Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Ugandan village people

"Howareyou? Howareyou?"

The children chant whenever the Land Cruiser full of mzungu bounces past them. They scream and run joyfully to the roadside, waving. "Helloooo!" It has become a game for us to spot them and wave back. No one ever tires of it.

People are everywhere. Everywhere. There is never a stretch of road, no matter how rural, that isn't flanked by a trail of villagers or by bicycles laden broad with bundles of sticks for firewood. The adults stare at us, all of them, not in impertinence but passive novelty.

We pass markets with chickens stacked in cages and meat hanging unrefrigerated in the open air. It is freshly slaughtered, and tomorrow there will be a new kill. Women in brightly patterned layers sit before enormous bunches of green bananas for making matoke, a starchy savoury mash, or carry away broad bowls of sweet yellow bananas on their heads.

On the Sunday we see village women in their best dresses and beautiful jewellery going to church. These are farmers and the rural poor, but they are not pitiful. Nor are they out of touch with the modern world; just as I slip into a stereotyped perception, someone pulls out a mobile phone. Even in these remote villages are signs on huts selling airtime with Ugandan telcos.

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