i’m not the only white person in the office this morning.

during meetings/trainings i tend to lose focus and not pay attention. some people doodle. others day dream. i usually find myself writing about my observations (observations that have nothing to do whatsoever with what is being covered). i was going through my notebook the other day and found this gem. in late november, the american director of my organization visited bushenyi to train us on “criteria referenced instruction”. i’d try to explain exactly what “criteria referenced instruction” is, but that’d be boring. much more interesting are the notes i took during the meeting:

i’m not the only white person in the office this morning. it’s rather bizarre. i’m used to seeing white people around bushenyi (there’s that lady from the cdc who is here investigating something that will probably end up killing me and everyone else in uganda. there are those snobby german volunteers who are too cool to talk to an american. there are a couple dutch people who are much more friendly- and they didn’t kill millions of jews back in the 20th century. they are here to help start a waste management system- good luck with that. of course, there are also the numerous other pcvs who are in a close proximity to me). this is my office though, i’m supposed to be the only white dude (this is before i knew that nicholas was coming. up until this point, i had held out hope that the peace corps response volunteer would be an attractive female with loose to no morals). instead there are two other white people (mid-westerners, no less) who are invading my space.

the most important of the two is the female. she’s the u.s.-based director of my organization. i wasn’t sure what to expect since the only previous interactions i’ve had with her have been via email. she is younger and prettier than i imagined. her voice is rather soothing (i’m unsure as to why, but i had imagined her as a decrepit old hag/non-sexy librarian with a grating voice). the second, while less important, is more intimidating. he is a younger white dude, which of course means that we are competitors (competing for what, i’m unsure). until he arrived, i was, by default, everyone’s favorite young white dude (that is until nicholas comes in december and usurps me). also, he’s wearing a tie. i considered wearing tie. i don’t usually wear a tie to the office (just slacks and a button down shirt), but i figured if i had worn a tie it would have looked like i was putting in an extra effect simply because the american visitors are here (although i doubt anybody would have noticed or care- much like they didn’t seem to notice or care that i woke up an extra half hour early to actually shower before coming in). in addition to showing me up by wearing that tie, he, like the director, is so clean. his hair is neatly trimmed and facial hair is well kept (i’d like to say that this was the case with me when i stepped off the plane, but everyone knows i still looked like a slob despite the fact that i was freshly arriving from america, the land of hot showers and trust-worthy barbers). i really wish, for once, that i didn’t look like someone transitioning from bieber to hippie.

this weekly meeting definitely has a difference air about it than usual, and it isn’t just the two additional white faces sitting around the table (nor is it the fact that i haven’t heard the word “like” this often or heard english spoken so quickly). everyone seems like students afraid of their teacher after returning from a long weekend even though those students have been doing the work they were supposed to be doing, they all seem nervous that they may have missed something and that their teacher knows this or at least assumes that they’ve been slacking off and not fully-completing their assignments (note: i resisted using the female pronoun when referring to the hypothetical teacher despite the fact that the hypothetical teacher is referring to a non-hypothetical female director. you’re welcome, women’s studies majors). it is refreshing. i feel like people are on their toes; not necessarily in a bad or negative way, but rather in a spiritedly intellectual manner. our meetings are usually well-managed, time-wise, especially when compared to most ugandan organizations (i.e. meetings here scheduled for 9am will usually start by 9:15 at the latest, as opposed to 9am meetings which end up starting at noon, as is the case with many other organizations). today, things are even more timely and on topic than usual. the director seems to be able to impede the usual small amount of wasted time and keeps extremely efficient. i’m not sure what is about her that allows her this power (oh, wait. yes. i do know. it’s probably the fact that she signs off on their paychecks).

i think i could get used to having these white people around if they decided to stay around longer than the couple of weeks they have scheduled. i could even see myself being okay with not being the only young white dude in the office (as long as he stops wearing ties and being well-groomed).

well, turns out that i’m no longer the only young white dude in the office. nicholas is here until december. thankfully he doesn’t wear ties. now i just need him to stop doing a good job, so that he doesn’t outshine me.


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