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.

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.”


“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 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

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

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

Random tidbits

I guess I should start this post with an update on the little boy I had mentioned previously who needed surgery. So many people have been so kind and so willing to help.

My mother was the first. As soon as I explained the situation to her she told me that she would have the money in my account in the morning for him to be able to have the surgery.

And while I don’t believe in just giving things to people and solving their problems for them, I couldn’t help but remember the kindness of a man who saw a girl working on her own to finish highschool from her front porch. And offered to buy her the science kit and microscope that she needed to be able to understand the science she was trying to learn on her own from a book. I couldn’t help but remember the doctor who repaired a torn up shoulder for free because a certain girl couldn’t afford to pay for her surgery, and I couldn’t help but remember countless other times that others had stepped in and helped me out when I needed it. And yet, I still know that it’s not good to just swoop in and handle someones problems for them.

So I was pleased when during a discussion with a carpenter, trying to negotiate a good price for furniture for the Musana women so that they have a nice work place, the most perfect solution dawned on me and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. Benji’s father is a carpenter. He can build the furniture for us, and it saves Musana money, the women get their furniture, Benji gets his surgery, and Benji’s parents get to be a part of solving the problem. It seems a win win for everyone.

I don’t know how I became the designated take people to the hospital person but, somehow I am.

Emined called me the other day to tell me that one of his students had something seriously wrong with her and needed to see a doctor. He told me he needed my help. I met him at the taxi stage and he came with a little girl whose head was covered with a black scarf. She allowed me to remove it and look at her head. She had a huge lump growing about two inches off the top of her head. It was oozing and looked terrible. 973903_170390523135670_1847109875_n

We took her to see Andrew, the Scottish doctor who is a volunteer at Living Water clinic and is a friend of ours. As soon as the little girl saw him putting on gloves she began screaming and covering her head with her scarf. It took four of us to hold her down so that he could have a look at her head. She had some kind of abcess on her head that was full of infection. She is on an IV antibiotic and they lanced the absess and packed it. She should be ok.

The little girl with the burn on her arm is doing much better also. I invited her and her mother to come to church with me on sunday. They agreed. When I showed up sunday morning to get them the mother said she had somewhere to go but the daughter was ready to go. We went and she was a great addition to my little primary class. I have no idea how much she understood. I don’t think she speaks much English but I know she had fun with the other kids and she is especially happy to see me when I pass her house on the road these days.

My little friend, showing off our matching arm bandages.

My little friend and I showing off our matching arm bandages.

The other day I scratched my arm. It was hardly deep enough to bleed but I didn’t want it to get infected so I wrapped it. I told her we were twins.

I had a hot shower the other day. It had a legit drain, a shower head, warm water, and even a shower curtain! It was heaven.

I met a woman here who invited me to her home. She lives on the Mehta compound. In fact her husband is the head of security. She said she gets bored and lonely there all by herself all day. She has a beautiful home with a real kitchen, it even has an oven! She doesn’t really know how to cook so I’m going to go help her. I am excited to get to know her. She has lived an interesting life all over the world.

I went to the Rainforest Lodge and went swimming. It was incredible I saw monkeys swinging from the trees in the forest as I walked there. And I saw some of the most incredible butterflies!

The lodge itself was beautiful and relaxing and there simply aren’t words to express how much I enjoyed the swimming pool.

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

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

…and life goes on

When I first arrived here I wrote almost every day. I didn’t have as much going on and I had a bit more time. Now there is so much going on, I’m doing so many things and meeting so many people, I have so much I want to be writing about and when I do get a minute to sit down I feel overwhelmed by all there is to say and all that I want to share about my experience here that I put off writing.

So today I’m sorry if I seem a bit scattered.

I got to see the Uganda Cranes take Liberia in a world cup qualifying game. It was really loud.DSC00433

I got to see the Source of the Nile. It was beautiful. I actually did a blog post about that one. You can read it here.

I’ve met some really great people and its starting to feel like home.

We had another baptism at church. I gave a short talk about baptism. It’s amazing to me to see so many people taking that step. It’s awesome to know how much their lives are going to change and what an adventure they are in for.


We took a boat out to where the underwater spring separates the Nile River from Lake Victoria.

I am really starting to have fun with the kids. There is a little girl who lives just down the road from me, who always remembers my name and instead of shouting Mazungu like all the other kids she says, Hi Didda! It makes my day. Yesterday I noticed she had a huge ugly open wound on her arm. It looked terrible, and had something white growing/living on it. She didn’t act like it even hurt even though it was pretty deep and oozing. I found her mother and asked if I could take her to the clinic. She agreed and I took her in and got it cleaned up. She will need to go back every day for the rest of the week to get the dressing changed. I was walking later that evening and she saw me and ran to me and held my hand all the way up the road, about 10 other kids followed her example and I found myself having a hard time walking without tripping over them. But I loved every minute of it.

Our manager Tina's son Alfred getting a little ride on my shoulders.

Our manager Tina’s son Alfred getting a little ride on my shoulders.

The other day while waiting for one of the Musana women to get home I sat in front of her house playing with a group of about 15 children. I taught them some songs, and we played the farmer in the dell, london bridge, and the hockey pockey. Then I took a picture of one little girl and made the mistake of showing it to her. Then every child wanted a picture taken, and over and over they wanted to pose for me pulling funny faces, doing little dances and anything they could to get my attention. It was great! Today Susan (one of the Musana women) told me that the next baby girl born into her family is going to be named after me. I can’t think of a better complement.    DSC00463 DSC00469

The hard thing about poverty

When I think about poverty I usually think about living in crowded conditions, getting by on little food and not having the little extras that life has to offer. I grew up in a home where things were pretty simple and we didn’t have a lot, but I never knew we were poor. Looking back I can see that by most people’s standards we were. We always laughed about eating bread and scrape (putting the butter on your bread and then scraping it off for the next person) I remember when I did not have a bed, but slept on the living room floor. I had one drawer in a closet and few clothes. Things were simple but I don’t really associate being poor with negative emotions.

Today I saw one of the hard parts about poverty. The women that work for Musana aren’t “dirt poor” in the way that some might think, but they don’t have it easy and they certainly don’t have the extras. Medina, had six daughters before she finally had her last child, a little boy named Benji. Benji was the first child I saw when I got to Uganda and I was mesmerized by his bright eyes and big dimples. I thought he was about the cutest kid ever.

When he was born his mother had him circumcised by a local man instead of taking him to the hospital to have it done. The money for transport to the hospital was hard to come by so it was easier to just do it locally. The man who did it, cut the urethra leaving Benji with a pretty serious problem that will have a huge impact on the rest of his life if it is not corrected. Recently, his mother took him to see Andrew, a Scottish doctor who is volunteering here this summer. Andrew told her that his condition was serious and that he needs to go to a hospital.

THe waiting room at Kibuli hospital

THe waiting room at Kibuli hospital

So Ellen’s parting gift was transport money and Medina and I took little Benji to the hospital. After several hours on the road in the crowded taxi and then several more in the waiting room, the doctor finally saw Benji. He said that he would need surgery and soon. He would be hospitalized for three days and the estimated cost would be about the equivalent to what Medina can bring in, in a years time. Sitting in

Benji waiting to see the doctor

Benji waiting to see the doctor

that doctor’s office looking at Medina’s face, little Benji sitting on her lap, I realized that these are the moments that make poverty hard.

“What can I do? Where can I get that kind of money?” She asked questions like this over and over on the ride back to Lugazi and I had no answers for her.

The Mehta Estate…and my boys

Lugazi, the village where I live is based around an estate owned by the Mehta family. The first Mr. Mehta came from India when he was fourteen years old. He planted the first sugar cane in Uganda and now he owns miles and miles of fields of sugar cane. If you climb the hill outside of Lugazi and overlook the vast area, pretty much everything you can see is part of the Mehta estate. DSC00355

Mr. Mehta employs over 1000 workers on the estate, this includes the men and women that work in the fields but it also includes, ladies maids, gardeners, cooks, housekeepers, an entire police force, a hospital, guest houses, schools, etc. Lugazi then is the village that survives on the economic foundation provided by Mehta. DSC00356

Mr Mehta wanted a golf course. Mrs. Mehta wanted a garden. They decided to see who could do better. 429803_10151637624287888_2079889728_n

I went there one morning and toured the gardens with Luta and the other interns here. Then I went back a couple of nights later just to enjoy it at a leisurely pace. Emined went with me and I can’t even begin to describe to you how beautiful that place is. It smells like Lilac and Honeysuckle. Emined had never seen it before and he kept saying in that way that only sounds right with an African accent, “yi yi yi this is what heaven is, yo?”DSC00326

My favorite part of the garden is when you come to a huge hill, DSC00335wooden steps are set in the side of the hill and a row of trees forms a border on the left. DSC00336If you cross through the trees you will come across a set of stone steps that takes you ,down, down, down into a low area. Along the side of the stone steps grows tall lily’s their white heads standing up like elegant ladies all waiting and watching in a neat line.

After the first set of stairs the view on the left opens to reveal a white gazebo and the row of lily’s expands and becomes a bed of lily’s laid out before your eyes. If you continue down the steps you will see a cluster of bamboo surrounding a table and some chairs and forming a nice little sitting area. DSC00343From there you can look out over a pond, also filled with lily’s and other plants, to the little footbridge that will take you to more rolling fields of cleanly cut grass. It was dark and had rained earlier in the day. The grass was wet and I took off my shoes and enjoyed the sweet coolness on my bare feet until something bit me and left enough of a sting that I decided maybe shoes are a good option after all. DSC00341


The court yard at Villa Anona

The corridor leading to the guest rooms. the panels open up to let in a cool breeze.

The corridor leading to the guest rooms. the panels open up to let in a cool breeze.

A lounge area

A lounge area

the dining room. The food they serve here is interesting an incredible!

the dining room. The food they serve here is interesting an incredible!

the bedrooms. They have air conditioning and nice bathrooms.

the bedrooms. They have air conditioning and nice bathrooms.

In Uganda, coming home is the best part of leaving. Everyone welcomes you back. It’s the sweetest thing. As I walk through the gate I am met by my two friends and brothers Joseph and Davis. I remember hearing from others that had been here about these two boys but I never dreamed that I would love them the way I do. Yesterday I sat in the courtyard doing my laundry when Davis came home from school. “Oh Virate,” he says, “why are you washing your clothes, you can’t do that when I am around to do it for you.”

“Why” I ask, knowing already what he is going to say.

“Because I am Ugandan and I can do it for you.” He sits down and takes a dress out of my hands, like this he says and then he expertly covers it with soap and scrubs it in a way that I am quite certain I will never get down. When Joseph got home the three of us worked on the laundry and they told me about school. Joseph sat looking glum when I asked him how his first day back had been. “Not good,” he shakes his head.

“Why,” I ask

“The girls they tease so much, they are so mean.” He says.

I can’t imagine someone being mean to Joseph.

“Don’t you know why girls tease?” I ask him elbowing him a little and raising my eyebrows in a suggestive sort of way.

“I have no use…” he says. “All day they are writing me letters, Joseph, I want to be your girlfriend” he mimics in a high voice.

“But don’t you like them” I ask.

I can see he is really upset and it even looks like he is holding back tears. “For me it is hard,” he explains. “So hard to talk to girls.”

“You are talking to me and I’m a girl”

“Yes but you aren’t…he pauses and then mimics the girls flirting and walking to get his attention. Its one of the funniest things, I’ve seen.

One day you will like it. I told him.

Yes but now I have no use. He sighs and picks up the bar of soap and another piece of laundry.

He is only 17 now. I think give him a few years and he will find “a use.”


First world problems in a third world country

My roommate used to have this thing she would say to me when I was voicing my frustrations over various issues. She would sigh and shake her head and say, “oh first world problems.” Meaning that maybe before I complained about the internet being slow I should remember the fact that simply having a computer puts me miles ahead of where someone might be in a third world country and that I should be grateful.

DSC00311Since coming to a third world country for the first time I have noticed something interesting. There are first world problems, there are third world problems and there are first world problems in third world countries. I was surprised to find that slow internet, a head battery, and a file that won’t download are still the most frustrating things to me. When the electricity goes out, as it did today, I simply open the curtains to let a little sunlight in and do something that doesn’t require too much light. When the water goes out, as it has been for the last week, I haul water in a Jerry can, and shower in a bucket and don’t think all that much about it. But when my computer freezes, the internet refuses to work or I am having other first world problems I still find them the most frustrating. I had a good laugh today when Luta asked if he could borrow my computer. After a few minutes on it, realizing how slow it was he just shook his head and he said with a truly concerned look on his face. “whenever the computer won’t work fast enough I feel pain here, in my heart!” He was genuinely distraught about the situation and looked as I imagine I must have the first time I saw the mud huts along the road and smelled the smell of the sugar cane factory. It was ironic.

Since, I think this is the first time I have mentioned Luta, let me tell you a little about him. I love him. He is one of the people who make it so that I can’t hardly imagine leaving this place.

Luta’s family comes from Rwanda. His parents fled when the genocide first started there. They moved to Uganda. During that time as refugees Luta’s mother became quite close with another woman. This woman became “grandma” to Luta. In America when someone becomes really close or fills a role in our lives we will often say, “she is like a grandma to me.” Not so in Uganda this is not the first time that someone has introduced me to a mother, grandma, sister etc. only to later find out that they are not actually related. It seems family is more about a way of life and less about blood.

Anyway, Luta grew up in a very poor district in Lugazi. Gehry Gehry is the slum. No one there had ever graduated from University. Luta will be the first when he finishes next year. In the district where I live I am told about 55% of households have running water. In Gehry Gehry it is more like 15%. As we walked around the village Luta told us stories. He told about how he spent a number of his growing up years in an orphanage, not because he was an orphan but because by being there he could get an education. He told about his ingenuity in coming up with ways to pay his own school fees from the time he was quite young. DSC00331

He told about the time that he spent in a Ugandan prison on false charges and how he eventually got things straightened out. He told about his good fortune in being able to work as a caddy for golfers and how that led him to all kinds of opportunities. He calls himself the town dog, because everyone in town knows and loves him. And it is true, as we walk everyone stops to say hello to him.

He told us about two girls who came to their village, one day when things were especially bad. The well had become contaminated and there was no water. People DSC00317were going to die. These two girls used their own savings and had a well built. It saved the lives of many village people who surely would have died without water. (since one of those girls was my friend Melissa, it also explains why she is such a celebrity here.)

Currently, he is a student in the capital city, Kampala. He is getting a degree in business, and doing stand up comedy along the way. He became a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints just a few months ago. To see him showing us around, wearing nice clothes, and speaking with excellent english, one would never have suspected that he grew up in a mud hut on the side of a dirty crowded street. Yet to see him go back there and sit in front of that same house with his mother and baby niece, to see him being greeted warmly by everyone there, there is no question that this boy has done something amazing.DSC00322