Yes, I’m American. Yes, my skin is white. Yes, I have (somewhat) soft curly hair. But who says I can’t be the daughter, sister, cousin, and grandchild of two vivacious families living in the vibrant village of Mukono, Uganda?…
East African culture is beautiful for many reasons…
The captivating deep hued colors of the pure blue sky, brick red dirt, smooth dark skin, and complexly patterned cloths.
The upbeat music that permeates every moment of the day- as if keeping time for the cooking, cleaning, walking, greeting, and eating.
The uninhibited dancing, in which all participate (there is no such thing as a bad dancer).
The constant, shameless hand-holding.
The humble mentality that ‘what’s mine is yours’.
All of these things are beautiful in their own respect but, in my opinion, the most beautiful cultural aspect is the value for family. [Unlike the generally individualist American culture, East Africans tend to be collectivists, making for a higher value of family.]
The Kagolos and Wanderas show no hesitation when telling me I am part of their family. In fact, they insist that I am one of them. Though I’ve done nothing to deserve this honor, I gladly accept.
In the U.S., if you were procreated by one or both of my parents, you are considered my brother/sister. If you are the woman who gave birth to me, you are my mom. If you are the woman who gave life to my mother, you are my grandmother. You get the picture.In East Africa, specifically Uganda, if you visit my home, are a friend of the family, are in some distant way related to me, or participate in basically any family activity, I will never question calling you my brother, sister, mom, or uncle…you are family.
Because my Kagolo Jajas (grandparents) don’t speak a lick of English, most of my time in Mukono was spent with my brothers. We walked around town visiting friends, buying onions, eating cassava root, listening to local tunes, greeting passerby’s, and delivering fresh milk – all whilst holding hands. I am their sister, so we hold hands.
We hold hands all the time. And I love it.
[Understand that my Ugandan brothers have lost some of their parents to AIDs, pay their own way through university by running a CD/DVD business, live with their uncle in Entebbe and take care of livestock, play football with their friends, and wash their few shirts by hand on the daily. To any onlooker, our lives are quite possibly incomparable.]
When we hold hands I feel included and accepted. All of our blatantly obvious differences immediately fade away and it is just me and my Ugandan brothers, doing ‘normal’ life together.
According to the rules of genetics, as well as many societies, we are not genuine family. And all too often, we as humans allow these rules to divide us, hindering us from loving deeply and accepting one other unabashedly.
The Kagolos and I are family because we choose to be – because we, without having to vocalize it, know that sometimes love is blind. Blind to physical, social, and cultural differences.
And being blind isn’t always such a bad thing.
[For more photos from my Easter weekend in Uganda, keep scrolling!]