After a five minute boda ride to the Kireka stage, I picked up some coconut biscuits and a box of Mango juice to add my own flavor to the party. I was baking in the sun, waiting at a bus stop for a short spit-fire of a woman to show up riding her motorcycle side-saddle. When she finally showed, she immediately grabbed my bag, pointed up the street, and told me to follow her.
There was an odd stench coming from the kitchen when we walked inside the cozy apartment. The walls were painted a fading sky blue, chipping near the doors and behind the furniture. The sitting room had a sofa and barca lounger - matching no less - with three Christian icons hung on the walls. A simple wood-paneled window with iron bars gave the room a prison-y feel. But homely too if you can imagine...
Vincent aka Djimon Hounsou came in a few minutes later. He was wearing a blue button down t-shirt, fresh from work stacking bottles at Pepsi-Cola Company. I say 'was wearing' because as soon as he sat down next to Esther he unbuttoned it and went shirtless as two sisters prepared rice on the front step. He was 22, a year younger than his bride-to-be. Esther's youngest and oldest sisters mostly stayed in the kitchen as the three of us "chatted". Vincent was obviously not comfortable speaking English so Esther was the go-between. In fact, he spent most of the time listening to Ugandan reggae on his cell phone and rubbing his triceps. And they were impressive. No doubt about it.
Lunch topics included:
- A local Witch doctor's spells on thieves in Banda (this apparently consists of some sort of kaybosh followed by thieves eating their own fecies. I shit you not).
- The salaries of cooks at the guesthouse (They make 2,000 shillings a day. That's one buck ladies and germs. One.)
- Esther's impending "Introduction" to Vincent, a de facto engagement party consisting of two families, several friends, a wedding announcement and lots of formal attire.
- Esther's sister, Baba, and her dream of one day becoming a housemaid in America.
- What I can cook and can't cook.
- Our favorite soft drinks
- Wild animals
- Other stuff I didn't really catch
At 2:30 I was 'given a push' back to the tarmac and a salivating Boda driver waiting to take me home. Esther's younger brother was washing our dishes on the front step as two toddlers chased each other with sticks.
I needed to unwind after watching "Eat, Pray, Love" during a rain storm a few hours later, so I took a jog up above campus to a nice bluff overlooking Nelson Mandela Stadium and several other of Kampala's volcanic hills. The last time I had run I literally got stuck in a peat bog, turning my nikes from white to purplish-brown in about three footsteps. This time I was a little more careful to follow the lay of the land and not end up in a pond of papyrus reeds and horse puckey.
After the run I came upon an official soccer game going on at the ballfields, replete with uniforms, fans and referees. So I walked into see what was going on. A few score of people were on both sidelines watching the orange and yellow pinnied teams traverse up and down the soggy pitch. I kept going to the furthest field to run some wind sprints. That is, until I came upon a most beautiful sight: teenagers with leather mitts, aluminum bats, a mesh backstop and balls flying everywhere.
And no. This wasn't a filming of "Romancing the Bone".
They were playing baseball. Kids. With 45 minutes of sunlight still washing the sky, I moved in closer. Was I in a dream? Were little Ugandans really playing catch? Fielding grounders? Taking BP? Making friends whiff with knuckle curves?
I had so many questions.
The batter was a precocious teen of about 15 or 16 years, smacking soft balls, rubber balls, tennis balls and anything else round and bouncy back into the sea of outfielders. He was wearing an English football jersey and an L.A. Angels baseball hat. Backwards.
"Are you guys always here? When do you play? Is this a team? Who teaches you? Would you guys mind if I come by some time? I've got a glove and a ball. Do you think I could pitch to you sometime???!"
I sounded like a school girl.
"We let you try now..."
The boy smiled and motioned me to home plate. Another kid handed me a 31 ounce bombat. Grip felt good in my hands. The pitcher had a twinkle in his eye. The sun was fading west over left center field.
And for the next ten minutes I got to step up to plate and make that cricket field rain with white smoke.
After whiffing on the first two of course.
I thanked them, found out their weekly schedule and gleefully chugged home, firm with the knowledge that anything can happen. Even baseball in East Africa on Halloween, as Game Four of the World Series gets set to begin 10,000 miles away.