Uganda Jane nannono two drops of ink

Memoir: The Second Exile

I've given my memoirs far more thought than any of my marriages. You can't divorce a book. ~Gloria Swanson~ Click To Tweet

By Jane Nannono


The first exile lasted twenty-one full years! It happened merely because my country, Uganda, East Africa, could not give me a decent pay as a medical doctor, and the tools that I needed to perform my work were inadequate. No doubt, I could not achieve what I wanted in life in such a limiting environment. I had to look for opportunities elsewhere to realize my full potential. I ended up in Botswana, a middle- income country in Southern Africa. Botswana is regarded as an oasis of good governance and prudent management of the natural resources for the good of every citizen. I must admit that I practiced the best clinical medicine in this country while at the same time supporting my three children at the University of Cape Town: the top university in Africa.

The Unexpected

I returned home over a year ago. For the twenty-one years I was away, I made time to visit home at least every two years. I could stay for one month or so but looking back now, the visits were not long enough to prepare me for what I have come to call my second exile. To my shock and amazement, I have returned to a country changed beyond recognition! I believe that no aspect has been left unchanged; some changed for the worse and a few changed for the better. Daily, I struggle to make sense of the chaos floating around me. It is the result of a combination of many factors. In the urban areas, Uganda has slowly but surely become a technology-driven country: the internet and Social media have changed how people do things, move, and communicate. The young, connected generation has become insensitive and impatient. Over the twenty-five AM and FM radio stations and eight or so television stations, the youths are preoccupied with money and wealth. They want to earn fame and fortune quickly and a number are ready to try any trick to earn it. Do not get me wrong, at their age we also had high hopes and expectations but were prepared to work hard to achieve them.

An Alien at Home

Their language is foreign to me, their attitude about work and savings are different. Sadly, most of them relate happiness to money instead of taking money as a tool to make one’s life comfortable. Money now controls their lives. The traditional values and principles, as I know them, have been grossly eroded. Compared to my second country Botswana, the Batswana are still community-orientated and still have high ethical values. They continue to harness the diversity of cultures, languages, and traditions and become united with a common heritage.

One of my worst nightmares is moving from point “A” to point “B” in Kampala, the capital city. There are too many cars in one small space and one gets caught in the tangled traffic for a simple thirty minutes service! We are often advised that if a place is changing you, to your core values, you should pack and leave before you lose yourself. Having said that, I know that East, west, home is best so I have had to trust myself to rise to the huge challenge of turning home into the place I want to be.

Finding My Comfort Zone

I have been able to look up other returnees like me to find support. It was not surprising that they also felt like foreigners in our country. Things are done completely different here; from outright exploitation to complete disregard of the known rules. After the initial shock and denial, I have opened myself up to learn and thrive while holding on to what I cherish and want to conserve.

Alvin Toffler, the sociologist and writer said: “The illiterates of the 21st century will be not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Click To Tweet

I learn something new every day, unlearn what is no longer true or relevant, and relearn what is still true and relevant. In this era of information overload, I have to decipher the information for quality-absorbing what adds value to my life. The wisest among us learn from the experiences and mistakes of others, so I am ready to learn from the young and old. I am becoming a keen observer of my surroundings to help me understand the environment. It is the only way I can control the controllable. I am determined not to be defeated by this second exile.

I know very well that change is an integral part of living and has to be embraced to thrive. To succeed, I need to remain positive in action and attitude and to ask for help and advice from other returnees.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882), the English Biologist and Naturalist, said:  “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one most adaptable to change.”

I remain hopeful that despite the avalanche of changes around me, I can curve a path through then go on to grow and develop while at the same time helping and serving others.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882), the English Biologist and Naturalist, said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one most adaptable to change.” Click To Tweet

Jane Nannono

Memoir: The Second Exile jane nannono two drops of ink


I am a Ugandan medical doctor who has lived and worked in Botswana for twenty-one years. I recently retired to Uganda, my home country. I have been a voracious reader since childhood. I am a published writer: The Last Lifeline (2012) And the Lights Came On (2016) both fiction novels and available on Amazon. I also write short stories, and two of them were among the 52 from 14 countries published in the first Volume of The Anthology of The Africa Book Club titled: The Bundle Of Joy. I am finalizing my third fiction novel. Since October 2016, I have been running a blog to build up an audience for my creative work. Its link is: “A Page from Munaku’s Book.” I am a mother of two amazing boys and one daughter.

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  1. Thank you for reading and commenting on this post. Turning to Writing has helped me to remain sane in this kind of environment. It requires a lot of courage and patience to make home the place I want to be. I shall keep learning. After all the the theme for my Blog is : Learning is a lifetime job. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Dr. Nannono – Thank you for sharing this beautiful memoir with us. Your love of your country, as well as your love of medicine are evident here. Sadly, they weren’t able to co- exist happily together all those years ago. I am so glad you are determined to not let the “second exile defeat you”, but also “rise to the huge challenge of making home the place you want to be.”
    A wise heart lesson I too am learning to apply in this season of my life.

  3. Jayne, thank you for taking time to read and comment on my post. I am happy that you liked it. You are right in saying that some of us never want to tarnish the memories so we do not go back. I guess I am that type of person who gets attached to people and places. I had to go back to be among the old and familiar-where most of my family members including my mother are. I feel complete among them despite the changed landscape and this is what will fire me up to open up and thrive. I know very well that this is not for the faint-hearted.

  4. What a lovely story. I think your experience can be applied to anyone growing older. I know that I would find it difficult to live in my hometown after many years of being away. Maybe we don’t want to tarnish those memories, so we don’t go back.

  5. Mary, thank you for reading my post and commenting on it. I am happy that you liked it. Writing about the situation somehow released me. The quote from John Steinbeck is relevant and important; it confirmed to me that all along I have been looking for a place long gone! I have to open my mind and heart to embrace the change while holding on what I cherish and still want to conserve. Thank you for the advice.

  6. Michelle, thank you for reading my post and commenting on it. I am glad to learn that you have recently visited my country. Yes, Uganda and its people are beautiful and this explains why the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill referred to it as ” The Pearl Of Africa” when he visited it in 1907! The erosion of traditional values is worldwide. I am looking to a new future in what is left of home. I am determined to adapt and thrive.
    Thank you for believing in me.
    Jane Nannono

  7. I have recently returned from Uganda. It was my first time there, so I don’t know what it was like before, but I found the country and its people beautiful. I know here in the States we have similar erosion of values and the young people are less respectful than they used to be. I know you will adapt, because you have resilience. Thanks for sharing.

  8. This was sad and beautiful – all at the same time. I understand fully how this can happen and feel your pangs. But as John Steinbeck said, “You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”

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