The endeavour in Kampala is very noticeable: seemingly chaotic but more a sense of heightened hustle and bustle without the tension which was in the streets and newspapers of Nairobi. White lines on the road from the airport was a good start, although the majority of them are pit-holed, roughened up and shot to pieces. You can see why you need an off roader here as the roads themselves are more off road than on road, what with the melted, rippled and solidified tarmac at their sides, the flaking away into the earth and the general chronic wear and tear.
There ain’t nothing as authentic as your memories. We are looking for authentic matoke which has to be cooked properly (a la memory) and added to the right sauce. It’s comforting that the hotel is flanked by armed guards but talk on the TV of the Sudanese seeing the interventions of the LRA as an act of war is not so comforting. This will be a week of searching for authenticity and it might end in tears.
The search for authenticity continues. Distances walked from home to school once seemed huge and never ending; when older they’re seen / they see us as short as from here to the next corner. The memory has been shrunk wrapped so that the journey is now no more than couple of blocks. Likewise, the house which at once seemed so large with innumerable rooms and possibilities is now no more than a modest shack in a compound with its crumbling walls and washed public spaces in which children play with meagre resources but ample imagination.
It’s only memory that allows for spaces, possibility and heightened sensual experience. The revisit, the return, shrink wraps and diminishes. At best the terrors of the memory are perhaps lessened, made mundane and domesticated by the revisit and the horror can metamorphose into the ridiculous and the pathetic: at worst, the revisit causes the joys of the memory to be likewise sanitised, and recast into a new perspective which holds less import, moment or potential.
We have spent many hours wandering in and out of I remembers and walking down memory lanes, putting bits of memory together. Confusion sets in once in a while when I remember those trees turns into those trees remember me and I’m left wondering whether spaces and places miss and yearn for us as much as we miss and yearn for them. Ironically, the search for authenticity when it gets close, results in a temporary emotional choking up, a temporary amnesia which means we forget more or less everything about that memory and the drive to authenticity that that memory induced.
And we speak of memory as if it is an intact entity, boundaried and discreet: perhaps a memory is more of a composite of senses, reflections, images, sounds, tastes and smells which coalesce occasionally to produce “a memory”.
Capturing memory has been like trying to step into the same stretch of river twice. The river keeps flowing, nothing stays the same despite the appearance of the river bank, undergrowth and other assorted peripherania.
Things have flown away, the waters have traversed the ground carrying assorted flotsam and jetsam it collects, is donated or mysteriously acquires through some kind of adjacent leakage. The river keeps flowing, trying to capture and fix the memories is in vain, it’s all in vain…. as the children in the orphanage sang earlier this week.