I folded my clothes and placed them in my suitcase. It’s a bag that can fit two bunches of matooke, a cook stove, molokony and food that can last a month. It isn’t my case to start with. It’s one of those things that stays with you and eventually, by the natural process of passage of time, with no one particularly handing it over to you, becomes yours. That’s how I inherited my suitcase. It belonged to my uncle, my mum’s big bro. He and his bag weren’t tight so he left it behind. And he took a flight back to the US. This bag felt abandoned, like no one cared for its wellbeing.
Its situation worsened when a clothes cabinet shouted, “Bags are trash”. And a clothes rack and hangers followed in the teasing of this bag. I had to do something about it or it’d stay in the cold, sinking into the kind of depression unused bags go into. So I adopted it. It’s now my bag. It feels wanted and useful.
I packed whatever I could; peanut butter, beans, peas, honey. There was still enough space to add a sack of potatoes. I didn’t go that direction. I headed to Entebbe airport, checked in, got on the plane and off I was into the night cloud to a country in the middle of Europe.
Sleeping on a flight when you’re seated in the backend of economy is a pain. Take that guy for example. He’s in the middle seat, on the middle column, resting his head on the chic to his left. She’s visibly uncomfortable. Her face spells discomfort and disgust. Ah, she’s tapped him to wake up and change his posture. We get to Brussels Airport and I catch a different flight to Germany.
I sit at the emergency exit and receive a briefing on what I need to do in case the situation during the flight goes tits-up. I’ve received a number of such briefings. I’m that guy who likes sitting at the emergency exit. It makes me feel like I have a role to play on the flight. I hope I never have to open that emergency exit though.
I look at words written in Deutsch. They are all jumbled up in my mind. I can’t make sense out of them. I ask questions. How am I going to thrive in this new country if I can’t speak German? How quickly will I adapt? I pull out the Lufthansa inflight magazine. I flip through the pages to look at pictures and ads. I’m uneasy because I’m going into new territory. It’s out of my comfort sphere. My language skills are as good pepper tasting sweet or chocolate tasting like cauliflower. I tell myself it’s going to be okay.
The Lufthansa plane touches down at Frankfurt Im Main at 10:00am. I look out the window of the emergency exit. There is a forest lined like a platoon of soldiers at an assembly waiting for instructions from their commander. They stand at attention. This forest reminds me of eucalyptus trees I saw as a kid growing up at the outskirts of Barifa forest in the bustling district of Arua in West Nile.
From Frankfurt, to get to Bonn where I’m currently staying, I got on the team bus. I was with a bunch of guys from across Africa. I was the last guy to get on the bus. Our driver, a man with silver beards and strong arms looked at the GPS screen on the dashboard. Even without the GPS, he looked like a man who’d driven so much he could do it with eyes closed.
For two decades, his hands were behind the wheel, carrying the weight of players of Cologne FC. He hung up his keys four years ago.
“I’m an old man now,” he said when I asked why he stopped driving the Cologne team bus.
“What was it like driving a football team for all those years?” I ask.
“It was a job. Every two or three years, there’d be a new team. There were new faces each season.”
He adjusts something on the GPS screen.
Driving to Bonn gives off the kind of feel you get when going to Western Uganda. For what the route initially lacks in constant mountainous scenery, it makes up for in breathtaking forest cover and later, as you approach the city, a few mountains and hills roll by. The twists and turns of the road carry a Kisoro-like appeal, an aura of Western Uganda. I feel at home.
And when we crossed the JFK bridge that goes over the Rhine river, it felt like I was crossing the bridge in my hometown Packwach, going across River Nile. The exception was that the Nile has hyacinth. The Rhine is clearer.
I live on the second floor of a flat. It’s on Deutchherrenstrasse, German Men Street. It’s a quiet neighborhood. The only sounds I hear are those of cars and children from the neighborhood playing. If I were a child, I’d join them. But I’m not. I’ve got to survive this adulating thing.
I’m still finding my footing in this new country.