“When was the last time you went home?” Ms. Organ Stealer asked as we settled into the coaster seats.
I thought she would for sure go for the window seat, but to my surprise, stood aside to let me pass. I smiled at the question. I hadn’t thought of Jinja as home in a while. Every time I promised to text someone the moment I got home, I was thinking about Luzira, not Jinja. Not Bukaya, squared neatly away in Njeru. But she was right. Jinja was home.
“Not in a bit,” I said and then thought to myself, “I’m as much of a tourist as you are.”
She hadn’t done much traveling. Well neither had I but at least I could tell Yusuf Lule from Jinja Road. She had been as far as Mbale for a friend’s graduation so that was something even though she had spent most of the journey sleeping. What had spurred this weekend trip to Jinja? A question. “Where do you come from?”
Rather than tell her, I had decided to show her. I trusted that like its name, Jinja’s story was written in stone. Unchanging. I would be able to walk down the street I grew up on and show her Victoria Nile P/S where my Mum would drop me off every morning. Where I would later make some life-long friends and some passing acquaintances. Where I had had my first crush on Miriam Ssemakade. Where that first crush had been quickly extinguished by her indifference. Oh to be young.
I planned to walk her to where the best video store had stood on Main Street. Where my sisters and I weren’t fined for forgetting to rewind the video tapes because the proprietor was a friend to our mother. It was now replaced by an Indian supermarket. Not a supermarket selling indian things, but a supermarket run by Indians. All supermarkets in Jinja were probably run by Indians.
I wanted to show her Our Lady of Fatuma where we had prayed every Sunday. Almost every Sunday and hardly any Christmas because Christmas was when the rest of the world remembered to pray and the announcements were twice as long. She wouldn’t be able to listen to Fr. Picavet preach, he was long out of the game, but she could still sit in those same pews that I did as a child. We would think back on the things we prayed for then.
The sermon was about being moved to act and not letting things continue as they are simply because they have always been. I couldn’t help but think to myself, What an un-catholic thing! Like Jinja, Catholicism is deeply set in its ways. Unchanging. Or had been for the last 2000 years or so.
The priest drew from his visit to “Europe” where parishioners had fled the church because of the abuse scandals that had been awash in all the major media. I was pleasantly surprised that instead of sweeping the scandal under the rug, the priest had chosen to address it, head on. I was proud to turn to her and say, “This is where I come from.”
Being constant can be good, but we know the only thing that is constant is change. Let us all dare to unlearn those toxic traits that hold us back from being all we can ever be. We can only do that by submitting that maybe not everything we took to be gospel truth is that. Maybe not all things have to be set in stone.