The journey ahead… Crossing the Equator.

Hi readers, it’s been two long weeks since my last write up. I somehow got trapped in life’s other priorities or activities for survival that I almost made a no show in the blogging space. Anyways let’s again begin – what happened after crossing the Equator, the imaginary line on the earth?

In my last blog, I was taking a stroll along the equator checking for the flora, the climatic variations and so on. It was an amazing place honestly. We then boarded our vehicle and in no time set for the journey ahead that was waiting for us in the hills and forests. After a few minutes, I was dumbfounded with something very contrasting that I got to see. What diversity! What a contrast! To my right side, I could see only tall cactuses and to my left were the Pine trees. As I took pleasure in such rare sights, I also kept thinking about how it was possible. How can God create such varied creatures at the same place? Is it because of the Equator?? Many questions kept haunting my mind as we were all travelling.

Next few hours, we had reached a beautiful town called Mbarara, which is essential called the land of milk or the milk capital of this beautiful country. Mbarara is rich in cattle milk and also good vegetables and fruits as it is blessed by a good climate and fertile soil. By looks, this place has some resemblance with the capital city, Kampala from where we had started our journey that morning. But it would not be wrong if we call it next biggest town after the capital city. It was time for lunch at this place. We were checking for some Indian food in our Google maps because we knew the journey ahead was a bit adventurous one or something uncertain with respect to our Indian bellies that always crave for some rice or roti even on African soil. We knew the next two days, we would be in a state of deprivation from Indian food. We have to eat as per the soil and the African cooking styles. Not bad! We must explore to taste everything in life. In few seconds time, Google suggested an Indian restaurant.We got off our vehicle and headed for our lunch. To our surprise, we found another big group of Indian people in that restaurant who were already seated there. My husband knew a few of those people and so he began chatting with them until the food was ordered and delivered to us at our table. Another surprise! We had ordered chicken biryani in a place where Asian people were so meagre in number but the taste was unbelievably awesome. I really appreciate those African cooks inside those Indian restaurants who have been doing such good jobs, catering us such good Indian food according to our taste buds in their own lands. No way, they will let you down as they are so adept in cooking everything from rice, pulao, biryani, roti, naan, veg and non-veg all Indian delicacies. They have really learnt so well that we being Indians feel ashamed at times.

The price and quantity of our lunch were worth in fact more than worth, honestly speaking. It was a wow experience for all Indians who had dropped in at the restaurant that day. With smiles in our faces and a contented heart and stomachs, we then left the place and headed for the next part of the journey. With anticipation in our minds, what would come next, we again boarded our vehicle and again set forth. Just after an hour probably, we found ourselves in the midst of a lush green tea estate- the Ankole Tea Estate. At first sight, most Indians would get confused.That tea estate resembled some tea gardens of Darjeeling or those of South India. But careful observation of the entire tea estate would actually make you feel more happy and surprising because, in the distance, one could also spot the array of multiple pine trees. What nature’s backdrop. We couldn’t help to get off our vehicle to strike some poses with the lovely setting. A rare sight indeed to be treasured for one’s lifetime. We almost spent fifteen to twenty minutes. We were almost lost in nature’s lap and abundance of greenery and fresh oxygen that enveloped us. After some time, we got ready for the subsequent part the trip. Our final part of our journey was now heading towards the forest. We had to be on time at our forest lodge. Forests calling finally!

Check out the pine trees and tea gardens in one frame. Isn’t it contrasting??
Our small team of the two day trip to the equator and beyond
Reaching Ankole Tea Estate, a Williamson Magor Enterprise in Africa

Breakfast at the Equator

It was morning 6 a.m of the Easter weekend on 20th April,2019.The skies were still dark outside. It is normal to have dark skies until 6 to 6.30 in Uganda. The sun actually starts giving its first look by 7 a.m. The alarm clock failed to ring on time that day. We were supposed to start our trip to the Elizabeth National Park (final destination)exactly at 6 in the morning.Actually, we had to cover many other sites on the way in those two days of weekend cum Easter holidays. Also, our target to reach the final destination was 3 p.m as this was the last cut off time for check-in into a forest lodge inside the forest. It was unlike a typical hotel timing where you have the liberty to check in at any time of the day or night. Initially, we thought we would not be able to make it on time. The situation was like-We either drop the plan or have to take some risk to be on time. But we actually did.Here we go…

I and my better half jumped off the bed to get ready in the quickest possible way so as not to miss the long wished trip during the Easter break this 2019. Luckily we had a sound sleep the preceding night with no worries of last minute packing our mini luggage. Luggage mainly comprised of one pair of clothes, some fruits, cold drinks and some snacks just in case we needed during our forest stay in an untraveled unfamiliar location for us.
We actually started our journey by 6.45 a.m from our residence. We were four including we two, one of my husband’s colleagues and our driver. The city roads looked very clean and clear early morning except for those big trucks and the wholesalers doing their rounds in offloading and purchasing the vegetables and fruits for the day, at the major market hubs.In just half an hour we found ourselves on the newly built expressways. The sun protruded out from the clouds galore as if a UFO was preparing for its landing on this hilly terrain. It was an awesome sight at first glance.In no time, I got busy capturing whatever best sight came on my way until we reached our final destination.

Two hours had passed in the moving vehicle. Already getting hungry as we had left home empty stomach except for a glass of warm water which had almost become one of my morning rituals. We initially felt we must start our breakfast. But later realized that we were about to reach the Equator or the zero degrees latitude, which passes through this part of the globe. Breakfast at the Equator seemed to be a cool idea. It was a kind of Picnic breakfast to be had at the equator.The breakfast consisted of bread, jam, juice tetra packs,hard boiled eggs, pancakes, some sliced fruits and few packets of chips which actually lasted throughout the trip. In a few minutes, we were there- at the equator. It is located in Kayabwe, Mpigi district, about 72 kilometres from the capital city.

Geographically, the equator is the imaginary line on the earth, equidistant from its poles, dividing it into northern and southern hemispheres, or to be more precise, the zero degrees latitude on the earth. Our joy knew no bounds to reach at this long sought after historical landmark of Uganda since the last two years of my stay here. It was altogether a different feeling – as if it was the feeling of an accomplishment long due.Several other tourists both local and foreigners had also dropped in at the place just to have a feel at this significant location of the globe. Serenity cum beauty in the diversity of nature were the major elements to be highlighted. On both sides of the road, there were two concrete structures erected to signify the passing of the imaginary line through them. As if those were two concurrent points of a straight line if I go by the definitions of Geometry. The temperature was warm as expected as it was the middle of the world.

There was a small scientific experiment that was demonstrated to us about our presence at the equator, northern and southern hemisphere. Some enthusiasts even got their names printed in certificates displaying their physical presence or crossing the equator. These certificates were provided to the tourists with some price. Also, few stalls dealing in local art crafts sold t-shirts with expressions like ”I have crossed the equator”.

In no time, like most other visitors, we got busy in capturing the significant spot by our mobile phone cameras. There was a small queue before we got the chance to click our pictures. As we were busy making videos or photo shoots, we were somewhat disturbed by our hungry stomachs. The fire in the belly aggravated to such a level that very soon we had to take a quick break from our photo sessions only to get into our vehicle to gorge ourselves on the picnic- like breakfast that was awaiting us.

After breakfast, we took a small walk along to discover the place with our own senses. The flora of the place was breathtakingly awesome with a wide of variety, starting from the small flowering plants to the towering cactuses that sprung up from the earth’s surface at such regular distances. Then time to say bye bye to this beautiful location just to discover what was there in store for us after crossing equator.
Will see you soon my readers after crossing the equator.
Have a blessed and a joyful weekend!

Finding a new home in Africa continued……..

Reaching Uganda :The Pearl of Africa :Part 2

My daily route to Kyambogo university where I am also teaching as a guest faculty in Marketing

Before I begin my second innings, let me write a small note of thanks to all my wonderful readers for their continued support and encouragement .

Thanks, viewers for the loads of love and support that have been consistently coming across the globe and reaching me on real time here. I really loved the way how people had reciprocated to my messages or posts in various social media platforms and their eagerness to know about Part 2. In less than a month’s time, 1000 views to my blog site are beyond my expectation for a minion like me. So it is indeed a blessing I must say.

So let’s start now with the next part of my story.

It was somewhere in August 2017. I had just reached India. For the first time I was travelling alone in an international airline, with four back to back flights till I reached my final destination, Guwahati, my home. You could very well imagine the feeling of reaching one’s own motherland after such a first time experience. The feeling of happiness on reaching my own soil started as soon as I reached the immigration counters of the receiving airport, Chhatrapati  Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. Tears of joy rolled down my face after getting my passport stamped as arrived. As if I was surrounded with a feeling of some achievement or some small kind of victory outside one’s own soil. The feeling kept on elevating throughout my subsequent domestic flights to reach Guwahati. I reached home safe and sound. People were happy to see me back after a long time.

Chhatrapati  Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai

A couple of months rolled on. I got busy with my exam preparations and also I managed to devote my best time to my parents at home, trying to put my hands in household chores or outside work related to daily life. I also met my closest friends and my ex-colleagues of India in between their busy schedules. It was a good way of reviving oneself and telling them real stories on the other side of the globe and listening to theirs after a long time.

It was 5th November, 2018. The day of UGC NET examination in India. I gave my best effort that time. Also , I was already four months away from my husband. He was at his job in Uganda. It was not easy to continue like this for months. But we have always been supporting each other in fulfilling each other’s life goals, wherever we are. His role in my transition phase is magnanimous and worth mentioning. In December, as usual, he reached India for his yearly home trip and we spent some days together at both my place and my in-laws’ place. After a month, it was time to pack our luggage and bid goodbye to my native place and return to Uganda. For me, the feeling was a bit different from his. I had spent almost five months at my home in Guwahati. And I really didn’t know when will be that next time to avail such a long break for homestay, considering the fate of a married girl. Alas! An emotional adieu and a sad return!

We were back to Uganda, my husband’s workplace. No sooner had we reached there than the results of the NET examination (which I was talking about in the last part of part 1), was announced. I did not expect such early announcements. It was a mixed feeling for me. I was so contented with my success because this examination which is actually very tough in the national level. Secondly clearing the exam after a decade of my MBA graduation made be double happy. And now that I had succeeded, I couldn’t afford to sit there in Uganda without applying for a few relevant posts in India.

They say the universe has a great sense of humor. That sometimes having your dream come true can feel like a nightmare. Because getting what you want always come with strings attached”-Gossip Girl. (Gossip Girl is an American teen drama television series based on the book series of the same name written by Cecily von Ziegesar.)

The same feeling haunted me at that time.

In this way, a couple of months passed by in Uganda. However, I kept myself busy with the online applications of relevant jobs in India. Then one day I decided to go back to India in the hope of getting a good job or enroll myself in a PhD program in a good institute. So, I flew back home. But to my utter despair, I couldn’t make it to the best choices for PhD. After a few days, I got shortlisted for the post of Assistant Professor in a renowned college in Bhubaneswar (a city on the East coast of India,capital of Odisha). Without any second thought, I flew to this place in the hope of something good and hence our future settlement in India, leaving offshores forever. But alas! My bad luck again. There was an indefinite postponement of the interview as per the recent notifications of UGC regulations of those times. This implied that there was no point staying in India at that point of time as the same regulation was valid for all other colleges and universities as well. I came back to my hometown, Guwahati.

 Just a few days after all this, I got an ISD call from an unknown number in Uganda. But to my utter surprise, I found out that the number belonged to none other than the Head of the Department of Management Science, Kyambogo University, a government university in Uganda. I was elated with joy as she had offered me a job in her university and I was supposed to report in the next ten days as classes were beginning after the long semester break. I was even getting job offers as guest faculty in my home town. But I had to take a quick decision of choosing this one from Uganda so that my husband could peacefully continue his job there. So it seemed that it was time for Africa again. However I was under no pressure to do that but a kind of moral conscience or compassion for him for all the sacrifice he had done for me to establish my new career, came to the forefront and backed me to take that upfront move. This was because I could not bear to ask him to quit his long-standing job just for me and also he had no immediate backup plans of jobs or any business.

 I reached the African continent back again in August 2018. It seemed as if life was sending me back and again to this beautiful place for some reason or the other. Frankly speaking, when I had arrived at this place initially in 2017, I did not like the place at all, keeping aside the beautiful nature on one side as I had basically nothing to do. I was just waiting for the weekends to move out of the house along with my husband when he got somehow free from his busy project schedules. Life was really terrible for me in the first part, doing nothing basically except cooking and maintaining the house.

It is my honest confession, my dear readers, as time progressed, I started viewing life in a different way. I have always believed that one must have simple and straight forward goals in life for self-sustenance, whether one is single or married, working or not working. Slowly and steadily, I learned to welcome every move that came on my way, good or bad with equal élan. The highs and lows of life had taught me to overcome both sides of the coin. Today I am somewhat happy with the person I have evolved with times. Happy teaching and learning, happy touching minds in a different country, in a different continent across different cultures. Learning about their crafts, history, festivals, food habits, dressings, attending public functions and marriages are adding to my knowledge store every day.

One of favourite moments at End of the Year Party at my university, The Pumpkin Dance…Watch out those dried and huge pumpkin skins or shells!

The other most noteworthy point to be highlighted about this part of the globe is its surprising similarity to our Meghalaya (a state in North -Eastern India and my neighbor state of Assam). You might be shocked to hear all this! But, yeah, it is true in Africa too. The first thing that generally strikes any mind about Africa is that it very hot and it’s called Dark Continent across the globe. However, I have found that it is not so everywhere across the continent.

Uganda resembles Meghalaya for quite a number of reasons……..The abode of clouds, casting hill station- like looks with beautiful pine trees and maintaining decent mercury levels with soothing temperatures from dawn to dusk throughout the year. The waterfalls spread across the region, the lofty hills throughout the towns and villages and the breathtakingly beautiful golf courses in the capital city and outside the city. Apart from the natural beauty of this country, Uganda is the hub of the United Nations in the entire East African Region. Like Meghalaya, the inhabitants of this country are jovial and active. They too have a deep love for football and music. Moreover, the tone of the language bears so much resemblance to our various indigenous tribes of North East India. And yes, one most important thing, the women power and their independence. Like Meghalaya, women are very independent here with respect to her choices of work, dressing and living. The women selling local fruits and vegetables on the roadsides or the markets bring me vivid memories of my yesteryears stay in Shillong, one of my previous workplaces. Also one of its neighboring countries, Rwanda is even much more equivalent to our Meghalaya with respect to the picturesque beauty and its cleanliness. Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda stalls tall with its reputation of being the cleanest city in the entire continent. One can even sit near a gutter and enjoy one’s meal comfortably. In this case, Kigali corresponds to Asia’s cleanest city, Mawlynong, a place in Meghalaya. For me, it’s a throwback of the times I had lived in Meghalaya.

My Indian friends….Doesn’t it remind us of Nongpoh ,roadside Kongs(we call Nyabo here to ladies) selling local fruits.
This is not Polo grounds of Shillong! But look ,what a similarity here in Entebbe,Uganda.This one is too a polo ground here with pine trees at theg backdrop in an equatorial region…Surprising,right??
Of clouds,hills and trees around…Nature at its best!
The scenic university campus.Reminds me of IIT Guwahati and N.E,H.U. Shillong,India
The cleanliness thing reminds me of Mawlyngnong,Asia’s cleanest city.

The above-mentioned similarities make me somewhat feel like home outside the home (motherland).And I am happy about it. Every day, I try to relate my experiences here with those of my homeland. Slowly and steadily, my apprehensions and insecurities of initial years calmed down to a significant level and almost gone now. And here I am! Today I am happily teaching as a guest faculty at Kyambogo University and sharing experiences with my students and colleagues. I try to thank God for every beautiful sunshine and the picturesque views I come across every day –be it on the way to work or going to the market for daily needs of life. My hidden love for nature has now erupted so much now with nature’s setting here that I can’t help capturing everything that catches my eye and arrests my soul. I am so passionate about photography now. I am also passionate about telling life’s real stories, beautiful or ugly. I want to showcase the beauty of truths of life and the power of perseverance and positivity and hope in our lives.

Truly I am at home! Found my home and some sunshine.

 Happy reading until we meet again with my next post!

Finding a new home in Africa

Reaching Uganda :The Pearl of Africa :Part 1

Home is where the heart lies. I am not talking about buying a piece of land to build a house or buying an apartment in a sought after location with all modern amenities for a comfortable living. It was somewhere in mid-January in the year 2017 when I along with my husband had reached Uganda for the first time. Although for him, Africa was quite familiar as he had already worked in almost five to six countries in the East African region.

I had just got married in India a month back during that time. Imagine the heights of anxiety and apprehensions that I was surrounded with, on my first few days in a new country in a new continent. A month ago, I had just resigned from a job in IIT Guwahati where I was quite happy with my work and life and also I was near home for every weekend to see my parents.

Life was taking me through a different route. A married girl miles away from her parents, siblings, away from a job for the first time and of course the Indian crowd. It was a multitude of changes which I had to accept and manage myself in a very short period of time. I still remember how much desperate I was to hunt for some work, be it banking , NGO or any decent school or educational institution in Kampala,the capital city of Uganda. It was a really very tough time for both of us to find myself a desirable job in a country far far away home.At times my husband even got ready to quit his job for my sake but i always forbade him to do so.

Months rolled on.I gradually began to accept life as it is with my inner self always persuading me to find solutions to my problems that cropped up at various stages of my life. It is my honest confession. I had always been more than an average student in my entire educational career.A career good enough to have landed in some decent government job in India and would have fetched a fortune of peace and stability in job life. This is how most Indians think. But today I really do not regret at all. I am happy for what I am. I have surrendered myself to time, the supreme element of life.

Another turning point …..It was somewhere in the month of August 2017. I suddenly became a victim of dental problems.Medical facilities were not that sound in the country.Moreover, the cost was abnormally high here.It is like unless one buys a good amount of medical insurance, one cannot afford medical facilities here. Moreover, during that time I had some urgent calling from home which needed my immediate attention and response. So I immediately decided to fly back home.And yes, in the process, I missed my NRI tag just for two days! I could just complete 178 days of my stay here in my first league. But the best part of this trip really paid me well. My hard work and persuasion to take transit to the teaching career corporate sector bore me fruit.I succeeded in UGC NET in 2017 (an examination in India to be eligible to be an Assistant Professor in Colleges and Universities).I had been preparing and sitting for this exam for a few number of times , like most other peers of my times ,amidst hectic corporate schedule of yester years .But this time of course ,a preparation with no work pressure in Uganda really helped a lot .

A new journey on a day of love

Today is a special day, a day of love, “Valentine’s Day” as the world celebrates. In fact, the whole week had very been special for lovebirds around the world. But, of course, love has a deeper meaning than celebrating it on a single day or a week either. If you have ever listened to your soul and loved someone to the moon and back, be it a person or any hobby or whatsoever, I am sure you will understand what I want to convey.

Coincidentally, I am setting out for a new journey for my love today itself. I actually want to give a home or a shelter to my thoughts and expressions in the form of blogs. This journey should have begun a long time back but due to some reason or the other, it always took a back seat. My friends, colleagues and all my well wishers have always been the prime source of inspiration and encouragement to give me this final push. So my heartfelt thanks to all of you to make me realise my skills and take it to the next level. I have always been a very expressive and aggressive person with regards to my flow of thoughts and communication.

As a guest lecturer in Marketing in Kyambogo University, Kampala, I have always been teaching my students about the importance of respecting oneself, listening and responding to one’s soul and most importantly the art of communication in our daily lives. Communication is not only confined to the echelons of any society in this world. You need not be a Shashi Tharoor to scatter “Farrago” of communication or use jargons or bombastic words only to show off your in-depth knowledge of lexicon or the Oxford Dictionary. What is the use of communication if two persons do not understand what one is communicating? Since my first days of working in an African environment, mostly being around with the student community, I have been understanding well the importance of communication. Also, it is my first teaching job in life and that too teaching students of a different country and a different continent, who are not raised like students in India. Culture plays an important part in communication. What is good in India may not be the same here and vice versa. The exchange of accent, tone and most importantly a brief understanding of syllables were the initial takeaways for both sides. It was more like a student exchange program or a confluence of ideas related to culture, race and the land of origin for the first few days. However, my subject of teaching posed no serious problems or threats to my new career as knowledge remains the same across the world. But, I again started reading books by Kotler and Keller in Africa too to brush up my knowledge. This time, the editions were a decade new to me since I did my MBA ten years back in 2008. Will share more experiences in the coming days. Keep loving and sharing my stories. See you soon until my next blog!