Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Beginnings in Uganda

I moved into my new home ten days after arriving in Kampala. The Magnay Builders were still finishing off the work on the house though the rain was pelting down, undoing some of the work they had done before the end of each day. Behind the house, the loose mud flooded down into the kitchen garden and sometimes into the kitchen itself.

   Our Project Team Leader, Madge, who had lived in Uganda for decades had arranged a maid for me. Grace, who lived with me for five years and became a dear friend. In that time, she learned to read and write, had two babies and became an adept cook and house-manager. 

   I remember, one day, playing tennis at the American Recreation Association and inviting a horde of men and women for dinner at the end of the day. I merely phoned Grace (the cheek of it!) and told her how many would arrive for the meal. When I got home with the crowd at seven in the evening, there were fresh flowers in the vases, new towels in the bathroom and a full Indian meal ready for all of us. 

   When I left Uganda in 1994, my expatriate friends were queueing up to employ Grace. She 'interviewed' them and picked one, but her relationship, almost mother and daughter with me, had spoiled her for a strictly madam-and-maid situation. Later, she left her first employer and found another. Sometimes I talked to Grace on the phone, from Zambia, where I was working on another project. She died of AIDS a few years later, still under thirty years old.

   So many of my friends and colleagues have succumbed to AIDS since I left Uganda. Grace and many like her did not know how they could have avoided it. There were no anti-retroviral drugs then. And nobody talked about it either.

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