..on a cold, drear
Kampala day,Friday the Thirteenth, with a haze covering the city and the clouds too, a dark unmoving cold thing – i try to find my happy place, i picture a colder, cleaner greener place with rolling hills and trees and birdsong, breezes, streams, mist and fresh air.. a place to call home
..and when the sun comes out, and slices through the cold and gloom.. the view is just as beautiful albeit with bird song and all the sounds of nature..in unison, in perfect bliss…
..I’ve seen beautiful pictures, and awesome views!! I’ve seen things picturesque and all… but something about this place gives me a peace i can not comprehend.. a place i call home
I sit inside an old church, eyes to the rafters, above them the iron sheet roof.
Around me the sounds of untreated coughs and children running loose on the cracked cement floor.
The drone of the lay reader slowly lulling me to sleep. I sit upright and shake myself from my stupor, rubbing my eyes and staring into my neighbour’s bible, but reading not the words. I fold my arms across my chest and read the words on the pew infront of me; dedicated to a prominent ancestor of a reknowned family, the furniture a donation by his relatives.
The service drags on, my attention drawn to my thoughts… I can smell the ‘nativeness’ around me, a mixture of smoke from the kitchens, firewood and the local drink.
I actually wore a sweater, but I shiver with cold.. The weather and the emptiness of the sanctuary.
As a visitor from the Capital, they won’t let me sit at the back; ushering me to the dais beside the choir, in full view of the wanainchi.
I think tis a con, this show of respect, making us the visitors from the City a prime target of the auctioneer. Yes, there’s a church auction.. Cabbages, potatoes, beans, chicken, avocado… Food items brought for thanksgiving, sold to raise money. More often than not, these elite donate their buys to the clergy or one of the revered seniors in attendance.
I clap in unison with the drum, the same beat as always- I wave on queue with the rest of us visitors, to the tune of “Tukutendereza!”. But my thoughts are elsewhere.
Somewhere in the middle my old man is called forward to speak, a son of the soil, the local primary school, a choiristor, now a doctor and an elder in his own right. I break out of my daydream in time to hear the priest thank him for a window he donated, wondering how come his name is not on the wall. I prepare for the introduction, to stand, smile and wave, hoping this time he won’t ask us go upfront or speak. I think in vernacular, an emergency speech forming in my mind- surprisingly fluent. Yet I know from experience that that’s lost when my turn comes. The words I know, yet they come out accented, from lack of use of the language. I think. On queue-stand-smile-wave
I sit back down, barely hearing my father’s words. I imagine myself upfront, introducing my family, my wife or my girlfriend. Declaring intention to wed and hearing them break into song and ululation. Asking her to greet the church and hearing her choose her words carefully. A simple name and an expression of her gladness to be in my home village. I picture myself squeezing her arm, and drawing her to me. A kiss would be inappropriate so I edit it quickly out of my reverie, noticing familiar faces in the crowd instead.
My father’s voice resonates in the background, I know what he is saying. That he is glad to be there, and the progress they have made. The joy of fellowship, blah! Blah! Blah! He’ll probably donate another window or bags of cement.
Then he says something about generations, legacy; about handing over and keeping roots and culture. About setting precedents, showing the children them the way to go. About his children, us, coming back and making that speech.
Somehow I listen to all this, attentively, like I had a thought bubble above my head and he’d read things off my mind…
He donates an entire church floor.. I estimate 10 bags of cement, not to many! He’s thinking more of this our country home lately, a sure sign of age knockin..
He sits down and they break into song, the choirs melodies unique, as any village choir.
I walk out to clear my mind, to tweet, text or write… Anything to bring me back.. And my daydream continues unbroken as I sit back in the car. A sign..is she there? Will she be mine? Is this it? The maiden at the well, as of biblical times?