Monday, August 4, 2014

The Transported Teen Writes:
How I Became a Mzungu Manicurist and My First Impressions of Uganda

“So I said to my girlfriend, ‘My stars, I bet people sure are interesting. I’m sure you get to meet lots of interesting people.’ Now let’s dip our mani’s in the water”
-Bugs Bunny impersonating a manicurist

The scenery is not what I expected. I thought it would be more jungle, like Belize, where Dora and I visited two years ago. It’s actually a bit like home, minus the mountains, there’s tall weeds, tall trees but every now and then you’ll find the occasional exotic plant, random cow or bird who does monkey impressions. It seems pretty normal on base but once you get high enough, the view is incredible! If you’ve seen The Lion King, you’ll remember the part when Simba and Timon and Pumba meet. They show Simba the view from a tremendous mountain and all the jungle is laid out around them like a tropical paradise. The similarities are striking. The only difference is how Lake Victoria dominates the territory, blue as the sky and almost as big. The sight reminds you of God’s magnificence, taller than the mountains, deeper than the lakes.

Our house is quite comfortable considering the circumstances. It resembles a large storage shed, completely concrete and with two broken, wood frame windows, and with furniture in it. Our bathrooms have actual toilets! One who has not used a squatty-potty could not possibly understand the joy this gives me. So far, I have not had to use one and I’d like to keep it that way as long as possible though I know that dream may be short-lived. The kid’s room has animals and food painted around the top of the walls like crown molding. Maybe the artist only had a vague impression of what food looks like because the bananas are similar to bird feet and the pineapple could be mistaken for a very fat carrot.

Mom describes the afternoon heat as wearing clothes fresh from the dryer on a spring day. It’s warm but not swelteringly uncomfortable. The weather is almost always the same with the exception of an occasional rain. I think I’ve learned the true meaning of torrents. The rain falls in waves, just a little, then a lot, little, lot, little, lot, etc. We’ve only had a few nights of showers but the rainy season is on its way. It gets dark very fast! The sun starts setting at 6’o’clock so it’s black outside by 7 and it will stay that way all year long since we are directly on the equator. 
We went to the small village of Kakira on Sunday for lunch. Needless to say, I was shocked. The image I had produced in my brain and reality were extremely contrary. When Dad said we were going there for rollexs, I knew there wasn’t going to be anything fancy, maybe a rinky-dink little vendor? In all actuality, it was in the back roads of the back alleyways, smokey and muddy, outside. While we ate our lunch on the cement stoop we had a perfect view of the “meat shop” (which was nothing more than a stand with racks of hanging meat shrouded in flies and a man hacking away on a dirty stump) right next door. The smell that radiated from our chapatti and egg lunch made it worth it. Either that or I was very hungry. Probably both.

I did expect the staring but not the magnitude of it. Many of the looks were distasteful, like we smelt rancid. We did get the occasional smile out of an adult here and there; but the children, oh the children, they loved us. Running out of their homes, calling to one another and us, either bashful or ridiculous at the point of my camera lens. Some grabbed Dora’s outstretched hands and followed us everywhere. They even sat on a tire and watched us eat, occasionally teasing one another or hitting their friends with sticks. The smile on Dora’s face radiated and I knew her heart was home.

I’ve met many Ugandans but so far I’ve only talked with three my age. Almost every Ugandan we’ve talked to has said, “You are welcome here.” On Thursday, a local girl, Maria came over to greet us. Maria sells homemade earrings in the market. She likes drawing, singing and dancing. We found that cards are the easiest games to play because they don’t require a lot of communication. I showed her my favorite game, called Snap, and she really liked it! But we really started to relate when she asked about my painted toenails. After her toes were a lovely shade of neon green, Viola came over, and I did her nails (blue with sparkles) and we played more Snap. We laughed a lot and I’m glad we found something we could all do. On Friday, Viola came back and brought Sarah, asking for her nails done too (pink and lavender, she’s on the right). Viola also needed a touch-up but then she decided for a completely different color (green, teal and pink, she’s on the left). And then we played Snap again; Viola is very good at it. I wouldn’t call us “fast friends”, and there’s no way they could replace my besties back in America. We still have lots of differences to overcome, language for example (they call nail polish “shoetags”. I don’t know how it’s spelled but that’s how it’s pronounced). Right now, all that’s connecting us is hot pink, teal and glitter. But for right now, that’s good enough for me.

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