The first time I travelled the road to Kisesa I was carrying a rucksack and clinging onto the back of a Landrover with three toes supporting my weight on a footboard. The road was a broken tarmac track full of pot holes and we often had to steer onto the opposite side of the road to avoid the larger ones.
Today the road is made anew. Two lanes of clear metal run to Musoma lined with power cables and Duka’s and a steady stream of Daladalas cramped with people runs back and forth.
I get up early and spend an hour in the internet cafe before grabbing some supu ya Ng’ombe. The Mzee at the table with me tells me his father used to sell uniforms to the children at the Bwiru schools when my parents were living there. He says his wife knew Dr Kilala and that Hurta Kilala is still living in Mwanza on Bukando Hill. He tells me their son committed suicide.
I am shocked to think that Hurta Kilala might be in Mwanza. She was a friend of my parents and it seems unbelievable after all this time and distance that she might still be here.
The daladalas only leave when they are full so I wait in the back of one wondering what I will find in Kisesa. The ride takes about 25 minutes and it is easy to find Baba Lao’s place because it is only seconds from the stop. But oh how it has changed. The widening of the road and the electricity lines have cut into the space where the coconut tree used to stand and his original house has been knocked down. The mango tree that we used to sit under has gone but the traditional sukuma round house in which I stayed is still there and next to it is a hospital building with rooms for patients and opposite it another building with a biomedical lab and a small office.
Baba Lao’s old shamba is a hospital and Baba Lao has grown from barefoot nurse to Doctor. He is no where in sight when I arrive but the children waiting for their injections greet me and hold on to my fingers and hands, offering me food and a doll to play with. It’s Lao’s brother Innocent I see first. Last time I saw him he was growing tomatoes but now he works as a technician in the lab running tests.
Lao hasn’t changed a bit. He sports a beard and wears a bandana on his head, a colourful traditional African shirt. He breaks into a huge smile when he sees me and opens his arms and we embrace and high five and for a while we can’t get enough of each other. It’s too much. I know immediately I am welcome. We sit and the inevitable food and chai appears and we share briefly what has happened in the passing years. He has just delivered a baby this morning. Two blessings in one day he says. A baby, and you have returned. I leave him to work and walk around Kisesa with John Church. Later Lao John and I being to walk the short 10 minutes into Bujora but on the way Lao is called to treat a woman who has hurt her leg so John and I continue with out him. Bujora is a settlement centred on the Danish mission and museum to Sukumu culture which is the most famous thing about the area. His new house, minutes from the museum, bought since my visit, is perched on a small hill with views over 15 kilometres to the lake. The garden, surrounded by trees is secluded, shaded and silent save for the sounds of children playing nearby and birds singing. There are four or five buildings scattered around the property, three of which have been used as pig sties during one of Lao’s more enterprising phases. Now they and the traditional round house stand empty. It’s beautiful.
We sit around till Lao arrives from his patients and then we sit around some more. “So.” he says, “Welcome to your new home. Tonight you go back and get your bags and then tomorrow you are here, no more paying for a hotel. You are welcome to Bujora. To see a friend after a long time is to look into a mirror.”
After lots more sitting around broken up with periods of walking around and more sitting around we head back to the hospital and I catch a daladala back to Mwanza. I’m very tired but it takes me a long time to get to sleep as I process all the impressions of the day.
It’s going to be interesting moving from the comfort of the St Dominic’s mission to the isolation of Bujora. No hot water, well no running water at all frankly, no big double bed. Instead it’s going to be very much like camping at a festival- you make what you can of your own campsite and if you need hot food or a shower and you haven’t the facilities then someone else close by will have them and will be willing to trade. Of course usually when I’m camping I don’t have a private secluded garden or a two roomed Sukuma round house to stay in but the principle is the same honest.
So I’m heading into Mwanza to do some business then later I’ll go to Kisesa again. I shall stay out there for a couple of days just to get acclimatised and to learn the daily routines so I won’t be back to Mwanza for internet access for a while. Later friends!