Written by Gail:
The people of Uganda are very welcoming and friendly, even when we can’t speak more than a “hello, how are you?” We all smile at each other and laugh after jokes are translated one way or the other. We all really do want to communicate and get to know each other. It’s wonderful when someone has some English and off we go with a conversation.
The many children are always watching us. Some dare to come near, others are too afraid of our strangeness. Usually by the end of a day of teaching, they are bold enough to come around. Then we have some fun and laugh and shake hands. I can teach them some numbers, some English alphabet, I can hold all our hands together in front of us and jump as a group then fling our arms to the sky, which they love to do, and I can pass out the blue painter’s tape when Bob is finished using it to hold down his various projector and computer wires during the training – all the children are fascinated by the tape and wear it on their faces like decorations.
But I am experiencing a very big problem. And it seems there is nothing I can do about it. We had to take a ferry to Bugala Island and were told to go to the waiting area until time to board the ferry. There was a very large step up to the area and I had a little trouble negotiating it. We took our Kindles and sat on the front bench reading. I looked up from my book and saw a small girl climbing up the step. After scooting onto the platform on her hands and knees, she stood up and looked straight at me. I smiled at her and gave a small wave as I usually do with children, but she just stood there, staring at me, transfixed by this sudden confrontation with a musungu. She stood there for a really long time, not moving at all, so I waved again and then went back to reading my book. I looked up after a few minutes and she was still there, but then she had turned around to leave. She looked back at me, I smiled and gave her a small wave, and she smiled and waved back and left. Hmmm, I thought, not a very successful encounter, and I returned to my book.
It must not have been the best book in the world because I looked up again. Now there was an even smaller boy, maybe age two, struggling to climb the step, and he was really concentrating on conquering that mountain. He finally had victory and stood proudly at the top, but then he looked up and saw me. I tried the small smile and small wave, and he burst into such a screechingly loud scream that I could hardly believe it. And he didn’t stop; he just got louder, as if someone was twisting his ear. Finally, his father rescued him and sat him where he couldn’t see me. His parents were laughing hysterically, but I was a little horrified. Then his mother decided he needed aversion therapy and brought him to sit on the bench right next to me and Bob. I thought the boy was being tortured, he was crying so hard. The mother finally moved to seats behind us, but he could still see me and didn’t like it. I felt terrible, but there was nothing I could do… finally it was time to board the ferry and I never saw the boy again. I know he was happy!
If this was my only disastrous baby run-in I would be OK. But not one baby in Uganda has let me come anywhere near them. Not ONE! My grandmother-gene has withered to a new low. The babies are so cute, and I just want to smile at them, but, no dice. Even today, a mother with a small boy and a baby came to the meeting. The small boy smiled back at me, the baby shrank away into his mother’s shoulder. She brought him to me and gently put him on my lap. He looked at me for about 5 seconds, and the screaming began.
I can’t believe this is happening…grandkids of mine, watch out. I will be smiling and waving at you very soon. I sure hope you don’t scream and run away! You I might chase…