Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Story Within a Story

Throughout my daily routine some people have come to stand out, and here is a little story about them.

My usual Boda boda guy– Apart from being the first boda to stop asking "we go?" and start saying "welcome back" when I pass, this guy has been so understanding about not overcharging me. As I started walking more he would ask why we don't go and we would both laugh when I say it is because I am a poor muzungu and he says there is no such thing.

Further along my walk to work, I pass an old man. When I have seen him he is usually in ragged dirty overalls and carrying a hoe. He would work the field and hang out around the trash pile on the way to work. Hanging around trash is not so uncommon, often people will dig through for some food or other salvageable objects. I was curious about what happened when he wasn't around, but he always comes back, and we exchange greetings in the morning. I found out from Khareme, a colleague I met along the road to work, that he is a World War Two veteran (probably on the German side). He had been arguing with another man that he should clean up the trash, and the younger man replied that it is up to some council to clean it. Turns out the man lives nearby and when I see him about he is always cleaning up the trash to try and make his road nicer. This new insight from the simplest translation has altered my view of this man completely; I am intrigued and wish he spoke more English so we could talk more.

The third person never fails to find me. We met Hassan our first week in Uganda, as we ate at the Source CafĂ©. He is maybe 17 and not in school, although he used to be. Now he roams main street and makes lots of muzungu friends. He showed us around town without asking for anything. When we asked him what we wanted he said bread. I see him often and we catch up, I know he was sick this summer, but he is doing better now. He also chases off the drunk kids who come out in the evening to beg for money. Wednesday I saw him again and he surprised me. He showed me his receipts from a savings account he opened! He is saving money from washing cars – muzungu cars of course, they pay the most – and has plans to start a business, build a house, and find a woman. I am so impressed to see that he is saving little by little. He also explained to me all the technicalities of his account, different fees and fines he will try and avoid, and how much interest he will earn. I don’t know how much he told me was honest – but for his sake I hope it was all truth and I wish him the best.

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