August 24, 2010

Iganga Town, Uganda

If I were to map my town, take stock of people and places…really look and not simply let it pass me as I stroll, it would be full of sounds and color and scents. Even on a two dimensional piece of paper it would spring to life because life tends to demand that.

My street, Mzungo Way I’ll call it, where the children sing the moniker they have bestowed. “mzungo hello. Mzungo goodbye. Mzungooooo mzungooooo,” trailing behind me as I take a left. Walking for a little way I stumble upon Goats’ Intersection where 20 plus goats of all colors and sizes gather and dance the spectrum from lethargy to spastic. A little ways past them, a few steps really, and I reach Duck Crossing where a brood? A gaggle? Of ducks and fuzzy yellow ducklings, waddle aimlessly or swim in their sometimes murky puddle sometimes parched indentation of a tire.

After turning right at Blind Bikers’ and Gawkers intersection (a sometimes perilous endeavor given the bicycles that careen around that corner from behind a brick wall with no announcement except the occasional shrill tinkle of a rusting bell and the staring – er – gawking people that distract me as I pass) I make a left at the Jack Fruit junction, the spiny fruit hanging heavy and languorously from the trunk of the tree for which I’ve dubbed that street and I find myself on Stench Street.

Here the refuse from neighboring households and, I assume the church that has commandeered a huge section on the right of that busy dirt road. It is safe to assume that a clinic or the hospital also do at least occasional dumping there as needles have been spotted among the matoke* peelings, the debris of chewed sugar cane, and anything else a house has deemed unnecessary. Adults and children alike scavenge through the piles of decomposing debris and are either immune to or practiced at avoiding the stench that rises like steam from a pot of rice.

At the end of Stench Street there is, what I presume to be a bar of some sort – I only see men there playing some kind of game I can’t quite see, the occasional call in my direction to ask who I am or where I’m going. Across from that bar is Freedom Park, a patch of green grass crisscrossed by countless footsteps into a brown-striped quilt dotted with trees. People nap in the shade, muslims step away from the bustle of town to take a moment to pray when the mosque’s call reaches out to believers, and men gather at the corner to talk. The discussion wafts by me in snatches of lusoga caught on the breeze. The air heavy with traditional drumming and the speaker destroying bass of local music as crowds gather for political rallies, I imagine they are debating the coming elections in the way men on corners all over the world tend to.

And just like that I’m in town. Bank Row, Market Street (in the most literal sense), I don’t know their actual names…the actual names are random and unhelpful. Instead I find myself concentrating on landmarks, some – like the roundabout on the Kampala Highway – obvious to everyone; others, like Salvation Army Way (host to a row of women selling used clothing) that are just for me, small things to help guide my way through the unknown.

*matoke: savory bananas used to make one of the staple foods

Tags: , ,

1 Comment on mapping home

  1. LaDawn Fletcher says:

    Lovely! Thank you for the tour!

Leave a Reply