Resident Alien in this Wonderful Place

So yesterday was basically the best day ever.

To start off with, I didn’t have any classes because our lovely African Lit professor bought into the “It’s an American holiday, please cancel class!” plea. This allowed me to make plans to go to Kampala and finish my shopping. Since no other USP students were able to accompany me, I asked Muzungu to come. There were some other plans up in the air for him…tasks that he potentially had to accomplish for his cousin in Kampala. On our way out though at 8 am, I asked him about those plans and how they would coincide with what I needed to get done. His response? “I’m all yours for the day”. That made me smile. I don’t know what it is about people saying that, but it’s always made me so happy! I’m guessing this is because I come from such a busy society where everyone always has their time limitations for coffee or shopping dates and there always seems to be something else on their plate that they know they have to get done soon.

So we hopped on a taxi around 8:45…rush hour. I think it took us almost 1 and a half hours to get to Kampala. Eww. Luckily, though, my set meeting time with my sponsored child was pushed back until 1 o’clock. This gave us just enough time to hit up the bank and go to the craft market. I spent another hour and a half strolling around and finishing up all my Christmas shopping.

This gave us just enough time to get to the World Vision national office. Unfortunately, the child sponsorship place is actually at another location. This made us rather late and communicating with Katie (the WV rep that had been working with me) was getting stressful as she emphasized how it was getting late, they needed to eat, etc. The plan was for us to arrive, meet Dillish and then go out to lunch. Thankfully, Katie held out for us even though we arrive 45 minutes late after walking to the other World Vision location and finally meeting up with her.

Me and my litte girl, Dillish.

After sitting in a conference room and going over some protocalls and signing some protection documents, I finally got to see my little girl. She had traveled all the way from Gulu with her father and two World Vision reps. They had left at 6 am that morning and she was obviously tired. She does not speak any English since she is not in school yet and neither does her father. Nor do they speak Luganda. There was an interpreter around, ,but Dillish was very shy and obviously not up for doing a whole lot of talking. I found her looking at my face when I was conversing with the WV staff. A few times she just stared into my eyes and I had to wonder what she was thinking.

I asked the interpreter to ask her father if I was the first mzungu she had ever seen and he said that I was. It’s no wonder that, even after seeing my picture, she was shy around me.

In the office at World Vision, I got to give her the small gift of a hello kitty backpack, some bouncy balls and a plush peacock. She seemed to like it as she put on the backpack right away. She is entering school next year, so that was a good gift for her. Staff told me that she had a gift for me too but that it was in the car.

It got to be around 2:30, so we went down to the local Canteen for lunch. At this point, Muzungu also got to greet Dillish. Before, Katie said only I was allowed to see her in the office. We all went down and ate lunch together. We were kind of dispersed amongst different tables since there wasn’t one whole table open. So Dillish sat with me and Muzungu with Katie close beside. I think she was truly fascinated to watch a mzungu interact so socially with a Ugandan. Even Katie said she was probably wondering how and why the white and black persons were so friendly with each other. It’s sort of funny to think about, but I was obviously much more in my comfort zone than Dillish was…even though I am the foreigner. Even using a fork was foreign to her; not to mention she couldn’t easily make her way down the stairs. They just don’t have utensils and stairs where she resides.

After finishing lunch,we took a few pictures and then Dillish and her father went to find a bathroom. While waiting, Katie bid me goodbye. She thanked me for my support and I thanked her for her hard work in arranging all of this. She also bid Muzungu goodbye, thanking him for taking care of me. Which, I then put on my perplexed face. “Making sure she doesn’t get run over or lost in the streets of Kampala”. Katie knew I had been in Uganda for a long while, so she was obviously provoking and teasing and it was small snickers that she managed to get from Muzungu and the two other male staff around. I was, once again, the butt of the joking. It’s become a daily occurrence now, though, so I don’t mind. I get my fair share of laughter as well.

Dillish and her father returned and we hopped in a car to take Dillish, her father, and staff to the hotel they would be staying at. I had to pay for this arrangement, so they also took me and Muzungu to swing by a bank so I could grab the appropriate amount of money. The fit was squishy. Dillish sat between me and her father. We were actually in the car for a while because there was a traffic jam in the streets of Kampala. During that time I got a few laughs and smiles out of her. I loved seeing her pretty teeth.

By the time we had to depart, she shook my hand nice and hard (unlike at the very beginning) and smiled at me. Then she gave me a hug. I couldn’t believe that I had just gotten to visit the little girl that I sponsor. I felt more privileged than ever before. Parting ways wasn’t painful, just surreal. It was so weird that I was on her soil when, before, she seemed so far away. Now, this was partially my home…. I am a resident alien here. I left knowing though that one day I will be back and will get to see this precious girl again. In a few years time, likely, when she will have learned English from school and hopefully I’ll be able to see her in her home context…eat the way she eats and meet her entire family. What a day that will be!

You don’t know how many people were staring at me when I did this.

When we parted, my gift from Dillish was revealed to me. I had been expecting a cute drawing from her or something like that. But it was nothing of the sort. There, in the bed of the truck we had been driving in was a rather large and live rooster! Having come from Soroti, I knew what a precious gift this was, but Muzungu and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing! We knew he had to carry this thing…alive…through Kampala and back to Mukono. I kindly thanked her father and Dillish and grabbed that rooster by its tied up legs, carrying him upside down through the traffic-jammed streets.

At first we tried to put the rooster in a plastic bag so it could be more subtle, but it head and legs poked through as I was holding it and it finally fell all the way through; I then conveniently let out a short scream, which, of course, attracted endless attention and laughs from everyone around and watching.

I marched through the streets of Kampala with this rooster in my hand. The comments, the laughter, it was crazy. I think Muzungu and I laughed the most, though, knowing how ridiculous we looked. As if a mzungu girl and Ugandan guy walking together doesn’t get enough eyes, the mzungu girl was carrying a live cock. Wow. Muzungu joked that we were going to attract the paparazzi and find our picture in tomorrow’s newspaper! That would have made my day!

We managed to grab a taxi and Muzungu held this flapping thing down with his feet all the way home. Getting out in Mukono was even better as there are people around that know both of us. The laughter just couldn’t stop. At one point I just laughed and sighed, saying “Oh Uganda”, thinking about how I would never be walking down the road holding a live chicken if I were in America. Now, the Ugandan national anthem begins with “Oh Uganda”, so after Muzungu said the second line of the song, I just started singing it straight up. No dignity left to uphold after all. I was four lines into singing this lovely song when I slipped in the dirt, fell on butt and the rooster crowed loudly at me. Muzungu quickly grabbed the chicken, then me, but couldn’t say anything because he was laughing far too hard. Just about the most embarrassing yet best moment I have had here in Uganda. I have never seen two people laugh harder than we did.

We somehow made it all the way home and I felt like I had done 100 crunches because of how much my abs hurt. Once we entered the front yard, I proudly called out to Mama: “Mama, I brought you a gift!” as I raised the chicken high in the air for her to see. It was that moment when I felt the least bit American. Oh my.

I changed my clothes, washed well from carrying that smelly chicken and proceeded to sit and tell Mama about my day before going to campus for our American Thanksgiving dinner. I was late by the time I arrived, but everyone knew I had been visiting Dillish and was all too excited to ask me how that went.

Thanksgiving dessert and coffee to top off the wonderful day!

I scarfed down dinner in about 10 minutes and then dessert 10 minutes later. This obviously left me feeling ridiculously full. I went home in the most jolly mood ever. I could not possibly wipe the smile off my face. I don’t know how that day could have gone any better. It might be the most memorable day spent here in Uganda.

A resident alien…that’s me. There is no doubt about it. I will be leaving part of my soul here in Uganda and I will have to return someday to retrieve it…only so that I can leave even more here the second time I depart. I love you Uganda!

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