It’s that time again. Time to re-new my work permit, so I can stay in Uganda. Every 3 years I have to do this. It’s not a big deal, it only takes about a million trips back and forth between Immigration and my home, in Mukono. The procedures stay more or less the same. The result is always the same. They pretty much rubber stamp my application. I’ve been doing this for a while. Every thing is in order.
But every 3 years I do take this time to reflect. Time passes so quickly! I try to picture myself in 3 years. Will I still be here? Will Uganda still be awesome? Should I set out into the world and seek my fortunes elsewhere? Should I buy land and build a house in the village to retire? Of course, I never have any answers. It seems the more years go by, the less I worry about it. I just take things one day at a time.
I came to Uganda in July, 2004. On my first day I met a young girl, a new S6 graduate, called Dorothy Wakabi. She was the daughter of the man I had come to work for, and would become a good friend during my first weeks in Uganda. She left to begin her university studies in September and we lost touch (this was back before affordable mobile phones and Facebook). She was really sweet.
Anyhoo… she took me to Kampala my first weekend to show me around (anyone remember Nandos?) Back in those days, you couldn’t even change money in Mukono. That afternoon, she brought me back to her place and we watched tv with the family. What’s on local tv 95% of the time? Local music videos. I was introduced to Jamila, by Jose Chameleone, that very day. I was immediately transfixed. I knew I had come to the right place.
Back to this morning, more than 11 years later. I’m working on my work permit application and have to print a number of documents. I head off to my local internet cafe. After wasting a bunch of time, it was admitted that their colour printer wasn’t working. I moved onto another cafe that I hadn’t visited in over a year. I greeted Vincent and sat down to bring up my documents for printing. It took forever, literally 5-8 seconds from the time I clicked to getting any reaction. So I did what everyone else does in that position, I started reading the email of the person sitting next to me. And guess what, it was signed “Dorothy Wakabi”. I turned to the well-dressed lady next to me and said “DOROTHY????” She turned to me in complete shock. We hugged and laughed and animatedly caught up over the next 30 minutes. It was amazing to see her. She’s all grown up now. A degree in Counseling and Social Work. A great job with a well funded organization. I got to show off photos of my kid and tell her the organization I founded in 2005 is still going. We’re both still in Mukono… it was so rad.
Before too long, I had to kiss her goodbye and set off. As I left the building, the electronics shop next door was blaring some old music. Can you imagine? It was Jamila, by Jose Chameleone. I absolutely floated home.
Yeah, I’ll be here in 3 years. No doubt about it. Like it or not, Uganda is now my home.