Friday, July 17, 2009

"100% Indian? But you are so pretty."

Last week was particularly hard in terms of my nausea. Not too bad, but enough for me to cash in my "mzungu sick cards" and sleep in a couple mornings. Which wasn't so bad. The time alone afforded me some much needed personal space and the walk to work was almost serene.

And being by myself on the way to work gave me the opportunity to speak up. I greeted all that passed me and was overcome by the friendliness of the people here. I will definitely miss that. I guess since I was also by myself, I worked up the courage to conversate with the police officer standing near Bukasa at the road check. Everyone tells you to be wary of the police here, so I was never quite brave enough to say anything other than "good morning" with my head down as I hurried past.

On Tuesday I stuck around a little while after the standard greeting, and after explaining that I was American, but my parents were Indian (amazing, I know), we started speaking about Uganda. I think it's really funny how some Ugandans cannot fathom what I could possibly like about this country, when I've come from America. I've been asked so many times that I now have set responses. I love the greenery, the cheap & fresh vegetables, and most of all the pace of life. I'm never really stressed like I am at home, but I still feel like I am getting a lot accomplished, in general. After he invited me to buy land here so I could stay forever, I finally worked up enough courage to ask him about what he was doing there. He said that they stopped the matatu's to make sure they were not overcrowded and the trucks to make sure they were not overloaded. I wanted to know the punishment if the vehicle did not pass, but I decided I had pressed my luck enough for one day and scampered away before he could tell me that I was overloaded.

Thursday, the police block was up again, but this time with different officers. After I assured madame police officer that she did indeed look very smart in my shades, we began to converse as well about my ethnicity. That's when she dropped the one liner "100% Indian? But you are so pretty." Ugandans' concept of what Indians are is very funny to me. Since there is only one type of Indian that lives here, and I am not that type - people have trouble believeing that I am Indian at all. Reuben the boss man once told me that the texture of my skin proved I was not Indian - my hands are smooth and apparently all the hands of Indians he knows are very rough. I'm pretty sure George fell out of his seat when he learned that I was akin to the Bollywood movies they watch here. hahaha, oh well at least all of my conversations about my ethnicity are never boring.

Since I felt that I had sufficiently broken the ice with this madame police officer, I went ahead and asked her what she would do if someone's vehicle did not pass her test. She said they fine them 60,000 ush. $30 might seem like a cheap ticket in the US, but considering a reasonable month's rent here is 40,000 ush, that might provide you with some perspective.

Reuben told me once that he never drives with his license, because if he gets pulled over then he just tells the cop that his license is at home. Wow, that would never fly in the US - but I wondered how madame police woman could write someone who had no identification a ticket. Since I didn't want to press my luck any farther that day, I decided that was a question I'd save for next time.

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