Two – from How To Talk To Crazy People by Donna Kakonge – In Uganda

When I arrived in Uganda I thought I had returned to my homeland. I wore my Levi jeans on the first day here and headed out the door of my aunt’s house to look around. “Where are you going?” Auntie Zeddie said. “They will rip those jeans off you in the market.”

I knew I was not at home.

When I went to the Canadian embassy and registered as a Canadian citizen on a working vacation in Uganda—my mother told me I should do so right away—the consulate worker, a man with a Scottish accent, said I didn’t really look like a Ugandan woman because of my hair and jeans. He told me I look like a Canadian and that his own children look more Ugandan than me. We both laughed.

I am free here, but I miss my family. Today is my sister Karen’s birthday and I can’t get to a computer to wish her glad tidings,  and, I’m extremely frustrated with my pen. I have searched all over this place for a good one.

MyMy cousin Justine invited me to her mansion in downtown Kampala.  She showed me her wedding photos. There are twelve people in one of the photos.

“Eight of these people have died of AIDS,” Justine said.

An invisible chastity belt has been strapped below my waist ever since. Throughout the weekend the radio station just broadcasts names; that’s all the announcers do—call out names. Who are these people? I thought they may have been the names of missing people; my dad told me it was like that in Uganda when the dictator Idi Amin was in power.

I asked Auntie Zeddie.

“Those are the names of people who have died from AIDS. When they call out the names, their loved ones know a funeral is coming and they should go.”

The music here is good. As I write this I listen to the lyrics “I wish I was a little bit taller” from the song “I Wish.” That’s pretty true of most of the people I see in this city—they are not very tall.

Yesterday, students protested over the fifty thousand Ugandan shillings—about fifty dollars in Canadian currency—that first-year students, who are called freshers, have to pay in school fees. Bullets flew and tear gas canisters were shot. A few students were arrested. I was not there to see it, but I hope to do some research and write an article on the conflict as soon as possible. I asked Shawn, a Ugandan journalist, to research some details for the story and hopefully , will have that puppy published soon.

Anyway, I really need a pen. I miss having a good pen.