Family tree

family treeLet’s start with the people, whose multiple names and relationships confused me so much I tried to get one of the kids to draw me a family tree. It hasn’t helped much, but this much I know:

There is Daudi or David, the father (and the head of the family, I am reminded by the others), who has been running a poultry medicine business for 20 years. He is wiry and probably looks older than he is, maintains a quiet presence in the house and even sits on the floor sometimes. He and his wife (Rose or Nera), who spends most of the time in the kitchen and sits only when everyone has been served, speak little English, and confer worriedly among themselves in Luganda when I don’t finish the three dishes piled high with beans, banana and pork they place in front of me.

There is Mama, David’s sister, who speaks good English and who is here for a few days on my behalf, to help us communicate; normally she lives in another part of the town with her blind mother. Mama’s son (or nephew? I’m still not sure) is Mosses, who’s married to Hajjera; they have four kids. Mosses, a mechanical engineer, has just come back from two years’ working in Afghanistan. He’ll leave again soon, probably; in the meantime, he visits the house with two suitcases full of laptop and speakers and cables so we can all watch music videos in the living room, and with his Kindle – 700 books on it, he tells me.

There is Robert, a cousin who lives with us too; he has siblings, but ‘no parents’, Mama tells me, and works seven days a week for a betting shop though he trained as a plumber. It’s hard to set up a plumbing business because most people – like this household – just ‘have traditional bathrooms’ – self-built sanitation systems that work just fine with buckets and gravity.

There are the four kids of David: Marie, who is met by Robert every evening when she returns home long after dark, from school. Charles was meant to go to school yesterday, but was sent home because he hadn’t paid his fees for the term. Jennifer, 9 years old, sings Beatles songs, washes the dishes, and helps me fill my Luganda vocab book. The youngest, little Daudi, also known as Mukasa or David, bumbles around contentedly, occasionally coughing a loud rasping cough. Goodnight, he says to me (from the other side of the room, because the family all tell him not to get too close to me in case I get sick too). Goodnight, I reply. No! he corrects me: ‘Likewise’.

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