Damiano Lwanga, an expatriate returning from his sojourn in the orient, turned in his bus seat which had for more than the past ten hours been heating up due to his continued stay in it. He opened his eyes, drew the curtain, and caught sight of the familiar Kakira Sugar city clock which makes part of a roundabout he has used quite often before. A caravan that was made up of two vehicles with foreign tourists – of course – and another two with their drafting boats, a pit stop at Igar Petrol Station and deli, the calm waters of the Nile as seen at and from the Own Falls Dam bridge later, he saw, knew, and felt it. He was in the beautiful Jinja. A town from which he had, on several visits, derived enormous bliss.
As the sky darkened, and a traffic jam on Jinja Road started building up – thanks to workers returning from, perhaps, a long day’s work at the office – he got an opportunity to observe, and rekindle his memory. With no one to share with him anything worthy, he read from billboards and signposts, and listened intently for any sights and sounds which would remind him of home.
He thought Dynasal Night Club in Jinja should had been Dinosaur Night Club but then the owner thought better. To him, Naivasha Guest House and Tupendane Suites in Mukono represented a dearth of creativity, if any. The owners could have, for the very least, tried using local names and not borrowed directly from their neighbours to the East. Caesar’s Boutique – For Turkey Wears, Slow Food Bamboo Restaurant in Mukono and a Stestionery Shop in Kyazanga were so shameful and, he decided, not worth his useful thoughts. They were saved for a well prepared roadside rolex and a boda-boda ride throughout most of the City he had missed before he rested his weary self.
He entertained himself with a newspaper the following day. To him, the words of newspapers were exactly what he wanted, the pictures of a society .
A copy of the Luganda newspaper Bukedde which he read after a heavy breakfast of katogo did quite enough in portraying a society that makes up both it’s readers and sources of it’s news and gossip. According to the Abanoonya section of the paper, the society he had left behind was still undriven, unambitious, unassertive, overly contingent, lazy, sick, and looking out for handouts.
The editors must have been spoilt for choice. They had “njagala omusajja eyazimba nga talina mukazi mulala” as their headline. Poor blokes!
Damiano held his face in both his palms and pondered where the potent editors who were bold enough to go against the publishing of all this shameful dung! How would it reflect in the eyes and minds of visitors like him who were interested in the society. There were no answers.
Amused and disgusted he digressed and reread the news section. There was not much either other than an undertaken story about the Police. They never stopped making the news whether in good or or not so good times. This was, of all things in the wide world, a question about an old vehicle of theirs which appeared in the picture to the headline. It was an inquiry whether “eno patrol ya poliisi bagitwala ku sikulaapu?” . He put the paper where he thought it belonged; in the dustbin.
He went on trips. The first into the City. He was, after drives in its East, welcomed by the ever present street preachers at the Jinja Road traffic lights, right next to the Electoral Commission Headquarters. They were not alone. In presence were a couple of unfortunate people that the fortunate ones, always turn their windows up for fear that they will be rubbed with dirtiness.
Another was to the Mabamba swamps, not necessarily for his unfettered worship of nature but to savour the beauty of the Pearl he had been away from for quite a while. With the help of a good guide, Hannington, his first bird watching experience was made better when, in under fifteen minutes, he had seen the shoebell bird .
The other was to the grand Uganda National Mosque from whose magnificent minaret he decided he did not need to visit the city on either foot, or by boda-boda, or by a cab. From the minaret, he could keep turning, seeing, and taking pictures of the entire city. It was more delighting watching it from a far. At least, he could stay away from the heavily accented voices and deadly diction. He had had enough of conversations that had people explaining how they walked “slowly slowly” and others who had seen “germs frying all over the place“.
He, later during the day, took with him news, stories, and gifts when he travelled further into the depths of the South West. He was warmly welcomed by his family when he arrived, fed, and entertained before he retired.
The following day found him reading more local papers. In the Akaboozi section of the Orumuri, a Runyankole-Rukiga newspaper was the headline; “egi ni kiisi ki?”. Under it he found rather quite intriguing details about a couple. It read thus “batandikire nk’abarikuzaana akahuuna beitu waragi ku ebahikiremu, bakwatana nkamakankya, batakuruganaho bari nk’amahasha, batandika kurigasana endimi ngu nibatera kiisi.”
Like that was not enough, a thirty-one year old man who profiled himself as a Godfearing, loving, and well mannered person had something to say. He said “ninyenda omukazi omugaiga rurangana nanye mworoke eswaga ya rukundo ey’obukoryo obusya obunuzire. Ashemeriire kuba aine emotoka yebeyi, enju n’ebindi”.
Disheartened, he tried to read other hopefully more important stories. They were the never changing ones. There was nothing new in the news too. The president, who doubles as the chief peasant, was still giving lectures – on the importance of national identity cards – and playing his favorite sport; bashing his opponents. There was another murder plot aimed at killing him. He was still commissioning toilets and inspecting clinics in a city in which he could have forgotten he was living in instead of laying foundations for hospitals in remote and needy areas. Bar gossip was extensively illustrated on their pages. According to the papers Damiano had read, his country had not changed much. It was still excellent at minoring in majors and majoring in minors.
However much he was not impressed that nothing much had changed, he was happy to return to his home. His only option was, as always, to suitably rebase his thinking to adjust to the current realities of living in his country. It would take a lot of effort.
Sunday, April 13, 2014.