Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What I learned in Africa II

Two years after my first African experience I was send on a mission to Uganda. Nobody wanted to go, since during the gulf war the planes flew over the country. At least that was rumored among the colleagues. Anyway we were well protected, a machine gun armed soldier stood every 10 meters along the road from the hotel to the conference center and we were warned not to wander off. In the yard of the presidential palace there were vultures. I wondered about that and found out that Idi Amin used to torture wayward students and if they died the body was thrown in the yard to be eaten by the vultures. It was many years later, but the vultures still haunted the place and considered it their territory. As happens a bunch of us was free one afternoon. So we skipped lunch rented a taxi with four colleagues and took off to what was a National park in the making. There we met up with some people guarding cattle with riffles. I asked why they were armed. They spoke about armed thieves and poachers and such. A few weeks later in April from Uganda armed groups entered Rwanda participating in the 100 mad days when 1.000.000 people were killed. I realize how naive we were. On the way back to Kampala we ran into road blocks, had to buy illegal gas, saw eyes in the darkness of the forests. One of my friends asked: are you not afraid?  And there in the taxi I wrote the following poem:

Headlights light
up life
of those i can never know
in the deepest dark
i ever saw

Roadblocks everywhere
Stop control

am i afraid
i am afraid
i am not
the shepherds are armed here
just as i

(the road from Lake Mburo to Kampala-11PM)
1991 spring 

Of course during the week I managed to wander off: once to the market and once to a local bookshop where I bought some books by local poets . What I learned was that I was not afraid and took a new turn in my life.

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