I wonder what it must feel like to be away from home for the very first time in one’s life. What does it feel like to wake up from that first nap, after a tiring matatu ride from Entebbe to Kampala, then another one from the taxi park to Kamwokya, to find that the only person you know, the one person who can provide some sort of explanation for this sudden back flip the world just did has disappeared.
What is it like to wake up in the middle of the night as a 20-month-old little girl to ask for chai, like you have been doing for the last one year, to realise the people responding to your cry are strangers with anger in their movements for having been woken up?
What’s it like when one learns, rudely, that not every one thinks one is all that; that babies do not have special status here and “if you think you are special, go on back home to your mama”?
Crying for the sake of crying can only be done in the secure confines of your home where your mama and papa will get annoyed but they’ll tolerate you. That’s where your every sound, your every cry is clearly understood for what it is.
So on some days, you can cry because you are frustrated with this pair of trousers you are trying to put on but the damn thing keeps on moving away and your foot keeps sliding amiss. Your parents will understand that and they will indulge you.
On other occasions, you might be uncomfortable because you can’t breath fine. And when one of them comes to your bedroom, they’ll understand and they won’t get too angry. You can stand the stern “shut up.”
But how does a 20-month-old behave in a completely new place with absolute strangers, not even able to ask where Mummy and Papa are since she cannot speak intelligibly?