The Pearl of Africa
Monday,2nd April, 2012
My school was closing for Easter. The children were busy with their work. It was raining hard after a long dry spell. In the evening I went to the Lavington shopping centre to get things for the children - meat, butter,croissantes etc so that they have minimal things to buy while I am away. Although they are big now and responsible, I still feel that from my side, I should do as much as I can for their comfort and well-being.
At night, I made fish and chips for dinner and 'biryani' for the next day. It was still raining at night. Although the rain was welcome - the mosquitoes seemed to increase - the insecticide and the mossi-sticks were having zero effect! I hardly slept!
Tuesday, 3rd April, 2012
My son was collected by the Globe Pharmacy van to be taken to the work place in town. I went to school for the extra holiday lesson - it was a Grade 12/13 Biology practical class and with the help of the Lab assistant, it went on fine. I also had to give the students some assignments for the holidays.
At 10 a.m. I went to buy some things for Khara from Highridge. There was hardly any traffic, surprisingly, so I reached home by 11 a.m. My daughter was at home. She helped me with my final packing - the weight seemed in excess but I had to take the duvet, bed covers, a rug and a melamine dinner set for the house in Kampala. Baji came with her driver and by 2 p.m. we were at the JKIA.
There was no problem with the luggage or the immigration. At the security check, I was asked to open my hand luggage - they wanted to scrutinise the small wall mirror that I was carrying.
While I was waiting in the lounge, Khara rang and I told him him we would be meeting in a couple of hours. At 4 p.m. the flight took off and soon we were over the clouds.
We were served with sandwiches, but some how I never feel like eating during a flight - I just had some juice. While in the mid sky, I prayed for the welfare and respect of my children, remembered Mum and Dad a lot and relived the trip for Hajj with Baji and Reema. Life was going on but it would never be the same!
Soon we landed at the Entebbee Airport. An attendant helped me with my hand trolley down the stairs. It was slightly warm but windy on the run way. The parked aeroplanes that seemed like toys from the air, now looked bigger than life. As I walked towards the Immigration office, I rang Khara - he was still on his way and there was lots of traffic.
I filled in the official forms and gave my finger prints in front of the camera. The lady there commended my hair colour. When I told her it was simple, home pasted 'henna', she was amazed.
My luggage came on the conveyor belt and I battled with it to get it onto the trolley. Some times you cannot find anybody to help. I walked out at last as some smartly dressed representatives asked if I wanted a taxi or a hotel. I told them I was waiting for my car - I was feeling a bit apprehensive as Khara had still not come.
After some time that seemed like hours, Khara arrived. He was looking tired although the driver, Musa, had been driving. The old 'merc' seemed to have been cleaned. I sat at the back while Khara sat in front with the driver. It was dusky now and there was still a lot of traffic but the greenery on the roadsides was so beautiful. I saw a huge 'jack-fruit' actually growing on the stem of the tree - I had never seen this. The bill boards were in myriads but quite innovative especially the ones advertising and sensitising people about products and HIV.
I unpacked my luggage in the bed room and put the new bed sheets and a bed-side rug that Mum had gifted me a long time ago. The room looked cleaner than the last time I had been here. Feeling very tired, I wanted to rest but my head was throbbing and my throat seemed sore.
Suhail sent us chicken and 'naans' for dinner. Khara and I enjoyed the food together. Khara was so sweet - he served me and I felt so touched. My heart went out to him. May God bless him always.
The night was warm and there were some mosquitoes buzzing around. There was an overhead mosquito net but I didn't want it - I felt so claustrophobic in it!
Wednesday, 4th April, 2012
My tea had become cold so I had some juice. I told Sharon to use the 'thermos' flask that I had brought, to keep the tea warm. Later Suhail made some fresh tea for us. He saw the album with my Hajj photos and I gave him the shirt, 'jae namaaz' and 'chevra' that I had brought for him. He was so thankful and he showed me the pictures of his wife and small children in Pakistan.
He then watched some 'Waaz' on T.V. and then left for his restaurant.
After Sharon left, I started making the new curtains for Khara's room. I had brought the white and gold material lying in the house in Nairobi. Miraculously it was just enough for the two windows in the room. It was a tough job as I had to hand stitch everything. I also had to put the runners and hooks on the palmate all by myself. Anyway I enjoyed making the curtains as there was no disturbance. By 5 p.m. I had finished. The room looked so presentable now and I was sure Khara would be happy. I wanted him to feel good when he returned from work, fatigued and fagged out. Other days there was nobody to welcome him. I wanted him to feel my presence even when I would not be there.
Shifa, my niece, had been messaging me frequently to ask how I was, asking for a story book from Kamapala and wishing me a good holiday. She had indeed matured a lot. She needed more attention and constant companionship so that she could carry out constructive activities.
It was almost 7 p.m. It was raining heavily outside just like the last time that I was here. I was waiting for Khara, my 'jaan', to come home. I was really missing him. I prayed for his well-being and thanked God for all His blessings.
Khara came at 7.45 p.m. I served him with juice and we watched some T.V. Suhail came with the food for dinner- 'daal', 'bhajia' and 'naans'. We all enjoyed the food together.
When Suhail saw our tranformed room, he was amazed and joked that he was getting a 'cold' with so much 'hygiene' around!! I told him I would do something about the other rooms too especially the guest room. Khara retorted, 'Don't spoil our habits'! He was pleased with the new curtains and the setting of the room. He slept like a baby. I, too, was really tired because of all the bending and stretching while putting up the curtains.
Thursday 5th April, 2012
I started off with the upstairs bathroom - it seemed the dust had been there for years. I tried to clean the walls of our room but some spots and marks were permanently etched there. The house needed a new coat of paint badly.
Suhail brought me some juice and tea . He was so sweet - such a good son. He had worn the silvery grey shirt I had brought for him and he looked so smart. I wished him well and hoped he would flourish in his business. He went off to work at 1.30 p.m. Sharon also had to go.
After my mid day prayers, I started cleaning the downstairs area. The kitchen seemed to have dirt from 5 years! Even the sitting room was full of dust. I remembered Mum and Khalla who also used to clean up where ever the went. They hated 'ghalazat'. I hoped I was not becoming obsessed with an ultra clean and healthy environment! By the time I finished the house looked more like a 'home' now.
It was 8 p.m. when Khara returned. Soon the food also came - it was beef curry and chapatis. Khara liked it but I had the previous day's yoghurt and bhajia. Somehow I could not swallow the beef - my throat seemed to have tightened!
Khara watched cricket but I was really feeling tired of the wiping, sweeping and dusting the whole afternoon. I sent messages to the children in Nairobi and then rested. It had been raining again in the evening so it was quite cool and the mosquitoes had also disappeared. Khara rubbed my back as it was aching and before I knew I was fast asleep
Friday, 6th April, 2012
Around 10 a.m. the driver came and I too went with Khara to the town. Khara got dropped off at the Sports shop and I went to the 'Uchumi' mall. It was huge with food courts and shopping amenities. I was surprised to see that all Kenyan stuff was on the shelves of the super market. There was loads of KCC butter in the dairy side - we had an acute shortage of butter in Nairobi - I was tempted to get some and take it back with me!
I enjoyed going around the aisles and got some necessities for the house here - buckets, mats, tea, eggs, fruit etc. I also took some photos.
We went back to the Sports shop where Khara had ordered 'pilau' for lunch. Even Suhail came over and we all had food in the back room of the shop. On my request Suhail had ordered a cake for my brother-in-law's birthday which was on the next day. My sister wanted to give him a surprise at Taj Restaurant. They had reached Jinja and had gone to see the Owen Falls.
We had a lot of childhood memories of Jinja where we used to stay in 'master's' house. 'Masterani', his wife used to love to feed us with fresh 'parathas', 'achar' and 'duud' [milk]. Their own children were in Pakistan so they really pampered us!
With the driver I came home. I set the dining room and organised the kitchen. Now things looked better. My sister rang me at 6 p.m. They had left Jinja and would reach Kampala at night. So we would meet the next day. Khara came and got engrossed in watching 'cricket', as usual. I didn't mind, as long as he was around. I rested a bit and prayed. It was dusky, the weather was cool and romantic - or was it all in the mind?
Dinner was mixed veges and 'roti' which I enjoyed. Some how I always prefer vegetarian food unlike Khara who loves chicken and fish.
My sister and her friends had reached Kampala by 9 p.m. They were staying with Mr Mumtaz, a mutual acquaintance.
Saturday, 7th April, 2012
They were all having breakfast. I just had some juice. The men sat in the garden which had many sorts of flowers and trees.
After an hour or so we all got into three cars and followed each other to the town. The traffic was pretty bad and the road was full of pot-holes - a reminder that we were still in Africa! We parked on Kampala Road and went in to see Khara's Super Sports shop. As we walked along the road we clutched onto our bags and cameras as we had been warned about 'snatchers'. In fact we witnessed somebody being mugged and people running after the thief.
My sister was tired and feeling weak so we gave her some 'patisa' to raise her sugar level and we all had it too.
Khara rang me to tell me that he was already at the Taj restaurant with Sohail. We were all supposed to go there for dinner.
We had to pass through Mr Mumtaz's house for a few minutes. The 'lights' had gone [another reminder that we were in Africa!] so we sat in candle light. We met the daughter, Afea, a studious 'A' level pupil who wanted to pursue Medicine in the future. She drove their car towards the Taj and we followed in the other car. My sister was sitting with me and we remembered the times we used to come to Uganda with Dad and Mum when we were children.
Afea didn't know the way to the restaurant so we had to stop several times to ask passers-by. My sister and I recalled the time when long ago our house help, Masila, took Dad to his home village near Machakos to buy goats. Dad got tired driving for hours while Masila went on saying, 'hapa tuu, hapa tuu' [it's just near, it's just near]!
Finally after a long drive, we reached the Ntinda area and managed to find the restaurant.
Sohail had got all the dishes prepared specially and everybody enjoyed the chicken wings, tikkas, grilled fish, masala chips and 'paye' with 'naans'. After the dinner the surprise cake came for my brother in law whose birthday it was. He cut the cake with my sister and we all sang 'Happy Birthday' for him.
It was past 11 p.m. now. Suddenly two hairy caterpillars fell onto our table from the roof. We knew it was time to go now! The good-byes were said and they all left for Mr. Mumtaz's house. Khara and I thanked Sohail for the lovely dinner he had arranged.
With the driver Khara and I came home. There was so much noise in the area as it was a Saturday night and lots of blaring music was being played around. It seemed there were no laws about noise pollution in residential areas here. We had to literally put cotton wool in our ears to sleep in the otherwise cool night!
Sunday, 8th April, 2012
My sister rang me that they would be soon leaving for Entebbe where we could all meet and have a picnic. The driver, Musa, had come, so we started off the long drive.
The traffic was lesser than other days. The asian F.M. radio was playing old songs like 'kanton se cheen ke ye aanchal..' and I was enjoying the view outside. The lush greenery strikes you again and again as you drive on the roads the sides of which are full of 'kiosks', hawkers and small houses. There is hardly any expanse that is uninhabitated.
At exactly 2 p.m. e reached the 'Aero Beach' which was situated just after the Entebbe International Airport. There was a small charge to enter. Many cars were already there and people were enjoying the beautiful beach.
There were two old aerplanes parked in the ground. Children were climbing in and out of them. One plane was supposed to be the one that was hijacked in a historical happening some years ago.
My sister and her relatives also arrived. They had gone to see the Botanical Gardens from where they had brought for me a giant fern frond - my sister knows I love plants!
They were all in the right spirit, equipped with beach caps, sneakers and cameras. By now the beach was packed with people swimming, playing and having sheer fun. I couldn't help remembering our childhood days when our parents used to bring us to this same beach to make us enjoy our holidays.
Driving out of Aero Beach was a nightmare. The place was already crammed with parked cars and lines of more vehicles were streaming on the narrow, rocky lane coming from the main road. There was surely a beach party planned for the night!
After an ordeal of one hour we managed to reach the main road. It was dusk now; we reached home at 7 p.m. Mr Amjad rang Khara to invite us for dinner at 'Fang Fang' restaurant but we declined as we were already so full and tired.
I sent messages to my children, Reema and Baji. I missed them so much and wished they could also come and enjoy Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. I made a mental note of buying a 'map' especially of Kampala and its environs as the days had passed so fast and time to go back to Nairobi was so near.
It was a warm night and again outside, there was so much music playing at the loudest volume possible. People here knew how to disturb others!
Monday, 9th April, 2012
By the time we finished the chores, it was 1.30 p.m. Khara had an 'off' today so he drove us to his friend Rabbani's house in Kololo. Their house was on top of the hill and you could view the whole city from the balcony. I noticed that the 'Kenya High Commission' residence was just the next house.
I had brought a present for the lady, Arshad and chocos for the children. We looked at the photos of my last trip to Kampala and my Hajj snaps. Arshad cooked chicken and pea 'pilau' while I cut the salad and fruit. Some more guests also came and we all had lunch together.
Around 5 p.m. we said bye to them and drove back home. Khara watched cricket for a couple of hours. Sohail brought 'pizza' for dinner and we all enjoyed eating and chatting together.
Tuesday, 10th April, 2012
I did my final packing and this time I left some of my things here so that I won't carry extra stuff next time. Sharon came to clean my room and I gave her some Ugandan money as a fare-well gift. She was so happy that she touched my feet. She wanted to study further but had so many problems. I prayed for her success and happiness.
For breakfast I had some left over 'pizza' and juice. Suhail had rung the driver to come and he was there on time. Suhail offered to accompany us to the Airport but I declined. Khara was still busy at the customs office so I said bye on the phone.
At 1.30 we started for the Airport. Surprisingly there was hardly any traffic and within an hour I was dropped at the Entebbee Airport. It was too early to check in, so I went to the waiting area and shopped for a few trinkets and 'art' cards from the small shops there. At 3.45 p.m. I checked in at the '540' stand. This time the suitcase was only 13 kg!. I filled in the Immigration forms, did the finger print check and was allowed in.
From the 'Duty-Free' shops, I got some spiral note books for my daughter and chocolates for my son. Baji's text came -she asked me to ring her when I boarded so that she could send her driver to collect me from the Nairobi Airport.
Khara also rang to ask if I had boarded but it was 4.30 p.m. and there was no call for the passengers. Well '540' had to do it again - the flight was delayed by two hours. I checked the time table screen several times to make sure - it would now leave at 7.15! So exasperating!
All the passengers were disgusted. An attendant, Fina, came to tell us of the delay and said we might be given tea at 5.30 p.m. I really needed it - I had been here since 2.30. I rand Baji and Khara to let them know of the situation. Some passengers lay back on the seats and slept. I would never do that; I just sat hoping that my feet would not start swelling!
I looked at the paintings hung around the waiting lounge. They were good - pity, you cannot take photos in this area. This Duty-free area was small but nice.
The realisation dawned on me that it's so true that one is actually alone in this world. Take my example; at that moment, my husband was in Kampala, my children in Nairobi, my brother and sisters in their own worlds, parents passed away and I in Entebbe, waiting for the flight home. I had never felt so lonely!
At 5.45 p.m. we were called to the cafeteria and served with a snack of 'samosa' and tea which was really welcomed.
We were given a sandwich and juice as soon as we settled down in our seats. The flight was smooth and thankfully we landed safe and sound in Nairobi at 8.30 p.m.
My trips to Uganda were really a ploy of destiny; may be I will never get to visit Kampala again because just a month afterwards my husband shifted back to Nairobi. He was unable to secure a work permit to stay there. He was lucky that his previous company in Nairobi where he had worked for more than 30 years, called him and took him back with open arms. He rejoined immediately.
I was secretly happy that we would be staying together again!
copyright shama butt