On the Heels of the Hill

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Chapter 25: I eat the first Nsenene

At 5am, Nalongo was at the bus station to send the letter and some nsenene to her husband in Kampala. She needed to let the husband know that the nsenene season had come, so they needed to prepared for what had always come after the nsenene season, hunger and famine as most crops had been and more were still to be destroyed and diseases such as cough, flue and a number of fevers for those that picked nsenene in the rain. She needed some more medicine so she could make some money treating the sick and the wounded. She needed the husband to plan and maybe save for some posho and rice. The agricultural produce wasn’t going to be very good that season. The millet wasn’t going to be ready for the next few months and the cassava and potatoes were going to rot in the gardens prematurely. Banana trees would fall anytime soon since most of them had been stripped naked by nsenene pickers. That ’wasn’t enough, but Nalongo didn’t have to write to her husband about it. She was just concerned as a parent, that most children fail their promotional exams because of nsenene and she had emphasized it when Darius had failed the previous year and she punished him severely, made Darius a good pupil since, which attracted the head teacher to consider her for a position on the schools committee.

The letter was going to take some good time to reach the husband who always checked at the bus park in Kampala once every week but she knew he would eventually receive it and the nsenene.

The Leyland bus came rumbling and stumbling on the gravel. It could be heard like a mile away. Its noisy sound and moon like lights could be heard and seen becoming louder and bright respectively as the bus closed in to the stage. It pulled off at the stage where Nalongo, other women sending Omwaka to their husbands and passengers waited. The other people boarded and Nalongo and the other women gave their nsenene to the conductor of the bus to take them to their husbands. Some of these women had sent their Omwaka through some of the passengers. Nalongo gave her letter to conductor. The conductor read the address of the letter and nodded. He folded it and slipped it into his pocked before receiving a kavera full of nsenene from Nalongo, which had also been marked with the same names and address like on the letter. The Leyland bus pulled away leaving behind a polluted dawn. Nalongo and the other women started walking back home as they talked about when the nsenene will reach their husbands, where in Kampala they lived and so on. They had walked a very short distance and they met Kengoma, running to her gardens so early. As usual she left home before the rats could cross the paths going back to their hiding places during the day. One of the women teased Kengoma,

“Kengoma you are not picking nsenene today?” Kengoma looked as if she had been hit by lightening. She stopped walking and all the women laughed except Nalongo who said, “Its fine Kengoma, you can relax. No nsenene today.” It was getting to six and plan ululation was heard on Buzina.

“Ensenene, ensenene, ensenene ikohireeeeeeeeeee” Kengoma decided to hide her hoe in the nearest thickets close to the major footpath to Buzina. She followed the women back to Buzina only to find no nsenene after searching the dewy grasses for an hour. The other women and Nalongo went back to their homes and minded their businesses. The fights and cries and drama were all gone and village suffered a shocking silence which was going to be broken in a very few days. The nsenene season had started, changed the village on the first day and it was still going on for the whole of November, December and part January.

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