Saturday, September 7, 2013

The African Story Challenge Finalist: ME

The dazzling light dimly lit across the room. I could not believe I was here. I could count my heart beats as one of the mentors of the story challenge camp cut across the room towards me with my certificate in hand. This was a first for me and a sign of great things to come. I closed my eyes tightly.

Fast rewind.
As a reformed internet junkie, I am surfing the net when I come across an advert calling for great interesting stories of agriculture from Africa. Momentarily I am carried away by the idea but quickly dismiss it all together on baseless grounds. I whisper my idea to my daughter. She likes it. I am not sure.
"They will not even read it" I tell her.
"Come on mum! You got to try and when it does not work out, at least you did"

Wait a minute. Is this kid only fourteen? Sometimes its hard to believe it. Most of the time she is my voice of reason. And so reluctantly I applied for the Agriculture cycle of the Agriculture story challenge.

One week, two, three, no feedback and so I forgot about it. Just like many more applications. Many believe August in Kenya is jinxed, I started to wonder if the jinx season turned to July. I find an email from African story challenge. "What is this?" I wonder.
So I click the email.

Dear Mildred,

I was elated beyond words. Nothing could define the feeling. I began sweating and freezing at the same time.

Being one of the story challenge finalist, was a first big step in my journalism career. A big step for Kibera and the youth of Kibera " Ghetto Wasanii" where I train journalism.

Many days to follow, sleep evaded my stingy eyes. Story camp was all I had in mind. Sometimes I would imagine I was in a deep slumber and when I wake up it would all be over. I woke up and it was still here. Here with me. I waited and waited. I was the first to reach Emarald Hotel :). Eagerness mixed with anxiousness toped up with anticipation. Being there first would give me time to read and gauge every person that walked through the lobby. Me being me. Being a not so vocal person, I love reading character and personality. And so I positioned myself to watch, observe and read as each competition swayed in the lobby. I noted interesting observations :).

I watched each and every finalist as they trooped into the hotel lobby. Each one had a unique style that defined them. The excitement and anxiety smelled like fresh blood. Armed with their back packs and pulling their suitcases everyone was in a hurry to leave. Their confidence spoke volumes.

Soon we were en route to Enashipai resort and Spa. I Push the key into the door and it flows open. I am greeted by a magnificent room. My jaw drops.

"Wooh! Breathe taking"

It had a combination of my colors. I felt invited. Went in unpacked and rushed to the conference room where we were to submit our presentations. This is funny because I had it figured out in my head well. As I lay in my bed late into the night all I would think about was my submissions and how I would present it. I was good or so I thought until "Ze phobia" took over and my words and thoughts were washed away to the sea of forgotten. There I am speechless staring far into the distance *laughing so hard*.
My goof. I remembered to name it.

The workshops began. We had all these professional experts from all fields of media take us through the crush course. It was intense and delved deep. The truth of the matter is that I loved the story clinic more than anything. I grasped a whole lot more which I plan to disseminate. Presentations from mentors  inspired me to a new level. I dared to dream.

I met lovely people and made wonderful friends. Had interesting conversations. The finalists were brilliant with promising futures. It was interesting to note that out of the 20 finalists, the females were only five. Yes Five.  Five strong women with different diversities from the same continent enchanted by a common goal: A better Africa.

Boot camp to me was an experience. One I will never forget. I thank the administrators and the panel of judges for having given me this once in a life time chance. Thank you.

Memorable times

Last hour rush. Kenya, Zambia, Liberia, Ghana, Zimbabwe.

Lake Naivasha reporting cruise. Think, Discuss, Create was more like it. The best news is that this day I overcame my phobia for water.

In remembrance, Memories are made of this. It was time to say goodbye after 5 days of intense training.

Wishing all the finalists the best in their story development. It was a pleasure meeting great and wonderful people like you.
Thank you African Challenge Story.