A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Monday, June 22, 2009

Manna Wange

Francie is the love of my current life. She is the sweetest bowlegged 2 year old you could meet in Uganda. Francie was named Francis at birth because her mom thought she looked like a boy with her high forehead. She is a little homely but over time I have come to find her the cutest African child. Maybe it is her enthusiastic greeting every time she sees me. Or, maybe it is the running waddle on her bowlegs to wrap her cubby little arms around me. When I walk away from Francie I hear her tell those around her, “Manna wange.” This means, “My Amanda.”

A few days ago Francie had an accident with her porridge. I think she was running with it, I haven’t gotten a clear story, but somehow she spilled boiling hot porridge on her face. It burned her skin and now she has a thick white line from her lips to her ear. It is completely rubbed raw and her once beautiful, flawless, black skin is now scraped and white and pink with blisters. When I asked if she cried some of the students told me yes, but not as much as when she was caned for spilling her porridge and crying in the first place.

There are many frustrations in Uganda. Discipline and corporal punishment is the one that breaks my heart the most.

I am constantly being asked for money or help. Everyone seems to believe white skin means big money. When someone says, “Give me money,” I have come to say, “Give me your shoes.” This usually quiets the person and I move on. Last week I was at a school signing in and when I asked the man at the gate how he was (which is part of the polite greeting) he said very poor because he needs money. I had never met this man before. We had no previous relationship. When this happens I become less friendly, express my sympathy and move away quickly. I then usually stew over being seen as money and not as another human being. At times it is very hard for me not to be upset with people when they see me as money. I just want to be accepted for who I am, not for what people think I can get them. After this particular incident, I tried to keep perspective and think if I was trying to survive and believed there was a race that had lots of money, wouldn’t I too take every interaction/opportunity with one of those people to ask for help?

I am trying to work on my patience and understanding with people and not let these comments and interactions get me worked up. Here we go . . . .

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