Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Poem

Uya Thetha?Bua? Kuluma? Hai bo!!

‘Molo Ma’, he says.
‘Molo buthi’ I reply with a smile. ‘Full tank, 95’
He opens the gas tank, puts in the ‘thingy’ and
fires a question to which I respond
‘Andi theth’isiXhosa.  Ndi ya thetha ka ncinci.’
‘I do not speak isiXhosa.  I speak very little.’
‘Hau,’ he says.  ‘U ya bua? … kuluma? … Shangaan? … Afrikaans?’
I shake my head with a half smile.
Here we go again, playing this game of
Who are you? Where do you fit? Do you really belong?
I am transported to another place and time –  

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1979 
A father and daughter drive up to a bakery 
There is a long line of light skinned people 
Who look like them 
Waiting for bread.  
They  get out of the car 
Walk past the line of people 
Straight to the till 
And ask for bread. 
They people in the line start to murmur. 
The lady at the counter speaks to them abruptly in Amharic.  
The father  takes out his red id document. 
Foreigners it says. 
‘Baria.’ – ‘Slave’ we hear someone in the line say 
They get their bread and walk away 
Relieved ut unable to look them in the eyes

‘Sisi, are you Nigerian?’
I am rudely awakened from my reverie
Nigerian?  Words flash through my mind 
Here this means Pimp Drug dealer Hustler 
Corrupt Makwerekwere – or does it?

‘No, I come from Uganda.’
To my releif
He makes no quick references to Idi Amin
Only a blank stare!
(Surely we contribute more to the world than mad men and disease!)
His blank stare takes me back to another place in time

Oshakati, Namibia, 1990
A young woman is standing in line 
At the Motor Car licensing office 
To apply for a drivers license 
He insists on filling in the forms 
Asking questions in his stumbling’ English 
‘Where you born?’ 
‘Kampala, Uganda’ 
He looks puzzled. 
She spells it, and he writes it all down 
She reads it upside down 
‘Place of Birth - Town: Kampala,   District: Uganda, 
Country:  Namibia.’ 
‘Excuse me,’ she says 
‘Kampala is both the city and the district, 
Uganda is the country.  It is not part of Namibia.’ 
He looks at her very puzzled. 
‘No,’ She says.  ‘Uganda.  Near Tanzania.’ 
He puts his pen down and shakes his head 
In utter confusion. 
‘Difficult case,’ he says. 
‘Go to Ondangwa.’ 
And moves on to the next person in the line.

‘It is near Tanzania and DRC’ I say.
‘Oh,’ says the guy, who has finished filling up my car.  ‘Okay.  300 Rand.’
I hand him the money, and drive off

namutebi - september 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment