Iganga Town, Uganda

September 25, 2010

They smiled at me through my open window, me splayed out in the bed watching a movie on my laptop. I’d just pulled my earplugs out because I…I guess I heard them coming. Our guard grinned down at me as I waved them all in the direction of the front door.

There they were, the three smiling kids that live next door. About my complexion, hair not too far off either, they always wave shyly. Moreover, they never call me mzungo. Instead they greet me in English or giggle when I greet them in lusoga.

“how can I help you?” I asked as I walked out onto my freshly mopped patio. A small pair of plastic sky blue shoes snagged my peripheral vision.

“our mother says to give us money,” the oldest, maybe 12 or 13 smiled at me as she spoke, her brother and sister peered up at me.

I tensed. Curiosity immediately transformed into the most complex and tangible anger I ever experience here. It isn’t new; and still I don’t know how to deal with it.

“I don’t have money for your mother,” I answered blandly. The kids prepared to leave, the little boy struggling with his shoes under my watchful eyes.

The feeling squeezed the pit of my stomach. The reality that I’m no part of this community, not really. Despite the LC1 coming by this morning to inform me that I am listed as the head of household for our home in anticipation of the census. Despite yesterday’s lighthearted market visit. My avocado seller, still recovering from malaria, coaxing me to dance to the wandering band of men playing traditional drums and strumming an electric guitar without the electricity to power it. Never mind the eggplant woman who helped me find the money I dropped or the tomato vendor, an old woman with the most beautiful smile lighting up her face when I spoke to her, carefully handling my purchase, biting holes in the bag for reasons I’m still unsure of.

I walked to the clothes -line to check my clothes and the guard wandered over. He smiled and gestured to a vinyl bag sitting on the back porch.

“give me.”

The feeling still gripping my stomach, “no,” I replied curtly. He walked on.

I am money. Made of money. Distributor of money. Mother of all things financial. The women at the front of the market tried to charge me an extra 500 shillings. My boda driver begged for more despite me knowing the price – invoking his son.

Back in my bed, curtains drawn, the last light filters through darkly. I absently return to my movie when I hear something hitting softly against the grass outside my window. I ignore it until I hear it again, see something land and bounce. I watch in mild disbelief as red dirt clods from the road outside sail over the glass tipped fence and land a foot from my window.

I jerk the gate open and startle the younger girl from next door. She lowers her head and walks toward her house.

The slam of our fence echoes as I return to my house. Angry…but at who…

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