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Cracking Kampala

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [136] | Scholarship Entry

Cracking Kampala

The hot Ugandan air pushed me, recalling me into thoughts of being a little girl again, visiting Florida during the bitter Minnesota winter for the first time, dumbfounded and giddy at the sight of palm trees and green grass in January. But this hotness was different: more exotic and foreign. It was thicker, as if breathing could be chewed on, could be tasted. It seemed desperate for attention, this hotness, climbing and collapsing again and again like hot coals crumbling; surrounding me like a crowd of raring street vendors.
Horns blared restlessly and boda-bodas zoomed by in the darkness. My body’s immediate tension with the seemingly reckless driving subsided as I eased into the recognition of a new place, relaxed into my own discomfort. I turned my head back toward the window, catching the whites of eyes and locking together with them when we slowed. The road was lined with glowing lights and bright signs; small houses were covered with tin roofs and Ugandans spilled out of the homes and bars, faces hidden in the darkness. The men seemed all to be smiling, their backs crouched in conversation; the children yelled at my obvious foreignness – mazungoo! – they’d say: white person; and the women just stood, regal and proud, holding still as if someone were painting their portrait.

Hours later I woke to the sound of unfamiliar birds and the sun’s penetrating rays as I slowly made my way to the white cement bathroom and locked the door behind me. It was bright – but not from cleanliness. Perhaps from hopefulness; its intention to remain unbroken, functional, even if its owners didn’t take great care of it; as if its duty lay elsewhere – its responsibility was to someone else.
A small sink spattered with spots of dirt and dust stood facing the door, looking out of place and overcrowded with toothbrushes and face wash. The showerhead hung on the left side, cracks in the wall surrounding it, each one telling a story; choosing a path: committed fully to its destiny as a crack in the wall. The open window next to the faucet framed giant green leaves and pink flowers nearly crawling through the rusted black bars.
I turned the creaking faucet handle and splashed cool water over my eyes, my body tensing as more evidence of my travels dripped off my fingers and face, breathing in every moment purposefully and with recognition of its fleeting nature.
A spider crawled out of one of the showerhead cracks, pausing to watch me for a moment, standing like the Ugandan women I had seen: strong and regal, an undeniable but underestimated power to her, even when crawling out of cracks; even when crowding the roads. I looked back at her, craving conversation, but edging up the wall she disappeared again, moving with the same nonchalance as the breaks, ever confident in her path.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

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