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©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2017)

 

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First day at School

 

 7th January 1971, the start of a new school year in the country and a new life for me. This day that was to shape my position in Ugandan social circles forever.

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 We were late, but I was excited about joining a new boarding school, away from home and the watchful eyes of my parents. I was going to have my own voice and opinions. It should have been a daunting experience for a six year old, but I was too busy wondering about how an ordinary girl like me had managed to beat off stiff competition to be admitted to this school.

 I rarely kept quiet during the Masaka-Kampala journey, often chatting to my father.  On this occasion I was lost for words and awake, immersed in my own thoughts and day dreaming about life in the new school .I pondered over the events of that morning and why we were late, we were supposed to arrive at 2 pm for admission but at 1.30 were still having lunch at Masaka Tropic Inn, a farewell meal despite a tight budget. My parents putting on brave faces for my sake.

 Despite their efforts of saving money since I had passed the entry interview six months earlier, on that morning there was not enough money for me to start the term on time. Both of them had spent the morning running around trying to borrow from relatives and friends to total the 400 shillings (about 1pence in modern day Britain).

It was 2 pm when we left Masaka to embark on the two hour journey to Budo Junior School.

 Enthralled by my new possessions, I forgot about the worries of the morning hours, and ignored the faces of my stressed out parents. I had a new black suitcase, pink jinja sheets, and a brown checked blanket, a green bucket with a white handle, red wellington boots, green lusejjera (running shoes), new dresses, night wear and above all my blue and white swimming costume.

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 We drove through the large red iron gates of the school and up a drive way flanked by Kabaka anjagala trees each side. “This is like the Buganda Palace drive”, my father explained. ‘King Muteesa 11 and his son Mutebi attended this school, they had to use a royal type drive in’ he continued. I marvelled at the two adjacent rows of the Kabaka anjagala trees with their large green leaves. They looked like protective arms round the school drive. I felt protected by the Kabaka as we drove through.

 At the school office, we were greeted by two girls about twelve years old. They were wearing the red jinja school uniform. Like my own, according to the school rule their hair was cut to half an inch. I couldn’t grow my hair long any more, have plaits or biswayiri. I felt sad when they cut it short but seeing the girls made me feel it was worth it. The girls led us into the staff room for the admission.

 While my parents were doing all the paper work for admission, I stood there like a lost puppy, glancing around the surroundings of the place I was to call home for the next seven years. Outside; purple hibiscus flower bushes stood in a mud bed in front of a glass door building.  In the distance was a large red brick school hall with doors that looked liked extra large owl eyes staring in the night. A play ground lay between that building and the Kabaka anjagala trees.

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 Flanked by my parents carrying my suitcase, we arrived at Grace House, the middle of the four girl’s dormitory block. We met the matron, Mukyala Juliana, a grey haired, dark skinned small woman. She was wearing a blue ankle length dress instead of the busuuti which I found odd for her age. She reminded me of my father’s sister, Senga Eresi. Senga was so old that I called her Jajja, grand-mother.  After sorting out my bed, Mukyala Juliana handed over to the house prefect, Solome, and disappeared into her flat through the door that joined it to the dormitory.

 I said my goodbyes to my parents at the door clutching my small hand into Solome’s and fighting back tears. I was excited, but anxious about their safe journey back to Masaka in the dark, and that I would not be home until half term, in six weeks.

© Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2014)