When I talk of the “Green grass of home,” I am speaking in general terms of the good times, the warm and love of family and friends, and of course the environment there in which I have grown up and have learnt to appreciate through the years.
Working here in Juba the capital of South Sudan so far away from home, from the company of family and friends, and the environment which I am accustomed to gives me plenty of time to both to reflect on my life and have a new sense of appreciation of the “Green grass of home” which while home I tend to take for granted.
Juba is hot and dusty and a little filthy and chaotic, and I hardly miss the weather when I get home but I instead worry about it when the time to return to work ever draws near. However I appreciate Juba for its simplicity or lack of sophistication and the fact that it has given me a rare job and life experience which I possibly could have never dreamed of. I have seen new places, met new people and had all kinds of experiences traveling in South Sudan. I also love the fact that Juba is a rural town with lots of rocks and bushes around where I can go jogging or hiking without the disturbance from traffic or children calling me Mzungu (white man) as happens in the suburbs of Kampala. I am pitch black by the way, but it seems that the common knowledge an average Ugandan child is that only Bazungu jog as part of physical exercise activity.
The other day I was jogging along a bush path here in Juba and met a herd of cows that seemed to be headed home for milking, for I could tell by the noise both the cows and calves were making. The mowing and the smell of cow dung were sights, sounds and smells of my youth that I am so familiar with. Memories of my grandparents, cold sour milk with roasted sweet potatoes in the morning before going to herd in the bushes and cups of hot milk before bed in the evening came rushing through my mind. I felt like exercising my fingers by milking rather have somebody pull them for me. I thought of my late grandmother giving us little children turns to shake the gourd tied to post in her kitchen or tree in the compound to make butter. Well, I was in Juba but entire village with its life was in my head. Thank God I was alone, I probably might have not listened to a companion even if I heard him.
The sounds, sights and smells of home were wretched some where along the way when I reached a populated area that seemed to have few or no latrines and residents or passersby had dropped quite a bit dung along the bushy footpaths. Back in my youth, stepping on human excrement was one thing sure to make a herds boy curse – it was worse than a thorn pricking your foot or being beaten by rain.
Yesterday was Sunday and I had a bit of time to relax and I wished I could move out of the organisation’s compound where I both work and reside other the field work which occasionally takes me out, to spend some time rather bear with the sounds generators and fans. I thought of where I could go to, especially a cool green place or park here in Juba but I found none. I fell back to listening to music and browsing old photos of people, places and events back home in Uganda which brought back memories of mind refreshing green places like Entebbe Botanical Gardens, Source of the River Nile in Jinja, Speke Resort Munyonyo, The Sheraton Gardens among other places. I also thought of how the residents of Nairobi cherish Uhuru Park to which I have been a couple of times and wondered why the government of Uganda would let so-called investors invade the Centenary Park in Kampala. City squares in one small green belt that has turned blue with teargas/police trucks and it no more a relaxing but a battle ground for demonstrators and police.
When I was a teenager visiting Entebbe back in the eighties Entebbe Botanic Gardens was a favorite destination for me and it was more like a friend to me – being a new resident I had hardly any friends in town. It was pristine and better maintained then and without fence or entry fee as it is now. My wife and I had our second date here later in 2005. Like Mabira rain forest along Kampala Jina road which under threat of sugarcane plantations, Entebbe Botanic seems to be lying before mouths of hungry lions. on one side is Imperial Botanical Hotel and the other side is a modern shopping mall being constructed and a number individuals with residents facing Lake Victoria have fenced off parts of the lake shores nearby which should be accessible to the public.
It appears to me that the green grass of home which many Ugandans seem to take for granted may no longer be a gift from nature but a reserve of a privileged few if they do not contend for it like they for Mabira just like the Bible in the book of Jude urges Christians to contend for their God-given faith.