July 31, 2010

Iganga Town, Uganda

Side saddle on a bike seemingly transported from 1955, legs neither straddling or to the right of the cushioned seat, my bike chariot wove its way through the crowded, sometimes paved, streets. The cool humid air chilled me through my skirt – through the thin gray sweater meant to guard against the cold.

Iganga whizzed by me at human pedaled speed. A blur of faces and bodies engaged in early morning haits. Making chipaits – the dough in neat rows, pale mounds like nipple-less breasts plucked from some anime “love scene”. Boda bodas, a metallic row of motorcycles complete with thick jacked drives – waited patiently for fares. A woman, one of only three I saw on the main drag from my left-sided perch, sweeping out her shop front.

A few looked up, a passing glance as I rode past, but I was gone in a bicycles blink.

It is so easy to be a narcissist in another country. All the more so when visitors aren’t the norm. in such situations the presumption that everyone is staring at you often proves true. And so I find myself reading into the expressions people flash in my direction.

The danger, of course, is I’m building my Ugandan context from scratch. Right now my assumptions of expression and explanations are through a foreign filter…china vs South Africa vs Guatemala. And none of them are here. So when the director of the guest house smiled broadly at our introduction– a tooth filled kool-aid smile much like my own – I assumed it was my brownness, my not quite black but oh so closeness she was responding to. It could just as easily be general friendliness, or that I looked funny.

It was only my first full day; life will continue to unfold in pieces and I’ll figure out the puzzle.

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1 Comment on bikes and smiles

  1. Casimir says:

    Thank you for committing yourself in sharing your experiences with us. I wish you all the best with your those new experiences in Uguanda.

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