Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday in Kampala

It finally occurred to me yesterday that I am in Uganda. I know that sounds a little stupid, but it’s true. All of a sudden, I looked around and realized that I am in Uganda and that it is very far away from California and that it will be a while before I come home. I think it finally hit me yesterday because it was the first day this year that I didn’t have a huge to-do list hanging over my head. I wasn’t finishing up a job, or packing up at apartment, or getting ready to leave, or moving to my new apartment here, or settling in to the job and getting into new patterns. In fact, what has already become my new pattern (putting water on the cooker to boil for tea while I read Morning Prayer) got disrupted because of the new tank of gas.

My cooking space consists of a stovetop with three burners attached by a rubber hose and a connector to a large tank of propane. I turn on the propane at the connector and turn on the burners I want to light, then take matches and light the burners that burst on with a whoosh! I have finally gotten to the point where I don’t throw the match at the burner to light it.

But I needed to buy a full tank for 60,000 shillings (about $35). On Thursday, I went to the Forex (foreign exchange) Bureau to change a $100 bill (they don’t take smaller, and they don’t take bills printed before 2000, and so I have $500 that is worthless here). When I got back on Thursday night, I gave Alex, the caretaker, the 60,000 and he brought me a new tank and tried to set it up. The connector refused to connect. He struggled with it for 20 minutes until I finally said, “Why don’t you try again in the morning.” He said OK.

And so on Friday morning, Alex continued to fight with the tank for a while, trying to attach it. Then he got a different tank. Then he got the tank I had had before I bought the new tank. Then he brought in the bodaboda driver to help. Then there was a procession of men trooping in and out—I don’t know who they were--, all trying to help and none succeeding. Then a man with a shirt that said “K-Gas” came and looked at the tank with Alex, who finally turned to me and said, “There’s a spring missing from the attachment and we’ll have to get another one.” Eventually I left, tealess, and went to the office a little after 9. I returned a little before 1 for lunch and found the gas in order, at long last making my tea and reading the daily office.

The word that leapt out at me from the gospel was “rooster,” as in “before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” The roosters impress me the way they throw themselves into it, as if they were rabid fans yelling “Go, let’s go, let’s GOOO!” I have never heard a rooster crow moderately. I start hearing them a little after 6 in the morning, and they keep it up all day long. I still notice it, though I imagine after a while it will fade into the background, the way I no longer notice the airplanes flying overhead in Alameda, as noisy as they are.

I’m sure Peter didn’t notice them usually either until what had happened and what he had done had hit him—really hit him, not just as a theory, but as reality. I think, too, about the disciples who had heard Jesus say many, many times that he would be killed, saying, “Yeah, yeah,” until it finally happens and they finally get it. Dead, as in dead.

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