When I returned to Uganda this Sunday after two weeks of visiting family and sleeping on my grandmother's couch, a copy of the previous day's Saturday Monitor rested on my coffee table. I opened it and flipped through, keen to read more about these Mengo arrests and to see what else didn't make the RSS feed.
About a quarter of the way through the paper, a story on fisherman in Jinja using dead bodies as bait caught my eye. I pulled out the page, thinking I would save it, possibly to look into doing a story on this at a later date, which is actually unlikely, and more likely just because it would fit well with my ever-expanding pile of quirky and unbelievable news clips from local Ugandan papers.
I checked what was on the other side of the newsprint. It was a story by Dennis Muhumuza, aka, Country Boy, which began with a quote from a story I wrote about a year ago on women writers in Uganda:
When Monica Arac de Nyeko won the Caine Prize for Literature in 2007, a Daily Monitor reporter then, Glenna Gordon, drew on other women writers celebrated internationally who are members of the Uganda women writers’ association (Femrite) – the Uganda women writers association, and wrapped up her argument: “For once, the women are at the head of the pack and the men are limping behind, manuscripts in hand.”I hadn't read a Ugandan daily in two weeks and when I did pick one up, and pulled out a random page, something I'd written almost exactly a year ago was on the other side.
I thought about the original story and the response it got - both on this blog and other places. I looked through my archive and found this extended post dedicated to responding to Ernest Bazanye. I thought about how I would have responded differently now than I did a year ago, and how I would have started the process differently as well.
There were things I know now that I didn't know then - like that many people don't take Austin Ejiet all that seriously and that quoting him only discredited me. Or that I really dislike Moses Isegawa's writing and wouldn't have mentioned him at all since I think he's not a very good writer, just the writer from Uganda that most people outside of Africa have heard of the most often.
Mostly, I laughed a bit about how seriously I took myself then and how I thought I knew so much about Uganda. I'd lived here for almost a year at that point, after all, I was no two-week tourist.
Now, another year later, ready to clock my two years in Uganda this fall, I still think I know a lot and I still take myself too seriously. I get angry when the mainstream media writes about Uganda but excludes things I know to be true (see today's Washington Post cover story, which completely neglects important research on the re-integration of child soliders), or when friends back home ask me if I wash my clothes in the river (I don't, but I also don't live near a river).
Encountering the article on a day filled with the kind of reflections that only coming and going can evoke, I thought about how much more I might know in another year, or another year after that, and how I'll look back at the work I'm now doing and see the holes and shortcomings, as much as I see these things in the work of other people.
I thought about how what I write contributes to a public record, and to Google, and though I will never know as much as I will a year later, I wondered if any of the pieces I'm working on now might be quoted in a year and how I might feel about it then.
I wrote a 100th post that felt monumental. This post feels somehow important and reflective, but maybe in a I-know-how-much-I-don't-know way and in a less monumental, more human-remains-oriented way.