I want out. I want out of this province. I want to see the world. Explore. Travel. Everyone is going somewhere lately. On Facebook, there are all kinds of photos of people having some kind of farewell in the airport as they jet off to destinations known. Actual friends of mine have sent me a couple of photos of their new locales in Australia, Canada, South Africa and I have to say, while I am happy for them, it’s really rankling.
The envy is palpable. And it festers like a boil out to disprove the fact that all sores must come to an end. I mean, really, when’s it going to be my turn? Yes, I have travelled. I have been to Dar, Mombasa, and Kampala… Heck, my family has homes there so it doesn’t exactly qualify as globetrotting. However, I don’t want one of those free economy class flights in the cargo deck of a British Airways copy to go to an even worse Turkish hotel that borders a prison and has a view of a brick wall. I want one of those fanciful first class trips with champagne on the flight and those flight attendants that look like Barbie dolls.
My road trips to Kampala have been either something out of a Meja Mwangi book. Full of mishaps, misadventures, gremlins and bad luck that would make voodoo gods cringe. Or they could be out of a Dostoyevsky. Long, tedious and you’re constantly wondering when it will end. The last time I travelled to the city of the Hills of the Impala, I slept when we set off from Nairobi. I woke up when we got to Kisumu- for those with shallow bladders and no fear of public bathrooms to relieve themselves- and to board more travellers. I slept again then woke up at the border. On the Kenyan end, it was a simple process of confirming my identity then I was off. When I went to the Ugandan side, I joined a queue reminiscent of the general election dawn. I stood for so long that I lost feeling in my shins. And my heels. And my hamstrings. I was completely numb by the time I got to the window for them to simply stamp my passport and wave me through.
When I went outside, my bus was in line as well for a half-hearted inspection of briefly shining a powerful flashlight in the boot, between some of the seats and a cursory glance at the overhead bin. I had to stand in the cold for half an hour for some type of police force to confirm that there was nothing untoward in our luggage, a few of the bus’s nooks and some crannies.
After that I had to file behind my fellow passengers again so that a stern looking askari with a high visibility jacket and another powerful flashlight could shine the light in my face and confirm that I was the person in my passport photo and to make sure it was actually and properly stamped. By the time he was done with his comprehensive probing of my retinas, I was seeing stars as I lumbered up the bus-steps.
I collapsed heavily into my seat and waited for our bus to be released so that I could continue with my transitional nap until I got to my destination. This did not go as planned of course. When we got to the junction to Kampala and Tororo, burly stoic men in camouflage print uniforms and another set of high visibility jackets stopped the bus. These ones had rifles instead of flashlights. They jumped on board and walked through the aisle peering at all the passengers with their piercing eyes that dare you to even twitch lest you find yourself arrested on suspicion of suspicious activity.
The entire bus held its breath as we waited for the men to conclude their inspections of our faces. When one of the officers asked for a lady’s passport, we almost all cried for mercy, begged them to take her and leave us be with our journey and do whatever they wanted with her. I could already feel the words bubbling out of my mouth, “We had nothing to do it! You have who you want! Just let us go!”
Fortunately, he only wanted to learn her name so he could compliment her hairdo. He smiled at the rest of us and told us in perfect Swahili to enjoy the rest of our trip. I sighed and slumped into my seat lulled back to sleep by the soothing hum of the moving bus, occasionally disturbed by the odd dream of Ugandan soldiers telling me my hair wasn’t at all impressive.
Eventually, I got to the town where I was supposed to alight. It was supposed to be an artless procedure. I told the driver to drop me off at Seeta-Mukono. And he did. Right at the stage where I had asked. The steward even helped me with my bag as I got off. Ultimately, something went alright.
And I am hoping that I will eventually get that first class trip to a first class destination. Then I will be the one inundating my friends’s newsfeeds with pictures of me at airports and sky high views.
Photo source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/312437292868843490/