August 3, 2010

Iganaga Town, Iganga

Only one Mzungo.

After a day wandering around in a cluster of foreignness (a short orientation to town: bank, grocery story, market, café, taxi rank) I finally found a reason and the motivation to wander about a little on my own.

I set out for the little market; hoping to familiarize myself a little with both this place and the people who live here. Still struggling to learn even the most basics of lasoga (one of the local languages) I walked down the wide street dirt road in front of my house. I passed people on foot, leaving puzzled expressions in my wake. A woman, on in an ill-fitting red shin-length dress and thin and abused flip flops, pedaled by unsmiling. Small children playing in a cluster of grass, women staring absently while holding small brown babies, makeshift shops selling eggs or eggplants, dotted the way to the mini market just off the main road.

The sky, heavy and gray as lead, warned rain and the sun lazed toward the horizon as I made the final turn toward the market. immediately I began to see more makeshift stalls. A man squatting beside a segiree (coal pot) roasting a corn, several small wooden shacks with hanging beads and no obvious (at least to me) indication of what they sold, slabs of unrefrigerated meat spread out for perusal and sale.

Walking this maze of sights and people, I greeted tentatively. One woman responded and then continued to speak. I turned smiling, “that’s all I know. I’m sorry that is all I know.” She looked at me quizzically and clasped my hand in something more than a shake but less than a hug, my café au lait hand nestled against the roasted coffee been complexion of hers.

“Fatima,” she pointed at herself and I responded in kind. She beamed a friendly smile at me as we walked our separate ways.

Not quite the spectacle I was in Sri Lanka or China (no one trailed me screaming bob marley or handed me their children or wives for a photo op) I listened to the wake of chatter scattered behind me. Three older women, closely cropped hair and a slightly askew wig, chatted among themselves until I neared them. Their conversation suspended, they watched me approach with confusion. I greeted, “ohsibiotiya” and their confusion broke into, “bulongee” the proper response and a melody of laughter that was the soundtrack to my language attempts.

Eggplant, onion, and cabbage in my bag I headed home, unsure if I’d taken a wrong turn as the waning light had shifted and a gaggle of young boys, who hadn’t been on the street earlier, tumbled about in a ditch I hadn’t seen on my way to market, a young child -head piled with white suds -bathed in a plastic basin. but I was right, the demographics of the street simply shifted, as they do.

My metal gate in sight, I was triumphant in my journey. Giddy that I heard only one “mzungo” tossed lightly in my direction.

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