Saturday, February 14, 2009

Beware The Wandering Feet

It's valentines eve and I am the only person in an otherwise riotous Kampala spending the night alone. I made fishcakes with canned Alaskan salmon, which felt like a special gift from the gods. I miss salmon more than I miss all but my closest friends.

You might have noticed that the blog has been quiet since I got back from Gulu. I've even cooled down on iphone facebook status updates. Truth is that, after the camps and the bush and the deep intensity of the experience, nothing has felt worth posting.

After Gulu, Kampala, which felt so exotic before I left, feels safe, gentle, and friendly. I've slept in, read, wandered through the slums, drank with friends in the evenings, and trod the dark, uneven streets home feeling carefree. Even the heat feels tolerable.

I've spent as much time as I could with the kids. Upon my return every one of them came up and shook my hand, welcomed me home. They knew where I'd been, their homeland, and what it means to go there. They seem to appreciate the effort. They've been much easier, more friendly, less defensive with me since. Even the girls, who have always been shyer, have warmed up to me. Today I took them all to the football field and we laid on the grass together, a great churning mass of restless black kids and a giant sweaty muzungu, like some beached manatee, lying together in the sun.

Of course they've asked. And I've answered as honestly as I could bring myself to.

"Yes, I saw what is left of your village".

"I met your brother, he is a good man. His family is well".

"Yes, I went to your mothers grave".

"In your family hut your fathers widow served me a lunch of posho, sim sim, and malakwang .... Yes, I did like it".

What I didn't tell them is what they didn't know to ask. The camp grew around your mothers grave and it's now in the middle of a walkway. Your grandmother, when asked, said that even though she missed you, to keep you at the UJV because it would be a way better life than being in a camp with her. The uncle who sent you here was actually your father. Your brother and you are not actually related at all.

Truth is that after Gulu, being here feels, well, it feels normal, easy, deflated. The adventure is gone. Or rather, the experiencial bar has been raised above what's here in Kampala. In Gulu I feasted at a smorgasbord of raw, concentrated, human realness, the kind that you can't find in places like Vancouver, or New York, or Montreal, or even Kampala. The truth is that I've developed a taste for that particular flesh, and now i'm craving more of it.

So with my trip more than half over, I am faced with a hard choice. Do I just accept that the peak-intensity of my voyage is past, and lounge in Kampala with the kids, satisfying myself that I am doing things for them? Or I could do some tourism, spend some diversionary cash, 'see Africa', go on a safari, or go to Nairobi or Mombassa. Or, if i've really got the teeth and the stomach, I could venture farther out from the comfort zone, and find myself a more dangerous, more real place that is above the intensity threshold set by Gulu. That should be easy, I mean, I'm in the middle of Africa. Congo is closer to here than Seattle is to most of you. That's probably the most fu'd up and dangerous place on the planet! Think of the photos I could get! I could even afford to fly to Zimbabwe or West Africa.

Beware the wandering feet you might not have known you had. Or the ones you might not have despite what you think.

Happy Valentines Day to all my lovely people, may all your knobs and dials get turned the right way.


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