The Dreaded Journey to Uganda. Part #5

Bae was white and despite his effort to conceal it, this fact brought my dad great displeasure and me great pleasure. It sure felt good sticking it to the man.

“Chief, you were able to trace your way to the village from all those years ago?” asked my old man in an effort to get his mind off the fact that bae was white.

“We had google maps for the trip down from the airport at Entebbe to Masaka, the only bit that took memory was the path from the market square and how could I forget that given the humiliation I suffered on that route.”

At that remark everyone in the tent laughed, feeling left out of the joke, bae short me a questioning glance.

“Later,” I whispered and at that, she was satisfied.

“How was the drive down?” my old man went on to ask?

“Tiresome.”

We went on to speak about the horrible state of the Ugandan roads, how slow the internet services were, the weather and a dozen other inconsequential things before my dad got around to asking for what I knew he wanted to ask for from the moment he said Hi.

“Did you secure the merchandise?”  He asked.

“Yes, I did,” I said referring to the twelve bottles of one liter William Lawson blended scotch whiskey I had in the trunk. When I had called my dad from Nairobi to inform him that bae and I would be traveling down to Masaka, he had made one simple request. So, I brought him enough Whiskey to incapacitate the entire village for a day or two hopefully that will keep him off my back and out of sight for the duration of the funeral.

At that, I led my dad an uncle and my grandma to the car and gave them what I had to give them. Bae came along too to get a few things out of her suitcase. While at the car, two male cousins from Nabiang’s side came over. They needed help the gravediggers claimed they would not dig an inch until their Changaa arrived; Changaa is a locally brewed form of alcohol that is probably illegal. That was not the worst part; the changaa could only be acquired `from the witchdoctors homestead and the only person that knew the route accessible by car was Lillian. So Lillian and I set off to acquire the gravedigger’s currency and bae was taken to go join my female cousins.

“So, how have you been?” I asked in an effort to lighten the mood in the car.

“Fine, take the next right, How have you been?” Replied Lillian rather coldly.

“I have been surviving,” I replied.

“Don’t be modest, your dad has told everyone that you are some kind of celebrity figure in Kenya so I know you are not surviving.”

“I can’t hold brief on the celebrity bit of my dad’s claims seeing as that’s his opinion but I’ll admit, life is not treating me bad.”

“At least that makes one of us. What’s with the muzungu? You know that’s the question on everyone’s mind right?”

“Well, I wanted to be 100% certain that the woman I marry isn’t in any way related to me so I went as far away from black as I could.”

At this, she laughed.

We got to the witchdoctors homestead got the changaa and left. On our way back, Lillian filled me up on her life. She had ended up becoming a teacher at the village primary school where parents did not respect her and that trickled down to her students. In addition, her love life was non-existent because no man in the village wanted a serious relationship with her.

“How would they introduce me to their parents after what happened between us? What family would allow their son to marry Lillian? And better yet where is the man with balls enough to ignore what people say about me in this village?”

She went on to explain that unlike me she did not have the option of a foreign partner at which point we remained in silence all the way back to Nabiang’s homestead.

I delivered the changaa to the gravesite then thought I should go check up on bae but the two cousins again snatched me up before I could act on that thought. This time, the local Ohangla band that was supposed to provide entertainment during the night vigil was stuck because the pick-up that was supposed to ferry them and their equipment broke down. It took me two trips to ferry the band and all their equipment from the pick-up point to Nabiang’s homestead.

As soon as I dropped off the last batch of Ohangla men, my two cousins snatched me up again, this time we had to go and negotiate the price of the bull that would be slaughtered for the meal after Nabiang’s funeral the next day. The homestead we were supposed to acquire the bull from was so close I could toss a stone and hit the roof but they insisted on driving over because Grandpa Phillip who was essential to the negotiations was too drunk to walk. We conducted the negotiations agreed on a price but because Grandpa Phillip was so drunk, he had forgotten to carry the money intended to pay for the bull, I was asked to pay with the promise of a refund I never saw. I drove my drunken grandpa back and left my two cousins to follow behind on foot with the bull.

After reuniting my grandpa with the rest of his drinking mates, I sent word to bae via one of my female cousins, whom I had the good fortune of crossing paths with that I would be in the car then I made my way to the SUV keen to avoid running into my two cousins.

I must have slept for about an hour or two when bae joined me in the SUV. She had been invited to join the welcoming committee, they had welcomed more guest and she had danced awkwardly well into the night. They had also boiled getheri and a black tea she said, then went around serving it to the multitude at the vigil. From her narration of events, it was hard to miss the fact that bae was having a blast. Good for her.

To be continued…

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The Dreaded Journey to Uganda. Part #4

“I will have rice, matoke, a little beef stew and a piece of that fried chicken.” I finally managed to say in response to Lillian’s question. She did the serving then left us to enjoy the meal not that I had much of an appetite left in me anyway. Seeing Lillian had brought the grotesque taste of that manyasi we were forced to drink, for a whole month back to my mouth.

“Is everything alright?” asked bae in a concerned voice as soon as Lillian walked out of the room.

“Yeah. Why?”

“It looked as if you saw a ghost for a minute there buddy. Wanna talk about it?” said bae in a manner that made it seem like she was talking to a five-year-old.

“Not now.”

“Ok! How on point is this food though?” asked bae in an effort to change the topic.

“Pretty much,” I replied.

“Remind me to get the recipe to some of this stuff,” said bae in-between mouthfuls.

“Ok, but you might want to leave a little room in your belly rookie.”

“There is more?” asked bae a concerned look plastered all over her face.

“Who knows?” I asked teasingly “Just do what I ask of you.”

“Ok boo,” said bae diving back into her plate.

Again the table was cleared and we were led out through the back door only this time, there was no dancing or singing. Thank God. There in a well-lit spot in the backyard sat the reason for the entire journey, Nabiang’s coffin.

Standing there over Nabiang’s coffin, looking at that fragile old woman at rest, an overwhelming feeling of grief and loss overtook me. These were emotions I never anticipated to feel coming down here. Yet here they were. Sensing this bae put an arm around my waist and held me in an embrace that totally broke me down. The floodgates were open and tears came rolling down my cheeks, bae reached into her purse and handed me one of those pocket napkins or tissues women carry.  Until now, I had never understood bae’s need to carry such things around. We stood there for a moment until I regained my composure then we were led around the house to the tent where my Immediate family members were seated.

“Nyakwara?” (My grandson) cried my grandma Nya-Kisumu as she welcomed us into the tent.

“Ere gimi kelo na?”  (What have you brought me?)  she went on to ask.

I went on to explain that whatever I had brought her was still in the car at which point she began celebrating with a dance and song, the fact that her grandson had come driving. Of course, it was a rental but I had two cars in Nairobi that were better nay classier than the rental so I let her have her moment. She went on to lament over all the times she has been ill, how her body is falling apart, failing her every other day and the fact that I haven’t been sending her money. Looking at us from a distance one would have thought we were close or that my grandma genuinely loved me. You would be shocked if you knew the truth.

This woman swore that I would never prosper in life, she claimed that I was the reincarnation of the devil and even made me promise never to send her money if I came into any fortune which was highly unlikely to her. Yet here she was boasting over her grandson who came in a rental car and lamenting over the fact that I do not send her money to her friend and the one other aunt who was in the tent. All this while she had not taken notice of bae who was clinging on to my arm, amused and terrified at my talkative and too energetic for her frail frame grandma.

“Mama moss wendo.” (Mother say hi to the guest.) intervened my aunt obviously ashamed of my grandma’s conduct.

“Oh pole. Una itwa Nani?” (Sorry what’s your name?) She asked the terrified white woman by my side.

Bae understood Swahili perfectly she just could not bring herself to answer the mad woman so I stepped in and did the formal introductions. Tea was served but this time we were not left alone so we all sat, there taking tea in an awkward and very uncomfortable silence.

We were almost done taking tea when my dad and two other uncles walked in. You could tell they were already drunk from their inability to walk in straight lines and the levels of their voices when they spoke. You would have thought they were addressing half-deaf men.

“Chali yangu, I saw a Nissan Patrol pale nje kwa Parking and Immediately knew that it had to be you.” Said, my old man, as he shook bae’s hands and mine. The other uncles shook our hands in silence my relationship with them was practically ruined beyond repair, as a result, we had nothing to say to each other.

I did the introductions all over again and just like my grandmas, cousins, and aunts, my dad and uncle seemed shocked at the fact that bae was a white woman but they did their best to conceal their shock. Bae and my father had only spoken over the phone so I guess In my dad’s mind she was African.

Folks you need to understand that my dad loves white people in television shows and novels but not in real life, I will tell you why. A long time ago, my father had been an accountant at Barclays, when he lost his job over some fraudulent issues; he went to meet some white man who allegedly had a job opening at his firm. That same night he came back home with a busted up lip claiming that the white man looked worse than he did but like everything else with my old man we will never know what truly happened.

God knows I could kill for the truth about certain issues concerning that man.

To be continued…

The Dreaded Journey to Uganda. Part #3

The uncle that carried the shopping bags into Nabiang’s house came back out with a welcoming committee of grandmothers (Nabiang’s daughters), and aunties (their daughters). I quickly introduced them to bae then we went about Nabiang’s legendary welcoming tradition. To Nabiang visitors were a blessing, she strongly believed that guests brought good fortune to her homestead and thus treated everyone that walked through her gates like a homecoming prince or princess. There were the ululations, dances in which bae’s two left feet did her a great injustice but she did not seem to mind the fact that she was royally screwing up the routine. She was having way too much fun to care.

After the dance, a table was laid out for us on the verandah, skimmed milk and sweet potatoes were served as per Nabiang’s customs then the committee vanished and left us to partake of the meal. Bae dived in hard; she filled one of Nabiang’s agwata to the brim with skimmed milk then picked the biggest sweet potato she could find. She wanted to enjoy the traditional cuisine of my Ugandan people. No harm in that but knowing what I knew about Nabiang’s elaborate tradition, I knew that would be a rookie mistake so I extended a piece of tender loving advice to her.

“Ehem! Bae I see you serving like the end of time is upon us, but if by any chance, I know these people, and I do, that is a decision you will regret as soon as we walk into that house.”

“What do you mean boo?” Asked bae with a mouth full.

“I don’t wanna ruin the experience for you so I will give you a hint, Pace your intake.”

Bae laughed but she took my advice to heart and just nibbled at what was laid out before us. Half an hour later, the same grandmothers and aunties came to clear the table then they led us into Nabiang’s house with much singing and dancing. It goes without saying that once again Bae royally dropped the ball at dancing. You millennials and your tweaking, true dancing, African dancing takes so much more than the ability to throw your posterior up and down like a yo-yo or take it round and round like a merry-go-round. That is another blog topic altogether.

Once inside Nabiang’s house, the first welcoming committee vanished and we were left with the second, this one consisted of young women our age. They were my auntie’s daughters and like me Nabiang’s great-grandchildren.

“How are you Sebo?” The all took turns greeting me, going down on one knee as they did a thing I am sure bae found very disturbing. No doubt, I will hear her feminist thoughts about this tradition later. One of the cousin’s faces looked familiar but I could not quite put a name to the face so I let it slide. We were led to the dining area of Nabiang’s house where again a table was laid out only this time the content on this table made it look like a mini medieval banquet feast for two. Bae was invited to serve herself but the familiar looking cousin was assigned to wait on me. As per tradition, she went down on one knee beside me and asked, “What shall I serve you, Sebo?”  Something in her voice the musical soothing quality of it refreshed my memory. Kneeling beside me, the strikingly beautiful woman waiting to serve me was Lillian the other reason I was reluctant to attend Nabiang’s funeral. I immediately felt sick to my stomach.

On my last visit here, no one had thought it wise to inform me that everyone within a ten-mile radius was a relative so Lillian and I kicked things off. She did not mind that I was the village clown she was in love with me or so she said. So almost every evening we would meet by the bushes beside the stream and make out. That folk is how I lost my virginity inside a bush by a stream in Uganda.  Teenage love is a b***. Lillian and I grew steady and so we went from meeting by the stream almost every evening to meeting by the stream every evening. Everything was rosy for a season, Lillian and I kept doing what we were doing in the name of love and all was well until one day we were caught by one of my uncles doing the nasty at our usual spot.

“Woooowe! Chira!” followed by a random breaking of twigs was all I heard before the lashes came raining down on us. Barely dressed my uncle marched us from the stream across the market square all the while caning us and shouting Chira (taboo). He stopped at intervals to break new twigs and held on tight so we could not run off while he did. By the time we were getting to Nabiang’s compound, two other uncles had joined the caning party and both our bodies were covered in sores by the time Nabiang came to our rescue covering our half-naked bodies with lessos.

As if that was not humiliating enough, a local witchdoctor was called to perform a cleansing ritual and by the end of that night long ritual, Lillian and I were both proud owners of twenty litters of manyasi each. Manyasi is a liquid extracted from boiling roots, herbs, animal bones and God knows what else. As per the witchdoctor’s instructions, we were to mix a cup of that manyasi with our bath water and drink a cup of it thrice a day. In addition, none of us was to leave Nabiang’s compound until the twenty-liter prescription was exhausted. That friends, is why I reported three weeks after the opening date in form three.

To be continued…

The Dreaded Journey to Uganda. Part #2

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard flight number…. From Nairobi Kenya to…”

wait for it.

“Entebbe Uganda.”

Yes, dear good people. You heard that right, not Watamu or even a respectable Shanzu, Uganda my good people. Uganda. That is how you know you have a good woman in your life. A keepsake if I do say so myself.

How you ask?

Never in a million years, two life times and an alternative universe with a cross-dimensional doorway would I have ever chosen a funeral with my family members over the perfect get away trip to Watamu with bae. Yet here I was.

I would love to inform you that this trip was not up for discussion, I had no say whatsoever on how I wanted to spend my weekend.

“Since we live in a democratic society,” bae proposed.

“let’s put this matter up for a vote. May as many as are for attending Nabiang’s funeral say I?”

Bae’s hand shot up and even Mittens that lazy cat leaped up out of bae’s lap raised its tail high and went round in circles. Would you look at that, the lazy cat could move that fast and not get a heart attack.

“The I’s have it, two to one. It is settled.” proclaimed bae in a victorious voice.

Yes good people in mine and bae’s society Mittens is a registered voter and very much capable of decision-making. You should have seen the grin on that cat’s face. I swear to God if one of these days I go to the pet store and buy the wrong brand of cat food for Mittens so that she dies of food poisoning or an allergic reaction, It won’t be by accident.

The next couple of hours were so long. We got bae’s little sister to come and baby-sit Mittens, a waste of money if you asked me. Then we packed and never in the span of time I have known her, have I seen bae pack so fast for anything.

Our flight to Uganda took off at two P.M on a gloomy Friday and as if making me go all the way to Uganda wasn’t punishment enough, bae called short gun on the window seat so I was stuck with the middle seat. Bottom line I sat in-between a very fat, sweaty man and a beautiful woman whom I loved very much, but was having second thoughts about marrying at that moment, all the way to Uganda. That was the beginning of what would turn out to be the most uncomfortable weekend of my life.

At the airport in Entebbe, we went through the motions of getting our language and renting an SUV for the journey down to Masaka. We drove to the nearest Supermarket and did a little shopping because the only thing worse than not showing up with my family was showing up empty-handed. After the shopping, we hit a fast food joint then started the long journey down to Masaka. It was not until nine o’clock that night that we arrived at Nabiang’s homestead. I had hardly parked the rental car when it all came back, there was something more than my immediate family that had made me reluctant to attend this sweet woman’s funeral. Two incidents to be exact. God rest Nabiang’s soul.

“Maadigadi? Is that you? You have grown so tall?” said a silhouette in the shadows ahead of me. The man that came out of the shadows and his brothers plus what he called me was one of the reasons I wasn’t particularly looking forward to coming down here.

I had been here once before, back when I was a teenage lad in High school. I was a cheeky little lad back then, mischief was my first language, I spoke an impeccable version of Kiswahili called sheng, my English was better than everyone’s in that little village  and I dressed in a manner that was both jaw dropping and at times abominable to the tribes men of Masaka. So it goes without saying that I inevitably became an amusement to the villagers of Masaka.  Boys my age saw me as a threat and every girl in the village wanted to be associated with me. It was pure madness, pure madness I tell you, and I was loving every minute of it until one dreadful afternoon my uncle decided to call me aloud in the market square. See the name Edgar was too complicated for my Ugandan Uncles and grandfathers and so they resigned to calling me “Maadigadi wa Oluchi” which translated would mean Edgar, Oluoch’s son. From that market incident, my life in the village never went back to being the same, everywhere I went from then onwards, I could hear jibes of “Maadigadi uno, Maadigadi wa Oluochi,”  followed by giggles. I went from being a rock star to the village clown overnight.

“Maadigadi let your uncle help you carry those,” said my uncle Onyango referring to the little shopping we had done earlier. I let my uncle help me carry those and we followed him to the little verandah outside Nabiang’s house. There were tents all over the compound in preparation for the night vigil that was to happen latter on that night in preparation for the funeral that was to take place the next day. From those tents came choreographed and unmistakably fake wails and cries intended to mourn Nabiang and from the shadows the lanterns above each tent cast I could tell there was a multitude out there. Somewhere in that legion of mourners was my immediate family and I knew that after the customary traditional welcome was over, bae and I would be taken to seat with them. Something I wasn’t particularly looking forward to.

“So Maadigadi Huh?” Said bae teasingly while interlacing her fingers with mine and resting her chin on my shoulder.

“Don’t even get me started with that.” I said in a stern voice.

“Alright Maadigadi.” Said bae in a Ugandan accent.

To be continued.

The Dreaded Journey to Uganda. Part #1

Bae was crawled up beside me on the couch, her head on my shoulder. Our fat-lazy cat; Mittens sat leisurely on her lap licking her snow-white paw and rubbing it across her face. Over the past year, I had grown resentful of fat Mittens. Mittens, was the little cute Kitten that came with the apartment. Being the kind-hearted Christian that I am, I adopted Mittens bought her one of those fancy overpriced cat beds and included her milk and food in my skinny belt budget. See back then we were tight, she was abandoned and I was single but ever since bae moved in, she has been acting as if I was a stranger; she no longer sat on my lap or ate her food If I was the one who poured it out for her. Once I walked into the apartment and I swear she arched her back and made those noises cats make when they see dogs.

I had a laptop, my old Alien ware, on my lap. Unlike Mittens, my laptop had not changed its affections towards me. Our first date anniversary was coming up and I wanted to do something special for bae. After much discussions and budgeting we had settled for a weekend at Watamu, I was trying to book the flight tickets online. Two return tickets for 200 dollars, felt like a rip-off so I went to try Kiwi.com.

“You will pet that cat bald bae.”

She laughed that angelic laughter threw an arm around my neck and planted a moist kiss on my cheek.

“God knows that lazy cat needs a trip to the GYM or at the very least to be left off in the middle of a desert for a week or two.”

“You shouldn’t say such things in front of mittens boo. Maybe that’s why she hates you.”

“You are why she hates me. I swear there are times I think that cat is a jealous lesbian.”

Laughing she asked, “How’s the hunt for tickets coming along?”

“Slowly.”

Just then the phone rung I looked at the caller Id and chose to ignore the call sadly bae had caught a glimpse of who was calling.

“You know you have to call him back right?” Said bae in a stern voice while she reached over and put the phone back in my hands.

“But I don’t want to. I am busy.”

This time she did not respond, she simply took the phone and called my father back. Folks you need to understand that I come from a loveless and very dysfunctional family and that man bae was calling back made my childhood a living nightmare, as a result, I disowned him the first chance I got. I just never came around to sending him the ‘You are not my father memo.’

“Sorry dad your son Is driving but I’ll put you on loudspeaker so you two can talk.”

Dad! I thought to myself in outrage. That man does not deserve to be called a father, I mean two failed marriages, multiple affairs and siblings I last saw when I was 14 years old. For all, I know bae could turn out to be my stepsister.

“Chief?” came my father’s voice over the loudspeaker. I hated that name, and at times, I think he called me that intentionally to get a rise out of me. So help me God if this phone call does not end in chaos.

“Sema?” I reluctantly answered.

“Mbona kupotea hivyo Chali Yangu?” (Why have you been so quiet, dude?) loosely translated.

“Chali yangu,” that was another reference I never liked but who was counting.

“I have been busy with the show and everything else, what can I do for you?” I snapped back in an effort to cut the small talk and get straight to the point. Bae gave me one of those; ‘child, don’t be rude looks’ but at this point, I didn’t care. I just wanted this phone call to be over so I could go back to my quiet evening with bae and book the tickets to Watamu.

“Well your great-grandmother Nabiang passed on and your presence is requested.” He said.

“Ok. When is the funeral?”

“Day after tomorrow”

That was on Saturday the same day as our anniversary.

“Let me see if I can move something’s around and make time for that. Is that all?”

That phone call went on for another 48 seconds. He hinted that I should at least consider sending him money for beer and nyama choma and as usual, I shut him down with some half-true excuse. Then we went on to say our luke-warm goodbyes and hung up. Hopefully, it’ll be another eight months before he calls again.

“You know, you could have been a little bit nicer boo,” said bae putting the phone away. “Anyways who is this great-grandmother Nabiang? “

Folks, the decay in the roots of my family tree run deep and Nabiang is exhibit A. Patient zero if you may. My great grandfather like my grandfather and father after him was an irresponsible alcoholic and chief failure at everything life. I assume. Nabiang was his first wife and my grandfather’s, biological mother.  When she like many women down our family tree after her could not take the crap, she took off to a foreign land and remarried. Uganda to be precise, that’s how far she had to get away from my great-grandfather,  that move ensured that she lived to the ripe age of 98 and died of natural causes. To be continued…

Two chairs on the tropical beach
Two beach chairs on the tropical sand beach

 

 

 

To be continued…