Gayaza, Uganda

“Here Maylynn -You can drive,” Kato tells me a few moments after we pull away from a home full of beautiful memories and people. Kato doesn’t miss a beat -the sadness was overwhelming as I had to say goodbye to Jjajja, and the children she took care of, and he knew driving was a good way to get my mind quickly onto other things. Driving in Uganda was especially a distraction 🙂

Jjajja is grandmother in Luganda. It is not uncommon to see these strong women taking care of their grandchildren and children of other family members. Many of these children have lost their parents or have been left with them by women who have had affairs with their sons. What may initially seem as coldness, on the part of the mother who abandons her own child, quickly becomes understandable. If the mother is unable to take care of her child, for whatever reason, she knows instinctively that Jjajjas will treat her child as their own if not better than the angry wife of her lover.

“OK!” I laughed and jumped into the driver’s seat to take on Kato’s playful challenge. I welcomed the distraction and it wasn’t until a little while later, once my thoughts were no longer on what I was leaving and suddenly on where I was going and what I was actually doing, did i realize that my sadness had not gone unnoticed by Kato’s attentive nature.

Kato is my friend’s driver. Her husband insisted and even though my friend has mastered the roads -she still relies heavily on Kato’s skills. In Luganda, twin boys are always called Wasswa and Kato. Wasswa is the firstborn and Kato is the second-born. Kato knows how to maneuver through the Kampalan roads and he’s THE man you want by your side when it comes to shopping. He can bargain for the best deals if you need something and if the traffic cops stop us or parking attendants push for more money -I am always amazed at how smooth Kato is when it comes to getting us out of situations or bringing down the fees. “Kato has friends everywhere!” the young girls giggle as they tell me about their friend. “Everywhere you go -Kato is talking to someone.” So I started to pay attention and sure enough whenever we were ready to move onto our next destination our quiet Kato was always deep in conversation with someone.

For the most part Kato is quiet yet every morning he would smile and shake his head, laughing at me as I would race into the car, often juggling my breakfast with all that I needed for the day. Nothing gets past Kato and he is always laughing along with me when I race back to the car to secretly turn around potentially embarrassing moments -like shirts inside out or flip flops instead of sandals for important meetings.

Kato speaks Luganda, Kurwanda, French and English..oh and Swahili. Kato knows that I am determined to learn Swahili so every morning I am thrown new words and tested through the day as he throws on cool new Ugandan tunes to listen to and helps me remember my favourite artists. Kato loves music, he loves to play the guitar and takes care of his son and his father. He dreams of heading back to Rwanda to visit his mother. Till then – he would love to own his own car and run his own driving business. I know he will one day because he is a mover and a shaker. Within a week of suggesting that he should have business cards made to pass around -Kato proudly handed me a small pile of business cards!

KATO +256 776898469

My friend’s children love him and quickly as the days whip by and he tells us he will miss us – I realize we will miss him, too. Especially when we jump into our cars in Canada and no one is there to take care of us and to laugh along with us as we move through our crazy days.

Bet you’re wondering how I fared on the Kampalan roads? No Ugandans lost their lives that day and no boda bodes were ditched! Surprisingly not as stressful as the first time I got behind the wheel with my friend but the roads in Nansana were not as forgiving as the roads in Gayaza. I was pretty proud of myself that I made it through their roundabout without crashing into anyone but when Kato finally said he would take over -I did not fight him off. That was enough high for me for one day!

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