Till Human Voices Wake Us

What is your reason for leaving Uganda?
“Emigration,” I said. One word is what it all boiled down to.
The man at the desk didn’t think one word was enough. Traffic was light at the border at this time. He felt that there was room for some jolly banter among compatriots. So he began with the small talk.
“Really? And why do you want to run away from your home?” he said, flipping pages, wiggling his stamp in the air.
I looked out of the window at Uganda. The sky was too hot, the sun baked the murram and the trees were thin and old under the cruelty of the heat. It had been ten years since I had come back to settle in the land of my birth and for ten years I had been read y to leave. I can’t remember a single day I felt like this was home.
Home is a difficult concept, you can’t manufacture it, no matter how badly you want to. It has to be given to you. Most people are lucky. You are born into a place where you belong. For others, without roots, you will float aimlessly whenever a breeze sighs or a gust blows and you will never be at rest.
“Um… work,” I replied, turning my eyes back to the immigration officer.
“You are going to work in Kenya? Meanwhile all the Kenyans are coming to work in Uganda.” He laughed the way people laugh when they think it is an appropriate time for mirth, when they think it will punctuate a conversation nicely, not when they think something that has been said is funny.
I thought of just saying yes, but the stamp was already on my passport, so something was relased in me and I wasn’t so tense. I was able to exhale and speak the truth. “No, I’m just passing through Kenya.”
I am on my way to Mombasa. I will get on a ship there, and sail into the ocean. I don’t know what it will feel  like on a ship in the ocean. Like away, perhaps. Like gone. Like free. Like forever.
Kenya is another country. The hills that race you all the way when you drive through Uganda stop at the border and after that you are slicing through wide plains. The sun setting on plains is larger than over hills. I parked beside the road and sat on the roof of the car and looked at it.
There is a road in Nairobi called Mombasa Road. I got to Nairobi in the smallest hours of the night, so I passed through without feeling it.
Several  hours that felt like just one single gesture and we set off from the coast.

What is your reason for leaving Uganda?

“Emigration,” I said. One word is what it all boiled down to.

The man at the desk didn’t think one word was enough. Traffic was light at the border at this time. He felt that there was room for some jolly banter among compatriots. So he began with the small talk.

“Really? And why do you want to run away from your home?” he said, flipping pages, wiggling his stamp in the air.

I looked out of the window at Uganda. The sky was too hot, the sun baked the murram and the trees were thin and old under the cruelty of the heat. It had been ten years since I had come back to settle in the land of my birth and for ten years I had been read y to leave. I can’t remember a single day I felt like this was home.

Home is a difficult concept, you can’t manufacture it, no matter how badly you want to. It has to be given to you. Most people are lucky. You are born into a place where you belong. For others, without roots, you will float aimlessly whenever a breeze sighs or a gust blows and you will never be at rest.

“Um… work,” I replied, turning my eyes back to the immigration officer.

“You are going to work in Kenya? Meanwhile all the Kenyans are coming to work in Uganda.” He laughed the way people laugh when they think it is an appropriate time for mirth, when they think it will punctuate a conversation nicely, not when they think something that has been said is funny.

I thought of just saying yes, but the stamp was already on my passport, so something was relased in me and I wasn’t so tense. I was able to exhale and speak the truth. “No, I’m just passing through Kenya.”

I am on my way to Mombasa. I will get on a ship there, and sail into the ocean. I don’t know what it will feel  like on a ship in the ocean. Like away, perhaps. Like gone. Like free. Like forever.

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16 thoughts on “Till Human Voices Wake Us

  1. Baz, you’re making it all more esoteric and complex than it should be. Maybe you also became a girl! :-)
    Now, in plain language, qiu est-ce qui se passe?

  2. you won an award yesterday at teh national book week of uganda hosted by teh literary foundation of uganda. and your irreverent ass didnt show!

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