Most mornings by 5am I boil filtered rusty water and pour it into an REI brand field French press loaded with grounds. Because most of the good coffee gets exported, Uganda is left with the dregs. There are a few bags of the premium left behind for a serious fee, but my shillings usually don’t balance that scale. Either way I have learned that even rejected coffee tastes pretty good at 5am.
7 minutes to steep! So I stare at the clock on my phone for 7 minutes. I need my coffee. Sometimes I find myself counting one thousand 58, one thousand 59….7 minutes! I press, I pour, I scoop the raw grain, Lugazi planted, picked and processed sugar into my blue ceramic cup. From there it is out to the thick Rastafarian crafted eucalyptus chair on the back porch. I call it the “back”, though really it is the front…but it appears that “Architect Chaos” asked “Corner Cutting Contractor” to build the house backwards. Or is it? I personally like it this way.
In a few moments the valleys nighttime moans will be silenced by the gruff chant like singing from the speakers mounted atop the plaster domes of the multiple mosques scattered about. They are telling me to pray to Allah, but I am reminded to pray to Jesus. Then all too soon my quiet time will be trampled underfoot by Kampala. The sun will rise chasing the night back down to her dungeon, while coaxing the day out to her toil; diesel puffing taxi vans rumble forward, gangs of motorcycles for hire begin taking their rightful spots throughout this city of disrepair, dilapidated kiosks open their doors onto the trash littered red clay for another day of commerce; selling airtime, or beauty products, or haircuts, or fruits and vegetables or more.
And squeezed in between or standing out on a broken chunk of concrete sidewalk a man, always a man, mixes flour, vegetable oil, water and salt. Eventually he will adjust his tattered dirty umbrella, the one that shouts “chapatis sold here” even though the misspelled printed words have long faded into oblivion. Then, Chef Chapati will fan up the charcoal fire under his stained pan, slap some oil on top and fry and stack, fry and stack, fry and stack… And I tell you that there is little better than a chapati, a greasy piece of fried flat bread, for breakfast; unless of course you have an extra 500 shillings (21 cents). For that small coin you can have the chef chop up some cabbage and fry it up with an egg and roll it in a piece of that bread. And there you have it; a “rolex”, which I think is broken English for “Rolled Eggs.”
Back to my chair; dawn is now threatening. The mosques are still crackling, men sing while feedback mocks. I am reminded of a funeral. Out across the valley the view blocking hill is a dark shadow with pulsating pins of bluish, yellowish or whitish lights poking through. But predictably soon the sun will splash pink rays over the horizon giving birds reason to sing praise and mangy yellow dogs reason to sleep. The roosters disregard this daily event as they seem to never stop declaring their self imposed crown.
But first the ground fog must thin making way for a daily dose of smog; the pin lights will create a faint glow above the dark hill. And above, an ever so wispy flag like cloud drapes gently over the hill as though the hill itself were a coffin soberly awaiting a sailor’s last rite sendoff into the lake. If only I could hear taps being played my war analogy would be complete. But thankfully that tune ended 2000 years ago when the General declared “It is finished” (John 19:30), then went to and through the grave.