From the hills of Ntare School to soaring with the great in Swaziland, I do present to you Agaba Victor, a proud old student of the mentioned institution. He recently published his book by the title ‘Another Way To Look At It’. Off his very busy schedule, Agaba spared a few minutes to bring us up to speed about his book, life, family, and experience in a foreign land… Read On:
Good afternoon Victor. Nice to meet you. Introduce yourself to the people; for those hearing the name Victor for the very first time:
So, my name is Victor Agaba. I just finished an A’level equivalent course in Swaziland. It’s called the International Bacherlotte. I finished that last year November, 2020. I will be joining University in the US this year; around August/ September. I recently published a book. I published it last month; late March. It’s called ‘Another Way To Look At It’. Yeah!
Swaziland Swaziland Swaziland, how was Swaziland?
So, while in Swaziland, I was in this school called Waterford. Its part of this group of 18 schools around the world; all over the world that seek to unify culture, that promote this you know cultural intersectionality, nationalities, race and all that. It’s called The United World Colleges, so Waterford is one of them. They call it the United World College of Southern Africa and its in the capital city of Swaziland. That’s where I have been for the last 2 years and to say the least, it was a growing experience. Because for the first time, I was in a new country all by myself, I was meeting like uhh like new people different from me. Of course, some who were same as me, who were similar to me but like I got to explore what makes us similar, what makes us different especially in the international perspective.
Because I’d believe being in Swaziland, you know you, you are apart from your family, how did you really cope? Being in a new country, new experience, new everything, you don’t know anyone there. How was life like?
I wouldn’t say that it was hard to cope. Because over time in my life I’ve had to cope in situations where I have felt a bit out of place. For example, when I was going to secondary, I had spent 5 years in primary instead of 7, so when I went to secondary, I was on average two years younger than everyone else I found, and so this was like me being socially out of place. So, I kept telling myself, that if I could survive in a place where I was constantly out of place, then I can survive when in a different country all together.
You spoke of studying primary for 5 years, so what happened? You mean to say you did UNEB when in P5?
No, not exactly. So, what happened is I did P1 and P2 in the same year. I did P1 for one term, and P2 for the other two terms and when I reached P6, I did PLE (UNEB).
WOW! (I exclaimed in amazement)
Glad I got aggregate 4.
I was going to be like so, how were the results? Yeah, interesting. Take us through your school life, which primary schools, secondary and all.
Primary school, I went to City Parents (it’s on Kabaka Anjagala Road), Secondary school I got into Ntare School where I spent about 4 and a half years. I did O’level from there. I got 9 in 8, and went back shortly for like one term of A’level and that’s when I got the international scholarship.
Meaning you should have done form six this year next year?
I would have done form six last year.
Meaning you would have been in first year if you were in Uganda?
I like to see it as such a good sacrifice, basing on the result for what its worth.
You said if all goes well, you have plans of going back and studying something else. Highlight us:
Actually, all has already gone well. So far, I have, cuz I finished the course in Swaziland. I am now going to University in the US. I got full scholarships of four universities.
Four universities wanted you. Woaah!!
Yeah, and then they are offering me scholarships to go there. Uhhm there is Oklahoma University (its in Oklahoma, near Texas), there’s Trinity College in Connecticut, and there is Duke University around North Carolina, then there is North Western University near Chicago, so those last two are ranked among the top 20 universities in the world.
Meaning right now the ball is in your hands, you get to choose who you want to go to:
Am thrilled about the accent, how didn’t it change for the two years you were there. You still sound very normal.
Actually, I too am very happy that I am still able to speak like this. It was a conscious decision I had to make. When I went to Swaziland, my biggest struggle like in terms of language was people not being able to hear what am saying. Even when the Ugandans who that there were there were like maybe half Ugandan, or like from a different country, or they don’t speak this accent. So, most of the time, people say pardon, pardon, pardon, things like that.
So, you’d find yourself scenarios where you have to repeat a sentence/ statement more than two times?
More than two times, definitely! But what happened was; at first, I thought about changing my accent and I changed my accent for like the first term of 2019.
You were practising that accent or you were faking it till you make it?
I wasn’t faking it. I was trying like to adjust my own accent to make it sound at least so they did not have to say pardon so much. But eventually I made the conscious decision to revert back you know. Like why should it be my struggle to try and be understood. (to be like them) yes, when I could have it the other round. Like, let them be the ones to understand me because I have something to offer.
Interesting! I love that perspective, cuz most times people feel like we should be like them, how about you be you, with time they’ll pick your vibe or not. So, your book: ‘Another Way To Look At It’, quite a title! What’s the story behind it? What inspired it?
Uhhm, the story behind the book itself. Like me writing the book was mostly because I was writing journals already. My life through Ntare. Like I told you the bit of where I was a social misfit So like I didn’t have a lot of time going to party, jazzing with friends, things like that. So, most times I would be that guy in a group that happens to be a bit outside, the one that can only sit and observe, you know. What I did in that time was sit and observe, write my observations, and that’s how I started writing my journals. I’d write stories from things I’ve learnt, from things I’ve seen, and one of my friends landed on one of my journals and they were really inspired by them. There’s even one who wanted to keep it for himself. They kept telling me ‘publish the book, publish the book’, so I decided to eventually of course, following the journals, and following my friends’ advice to get into publishing. I had actually written it two to three years ago. Around my senior four. But then I didn’t publish, I got a scholarship and decided not to like chase like two birds at once. You know you risk getting neither, I decided to first get this international education out of the way, and then when I come back is when I can fully immerse myself into this whole publishing process.
So, you mean to say you finalized the whole book thing while you were abroad? Or you worked with a local publication company?
I finished before I went abroad. I had had the manuscript like for two years, and then when I came back is when I worked with a local publishing company. The same company that published my parents’ books. My mother’s book and my father’s two books.
So, your parents are also authors? Cuz I was going to ask, like I usually ask people in whichever line they are in when am doing interviews. Whether if its music (whether you come from a musical family), now that you’ve mentioned. I like to picture your childhood. Did you grow up as the kid who was read to many stories, or you were always reading news headlines. How was it for you growing up in a book environment?
You see first of all; I wouldn’t call it a book environment. Yes, my parents have written books. My mum wrote a book. Its called ‘No Mountain Too HIGH’, its about a life testimony about how she healed from diabetes and obesity without any form of medication. And then my dad released books on money mistakes ‘Money Mistakes to Avoid’, ‘Business Mistakes’, it gives really good financial mistakes. Now, I wouldn’t say because they wrote these books, that maybe they are authors, they are just people who happen to have written these one or two books. So, I didn’t grow up in a book environment if that’s what you are asking. What I can say led me, what I can say about my environment that led me to writing my book is I am a thinker. I wouldn’t call myself an author, I just happen to have written one book and so all these things I do are just ways to communicate the products of my thoughts. For example, this book I’ve written, I have also like given a bunch of speeches like TED talks, I am motivational speaker, I was a debater when I was at Ntare and also when I went to Swaziland. I am also involved in Maths.
Normal Maths of counting 1,2,3?
Yeah, 1,2,3. I was, I think 2017, I was the national champion of the maths champion in Uganda. Yeah. Like you see, it’s more of I am a thinker and I have all these different ways of in which I can express the products of my thoughts.
Cuz just like they say. You know there’s a difference between an artist and a musician. Would you say there’s a difference between an author and a person who. actually, what defines an author? Must you have a lot of books to your name? Must you be like accredited somewhere? What defines an author?
I think what defines an author because. in fact, at the beginning of my book, I was saying everyone has the potential to be an author. I call them writers. Everyone has the potential to be a writer, because like all you need to write is your mind, get ideas, put them down, compile something. So, my book was a way of saying, of being an example to that. That let me put my ideas down. I don’t have to be this accomplished person to become an author. I was in a way, embodying this notion that every day we live is writing your life. To answer your question, to be an author all you need is your mind, your mind and willingness.
‘Another Way to Look at It’, I like to pick your mind on the title. Cuz you know, most times, (am sorry I use examples of artists, its just am exposed to too much music, and that’s what I literally do all day everyday), there’s always the inspiration around the title. For example, someone would be like why did you call your album ‘x’, why did you call your album ‘25’, why did you call your album ‘DAMN’, so why did you title your book ‘Another Way to Look At It?’
The title was actually kind of an amalgamation because my content first of all was multi thematic; it tackled so many things. So in the process of devising the title, it was hard to find one you know one thing that would cut across everything my book talks about: business, attitude, planning, education, character, marriage, parenting, all these; and they are different, and so its hard to get this one title. How that title came was at least even though there are many things, there’s a perspective that you know through which am looking at each of them so I called it another way to look at it, and then I did not say what ‘it’ was, because it could be anything, it could be many things.
Since we are in a digital era, did you consider uploading the book to online stores; Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo and the likes?
I considered it, I still am considering and really hope to get it online, not just because we are in a digital era, but also because I am in an international atmosphere. Having been to Swaziland, almost half my market are my previous colleagues, they are from all over the world, and you know can’t get one thing from Uganda to everyone at the same time unless I put it online.
You talked of speaking at a TEDx talk stage, my God! Those things I just watch them on YouTube. It is like the ultimate stage for people in the industry. So, how did it feel being up there?
During corona, the school I was at (Waterford) has this platform for TED talk, they call it TEDx. It’s like an independently organized TED event that they hold once every two years. I applied for it, and got in and got to give my speech. How it feels, I guess you’d say it’s scary, especially when you are not used to speaking, but my biggest conviction comes from having ideas I’d want to share. And when I want to share an idea to share an idea, my fear of public speaking (which I also fear, yet am also a public speaker), my fear won’t get in the way of the message I want to put out there. As long as I have a message, it will get out. So, am glad that I put out my message. I talked about this thing called ‘the other side’, I think its in a way related to the book. There’s always another side of things, and I was talking about the negative side in particular, the side that puts you down, and makes you hate life overall, there’s a way to manipulate the other side to let it work for you.
Writers’ Block is something which is very common in the world of writers, but of course, maybe this would be a different scenario since it’s a book (journal of thoughts you’ve covered over the years), don’t you sometimes get it where by you feel like you really have to write, but you are lazy, not motivated but you feel like you want to put something on paper, or type something?
I would say that… first of all I have never experienced writer’s block, writer’s block is for only people for whom writing is the priority, that’s why I didn’t call myself an author/ a writer. Someone who calls themselves a writer, would say what I want to do is write, the ideas will come later, but the first priority is being able to write something. Now, for me I had it the other way round: I have a bunch of ideas, and what I want are ideas, the writing comes a s a by the way, so by the time I am writing something, I definitely have ideas that I already wanted to express in that writing, that’s why I don’t experience writers’ block.
Your kid siblings, is any of them into writing as well or buli omu ali bibye? (translated to: or each one is in their own world?)
I actually have only one kid sibling, I am the fifth born in a family of 6 boys. Top 3 are married, the 4th is in second year, getting to 3rd year Statistics in Makerere, and then me, and then the little one, just joined Ntare school last year.
Does he look like he is in the direction of books, or he is a guy who is into innovations?
He is more into science. Like, he is very sciency and a bit philosophical. I would like to hope he got a bit of that from me because I am also very scientifically inclined, but yeah, I don’t see him writing, and all that.
I have this rule for what defines people’s paths as they grow three words; Good, Love and Want. Whatever you eventually become successful in and something worth emulating is if; i) you are good at it, ii) you love it, and iii) you want to continue pursuing it; if any of those is missing, then there can be a bit of struggle, doing something you love but are not good at, doing something you are good at but do not want.
With this book, who do you wish to target?
I genuinely wish to target all age groups, maybe starting from teens upwards.to retirement age because I know there is something for everyone. Because I know there’s something for everyone. This book is more, I want it to be an inspiration to the young and at the same time a challenge to the old. Cuz this is me saying, I don’t have to have all this experience (50 years) to be able to publish a book, now a 50 year old will read the book and be like wow this guy also has ideas to present, and age is not stopping him from doing that, same will apply the young.
When Victor is not writing, what is he doing?
I watch series, I watch series like no man’s business. I am a big fan of the Marvel cinematic universe, and am also a big fan of sitcoms; major sitcoms – Modern Family, The Office, Big Bang Theory.
When it comes to music, who do you listen to? Besides Drake, because everyone listens to Drake.
I listen to like sort of the underdogs; the ones I recently started listening to, one is called NF, and another is Marcus Hopsin; a black American rapper. They are definitely my best and currently listen to, because they are one of the people who bring rap but with a message. They have a message to convey to the audience.
For someone who wishes to become a writer, what are the two quick bits of advice you would give to someone who wishes to venture into writing:
I think first of all, do not write for the public. Don’t base your life off anticipation of other people’s perception or reception. Because there is always going to be backlash, always going to be a section of the public that doesn’t like you in some way. And so, if you are always basing yourself on that, you’ll never get anything done. Be your own biggest fan.
The second thing would be commitment. Once you decide to start writing, be committed to it, and make sure like if your aim is publishing, then make sure you don’t stop till your work is published.
Swaziland is quite a country. By the look of things, you have almost travelled it all. Deep inside you, do you have that dream destination?
I would say America, but am already going there. Cuz like my one thing I have always wanted to experience snow. When I was younger, I used to get ice cubes, I would crash them and throw them into the grass, just to get a feel of snow. So, I just want any place that can give me snow as an experience.
Where can people find your book? For those who wish to purchase?
Right now, I have it like on Dewinton Road, but am planning on putting it in book shops soon. One week to have it in Uganda Book Shop, and hopefully Aristoc. A copy will go for UGX. 30,000/=.
Good to have you, Congratulations on your book. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. Been a pleasure talking to you.