I AM WHO I AM. By Victor Lugala
The inimitable Ernest Hemingway would have envied this declarative sentence.
This morning Juba is pleasantly windy. Last night it almost rained. In fact, some neighbourhoods received some drizzles. It is cooler today than yesterday.
At the wall of the foot of the mountain the magical words are stenciled in huge white letters. I wonder how the sign writer managed to climb up there to print the words on the rock billboard. The words are eye catching.
This morning I decide not to hike. I'm sort of observing the social distancing regime. So I jaywalk and jog up and down the narrow path as if heading to Lukwilili squatter. I'm doing what the Olympiad Kalenjin boys and girls of the Rift Valley do better. The wind carries voices of squatters who live around here. They are the quarry masters. Here and there you can hear the metallic knock of hammer or pickaxe upon a rock. Some young men are rolling stones down to be collected into a heap. Tipper trucks which have seen days drive and park at the foot of the mountain to load and cart away stones to building sites. Elsewhere an old car tyre is propped against a rock. They use this to burn the rocks in the evening so they can splinter and crack for easy quarrying. The rocks from this mountain are used for building Juba's highrise buildings. I'm told the Arabs also took cargo-loads to Khartoum when the Sudan was still Sudan. I miserably dare some two young guys who have been running up and down a steep slab. I'm told they are amateur boxers. "You didn't hike the mountain today?" One of them asks me. "Today I want to try something else," I say to them. They tell me they will hike tomorrow morning. I shrug and add, "I could join you." They are resting and conversing. They look tired. They were here before sunrise. I decide to lie with my back pressed on the rock. I feel good. I gaze into space, the window to heaven. There no birds flying. No airplanes either. Juba International Airport is closed. The airspace is clear. The wind sweeps by and I breathe deep like a fake yogi. The two amateur boxers descend and walk away. I rise and walk up and down the steep rock. I feel like an amateur boxer myself. 'Sting like a bee!' "Lugala," I hear someone shout my name. I look down. Ah, it is Emmanuel Augustino J. Kulang and his two buddies in shorts. They walk leisurely as if they are tourist bird watchers. "Where is the path?" Emmanuel asks. They are going to climb the the mountain. "First time?" I ask. He nods. I shout the direction to him the South Sudanese way. "Look," I say, pointing westward. " Follow that path up to the big church (oba synagogue?), then turn left before the church. When you look up the mountain you will see people following each other (in a slow motion column). They disappear into the mountain and I walk into the hila.