Call me friend – not mzungu
It was a lovely Friday for your mzungu here spent in a lovely family in a small community in Munyonyo, Uganda. Very different from what my Fridays usually are like or in general from what my days when I travel are like. Usually it’s more sightseeing, visiting attractions, getting lost on purpose. However, this one was an exception. A lovely one!
I had only exchanged Facebook messages with Jackie when I asked questions about moving to South Sudan in a Facebook group of women who travel. Then we kept talking and I kept asking her more questions. Last month, when I was on a stopover in Entebbe on my way back to Yambio, Jackie offered me to go and visit her family and community. To be honest, I didn’t want to go because I knew it would trouble them and they would prepare lunch and go above and beyond to provide a great welcome for the mzungu. But Jackie is so sweet that at the end I gave up and agreed to go.
She came to pick me up with her brother (not a blood brother but they became brothers as they share the same love for children and work for their well being). It was only few minutes before she reached when I started worry. I was talking with a close friend who asked me what if something goes wrong (like I get abducted, kidnapped, or all the other things that went through my mind from that moment until I got convinced that she’s just a great soul happy to meet fellow women travelers) and I kinda started panicking inside. I had no network on my phone so couldn’t even send an SOS message and no internet connection either.
However, I couldn’t back-up at that point and turn them back after they had traveled more than an hour to reach Entebbe.
For some time, I felt weird, worried, and stressed out. It was the first time that I agreed to do something like that and, being the person I am – trusting other people until they prove me wrong – I never thought someone seeming so lovely and friendly would turn into a people’s smuggler or human trafficker. Plus, I’m not used to having strangers fix my hair or get to close physically and Jackie was doing it occasionally so I really felt worried and weird for some time. Anyways, soon enough I was breathing deeply and slowly and trying to calm down myself.
We reached the destination after an hour or so and went inside Jackie’s brother house. His mum spoke some English and we were conversing a little bit. They offered me water as it is the tradition that you shouldn’t leave the house without having had something – food or drinks. I was hesitant as I didn’t know if it’s bottled water or tap water. I asked about it blushing and they ensured me it’s bottled water so I had it.
We took (a lot of) pictures with the family members there and then proceeded to Jackie’s house. On the way, I heard children call me “mzungu” which I had no idea what it meant. Jackie told me it means foreigner (I checked it later on and saw that it refers to white Europeans). I kept hearing “mzungu” more often until we reached Jackie’s house and even after that. Suddenly, from Lavdi I became mzungu. No one bothered to ask for my name for a very long time (almost until they drove me back and dropped me off at my hotel).
We had a rich lunch at Jackie’s place and, no doubt, many pictures were taken during that time as well. I remember only taking two pictures with my phone. Jackie later on sent me the pictures taken during my time there and let me tell you there are 100+ pictures. At some point I felt like being in the Big Brother; however, I understand them and I enjoyed my time and their hospitality.
Jackie and her family members wanted to show me a resort and so we took first boda-boda to the main road and than took a van, or as they call it motorcar, to the resort. To our bad luck, the resort was closed for visitors as they were expecting the President of Uganda to arrive. However, the guards told me I could go in. I felt bad and angry; Jackie and her family are Ugandan and they weren’t allowed to go in but I, a foreigner – a mzungu – would be allowed to go in although they had no idea who I am (I could be anyone and even a threat to they President). This is where I experienced for the first time the white privilege and let me be honest with you, I disliked it TOO MUCH!
Anyways, we returned back while taking more pictures and enjoying the time left and then we took another motorcar to drop me in Entebbe. All the way, there was laughter and joy and my Friday turned up to be a good Friday and a great time spent with new people in their own house. I am happy they accepted me wholeheartedly in their environment and showed me their wonderful hospitality.
Have you had any experience like this?Share it in the comments section. Let’s spread the good news (bad news are already out there)!