She was Swiss and she stood at the front door this morning and told me how envious she was of my family’s set-up at the university compound we call home. I nodded.
She had just driven the hour from her house in Kampala to drop off her daughter to play with Hannah when we talked about it, how kids need space, a place where kids can be kids, relaxed, more like what kids knew in Switzerland and Canada and plenty of other places when she and I were our own kids’ age.
Jon, all nine years of him, had just waved to us from the back of a boda-boda – what they call these small motorcycles in Uganda – while this mother and I talked about it all: the soccer pitch in the front yard, the ball hockey pad on the side of our house, a green park nestled between banana trees across the dirt road.
I eventually built it all up because my family knew years ago we’d be in Uganda for a while and we knew also the value of leaving something for others when, like with anything else, we say goodbye to it all.
And, yes, we knew of this issue, how even in the so-called free world – maybe especially in the free world – kids no longer have that precious freedom to live and move and stretch in the fullness of their being.
(Later in the day a cousin of mine from Germany, in Uganda for some work, came and joined us all for some hockey and soccer …)
This might not have much to do with Easter or terrorism.
Except for the fact that Easter and its theme of freedom in another way is knocking on the calendar. I’ve personally been reminded of memories like the neighbour boy and Hannah’s dead rabbit and other things like that late-night garden kiss that did Christ in.
Except for the fact, also, that, beside that German cousin today, we’re getting no fewer than a couple of dozen visitors in the coming weeks – Canadians – some of whom are familiar enough with the fact that any of us can be alive one morning and dead by dusk.
Especially when they read the news coming from around here.
The Westgate Mall, after all, just re-opened, that mall bombed in Nairobi in 2013, a terror attack that, of course, at the time didn’t go unnoticed here.
More so, this week, the chief prosecutor in the trial of some yahoos charged with the terrorist bombing of a Kampala sports bar some years ago – dozens were killed in that one – was murdered. This lawyer was trailed on a Kampala road and shot by killers who rode on the back of one of those boda-bodas.
And just last week both British and American embassies in Kampala issued warnings of a possible terror attack in Kampala – “Stay away from dangerous places” – this before the lawyer’s murder.
Some of our soon-to-arrive visitors heard about these last two items in particular and wrote us wondering about the safety of it all. And while it’s true in that any of us can be here today and gone tomorrow – that fear that any of us need to live with – my wife assured them that such embassy warnings are more routine than most westerners realize.
This, and that other truth (if not paradox) that here in Uganda we, at least in my family, live in more peace than we would likely manage over there on the so-called safe side of the ocean.