The drive from Entebbe to Kampala is dark. It almost always is for this drive, because the flights from Europe arrive in the dark. But it’s 4 am and raining so the streets are mostly empty, the roundabouts clear, not tangled with cars and bodas all stuck.
It’s my 10th time in Uganda, and I arrive alone, this time. It all folds over, so familiar. The thick dark, the smell of charcoal burning, the amplified music that’s probably filling a nearly empty room. The roads are gaping with holes, and Ronnie my driver fills the car with a discussion of the mess of politics, why Africa has such a hard time un-messing itself. He believes that Trump’s promise to pull all the aid is a good one — we’ve been getting aid for 50 years and it’s not helping. We’re dependent and all we know how to do is grown matooke. I tell him about Jared Diamond’s theory about the role of malaria and landscape creating a culture embedded in survival. He says he likes Americans, Canadians and English people because they know how to see people.
It’s a long drive, and I have a headache from 24 hours of travel, and I no longer have an internal time clock. In the airport in Istanbul, I met a famous primatologist who lived with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, started the tourism program there, and now brings grad students to study conservation. I want to sit with her and talk about what she’s seen over 40 years. I want to talk about what I’ve seen over 10.
I open the door to my balcony and step out, the african night rain surrounding me. There’s lightning in the distance and the city is spread out below. A call to prayer starts below me. I breathe and I’m here and I find me in the centre.