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.”

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You ate what?

Before I came here a friend who had pretty extensive experience traveling told me to try to get past the initial shock and learn to just enjoy it as quickly as possible. I confess that I wasn’t entirely sure what he was talking about. Now I am. I remember my first day in Alaska, being horribly disappointed because when I thought of Alaska I thought of pristine mountain vistas, fishing, and  being surrounded by the beauties of nature. That first night there and the first few days that followed all I could see were the drunk homeless people who sat on the curbs and  wandered the streets that smelled of beer and urine. However I soon came to see past all of that and when I remember Juneau, I remember the waterfalls cascading off the mountain that I could see from  our apartment window. I remember late nights with the sun not ever completely gone down fishing in the channel on the outskirts of town. I remember the fog, the sunshine, the wildlife and the beautiful mountain vistas that often literally took my breath away.

I think it is easy at first to project your own standards of what should be on a community that is so different from your own. I think this must be what my friend was talking about. And so I have decided to look past the things about this place that I don’t understand or don’t like and try to just experience it so that when I leave I will have memories just as treasured as the ones I came home from Alaska with.

I came to this conclusion as I sat in a crowded taxi stuck in traffic in Kampala. I was so frustrated at the apparent lack of a system. The taxis that really function a lot more like busses have no specific route, with no specific time-table. The fare is not set or standardized and I didn’t see one street sign on the whole journey of over two hours to help me determine my location. Since I am trying to familiarize myself with this place so that when Ellen leaves in a few weeks and I need to make these trips myself I can know what I am doing, this was especially frustrating.

On the road to Kampala

On the road to Kampala

We sat in the very back seat of a van filled to capacity and beyond. I couldn’t see around the heads that were blocking my view of the road and in the jerky stop and go traffic I was getting quite sick. The roads here are far from smooth and as we rattled along I often found myself bouncing so far off my seat that several times I almost hit my head on the ceiling. I thought of my dad’s little story he always tells of my great, great, grandparents and their first experience in a car and I couldn’t help but hear his voice saying “Did you raise, Jane?” as I would try to lift myself off the seat a little so as not to get the full impact of the bumps. By the time we arrived in Kampala I was so ready to get off that bus and I didn’t care if I ever saw one again. Kampala is an experience.

Kampala Taxi park

Kampala Taxi park

We went to a a little coffee shop called 1000 cups and I ordered a plate of fruit and some juice. It was delicious and refreshing. The lounge style dinning room was comfortable and cool and I felt refreshed and ready for this experience.

Ellen bargaining for ear rings.

Ellen bargaining for ear rings.

We went to a market where Ellen was looking for gifts to take home to her friends and family. It was good for me to watch her bargain and talk to these people. I think it will help me in the future when I need to do the same. Ellen is very good at disagreeing with people, expressing differences of opinion, even questioning their honesty and doing it all with a smile, a laugh and leaving with a new friend.

In one shop after a heated debate over whether the jewelry was truly made from cow bone or whether it was wood that was just painted, Ellen and the shop keeper played a game together laughing and talking the whole time. We ended up buying several things from them before going on our way. There was a man walking around with a bucket filled with fried grasshoppers. He was selling them and one of the women offered one to me. I gave her an emphatic no but then Ellen and some of the others encouraged me to try it and I thought why not. After all I am here in Africa I might as well really experience Africa. So I ate one. It wasn’t at all bad as long as you didn’t think too much about it.

On the way home I sat in the very front seat of the taxi and actually found I enjoyed the ride. The country side is beautiful, there is always something interesting to see and the cool air from the open windows, blowing in my face felt wonderful.