P – Diary #16

October 28th 2012
A white beach on Zanzibar Island

Many years ago I spent much wallowing in the allusion of the traditional song “the water is wide”. The stepping stones I’ve crossed on this adventure, thanks in no small part, let’s face it, to having “wings to fly”, have advanced my confused wonderment at the beauty of life in all its glory. But to what end?

Our Man’s mission was, in a way, to return to those youthful days of discovery, to jump off the treadmill I seemed to be on, to throw the jigsaw up and see how it landed. Mission accomplished, in all but the last phrase.

There are so many stories to process, and I don’t know how many will surface from the frothy flow, nor how many will wash downstream to leave their mark elsewhere if at all.

The children watching a man being beaten for stealing a bicycle, the toe prints of computer thieves, the tear gassings, the security guard I would chat to, shot dead outside the bank by a gun probably sold by a police officer in some past moment of despair, the delirium of malaria and intravenous quinine, the sadness in childrens’ eyes when the last  balloon burst,  joy at a pair of reading glasses, laughter from a husband with multiple wives considering the impossible humour of a wife taking multiple husbands, hilarity when the oxen literally ploughed off course, uncontrollably towards their watering hole, farmers’ humility and unyielding generosity at every opportunity, thanks, thanks, heartfelt gratitude and tearful thanks at what MTCEA has done for their 1500 families, muslim prayers, 300 bed hospitals with no running water and hopeless overnight queues of hopeful women and babies in emergency rooms, “patients” taking on new meaning, uncontrolled littering and plumes of toxic smoke from the little street fires aimed at removing same, 2 interminable weddings, 2 funerals, especially the 12 year old boy from malaria, impromptu school speeches in 35’C and dripping humidity, digging up and re-laying of the office floor, “paint and paper everywhere”, innumerable IT experts failing to install internet, the Kampala mission-improbable to bring 5 desktop PCs to their new home,  the Nairobi bus with 4 bald tyres and 2 missing wheels, sunsets falling over the Serengeti, giraffes outside the morning tent, 2 spare tyres and 3 punctures, friends coming and going…
“Friends may come and friends may go
Sometimes you wonder why,
Sometimes you want to ask somebody higher in the sky,
But when it comes to judgment day the answers will be found,
Be sure to keep your feet here on the ground.
So take me up to the top of the hill,
Then bring me back to earth,
Cos everything I have around right here
Is everything I’m worth….”

And “you don’t know what you’re got till it’s gone”, of course, so I’m sitting relatively alone on a white beach in the north if Zanzibar, “spice island”, watching the ebb and flow of fishing dhows on turquoise mill pond seas, the tyre tread lizard tracks in the sand and the distant glints of discarded, bobbing plastic bottles carrying invisible messages of despair across the Indian Ocean, and i’m comprehensively failing to make any sense of it all.

I’ve done good, no doubt. Sponsoring numerous morale boosters, raising $8000 for MTCEA to help keep them running, getting kids off the street and back to school, dispensing a little medicine, stationery and love to Uganda, with much support from you. And spreading my own laughter and any remaining wisdom. “The words sound of laughter, and laughter of the trees”.

But yesterday an email from “Peace Corps Polly” made me cry again. Two of her Ugandan colleagues from the project she was working with, near Iganga, were killed by a mob who believed they were responsible for another killing.

What do you do? What do you feel? Is this really the Peace of God which passeth all understanding, or the unquestionable will of Allah, or the Universe unfolding as it should? If so, I need to understand it. If not, I want to cure it. I’ve tried to conjure my own mum’s and dad’s presence. I was losing hope, and after all, who knows where their lost spirits may be, but have realised they come to me through these regular tears of joy and sorrow. Which makes me cry all over again.

So i’m musing over the meaning of life in this strange and alluring continent and wondering what my part may be in it, after this.


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