Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Dolly in the Slum

Being invited for a meal at a Ugandan’s home is not at all uncommon. Perhaps it’s simple hospitality, perhaps it has something to do with social status at having a mzungu visit your home, or perhaps for reasons that entirely escape me. Whatever the case, Thomas my Kampala boda man extended that invitation. Having spent enough time with him this past four months to feel safe in making the visit, and being ever curious about life in Uganda, I agreed.

Thomas drove me through one of the many slums surrounding Kampala (wish I could remember the name) where mzungu seldom pass. I was getting an up close view of life here where so many short term missionaries or travelers will never go. After we parked the boda, we wound our way through narrow gates, stepped over running muck, and found the door to his mother’s apartment.

I was warmly greeted by all who lived inside and Thomas’ pretty mother produced a beautiful traditional meal, worried that I might not eat local food. After assuring her that I am accustomed to all the local foods and that I was so thankful for anything she provided, we ate together (and I got the only fork). Matoke, cabbage, and chicken. The food was very tasty.

Thomas’ sister-in-law was visiting as well and had with her a small girl (although I wasn’t sure about her gender until I asked). This girl cringed (okay, she screamed) at the sight of me thus proving that mzungu seldom venture into the recesses of Kampala slums. Eventually she became used to being in the same room with me as long as I didn’t look at her. Yes, I erroneously believed a dolly might help. Nope.

However, another young girl (I know not what her relationship is to this family but she was eating lunch with us) scooped up the discarded dolly, knelt next to me (a traditional sign of respect), and in very good English said “thank you” about three times. Thomas’ mother asked her if the doll was given to her because this girl seemed to take ownership immediately. It was like she was thankful the baby didn’t want the doll because she really did. What does it matter who gets the dolly except that the small girls (doll and child) had someone to give and receive love?