The teachers of Mustard Seed Academy invited Alison (a British volunteer who just arrived to spend her holiday teaching at our school) and me to the Kulungu District Teachers Appreciation lunch. To be honest, I really didn’t want to go. In my experience, whenever I attend any gathering of any sort in Uganda, they instantly make me the guest of honor, and that typically involves being semi-forced to do something locals don’t think is embarrassing, yet I am always left significantly embarrassed. However, Alison seemed excited for it, so I figured at least we would both be embarrassed together…
And so we were; or at least I was, I don’t know how she felt about it.
A little while after we arrived (to a sight of four sections of chairs filled with beautifully dressed Ugandan teachers all sitting in a square around a 20x20 ft square stage) the speaker said something in Luganda, the DJ started blaring music, then groups of people started getting up to dance. A couple of our teachers got up to join in, and Alison turns to me and says, “shall we give it a go?” I was thinking, absolutely not…but seeing her excited face, I decided why not.
We danced for about 5 minutes, and I’ll admit it was fun. Then they turned off the music, we sat down, and another speaker got to the microphone. He said something in Luganda, and the next thing I know, all eyes turn towards Alison and me. I have been in Uganda long enough to know what that means—even if I didn’t know what he was saying, I knew we were about to get our embarrassing moment out of the way. Teacher Sylvia turns to me and says in her best sarcastic voice, “Oh lucky girl, just what you want! They are bringing you both up to dance for us again! Alone this time!” I turned to Headmaster, John Robert (my friend and neighbor) to see in his face that Sylvia wasn’t lying. He had an extremely teasing smile that could only mean one thing—the Bazungu were about to dance for everyone. Great.
Some random man came out of nowhere, grabbed my hand, I grabbed Alison’s hand (because I wasn’t about to do this alone-alone) and pulled us towards the square for round two. Just as we got to the square and the crowd started cheering—the Honorable Member of Parliament who was an actual guest of honor stands up and walks toward me. The other man lets go of my hand and takes Alison to the center to dance with her. Now I’m holding hands with this big and important political figure-- in Uganda, politicians are actually celebrity status. This man is the equivalent of a Governor in America, but with the fan-base equivalent of a Disney child-star. The crowd is beside themselves. So am I. He and I start dancing a mix between the salsa and traditional Buganda dance moves. I think this went on for about ten minutes and then God finally heard my prayers and cut the music. I did a good job holding my smile—since cameras and video recording devices were rolling in every direction. When he walked me back to my section, I did the local handshake and said in my best accent, “Weebale Nyo, Ssebo” Thank you very much sir. He laughed all the way back to his seat. John Robert took pictures of the entire thing, but they are on Alison's camera, so you will have to wait for those!
I thought to myself, well, at least the embarrassing part was over before the meal was even served. Silly, naïve Kristen. As I stood in line for the meal with John Robert, Sylvia, and Alison, people kept coming up to me to say things like, “By the way, you have really good dance moves,” “You know, we think you can really move your hips,” “We didn’t think mzungu could dance like you,” and “We need to see more dancing from you!” Oh boy, was I flustered! Flattered, of course, but mostly flustered. I’m not one to bask in copious amounts of attention. I’ve never been the one in my family to like that sort of thing, and here I was, in the center of it all. Thank goodness, Alison was there beside me!
After the meal and a few long-winded speeches in Luganda, we hear the music start bumping again. Many more people are on the dance floor, not all eyes would be on me. This time, I have a Nile Special and a very good meal in my system, so I turn to Alison and invite her to dance again. Nothing too embarrassing happened for the rest of the night, but it was filled with attention. I lost track of the men that pointedly crossed the dance floor to dance with me. I got a couple beers offered to me (don’t worry Dan, I turned them all down.) I posed for several photos with strange men. One man tried to get frisky, I actually pushed him off me, and he was so embarrassed, he walked away immediately. A few men tried to exchange phone numbers, but of course, that was not going to happen. There were a few professional photographers that weaved through the crowd, and every once in a while I looked up to see I was getting my picture taken. On a good note, I got Teachers Julius and Godfrey to dance with me, then I somehow got George to dance with me for almost a full minute! I’m not sure I can take credit for this, but at one point, John Robert even showed up next to me on the dance floor (after much talk all day about how he DOES NOT dance and hates it and would never…and…then poof he was there dancing!) I had the lovely Sylvia (who pretty much sat the whole day/night) take my camera and document the festivities. I danced the night away with Teachers Nora, Ruth, Edith, Dorcus, Alison, and Nice. In the end, it really was a great time.
|Teacher Nice and me|
|Teachers Dorcus, Nora, and Alison|
|TOLM General Manager, George in center|
|Me and John Robert (he refused to smile for the camera!)|
|Teacher Julius, me, and Teacher Godfrey|
The dancing in Uganda involves a lot of hip shaking, twisting, and knee bending. As I write this blog, my feet are elevated and I feel a dose of what being a 90-year-old woman feels like. How Shakira does it, I will never know!