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“How is life?”

On Friday afternoon I opted out of joining the rest of the group on a walk along Lake Victoria and a nature trail. I spent my time laying on the beach and allowing the sun to toast my skin. I listened to music. Channel Orange was fitting for my mood, as I was lost in the heat of it all. I spent another few hours reading James Baldwin’s Just Above My Head, devouring each page with the bird’s chirping around me. After finishing an ice cold Tusker lager, I decided to sit in the water and soak up the serenity in front of me. The water was relatively still and only three small clouds lingered above me. As I was there alone, in paradise with my thoughts, writing excerpts on love in my head, I noticed a canoe that would be passing in front of me shortly.

As he got closer, I could see the lone rider of the canoe. The sun’s work was present on his skin. The coal complected skin was pulled taut on clearly visible muscles. With each stroke of his oar, the muscles became more defined, even from a distance. I could see the sweat glistening on his front and back. As I watched him cross in front of me, I let out a “Good Morning”. I then realized it was afternoon. He instinctively began speaking Luganda. He didn’t pick up on my mzungu accent. I promptly informed him that I did not speak Luganda. He replied, “you don’t speak Luganda? How are you?” I responded, “Good. How are you?” He responded, “I’m fine.” as they always do in English. I’ve yet to meet a Ugandan that is not “fine”.

As he continued his strokes and moved passed me, not allowing my frivolous conversation to take him off track, he asked, “How is life?” I smiled. Tickled by this simple assertion, I replied, “life is good.” I in turn asked him, “how is life?”

I am not sure if he heard me, nor if he responded as he never stopped moving and his effort being complemented by the current did not allow for our conversation to continue. He was a fisherman. I watched him for a while as he dropped his net into the lake. He kept moving, eventually out of site. I was left wondering, how would he have responded to, “How is life?”

How would you?

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