Palm Sunday – Day 29

Posted on April 4, 2012


I am not a religious person. I was brought up as a Hindu but I do not practise. I love wine too much and a rare steak now and again. Beef is a big no-no as a Hindu because the cow is considered to be sacred, so that’s me going straight to hell.

Since I have been in Uganda I’ve listened to people saying grace before we eat every night and one evening the honour was passed to me – which turned out to be a disaster! For the first time in my life I was lost for words and by the end of my pray I had everyone howling with laughter. I am now exempt from saying grace – Amen to that!!

I’ve also attended church twice. The first time was with Isaac, five weeks ago. I remember how we struggled to carry back a heavy bundle of Matoke (green bananas) we had bought at the end of the service in the blazing sun for 3km. The latest encounter was at the weekend when I was cajoled over breakfast to attend Palm Sunday Service.

We piled into the tiny camp van – six of us plus a toddler – that’s a comfortable fit for Ugandans. When it comes to ferrying people around, if you are not balancing on one buttock cheek and looking into the eardrum of the person next to you, then you definitely have room to “squeeze” in at least another four people. The experience of travelling like a tin of sardines, even for a Londoner used to cattle-trucking daily on the tube, is quite something. The Africans win hands down – no competition. I have even witnessed one person straddling both the front passenger seat and the hand brake, while two other people sit like Siamese twins in the front along with the driver. If you ask someone: “How many Ugandans does it take to fill a vehicle?” The answer would be, “As many as those who need a lift.”

So off to Church we went. Dr Carol put on a lovely red and white dress; Gilbert and Isaac scrubbed up nicely and Herbert outshone us all with smart pants, socks and patent black loafers.

We attempted to go to the catholic church on the hill, but when we arrived the doors were bolted shut. I couldn’t help laughing out loud, after all that effort, on one of the holiest days of the calendar year, there was not a soul around. We stopped the van to ask someone where all the villagers had gone. It turns out they had travelled to a bigger church in Korongo. We plumped to try the protestant church instead. That was packed to the rafters. The service had already started at 8am, so we tried to creep in un-noticed. But we were found out, I probably gave the game away as the only non black face in the room. As usual the newcomers have to address the crowd. As we stood I felt 100 pairs of eyes fall on me – I smiled broadly. The hymns were sung in English and in the local dialect which sounded beautiful. No instruments at this church but the voice were all in tune and it was blissful to listen to.

After the service we were handed strips of palm leaves to put under the windscreen wipers of the car, a small symbol to show that even in the forest you can still make some time to remember God.