In early February, my homegirl Roby and I rendezvoused at Azuri Café along Moi Avenue after we buried our primary school classmate. We shivered at how fleeting life is, reminiscing our time with our departed friend, each of us wishing to have been a better friend to her. Death is a ruthless reminder of our shortcomings, isn’t it? Roby and I have always held on to our friendship for the last twenty two years, sometimes the city life robbing us of time to bond. Now, afraid of loss and the uncertainties, we planned to take a trip to Uganda come April.
Kampala town comes to me as a reserved woman who has no time to prove her worth: you take her or leave her. I felt a sense of belonging, of home, of familiarity. But I must mention that in Kampala, it is like someone pours bodabodasfrom the skies and splashes them in the streets like a million drops of rain. They play pick-it-pick-it-point-it with your life, putting you in life-threatening manoeuvres and you must keep reminding God that you aren’t ready to met him yet. Uganda also made me a millionaire, just like that, brethren. I needed protection y’all. When God said he’ll expand my pockets, he did that in Uganda.
A week later, an email from African Writers Trust landed in my inbox and I was like was google eavesdropping on our convo or what. I’d been chosen for the inaugural C.C. Adetula Fellowship in Creative Writing for African Women Writersand was to attend a fully sponsored three-day AWT Informative Seminar on Emerging Trends in Writing and Publishing Practices. I always think I am normal until I get such news and suddenly, very strange and foreign laughter leaves my throat and I am dancing as though I’m in Samba Club, yduring those Luhya nights.
We were staying in Hotsprings Villa, a shy beauty sitting majestically atop Ndejje Hills. Ndejje is a wonderousneighbourhood of red roofs and a galaxy of lights at night, the escarpment lighting like a million fireflies. The AWT introduced me to the life of C.C. Adetula, a Nigerian writer who tragically flew away in 2019. She was an amazing writer full of wit and humour and who believed that writing needed audience. She founded a publishing house, story she wrote. Her collection of short stories, The Perfect Girl, the Prostitute and Other Stories, aptly captures lives of women from various walks of life with tenderness and truthfulness about womanhood.
My most outstanding AWT session was ghost writing by Gawaya Tegulle. I remember when someone once approached me to ghost-write their book, I could not find information on how to charge for the service and sample terms of contract. I called all writers in Kenya I knew, but none had done ghost writing before and didn’t know whom to consult and of course, in the end, I undercharged my client. Tegullegenerously shared all the information I had always sought. There was a comforting sense of familiarity with him and he is very hilarious, that man. I wish we had more time with him. He’s those types of people who leave you with a longing, like when Barack Obama visited Kenya and left, we felt full, yet utterly sad that he was leaving.
My most unforgettable activity was dancing during the last night in Ndejje. On that dance floor, we began at first as a large group, cautious and uptight. Let me tell you when chaff was separated from grains, we remained a bunch of lunatics on that dance floor in semi darkness. We were adults with too many problems to care what others thought of our moves. We were free, in Kampala, in Ndejje, in Hotsprings on that dance floor. We were young and we were hopeful and nothing else mattered in the world, just our moves and the music.
Till next time, thank you AWT!
GLADWELL PAMBA lives and works in Nairobi, Kenya. She won Afreada writing contest in 2019 and was the East Africa winner of International Literary Seminars – 2022. Her story was nominated for the Best of Net in 2021. She has previously been shortlisted for Writivism Short Story Prize in 2019, Sondeka Fiction Awards in 2020 and her blog nominated for the BAKE awards in 2017.She is the recipient of University of East Anglia/Goethe Institute scholarship 2022 for Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Masterclass and Jahazi-Saseni Scholarship for Billy Kahora’s Masterclass in 2022. Her works appear or are forthcoming in Bakwa Magazine, Iskanchi Press, The Offing, Waxwing Literary Journal: American writers and International Voices, A Long House, Five South Journal, Tint Journal, Patchwork, Kikwetu Journal of East African Literature, Kalahari Review, Newly Weds’ Window Anthology (Mukana Press, 2022), Digital Bedbugs Anthology (2020) and Equipoise Anthology (2021).