My roots are in Uganda, where I was born and brought up from 1944-1954. My parents (Clement and Cecilie Pain) went to Uganda in 1935 and 1942 respectively and were married in Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala at the end of 1942. I was born while my father was Headmaster of Mbarara High School in south western Uganda. For two years, I went to boarding school in Kabale, close to the Rwanda border, until my parents returned to England in 1954 for my secondary education.
Julie Davidson, in her book called “Looking for Mrs Livingstone” (2012), talks about the concept of “The Lost Tribe of Africa”. The Lost Tribe is the white people of Africa, the Europeans who have made Africa their home in some way. It is an interesting concept which helps explain some of the feelings and tensions experienced by those who have a foot in two very different worlds. She says they know, “if they have any imagination, that they remain guests in the lands of their birth…. The lost tribe, most of them, remain hugely privileged when measured against the economic standards of their host countries,” a fact which certainly contributes to the tensions which I experience. “They don’t have the genes of the Kikuyu or Xhosa or Shona [or Iteso or Kumam], but an old fever runs in their blood like a virus transmitted from generation to generation.” This ‘virus’ certainly seems to have been transmitted at least to three of my grandchildren, Becky, Adam and Kate. Julie Davidson goes on to explain that “The French call it mal d’Afrique, an infection which only troubles [the Lost Tribe] when they lose for ever their handhold on the parental body of Africa, progenitor of us all. Its symptoms are not mere homesickness, more a form of separation anxiety. You don’t even have to be born in Africa to pick it up.” Those who have not been ‘infected’ in this way can probably never really understand how it feels to have been ‘infected’ – another cause of tension, and one of the reasons for writing my story.
There are four strands interweaving through my story of living, and searching for freedom, in two different cultures and continents. Because of this, I hope that a variety of people will find at least some aspects of my story interesting or perhaps even helpful, depending on their own backgrounds and interests and the depth to which they feel moved to engage with my story. The four strands are my family life and friendships; my work, both paid and voluntary; Uganda (especially my involvement since the late 1980s with Teso, a region in north eastern Uganda) and contact with other cultures; and fourthly, my faith journey. I am writing it in gratitude to God and to my family and the many people who have touched my life and enriched it. It is a celebration of more than seventy years of a privileged life with so many wonderful opportunities, experiences and relationships – too many to record in one book!
My links with Uganda encompass five generations over more than eighty years. I owe so much to my parents for giving me my roots in Uganda; to my present family (especially Roger) for allowing me to continue to belong there; to many people in Teso and elsewhere in Uganda for their friendship and love; and to my grandchildren who are developing a love for Teso already which may well last into the future.
My story has not always been easy to write. A recurring theme throughout is my searching and longing for freedom. I have tried to be honest, but there have been constraints. Some events involve others and are too painful to write about in detail. I can be very challenging and outspoken and have often fought for change and for things which I believe matter for other people or are part of God’s will. This is costly, stressful and isolating as it usually brings me into conflict with others and causes me much self-doubt, confusion and anguish, especially in the long, dark night hours of sleeplessness. Over the past eighteen years, I have also struggled with clinical depression and anxiety exacerbated by stressful situations. I sometimes hate myself because of a sense of failure or shame as I try to make sense of the situations and understand how much I am to blame. To what extent is the stress the inevitable consequence of standing up for what I believe passionately is right or because of working towards improving and changing situations which are less than perfect? Has God been able to use my personality and experiences, perhaps sometimes in a prophetic role, despite my weaknesses? Although these stressful times of conflict have been painful for Roger as well, he has been consistently supportive even though he might not always have done or said things in the same way!
It has been an honour and privilege to be so completely accepted in two very different cultures. Love has been the key – mutual love and the shared love of God. Because of the ambivalent relationship I had with my mother, I never take for granted or cease to be amazed and deeply touched by the openness of my own children and the way they love me and want to include me in their lives – I never thought this would happen and am so grateful to them.
I have written my story as a way of giving thanks and credit to my family and friends in England and to my friends in Teso who have become a second family as they have made Teso my second home. I thank God for calling, leading and guiding me throughout. I hope my story will also help to provide a personal historical record which may be of interest to future generations of my family as well as a record of some of the events and developments of Uganda and Teso since the 1960s.
I am dedicating these memoirs to my eight wonderful grandchildren whom I love very much and am so proud of: Becky, Sam, Suzie, Adam, Maddie, Katie, Libby and Amelia. Some of them, at least, seem to have been infected already with the mal d’Afrique ‘virus’. I hope my story will help them understand better their origins on one side of their family at least.