Mzungu Memoirs

It’s Not Good or Bad, It’s Just Different

Moving to a new home always brings with it changes, challenges and differences, so you can just imagine the changes, challenges and differences that come with moving almost halfway around the world.

When Robert was in Colorado Springs for orientation, the interns who were going through orientation with him adopted a phrase: “it’s not good or bad, it’s just different.” We are trying to instill this attitude in Caleb, especially in light of his latest favorite expression “that’s weird.”  I think “that’s different” sounds much better.

One of the first differences that we were faced with when we arrived is that we are the minority.  And I do mean the very small minority.  They call us mzungus here, which is derived from a Swahili word for white person.  After we left the airport, I don’t think I saw a single mzungu, except the director who came to pick us up, on the entire hour and half ride to our new house.  I’m starting to notice more mzungus, both in our neighborhood and in the areas where I shop, etc., but still, we are definitely a minority, which is to be expected.

When we got to the house, one of the first differences we noticed right away was the lack of air conditioning.  The house was completely shut up and was quite stuffy, so we set about opening all the windows to let some air in.  Unfortunately, it is quite warm here, and since we are just off the equator, temperatures don’t vary much.

The open windows also helped us realize another difference: the noise level, which is a little louder than what we are used to.  Our house is on the corner of a very busy street, so we get quite a bit of traffic noise from early in the morning to late at night.  And while we have a fairly sizable lot as far as Ugandan houses are concerned, some of our neighbors do not and are quite packed in, so we get a lot of chatter and noise from them as well.

Africa seems to be generally dustier, especially since the rains haven’t started yet.  This adds a whole new dynamic to trying to keep things clean, including everything from clothes to the house to our son.  Normal bedtime routine begins with washing off the feet so you don’t get the sheets dirty.  And if I want to give Caleb a full bath, I have to wash his feet and legs off before I run the bathwater so the water doesn’t turn brown as soon as he steps into it.

Cooking has a whole set of differences all its own, from the available food to the way you cook it.  I do have a microwave, toaster and a hot pot for heating water, but those only work when the electricity is on which is not a guarantee.  Most of the cooking is done on what is called a “cooker,” a stand-alone gas range and oven something a kin to the standard American stove only smaller.  Unfortunately, the temperature control on the unit I have isn’t the greatest, and getting the burners low enough to just simmer has been problematic.

The differences in shopping have definitely been an adventure.  We have been taken to several different “supermarkets” in the area.  That is what they are called here, but I use the term loosely.  It would probably take at least 10 of the largest of these supermarkets to fill your average Super Wal-mart in the States.  The average supermarket here is probably just slightly bigger than a good sized convenience store in the States.  But they seem to be able to stuff more in them.  The isles are tighter and stuff is crammed in every nook and cranny.  The variety of some things is limited, but the variety of others such as such as juice is much more varied.

There are many more differences that I’m sure we will learn as we continue to live here, but one thing remains the same: we are all God’s children and we are all live on this planet together.  The color of our skin may be different, and the way we go about our daily lives may not be exactly the same, but our hearts are still fashioned and called by God and love is spoken in every language.

posted by Robert in Uncategorized and have Comments (3)

3 Responses to “It’s Not Good or Bad, It’s Just Different”

  1. Elizabeth Swanson says:

    P.S. Heather, I miss you in the Yahweh Sisterhood. Girl, we pray for you!

    Much love,

  2. Elizabeth Swanson says:

    We have been praying for your safe travels and transition to your new way of life. There is no doubt that you are doing the Lord’s work. I always look forward to your newest post.

    In Christ,

  3. Amy says:

    Your “cooker” looks about like the first stove that I had in Italy… only yours looks bigger!!! I bet your refrigerator took a size cut as well:)

    BTW, after 7 years in Italy, I still don’t have a microwave or a toaster.

    Anyway, your shift from “weird” to “different” is commendable, as are you all in general.