Meet Nantongo Mercy Angela a Ugandan Student living and studying in Shanghai, China. She is a poet, feminist, blogger, a lover of life and people. She shares with us her story.
Briefly tell us about yourself!
Haha this is always the hardest of the questions! Let’s see, I turned 21 on 24th March. Yay me! I’ve loved the colour purple and lions since age 6 (yes, I’m that loyal!), I’m a Muganda of Nkima clan (I take so much pride in that it even needs publication lol),committed Catholic that was raised by her Muslim mother. I read too much it’s been said I read unnecessary things but, I just can’t help it. I listen to so many genres of music that I can’t really narrow down my type anymore but Viva La Vida is my favourite album of all time. (Don’t judge!)
Share with us your educational History, please!
Hmm this is simple, I haven’t been to many schools! 😉 I went to Kampala Parents’ School from P.1-P.7, then was lucky to be admitted into Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga for both S.1 and S.5 even though I left during S.5 on scholarship to Concordian International School in Bangkok, Thailand to pursue what I consider the best curriculum for anyone – the International Baccalaureate. I am currently pursuing my undergraduate degree at New York University Shanghai on scholarship.
What does International Baccalaureate even mean?
So the International Baccalaureate (IB) is like the A-levels. It’s the pre-university level (we call it diploma) but not on the same level as university two year Diplomas I think.
How often do you visit Uganda?
I visit Uganda for sure every year, and if necessary maybe twice a year.
What do you miss about Uganda?
The truth? I miss the fact that the weather is constant at home (I hear it reaches 30°C these days though). I miss my family and best-friends that know me well because they’ve seen me grow. I miss matooke, chapatti, ffene and nsenene. All of them.
Being a young Ugandan abroad, What challenges do you face?
I think the biggest challenge isn’t being homesick, as one would expect because I talk to my family and friends constantly through the week. Even a simple text suffices. The bigger challenge for me lies in projecting a good, and “normalised” image of Ugandans, and Africans in general to my peers at the schools I’ve been to. To show them that while we might have the problems that are projected in the media, we’re also normal teenagers who love our parents and jajas (grand parents), and are happy with our lives. When I can engage in such dialogues, I’m glad because then I don’t have to constantly remain disappointed in people that maintain their stereotypes about people that are not like them. I guess my challenges don’t seem very personal, but yeah this is a thing I find that I can make a personal contribution too as a young proud Ugandan living away from home.
We feel your pain. Okay now back home, what have been your most memorable and worst moment in Uganda!
Hahaha anyone who knows me well, will tell you that I’m not good with memories especially if it involves singling out a particular incidence. Let’s just say I’m glad for the love I am given unconditionally while I’m back home, for the fact that my opinions and advice count to some people and that I have an unbreakable support structure. My worst moments? I don’t know really but I know I complain a lot about the lack of work ethic a majority of my peers and adults alike display.
Talking about work ethic, Given a chance, what would you change about or in Uganda?
As I probably mentioned above, I don’t think the average Ugandan has the inherent drive to accomplish beyond the ordinary, to like burst that ever-present glass ceiling nor do I feel like my peers are open-minded and interested in engaging in thoughtful dialogue on world issues. But maybe everyone shouldn’t be like that. I don’t know. What I would like to be able to change in the future when I can teach the growing generations that charity begins at home – that we can lift each other up and we need to aspire not to be like our elders but better than them. The world is changing, and we’ll have to change with it if we wish to remain autonomous.
We understand that you are a poet. so, If someone were interested in your writings, where would he/she find them?
(Laughs) They could tweet me or visit halfwaytherebloggers.wordpress.com where I’m currently establishing a blog space with a few friends of mine. A fully functional website might pop up soon, so watch this space 🙂
You are a fashion fanatic, why not start-up a fashion blog?
hahaha fanatic yes, such proper phrasing! I have contemplated that and a beauty blog oh so often but I don’t think I would be offering my audience the level of commitment this would entail. As a college student, I only blog for leisure because that’s all the free time I have. With a fashion or beauty blog, I’d have to set time (and money) aside to styling either myself or a few people, doing tutorials, etc. If i did such an endeavour, it would definitely be for the audience and not just myself as the writing blog I currently have so I wouldn’t want to short-change my readers when I go too busy or otherwise. That said, I never say never. I’m always telling people that the way they carry and present themselves says a lot about them so, one day when I no longer have a closet filled with more jeans and on-sale blouses, this is definitely an idea I’ll consider!
Being pro-woman, what would you suggest should be done about gender inequality in Uganda?
Hahaha pro-women? yes! I think this starts with society collectively raising girls and ladies that are confident in their own abilities. I personally believe that we need to teach men and women, boys and girls alike that in social, economic and political terms, there is nothing the one gender can do that the the other cannot. Women can lead, so can men. My biggest inspiration on all terms gender equality is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and my mother. I was raised by a family of strong independent women. In my household, I never once felt that I was of the inferior gender or that there were things I needed men to do for them to get accomplished. I knew my “place” in terms of respecting the adults and not in terms of respecting the men and then the women. And above all, I was always told by father and mother both that I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I would be the best at it. All I hope for Uganda is that one day we shall get to a stage where the way society pays respects to women is similar to the way it has always paid respect to the women that in-fact do hold the nation on their shoulders. We all deserve that much.
I know you don’t mind at all, so, drop us a poem about Uganda. (poem should be less than 15 lines)
Like a well-loved artefact she is
Of countless nooks and crannies
Of ev’r-changing facets she has
Like a diamond, she truly is
But only for me
And those that have known her
Lived with her, Heard of her
She is the treasured gem
That we want to sing of to the world
Yet keep so hidden
Such beauty shouldn’t be concealed
Anyone that seeks should experience it
But how I wish to keep her just mine
It’s not my call though
So I’ll let you shine – dear Uganda.
Do you agree with the notion that, asking a lady for her age is a rude gesture?
Personally I don’t think it’s rude. I’m proud of my age, while I might wish to not get any older, age is not a variable I can change so why lie about it? So if anyone asks for my age, I won’t be offended, and I’ll tell it to them straight up! But, if a lady tells you that she wouldn’t like to tell you her age after your first inquiry, please don’t insist, then you’re not respecting her and are just being nuisance. As we say, to each his (her) own.
Any message you would love to pass on to people back home (Uganda) and those Ugandans studying from other countries?
Both people at home and abroad, do keep being the warm affable bunch that Ugandans generally are. Love yourself above all else but don’t be selfish. Be proud of where you come from because personal identity is something that we can very easily lose in this world of social media, and the aim to “please” and “fit in”. Above all, aspire for knowledge for it grounds you, and never resist the opportunity to help others when you can.