a loosening grip

To claim a place as your own is natural.

I claimed Karamoja quickly, calling it mine before it even knew my name. Hoping that the vast difference between new life and old would be nothing short of spectacular, I stepped forward, embracing growth.

Uganda is a label that I took with me when I moved west. Introducing myself as if it were my last name. At first it was a way to explain why I seemed different. Why I felt different. But eventually, it was simply a means of clinging to the fragment of myself that I knew so well.

The comfortable familiarity of a cultural hand shake,  the sound of young shepherd boys herding cows inside the village after a day in the fields, the taste rice, beans and royco.

I've seen children born in the dirt and heat; I've hidden from gunfire in both day and night. 

The difficulty about claiming a place for your own, is that, sooner or later, you have to admit that a single place can rarely define anyone forever. I spent four years in Karamoja; but now its been just over four years since I left, and I can no longer seem to justify  introducing myself with Uganda as my surname. My relationship with Karamoja takes far more explaining than it used to. How do you explain yourself in a sentence or two without using the one word that, you thought, mattered the most?

I am left with phrases like, "I used to live," and  "I once..." These words hint at incompleteness. And while I do not feel as incomplete, or as troubled, as perhaps, these reflections suggest, I am left slightly unsettled. I know I will never loose my right to claim Nakaale as my own...but I am certain that I must loosen my grip.


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