Monday, August 24, 2009

My Beautiful Country

I don’t know when I love it most. When it rains, in the season of wet, the mornings are bright and cool. Sun is a globe of bright flooding the land, hot on the skin, yet not too hot. There is moisture in the air, wet, and calm, and peace, and the air is clean.
When it is dry, that is also a lovely time. Now I remember it, the sun hot, very hot. A furnace that reaches out with golden heat throughout the day, and the land is dry, dusty, red, a haze of orange in the air that lifts at dawn and doesn’t settle till dusk.

It is always beautiful.

Well, it is home, so it is always beautiful.

My parents were not born in Kampala. I grew up in Kampala, and to me it has always been, and will always be home. But of course, I have, or am supposed to have a ‘village’, place where my ancestors are buried, and where we go for the rituals… So, that is supposed to be my home. But to me, Kampala is home.
City sprawling, eating up the hills in the recent years at a phenomenal rate. Downtown, buildings are torn down, fall, and are raised overnight. Ants, we seem to build day and night. Literally. Labour is cheap, human life a commodity to be traded, willingly. And the muscle men and those who sell their lives labour to put up structures, deep into the nights. The world wide down turn seems not to have affected the country. But it did. We depend too much on ‘aid’. And that slowed, of course.

Downtown is down and dirty. Filthy. A battle on dirt that is never worn, especially in the rainy season. Concrete towers, some unbelievably ugly, others unbelievably old. The slums, with mud and wattle now being replaced by warrens of burnt brick and cement single room tenements. People live together riotously. Children play, water courses in the paths between the buildings, mud, dust and other nefarious things play hide and seek.

In the suburbs, the pressure on the land is less. A little less, but is there. I see it daily, so much that I no longer see it. The generations, from babies to elders, the gangly youths and confident others. Life goes on at a pace, a little more rapid than usual, but a definite clip.

Our house is in a sort of hollow, but not at the bottom. More like the side of a hill. Look out to the west far into the distance, a valley. Green, stitched and cut with the red and bright of baati. The green of trees struggles valiantly. It will be beaten. Soon. But for now, it is. It will be a sad day when this green valley is choked up with houses. That may be soon, or never. I don’t know. But that will be sad then.

But of now, the valley is low, wide and green, with trees dancing between the blocks of terra we call houses. Shiny baati roofs, some red, some a duller green, with birds singing in the trees and shade near me, and far, and the smell of rain on the air. It is a beautiful country, my country. Uganda.


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