Living Hopefully

Stories from Uganda

Snakes and Assault Rifles

During our first week in Jinja we set out to explore our new home town. We walked to dinner, ate on a dock over the Nile, and watched monkeys playing in the trees. It was dusk when we made our way home.

We took a new route, walking up a rutted dirt track we had not yet explored. The road wound between abandoned British colonial houses, tile roofs sloughing off, shattered windows gaping, chain link fences rusted and falling down.

Ahead a shadow passed behind a broken window. A moment later a man emerged from a hole in the wall of a once grand, now decrepit, house. He disappeared in the tangled undergrowth.  The man reappeared and pushed through a creaking gate and stepped into the road in front of us, wearing a stained and tattered uniform.

The man shifted his weight and hefted an old militarty gun from one hand to the other. I quickly looked around, not another soul in sight. The sun behind the horizon. A dark face hidden in shadows. A rusted barrel casually, perhaps accidentally, swinging past my chest. I held Winden’s tiny body a little more tightly.  

african-soldier-500x365

This guy looks way cooler than the guy I’m talking about.

Like the sunrise a smile split the man’s face, white teeth nearly shining in the dusk.

“Praise the Lord! How is baby? How are you finding Uganda? How is mamma? You are most welcome here!” And with a handshake and a grin he sauntered off and we went home.

And that’s normal here. People that would kill me in a movie drink tea and talk about their kids in real life. 

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This photo is borrowed from Fox News. Not shown: his pearly whites.

Every day I see things that white middle class Americans are taught to fear. Snakes on the bedroom floor, black men with machine guns, muslim men in turbans. As I walk by they call out “Hello friend. You can not just be walking by me. Stop and say hello.” (The people…  the snakes just slither.) And so I do.  We laugh, they ask about Winden, and they teach me words that I promptly forget.  I’m a stranger here, but I feel welcome.  I’m a foreigner, but we are sharing life in little ways: greetings, laughter, asking after family.

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This is how it feels to find an unidentified snake in your baby’s room.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 12.51.53 PM

This is what it looks like after you catch it and identify it.

Africa. It’s not a news report, a movie, or a church bulletin photo.  For a lot of people it’s home.

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