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Lockdown: Adapting to the new normal

The Lockdown Life: A week ago, the President announced an ease to the lockdown and on Tuesday, many Ugandans, especially those with private cars breathed a sigh of relief as they stepped out of confinement in their homes. And while it is almost more than two months since the country went into a Covid-19 lockdown, many have had trouble adapting to the new normal. Esther Oluka spoke to a few people to understand how they coped and any lessons they have learnt so far.

Martha Chemutai, Communications Officer

I don’t have to be at work to be productive

Before the crisis, I had no experience working from home. The first weeks of lockdown were a struggle as I worked from my bed and couch – I was not being productive so I was forced to set up a home workspace. I set up small targets and at the end of the day I would tick off and celebrate every little achievement. Also, technology enabled the remote work and collaboration with colleagues and partners, which was helpful in transitioning back to normal work.

Life under lockdown was a cocktail of emotions. Even my personal life was in a state of confusion. It is not easy when you are restricted from movement or physical contact. I found this tough but the organisation I work for has a very good support system where every week, we set some time off just to talk about how each one is coping and encourage each other. Personally, I have had to take up doing home workouts and it feels great.

Lessons? Well, change is never easy but this pandemic has taught me to anticipate anything in life and that it is always important to be prepared. I have also come to the realisation that you are entirely responsible for your own happiness. I have also learnt that thanks to technology, you do not have to be at work to be productive. But most importantly, I realised that communication and love are very powerful coping tools in such difficult times. Even after this, life will never be the same!

Joram Job Muzira

Joram Job Muzira, model scout

 I  am saving a lot cooking for myself

Life is different since lockdown but I have found ways to turn all the lemon into lemonade by utilising this time to extensively do a lot of digital and virtual model scouting. Almost every work I do now is digital-based. My days always start at about 7am and end at midnight or sometimes I stretch to 2am. In addition, I am also utilising this time to read and watch a lot of documentaries on show production, talent scouting, developing global business partnerships, running businesses online, among other things. Watching motivational and inspirational videos from different speakers is also helping me to stay motivated during this time and become a better person.

Also, part of my job as a model scout is to find a strategic way of getting models signed to international agencies and normally when this happens, they make at least some good amount of money where I also earn commission as their mother agent. But now with the world at a standstill, with no flights to international destinations, no global fashion campaigns and shows, the modelling fraternity is missing out. As such, I am ensuring to stay afloat by not spending money aimlessly.

Before the lockdown, I ate at expensive restaurants in town, but now I cook my own meals. This in the end is helping me save a lot of money. By the time this whole crisis ends, I believe I would have made a big personal transformation. I anticipate to come out as a much better person mentally, smarter in doing business and with a lot of new strategies and plans on how to transform our local modelling industry.

Ivan Bwowe, lawyer

Social media can’t replace physical love

In January 2020, I travelled to Iceland for a five-month post graduate diploma in International Gender Equality Studies. Although I completed the programme, I could not return home because of the lockdown.

I must admit that I cannot wait to return home. There is a lot of looming uncertainty and I keep wondering whether it will be safe to return home. I cannot also stop worrying about my loved ones back home. I have friends who keep calling and texting sharing their frustration of being unable to pay rent.  Then, there are those telling me about their loss of jobs while others are expressing uncertainty post-covid. I think about these things everyday. It takes an emotional toll on anyone, especially when you are far away from home.

My coping mechanism is always finding ways of being pre-occupied. I exercise, watch movies, read, cook and make video calls to loved ones. This routine is however getting boring. You know, many times, we take things for granted, but this ongoing crisis has been a huge wake up call. It has made me more appreciative of family members and friends. Social media and phone calls can never replace the warmth and love of their physical interactions.

Aisha Nagudi Okot, banker

I will not take things for granted anymore

I am a little upset with the ongoing crisis. I was meant to defend my thesis in March so that I could graduate in January 2021, but that was obviously not possible because of the temporary closure of universities. I will now have to wait for a set of new communication guidelines regarding when to defend my work.  Regardless of everything that is happening, I am happy to be spending this time with my children and husband. Secondly, I am utilising the time to take long walks as a strategic way of maintaining my weight. I have lost a few pounds. My lowest moment though was when one of my children fell sick and my husband and I had to walk to hospital. Though the distance was not long, the incident made me reflect and think about other mothers, especially the expectant ones who have to walk long distances either to give birth or seek medical attention.  The lesson for me has been not to take anything for granted. Whether it is life, a job or family. I have learnt to appreciate these things more during this time. And also most importantly, this period of time has taught me to save more and live within my own means.

Dorah Mwima Barrak, Businesswoman

I am learning to embrace difficult times

Despite everything that is going on, I am happy that I get enough time to spend with my children and husband. We are spending quality time as a family. I have gotten the opportunity to teach my children, nurture their different talents as well as see more of their unique personalities. My husband and I sometimes have our small intimate dinner dates in the evenings and it is during such moments that we may plan and strategise for life ahead. On some occasions, we watch family themed movies with the children. In some way, doing all these things at home has enabled the family save a lot of money. We are not going out like we used to before the crisis. Perhaps, the only setback I have faced from the crisis is not being able to run my business as usual. For example, there have been instances where clients, including expectant and new mothers reach out to me requesting for essential items but then I have faced challenges making deliveries. Due to travel restrictions, I cannot go to them and in turn, they cannot also reach me easily.

Overall, I am learning to keep a more positive mindset, to stay sane amid all that is going on.  I am learning that we all have the power to get the best out of every situation, to dance through the storm, embrace difficult times, and have hope that things will get better.

Ivan Sebuuma, photographer

Multiple sources of income is key

The crisis has made me anxious and stressed. I am not used to staying at home because of the nature of work I do. Before the lockdown, I had confirmed projects upcountry, which of course never got executed. My lowest moment was when a client called me to do some work for him but I could not go because of the travel restrictions. I am currently surviving on savings.

However, despite the stress, I have managed to take enough rest and I am utilising this time to reflect on the new direction I want to take as a photographer. The biggest lesson I have learnt from the lockdown is not to rely on one source of income. A notable number of photographers are used to earning daily income but now I have learnt the value of investing. It is high time we started setting up side businesses to complement our daily earnings.

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