Over Christmas and New Year I was in Uganda with the family. My wife had just finished an 8 week management placement there and we felt it would be a great idea to spend time with our African friends over this special time of year.
This photo is of Debby’s workplace with her boss Apollo, her colleague Zebby and the family.
I love Uganda and it was my second visit. The people are incredibly hospitable, the African smile seems ever present, the food is wonderful and of course during Christmas it was lovely to have a blast of the sun. It was often the ordinary activities with people that were the most memorable be that attending a funeral, church on Sunday or football training on Wednesday. There is of course the extraordinary, walking up part of Mount Elgon, seeing Sippi Falls or dashing down the white rapids of the Nile in a tropical storm.
What you will also find is young children shouting out the word Muzungu at you. Which basically is saying White Person, or foreigner, but it is done with a huge smile and wave which takes any negative connotation away.
Photos of beautiful smiling children are easy to take but this was my favourite because of the little boys T Shirt who is currently the family favourite.
The word Muzungu comes from Kiswahili, where ‘zungu’ is the word for spinning around on the same spot. That dizzy lost look was perfected by the first white people arriving in East Africa – or so the story goes – and Ugandans haven’t stopped laughing at us yet!
I guess it is similar to the adverts for Orange where they show the ‘Buffer Face’ as people wait for their downloads to work.
Ugandans work to their own time and have huge value on the extended family ties. Community is vital and giving people proper time is critical. Life is not to be rushed, it is to be savoured.
We made lots of friends in Uganda but Rogers (Far right) has to be one of our greatest and is someone who we have both worked with. It was also great to meet his brother Isaac, a Science Teacher in Kenya who became a good friend to.
Rogers explaining to Luke and Reuben how to make a homemade bee hive to get honey, which is one of his jobs. The other is to plant 10 million trees for the Welsh Government.
The European curse is we are always busy, obsessed by time and in a rush to get somewhere even if we are not sure where that destination lies. We make ourselves dizzy with worry.
The other lesson I learn from my Muzungu experience is lessons for the UK. Coming back into the UK I was overwhelmed by a fog of dizziness and uncertainty. I saw the Union Jack and felt ashamed. I am an Internationalist instinctively and passionately believe in global social justice but I have arrived into my country, that to me under Brexit has moved from this partly because of the fear of immigration. I am proud on our country because of its history of championing Human Rights but then I see the picture of today where this proud history is threatened. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/03/european-convention-human-rights-threat As in many parts of the developing world human rights are critical and rightly Uganda has come under criticism for its treatment of homosexuals and its poor record on Women’s rights. As we look to reduce the Rights of people in this country we do not merely affect ourselves but endanger the very principles that act to protect so many others. We lose our voice in a world where too many people’s rights are violated.
I was a Muzungu in Uganda but was happy being different. I feel I have come back to be a Muzungu here, but sadly to an environment where at best there is indifference to social justice and voicing hatred to people who are different has become acceptable.
When it all gets too much there are always great memories such as this picture of the Nile at sunset. And if that fails life goes on.