The name of the town is Winchester. I liked it immediately. How could I not? Thinking of Annie Oakley and the guns, my almost-forty-year-old camper with Wyoming plates fit in easily. For no other reason in particular except for the heritage of the name Winchester. Sometimes that's all it takes. One word.
The coffee shop reminded me of Denver. Records in the half-basement just off the stairs leading to the front counter. Skateboard decks and custom limited-edition silk screen music venue prints hangin’ on the wall. The lighting was perfect. Warm and amber placed strategically throughout the room. Plants – succulents – in terracotta pots next to the metal-grate security backed window. Oriental throw rug on the polished concrete floor. Couches (of course); eight-person table in the middle of the room; all beneath an exposed beamed ceiling. The wood weathered and water damaged – the type of beauty only time can achieve.
The space was conducive to taking a moment to process my thoughts and get it all down on digital format, not paper.
A week or two ago, the woman walked into the Bluemont store wearing a shirt that read:
“I’d rather be scared to death than bored to death.”
~Adrift Rafting Jinja, Uganda
I inquired about the shirt to fully read the quote. The woman proudly proclaimed to me, “I went rafting down the Nile.” My response was unimpressed. I too, once had the opportunity to raft the Nile….
Opportunity being the key word here. I had the opportunity but turned it down. Couldn’t do it with a clear conscience.... at least not after knowing what I knew.
I held my tongue when I wanted to inform her I was led through a slum in Kampala by a young man of about twenty years old. He was from Northern Uganda. He arrived in the city years ago walking by foot as a young child. The Lord’s Resistance Army killed his parents.
His name was Moses.
I’ve written about this before and told the story countless times. It made a huge impact on my life. I can still remember the smell of shit in the air and open sewage running by our feet as we talked. In the back of my mind I couldn’t fully process how Moses could possibly live in a place like this Kampala slum; I wanted to leave as soon as possible.
I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to hide in the bush as your parents are killed. I still can’t imagine it but the difference now is I know these things happen all the time. This is what is going on in the world.
And I would never want to white-water raft the Nile.
And I definitely wouldn’t buy and wear a shirt to prove that I did.
Shortly after the encounter with the woman in the Bluemont store the Washington Post ran a story on the child soldiers of South Sudan. South Sudan – you know – Africa’s newest country sitting just to the north of Gulu District?
Mama is the name of one of the retired child soldiers. But I couldn’t read the story. Or, at least, I didn’t read the story fully because I know it too well these days. It’s a struggle for me to make it through the lines. It was a struggle for me to make it through the lines of the story telling about the men from Argentina plowed down in NYC.
They wore shirts of white proclaiming words of freedom.
Libre…. That’s Spanish.
Livre…. That’s Portuguese.
The difference of one letter is determined by political boundaries alone. Maybe geography has a little to do with it as well. It depends on if your area was conquered by the Spanish or Portuguese. Or maybe you fought for your independence the way Catalonia is fighting for it now. I suppose somehow Portugal held onto their sovereignty. I haven’t yet learned that story. But sovereignty…. see the rain in there?
And maybe you were hidden by the jungles and held your native tongue.
Learning the French word liberté only after walking kilomètres to attend school.
That’s the vaovao.
That’s all I have for now.
I know it’s abrupt but that’s how I roll.
... that’s Mandarin for “out”.