My first ride into Kampala, Uganda surprised me; I did not quite expect to see all that I did. The closest environment of poverty that I surrounded myself with was in Mexico; in Mexico, they had basic necessities. When I mean necessities, I am talking about: clothes, food, etc. Even most of the housing I saw didn’t have doors, no glass for the windows – if they had a hole for a window – the floors lie with dirt, and the roofs that cover their homes are ridged metal slabs.
Looking out my window, shops provide meat hanging in the open from old wood looking shacks, people lay out a blanket and display their produce, and sometimes I would view clothes hanging from a line for sale. All the while, you see the mothers carrying baskets on their heads while trying to keep their children in line.
I never experienced an environment like this before and everyone knew that I clearly did not belong. Have you ever felt like you stood out “like a sore thumb.” Being one of nine white people among a country of residents who rarely see our paleness, I definitely stood out like a sore thumb on fire. For first time in my life, I felt like a minority. Everywhere we went, people would stare at us.
Whenever we would pass children, either in the taxi van or when we would walk by them, they would call us a certain name. The children would jump up and down, chase after us, and point at us yelling “Mzungu! Mzungu! Mzungu!” They loudly alerted the other kids around them and the Mzungu callings grew. Our group asked someone from the town what “Mzungu” meant; Mzungu basically means ghost or very light-colored person.
Adjusting to being labeled a Mzungu minority among a very foreign place proved to be an experience of a lifetime.