Friday, May 21, 2010

Post # 46: What I hope to leave in my wake...

The rural farming community where I work, because of its location outside of a conflict zone or a famine or drought prone area,  never sees white people. Thus, when I roll into town for the third time that week it is cause for enjoyment. Most adults look up and stare fixedly, while the more uncultivated individuals crack jokes  about the way I ride on the back of a motorcycle or talk to my African friend. The children, unrestrained by their gawking seniors, drop everything they are doing immediately upon seeing me. Bags of beans fall to the ground, their contents scattering, younger brothers get momentary relief as their older siblings stop beating them in the head with an empty water bottle, plastic bags are pulled off of heads to improve vision and vocal projection, foot long sticks of raw sugar cane are ripped from the mouth. Their goal is a shared one, really: to say or do something to get the mzungu’s attention so that they can laugh and cry and cry at the response and tell their own children thirty years later awhile seated around a campfire about this one hilarious mzungu they saw when they were younger. The problem arises when you are not on a boda, but walking through the different houses where the young kids spend their days. Since no adult will make an effort to restrain them, the kids simply fall in line behind me. From over my shoulder I hear “Mzungu, how are you?” to which I respond “I am fine, how are you?” to which they respond “I’m fine, how are you?” to which I respond “I am feeling very bloodthirsty, how are you?” to which they respond “I am fine, how are you?”

Sometimes the children failure to dissipate after the fourteenth greeting, as happened in this one instant when Eddie and I were leaving a training session at a local church. The kids streamed out behind us, shouting greetings, unshaken by our growing strides. Eddie made and effort to clear them away by scolding them with a stern voice, but they were not rebuffed. I thought the barbwire fence surrounding the compound  and the women cooking matooke might slow them down as well, but again, I was foolish. We were getting closer to our destination, now, and the pressure to shake these kids was mounting: if these children found out where we planned to eat lunch we may not receive the moment of solitude we needed to talk football. The kids were closing the gap, and their shrieking and jabbering was right behind me now. Then it struck me. Brad, while he was here, was on a brief quest to find the most offensive or inappropriate phrase in Lugizu, the local language. He shared his findings with me one dark and stormy night. I worked my memory  hard for the wording and pronunciation, then, satisfied, turned to face the growing gaggle of children, cleared my throat, and proclaimed “Ngana kookooba mooka!” The kids immediately scattered, screaming, in every direction, clambering over rocks and boulders, sliding down cliffs, jumping behind houses, climbing the nearest tree. I turned to Eddie, who was bent over laughing. “Ngana kookooba mooka,” you see, means “I am about to pass gas.”

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