A pleasant faced askari readily unlocked the gate, checked my bag and let me through with a little banter and I wished him a nice day – but only verbally where he probably hoped for more.
I climbed up the staircase with that early morning vim and vigour of a man addressing a mountain trusting in the presence of a large prize at the top – in this case, my first fruitful meeting of the day punctuated by a good hotel breakfast.
A few metres into the climb I stopped, breathless; not because of what you would suspect if you saw my numbers on a weighing scale, but because of the sight that caught my eyes just then.
That staircase has been in existence probably from before my childhood and has always had a strip of garden running down its middle. I can recall the sight of some of the flowers in that garden from way back then
I have taken more to gardening these days for a number of reasons, and last year had a very disappointing experience with a packet of marigolds that sprouted massive stalks that bore absolutely no flowers.
Here, in that Sheraton strip, I saw a bunch of healthy marigolds and wistfully touched one for a few seconds when I realised what was before me and that’s when my breath caught in my throat.
Next to the marigolds were a couple of fennel stalks, and some lettuce, and coriander, and a type of cabbage, and above that some mint…
I was a little confused yet felt a tingle of excitement; some time in December I stayed over at a vineyard in South Africa where they had a spice garden that looked exactly like this! And I spent a couple of evenings there breathing in the air and inspiration to work harder at my own.
And now here I found that my own Sheraton Kampala had implemented the very same! On closer inspection, I noticed that some of the spices and vegetables had been snipped the way my own at home are because I frequently pick bits for use in the kitchen.
As usual, my thoughts were on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook within minutes, and some people declared that this had been going on for a year and was the pet project of the hotel chef (not the despicable fellow of the Matooke Revolution of a while back!)
I was flummoxed, and could not even begin to explain how there was wealth amid all that dust, considering that simple internet searches put 250grammes of Mint Tea at close to US$20!
Minutes after his goats and emopim comment, the same fellow lamented to me about how hard his life was, and I couldn’t blame him because obviously nobody was telling him about the value of herbs and spices.