I woke up this morning with a text message from my mom. I was finally able to send a text over last night, letting my parents know I was okay, after having been without service/internet for the last couple of days. Even though it was extremely late in Toronto, she could sense that I was missing them quite a bit, and we spoke on the phone for a while. Before I left Rwanda, my mom had forwarded me a chapter from the autobiography my grandfather wrote before he passed away. This chapter pertained to their life in Uganda, before they were forced to leave the country as refugees in 1972. I went to bed last night reading through the pages of the book, which will be published next year, and started tearing up. It was wonderful to read about his experiences, to read about my mom's early years, and to read about the wonderful life he started for the family in Masaka. It was as if I was going to use his autobiography to have him guide me through the town, which was quite the emotional thought.
In the morning, there was still no power. I was greeted by a knock on my door, and I opened it to find a staff member holding a large jug of water, for the shower. I talked to Jamie later and found that he didn't want to experiment, but I treated it as an experience, and tried my first bucket shower! :)
We enjoyed a quick breakfast with some fresh fruits, and then managed to bargain for a deal on the hotel room, as we had no power all night. We then met Chris and his family, and set off into the heart of town.
My first destination was the Masaka Jamat Khane (place of worship) where I had been instructed by my aunt to go find a particular gentleman, the Jamat Bhai (caretaker) of the Khane. He had apparently stayed back, and knew my grandparents quite well back in the day, and would be able to show me to their home, and the inside of the prayer hall. Chris told us that he is only familiar with the fields, and is not aware of landmarks in any of the towns, so we asked a Boda Boda driver (the name for motorcycle taxis here) to show us to the mosque built in the 60's. We found an old rundown mosque in the right area of town, but when I walked around and asked for the gentleman, Mr. Nurali Hasham, I was directed to another building up on the hill. We went there, and I knew right away that this was the place. It was a beautiful, HUGE space, obviously built for when there was a large Ismaili congregation in Masaka. As soon as we entered through the gates (which confirmed that this was the Ismaili Centre) we felt immediately at peace. It was a tranquil sanctuary, with gorgeous gardens, and prominently situated on top of the hill. I started tearing up when I saw the prayer hall, and recalled the paragraph in the book where my Nanabapa (mom's father) talked about his involvement in the congregation.
He then personally took me around campus, showing me the stunning landscape viewable from the hill it is set upon. He also pointed out the old and new buildings, and talked to me about the school's present state. I was very grateful for him taking the time to escort me around campus, and I told him how much the headmaster at the time in 1972 had helped my mom's family leave safely, by giving Nanabapa a letter for tax clearance and of recommendation, and that I was very grateful for the school's assistance. We exchanged contact information, and after saying goodbye, we left Kako S.S. I was remembering Nanabapa and Mama (my grandmother) lots today, and cried quite often. I am confident though, that he'd be happy to know that I went to visit his place of passionate work.
En route to Kampala was a much smoother ride, on tarmac. I must sound like a broken record, but I assure you, the landscape was stunning! The road was situated in between huge fields, with hills in the far distance. Jamie slept again for the entire ride, but I kept my eyes on the scenery, and the interesting things we'd pass. These included giant cattle, families biking with up to four people on the seat, bananas on trucks ready to be exported, more than I've ever seen, and trading stops with people selling street food at car windows. Chris bought roasted plantains for his kids at one of the trading spots. Immediately after people noticed that he was purchasing something, a number of men with freshly grilled shish kebabs, roasted corn, popcorn, and roasted fish ran up to the car and presented their items to his window. It all smelt delicious, so next time I will definitely give money to him to get me some too!
About halfway to Kampala, we came to a spot with a ton of tourist busses, and more spruced up shops than the street shops we've been passing. There was a giant line across the road - we were at the equator! We took some classic touristy pics, with one foot on either side of the equator, and had some good laughs about it. The shops were also really great, and I bought a pair of awesome African-printed pants, that I am excited to wear over the course of the next few weeks!
We went to bed with the sounds of monkeys crawling on our rooftops, which was pretty cool, and I just sat in bed for a while, letting the day's events sink in. Certainly an emotional day, but it was quite special, as I really felt that my grandfather was directing me around his town, through his autobiography. A day I will most definitely not forget!