Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm leaving on a KLM plane...

My last few days were hectic as I tried to say goodbye to friends and colleagues, manage to finish all my writing, and assist in our ongoing workload. The night before I left I got my last share of fabulous Indian food from Kahna Kahzana, watched Knocked up, and packed…works for me! The following day I went to work and left my packed stuff at home so I would be ready to head to the airport in the early evening. My boss and I left work around 4pm to meet up with a grouping of democracy and governance (D&G) implementers and funders for drinks and informal exchanges. The group of 8-10 discussed current programming, trends they are seeing, responses from government officials, and strategies for the upcoming years. It was a prefect way to end my time.

I anxiously fidgeted at the end as my boss and another D&G guy chatted, making me concerned I’d miss my flight. I was just being typically antsy overly programmed me. We drove the 2 minutes back to the house where I pulled my stuff together and played a bit with my boss’s kid who for some reason decided he wanted to hang out more than he ever did while I was staying there. I shoved some food in my face and waited for the driver to arrive (we hire drivers who drive our organization trucks). I waved good bye to the little guy and my boss and headed for the airport at 6:15pm. If I thought I was going to get there without a heavy bout of traffic I was surely delusional. At every turn we found ourselves at a standstill, coughing out the exhaust of the hundreds of cars and buses pressed close to our truck.

As the sun began to set and we creped along the outskirts of Uganda I watched a city alive in its afterhours. In the midst of what looked like miles of empty dark fields, were the little flickers of bonfires marking shanty town homes and informal bars. The fires dotted the horizon marking a massive expanse of informal settlements. Along the side of the road people walked and biked, carrying food, clothes, children, and other things home after work and shopping. Informal bars in small metal containers on the side of the road lit up and filled with men. The pattern continued until close to Entebbe where it became suddenly quite, peaceful and empty. I just finished reading the Last King of Scotland so driving the big main highway that connects Entebbe’s city center to the airport I couldn’t help but imagine those who rushed out of the country during Amin’s harder times, as described in the book, racing their way down the same road, seeing the same beauty of lake Victoria, and feeling the sudden quiet seemingly imposed on a bustling, breathing country. But that is Africa…a history that is simultaneously ancient, and frustratingly new.

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