This past weekend was something special. I finally left my little shoe box, my litter strewn classroom, the tiny corners of my life and ventured out; right out into the country for a luncheon. Such an old fashioned yet relevant world. It was too grand for a simple lunch and yet informal enough to be relaxed and welcoming. It was too generous and beautifully laid out to be a simple Saturday lunch, no this was a luncheon replete with tables laid beneath massive trees in view of satisfied ponies resting after the attentions of so many children. Our hosts brought together many characters from different circles. The newly arrived expats, the old timers, the teachers, the people who know not to whom or what they belong. Above all it was the children who brought together this group of adults, and it was the parents of these children, friends of the mini hosts who sat and watched the youngsters living the idyllic life of an African afternoon.
Yes. A lunch party between two trees as old as the ancients, on a farm where roses bloom and horses scamper about the paddock. Between courses the little ones zipped around dangerously on quad bikes while the relaxed parents turned an amused blind eye towards those parents who bit their lips in quiet terror. Mud splattered boots were replaced with flip flops and the smiles of sun kissed teens shone in the afternoon sun. Little girls, with cheeks as chubby as their 3 years would allow were scolded for riding quad bikes alone and the tantrum that followed her removal of the dangerous and offensive bike was laughed as wholly reasonable by us all. Some parents snuck in a cigarette while their daughters jumped over fences with ponies who looked a mite weary. Finally a few dads decided that it was their turn to ride the quads, but try as they might, the kids were having none of it. A reluctant 2 minute ride was allowed before they were back on, their rightful place ensured.
Too soon, as the light began to change, and shadows moved between the trees it was time to go. One little boy clutching his sprite bottle, so clearly did not want to leave this paradise, he had to be promised another visit “very soon’ to console him. Women were handed roses as they climbed into cars for the ride back to Kampala. Who could believe that this perfect corner was a mere 40 minutes away?
Finally, when everyone departed and children were told that one more turn on the quad bike would not happen for the 15th time, the light began to sink. Trooper and Princess were invited to stay the night and without a moment’s hesitation, and with eyes glowing, they nodded “yes, please.” The assurance that they would ride again the next morning was just the cherry on their cake. This was life, this was what it was all about! Quad biking! Horses! Friends! Land to run and laugh and be muddy and free!
Handsome husband and I said our farewells and left our children behind, with a twinge of jealously. We were heading out to listen to some Congolese music. From one world to another.
The women were resplendent in costume. Their head scarfs barely moved as they swayed in time to the beat. Hands up, hips out and the dancing shook the ground. Sadly this same ground was littered with plates containing the half eaten dinners of a hundred dancers. For some reason it was not deemed necessary to provide bins. No, not in this culture where there would certainly be someone with the broom at the ready next morning. Yet in the meantime, what was once a garden of green grass was now a rubbish dump of squished french fries and twice gnawed chicken bones. Plastic knives snapped under foot while I walked around, avoiding the booming speakers and searching for my friends. Perhaps the tranquility of the rose farm had ruined, for me this evening spectacle of feet stomping, hip swaying revelers. I thought of Princess and Trooper, tucked into bed, sleepy with their overdose of fresh air, dreaming of another day of horses and fun and I was jealous. All they want is to be grown up and they are so much better being young.
Still, it was good music, for a time, and there was true French pride on this day celebrating the African french speakers. It’s just that the ancient trees were calling and I couldn’t get their song out of my mind.