My Whirlwind romance part III “The Mazungu” (White person)

Every week I went to get a large jug of drinking water for our apartment at Gapco. The man that works there is an Indian man and he seems very friendly. On this particular day as I was waiting for the water he asked me how long I was going to be in Uganda. I told him and he told me he would like to take me on a date. I was caught completely off guard by that and wasn’t sure how I was going to answer, then he asked me if I would be willing to meet him at the Rainforest Lodge. We can have something to eat and go swimming if you like he told me.

The Rainforest Lodge is a beautiful lodge in the middle of the rainforest. I had never been there before but I had heard about how incredible it was. I also knew it was the most expensive place in town and that I probably wouldn’t afford a trip there on my own. I was also pleased that he wasn’t suggesting that he pick me up but that I meet him, in a public place, so I figured what would it hurt, I might as well go. DSC00510

Joseph and I had been talking on the phone for a few minutes every night so I told him that I would be coming to the Rainforest and since it was almost halfway to Jinja I might as well continue on and come see him. It had been several days since we had seen each other. So we agreed to meet at the chapel near Two Friends.

That morning I went to a school to volunteer for the day. It was good but also a little overwhelming. There were so many children and each one of them wanted to hold my hand. At one point there were about 60 children all clustered around me, each one trying to get closer than the other and all of them trying to hold my hand, or my dress, or touch my hair. For a person who doesn’t much like to be touched it was pushing my boundaries about as far as I could take them.

Finally when they got so many and the weight of them started to make it impossible to walk, I found myself losing my balance I started falling over so I stopped and made them let go. “Gende, Gende” (go away) I said, and then feeling a little bad I felt like I should explain “You are too many!” Then 60 little voices followed me all around the school chanting “you are too many, you are too many” I had to smile. DSC00497

It was touching and also a bit saddening to see the conditions of the school. The crowded classroom had no lights, just the light that came through the openings for windows that had no glass. Benches resembling those that children in Colonial America had used were crowded with far too many children.  There were no books, except one little notebook for each child. The children sang for me and I taught them some new songs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azTp0LJ825g&feature=youtu.be

Finally it came time for me to leave the school and head to the Rainforest lodge, Although I wasn’t really interested in the guy, I was still excited about the date. The long walk to the lodge was beautiful, I saw monkeys swinging from the trees and everywhere was beautiful butterflies in the most vibrant of colors. I arrived before my date and recognized a friend who had come to enjoy the quiet of the lodge to get some work done. We visited until my date arrived. The lodge was comfortable and clean in a way that I hadn’t often experienced in Uganda.

My date arrived and we decided to head to the swimming pool to do some swimming, we would have dinner later. As we were walking through the beautiful, secluded pathways he reached for my hand, I pulled it away, but he tried again. I pulled it away again and said “no.” I felt so uncomfortable; I had never had to do that before on a date. We continued to the pool and I enjoyed cooling off in the water as I hadn’t been swimming since I arrived. Again in the water he tried to touch me and to hold my hand and each time I pulled away shaking my head and saying “no” Finally I couldn’t take anymore so I told him “you know what I need to be heading back, I have another appointment.”

The pool at the Rainforest Lodge. It was so refreshing!

The pool at the Rainforest Lodge. It was so refreshing!

He offered to drive me but I told him that my work had already sent a boda boda to get me. He asked if we could take a picture together and I agreed. He stood behind me and put his arms around me hugging me to him and putting his cheek against mine, I tried to pull away but he held me there. After the picture he continued to hold me close to him and we started walking. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how to get him to let go of me without bringing it to a full fight and I didn’t feel like I would win. I waited until we were in a more populated area and then I pulled away from him more forcefully. He finally let go of me and I headed to the front gate. I found a boda boda and started driving back to the main road. I felt like crying.

AS we rode the boda driver said, “Mazungu, are you married?” I told him I wasn’t and he asked how old I was. I told him and then he said, I think you are good for me. You should marry me and take me to America. People often made comments like that to me but after what I had just been through I didn’t feel capable of laughing it off. “Why?” I said, “You don’t even know me all you see is my white skin and you think I have money, that’s all you want. How do you know I wouldn’t be a horrible wife? How do you know I wouldn’t beat you and yell at you? You don’t want to marry me”

He laughed, “You would be a good wife, I know” he told me, “Why won’t you marry me?”

I couldn’t believe he was asking this as a legitimate question and I wanted to just get off the boda and walk the long way back to the road, but I couldn’t.

“Do you know how many times a day I get asked that question?” I asked him. “I wish people here would see more than my white skin.” He continued talking but I was finished with that conversation and I just listened refusing to argue any further with him. He dropped me off with a friendly smile and a wave and left me to board the taxi headed for Jinja. I would be so glad to arrive and see Joseph.

On the taxi, they had squeezed five of us on to a seat made for 3. The man seated next to me kept getting closer even than I felt he needed to. He kept trying to lay his head on my shoulder and touch my hair. Finally he said, “Mazungu, give me your contacts.” I stared straight ahead, afraid I would cry if I had to go through this all over again. Who knew that adoration could also be a form of racism? I was DONE being “Mazungu” being loved for the color of my skin, being shouted at everywhere I went from children, to adults, I was tired of being told to buy people drinks or to give people my watch, or being hassled by shop keepers and taxi and boda drivers, I was tired of my race defining who I was.

The man continued in spite of my refusal to talk to him. “Mazungu, I love you he said, give me your contacts.”

“No”

“Why,” he asked

“Because I don’t want to. I don’t know you and I don’t want to know you. ” I thought perhaps my curt reply would put him off but I was not so lucky.

“Just give me your contacts” he continued, just give me your number that is all.

Others on the taxi were starting to look at us. I continued to refuse to look at him and eventually stopped answering him altogether. Finally after what seemed an eternity I arrived at Two Friends and got off the taxi. As soon as the taxi left a man approached me. “Mazungu,” he said, “be my girlfriend.”

“I have a boyfriend already,” I exaggerated the truth a bit. I am here to meet him.

“No, you can be my girlfriend”, he persisted.

“No, you leave me alone. “ I said,

“One day you will dream of me, I know,” he said as he walked away.

I stood on the corner waiting for Joseph and fighting back tears. I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to stay here one more minute. I didn’t even want to see Joseph. I didn’t even know why I was going on a date with him anyway. He was no different than all those others; I had just somehow fallen for his advances when I hadn’t the others. I needed to put a stop to all of this and I needed to go home. I closed my eyes wishing that when I opened them I would be home and praying that no one else would speak to me. If one more person told me they loved me I would probably gauge their eyes out with my bare hands.

After a few minutes Joseph arrived, He looked so comforting and refreshingly put together, I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and have a good cry. I forgot about him being like all the others.

“I’m sorry I’m late” He said, I was on the taxi and it was taking so long I almost jumped out and took a boda boda to try to get here faster. But I brought this for you.” He pulled a Snickers bar from his pocket and handed it to me. I had told him on our first date that I loved Snickers, but I had not seen one in Uganda. I was impressed that he had remembered and tracked one down for me.

As we walked I poured out my woes about my day. Starting with the children, pulling on me and almost tackling me in the desire to be close to me.  As I told him he laughed. “Why are you laughing?” I asked genuinely perplexed as to why my sorry situation would have him in stitches.

“I’m sorry I don’t mean to laugh,” he said “keep going”

I continued with my story and by the time I finished telling him about that man’s parting comment of “You will dream about me, I know” he was laughing so hard he almost couldn’t stay standing.

“It wasn’t funny! It was horrible!” I said.

“I know, I’m sorry” he said, trying to keep a straight face, “but you have to admit it’s kind of funny. I keep picturing you trying to fend off all those kids, telling the boda driver you might beat him, ignoring the man in the taxi as he is putting his head on your shoulder, and it’s kind of funny!”

I started laughing; there was some humor in the situation. “I’m sorry you had a hard day though,” he said more seriously.

I squeezed his hand. “Thanks, it’s getting better now.”

He took me to Forever Resort and we sat on the banks of the river and watched the sun go down. He told me about his Grandma who had died recently of Alzheimer’s. He said that towards the end she didn’t remember anyone. The last time he had gone to see her she had been unable to feed herself and he got to sit and feed her. As she ate she opened her eyes and looked at him, then she smiled “Joseph, she said, you look so much like your father, he always loved you best.” She died the next day. Joseph told me he would always cherish the fact that he got that chance to care for her and that in that final moment she remembered who he was. It was a beautiful story and I made a mental note to watch The Notebook with him.

We ordered a pizza and some sodas and sat and ate and continued to talk. He told me about how shocked he was when he returned from his mission in South Africa and saw the living conditions in Uganda. Even though it was his home he was ashamed and embarrassed to see the contrast of how people here lived compared to how they did in other countries. His own family had suffered some serious financial losses and he returned to find his home and everything they had owned gone. He spent his first night home sleeping on the floor.

I took a late taxi and returned home later that night. Joseph promised he would see me on Sunday as he was coming to Lugazi to speak to our branch.

My Whirlwind Romance: Part II “What if he were white?”

When Joseph dropped me off after our first date, I went inside and prepared for bed. I was staying at Sister Gertrude’s house. Sister Gertrude’s daughter Eunice was a friend of mine. Eunice came to my room to talk. I expressed to her my concern about the fact that I probably shouldn’t have even agreed to go on this date because it was pointless and probably not fair to go on a date with a guy when I know nothing can come of it since I was going to be going home in such a short time.

We stayed up talking for awhile. What are you going to do if he asks you again? She asked. Will you go?

He will ask me again, I told her. He made that clear and he told me he would call tomorrow. And I want to go! I want to spend time with him, I just know that its pointless. There is no way I could make any kind of decision before I go home and Africa is way to far away for that kind of long distance relationship. Eunice went to bed, and we never came to any conclusios.

The next morning I woke up and the first thing on my mind was Joseph. I received a text from him thanking me for going on a date with him, the night before. I wondered when he was going to call, and if he would want to see me again that day. By ten that morning, Eunice had gone to work and I needed to be heading back to Lugazi. I boarded a taxi but couldn’t stop thinking that if I went all the way back to Lugazi, than I probably wouldn’t get to see him that day. The taxi started moving out of town. I dialed his number.

He answered and sounded excited to hear from me. I just wanted to tell you that I had a good time last night also, and that I am on my way back to Lugazi, I told him.

“Oh…”he sounded disappointed. “Have you already left?” He asked.

“No I haven’t” It wasn’t a complete lie. I was still technically in JInja. I waited… “should I stay?”

“Yes. I will meet you at Two Friends” he told me

I begged the taxi driver to stop and jumped out even though I had paid the full fare for transport to Lugazi. I waited at Two friends corner.

When Joseph arrived once again I was struck by his handsome carefree manner and how clean cut and put together he was. He stood out from all the other men. We walked and talked all that morning, stopping to eat street food at little shops along the way. We crossed a bridge over the Nile and we stood on the banks of Lake Victoria and just enjoyed the cool breeze. Our conversation was seamless and flowed effortlessly. Joseph amazed me with his attitude, experiences and desires.

Finally I really had to get back. Joseph walked with me and found me a seat in the passenger seat of Taxi. As we waited for the rest of the passengers to board he stood at the window. Neither of us said much but I didn’t want to let go of his hand. I didn’t want him to leave. His fingers rubbed mine his eyes shone and I knew he didn’t want to leave either. I looked at his lips wondering if I wanted him to kiss me and I was surprised by the answer.

The driver was ready to go and reluctantly Joseph let go of my hand. I’ll see you on Sunday. He told me as we drove off. Joseph was a member of the district presidency in our church and he was scheduled to speak in my branch that Sunday.

As we got out on the road and started the long drive back to Lugazi, the woman seated next to me struck up a conversation with me. “So what brings you to Jinja?” she asked.

“A date” I told her.

“Oh and how was it?”

“It was good” I said, nodding my head as if agreeing with myself. “It was really good” Then I stopped, “Actually, it was REALLY good” I told her. “I think I like him” With each statement I wanted to repeat it over and over it was as if it was just sinking in that I did in fact like this guy. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms before, but I did like him. And I wanted to see him again. Sunday couldn’t come fast enough.

ON Sunday I knew that Joseph wouldn’t be coming until after church so I hurried home and ate dinner while I waited for him to come. I paced the confines of the complex, surprised by how anxious and excited I was to see him.

Finally he called and said he was almost here and I decided to walk and join him. At the edge of town as you leave Lugazi there is a clock tower on a grassy place in the middle of a round about. If you take one road it takes you to the mango groves at the edge of town,  the other direction takes you  to jinja and the final road takes you to the Mehta Estate. On the Mehta Estate is a beautiful garden that borders the golf course. It was my plan to take him to the gardens. I had packed a blanket to sit on and brought my lap top with some of my sisters beautiful piano music, and I had packed some snacks I thought we could enjoy the gardens and just sit and talk. I met Joseph at the clock and we walked to the gardens. As we entered and passed the club house Joseph stopped and looked at me. We were holding hands and he lifted my hand and put it over his heart, our fingers entwined, making a fist. He said, Vilate, you remembered how much I love Golf! Red flowers, dripping from vines above our heads, and the fresh cut grass sent sweet fresh scents our way and the moment couldn’t have been more perfect. 429803_10151637624287888_2079889728_n

We walked and talked and Joseph told me about his mom, about his dad and about his views of raising children, He told me about how an kind Australian family had sponsered him years ago and agreed to pay for all of his education, including University. They had wanted to eventually adopt him. As he was graduating highschool he told them that he would be serving a mission for the LDS church. They were pretty upset and told him that if he insisted on serving a mission they would not pay for anymore of his education. He served anyway and gave up his dream of becoming a doctor.

I started realizing how comfortable I felt with him and how similar our ideas about life and family really were. Our cultures were surprisingly similar. We walked down the stone steps to the zen garden, with tall towering bamboo trees, surrounding a sitting area. Lily’s lined the walk and filled the fields around us were so overwhelmingly beautiful as to take your breathe away. DSC00340We sat listening to music and enjoying some snacks, we crossed the pond on a little footbridge and ran barefoot through the wet grassy hillside on the other side. DSC00400

I was terrified at how my feelings were changing. I was uncomfortable with this relationship that seemed so perfect and yet went so much against what I had always thought and believed about mixed race marriages. I kept thinking that I needed to tell him that I couldn’t see him again.

He walked me home and we sat at the little keyboard I had brought along and sang and played for awhile. Finally at about ten I walked him to the taxi. We stood trying to say goodbye. He hugged me and the hug lingered. His hands tightened around my waist and I felt unwilling to let go of his neck. I knew we were attracting attention and that people were watching us but I didn’t care.

I walked back to the house wondering what I was going to do. The Thought came to me “What would you do if he were white?” The answer was simple, I would never let him go.

Later that night I received a text from him. ” Physically, I am home” it said, “but the rest of me is there.”

My Whirlwind Romance part one ( What wasn’t said)

As I am sure you all have guessed since my last post, there has been a bit that has gone unsaid, so Its time I said it.
I am going to share with you my whirlwind romance. Or at least parts of it.
If you read my post

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/serving-in-the-church/

You know that on one of the most difficult days that I had adjusting to life in Uganda I went to Jinja for a primary program. That day as I sat at the piano in the front of the room, I was looking out over the congregation and I saw, seated on the back row, a man with the biggest brightest smile and eyes that shone with kindness. I remember thinking, “I want to talk to him, I want to know how he feels about things, and what his life experiences have been.” When the meeting was over I did talk to him for a few minutes and then I went home. What I didn’t know was that he was watching me also. He was watching me play and look around the room and he thought ” Wow she must be really good, she isn’t even paying attention to what she is playing!” Then later when I was singing with the children from Lugazi, he turned to Elder Van who was seated next to him and said, I want to take her out on a date. Elder Van informed him that I was only in Uganda a short time.

Me doing a little presentation with the children from Lugazi. This was the day I met Joseph for the first time.

Me doing a little presentation with the children from Lugazi. This was the day I met Joseph for the first time.

That day as I was leaving Joseph (that is his name) watched, resisting the urge to run after me and get my number.
Later he wished that he had gotten it. But he knew that district conference was coming up soon and he figured he would see me and get it then. On the first day of the conference I was sick so I didn’t attend and Joseph disappointed and worried that we wouldn’t get another chance to see each other, prayed that if I would come the next day he wouldn’t let fear keep him from asking me on a date.
The next day, our new interns had arrived and we were scheduled to go spend the day in Jinja at the Source of the Nile. I had really wanted to see it but I also really felt like I should go to district conference. I went and arrived just in time to grab a seat in the back and wait for the conference to start. Joseph was seated on the stand as he is in the district presidency and he was getting worried that I wouldn’t come. Finally he saw me enter and sit at the back. When the conference was over, he was one of the first people to approach me. “Do you remember me?” he asked. I knew I had seen that smile before but I couldn’t remember where and all black people were still looking the same to me. “I’m Joseph, I met you at the primary activity” he reminded me. He asked for my number and I gave it thinking that he probably just wanted it for church purposes, if they needed me to play the piano for something or something like that. But I also hoped that it would be more than that. I wanted to have a chance to get to know him. Not necessarily to date, Just to talk. I just wanted to know what was going on in his head; I wanted to know how he felt about life.
One day he called and told me, “I have a request, but I am going to be busy for the next three days doing exams, would you like to hear my request now, or later” I laughed because I had a pretty good idea what his request was, so I told him to ask me later. He called a few days later and asked me if I would go on a date with him. I told him yes and he told me that he wanted to take me to the Source of the Nile. I was excited that I was going to get to see it after all and I was excited that I was going to finally get to know this guy. As I prepared for our date I decided that it might be the only real date that I would get to go on here so I might as well have some fun with it. I went and bought a new skirt, took an afternoon shower and did my hair and makeup. Then I headed to Jinja to meet him at Two Friends corner. As I rode in the crowded bus to get there, I worried that by the time I arrived I would be sweaty and gross again. Finally I arrived at the corner next to the Two Friends Resort. I stood on the street corner waiting for him to arrive and as I waited I watched the pedestrians as each man would approach me I would think is this him? I wondered if I would even recognize him when I saw him. I saw a man in a dirty brown shirt to match his dirty brown pants, his flip flops flapping all over the sidewalk as he walked. (All of which is a common sight here). And I thought, what did I do, agreeing to go on a date with someone from here? What was I thinking? Just then I saw the cleanest, most put together guy on the street approaching me. When he got close enough that I could see his smile I recognized him right away. He told me we would need to take a boda boda to The Source and asked if I was comfortable getting on one with him or if I would like to ride separately. I told him I was ok sharing. If you read this post

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/and-life-goes-on/

I talked a little about that trip to the Nile. I even posted this picture of the two of us.DSC00420 What I didn’t say was that it was probably the best first date of my life. We talked and talked with no realization that time was going by. He told me of his conversion to the gospel, of the passing of his father, and of his hopes and dreams. I felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years. I felt comfortable and at home, I felt like I wanted the night to go on forever. As we sat eating chicken sandwiches and drinking strawberry milkshakes at the restaurant at the edge of Lake Victoria, the sun was setting, we had the whole place to ourselves and the quietness of the evening lent itself to romance.DSC00425 I wasn’t even remotely surprised, when as we stood to leave he took my hand and our fingers naturally entwined together as we started walking through the gardens. When he left me at the gate that night (I was spending the night with a sister in Jinja) I didn’t want to let him go.DSC00424