Lugazi, the village where I live is based around an estate owned by the Mehta family. The first Mr. Mehta came from India when he was fourteen years old. He planted the first sugar cane in Uganda and now he owns miles and miles of fields of sugar cane. If you climb the hill outside of Lugazi and overlook the vast area, pretty much everything you can see is part of the Mehta estate.
Mr. Mehta employs over 1000 workers on the estate, this includes the men and women that work in the fields but it also includes, ladies maids, gardeners, cooks, housekeepers, an entire police force, a hospital, guest houses, schools, etc. Lugazi then is the village that survives on the economic foundation provided by Mehta.
I went there one morning and toured the gardens with Luta and the other interns here. Then I went back a couple of nights later just to enjoy it at a leisurely pace. Emined went with me and I can’t even begin to describe to you how beautiful that place is. It smells like Lilac and Honeysuckle. Emined had never seen it before and he kept saying in that way that only sounds right with an African accent, “yi yi yi this is what heaven is, yo?”
My favorite part of the garden is when you come to a huge hill, wooden steps are set in the side of the hill and a row of trees forms a border on the left. If you cross through the trees you will come across a set of stone steps that takes you ,down, down, down into a low area. Along the side of the stone steps grows tall lily’s their white heads standing up like elegant ladies all waiting and watching in a neat line.
After the first set of stairs the view on the left opens to reveal a white gazebo and the row of lily’s expands and becomes a bed of lily’s laid out before your eyes. If you continue down the steps you will see a cluster of bamboo surrounding a table and some chairs and forming a nice little sitting area. From there you can look out over a pond, also filled with lily’s and other plants, to the little footbridge that will take you to more rolling fields of cleanly cut grass. It was dark and had rained earlier in the day. The grass was wet and I took off my shoes and enjoyed the sweet coolness on my bare feet until something bit me and left enough of a sting that I decided maybe shoes are a good option after all.
In Uganda, coming home is the best part of leaving. Everyone welcomes you back. It’s the sweetest thing. As I walk through the gate I am met by my two friends and brothers Joseph and Davis. I remember hearing from others that had been here about these two boys but I never dreamed that I would love them the way I do. Yesterday I sat in the courtyard doing my laundry when Davis came home from school. “Oh Virate,” he says, “why are you washing your clothes, you can’t do that when I am around to do it for you.”
“Why” I ask, knowing already what he is going to say.
“Because I am Ugandan and I can do it for you.” He sits down and takes a dress out of my hands, like this he says and then he expertly covers it with soap and scrubs it in a way that I am quite certain I will never get down. When Joseph got home the three of us worked on the laundry and they told me about school. Joseph sat looking glum when I asked him how his first day back had been. “Not good,” he shakes his head.
“Why,” I ask
“The girls they tease so much, they are so mean.” He says.
I can’t imagine someone being mean to Joseph.
“Don’t you know why girls tease?” I ask him elbowing him a little and raising my eyebrows in a suggestive sort of way.
“I have no use…” he says. “All day they are writing me letters, Joseph, I want to be your girlfriend” he mimics in a high voice.
“But don’t you like them” I ask.
I can see he is really upset and it even looks like he is holding back tears. “For me it is hard,” he explains. “So hard to talk to girls.”
“You are talking to me and I’m a girl”
“Yes but you aren’t…he pauses and then mimics the girls flirting and walking to get his attention. Its one of the funniest things, I’ve seen.
One day you will like it. I told him.
Yes but now I have no use. He sighs and picks up the bar of soap and another piece of laundry.
He is only 17 now. I think give him a few years and he will find “a use.”