A New Chapter – day 65

Posted on May 11, 2012

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They insisted on coming and I was so delighted they did. As my gear was being loading into the white pick-up truck at camp, I walked into the kitchen to say my goodbyes.

“The whole gang is coming to see you off. We are going to push you,” Carol said grinning at me.

“Oh fantastic!” I squeaked.

We changed vehicles to the 4X4 to accommodate Nancy, Herbert, Ricky, Carol her six-year-old daughter Cindy and Gilbert. Geoffrey remained at camp and I gave him an almighty squeeze and concentrated very hard not to get teary eyed. It’s been like coming to visit relatives rather than living in a camp full of researchers. They have all been incredible to me and I feel blessed to call them my friends. And I will try very hard not to lose touch with them.

I was quite quiet during the drive to Biiso preferring to listen to the banter behind me and smiling to myself as I thought about some of the after dinner conversations I’ve had with them in the last few months, especially with Ricky and with Isacc, who had left camp to go home this week.

As we pulled up in front of the B&B I could sense the gang giving the place the once over. The car stopped and they piled out each grabbing a bag. Jacinta one of the four women running the place greeted us. Then came the torrent of questions, Nancy was first: “Where’s the bathroom?”

Jacinta pointed left and pushed open the door. “Asha, you need to buy your own basin, I would prefer that, many people have been using those to wash.” She said in hushed voice.

“Aaaye, she is better off getting a small Jerry can to pour the water over her head, she may not use the basin if she’s not used to it,” said Carol. “And does she have a mosquito net for her bed?” added Carol as she craned her neck around the corner of my door inspecting my room.

The Spanish inquisition continued until they were happy that I was going to be taken care of. They crammed back into the car and waved goodbye leaving behind them a cloud of red dust as the 4X4 sped off. – Thanks guys!!!

After unpacking I decided to explore the town. It took all of 20 minutes, with me walking at a snail’s pace, taking pictures and talking to some of the local shop-keepers.  I am the only Muzungu for miles but I’m fine with it. The children all ran behind me giggling excitedly. The local councillor in town is called Gerfabscer, apparently it translates as “waste of energy”. What on earth was his mother thinking? I’ve been told it’s likely that his siblings probably suffered infant mortality and no one expected him to live so they named his arrival as they saw it. Harsh! And to make matters worse I met his two young sons today – Duncan (yup I know a good solid Ugandan name) the youngest and the third child – Gerfabscer. I didn’t have the heart to ask if the first two were still alive.

There’s not much in the town, there’s a couple of tailors, a hardware store that sells plastic furniture, a few shacks with airtime for mobile phones, one pub and a prison. Just what every local town should have. Behind the main drag is where the food market is held every Tuesday and Friday.

On my way back to the B&B, with a new plastic bucket in hand (after Nancy and Carol’s advice) I was met by Musindi  – the guy who’s motorbike I’m hiring. With him was his mate – Mukaali – who will be my driver for the next three weeks. They had come to surprise me and welcome me to Biiso. We sat down outside and they ordered two sodas.

“You haven’t said what you want,” said Musindi.

“Ohh I’m fine, I’ve had so much water and juice this afternoon I feel quite full at the moment. But don’t worry about me, you go ahead.” I nodded encouragingly.

WRONG!!! Ugandans who come to visit you are expecting you to join them for a drink and if you don’t you’re being rude.

I am so used to picking up the tab wherever I go, I was thinking I’ll pay for their sodas to say thank you for making the effort to visit and they’ll be as happy as Larry. It didn’t even cross my mind that someone wanted to shout me a drink instead.

It soon dawned on me that unless I ordered something fast, I would get off on the wrong foot and offend my new acquaintances.

“We want to welcome you to Biiso,” urged Musindi “Please…. order something small,” he said, swigging back a mouthful of Mountain Dew.

“Well in that case ok, thank you – asante sana.” I smiled.

For a good hour or so we talked about work, fishing, the oil recently discovered in the lake, Musindi’s injury and life here in the town and my life in London. Then the conversation turned to football. Thank God I have some basic knowledge after my sports presenting. It’s a universal language here. If you can’t speak one of the 53 dialects just mention a Premiere League player and you’ll be embraced with open arms. These two are both Arsenal fans, but Mukaali is more ardent than meets the eye. He even went as far as naming one son Aaron Ramsay. The other one didn’t get away lightly either, he was called Trevor. Not sure which one I feel worse for.

The power was cranked on at 7pm and as the locals started to enter into the courtyard to watch the TV the boys left to walk home. I headed for the bathroom to try out my new bucket and Jerry-can experience. After I’d scrubbed myself clean, I scoffed a quick dinner of matoke, beans and two small pieces of stewed goat meat (God I miss Mary’s cooking already) and headed for my room to make use of the power.

Tomorrow is a big day, I want to make the right impression among the villagers and get them to open up to me. It’s crucial if I’m to make good progress with this study. There’s 3 minutes left of power, so I’ll save this post and bid you goodnight. Hopefully I’ll have some tales to share with you later this week.

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