June 17, 2010
Today I was rushing to get to the ARLPI office by 8:00 a.m. (due to the snooze button on my lovely phone mysteriously pushing itself multiple times) and decided that I just had to have a banana for breakfast since it would go nicely with the garden tea that is prepared for me every morning by our amazing secretary, Christine. I stopped by a street vendor and spent a few moments trying to find the perfect specimen. While sleepily pawing over a few pieces of fruit I noticed that I had an audience piled up by the boda boda (motorcycle) stage on the side of the road. One of the charming men cat called and said, “Hey sister, bring me a banana!” In my morning stupor I replied, “Hey brother, give me your manners.” Clearly he had none and this amused the rest of the onlookers. I managed to pay my 300 shillings and walked past them in their hysterics only to be ogled at for a few more feet until I stepped inside the haven of the ARLPI office.
I am still amazed how men treat women here, especially the white ones. I promise you that I, or any other white woman for that matter, could be wearing a tattered paper bag with dead frogs pinned to it and hair full of mud or monkey feces and most of these Ugandan men would gladly profess their undying love and ask for my hand in marriage. Alas, if things were only that simple in America, right?
Many of my friends and family members have asked me how it is being in Gulu, Uganda as a woman and how I have felt over the past month. While thinking about this an image came to my mind. It’s an image that I have loved ever since I was a little girl, as ironic as that may seem. There is a photo, as you will see below, by a photographer named Ruth Orkin. It is a snapshot of a beautiful American girl walking bravely through a busy street in Italy. When I first saw that image I thought to myself, “I want to be THAT lady some day!” I loved how confident the woman seemed and how everyone standing by adored her. Did I mention that she was in Italy, for Pete’s sake? I was jealous of her dark hair and complexion however, but thought that if I could travel the world like that one day then I would be longed for too.
***Note: Darling, be careful what you wish for.***
Now as I laugh to myself I find that I somehow still love this picture, especially because one of my favorite Uncle’s has a copy of it hanging in his home. I suppose if one were to take a snapshot of my mad hatter life at this moment one would call it, “American Girl in Gulu.” The image might capture a daring young woman in a faded black cotton dress, strawberry hair all astray, shoulder bag full of bottled water and books, with her head held up and green eyes lowered slightly. This is the life of an American girl in Gulu.