“So you’re a reverend?” I asked Emma, who stopped for Julia and I just before the bridge that crosses the Nile River at its source from Lake Victoria.
Julia, from Germany, was heading to Kampala and I invited her to hitch with me. When hitching with a female companion, it’s best to play husband and wife. For safety and to avoid awkward questions.
So for the next two hours I was married too Julia, answering Emma’s question of, “Are you related?”
“No, she’s my wife,” I grinned as we crossed the Owen Dam bridge over the Nile, the very dam that killed Rippon Falls, where Specke had discovered the source of Africa’s mightiest river.
Kampala, Uganda’s capital, was only about an hour away. We joined the truck that took that morning’s rafters to their white-water activity with Nile River Explorers. The driver dropped us at the roundabout that either leads into Jinja or heads to Kampala.
We walked down the road and were about to set up just past a service station when a para-military officer brandishing a formidable AK-47 appeared outta nowhere and suggested we attempt to stop vehicles elsewhere.
Turns out the Ugandan police don’t like it when you try to hitch outside of their barracks.
We walked down the road and just passed the first section of the bridge I managed to flag down Emma.
“I’m a priest,” he said. “A Catholic priest.”
I’ve always wanted to meet a Catholic priest and ask them a question that had been boggling my mind. It wasn’t keeping me awake at nights but I was curious.
“Can I ask you, as a man of god,” I worded my question carefully, “you’re not allowed to marry and have children, right?”
“Yes,” he said with a smile.
“But doesn’t the bible say that you must pro-create?”
He thought for a minute. “Yes, it does. But to be able to devote myself to the Lord, I must sacrifice having a family.” He then went on to explain that, “In order to become a priest, you have to do medical tests. If it is found that you cannot have children, then you cannot become a priest.”
Wait a minute, “Your ultimate sacrifice is not to have a family,” I pushed lightly, “but if you’re incapable for whatever reason – medical or infertility – then you can’t become a priest?” I asked.
I frowned. “But if we are all created equal in the eyes of god, then isn’t that discrimination?”
“It is not,” he countered. “To be able to become a priest, to enter the service, I have to sacrifice in order to devote myself to the lord. But if I cannot have children for the reasons you state, then what am I sacrificing?”
Human touch? Love? Going out on weekends? Safaris? White water rafting? Pedophilia? The list is endless. “You choose to devote your life to the service so isn’t that a sacrifice in itself?” I pushed.
“Er, yes,” he stumbled, “in a way but it is not how the church operates.”
“Of course not,” I said. It totally contradicts its own belief, discriminates and goes against the very words it preaches.
Emma focused on driving for a minute before I figured maybe it would be best to change the subject.
“You have siblings?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m one of nine children.”
Jesus, what is it with this country and the amount of kids produced per family?
“Yes,” he grinned. “I’m one of two boys. The rest are girls.”
I contacted my couch surfing host, Michael, who I then passed on to Emma to figure out where to drop us. Julia was staying with a friend and we reckoned we might catch up during the next few days before her flight back to Germany.
“I will drop you at the Centenary Bank,” Emma said. “He will come to collect you on a boda-boda.”
As we entered Kampala, passing the Mandela National Stadium, I quickly concluded that the traffic here was about 12 times worse than in Nairobi or Zambia’s Lusaka. We thanked Emma for the ride and wished him all the best.
“Well,” I said to Julia, “I guess this is where we divorce.”
Laughing, she headed up to the post office which has a cyber café while I waited for Michael, who arrived a few minutes later. We each got onto a boda-boda and I held on for dear life, considering a life of serving the church the way my driver was riding.
Kampala is quite the hilly city. In fact it means,’ Seven Hills’ on which it was built (now spread to 13). After about 20 minutes we made it to Mike’s place where I put my bags down and he explained that, “I’m going to Entebbe to say goodbye to some French friends that are leaving.”
“OK,” I said and 20 minutes later he left me to his pad.
I’m always impressed by anyone who’ll trust me enough to just leave me in their home. It happened to me in Thailand when my host went to a mediation retreat and she left me with not only her hilltop home overlooking the Gulf of Thailand but also her scooter.
I met Julie who lives with her boyfriend in the unit next door.
“If you need anything, she can help you,” Mike had explained. “She also cooks the food.”
Paul, son of the landlord showed up in the evening.
“I play rugby,” he said upon discovering my Aussie roots.
“Sorry, mate,” I said. “I don’t follow the rugby.”
“I also like watching the cricket,” he tried to warm up to me.
“Yeah, I don’t do cricket either,” I said. “I like surfing, football, basketball, volleyball and anything underwater.”
He explained the things to see in Kampala. “There is the Gaddafi mosque, the second largest in Africa, the tombs of the Buganda Kingdom, the old taxi park – also known as ‘Organised Confusion’ – and one of the biggest markets in Africa.” He grinned. “In Kampala, everything is walking distance.”
“Perfect,” I said. “I like walking.”
We were about a degree above the equator and it was pretty hot in the city but still, no better way to get to know a new place than using your own two feet. He wished me well and I made an outline for the next day – find tour operators and see if I could barter a gorilla trek or anything else and perhaps head west towards Murchisons Falls National Park.
Cities just aren’t my thang.