in common

July 21, 2010

Millie laughed last night, telling me about her first visit to the states while travelling with Watoto Children's Choir. Fully dressed in African garb, with hair extensions down to the middle of her back, Millie said the children just stared at her and the members of the choir - mouths open in wonder.

"When they asked if they had any questions," Millie paused to let herself laugh, "they asked, 'are you from outer space!?'"

We guffawed together for a while. I saw on a cheesy card somewhere that laughter is the shortest distance between friends, and it is the way that Millie and I get to know one another - telling funny stories, appreciating her children's antics, and talking about the way our cultures interact.

Our conversation started because there were children behind us, yelling for me, and giggling when I turned around. Millie told me about a story about a group of Americans that came to the school in Wobulenzi, and took questions from the children.

They asked if Mzungu's get hungry, tired, if they have to go to the bathroom - and do they need to drink water, as well?

Uganda 2010 epiphany #2: I remember when I was afraid to argue a grade with a professor, freshman year, most distinctly the moment where my mother said, "He puts his pants on in the morning the same way you do."

I am the only white person that I have seen since Sunday, when I landed with a group of non profit workers, and we all scattered, after purchasing visas, to go our separate ways. Since, I have begun to discover that all my views of poverty, culture and, well, people, have been biased - created out of my own perspective, the place I come from, the way my people do things. It is good to be the different one. I think that everyone should have to be the different one, at least once.

I have learned that poverty is not the same as desperation. I have learned that a woman who is not starving, is a woman who is doing well for herself.

I have learned that my life-long notion that we should move everyone towards living like, well, us, is crippling.

Remember the last scene in A Raisin in The Sun, when the grandmother says that, in order to love a man, you have to take him for where he's come from, and where he's going, and think about the things he's been through to get there?

I'm living it.

Things like coffee in the morning, hating homework and finding a (semi-ok) cup of coffee remind me that we are all not so very different. At the end of the day, we all use the loo, get thirsty, miss our mothers when we're gone, grumble about our homework and feel different in a group of people when they are all a different color than we are.

We have our humanity in common.


angela said...

EXCELLENT! you are rocking my socks, shan. although, of course, i'm already barefoot.