Western Union Wedding
One night on my way home from Jijna, I asked the boda driver how the repairs on his motorcycle were coming along. He said the boda was now fixed and his next goal was either to buy a brand new boda, or better yet a car since he had been a professional boda driver for twelve years now.
In a seemingly unrelated turn of conversation, he started talking about how this Canadian women invited him over to Canada for work. He clarified by saying that he was going over there for a year to save money and would then return to Uganda. As he went deeper into the story, he said that she offered to buy his ticket over there. He had already gone to get his passport in preparation to leave; something that very few village Ugandans possess. He had some issues getting out of the country even though the women had insured him work at her dad’s restaurant.
The story peaked my interest when he said that the woman had offered a women for him to wed. They could get married and then he would be allowed to come over to Canada. They would have to spend some time together in both countries but then he would be home free. She offered to send the money for the flight and the “wedding” through Western Union. I know that this boda has kids and a wife, but I will admit I was slightly surprised when he said that he turned it down so quickly. He said that he didn’t want to accept money on those terms and didn’t want to do that to his wife.
This was a big opportunity to make some serious dollars but he tip toed around the refusal with the African-Canadian woman, making up excuses about why he couldn’t go. He went on to stress how he wants the exchange of money to be clean. As soon as it gets dirty he walks away; money is dirty enough as it is.
When I dug for more information about this Canadian women he explained that she had been a volunteer at a nearby non-profit and he started to give her rides around. After three months, she asked if she could meet his family. After this she asked if she could live with them. Always being hospitable, he allowed her to stay with his family where she remained for six months.
During this time she had quit at the non-profit and was now just chilling in Uganda. My imagination went wild with reasons of why she would try so adamantly to get him over to her homeland. What did he possess that made this woman want to bestow upon him another wife. And who was this woman who was going to marry an unknown Ugandan? I wondered what pieces of the puzzle I was missing.
I’m not entirely sure why I am sharing this story, but I was just a little blown away by it’s absurdity. I have heard stories about marrying for citizenship (I wouldn’t mind being one of those people either, granted I love the person), but it was much different hearing it first person. Then I realized that he probably hadn’t told too many people about this. He needed it share it with someone, and he very well couldn’t tell anyone in the village since it might be back around to Mrs.Boda.
Although I had taken boda rides from him a few times, I hadn’t gotten to know him that well yet. After this, I not only respected him but felt a sense of trust had been created, and with a boda driver that is never a bad thing. I put my life in his hands through six inches of mud, showers of dust and sketchy traffic, I would willingly be his therapist, friend and confidant any day of the week.
Worry about the end of the world?…I’d rather eat grasshoppers
I was on my way to work this morning when I passed Muganda. He had two liter bottles filled with what looked like grasshoppers but missing the large hopper legs. I asked what they were and he responded with, “a great source of protein.” He asked if I had tried them before and my memory flashed back to Mr.Tredway’s science class in middle school where we dipped small crickets into chocolate; I had only tried one.
Later after lunch, I saw Arafat sitting outside with a plater of the things (called nsaynaynay). He was removing the outer shell and said he was preparing them for dinner. He asked I was going to have some and without giving it a second thought I replied yes.
After work, I came home and they were ready to eat. I had no idea I would enjoy them so much. They were like little sweet crunchy morsels of goodness. After the initial taste I couldn’t help but eat until I had a belly fit for a womb, as they say. They reminded me of sweeter baby shrimp with a pleasant crunch. The nsaynaynay season is short, only about two months, but I hope to enjoy them another time or two. They would be a perfect addition to fried rice or an African summer salad.
Circumcision Masquerade Update
As December draws to an end, the circumcision celebration is still in full force. With each passing parade I pick up a new tidbit about the ever fascinating ritual. Muganda was joking about why many divorces are the result of the festivity.
Women love any excuse to dance the night away and the parade can originate from a far away village and travel for many kilometers. The pulsating energy of the drums collects people on the way creating an ever growing and changing mass of people. By nature, African women can’t say no to a good dance. Women will just up and leave to join in the fun, even leaving in the middle of frying a chicken, breast feeding or garden work.
As Muganda is explaining this to me I literally watched Mama Ali and Mama Muganda dart around the house to join a passing parade themselves.
If divorce isn’t the outcome then the women may be beaten for leaving. If they ask their husbands, most will allow them to go but it is the impromptu departure that really sets the husbands off. Although domestic violence is nothing to make light off, I don’t think it is anything life threatening as women continue to flee towards the beating of the drums and dance.
I have started to consider much of the third world beautiful, particularly what I have seen in Africa. I see beauty in the rhythm of local movement. Dirty happy children content with hitting an old tire down the dirt road with a stick. The unchanging undisguised vigor of each town, village or city. The effortless saunter of a local woman walking kilometers home with kilos of grass, maize, or any other source of livelihood on her head. Groups of men gathered around a homemade game table, yelling and shouting, escaping the realities of home, whether they be good or bad. The pungency of burning trash only to be quickly countered with the pleasant smell of jasmine taking over my senses . Or my favorite, the break of a stern face; the structure of the face reshaping to express a tenacious sense of happiness beneath a cocoa colored complexion.
I have accepted the conditions of living here and in that acceptance I see beauty everywhere. This doesn’t mean the harshness of the life here has worn off. It is a hard life full of manual labor, little money and sometimes little hope but life can be difficult no matter where you live only in different ways. A friend told me that she read that 40% of Americans believed the world was going to end on the 21st. Although I have no idea how valid that statistic is, the fact that any percentage of the population thought the world was going to abruptly end makes me think that there were some people living under inscrutable amounts of stress lately. And in the wake of the recent shootings in Connecticut, California and Ohio (just a few states with school shootings this year), and other relentless violent acts occurring in the states these days, I ask the question, is it really that unsafe to live in Uganda? Danger can be found anywhere and perceived danger can be illusive. At least here children can run and roam around the village well into the dark without fear of getting kidnapped, beaten or worse.
But on a much lighter note, a boda ride with good music has become part of the many happy moments that float through my day. It is a sort of retreat during a busy day (I enjoy driving at home so this isn’t too surprising). I love observing the world as I swiftly travel by with a clear mind. Thoughts are fleeting much like eye contact with a passerby. No attachments to anything, but the happiness derived from an exchanged smile and wave carries me until the next friendly nonverbal exchange. I feel light and free, part of this material world and yet part of something so much bigger and untouchable. The job, although different everyday, can provide varying levels of stress. I need to decompress and release. One minute I’ll be annoyed and stressed that a plan has fallen through, a group has failed to accomplish something, they believe they are working for S.O.U.L. opposed to for themselves, or we are under crunch time to accomplish something. More than any job before, there are several times in a day where I have to accept change and shift plans at a moments notice.
I have also accepted that I love my commute. It has become one of my meditations. I stop and allow myself to enjoy everything a little bit more because despite any stress, irritation or annoyance, there is an undercurrent of peace. Although I’ll admit sometimes this ‘undercurrent’ is deeply hidden, feeling virtually nonexistent. Having almost drowned once in Costa Rica due to strong rip tides (thankfully one of my friends saved me), I know that eventually the current will win and you might as well stop fighting and surrender (or swim parallel with the shore if you can manage).
By now I have traveled the routes many times but each time I try to discover something new, something unseen before. It makes it fun and adventure like. It would be easy to let these rides become mundane but I’m determined to never let the learning cease. Plus you never know when knowing the name of that petrol station, school or color of that restaurant will come in handy.
Where do you find the most beauty in your daily life? Feel inspired to leave your answers below and feel free to leave it anonymous.
Here’s to sharing beauty near and far…
…wishing everyone a very safe New Years Eve and Happy start to 2013!
Bonobo “Days to Come”