Juliet Lubega


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My ancestral home

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The drops of rain hit my window on this cold and dark January morning. I long for them to clear the snow which had been falling over the last few days. I turn to face the wall thinking of the summer months, hot, like in the land of my ancestors. It was the home of my grand father, where my father grew up and, I was born there in 1964.

The elegant banana trees tower below the sky, and their ever dark green leaves spread out like cobwebs. They shield the drying beans, wrapped in their shrinking pods from the scorching sun at this time of year. They protect the secrets of a family too. It is the final resting place of our fallen.

Some graves are un- marked; others are names with stories told by those who met them. In my mind, I can touch the faces of my three sisters while I walk through the plantation. Their laughter echoes through my ears. The good and sad times we shared are memories I hold on to in my sleep.

I shut my eyes and stop to greet Alice, the youngest. Eighteen years was too soon to go. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. Where would she be living? What would be her job? Would she be married? What about her children? It wasn’t to be.

I arrive at the tall palm tree. I know it is the place where our house used to be. I sat here playing with my dolls made of dry banana stems, ebyayi, their square heads without hair or eyes, with straight arms and no legs. I was oblivious to the world I now live in, where they walk and talk.

My mother was usually seated yards away, and often glanced her watchful eyes over my play. Weaving her bright coloured wool thread into patterns of artistic crotchet, her hands moved in rhythmical strides.

Whilst I lie in bed, thousands of miles away, across the seas and no earth road besides a matooke plantation. My ancestral home, Bubango village is forever in my heart.

 

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2017)

 

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The Governess

“Well, I always tell my girls it’s better to mistrust people at first,” said the lady at the Governess Bureau. This poignant sentence stung like a bee in my ears. I raised my head and looked at her sternly, looking for an explanation as to why she had said this. My lips trembled and suddenly I got second thoughts as to what I was letting myself into taking up a position as governess in an English family on Diplomatic service in Germany.

I felt my stomach turn and the palm of my right hand started to sweat as I clung on to the large envelope she had just handed me. She jerked her head upwards and looked straight at me, her large blue eyes sparkling and her long brown hair falling loosely on her shoulders. I was taken aback by her beauty, her soft velvet skin, the long pointed nose and high cheeks. In a soft caring voice she asked “Did I just scare you?”. ”No madam, I am alright” I replied trying to compose myself.

As I lifted my brown suitcase off the floor, ready to leave the Bureau the lady walked towards me and gave me a pat on my shoulder and said reassuringly “you will be alright”.

My taxi arrived shortly. A fifteen minute journey to the train station seemed an internity as I took in all the surroundings of my home town, We turned right from the Bureau into Middle Lane and passed the Bank where my mother used to work all those years ago. The City Council Offices, a large white building staring at us ahead. As we passed the Central Gardens the memories of my mother taking me for children’s out door parties in the summer holidays started to surface. A strict disciplinarian who taught me to respect adults, my mother was always careful of the people I spoke to every time we went to these Gardens, just like the lady at the Bureau had just told me.

The town, my childhood and old life faded away as the train pulled out of the station to Dover. I felt a new responsibility tower upon my shoulders, exciting but daunting prospects of a new life abroad.

Two seats away from where I was sitting on the train I noticed a lady, about middle age. She reminded me of my Aunty Cathy who loved ribbons, just like her she had a red ribbon in her silver grey hair, her large forehead showing through. She was wearing a red jumper on top of a white embroidered blouse, a floral round skirt and red pumps. Her hands placed firmly on top of her red handbag lying upon her lap. She constantly looked at me sideways through her brown framed spectacles with a twitch on her lips, smeared with bright thick red lipstick.

Aunty Cathy was my Father’s youngest sister who lived on her own in a cottage at the outskirts of our town. I loved her Sunday roast, and often popped down to see her for Sunday lunch on the days she wasn’t busy attending the Women Church group which prepared tea for the Sunday Mass congregation at the Parish Church.

“Send me a telegram when you arrive in Munich, will you?” she said, just as we sipped our last drops of tea two days ago. It felt like Jesus and his twelve disciples on their last supper. I will miss her, I thought to myself as she had become my soul mate since my parents had been killed in a road accident ten years ago. Aunty Cathy had been my rock, my parental guide. I could sense the concern in her voice about me flying the nest to work abroad. She probably quietly would have preferred me to find a husband and marry in her local church but as usual she was supportive of my decisions.

Arriving at Dover the Ferry was nearly ready for Departure across the Channel. The journey was over before I realised. It had been nice in the Ladies cabin. The stewardess was so kind and had changed my money for me. She also kindly tucked my feet inside the travel blanket as I dozed off for a nap to wean off my exhaustion.

I gathered the bottom of my pleated skirt and sized the weight on my suitcase before putting it down again. Sighing loudly beneath my breath I looked at the flight of stairs above me, wondering how I was going to get the suitcase up on the train platform.

Then just as the whistle sound echoed through the station, an old man wrapped in a plaid cape climbed up the high step next to me. He looked very old, 90 at least. He gazed at me as I checked my watch to establish the boarding time for the train to Munich. In an assuming tone of voice he asked “You have been in Germany before of course?”
I replied “Oh no, this is the first time I have ever been abroad at all”

 

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2015)


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Idi Amin ; A legacy or curse?

Idi Amin Dada, Africa’s most notorious dictator of the 1970’s.The 3rd President of Uganda since its independence from Britain in 1962.With virtually no formal education he rose through the ranks of the army from the colonial Kings Rifles through to being trained at Sandhurst (UK), until he seized power in a military coup from a civil government in 1971.He put Uganda and her people on the International stage for all the wrong reasons.
Idi Amin is the greeting that you get on the streets of Tottenham in North London when you introduce yourself as coming from Uganda. Very little tourist information is known about this small African state, the hospitality of its people and sense of community, the richness of its culture and language and its ever green vegetation.
Set at the Equator and nicknamed “the Pearl of Africa”, Uganda is home to the world’s highest mountain range, the Mountains of the Moon in the Ruwenzori National Park. It is the source the River Nile, the second longest river in the world, and it has the highest concentration of primates on earth, including the majestic mountain gorilla, one of the rarest animals on the planet. It is safer to say you are from Kenya or Tanzania, to avoid the reference to Idi Amin.
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Nagawa was born in London in 1991. Idi Amin’s Uganda bears little relevance to her. To this British born young girl, the story of Idi Amin as told in the film ‘The Last King of Scotland’ is the nearest she will ever get to understand.
I was busy typing away the corrections of my story from the creative writing course that I didn’t notice the shadow of Nagawa as she turned to open the front door. She was returning from an overnight stay and her school friend’s house in South London. “Hello Maama?” she said as her light brown face peered through the living room door where I was working. ”Hello, how are you? Did you enjoy the party and how is Kukuwa?” She sat in the brown leather sofa, fiddling with the bunch of keys and staring at me with a blank face. “What is the matter? I asked.
She recited what had happened at the party, at her Ghanaian friend Kukuwa’s house. When she introduced herself as coming from Uganda, the adults at the party wanted to know about Idi Amin. What did you say? I asked. “All I know about Amin is in the Last King of Scotland” she replied
I felt pain in my heart as I realized that the Idi Amin trail had found my daughter as she mixed in the social circles of the UK. I looked her and wondered how she was going to cope with the endless questions about Idi Amin and whether there was any possibility of this chapter in Uganda’s past fading from the world history. I realized how living in another country has brought us closer to this part of life we would rather stay away from, read about in books or watch in films.
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In Uganda, Idi Amin has been forgotten. His existence is firmly placed in the country’s history. During a family holiday in December 2012 I and my children visited the refurbished Mengo Palace, following the airing of the BBC 3 documentary ‘Under Cover Princess’ in 2010 that featured the Buganda Princess Cinderella Nvannungi. Formerly the official residence of the Kabaka of the Buganda Kingdom, it had been turned into the notorious Lubiri military barracks after the abolition of the Kingdoms in 1967.It holds now the derelict Idi Amin torture chambers where more than 300000 Ugandans are believed to have been electrocuted to death and their remains dumped in the nearby man made Lake;Kayanja ka Kabaka to feed crocodiles that were bred there. As the short dark well spoken man, our guide took us on a tour of the site, he informed us that it was a major attraction to tourists and we were shortly joined by 4 Kenyan tourists. He expected a group of German tourists in the coming hours. That was the only brush with the Idi Amin for the month we spent in Uganda.
However, The Last King of Scotland was waiting for us on board a British Airways return flight to London Heathrow in January 2013.A reminder of the inquiries and explanations about Idi Amin, Ugandans of all generations are faced with outside the country.

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2014)


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2014 in review

Thank you to all my readers from 52 countries for contributing to these amazing statics in 2014.Together we will contnue to grow in 2015.Look out for new stories and keep reading!

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


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Audition

She looked at me. Her brown framed spectacles slanting towards the tip of her nose. Her short brown hair arranged in large waves. The expression on her face was seeking for an answer. I stared back unsure of what to say or do. Since she had announced that we were going to do a production of The Bird Catcher from Magic Flute by Mozart, I had occupied my self with looking outside through the large windows of the music room. It was annexed to Hutchinson house, the central dormitory in the school compound. I could see girls in pairs and small groups walking up and down the pavement. My hand was fumbling inside my uniform pocket, holding on to my blue handkerchief. I was contemplating putting myself forward for the auditions of the main character but it was my first term in Gayaza Singers and a junior. As an O’ level student I felt intimidated by the longer serving A’ level members.
Three A level girls came forward. Miss Hobday took off her glasses and wiped them with a white handkerchief. She run her hand through her hair and said “Can some O’ level students come forward too” her eyes fixed on me. I took a deep breath and felt my body usurped with confidence. There was silence and the girls looked on in anticipation. I slowly got up and walked to the front of the room and Miss Hobday broke into a smile to mark the achievement of her words of encouragement.
All my fears vanished as my voice filled the room with Handle’s Lascia ch’io pianga and I could see the beaming faces in front of me.
I re-lived the moment I performed ‘Embwa yange’ a traditional folk song I used to lead in primary school within weeks of my first year, four years earlier for my house, Cox during a singing competition. Not only did I catch the eye of the English music teacher Miss Hobday but whole school then knew who I was.

 

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2014)


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Grand Father’s legacy

Whether you met him or not you can feel him, smell him and touch him. His influence never fades.
Grandfather died in 1968, in his 90s.His final resting place is below these beautiful banana leaves spreading out like butterflies.
This Mutuba tree represents everything he stood for; a humble village man who planted lots of such trees, harvested their back by wrapping fresh banana leaves , beat them with wooden mallets into bark cloth to sell for a living.
I felt immensely proud of my grandfather to find history repeating itself when I visited this plantation, my ancestral ground at Bubango Village in Rakai District in March 2014
A young Mutuba tree being harvested in the same way he did nearly 100 years ago.

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©Juliet.Lubega (unpublished 2014)


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Sezibwa Falls, Uganda -The hidden treasure

From an unassuming right turn off Jinja Road, we drove into an earth (murram) road flanked by sugar cane spread out like a thick green blanket. Behind the sugar plantation we took a left down a steep hill onto a dead end. In the right hand corner is this spread of beauty.

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We arrived to a peaceful and quiet and relaxing atmosphere with beautiful gardens. The still atmosphere interrupted by the sound of the falling waters.

 Water particles filled the air adding freshness to the surrounding ancient trees.

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  Surrounded in mystery and bound by tradition Sezibwa Falls is Uganda’s hidden treasure. This breathtaking water spectacle falls over 7 meters over steep sharp rocks forming a small lake below.

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 River Sezibwa continues its journey to Lake Kyoga in central Uganda; it is merely a trickle of stream with a visible river bed at this point

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 This beautiful enclosure is owned by the Kingdom of Buganda.It is a  tourist attraction but of cultural significance to the Kings(Kabaka) and chiefs of the Kingdom.

The tree behind the shelter was planted by Kabaka Mwanga in the 1800s

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