All has changed in Uganda except me

By Vision Reporter

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.

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: “You stayed there too long, didn’t you?” He advised me not to change my dollars in Entebbe, but in Kampala, where the rate is better. He treated me well –– it was a surprise.

At home I am having fun. Did I use the word ‘silence’ earlier? Not in our house over the holidays.
The other day, my grandmother, Mukaka, said, “Stand over there so that I can see you,” and then commented that I had no breasts.

She had forgotten who I was until my mother reminded her that “I was the granddaughter who brought a muzungu home some years ago!”

My niece, Hannah, who was a warm brown tiny thing four years ago, is now a cute little girl –– and she knows it because she calls herself “Satar Angel.” 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; it’s usually getting warmer or colder or flowers are blooming or dying, leaves are falling or it’s snowing.

Here the sun shines day after day and it rains now and then, but it’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.

All has changed in Uganda except me