As soon as Sam and I arrivec at Ikafe, our host Ezama was there to greet us. He rode with us back to Okubani (the TPO driver kindly drove us) explaining the whole way that the community was very excited to meet us. We greeted some of the women and children outside of Ezama’s tukul and then were ushered inside to sit in one of the four chairs placed around a small, short table. I learned later that Ezama had pulled many strings and worked for quite a while to to gather these chairs for us. As we sat, Ezama repeated many times, “You are most welcome, you are most welcome,” a common, beautifully hospitable Ugandan refrain. I would hear it dozens and dozens more times before the day was through.
We hadn’t been seated but moments when the community leaders began arriving: local religious and political leaders, representing various spheres of influence. I was grateful that Innocent (a Ugandan friend an coursemate) had taught me the most respectful way of shaking hands.
It is worth noting that I was the only women present. When Ezama’s wife entered she sat on her knees to bring food (rice, motoke, tea) and quickly left.
Ezama’s home had been prepared for our arrival. Hand crocheted doilies framed the door and hung from the roof. The dirt floor had been recently swept, and the posters on the wall freshly taped (he told us). The posters were from the IRC with messages like: Ways That Bird Flu Spreads; Discuss Your Sexual Needs With Your Partner for Safety, Health, and Respect; and Alcohol Effects Community . The table was set with seemingly every object of weath: a broken cell phone, a wind up radio, and a photo album which he proudly insisted we peruse. Inside were photos of Ezama dressed smartly, standing proudly outside of various buildings. I asked what they were and learned: where he had received his teaching certificate, and several town halls – trips into “big cities.” His biggest trip? Into Arua, from whence I came.
“I love to travel,” he told me.
“Me too,” I replied with a smile.