on Um Zayd wa Atheer (Uganda), 21/Jul/2012 15:14, 34 days ago
Saying Goodbye to GuluPreparing to let goWe have the power to carry with us what we choose. We can de clutter our lives and leave behind what we don't want or need. In reality most of us burden ourselves unnecessarily.Even in a country where retail therapy is not a girlie indulgence 'things' mysteriously accumulate. With a determination to travel back to the UK with as little luggage as possible the process of giving away started early. There are no High Street charity shops in Uganda. There is no need for them. Instead there are individuals, hundreds of them, all happy to receive my Gulu flotsam and jetsam. Choosing who was the only problem.Alice, from the almost empty corner shop, loves reading and was more than happy to be given a bag full of books. Patrick the night watchmen had a 100 Christmases in one and accepted everything. 'Please say no if you do not want'. 'I want'. Over a few days Patrick took back to his mud hut bed sheets, 2 towels, 2 pillows, cutlery, a kerosene lamp, a mosquito net and clothing. Most of this he had never owned before. Patrick is 29, married to Norah and they have 2 children under 3 years, John and Precious. As a night watch man he earns£25 a month. Giving to people who have nothing is not virtuous.Leaving Gulu was surprisingly painless. I felt no emotion. I just left and looked at the road ahead. During the six and a half hour journey to Entebbe Nicholas, the driver, played two tapes, Gospel and Country and Western. He concentrated on the potholes, the traffic police checks, the straying cattle and goats. All I had to do was watch, listen and relax. All had been seen before but continued to fascinate me. Children from Baby Class (4-5 year olds) walked carefree and hand in hand along busy highways. Overloaded trucks carrying live cows, goats and chickens shared sleeping space with their minders. Bicycles wobbled between us careful not to loose their cargo of coffins, bales of charcoal and one very optimistic young boy ferrying a new car windscreen to it's owner.Nicholas had been to Entebbe before but never to the grand sounding Sunset Motel. Eventually I persuaded him to slow down so that we could scour the signboards. We knew that if we reached the airport we had gone too far. Google maps said to look on the left. Nicholas disputed this. The sunset should be on the right. He was getting technical, too clever for Uganda. Google maps won. Nicholas said he would complain. Who to?And so I spent my last evening in Uganda in an over dressed, over flounced motel, 10 minutes from Entebbe Airport. In the reception there was a massive needlepoint of President Museveni. What a labour of love. My standard bedroom had 3 beds of differing sizes. I felt like Goldilocks who had just wandered in for a rest but would leave soon. Goldilocks had no luggage. I was embarrassed and staggered to have 3 maximum weight bags. What was I taking home that was so important?Since coming home my luggage has baffled me. The bags themselves have proved awkward and inconvenient to lug around. I have tried to sort the contents. Needed soon, needed in the future, not needed at all. Already there have been two visits to the charity shop. Some things have disappeared and I feel sad about that. Perhaps I have burdened myself unnecessarily.