i’m not usually the kind of person who needs a lot of attention, but i’ve recently discovered that when i have been the recipient of fairly intense attention, it is difficult to adjust to losing it. up until very recently my best friend has been my landlord. it was great. after i got done with work (usually sometime between 6-8pm) i would head to his mobile phone shop in town and hang out until it was closed and then we would head home together. initially these hangouts were designed because i didn’t want to walk home. partially because i’m lazy, but also because in uganda, monsters come out and eat white people after dark (i hear it’s because our porcelain skin glows in the moonlight). a more accurate description of the monsters that prey on white people might be: a thief who jacks white people’s crap because they assume (correctly) that the white person has more money/valuable things than they do.
since i didn’t want to get eaten by a monster/get my stuff jacked, i would patiently wait for him to close up shop. at first the wait seemed so painful that being eaten by a monster seemed like a more pleasant way to spend the evening (perhaps the monster would be like the smoke monster from LOST- how pimp would that be? especially if it suddenly turned into john locke). after a few days the pain morphed into something much more amazing. i found myself enjoying the time i would spend at the mobile phone shop. i was able to practice the local language (unfortunately aside from being taught the greetings i already knew, most of the language exchange revolved around helping them increase their english-speaking abilities, particularly regarding profanities and crude names for a female’s genitalia). i would chat with the workers at the shop, the customers, and the loiterers who were keenly interested in speaking with the mysterious white dude sitting behind the counter.
during these mobile phone store sessions, i would receive a lot of advice. for instance, i was warned against seeking treatment from the new “herbal healing centre” that had just opened up down the street (shoot, i was really hoping that i could get some medical marijuana or iboga treatment). i was also told that i should not trust the street meat on the other side of the road because it was not safe and wouldn’t taste good (however, i should most definitely eat the goat on a stick that the advice-giver was shoving in my face).
the best (and most frequent) advice i received was to get myself a ugandan wife (or whore, as the case may be). most of the attention i received regarding this issue was not from the woman herself, but rather on her behalf by well-meaning (?) parents and random drunk dudes (because obviously, i’m a great catch. let me list the qualities they saw in me: white, white, oh, and white). most of the drunk dudes insisted that ugandan women are the best in bed (which seemed strange since they all seemed keenly interested in having me help them find some white girls). they usually weren’t pushing marriage on me, rather just a roll in the hay, and perhaps i could give the dude a little money for lining up this good time (this way you can avoid letting any of the money fall into the girl’s hand, by instead directly give to the pimp).
parents, on the hand, were more inclined to seek a marriage arrangement instead of simply whoring their daughters out (i guess marriage is a better long-term investment: “then you can bring us all to america after you are married.”). it’s hard to evade these offers with the traditional excuses. you can’t pretend you’re gay (oh really? we kill gay people here.) you can’t pretend that you’re a priest or planning on becoming one (oh really? it’s ok, our priests don’t really follow that whole celibacy guideline.) not even the “i have a wife back in america” ploy works (her name is “chastity” and she’s a dancer. ironically people here think that someone with such a virtuous name must be a good christian woman who performs ballet or some other kind of socially acceptable dance. as opposed to the girl i envision, who is dancing around a pole because she never had a proper father figure). despite having a good christian ballet dancing wife back in america, i would get responses along the lines of: “she never has to know”, and “wait until you see our daughter dance.” some promise that their daughter worth “many cows” (there is a bride price here, and the number of cows indicates the value of the girl). unfortunately for them, i’m not easily won over by promises of cows; i’m more of a shrimp person than a steak person (they might have had a better chance at securing a white son-in-law if they had told me that their daughter was worth a lot shrimp scampi).
after the leaving the store and heart-broken ladies, my landlord and i would head home where he’d cook some amazing food (apparently the bland food uganda suffers from is the way in which women enact punishment upon the nation for not respecting them as equal human beings. that, or my landlord, one of the only ugandan men i’ve known to cook, is just blessed with a love for garlic and an aversion to the massive quantities of insipidly plain starches that the rest of uganda seems to be infatuated with). while he made dinner, i’d sip on a glass of wine and catch up on the my favorite telenovelas which have been translated into english (primera dama – aka first lady– is my current obsession. this fascination stems from the lack of other viewing options and has been sustained by my new love, celine reymond, who plays the heroine, “sabina” who imdb.com describes as “an ordinary, young but ambitious woman who is willing to do anything to seduce leonardo sandander a presidential candidate to become the first lady of chile) on the flat-screen plasma television that was adorned to his wall (yah… i’m not the kind of peace corps volunteer who lives in a hut in the middle of the jungle – and, more importantly, i’m not the kind of peace corps volunteer who feels guilty about not living in a hut in the middle of the jungle). once he had finished his wifely duties, he’d join me in the living room where we’d devour the delicious food and watch a dvd that contained an assortment of random local and american music videos (everything from celine dion’s “my heart will go on” to rhianna’s “umbrella” to a variety of bobi wine videos – you should check him out on youtube. and be amazed by his amazingness).
this was my routine for my first few weeks at site. work all day, fend off marriage proposals, and cap it off the evening with some food and bobi wine music videos. this week, however, something terrible happened: my landlord got himself a lady friend (and, if i’m not mistaken, she ironically happens to be one of the girls that i turned down). it was a wednesday night. i had just gotten off of work and had settled myself down in the mobile phone shop. i sat and exchanged the usual pleasantries. soon, it was very dark outside and everybody started to abandon the main drag and head home. i wasn’t worried initially, but then it was time to close the store and lock everything up. my mind started racing:
what if i have to walk home? do i have enough money on me to pay off a robber? what happened to my landlord? surely he would call to let me know he wasn’t coming, right? it would suck if he died – mainly because i would have lost a chauffeur. do i really have to walk home? he had better have died or at least been injured so critically that he is incapable of calling me.
after about 10 minutes of standing by myself in the dark in front of the store, i decided that he had, if fact, died, and thus left me to walk on my own – how inconsiderate. i briskly walked down the pitch black highway, praying that i’d be attacked by the smoke monster, and not some random thief. the electricity was out all over town, of course, so the only lights i had to rely on were the random trucks that sped past me. thankfully i reached my destination without incident. i found his truck parked in its usual spot and candlelight gleaming from inside (“he better have had a stroke and/or fallen off a ladder,” i thought to myself). i opened the door to find a some lady standing there holding a candle. looked past her and saw my landlord sitting at a table set for two. it looked very romantic with the candlelight (granted, they probably would have just been using lamps had the electricity been on). i stood there in the rain, shocked as i started to grasp the reality that this slut had stolen my friend (in my mind i remember there being rain, but this was surely just my media-influenced mind, since i also doubt that r.e.m.’s “everybody hurts” really started playing). i abruptly said goodnight and quickly headed up to my place. since i didn’t have any candles i ate my dinner of crackers in the dark before falling asleep without my glass of wine or finding out what had happened on that night’s episode of first lady (“surely sabina would be given her job back,” i thought to myself confidently).
it seems that i’ve been replaced. i realize that she can probably give him things that i can’t (e.g. sex), but that doesn’t make the loss any less painful. if things don’t improve quickly, i’m going to have to consider seriously trying to get a transfer to peace corps chile, so i can be close to my precious sabina (plus i hear the smoke monster doesn’t live in chile).