How I landed my First Job

festus

— By Festus from Nigeria

The job hunt started with a celebration after I finished my final exam as an undergraduate at the prestigious University of Nigeria. I will never forget that wonderful day. I can still picture the wonderful celebration that came with it the usual “four years don waka” ritual inspired by Nigeria’s style plus track titled: “four years don waka.”

This is a popular celebration in Nigeria’s Universities. It ushers students into a moment of celebration laden with joyful screams, hoots of laughter, tears of joy and a period of thanksgiving to providence for a successful or safe degree programme—four, five or six years, depending on the course of study.

During this once in a lifetime celebration you would see students clothed in white vest—emblazoned with autographs of different colors of permanent marker pen or highlighter, you’d see excitement palpably woven amongst them.

I joined in the celebration too. I enjoyed every single minute I spent with my classmates—reveling.

After the celebration, I came face-to-face with reality. We shook hands, exchanged contacts and soon became friends. This reality’s baptismal name is also known as: Life after school. What I call “Life of a graduate”.

It comes with a lot of thoughts and challenges. It’s at that stage you start hunting for job and this time around you’ll hear news like: “there’s no job.” Well It’s true; there’s no job. But, I’ve never accepted that cliché for once. I’ve always believed in God’s grace and hard work.

Still, the search continued. I kept sending mails to editors; I never relented in checking out for opportunities on the Internet. I kept applying till I even became tired of applying. Days turned into weeks, weeks rolled into a month—still, nothing happened.

However, the story changed on the 30th of August. I received a mail from U.S based African Exponent that was only a few weeks after I applied for a staff writer position. Amid anxiety I applied and when I was invited for an interview on Skype, my heart was housed in fear too. I didn’t expect anything big. The thoughts of “You don’t have your certificate yet” flooded my thoughts. “After all you just graduated few weeks ago,” I continued, in deep thoughts.

But, the interview panned out well. My three-year experience as a young journalist paid off. I got the job. And here is the surprising news: I was the only person offered employment as a staff writer out of 198 applicants all over Africa.

I was gob smacked. I shed tears of joy. I screamed, I celebrated.

The news is still unbelievable even as I am writing this piece. It is an experience I will never forget in my life. An experience I will preserve for my children and my generation is to always believe in themselves, in God and in their hustle (hard work).

The Moment That Changed my Life

franklin

— By Franklin from Nigeria

Back when we were asked what we wanted to become when we grew up, I always mentioned medicine and honestly, being a doctor was it for me. I knew it was my calling. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t sure of the different categories of medicine available, but I was just comfortable with being called Doctor up and down the whole place. Seemed cool!

Fast forward to secondary school; I join the Nigerian Red Cross Society you know? Somewhere along my supposed life path I got acquainted with basic first aid and in my fourth year, I was even made an assistant Health. Prefect! So I got to be in charge of the sick bay. It was then I found out I wasn’t really the most comfortable person with blood. For a doctor-to-be, that meant war. I mean, what kind of doctor loathes blood? I dismissed it and prepared for the university to get rid of my fear of blood.

Somewhere along the line, I had a one-on-one with the school’s guardian counselor and it was as though she was specifically speaking to me as if she knew I had a thing for blood. She kept talking about how we have to stick to what we enjoy doing and not rush into plans simply because someone else was doing it or because it seemed cool. I was shaking. I had to sit down and think and it dawned on me that I might have just liked the idea of being a doctor. It was very cool to say but the least. They were adored and given respect as they moved in their white coats with pens by the right pocket. It was then I had my moment of clarity, the one moment that I would say changed my life for good because I may have been an average doctor endangering the lives of people all because I wanted to feel cool or enjoy the respect.

I eventually went to the university, studied Microbiology and now, I write for a living on OMGVoice. I mean, I like to think I’m pretty cool to my readers and people who say nice things about what they read on the website regularly. I am, I’m pretty sure.

It Seemed Like a Dream Job…

akhona

— By Akhona from South Africa

Farm Juliets is what the big town dwellers refer to us a given that a lot of us come from a small town with nothing but a church and school for entertainment. If we are lucky, we can see an already out of the box office movie sometimes. I guess we have a certain unappealing swag about us that only the city folk can identify with, but one thing for certain is that once the city bug has bitten someone, that person never wants to go back to the folklife. Whatever it was….

My name is Akhona Zibonti and I was born and raised on the outskirts of the Indian Ocean in a rural town called Port St. John’s. From a very young age I have always felt that I didn’t belong in PSJ (as we fondly refer to it). I have always felt the slight suffocation with the idea of spending more than a few seconds in the town. I guess one can say I was never really in love with my hometown from the very beginning because I am ashamed to say that I have never fully gave myself time to know and explore the much interesting parts about the town.

I think Joburg caught my eyes from a very young age. I remember I had always dreamt of coming to Joburg and my day dreams where always situated in Jozi… I felt that the city understood my personal desire for bigger and better things. For a while I believed Joburg understood me better than anyone. If I recall correctly 2002 was the year I told myself I was not going to spend another precious moment in PSJ, sadly it was also a year I was grieving my grandfather. A tall salt and pepper proud, gentle yet strict old man with a look that could stop the universe and a kind soul that could make one want to get closer to God.

So I had made a plan, which never materialized though. I guess I felt there was no point in staying in a place where some of the people who made me feel safe were no longer residing there. It might look as though it was an outcry of a grieving soul but for a split second Joburg made me feel like I was living in Never Never Land and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it for a long time. My naïve soul believed everything and everyone in Joburg was good.

Fast-forward to 10 years later and life has shown me a thing or two. I have always known and felt that my calling was helping people. When I was introduced to Khanya College I felt that I had found my purpose. Khanya is situated at end of Inner City Johannesburg in a building called the Freedom house. This organization falls under the Khanya umbrella which fights for different social-oriented causes. When you first see the building you get the idea; an inner city’s dilapidated situation with crimes, buildings without running water or electricity but always full of occupants, from toddlers to adults. Khanya is situated in Prichard Street diagonally opposite to where prostitutes operate. It always catches me off guard when I enter the building with a polite guard and a functioning elevator. The elevator is even serviced when it needs to be!  The organization prides itself of having a large area for the press as well as a full-functional kitchen. Their programs attract people who don’t trust the Inner City given all the good deeds that they have done over the years.

Khanya is draped with many good deeds. As a former worker, I can only tell you of the psychological damage one faces from the hands of Maria whose narcissist ways ensure that you are isolated when she showers her wrath on you with degrading words. I felt as though this was a form of oppression and made me question my abilities that constantly would come up in conversation …

I remember Thuli, another coworker, would always say to me “Don’t let her break you, because she wants you to break and make you beg for your job.” Thato, Nokuthaba also felt her constant torture and after years passed all I had left was Palesa. The place with its uplifting ideologies suppresses its workers while overworking…. At one point she had said to me about how she had to beg the Director and other in charge for me to get the job and that I should be grateful to her to have this job. To be honest I was petrified of losing my volunteer position.

Even though I was promised a larger salary than the one I was getting, I never questioned nor did I want to disrupt the status quo. It is sad that a number of South African or non South Africans live under constant fear everyday. When it was time for me to open another chapter in my life, I left without a heartbreak or bitterness towards her, because I finally learned that throughout the time I worked myself to a zombie and this will not change a thing. Regardless of what I would do, she was a narcissist who always thought she was superior to me. In retrospect, I had realized that I should always steer clear of self-doubt and stop it in its tracks. What is left now is figuring out: what is next?

 

“Darling You Have to Learn How to Live!”

maria

— By Maria from Uganda

From a very early age, I started to feel like I didn’t fit in. I was awkward, shy, and an introvert. There is nothing profound about that revelation, because most people feel that way about their life. I mean we’ve been doing this human thing for thousands of years and we are still discovering new things about our minds and our bodies every day. Being Human is not easy! Dealing with other human beings is also not easy. Depending on our personality, background, culture, beliefs, or environment, we all handle it differently. My naïve adolescent self decided that I needed to find a way to fix my wallflower nature. I wanted a book that would help me figure out the best way to deal with people. I felt it was necessary to become a person that fits in effortlessly, someone that everyone loves. At the time I didn’t know the true meaning of the terms introvert or extrovert or the extent to which they affect our environment. I would just pray for God to change me. I would daydream about being someone else, some beautiful girl somewhere who was popular and successful.

When I reached 19 years old I started searching through libraries and bookstores. I started buying books mostly from  the self-help section. I must have looked so strange in the bookstore. But, despite all the books, my best learning experiences have been life experiences.

My twenties have been a decade long lesson on mastering the art of being an adult human being. I thought my husband would be in my life by now. I thought my mother would hold my first-born child by now. I thought I’d start gingerly climbing up the career ladder in one lateral line. However, in this decade my mother passed away. I got a job in my dream organization and realized how damaging and unhealthy competition can be. I have not met my husband. My room is still untidy. Life is every shade of grey you can think of, instead of just being plain black and white.

In my strange imagination, I can see my introvert myself as the soul who was probably shoved into the birth canal, to start her journey as the female Maria Nabatanzi. I can see myself refusing all attempts by my heavenly spiritual teachers to convince me to come to earth and learn some universal lessons about being human. I can imagine me as a soul who told the teachers that I agree with ALL the theoretical lessons but I have no interest in learning the practical side of being a human on earth. I probably threw tantrums and spent time in the naughty corner of heaven for my behavior. Of course none of that worked because I am here.

I am here on earth as Maria Nabatanzi.

When I got to University in the first week, I realized the opportunities available to me were endless! How could I let such good fortune pass me by? One evening I sat in my new bedroom and gave myself an internal pep talk. I wasn’t going to let my timidity stop me from living my life. So I got dressed in my favorite dress, slid on my leather boots, grabbed my jacket and matched out the room to my first social event alone. My stubborn soul has finally accepted the wisdom of my teachers.

Life puts me in situations that challenge me. This is what I think God would call LIVING. But it’s not my lesson alone. We must all bring something new to the table through human experience. Just look at all your favorite heroes; whether they’re a saint, president of sports hero throughout life, they did one thing. They taught you a new way of living, a new way of handling a challenging situation.
I bet my spiritual teachers are high fiving themselves in jubilation, “You see, she is not a lost cause after all!”

Visit Maria’s blog: Happily Flawed

The African Mathematician & Writer

kearoma

— By Kearoma from Botswana

My educational background is a little humorous but also very inspirational. My journey went from being an aspiring doctor to a writer and I’m currently completing my final year for a BSc in Applied Sciences with a double major in Mathematics and Statistics. Quite unexpected right? I also want to say I went to the school of life, but I don’t think I have garnered enough experience yet in that aspect to make that claim.

My fondest memory of my childhood is being four or five years old with a play set of medical doctor’s tools- stethoscope, plastic injection set and the like. I would put all my teddy bears and dolls on chairs and play hospital; this hospital of course had one doctor who did everything from bathing the patients to giving injections. I grew up knowing that I wanted a career in medicine, in fact I wanted a life around medicine.

Life of course doesn’t always work out the way we plan it, you could be planning to go live a life of solitude on an island and life will bless you with one in a busy city with a huge circle of friends. This of course didn’t happen to me, I still wish for a busy city life though. In my case life handed me Mathematics and Statistics.

Fast-forward two years later, I did not reapply for med school. In fact, the dream was slowly drifting away from my mind and I was trying to decide what I wanted to major in for my Applied Sciences course. I chose Mathematics and Statistics because the past two years had made me fall irrevocably in love with the two. I was excited and giddy at the prospect of trying something new and taking leaps towards my future.

What I am most thankful for is my family’s support. They never once questioned my decisions; they only just made sure I was certain this was the path I wanted to take. My mother of course was scolding me for wasting my writing talent in journals and books I allowed no one else to read. She was truly one of the people that urged me to share my writing with others. Her constant questions about why I was hiding my talent and her mention of the award I had received at 18 for best in English Literature for my high school leaving exams at the national level and a day of toying around with starting a blog led me to actually start my blog.

Writing has always been one of my main hobbies, I would write poems about teenage love affairs and mighty female characters. I guess the truth of the matter is that, in Botswana, the arts are not something we grew up knowing could feed someone. Maybe at the time it was because I wanted to be a doctor but it was also due to the fact that we grow up noticing how everyone is a nurse, a doctor, a teacher or a politician. Only first world countries had people who made careers from blogging or singing on YouTube.

I love writing and I love African literature even more. I love how African writers weave ordinary stories into gems that just make so much sense. I wrote a story that was on brittlepaper about a young woman who lost her father who had been a mathematician. My Ghanaian lecturer who is a Mathematics Professor well into his seventies came to class one day and shook my hand because he had read the story. I didn’t know where he came across it but the mere fact that he was congratulating me filled me with so much joy I cried in class.

My academic life is only at the beginning. There is so much I want to do, so much I want to write about and as my lecturer likes saying “so much to calculate and find derivatives of” because that’s what life is all about; living it to your best ability. I wouldn’t change anything even though sometimes when the theorems and formulas don’t come to my mind in a test I think I would be better of learning about verbs and stuff and studying English.

I have learned that life might not always turn out the way we want it to but it will always lead to somewhere better. I have learned that making plans is good but sometimes the unplanned life is also worth it. I also learned that Africans need to stop looking down on other careers; I could decide I want to spend my days singing and reciting folklores in Setswana at the mall for the rest of my life and people would call me a mad woman. There is a need to let young people do what they love. Its better being happy with what you are doing, that I believe is what makes one excel.

Was Christmas Part of the Change?

16196546_10209768195775640_1059448742_o

— By Millicent from Kenya

A few days to Christmas and I can clearly say it is nothing close to the Christmas back in the day. Christmas used to be the in thing growing up. Shops and malls would have Christmas decorations from the first day of December, the radios would pay Christmas carols and in churches there would practice Christmas carols every day for the big day. If there was a voting process for the best holidays, it would shame the other holidays. Growing up in the city, I never had the chance to celebrate it in the rural areas like my other friends. A few days to Christmas, my other friends would pack and leave with their families for rural areas for Christmas celebration. Since I have never celebrated one in the rural area they would say it is crowned with feasting and slaughtering of animals. In most rural areas, farming and cattle rearing is the source of livelihood hence slaughtering animals is one of the ways to celebrate this day.

People like me who celebrated it in the city, it meant new clothes, shoes and a lot of eating. The clothes part is what many cannot forget especially with the memories from the photographs. Back in the day, our parents would buy similar clothes for all the siblings. Girls would look-alike and so would boys. Food was in plenty. Plenty meant that all the cuisines from our tribe and the country in general would be part of the menu. Chapatis would always be the highlight of this day. Chapati is a type of bread consisting of a dough that is made in round shapes and cooked on a pan with little oil. During the year, chapatis were often cooked on Sundays or when there were visitors. It is only during Christmas that it would come in plenty with no limitation. To top things up, Christmas would not be complete without the kids being taken for a day out at the amusement parks. Christmas was indeed a wonderful holiday. The whole family would unite on this day and the smiles on everyone’s face would indeed prove that it was worth the wait.

Since you have a clear picture on how Christmas used to be back in my days let me also describe to you the current Christmas to know why they are nothing close. Lately they have neglected it unlike before. Very few people are paying attention to it from corporate, businesses and individuals. Businesses that would paint and put up Christmas decorations no longer do that. Could they be so money minded that they think it is an expense? People who used to travel upcountry no longer do that and they have jumped into my family’s bandwagon of staying in the city during the festivities. If you listen carefully you will hear them blaming the high cost of transportation as their reason for staying behind. It is not bad to stay behind but what will the people in the rural areas think about them? That they have abandoned them? Anyway, it is not in my place to dig deep on this.

New clothes are no longer a mark for this great day. People are always buying them with the pop up of new fashion so there is no need to wait for Christmas to do it. On chapatis which used to be the landmark for this day, they are now available everywhere and anytime losing their uniqueness. Years have revolutionized what Christmas used to be. The touch of family, great meals, carols and decorations are no longer there. It is nearly being turned to a normal off day where you take a two days rest and get back to work. I wish more would be done to restore the happiness and memories that came with this day. The lost glory of Christmas to be returned. It would be a shame if future generations in my society will not get to experience Christmas the Kenyan way. Hearing them say “Kenyans used to celebrate Christmas like this” will be a heartbreaking statement. I know change is inevitable but it is best we preserve each and every little touch that we can.

The Power of Light and Love

francis

— By Francis from Sierra Leone

Holidays always seem to mean a lot to women and they certainly do to my nan, Cecilia. This is a time for giving gifts and shopping. Numberless of trinkets – ranging from booklets, bracelets, and bowls to charm are distributed. For her, the giving of gifts is a personal task, “an opportunity for engraving my spirit on the minds and hearts of my people.” Shopping for both these gifts and household goods, she stresses not fashion but durability and price. Shoes are bought for more days of wear in every pair.

Surely, this is a very special time of the year. In schools, children grow excited at the prospect of what is to come. Stores are jammed with shoppers, streets explode with light and messages of good-will abound. Even when people say hello to each other, there’s a special feeling in it; a bright and warm feeling that pervades our days.

Yes, we are at a very special time, indeed! And the question of what fills our cold winter days with such light and warmth is unavoidable.

For some of us it is Christmas, and for some of us it is Chanukah. Whatever the holiday, the feeling goes beyond any religious boundary and unites us all in a feeling of affection for each other.

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah is called the “Festival of Lights” – a candle is lit at night for seven nights to commemorate a miracle of light. The Christian holiday of Christmas has been called a “Fest of Love” – It commemorates the birth of Jesus, who has been called the Prince of Love.

With these, we have a combination of the feast of Light and Love; two qualities that should fill the world and the world becomes a better place for it.

What a need there is for both then. The world is filled with corners of darkness where lurk the demons of ignorance and prejudice and hate. These are corners where the light of knowledge and truth has not yet reached. What a bright and happy world we could have if the light of learning is brought to every crevice.

Each day we read, see and/ hear the tragedies that hate and fear bring about – horrors perpetrated in hate which destroys, tears down and mutilates. What a need there is for love. What a change there would be if we could reach each mind twisted by hate and replace that hate with love.

Light and Love; Love and Light – in combination, what wonders could they not produce? They could build a world where kindness would be the rule, concern for each other would be a part of daily life, and individuals would grow and thrive and contribute and find happiness and compassion.

If, for this one time of the year our lives can be filled with happiness and warmth and a spirit of giving – a spirit of light and love – then surely we can work at making it last throughout the year as well. Let’s have the courage to believe that this is not a dream; not a fantasy. Let’s us believe that it is a possibility within our grasp.

What a world THAT would be!