I leave campus from the side gate, after greeting the guard at post. They are friendly men and women who at times check my bag, and other days wave me through with a smile. If I am going home, I walk down an unpaved hill, the same hill which on my way to school becomes something to conquer. I pass a few schools, many sponsored by the local diocese. Sometimes there are children outside at leisure, but most days I walk alone with an occasional boda-boda or car passing me.
At the bottom of the hill, I navigate the more popular road, walking around people and potholes and mud. At the car wash, where the men are proudly washing bikes and taxis, I turn right up another hill. This hill is not as steep, and it winds past several hostels, fields, and the backsides of the schools I passed earlier. I cut through a yard, and then I am nearly there.
One more turn and houses appear on both sides. Morning and evening children are outside and the greetings come much more frequently. I hear “Muzungu! How are you?” and a string of Lugandan words that I cannot yet make sense of. My response is typically to wave back, smile and attempt to reply. I also see women and men at work in the yards. I pass tied up goats, and I crane my neck to look up trees holding several ripe jackfruit. I turn into a yard and walk through a gap in the brick wall- I am home.
Past the gate, there is a large yard, bigger than the ones I passed earlier. There are pit latrines immediately to the right. Directly in front of the opening there is a mango tree and another tree I do not know the name for yet. The yard stretches down until it reaches another gate, this one big enough for cars to pass through. To the right past the latrines there is a shed for chickens, which when I first arrived housed some 200. It is now empty. I walk past all of these things, heading straight, under the clothes line near the trees, my goal is the house.
There is a small apartment to the right past the chicken house, where Dennis my brother stays. As I continue past his house, I see my own. I walk to the door and take off my shoes then open it wide. I enter the hallway and to the right I see the dining room and another door to the kitchen. I continue down the hallway, turning left at the end. On the left is the washroom, on the right is Mama Joyce’s room, and my room is at the end of the hall.
I sleep on the bottom bunk under a mosquito net that Mama helped me put up my first night. My sisters sleep here with me either in the top bed, or in the other bunk in the room. They are mostly grown women, so I do not see them as often as I would like.
When they are in town, like they were last night, we go out to the sitting room just past the dining room. I sat there with my brother and met my nieces- one just three months, and the other almost 3 years old. We talk here and get to know each other. And after dinner we come out and read scripture, and pray together.
Dinner at the table begins with tea. Mama and I end up sitting at the table and she decides to put water on. As we sit waiting for it, we casually turn the television on. We have become attached to an English-dubbed Spanish soap opera called “Hidden Passions”. We also watch the news and find out about the latest news regarding the elections, or watch a Ugandan made show about forgery artists or fighters, or maybe a love affair gone sour. Sometimes an American show is on, and I am surprised to find my mom might know quite a bit more than I do about it.
We measure out our loose leaf tea, stirring in a heap of sugar and waiting for it to cool. Dinner comes eventually, when it is ready, as the saying goes. We eat matoke (mashed steamed green bananas), beans, posho (firm white corn meal), rice, and maybe a meat. A special treat is a serving of some cabbage salad, similar to sauerkraut, but so much better.
Sometimes I get a warm bath after dinner, using the leftover hot water from tea. It gets poured into a large plastic bucket in the washroom. I have learned different ways to bathe with it. Using a cup makes things a lot easier. I might go out to the latrine one last time, opening the door and putting aside the cover to keep pests away. I wash my hands from a jug placed just outside the latrine walls.
I welcome going to bed as it gets later each night. I spend some time journaling, but typically I lay in bed ever grateful for such a warm, cozy place to call my own for the next few months.