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Laura and the big drum


Laura and the big drum, originally uploaded by Robin Manuell.

On Thursday I meet an English women from Bradford who has been traveling in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. She seems pleased to meet a fellow mzungu and pleased to be able to share perspectives on our African experience so we swap numbers and on Friday we meet up for lunch. I take Laura up to Doctor Kilala’s house and later we head back into town and spend the afternoon running various errands. We eat pizza at the pizzeria and head back to our respective homes.

Laura’s friend Tesi is planning to go out dancing in the evening but I am not too keen on her choice of venue- Rumours is a popular nightclub but it is also the main hang out for prostitutes and I really could do without that kind of attention so I am pleased when Laura decided she’s too tired for dancing. Instead we head for the Hotel Tilapia where my friend Everest- a Rastafarian who works with the street kids in Mwanza- has told me there will be some live music.

The music turns out to be an Australian guy singing David Gray covers and the hotel bar is empty save for a huddle of wazungu clustered around the bar. I haven’t seen so many in one place since arriving in Mwanza and the evening develops a comical turn but Laura and I sit under the stars next to the lake with a refreshing wind keeping us cool and we talk about books, films and the complete works of Joss Whedon.

Everest joins us. He likes the Australian singer because it reminds him of his Australian wife and their child who he will be seeing again soon. Everest is well travelled, is easy to talk to and there is no side to him.

I walk Laura back to her hostel and then catch a taxi- my first- back to Bugando hill. The next day we met up again and I take her to visit the museum at Bujora. We stop first at Kisesa. Laurian is in his office with a group of boys- one of them is due for a circumcision this morning! We make our introductions and I hand out some pictures of the children I have had printed up. Laurian joins us for some supu and then we head up to Bujora.

We stop at Laurians place where Emmanuell is cooking up some food and brew up some chai and we are soon joined by Maimune and Paulo. Maimune has brought me a present: A bracelet wrapped up with a gaudy and sentimental birthday card that sings when I open it. I realise there is something not quite right about the music it plays- it is a little slow, dirge like. Then it clicks. It’s the theme from a film called “Love Story” in which one of the lovers dies of cancer.

I am embarrassed by the gift and it’s chocolate box sentimentality and I don’t know what to say or how to respond so I say thanks and try on the bracelet. It sits next to the one Baba Lau gave me.

I’m pleased to see Paulo again and I find that since my sojourn in Mwanza my Swahili is a lot better than it was. by the end of last week I was reaching overload what with all the new Swahili and Sukuma words thrown at me constantly- obviously the break has given my unconscious time to do some learning of its own and I feel a new level of fluency. I’m intrigued by what Laura must think of my friends and their little world. She seems happy relaxing in the shade and cool of the shamba.

We head over to the museum and Richard the curator shows us round, giving us the official tour. I introduce myself in Sukuma and I am secretly pleased when he begins his lecture in kiswahili having mistakenly decided I must speak Swahili and Sukuma fluently 😉 I ask a couple of seemingly innocent questions designed to reveal my knowledge of Sukuma culture and he lights up noticeably, pleased to enlarge upon his theme. I always was good at being teachers pet.

Something though is a miss. The slight fuzzy head I have felt since the morning has turned sore and I am pretty sure I have a fever coming. I am very tired and have to keep sitting down and I feel like I have some flu like symptoms. I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with Malaria.

By the time the museum tour is finished and we are back at Laurian’s shamba waiting for another cup of chai I am definitely ill with something. I have to lie down and rest for a while- Laura amuses her self talking with Paulo Maimune and Emmanuell and starts making notes on Swahili. She has decided that a couple of days spent learning Swahili will pay off dividends when it comes to the rest of her travels in East Africa.

We make it back to Kisesa where Leo, Cos senior, Shegera and co are sitting around chatting. Hugs and handshakes all round. I have a blood test that establishes I have the malaria parasite in my blood stream though it is still in small quantities. He writes down the name of a drug for me to buy back in Mwanza. We sit around for a while longer until Laura suggests we really should be going and then we catch a daladala back. The first one we get into, standing room only, breaks down before we’ve even left Kisesa. We get off because one of the young men is being rather too familiar with Laura. It’s the first time I see that behind her calm and friendly exterior there is an edge of fear and I wonder how comfortable she has been with her experience.

Back on Bugando hill Mama Kilala and Yussaf have been joined by Max, a German doctor over here recruiting doctors for a research project he is conducting. Over dinner I ask their opinion on the best treatment to take for my Malaria. After all with three doctors I can hardly go wrong! “Ah” jokes Yussaf “three doctors, four opinions!”

In the end I settle for a remedy and take myself straight to bed. I sleep immediately.

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