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Going Home Again! 

By Azore Opio In Uganda

I was watching a video CD a Soul Brother had brought back from Darfur; that is somewhere in Sudan, I think. Perhaps because I had lived in Bweyogerere when the Nambole Stadium was in its infancy or was it because Afrigo Band stubbornly  echoed in my mind’s ears, one particular clip kept plucking a nostalgic chord in my chest; "Tugende Nambole" sung by Mathias Walukaga.

There was Old Kampala Police Station in the footage; drab as ever. Memories came rushing up like a geyser! Oh, boy! I fell in love with Kampala and Uganda all over again and no amount of raffia palm wine and kola nuts could help me in this matter of homesickness. And all those soft, voluptuous Bunyankole/Buganda girls! Allah! Whalahi! Tugende Kampala lerooooooo!

Sixteen uneasy years had passed since; among its victims some best friends and relations. How great glories depart! It is impossible to go round the 40-year bend and not have your heart burnt by the splendid colours of youth; the reckless perception of life’s valves; the passion for falling madly in love. All these peppered with awful vicissitudes. If you want to know, men are like children. They have to learn everything in life; over and over again, over a long time. Some remain children all their lives; groping, feeling, getting burnt. Etc.

Today I was going home. Going back to see those other people I held so dear to my heart. Inky-black clouds scudded past as our KQ aircraft hummed away from a damp, drizzly August. The dome had a well-deserved description of monotonous and infinite shapeliness; a deep, dark void; rolling, unbroken expanse of monotonous nothingness, intermittently crackling with claps of thunder and splashes of lightning.

I kept transiting into flashback but there was this woman who sat across the aisle from me. She kept on throwing goggles at me. She had on something like a cat suit spelling out all the dents, contours, valleys and ditches; hillocks on her hips and buttocks and rolls of extra fat. Truly remarkable. She looked keenly in my eyes, then shifted on her chunky buttocks and looked at me, then eyed her breasts and looked at me!

Anyway, each time I would think how it all started, I mean this my life, but what I cherished even more was the memory of the footpath steaming with heat. The smell of rain on dry soil, cow dung smeared on the wall; newly cut grass contrasting with the smell of exhaust fumes, rotting peels, rinds and all the like; the lazy hoot of an owl returning to its favourite tree to watch the pale wash of horizon paint itself grey, then gold, orange and red against a shade of blue.
I had not been back home since the Movement days and I had always had this fuzzy, early 70s glow in my childhood memory.

I had so many sweet remembrances of things only kids would even think about, like the swing and the merry-go-round at the Lira Cathedral grounds, or the bicycle that busted my shin open. So glad to be going home!  The aircraft shuddered suddenly, rumbling and then we went into a free-fall. Mbanga Pongo! I had the fuzzy feeling of being in a large deep pot filled with fear. "Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve run into some turbulence. Please, do fasten your seat belts and remain calm," the voice of the captain crackled over the speaker.

I closed my eyes tight and recalled the trip from Buea to Douala International Airport. I had started running late at about 1 pm; an hour’s delay in a souvenir shop; an unplanned meeting with an old pal, who insisted, as any good Cameroonian is wont to, for "one man"; shack, I mean beer, which consumed three-quarters of an hour before I left to find the last friend on the list for a good-bye over yet another glass of good wine.

Time was flying now. It was getting on to 6 pm and there was still another packet of wine on the table! Check-in time was 8 pm! The fog was thick and I was already missing good old Buea! "Nkwen Boy", well, he is my Soul Brother, if you want to know, he drove me home where I stuffed my old back-pack with what I don’t know; rushed through a meal of Ndole and drove hell for leather to Cham. Then the police robbed me at Bekoko! I think they were thieves posing as uniformed police who snitched FCFA 14,000 from me as they made a phoney spot-check for IDs.

That delayed me quite a lot. Then I ran into a snarl-up five kilometres long. But my seventh sense told me to hire an "okada", "bendskin" or "boda boda" if you like. And off we zoomed, zig-zagging in the wet squelching mud of Quartier Nbellem, past Carrefour Bamboutos, Pharmacie Sodiko and off to the airport where I missed being ripped off again. Thank God. The rest of the journey was eventless, except for Olara Otunu’s un-Jerusalem-like entry into Entebbe the next morning.

Phew! I looked over my shoulder. The bridge was still standing. Bald-headed boulders glistened in the morning light. Much water had passed under the bridge. More was still passing. I looked down at the black leather shoes that adorned my feet, their foreheads shimmering in the increasing light. I bent over and flicked a tit of straw that had stuck on the right toe, caressed the razor-sharp creases that ran the length of my trousers, gave an equally tender pat to my shirt sleeves. I entered the waiting car. I was going home. I was going to see my other people.

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