Chronicles of a 31 year going to America

Acquaintance: Going to America again? What’s the big deal?”

Me: “What is the BIG deal?

Me (again): YALI is the Biggest deal EVER !!!!”

The memories of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) application experience suddenly came flooding in. What a journey it has been to get here- and it’s only about to get bigger and better!!! I remember completing and submitting the lengthy application after 4 weeks of working on it. Countless versions, lengthy consultations with Alumni and meticulous editing of my application, I nervously submitted in October of 2018. I wanted to make 100% sure that my submission captured everything as best as humanly possible, especially after my failed attempt in 2015. Still, I was not sure that I’d make it, because Lesotho has so many amazing young leaders doing the most! The stakes were REALLY high and it was anyone’s game at this point. The fight towards the interview shortlist was rife and only the “strongest candidates” would survive. Would I be amongst the survivors?

Patiently we all waited for January 2019 when the much anticipated shortlist would be announced and I made sure to check my e-mails regularly. Surprisingly, I made the shortlist and only got to know about this via a WhatsApp message, because my phone was unavailable. I was globe trotting and enjoying life in Thailand when the message came through.

I stopped, heart pacing like I’ve just had an adrenaline shot. This was followed by shock, disbelief, happiness and then a state of euphoria. Suddenly my Thailand holiday wasn’t as exciting anymore. This was bigger…the possibility of YALI was way better.

February, 7, 2019 – interview day. I nervously walked into the US Maseru Embassy compound, past security check not knowing what to expect. Today was the final round to prove to the panel why I was deserving of this opportunity. To my left was a very strong candidate, she smiled at me and I knew it was not going to be easy. I had witnessed the amazing work she had done in the last two years. Then walking out from the first round of interviews held in the morning were 5 other very strong candidates who were also doing amazing work. The imposter syndrome kicked in and it kicked me into a frenzy- ” am I good enough?” ” What if my work wasn’t up to the YALI standard?”. “There are so many deserving candidates” “Have I made strides in my work?”

This state of madness continued for a brief while…my mind was about to explode.

I’d be the fourth candidate to be called in for the interview. Sweating, heart pacing and self doubt extremely high; I tried to compose myself and remember why I was here- why I deserved to be here. Sadly it was not working, but I kept on trying. I felt unprepared-had a short mind freeze and then went blank. Yes, I went blank!

“Candidate number 4, please come with me”

My number had been called, it was my turn. There was no turning back. I stepped into the room and tough questions came my way- one after the other. My tongue got twisted and some words seemed to disappear. I lost my train of thought and my cage was rattled vigorously. I struggled, but maintained my composure, trying to answer each question as best as I could. Before I knew it, my 20 minutes time allocation was over and the closing question was ” why must we choose you”. I answered, again trying to demonstrate why I was the best candidate. It ended, time was up. I felt like I had failed myself, but tried to pull myself together- chin up and chest out. In that moment I felt like crying, but said I’d try again next year- that I’d be better prepared.

April, 11 2019- my phone rings while in Quthing for the Money Month campaign. I didn’t recognize the number but I picked up. It was representatives from the US Embassy in Maseru on the line

“How would you feel about spending 6 weeks in the United States of America ?” You have made it to the main cohort list representing Lesotho, congratulations!!

Paralyzed by the call, I stood there in complete silence. It felt like forever…The silence was followed by an outburst of excitement and a lot of thank you!. I was in disbelief! This was affirmation that I was good enough. This was proof that I doing work that matters, work that was impacting Basotho positively. The early hours, late nights finally amounted to something great! I knew that this opportunity was going to transform my life completely and help me build a business that would make Basotho proud- and it was only the beginning of an amazing journey.

We left home on the 18th June 2019 heading to Johannesburg and then Chicago. I write this blogpost from the airport in Munich, Germany; waiting for a connecting flight to Chicago with a 7 hour layover. I decided to use my 7 hour layover to reflect on the journey, to take a moment and appreciate it. I decided to use this time to psyche myself up again and get ready for the chapter that is about to unfold in the next few hours.

I’ve met amazing people already, from the cohort representing Lesotho to cohorts from Madagascar, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. This is truly going to be an experience of a lifetime. With only an hour left to boarding to Chicago, I am grateful, humbled and excited about the Mandela Washington Fellowship and the experience that awaits. I’m looking forward to building amazing relationships, improving my knowledge base and experiencing cultural exchange. I’m excited about working with other African leaders to find solutions that will help us contribute towards building a better Lesotho and Africa at large.

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Burnout is a THING!

Burnout is a THING!

Anyone who knows me can attest to how busy my life is

Chronicles of a 31 year old trying to lead effectively

Chronicles of a 31 year old trying to lead effectively

1 July 2019| The week starts with a bang and we hit the ground running

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