Mugusu Market and Joshua's School, Weds July 2

We went to Mugusu Market, located about 6 miles south of Fort Portal on the road to Kasese, in the shadow of the Rwenzori Mountains. This is a very large and popular farm and home market. Featured are brilliantly colored fabrics from the Congo. But it turned out that import levies have recently risen, so the highest quality fabrics are no longer easy to find, their prices having risen quite a bit.

A group of wizened women said yes, I could photograph them with their beans for sale, but I would have to pay them 20,000 shillings ($15) to do so. That’s about 20 times as much as I was willing to pay, so we didn’t even get to the stage of negotiating.

Some of the group bought small hand drums, many bought fabric and dresses. We had three of our Ugandan friends along to help with reality checks on prices and quality, and a good thing.

We had a midday lunch at the Mountains of the Moon resort hotel just outside Fort Portal. It’s a magnificent British colonial hotel - perfect as a set for certain kinds of movies - that has undergone major renovations recently. Everything about the place echoed of my days in India, in particular my times at the West End Hotel in Bangalore. The gulf between this edifice and the people just outside its gates is enormous, just as in India. But the clientele here is mostly Ugandan, it appears, which is another welcome indicator that Uganda, among the African nations, is relatively prosperous and stable.

Joshua Kagaba had fairly casually invited some or all of us back to his Fort Portal Secondary School this afternoon. He himself had to leave town to oversee a track and field event in eastern Uganda, yet another energetic and wide-ranging rocket in his pocket. A few of us went at 3, expecting to interact with students again as on Monday. Instead, we were greeted with a massive sound system through which came the booming announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we have all been awaiting has finally arrived!!". We were let into the compound by security guards. There were about 1,500 people – students and adults – packed around the central courtyard in crowds and under tents, in a tumult of welcoming noise. We entered like rock stars, waving and smiling, walking among the dancers to our seats in one of the tents.

There was dancing like none we've seen before in Uganda. The music was a mixture of Ugandan-flavored rock and roll, rap, reggae, and traditional East African. Kids in costumes danced wildly and suggestively, yet stylishly still. Interleaved with performances were anthems, prayers, introductions, speeches, gifts of fabric and clothes, and food. It was spectacular.

Most spectacular were Akugizibwe Israel’s dancing and speaking. This man cannot stand up. His legs bend backwards and his arms are inoperative. But he danced vigorously and inspiringly, in a group, in the traditional fashion with gourd rattles on his lower legs. The crowd roared again and again as he did amazing and unexpected flips and turns that were powered by only his legs. Dozens of people, young and old, male and female, ran out from the pressing crowd to give him money in praise and to dance with him for a moment. No other dancer we’d seen to date (and there have been many) ever got more than two donations.

Soon after his dance performance Israel made his speech, crouched on his legs and leaning forward, his head nearly on the ground. The master of ceremonies held the microphone. Israel spoke calmly and eloquently about the ways and means with which he and his peers seek to advance in their educations and careers.

There's another image of Israel in the June 30 entry below. When he's seated on a platform or table as he is in that image, he gestures with his feet as he speaks, just like one would with arms and hands.

Later I talked with Israel in person. He wants to be a lawyer and has a chance to go to college in Ireland. He doesn’t know yet what kind of financial support he might get. If things go well, he will start college next year in a 5-year program that will prepare him for the 7-month study program leading to the bar exam.

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