Wednesday, December 1, 2010

a different perspective

Being the only outsider in my community, you can probably imagine that I am the subject of a lot of local attention. Even though I have been here for three months, and I seem to be going about my business unnoticed, I have found that I never really have privacy.

Some people in my village know me and are familiar with my Western ways, but most prefer to keep their distance and speculate. They come up with some pretty outlandish, but pretty amusing theories not just about me, but often projecting them onto all non-Africans.

Not used to manual labor, I am soft and weak.
Emma, really my only local friend, brought me a couple sections of sugar cane the other day as a treat. For those who don’t know, sugar cane looks like bamboo sectionals, and, as the name implies, tastes delicious. Two sectionals is really too much for me so I asked Emma if I could just break it in half and share it with him. “No!” he yelled, taking it away from me in a hurry. He then quickly shattered the stalk over his knee and handed one back to me before tearing into his own half. “You could not have managed,” he said.

My diet consists entirely of yellow bananas.
Being a bachelor in Uganda, I am not expected to know how to cook. I had many people apply for the position of house girl (maid), but I turned them all down, and the speculation began immediately as to how on earth I would feed myself. Often being seen walking back from the market with a bunch in hand, Emma told me that a large portion of the town believed that I was subsisting solely on bananas.

I am quite the ladies’ man.
I have said it on here before, but not being used to seeing white people, the locals really have trouble distinguishing us from one another. Despite the fact that she has been here at least seven or eight times, many people mistake my girlfriend Nicole for a new, attractive woman every time she comes to Kisoga.

I am one of the world’s greatest soccer players.
Again, the issue of recognition comes into play here. To many locals, I am the spitting image of either Cesc Fabregas or Carlos Tevez (Spanish and Argentinean international soccer superstars). This, coupled with the fact that I am in regular attendance at the cinema hall (wooden shack with satellite dish) on weekends to watch English Premier League football has caused many people to believe I have unparalleled skills. Luckily, ten minutes on the pitch was all it took to disprove this theory.

Having a different internal composition, my body is physically incapable of eating and digesting many of the foods that Africans eat.
I have no clue where this notion came from, but I think it’s hilarious.

Being born naturally smarter, I only had to attend school for 5 years.
This one is really sad. After talking with Emma and a few of his secondary schools friends about it, I found that they felt African children needed to attend school for 13 years because they weren’t born with the same intellect as children from other parts of the world. When I explained to the boys that I had actually attended 20 years of schooling, and that they had the same exact same natural gifts of any foreigner, I think their spirits lifted, but I still get upset every time I think about it.

I am not someone to be messed with.
Unfortunately, this belief is only held by young boys (it would be a useful safety deterrent if the whole town believed it). They have told me that no one will try to rob or harm me in any way because if they do, they know they will feel the wrath that all Americans are capable of dishing out. When I asked how they knew Americans were so fierce, they told me it was because of all the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan films they had seen.

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