If you’re reading this and you grew up from the affluent city neighborhoods of Kololo, Nakasero or Muyenga, well that’s your story but I must say you missed a life. I have always urged that I am one of the luckiest persons having had a full dose of a typical village life and yet another dose of the city life. Many of my peers were not lucky enough, and I must say that my counterparts in ‘Kololo’ were not lucky enough either! While their minds got dwarfed with Chinese plastic dolls and toy cars, we made and rode our wooden bikes, and while they went swimming in fancy pools, we went to a very deep and frightening crater lake, we were more practical!
Born in the second half of 1980s in a little rustic village called Katunga in Kakanju Subcounty of the famous Igara County “Igara Owa’ntambiko” in Bushenyi district, my native home village is about 15km from Bushenyi town which is 320km west of Kampala. Katunga is a general name covering a number of villages but we were settled on a free standing volcanic hill called Ryakakamba in Kacence, my immediate childhood LCI. My village is one of most endowed villages having Lake Katunga (either named after the village or the village after the lake, whichever came first), an explosion Crater Lake right in the middle of my village. The lake is reckoned to be over 500m deep, something unusual with lakes since most lakes don’t go beyond 200m deep, and is franked by a free standing hill, Katunga Hill, that also shares the famous name. There is another hill called Kanyamizima, which extends slightly like a spiral arm and both hills extend down to meet in a long plain valley called Kiyagaara. It’s one amazing village that keeps your mind intrigued because of her rugged but breathtaking terrain (we would lately move closer to town but I am still one with my cradle village).
I was born on a Sunday night at 9PM at Ishaka Adventist Hospital, my mother went to church that same Sunday because the Archdeacon was visiting and her being the mothers’ union leader, she had to be there to receive the visitors. But that wasn’t strange for her because she perhaps was acting out of experience since I was going to be her 10th kid. Yes that’s good enough experience to juggle around with the pregnancy even on the last day! I have always almost quarreled with her trying to task her to explain to me why she had to stretch that much and her answer has always been consistent – “I was looking for you!” so she tells me. So it was a normal delivery like all her previous deliveries and the next day she was back at home, doing her everyday activities normally. But she stopped at me!
Well, finding 9 siblings at home was one of the most interesting things to happen to me, that means that I missed a substantial number of years with my family. My bigger siblings tell stories that happened before I came along and that makes me feel a bit sad, so to counteract, I developed some rare memory of events in the process. By the age of 2 and a half, I was already a fully fledged member of the gang, screwing whoever would screw me, and never accepting to be in a compromising situation at any time. I never accepted to be treated like a kid and I assured everyone from day one that we were equal. I had to claim my place, so I developed some rare acumen to grab an edge over my bigger siblings. For example, I tamed myself not to suckle the big finger or pee on the bed at night while three my siblings still did that. So if they were going to put me in a vulnerable situation, I would remind them of how they made their beds wet and dad gave them canes and how big boys cried and I would imitate them crying. It felt so good for me to squeeze them in the corner like that.
As if I was growing much older than my age, because by the age of 5 or 6, many things had been so clear for me, I had set weird dreams, it would be so hard for anyone to buy for me cloths and I like them, and when we went across in Kanyamizima hill to graze goats, I would resist the bandwagon of doing certain things. At least there would be a pair fighting on a daily basis especially during holidays and I somehow could not miss in the action.
We weren’t the richest people in my village, (in fact, there were no ‘rich’ people) but we never felt any sense of lack or being any inferior to anyone as we grew up. My dad was an opinion leader being a clergyman so that gave us confidence knowing that your father is a respectable man in the society. We lived beyond money and material riches in my village. There were no cars, no motorcycles, no posh houses, no electricity, no televisions, and so many people were not aware of the existence of computers. So my family, which had a radio, a bicycle, and could afford some sugar periodically, was envy for many homes.
I liked and admired my dad so much as a little boy because he was always very smart and he was so different from the rest of the men in the community. Whenever he would come back from work, I would sing for him as he clapped to the songs. My other siblings had out grown that business and since we were a completely nuclear fam, I didn’t have any peers in form of cousins, so I would go solo. Then my dad would give me a small coin and make me sit by his side as we waited for supper. I would feel so good.
My mother earned her respect at home and in the entire community. She was the family manager as dad was always away at work. She would make for us garments from fine linen and other fabrics by sticthing with hand using a niddle. That’s creativity and artistry that I will always envy and treasure. One time she made for me a dress (perhaps the fabric wasn’t enough to make a shirt and a pair of shorts or she needed to make something quick for her little boy), I was about 2 and a half or three years, and my siblings made me wear it about two times or so but I quickly refused and threatened to treat whoever would force me into it again with an iron fist. And that became a popular story as I grew up. Its now that I fully understand and appreciate her creativity and her love.
Our land was so fertile and endowed enough to produce surplus food for our family. We shared on the fertile volcanic soils and minerals that came from the explosion as magma during the lake formation process some 5 million years ago. Our land was like a ‘Garden of Eden’, with all kinds of organic fruits, vegetables, root tubers, bananas, et cetera. We worried about nothing for our world was limited to school, church, home and sometimes visiting our relatives who lived near Bushenyi Town.
A few meters from our backyard into the shamba lived a Kankomanga (Woodpecker) in a big fig tree and we would go there to marvel at how it made holes in the fig with its characteristic po po po sound using its beak. And we would ask it (as if it would hear us) Kankomanga…Kankomanga, Okomangiraki emiti ya Nyamuhanga? (Mr. Woodpecker, why do you make holes in God’s trees?) and it would reply with its po po po as it cracked into the fig with its chisel beak. Also in the same fig lived a Kanyamushungushungu – the Long Crested Eagle – (a dark-feathered bird with protruding thin feathers – omushunju – on its head, and it keeps on looking into different directions at regular interval with good precision). So we would ask it: Kanyamushunguhungu…ndyashwera oku, oku, oku ninga oku? (Kanyamushungushungu…will I marry from this way, this way, this way or that way? as we pointed East, West, North and south). And then it would turn its head and look into one of the directions and that’s where your mate would come from apparently!
The Long Crested Eagle (Kanyamushungushungu): Random Picture from the Internet
So my mind was like a vacuum. Breathing the air, listening to the melodies of birds, eating all sorts of fruits, sniffing the wind, working and moving up and about the ‘garden of Eden’, playing and of course fighting whoever crossed my way! I would compare my mind then to the huge black-hole at the center of Andromeda, my mind was that hungry, it wouldn’t let anything pass; the thoughts, the melodies, and all sorts of imaginations. It was wonderful to begin on that note and it all happened before the age of six!
It was amazing!