Juliet Lubega


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It is 7 pm in Uganda

Around 7pm it was getting dark and the temperatures plummeting. I was sitting outside trying to keep warm in front on the burning charcoal stove. My son sat next to me observing how my niece was cooking sauce in a pan over the hostile flames.
The chicken appeared from the corner of the house walking towards us. He jumped up from his stool.
“Sit down” I told him.
“The chicken is coming” he replied.
“It just needs to pass to go to bed” I said.
“Where is it its bed?” he asked
“In the indoor kitchen” I replied.
“Do they all have beds?” he asked.
“Yes, at 7 pm every day, they all stop running around and go home?” I replied.
I explained that every chicken is trained by its owner to know its home. When we brought this one from the village, it was tied using a banana fibre by one leg, to a post near the house for 3 days to enable it to learn its surroundings. Then it was let to run freely around the neighbourhood during the day, pecking for food.
“When you see the chicken coming home, then you know it is 7 pm” I told him.
He looked at me in astonishment.
“Do you mean all the chicken know their homes?” He asked
“Yes they do” I replied.
He remained standing looking at the chicken as it walked past us; its head straight ahead towards the door, gliding like a ship on water, it went through two entrances and passed all the shopping we had brought earlier and settled down in its corner in the kitchen for the night.
My son shortly went in the kitchen to see if it was there. He came back with a big smile on his face.
“It will wake up at dawn” I told him.
“How will it get out of the house?” he asked
I explained to him that it will walk up to this back door, where it will wait and may crow or make chuckling noises until someone wakes up to let it out of the house for

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2016)

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It is time for School

“Wake up”
“Huh?”
“I said wake up?’
“What is the time”
“It is ten minutes to eight”
“I wake up at eight”
“I know”
“ Why are you waking me up before eight?”
“We need an extra ten minutes this morning”
“Why?”
“To make your packed lunch”
“Do we have to take packed lunch for the trip?”
“In the letter for the trip it said it is an option”
“Why don’t you just give me money?”
“I haven’t got enough money”
“Do you have spending money to give me?”
“Yes I do”
“Can it cover my lunch?”
“It will not be enough for both lunch and spending?”
“I don’t eat much at lunch anyway”
“It is important you eat enough on a day you are out of school”
“What do you want me to do now?”
“I want you to wake up, brush your teeth, wash up, put on your uniform and come down stairs to choose your sandwich filler and type of bread”
“Am I making the sandwich as well?”
“No”
“Why do I need to come down then?”
“If I chose for you, you might not like it and not eat, as you do sometimes”
“What are the options?”
“Tuna and sweet corn, ham, cheese and bacon”
“What type of ham?”
“Cooked ham”
“Is there mayonnaise?”
“Off course there is.”
“What about lettuce?”
“There is lettuce” she replied.
“What type of bread do you have?”
“Both brown and white bread”
“Let me first think about it”
“There isn’t much time to think, you need to get ready for school”
“By the time I finish brushing my teeth I would have decided”
“Get out of bed then and go and brush your teeth”
“My jumper got dirty yesterday.”
“Where did you put it?”
“In the laundry basket”
“I will get a clean one for you while you are in the bathroom”
“You can make the sandwich without me?”
“It seems I will have to, because we have spent time talking and you will be late”
“Cool”
“What did you just say?”
“Cool”
“Make your choices. Here is your clean jumper. I want to go downstairs to make the packed lunch”
“I will have bacon, lettuce and mayonnaise with white bread”

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2016)

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Meeting

Kato sat on his bed in the dark. He could see the full moon; a fluffy cotton ball staring at him through a slit opening of the dark green bedroom window. The sky was clear and the stars twinkling besides like brides maids.
He repeated her name underneath his breath “Tendo, Tendo”. The thick lipstick on her lips and softness of her voice was still vivid in his mind.
He had intended to have a brief visit to the pub for a pint on his way home.
Just as he approached the counter, a dark skinned girl went before him.
“Excuse me please” she said.
He stepped side ways to give her way, and the scent of her perfume filled his nostrils.
Kato’s eyes wandered from the long braids falling loosely behind her neck, to her round bottom, straight legs and high heel red shoes. Her yellow mini body corn dress clung to every inch on her body. He felt chills.
He stood there watching her every move. He wondered what holding her tight and squeezing her tiny waist would feel like. What taste would stay in his mouth after they kissed, with their tongues interlocked. How he would feel if she slept next to him in bed and their bodies touched. Even her snoring would feel like music to his ears.
He was so immersed in his own fantasy that he didn’t realise she had left the counter and was back sitting with a group of girls in the far corner of the pub.
He got his drink and sat on the sofa adjacent to them, sipping from a straw while he observed the girl in yellow through the corner of his eye.
When she smiled, her dimples dung deep into her cheeks. The hair braids swayed as she turned to talk to her mates.
He watched her excuse herself from the table and disappear down the rest rooms’ corridor.
He got up a few minutes later and walked after her. Between the ladies’ and gents’ doors was a long mirror with brass sides, he stood in front of it pretending to re-do his shirt buttons.
The girl in yellow came out the door and their eyes met
‘Hello ‘he said, rolling up his right sleeve
‘Hello’
She stopped.
‘My name is Kato’
Those few seconds waiting for a reply seemed hours, and he felt his hair stand up at the back of his neck.
‘I am Tendo’
“Would you like to meet me here for a drink one day, Tendo?”
“I don’t live local but we can work something out”
“Can I have your number?”
“Yes, on my way out”
“That is fine”
Back at his table he watched and waited, sipping his drink as slow as possible. She continued her conversations with the other girls, barely taking notice of him.
Every time Kato glanced at her, Tendo was either talking to someone or drinking from a bottle. However, he felt her presence as if she was seated next to him.
The girls stood up to leave and Kato picked up his glass of lager from the table, his grip tightened with every step Tendo took towards him.
She placed a lined piece of paper with her name and number written in red ink.
Now, at home in the dark, he looked at the pink scrap of paper where she had written it. Those four letters in mirrored the glitter in her eyes as they flashed under the beams of light off his mobile phone.
He got up and turned on the lights in order to read it properly.

 

©Juliet.Lubega (unpublished 2015)

 


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The shoes

The sun rays penetrated the net curtains and reflected on the mirror that stood on their oak dressing table. She looked at him through the corner of her right eye. He was bending over the left side of their king size bed.
She held her knitting needle tight, her fist felt sweaty as she tried to focus on making the beanie hat for their son. She knew the question would come but until then she was determined to keep her lips sealed.

He lifted the floral bedspread off the red carpet and put his head underneath.”They are not here” he said.

“What?” she asked

He looked at her with a blank face.

“What are you looking for?” she asked again.

He felt frozen under her words. He looked at the clock on the wall and could hear it tick against the silence. His head started spinning.

He recalled the events of last night at the office party. How he pressed Rumba against the wall at the end of the corridor next to the stationery cupboard. His hands wandered below her skirt, feeling the warmth between the legs. She put her arms around his neck and her African beaded bangles tickled his skin. Their tongues interlocked as they inhaled each other’s alcoholic smells.

Rumba had slotted a piece of paper with her phone number scribbled on and inserted it into his trouser pocket on her way out.
He had placed it in his shoes and put his trouser in the dirty wash basket before jumping into bed next to his wife.

“Look out of the window” she said.
Without a word, he slowly walked towards the window. He felt the weight of his feet with every step.
His shoes were sitting on the large window sill, looking miserable from the over night rain. The white piece of paper with Rumba’s phone number floating in the water that filled them.

 

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2015)


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Busted

She flicked her long black eye lashes. Mascara trickled from each corner of her eyes like a double water tap. Her eyes filled with tears. She knew they were crocodile tears. There was no explanation.
He paced up and down. Every step he took his feet hurt. His towering figure nearly touched the ceiling. He felt so dark in a well lit room as his head almost knocked the light bulb from its socket. It swung from side to side .He looked at her with fire in his eyes. She seemed so small underneath his contempt. He couldn’t work out whether it was anger or pity he felt for her. The turmoil of his emotions made his chest hurt.
The phone lay on the soft hairy blue bedroom carpet, the light rays reflected on its face and it glittered. She looked at the small silver case that had carried her secrets for the last ten years. It lay there like a rival who had finally had revenge. The code name and number of the lover she now wished she never met and, the times and laughter they shared in the dark flashed under the light in a text message; “I can’t wait to hold you again in my arms tonight”.
Their eyes met. She felt his gaze penetrating her skin and chills run through her body. She relived the dreaded minutes she had walked to the bathroom without her phone.
His face was blank as he opened his mouth and closed it, lost for words. She turned side ways to face their dressing table. Her make up lay scattered on the table in the same way she had left it before the ill judged trip to the bathroom. The black skin powder case was open, its mirror side dazzled under the bulb light. The sponge was on top of the floral tissue where she left it and the eye shadow compartment in different shades of blue was besides.
She wished he could say something instead of looking at her like a piece of meat ready for the roast.”Pick up your phone” he said with a smirk.”He is waiting for you” he continued.
He then picked up his car keys from the bedside cabinet and walked towards the door. As he placed his palm on the handle he turned back and said “I hope you find what you are looking for”
She just looked in space as a mosquito buzzed next to her ears. The phone rang.

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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A unique city – Kampala,December 2012

It had been 20 years since I was in Uganda in December. The 20th of December in Kampala was a world away from London I and my children had left two weeks ago . The bitter cold wind, foggy mist , twinkling lights on the roadside light poles, lonely Christmas trees in open parks, decorations sparkling in every shop window, shoppers carrying bags of presents, Santa red and white fleece hats on sale and workers planning office parties to see their managers drunk.
Driving around Kampala all you could hear was occasional bursts of Christmas songs, like Sekukulu eyasokera ddala by the late Philly Lutaya or the timeless Mary’s boy by Bonny M from music shops. It was business as usual.
The sun was hot and unforgiving. The air was cloudy and filled with dust. The roads were full of pot holes but busy; mini buses packed with people, police men and women dressed in white manning congestion hot points and failed traffic lights. The boda boda motorcycles were whizzing around, squeezing between cars like termites, carrying people and goods.
A boda boda surged to over take us with woman passenger carrying a baby tied to her back. “Look Mum” my daughter shouted pointing at them. “They would be arrested in London” I replied. “Social Services would take the baby” she continued.
For my children this was the most unusual build up to Christmas they had ever experienced. They sat in silence as we drove past Makerere University. “This is my University” I said pointing to the main gate. “Oh yes, I remember we went inside during our last visit in 2001” my daughter said.
A new shopping mall has been built opposite the gate. I could see the colourful displays of dummies dressed in the latest fashion outfits, made to attract University students. “I can imagine spending all my money in this shopping mall in my days here”. I said. Its tinted glass walls were shining in the blazing sun, but there was no sign of the Christmas spirit.
“I haven’t seen a single decoration so far” my daughter said. “People here don’t decorate” I replied. “I can’t imagine what a tree with lights outside would look like in the hot weather” I continued. They both laughed. “I have never seen anyone selling a Christmas tree”. I said. “Do they grow them?” my son asked. “Hedges, sedero is what you can use to make a Christmas tree” I said. “With no decorations?” my daughter asked. “When I was young, I remember my mother putting cotton wool and some glitter, if she ever  made a tree” I replied.

Same old Kampala, not fussy about Christmas decorations, cards or presents.

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2014)