Eh, you are lost!
The Ugandan exclaims dramatically, approaching the American.
Hi Ester, ah, no. Not really. I’m just walking to that duca.
She states with a puzzled look, pointing at the shop.
How is there?
She asks in a long drawn out baritone, descending the pitch with a long breathe out.
She pauses, perplexed by the question.
Again, she half-points and pauses.
I haven’t made it there yet…. I…. um….. I don’t know.
She states slowly, now more amused than perplexed.
She laughs a deep bellowing laugh, every inch of her body beginning to shake.
She reaches her arm back wide, open palm, then smacks her hand into the American’s hand,
making a loud crack. She holds tight, swinging the American’s arm,
locked into the local Ugandan handshake.
How is home? Did you bring gift for me?
She gives a jolly laugh.
Ester, you know, I live here now.
She speaks slowly, trying to speak clearly.
I live in Uganda.
She waits for Ester to acknowledge this known fact.
But how are the people there? How is Obama?
She continues to swing her arm, with the American’s hand in grip,
swaying her hips side to side as she shifts weight between feet.
Still smiling a big jolly grin, with her mouth slightly open.
Which people, my neighbors?
The American shakes her head a bit in confusion.
Wait… What?… Obama?
She changes her posture and lowers her tone once she realizes the confusion.
Ester, I just walked from my house, you know that I live just down the road.
Now leaning into the Ugandan grip, waiting for Ester to acknowledge the confusion.
Ehhh… but you’ve been lost. How was that side?
She asks gleefully, not fazed by the American’s inquisitive expression.
Lost? I’m not lost.
She speaks quickly, forgetting to use her Ugandan accent.
She shakes her head again in confusion, with a burrowed brow.
The local Ugandan gives another deep bellowing laugh, swinging the American’s arm;
confirming that the handshake has not yet met the minimum 3 minute local standard.
The Ugandan continues to smile that big jolly grin, with mouth slightly open,
as if waiting for a response.
Wait… are you talking about my home here or my home in America?
She now is very amused and smiles a jolly grin back to Ester.
Ester replies quickly and emphatically. She continues to stare at the American,
only now her big jolly smile has reduced to a soft polite grin.
She asks slowly.
As if she were a teacher repeating a wrong answer to the student,
in order for them to recognize the mistake. She is still quite amused with the conversation.
She exclaims loudly, the jolly grin is now bigger than before.
She joins Ester for another grand laugh as they continue to shake and sway hands.
Ester, we talked about this.
She pauses to re-consider explaining the bad news again to Ester.
Arnold lives in California. I’m from Florida. They are different states.
She laughs, so entertained with Ester’s enthusiastic spirit.
You send greetings to Arnold for me!
She leans back, cupping the American’s small right hand into both of her large hands.
She squints her eyes and flashes all of her white glowing teeth,
as if someone shouted “cheese” for a picture.
But, I haven’t been back to America in over a year,
and someone like me wouldn’t know Arnold or Obama in that way…. why….
Ester interrupts before she can finish.
How is the voting, those people in Florida will pick the next president soon?
She speaks quickly, not concerned with getting an answer.
Okay, now you have the right state… kind-of….
She mumbles to herself, as Ester continues to talk over her.
Eh, I have been missing YOU!
She dramatically emphasizes the “you” as she once again cups the American’s right hand with both of her hands.
Ester, you just seen me last Friday!
Now the American is laughing in amusement, fueling Ester’s energetic conversation.
Your family was missing yoouu. Those people must be so happy to see yoouu!
She speaks almost in rhythms, as if singing the words, elongating the “you”s.
But I didn’t see my family. Ester, it has only been two days.
She again leans in, locking eyes, trying to help Ester understand.
I didn’t fly back to America for the weekend.
She waits for Ester to acknowledge the confusion.
She pauses, gives one final shake to the hand.
You have reached!
She shows all her teeth again for the jolliest of all smiles.
She drops the American’s hand, raises both palms up and gives a small sort of bow, turns, and walks away.
Okay Ester, nice time.
She chuckles to herself, arms hanging freely at each side,
and watches Ester walk away with a very cheerful sort of stride to her steps.
As a foreigner in Ugandan, there is one thing that you learn very quickly.
And this one thing is so vital for your everyday survival.
This one thing must be taken very seriously.
Every day is a new experience, and, every conversation is a new adventure.
Often times, it is not the topic or the words you choose that matter here. It is your tone, your expression, and, your willingness to share a smile or a laugh. As a foreigner, we must let go of what is “right” or “wrong” and just enjoy all the little things that just feel right.
Many times, people in Uganda are just appreciative if you have taken your time to stop and greet them. They have a moment to feel special, to feel important. And in that moment they seem to be truly happy with you presence. After all, they say being present is present enough.
But, if you are “not around”. If your presence has been missed,
the locals here will let you know it. Here is another common phrase from Ugandan 101:
You are lost!
This is not the sort of “lost” you are familiar with. Not the confused wanderer lost in a foreign city without a map.
The Ugandan “lost” simply means “I haven’t seen you in a long time.”
And some cases, a Ugandan “long time” may be just two days.
Just know, to be “lost” in Uganda is to be missed.
Take it as a heart felt acknowledgement that they were wondering if you were okay.
My Peace Corps service has been flying by at hyper-speed!
I’ve just celebrated ONE YEAR in country! Although, it feels like I just arrived a couple months ago.
And now as I have a few weeks to relax and reflect on my blog, I realize that I’ve been lost!
So, here it is.
Sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
It’s about time to let you all find out where I’ve been.