Posted in travel

De-stressing at Assegaai

University can be stressful sometimes. There a several ways to de-stress when things get too overwhelming however I recommend joining sports societies or any other societies that can allow you to engage in activities outside school work. For the past two years I have been a member of the Rhodes University Mountain Club. I initially joined because I love nature and hiking however, I have discovered that is also the best way to de-stress due to the hectic and overwhelming demands of university and social life.

This weekend despite the rain I joined the Mountain club on a two day trip to Assegaai trails a nature reserve in Grahamstown Eastern Cape South Africa. On our arrival we unfortunately had to change our plans because of the weather. The plan was spend the night at one of the camps inside the trails however we feared that the rain would not stop, making it too cold to enjoy our stay. We then decided to stay at the dorms which I can safely say was a far better idea.

Photo credit: Guinevere Shapiro

On arrival, we dropped our overly packed bags, had some breakfast and then stepped into the rain to begin our hike through the purple trail. Each tree was marked purple making it easier for slow walkers like myself to take it easy and catch up with everyone else without getting lost. We walked for about 5km to the camp we had initially planned to spend the night at. The trail was extremely slippery which made the hike incredibly difficult. I have a few scars to show for it. Despite the negative aspects of the hike, the scenery was incredibly breath taking and made every fall worth it.

Photo credit: Marjorie Rugunda

We had lunch at the camp, re-energized and after an hour or so we began or trail back to the dorms. We took the red trail this time to make the trip a bit more adventurous. Despite this trail being quite steep, we were greeted by several giraffes and a turtle as we got closer to our dorms. This was definitely my highlight of the trip because I had forgotten that Assegaai is not only famous for its trails but it also happens to be a game reserve. It begun to rain again so we didn’t really have time to take enough pictures of the beautiful animals however, we got back to the dorms in good time, had a good nap and later that night we spent time playing games, listening to music, eating and chatting away.

Photo credit: Marjorie Rugunda and Guinevere Shapiro

This weekend was definitely much needed. I would recommend anyone planning a trip to the Eastern Cape of South Africa to visit Assegaai trails.


Posted in Short stories

Once upon a failed assignment

I am ashamed to admit that in two years of being at Rhodes University the old white and partly brown stained building next to Drostdy Arch has never struck me as interesting. But Scifest is in town, taking me where I have never been. Believe me when I say I was shocked to see that there was actually stuff in there.

I immediately abandoned my African fresh water insect mission (sorry, Scifest) and quietly followed the pushing and shoving of eager students into a world of adventure and learning. The Albany Museum is really something else. It is a great learning space for students and adults who prefer to be in the company of artefacts and objects that are well taken care of and secure parts of our history that we tend to forget.

Each room exhibited different animal species, fossils and several traditional fishing objects I did not even know existed. From mammals to different types of insects – you name it, it all exists in that haunted looking building. I was quickly spotted by the tiny humans who discovered I had a camera in hand and they eagerly stepped forward to have their memories captured by a stranger.

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I was clearly not the only one having a great time at the museum. Photo credits: Marjorie Rugunda

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Photo credits: Marjorie Rugunda

We left the world of mammals and ventured into what resembled a bird sanctuary. The students stood with their cell phones taking selfies while others preferred to listen keenly to their teacher who quizzed them on what bird species were most common in Africa. I then followed the beaming smiles to a section of wetlands, were we were taught about the importance of conservation and preserving our wetlands. The knowledge shared within that space was truly exuberating.

I was content and satisfied with much of what was on display but while taking a picture of three fashion-forward students from Amazizi Senior Secondary School, I noticed that the tiny feet I had met on my way into the museum were in a room that exhibited important aspects of the AmaXhosa culture. The walls were covered with photographs of astonishing AmaXhosa women covered in traditional cosmetics. Together with photos that showcase different rites of passage practised by the AmaXhosa. In the middle of the room, a casket-looking glass cabinet displays different traditional plants, sticks and stones used by the AmaXhosa. These objects raged from Umnquma a traditional stick to Umavumbuka, a root parasite that the AmaXhosa use to prevent pimples and as sunscreen.

Students pose for a picture while navigating a room that displayed  aspects of AmaXhosa culture at the Albany museum. Photo credits: Marjorie Rugunda

Museums are there to educate and to exhibit important aspects of our history. This room in particular I felt was really important because it conserves significant parts of a culture. I was glad to be among the students as they glanced at photos and objects celebrating their culture. It was an amazing experience for me being that I am an international student living in the Eastern Cape. I felt that in that room at that moment it was the right time to ask the students if they were enjoying themselves. And in high-pitched voices they all screamed YES!

Posted in Short stories

Unforgettable experiences

Teaching has always been a passion of mine. I especially love to engage with children and find what is they are thinking or interested in. A few months ago I was lucky enough to teach Grade 7 students by partnering with Awarenet an organization located in Joza Grahamstown South Africa. Together with a few classmates of mine from Rhodes University, we embarked on a four week journey with these students teaching them how to write articles for Youth day.

Photo credits: Chiara B.

The biggest challenge was really to break down how to write an article in the easiest way eleven year olds can understand. The first few weeks were particularly interesting because we got some really exciting story ideas from the students. I was impressed at how aware these students are about some of the important issues that affect a number of youth in South Africa. These story ideas raged from teen pregnancy to drug Abuse and some decided to write about the youth that inspired them.

Group photo with Grade 7 students from Awarenet and fellow classmates from Rhodes University. Photo credits: Awarenet

Personally I learnt how to communicate and how to listen. But most importantly how to be patient. Teaching younger students can be a bit stressful especially because their minds tend to wonder constantly. The teaching process also took place in computer laboratory so that made it the teaching and guidance process even more difficult because they were more interested in surfing the net. However these particular students were also eager learners and despite a few setbacks by the end of week four we had about eight well written articles for youth day that were then published in Grahamstown’s local newspaper Grocott’s Mail.


Posted in Uncategorized

The other side of fear


My best friend Vivienne sent me an alarming voice note yesterday. Her childhood friend Hannah Cornelius was murdered in Stellenbosch. She was stabbed several times and her body was dumped in a ditch on the side of the road. It was difficult to make sense of what Viv was saying because she was in a state of shock. But I later on read on the news that Hannah was murdered by car hijackers. This tragedy has occurred just a few weeks after Karabo Mokoena was murdered by her boyfriend. Her body burned and dumped in a ditch. In Uganda, we are still mourning the loss of Desire Mirembe, also murdered by her boyfriend, beheaded and her body dumped in a ditch.


Today, I hesitated to leave my house. I had to show up at work but I feared that once I stepped out, I would not be seen or heard from again. As I made my way through African street, I looked over my shoulder countless times. Black painted cars with tinted windows made my body shiver. The sight of good looking men with nice teeth made me want to run the opposite direction. I am angry, scared and irritated. I feel weak. I feel tired. I feel that all my life I have been conditioned to fear.


When I think about all these incidents that have occurred over the past few weeks. This violence inflicted upon women’s bodies. I get terrified. However, the thing that scares me more is the position I find myself in today. Being a woman. Being subjected to fear on a daily basis because of my body, because of my vulnerability.

On my way back from work, I was still haunted by fear. I thought about the journalists who walked into news rooms and were asked to report on the murders of these women. Were they women too? Did they hesitate? Would I hesitate?

I saw an interview the other day by Karabo’s mother. I thought how brave she was to even begin to speak after she lost a child in such a horrendous way. I then thought about the journalist. What does one say to a mother? How do we report facts and avoid being subjective on issues that affect us too?


When I told my father I wanted to be a journalist, I knew it did not excite him as much as it did two years ago when my sister decided to study engineering. He would tell me a story everyday about journalists in the Middle East who had been imprisoned and others beheaded for simply reporting the news. I said to him: “I do not want to be a reporter, I want to write.” He looked back and said: “Writers get imprisoned too.”

My father said he would support my career choice only if I decided to write about travel or fashion. He asked that I stay away from anything related to war.

I do not want to be a war correspondent. That has never been my ambition. I have always wanted to write but never been sure about what to write about until this moment. How do I tell my father that I want to write for and about women? How do I say to him that the issues I want to write about are much scarier? How do I say to him that the issues I would like to share with the world through my writing are things I experience on a daily basis?


In ‘Again’ Natalie Goldberg argues that as writers it is our job speak. But while we do this, we ought to be as careful and as respectful as possible. In second year we had a discussion with our lecturers about how we as journalists should position ourselves when reporting about tragic incidents or about people in need. Does one simply report the facts and leave? Does this not mean we are using people’s tragedies for our own benefit? I left that room in fear and this memory resurrected when I read Goldberg’s words. I have always wanted to be a creative writer because I wanted to imagine things and build a world from fiction. Whenever people ask me whether I want to be a journalist I tend to shrug and say no. Then why are you pursuing a degree in journalism they ask? Well… I do not know. I do know that I am scared to write about reality because of my sensitivity. I am a woman and had I been asked to write a hard news story about Hannah, Karabo or Desire am afraid that my sensitivity and subjectivity would hinder me from doing my job. How do I get rid of these unwanted guests?

Anger, Fear, Resolution

Today, I hesitated to leave my house. I had to show up at work but I feared that once I stepped out, I would not be seen or heard from again. I am angry, scared and irritated.

I have however found courage in writing this. In finally admitting that I live in fear because I am a woman. I live in fear of the future when am asked to write about a murder of another woman. I fear not being taken seriously because I have breasts. I fear that I have to keep fighting. I fear that I have to write how I feel. However, Goldberg urges me to turn to this fear and use it. She says “whatever is hidden or secretive will always come out.” So here I am. Finally admitting fear. But also feeling courageousness in finally holding my black pen and discovering how to say the things I did not know how to say.


Posted in travel

Sometimes we conquer mountains

Two years ago while trying to skip Sunday study time at Greensteds International School Kenya. I decided to take it upon myself to join the hiking club. It was the best way to avoid doing any school work.

Little did I know that this hike would have me asking my parents for funds to go on a five day expedition to Mt. Kenya.

I had never been on a hike other the one so to be prepare myself for one of the biggest challenges of my life, I went on several hiking trails in Nakuru Kenya. After months of planning, I finally geared up to climb Mt. Kenya.

I carried my own bags for the duration of the whole trip. The bags did weigh me down on several occasions and I did have an option of having them carried by the amazing porters that accompanied us. But I wanted to challenge myself not just mentally but physically too. The porters also carried our food and did an amazing job in making sure we were nourished enough to keep on going.

Day 1: of the hike was a drilling six hour trek to the Austrian hut were we spent our first night. This day was particularly uneventful as we were all tired from our drive from Nakuru to Nanyuki north of Nairobi. It was a six hour drive from Nakuru and once we got our first hiking trail, we immediately grabbed our bags and hiked for six kilometres to the hut. We were warmly welcomed to the hut by cooks and porters who were there specifically for us, had an early supper and played a game of cards till lights out.

Day 2: was much more of a challenge. We got up at about 5am and begun an eight hour hike to Shipton’s camp. We were accompanied by about fifty German army soldiers making their way to the summit as a part of their army training.

After endless meltdowns, laughter and dehydration we made it to Shipton Camp. We were served an early dinner of ugali and beans and immediately sent off to bed.

We were to rise at 2am to begin our summit to Point Lenana. The porters said it is better to summit in the dark as during the day Lenana is impossible to climb simply because of how it appears during day light. I was given the honour of leading our group to the summit in morning.

Day 3: We got up at about 1am, bodies fatigued, eyes heavy with sleep and filled with fear for what was waiting for us on the outside. It was completely dark and the only thing guiding us was the torch attached to our heads. I was covered in multiple layers of clothing which made it difficult to climb. Despite all the layers I had on, the cold took a toll on me and I was left gasping for air on several occasions.

The biggest challenge was having to convince myself that I am capable of doing the impossible. It was freezing cold man! All I remember is struggling to get up there and having multiple break downs. The torch did not really do much  as it was too cold to even watch were I was going. The worst part of it all is whenever I looked up, I could see the group of German army men and women way ahead of us. It made the feeling in my chest worse because they were a sign that we weren’t even close.

The feeling in my legs is one I never what to experience ever again. I have never climbed anything that steep at 2am in the night. The wind was harsh on my lips and I could feel them crack every second. We took some time to get to the peak. I am happy to report that I was not the only one having countless melt downs.

The best advice I got from the porters was to keep taking small steps and keep my eyes on the ground. I did just that and next thing I knew the sun had risen and all that was left was to climb giant rocks and get to the peak. At this point my chest had given up on me. It felt like someone with a giant foot was stepping on my chest and would not let go. I saw the rocks. I saw that I was almost there. I wanted to go but my chest would not let me. Mr Sanigo, who organized the hike and was my mentor during the whole trip came up to me, cheered me on and handed me a liquid. I must admit that it made things worse. I wanted to puke my guts out and I remember thinking “Why on earth did I not listen to my mum and dad.” This was a bad idea. It was a bad idea from the start but for the love of adventure I brought my big head here. I cried for a few minutes. Then I looked up and decided to go for it. I do not know what happened next, the last thing I want to do is make up what happened. All I know is I made to the peak. The experience up there was not long. It was like a freezer up there and had I stayed much longer I would not be writing this.

If you thought climbing up the peak was the hardest part, you’re probably as naïve as I was. Descending. Yoh! We were told to walk down carefully and watch the rocks. Apparently should you kick one unknowingly, it will come tumbling down and bring its friends with. It took me more an hour to walk down Point Lenana. I took my sweet time to the point that one of the porters had to drag me down and constantly reminded me that everyone else was already back at the camp having tea. I did not care. After the morning I had, I deserved to descend down that mountain like I owned it.

Photo credits: Marjorie Rugunda

Day 4 and 5: We made our back the same route we came and spent a night at the Austrian hut were we had slept the first night. Both days were uneventful. Each and every one of us was fatigued, dehydrated, smelly and tired. Most of all we had just climbed fucking Mt.Kenya. There was nothing to talk all about, all we did was walk in silence, take in the breath taking  scenery one last time and quietly say to ourselves “You just fucking climbed Mt. Kenya.”


Posted in Uncategorized

We celebrate you Marion!

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Will Durant

My lovely sister Marion graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering and Computer Science  from the University of Cape Town, South Africa yesterday. It has  definitely not been easy journey. But I am so glad and lucky to have been around to witness her determination, persistence and over all patience in making sure she achieved her goal despite the hurdles. So proud of you Marion.

Here a few pictures from a very exciting and much awaited day.

Posted in Short stories

Blogging: (Eish the struggle)

I have been blogging for a  few months now and “boy oh boy” it has not been the easiest thing. I am generally an individual that does not like to share much, so this process has been a difficult one.

I apologize   for not blogging frequently. The last thing I want is for this to be one of those once a month post blogs. I have day to day activities I love to do and as much as I wanted to share these things, part of me felt that I would not enjoy them as much as I do if I opened up.

But I think we grow from taking risks.


Indoor cycling
The Indoor Cycling Studio at Rhodes University Grahamstown, South Africa

One of the things am completely passionate about is cycling and more specifically Indoor cycling. I have been a frequent spinner for two years now and proud to say that this passion pushed me to apply for the position of Indoor cycling manager at Rhodes University which I successfully got.

At the moment am waiting for a response to whether my audition for as a spinning Instructor was successful.

I am more than happy to share this because I hope someone out there is as passionate as about spinning just as I am,

Over the next few months I hope to open up more about my passion for adventure, health and generally life.

Here’s to being brave and risk taking.