“Some people have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to do when all they really need is one reason why they can.” –Willis Whitney
A few hours are all I had to make the decision. Should I cancel the reservations? Flight. Hotel. Writing retreat. Appointments. The pressure at work had been mounting and a number of issues screamed for immediate attention. Five days away would push things to the brink. I thought.
The antique wood panel wall clock above the desk in my study, a gift from a friend, chimed softly. Midnight. I had crafted the first email. I read through it again, reclining on the chair, staring at the ceiling, in deep contemplation. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do. Not just because it would grossly inconvenience other people, but also that deep down, I felt this trip was essential.
Should the relentless drift of events decide for me? No, it would have to be my choice.
Turning to the laptop, I selected the freshly typed message explaining why I wouldn’t be traveling. Send or delete? I hesitated. Intuition kicked in. I overwrote the message by typing:
“See you soon.”
The flight touched down at Entebbe airport past midnight on the following day. I had not contacted my regular cabbie in Kampala, hoping to try the newly launched Uber cab service. Would there be free Wi-Fi at the airport? Phew. I tapped the Uber icon on my mobile phone immediately the unsmiling rotund immigration official handed the passport back.
“No cars available.” I refreshed and tapped again. Nothing.
I stepped out into the mild Entebbe temperatures. There may have been more taxi drivers outside the arrivals gate than the passengers on the flight. He stood out. Probably in his mid-sixties and just about 5 feet 7 inches. He may have been an athlete in days gone by. The pepper-salted beard, a grin that revealed two copper-plated premolar teeth on the upper jaw, and a curious glow from his sparkling bright eyes caught my attention.
He greeted with a hand hug.
“First time in Uganda?”
“Not at all. I used to visit frequently a few years ago.”
“Welcome back, sir.”
He offered to help with the rolling briefcase as we strolled to the parking lot.
Joachim talked about family, politics, business and football with passion and ease. The same way he maneuvered the 90s Toyota Camry through the midnight traffic around the busy entertainment hotspots dotting Entebbe Road.
“You’re my first customer today,” he said, with no sign of disappoinment, as the car crawled to a stop outside the hotel entrance.
“The car was in the garage all day. Engine problem.”
“Glad it’s back on the road and you’re giving me a ride in it.”
“I prayed for a customer. Thanks for your business.”
Would it be possible to be served breakfast early morning? I inquired from the receptionist upon checking in, unsure if it was appropriate to make such a request at 1 a.m. She obliged.
The cab driver’s words replayed in my mind as I snuggled happily under covers and turned the lights out.
I had prayed for a customer… Thanks for your business.
The phone rang. 6:28 am. I scrambled from the shower and tried to answer in my best voice. Breakfast was ready.
I arrived at the Ggaba beach, on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, at 9 a.m. Just in time for the boat ride to Bulago Island, venue of the writers’ retreat. I reunited with the acclaimed Jackee Batanda, and met award-winning Ronald Musoke, lawyer cum rights activist Jackie Asiimwe, queen of literature Crystal Rutangye, and the indefatigable photojournalist, Zahara Abdul. We made a team and were bound together in a boat, a speedboat. At times during the 90-minute ride, it felt like the boat would send us flying into the vast waters as we rode up and over the waves. With a bunch of writers though, a bumpy ride was a thrill to cherish and a thing to write about, at a later time.
The choice of venue by Jackee, owner of Success Spark Brand, was a masterstroke. The island’s idyllic landscapes, indigenous plants, tens of bird species, nature trails, and palm-lined white sandy beaches, make it the perfect writer’s escape. For a few days, we ‘owned’ this jewel of a tropical paradise. And despite being laden with writing assignments, we still had time to hang out, enjoy conversations, work out, watch the spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and savor out-of-this-world culinary delights from master chef Alex. Oh, and lots of laughter too. Writing has its own rewards.