By Doreen Baingana
I am Ugandan. It is obvious. I do not have to explain why I am here, like I do in the United States, even after 11 years.
As I walk to the immigration desk at Entebbe Airport, there is no apprehension, no fear of whether I will be let in or whether I am acceptable. No need to continuously ask myself if I look okay, or if I may be acting suspicious.
I have a green card, yes, but that has no effect on the feeling of being a foreigner. At the airport, the immigration officer hardly glances at my Emergency Travel Certificate. (A few days before, I was checking out at Dulles Airport only to find that my passport had expired! I had to stay a few extra days in Washington D.C and get a travel document from the Ugandan embassy).
The immigration officer joked: â€œYou stayed there too long, didnâ€™t you?â€ He advised me not to change my dollars in Entebbe, but in Kampala, where the rate is better. He treated me well â€“â€“ it was a surprise.
At home I am having fun. Did I use the word â€˜silenceâ€™ earlier? Not in our house over the holidays.
The other day, my grandmother, Mukaka, said, â€œStand over there so that I can see you,â€ and then commented that I had no breasts.
She had forgotten who I was until my mother reminded her that â€œI was the granddaughter who brought a muzungu home some years ago!â€
My niece, Hannah, who was a warm brown tiny thing four years ago, is now a cute little girl â€“â€“ and she knows it because she calls herself â€œSatar Angel.â€ Another baby has taken her place as the cuddle of the day. Another niece, Peace, who was a teenager when I last saw her, is now grown up and now has dreadlocks.
The children I left behind years ago are now married, have their own children, some are sales managers, others are doctors, but I have refused to grow. It appears time does not move this fast in the US. I had thought I was more conscious of time in America because of the seasons; itâ€™s usually getting warmer or colder or flowers are blooming or dying, leaves are falling or itâ€™s snowing.
Here the sun shines day after day and it rains now and then, but itâ€™s always warm. When I left Uganda in 1989, I was escaping from a long drone that was my life. Now I live two sets of time. In America, one winter is just like the last; time circles round the seasons rather than moving forward, and I and my friends remain perpetually self-involved 30-somethings, trying hard not to grow.
For years, I have kept count of every visit to Uganda. I always looked forward to my next visit. I am astounded by years of changes that seem to happen in a minute. Families have grown and spread, but I remain the eccentric spinster aunt who appears, hangs out in clubs with younger cousins, then disappears again. A friend here has told me to just get a child, from anyone. There was some seriousness underneath the joke. It might be easier just to go back to the states and stay young for a few more years.