah flew out of the window. I really needed my beauty sleep because the next day was going to be another marathon.

The white wedding was beautiful beyond words. It was not too different from how it’s done in Lagos except that 2 of the couple’s siblings got to read 2 passages of Scripture and we sang lots of hymns. When they were taking their vows, instead of just responding by saying ‘I do’, the bride said ‘of course I do. I definitely will’. Her excitement about her husband was just unbelievable and beautiful. *holds heart*

The triumphant exit

After the joining was over, we had a cocktail (which was very welcome because some of us had eaten very little at breakfast in the name of ‘suck belle, make dress fine’, lol) and then went to sit awaiting the arrival of the couple.

Suck belle 🙂
Why so fine – there must be something in the McK water!

There was no dancing in for mummy and daddy o, lol. It wasn’t about them, the ceremony was really about the couple. The couple danced in (their song was “Lagos to Kampala” by Runtown ft. Wizkid) and then took their seats with their bridal party up on stage. Then the speeches started, AGAIN! All the bride’s close friends spoke. Then the groom’s close friends. Then all the bride’s siblings. Then the groom’s siblings (although l think they didn’t have energy so they nominated their oldest one to speak on their behalf). Then the bride’s parents. Then the groom’s parents. The parents essentially preached to us and gave advice and prayed and prophesied to the couple and the friends. The groom’s mum almost did an altar call sef. She charged us (friends of the couple) to cultivate a close intimate relationship with God because that’s all that matters.

What a beautiful train!

By this time, Lagos party people were ready to just slit their wrists, lol. More speeches? Oh no, kuku kee us, hahaha!

Something something dont care, lol

The bride and the groom cut their cake (there was no paparazzi or fireworks o!), had their first dance to Nosa’s “Always on my mind” and then they gave their thank you speeches. The bride said thank you to everyone individually and mentioned that she’s grateful for having a mother-in-law that’s just like her mother so she’s not worried about moving to Lagos forever. Then she turned to her husband and mehn, by the time she was done, we had run out of tissues. The way she spoke to him and about him was beautiful – you could hear how genuine the love was and how happy she was to be his wife. She was unashamedly declaring her love for him in front of all her loved ones and as she said, their love won’t end here on earth so they both will continue to live for Christ so they can both go to heaven together. *sniffs* I love Holy love.

The groom also spoke and thanked his family and his in-laws and prayed that the purpose of their union will be fulfilled. I loved how he celebrated his in-laws especially when he said they need to package and sell whatever it is they used to raise such a strong godly woman like his wife. *dreamy eyes*

I am sure heaven was pleased about this wedding, as God took center-stage and was glorified every step of the way.

I think we danced for only about 30mins and then the ceremony was over.  About an hour after, there was a separate after-party event for the people who needed to dance, lol. The ceremony was so different. Usually in Nigeria, we dance /party more and only the best man (or whoever is giving the toast) and the groom get to speak. Here, it was the reverse. It was lots of meaningful speeches. I guess the Ugandans are used to it as they listened attentively while all the speeches were being rendered. The Nigerian side, on the other hand, was buzzing with activity and side discussions. Our attention span is super short, smh. The MC didn’t even do plenty work apart from announcing who was coming up next to speak. If to say na Naija wedding, the MC would have to be thinking of jokes to use to engage the crowd, lol.

McK LGS familia + Evelyn from b-school days!
After-party ready!!!

We partied till morning and I spent Sunday just chilling (and catching up on all the work I ignored on Friday). Some folks went white water rafting (we all know this Ijebu girl is not usually great in water, lol), some others went visiting the source of the Nile, museums and other touristy sites. Although I was unable to really explore Uganda as a tourist (you know what this means, I HAVE TO GO BACK!!!!), I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Uganda.

Too much juice 🙂

There were so many points of light for me during this short stay in UG. It was a beautiful weekend – a vivid reminder that true love exists and that we should not get cynical about love. The bride moved to Lagos in 2015 without knowing anyone in the city and look at God – He sorted her out so nicely with a mighty good man.

The victory wave

It reminded me that I can still have butterflies at my age and that love can still be beautiful and exciting and thrilling. The speeches by the couple’s friends made me wonder what my friends would say about me and made me check if I’ve really been the best friend I can be. The bride’s cousin who was in charge of logistics (airport transfers and all the ground transport between the different locations) is the most selfless person I have ever met. He went without sleep for days ensuring that all the guests were picked up at the airport on time and without delays. He was patient with all of us and ensured everything went hitch-free. I jokingly referred to him as our fairy godmother, because he had answers to all our questions and sorted out every issue anyone of us encountered. Again, I was inspired to be that selfless for my people.

All in all, I am the one richer in soul and spirit for attending this wedding. Instead of invading Uganda, I think Uganda invaded me and opened up my heart to a different expression of love. I am usually not this mushy but I can’t help myself this time 🙂

Uganda, I will be back soon. For now, let me go and start preparing my wedding speech. That microphone must not pass me by on my wedding day, lol.

Abeg, pass me the microphone!

 

Wishing you all love and eternal happiness,

Kemi

Kemi’s East Africa invasion series: Episode 1 – Kenya (Of old friends and new giraffes)

Hi guys!!!! ‘O to jo meta, oooo’ (a.k.a it’s been a while). How are you doing? Keeping well? You already know I missed you, really, I did.

First, a big shout-out to the people who DM’ed me to ask/harass me about the next post. I know this might sound cheesy, but it feels so good to be wanted. 🙂 Thanks guys! I love being able to share my adventures with you and I appreciate all your comments and feedback. It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you, thank you thank you!!!

Ever since my trip to Tanzania last year, I have been secretly desiring an East African invasion for 2017. So to kick things off, I was in Kenya last weekend, and I had an amazing time. It was not my first time in Nairobi (last time I was there was in 2011), but it felt like the first time all over again. I am all for revisiting places these days, because I believe there are always new things to explore and new perspective to be gained.  Remember I said I was trying to be more deliberate about my travels going forward, so this trip was more about rekindling friendships and less about sightseeing. As I reflected on the beautiful time I had with the folks I spent time with in Nairobi, I realized that I met all of them (except for one) in the course of work. Yes, you read that right – WORK!

You see, we typically spend a lot of our time/life at work and one of the ‘perks’ not stated on our employment offers is the lasting, beneficial friendships that we can build, cultivate and keep with our colleagues or clients. That’s not to ignore the fact that we also meet some ‘blessedly’ difficult people at work. *shudders*. Anyway, Nairobi was an eye-opener to the blessings of friends that I had picked up over the course of my career.

Mr FS, 2017

Stop 1: Mr FS and Ms DAO – my souvenir-brother and sister from my time in Tunisia. I met them while on a project in 2013 and it was friendship at first sight. Mr F instantly adopted me as his baby sister, and I guess I was Ms D’s side-kick, lol. I spent a good number of my weekends with them and the memories of our weekend away in Sousse celebrating Mr F’s wedding anniversary remain fresh in my mind to date. I had not seen Mr F since I left Tunis in 2013 so it was such a delight to spend time with him and hear about all the progress he has been making. I didn’t get to spend as much time with Ms D (I promise to make it up to you girl – I promise) but we still managed to catch-up over loud, almost deafening music at Kiza.

The struggle to get the perfect picture, lol
Different years, same pose!!! I need an UPGRADE. 
The full Sousse crew

Stop 2: Ms AN!!! My sister-girl from way back in 2011 when I joined the Firm. Our friendship started in Lagos and has now relocated to Nairobi. In reality though, our friendship now resides on the streets of WhatsApp – this is where we play catch-u, so it was really good seeing her again. Her couch in Lekki played host to me several times, and now that she’s moved back to Nairobi, her hosting skills seem to have gone up 10 notches. She cooked up a storm for me in the name of Saturday dinner and in exchange, I did the dishes – fair, right? I just wanted to ensure that she doesn’t think twice about hosting me again, lol. Just securing my accommodation for next time :-).  After wolfing down the food, having serious conversations about work/life, and laughing till our ribs ached, we put on Naija music and started dancing. We had a house party all by ourselves. It was such a LIT evening. I left her place sometime after midnight – more than 5 hours after I arrived.

Hello Ms AN’s pout 🙂
AN’s feast!

Stop 3: Ms LA – my business school senior who I only met in 2015. She was such a gracious hostess – she sorted me out big time and organized the cab that took me on my Saturday morning touristy ‘waka’; she also negotiated an unbelievable fare for me and on Sunday, took me to the salon to get groomed (I think she just had mercy on me and helped me fix my bushy eyebrows and chipped nail polish situation), and she stuffed me with some yummy Chinese food before I left for the airport, all in a bid to make sure I didn’t get tempted to eat in-flight food, lol.

KO + LA #inseadmoments

Stop 4: Ms AOO!!! The fierce lioness of Kenya. She is definitely going to be President of Kenya someday, take my word for it. I met her at work circa 2012/2013 when she transferred from the Minneapolis office to spend a year in Nigeria. I think it was one of those ‘love on the dance floor’ type of connections. We both LOVE to dance. Interestingly, she was the one who made me write my first blogpost ever – it was an article for the McKinsey Women blog and she nominated me to continue to take over her spot when she was leaving the Firm. I think I managed to do 3 or 4 blog posts over about 18 months before I gave up. Look at me now, I have written 10 blog posts in less than a year. Wow! We have more capacity than we think we do.

First attempt at blogging – pictured with the global MD for McK (shameless plug, I know!)

We had breakfast on Sunday morning (notice how a lot of these meet-ups were over food? I am convinced that relationships get strengthened over meals. I have not done the research yet but I am sure this is part of the mystery of the communion) and then we went to church together. I thought it was only at the clubs/parties that Nigerian music had taken over. Wrong! All the praise/worship songs in church were the same as the ones sung in church back home in Nigeria! The only difference was that the people were not as extra in their dancing, hahaha. There was no shoki, no shakitibobo, no azonto, just some good ol’ clapping and regular dancing unto the Lord.

Ms AOO – future President of Kenya ( you saw her here first!)

Stop 5: Ms FA. This was a bonus surprise. We literally crossed paths at the airport. She landed less than an hour before I took off. I love airport meet-ups! I really can’t explain why but I do. Maybe because it is better to pass time talking to someone you know than just people-watching or struggling with airport wifi, lol.

Airport jamz with Ms FA

Beyond having an amazing friendship-full weekend that left my heart bubbling over, I had some other interesting experiences on this trip.

Red-eye flights: These are not the easiest flights to be on. All these flights that take off at odd times like 12:55am are just painful. You can’t nap for fear of missing the flight and the airport seats and plane seats are too uncomfortable to get any decent sleep. Note to self: Never again! (Except of course it is completely unavoidable)

Can someone give me a bed, please?

Traffic: The traffic in Nairobi is special. Goodness! It took about 90mins to get from the airport to the hotel, which was only about 20km away. This is a shorter distance compared to driving from Lagos International Airport to Victoria Island (~ 25km ) but the drive felt like we were going double the distance. I slept through the trip sha (remember I had just gotten off a red-eye flight so I was exhausted). I thought that was going to be my last ‘go-slow’ experience but I was sooo wrong. There is traffic almost EVERYWHERE in Nairobi. Inexplicable traffic!! At least in Lagos, you will see the broken down car/truck that’s causing the traffic or the wedding event centre whose guests decided to park on the road. Not so in Nairobi, no reason, no cause. One of my friends said the traffic is spiritual. I agree! Kai, after spending a good chunk of my Saturday afternoon in traffic, I agree that Nairobi traffic beats Lagos traffic, hands down! Lagos 1, Nairobi 0. 🙂

Traffic – Nairobi style
More traffic

Tourism: Kenyans have cracked this tourism business, end-to-end! I give it to them. To start with, their $50 visa-on-arrival make them a preferred destination for everyone. No one really likes to fill visa application forms and queue at embassies to beg for visas. Once you are in, there is a variety of activities you can engage in, depending on your preferences are – explore wildlife (either on a safari, at national parks or at some of the specific animal parks) or shop till you drop at the different local markets; eat to your heart’s fill or go tea/coffee tasting; or just drive out of town to go hang out with the Masai people. I had very limited time for sightseeing (only Saturday morning) so I chose to go to the Giraffe Centre and the Elephant Orphanage. I naturally have a phobia for animals (blame it on the dog that chased me around my friend’s compound when I was about 7/8) and so, being in such proximity to these animals was, errrr, initially uncomfortable. But I got into the swing of things and started enjoying feeding the giraffes. At some point, I think I got too comfortable, lol.

Such a happy giraffe feeder
z giraffes in all their glory
Eddy the Giraffe
Pet giraffe???

The Elephant orphanage was an experience. It is open to visitors only between 11am – 12noon daily, and the queue to get in was looooong. It was one of the few times I have seen ‘oyinbo’ people rush for stuff, lol. That Nairobi traffic spirit also found its way to this queue, sigh. We essentially gathered to watch the baby elephants come out to eat. They feed them like babies, literally – with a milk through a feeding bottle. It was so cute to watch.

Baby elephants drinking milk

I was also fascinated by how the baby elephants enjoyed rolling in sand and getting dirty. Isn’t this how human babies also like to play in sand and get dirty? I think I must have eaten a fair share of sand as a toddler, lol. When it was time for them to go back to their nurseries, there was no resistance. They left in a single orderly file. I am sure some of us need to go and learn that skill from the baby elephants, lol.

Rolling in the deep

On my way out of the orphanage, I met a masai guy and we did the usual jump. That was fun! Not sure I nailed the jump but yeah, whatever, lol.

Happy jump times are here!

Uber drama/why you must have a functional phone: Hmm, that’s how my uber broke down on my way to FS’s house o! See panic!!! I jumped out of the car and sharply called FS on my Nigerian phone (for once, I didn’t mind the cost) to come and get me from where the car broke down. All sorts of random thoughts ran through my head, especially as okadas (motorbikes) riding past slowed down to talk to the driver in languages I could not understand. Thank God for safety o!

Le Uber

Other random observations:

1) All the road-side corn sellers were men! Although I saw women selling other things on the road, I did not see any woman selling roasted corn. I guess corn is a ‘guy-thing’.

2) Eh ehn, I forgot my sunglasses and was hoping I would find someone selling Ray Bans in traffic – no joy! I trust my Lagos brothers, they would have sorted me out sharp-sharp.

🙁 This is what happens when you don’t have sunglasses. Err, not sure what that other Aunty was looking at o, lol. 

3) Kenyans LOVE bananas! There were bananas everywhere – at every junction, street corner, kiosk, etc. I figure this is how foreigners are surprised by how many orange sellers hang out on the streets of Lagos.

4) I was surprised at how everyone described distances between places in kilometers, (similar to how it is done in the West). I had always thought it was a Western thing but it seems its only folks in Nigeria that describe distances between two places in minutes. Or am I on my own on this one? Am I the only one that still gets confused when people are describing the size of a room – 25 by 34 square foot? I guess it’s not too late to learn distances and dimensions  *shrug*

Next stop in the East African invasion is Uganda. I will be attending another colleague-friend’s wedding and I can’t wait to see if they will have small chops, lol. Trust me, I will come and tell you all about it! I also have Rwanda and Burundi on my radar. Let’s see how much of East Africa we can cover over the next few months.

If you are planning trips to any of these spots, hola at your girl. We might just be able to sync schedules or bump into each other at the airport, at the very least.

That said, let me end by thanking God for the blessings of fantastic colleagues that have no time for office rivalry but rather have become friends/sisters. I am deeply grateful! Do you have colleagues-turned-friends you are grateful for? Froleagues ???!!! Nice word, Oxford dictionary please take note. Hehehehe.  Do share in the comments section.

Hugs,

Kemi