Sunday, March 18, 2012

100 Shillings for my thoughts.

Here are some of my (probably completely off-base) thoughts regarding Ugandan culture. I recognize that as I have lived among the Ugandan people for cumulatively only 4 of the 256 months of my young life, these observations come from my perspective as it stands today…it may be completely different tomorrow. Tomorrow brings more wisdom, right?

Nevertheless, here are a couple of my thoughts:

Regarding local police: It is not uncommon to be pulled over at a “police checkpoint” while driving down the highway. In fact, as a Mazungu, it is probably more common, because the police have a habit of pulling people over with their hand’s held out, and Mazungus have a habit of traveling with money. When George and I were driving back to Lukaya from Kampala the other day, we were stopped at this “routine” checkpoint. I was expecting him to ask us questions about whether or not we had the right paperwork or accuse George of breaking some traffic law, because in my experience this is a way for them to ask for money in exchange for not giving you a ticket you don’t deserve. He did neither. He simply asked, “you traveling with water today?” I was completely thrown off. I thought I had misheard him. Water? He is going to fine us for having water? Then as I turned to ask these questions to George, I saw that he was searching in the back seat for water bottles. I realized the officer didn’t want to fine us; he really did just want water. We unfortunately did not have any, so he said, “That’s okay. You pay me, let’s say, 2000 shillings?”  Well, even though 2000 shillings is less than $1.00 USD, I was still rubbed the wrong way. Nevertheless, I opened up my wallet to find I only had large bills…and very small coins. I gave him as many coins as I could, but it only added up to 1500 shillings. He seemed content enough with this and let us go. Ironically, moments before being pulled over, George and I were in the middle of a discussion about the differences between laws in America and laws in Uganda. I took that opportunity to point out yet another difference, “George, that would definitely NOT be legal in America.” He was pretty surprised to hear that.   

My best explanation of why these police checkpoints bother me Is probably that the police in America are symbols of structure and public safety. Above all, American police represent a system that works to serve and protect the citizens of America (although I recognize the system has its flaws, it is still much more structured than Uganda’s). I can’t imagine it would work in my favor if I was to be pulled over for speeding down the I-5 and offer the policeman a few bucks to buy himself a bottle of water…

Regarding Ugandan men wanting to marry me: I don’t think that Ugandan men really understand what they are asking when they propose to me. Nor do I think they have the right image whenever they look at me or shout at me while I walk around town. I know they aren’t completely serious, but after hearing it so much, I can’t help but think about it. Marrying me (and this is probably true of many Mazungu women) means giving up most of the things that define Ugandan masculinity. Yes, it is true that I know how to cook, clean, and take care of children…but not because I am a woman. I believe in a partnership, one that involves equality and teamwork. When I cook, I appreciate and in some ways expect help in the kitchen. When I clean, it is not to fix another person’s mess, it is to promote good hygiene and sanitation, and I cannot be expected to do all of the cleaning if my partner is just sitting there.  When I care for children, it is because I love them and want to see them be healthy, not because I am trying to ensure my partner’s bloodline is well taken care of, as some duty I have as a woman. My father would probably crap kittens if a man showed up at his house with 5 cows, 10 goats, and 50 chickens in exchange for his middle daughter. Above all these reasons, I am also a romantic. Dan can tell you this—In fact, he was the one to point this out to me three years ago, before we were even dating. I still remember he said it very matter-of-factually, “You are a romantic,” like he was describing the color of my hair or something. After some thought, I decided he was right. Three years later, it is still a matter of fact that I could never marry for social standing, situational reasons, or money. When I marry, it will be because I am completely in love with my best friend and I want to spend the rest of my days sharing my life with him. 

The more I learn about Ugandan views on marriage, the funnier I think it is when I hear a man ask me to marry him. For these reasons, and so many more, I am certain that I would make any Ugandan man totally and irrevocably miserable if we were to marry.         

**It should be noted that I am in no way demeaning Ugandan men and women by stating my views on their reasons to marry. I know many Ugandan women who are completely happy with their situations in life. In fact, it is from their viewpoints that I am able to recognize how completely terrible I would be as a Ugandan wife! 

That's all for today. Overall, I am doing well. Eager to start the week and proceed with many great projects! 

With love,

1 comment:

  1. I am older (much older!) but not wiser, I'm sure. However your reflections seem "right on" to me!