Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Robert, the Bugandan driver

Robert, our driver, was wearing an odd-looking tie yesterday. It wasn't a tie, really, just a tie-shaped scrap of fabric he had pinned to his shirt.

"What's with the tie, Robert?" I inquired.

"Oh, it is to show that I am of the Baganda tribe," he explained. He then told me that the "tie" was made from the bark of a tree which is used by the Bugandan people. The material was kind of a cross between burlap and the husk of a coconut--and the same reddish-brown color of African dirt.

Come to think of it, I seen lots of the locals wearing bits of the fabric--strips tied around their arms, waists and heads. The reason the Bugandan people were wearing the fabric was to show their solidarity after the ancient tomb of four of their royal kings was burned to the ground last Monday.

Rioting actually broke out in Kampala, resulting in several fatal shootings the day after we arrived. Tensions were high--some were saying that the president of Uganda, Museveni, torched the tombs as a political slap in the face to the current King of Buganda (there are many different tribes in Uganda. The Baganda tribe resides in and around Kampala, which is the capital of Uganda. The president is not Bugandan, however, and there has been conflict for the past 60 years between the government and the Baganda people over land ownership and other matters).

A few days ago, President Museveni published a speech in the paper which denied the government had anything to do with the fire. He blamed wicked elements of society and quoted Galations 6:9, affirming that these evil doers would reap what they had sown.

I asked Robert what he thought about the matter. He replied that it really made no sense for the government to do such a thing and that it was probably bad people from a rival tribe.

We are learning a lot from Robert. He is very wise. He is also a good driver and a very hard worker. I asked it he would get to take Easter day off, and he replied: "Only if there are no jobs. If there is a job, I will take it. We must sweat to make a living here in Uganda."

We found out last night that his brother and sister-in-law both died of AIDs a few years back. Robert is now putting their children through school--which is expensive. He told us that his father is suffering from an undiagnosed disease which has rendered his legs useless. He is very weak and experiences tremors. They have visited many doctors, Robert told me, but he has not improved. His dad's name is Geoffrey if you want to pray for him.

Robert speaks Lugandan and is trying to teach a few words. I've managed to pick up a few words and phrases, which I've used liberally in the markets. My very bad pronunciation usually elicits a smile or laugh, but, as Robert says, that is good.

When people ask how I am doing, I say, "bulungi!" Which means "I am good!"

Which I am!