I met her when I was in Uganda. I was there on vacation. It was during the summer and I had always wanted to visit Uganda because of its ecotourism. I wanted to go along the Nile River and to take a cultural tour. There are lots of forests and national parks where I could see leopards, elephants, cheetahs and other wildlife. However, what I was really excited about was going gorilla trekking. What an adventure that would be. I’m a professional photographer, so I plan to take lots and lots of photos.
I had just had left my hotel and was walking through the streets, soaking up the sounds and sights when I saw her. She was in front of me. I stopped. She was standing there, looking at me. I walked up to her. I said, “Habari,” which is hello is Swahili. “
She didn’t answer. She just stood there, looking at me. Perhaps, she didn’t like me because I was a foreigner. I didn’t let that bother me. Removing my camera from around my neck, I asked, “Naomba nikupige picha?” I wasn’t sure of what her reaction would be. Was it out of the norm for a tourist to ask to take photos of a local? Perhaps, she might be offended.
“Why do you want to take photos of me?” she demanded in English.
Although I could speak Swahili, I was relieved that she spoke English. “I’m a photographer,” I explained. “I take photos of places, people, nature.”
“Why do you want to take my photo?”
“Because I think you’re beautiful and you’re a local.”
She looked unimpressed and very suspicious. “What are you going to do with the photos?”
“Well, I was hoping to publish them in my publication, with your permission, of course. You, see I own a travel magazine.”
“How do I know that you’re telling the truth? How do I know that you’re not trying to trick me?”
I reached into the pocket of my jeans and retrieved a business card which I held out to her. “Here’s my card.”
After a slight hesitation, she took it and examined it carefully. “Wanderlust? That’s a strange name for a magazine,” she remarked.
I smiled sheepishly. “Yes, I know but it’s for people who love to travel. It’s in their blood.”
“Oh. And you’re one of those people?”
“I used to be.”
“And your name is Adriano Maffetti. You’re Italian.”
“Yes. What’s your name?”
“Why do you want to know my name?”
“Well, you know mine. You know what sort of work I do. You know more about me than I know about you. I think you can at least tell me your first name.”
“What does it mean?”
“It means ‘peace’ in Ugandan.”
She hesitated and then, she asked, “What does Adriano mean?”
“It means, man from Adria.”
A puzzled expression came over her face. “Adria?”
“Adria is a town in the Veneto region of northern Italy.”
“Is that where you’re from?”
“It’s where my parents are from. I was born in England.”
“So, you’re from England.”
“Yes. I live in London.”
“Is it much different from Kampala?”
“Well, they’re both the largest cities in their respective countries. Kampala is East Africa’s best city to live in and London is is one of the world’s most important global cities and is the most visited, the most expensive and the most popular city to work in. Say, why don’t we go to café and I can tell you more about London?”
“I thought you wanted to take my photos.”
“I do. Does this mean you’re giving me your permission?”
Thrilled beyond words, I thanked her and then, gave her some direction. She was a natural and the camera loved her. The time seemed to fly. Half-hour later, I closed my camera and slung it around my neck. “Thank you, Dembe.”
She smiled for the first time. “I’ve never had my photo taken by a professional photographer before.”
“I’ll be sure to send you a complimentary copy of Wanderlust so that you can see how amazing you look.”
“You can send it to the post office nearby and I’ll pick it up.”
“All right. I’ll do that. Now, how about joining me for a latte or cappuccino while I tell you more about London?”
“All right. There’s a café just around the corner.”
We went to Coffee At Last and spent hours there, just talking about London, Kampala, my work as a photographer and other things.