Saturday, September 12, 2015

What Do They Call You?

This is a question I get a lot from other volunteers and friends and family back home. What do they call you? By that they are asking, do they call you the local word for white person/foreigner "obujungu" or "muzungu",'re not white. This question always makes me stop an question...why are you asking me this? Do I really look like I am from here, is it assumed that everyone who is not the typical "white foreigner" is not from another country or could not be an American? I don't doubt that volunteers around the world get this same question all of the time; a person with a Hispanic or Latin background in South or Central America, a person of East Asian descent in East Asia or even a person of European descent in the various eastern European countries Peace Corps works in. 
What do they call you? 

For me, it's simple. They just call me Ashley, Ateenyi, or for this who do not know me I am an "obujungu" just like every other volunteer in country. It is true I have been referred to as a "MuHindi" or "MuChina" by some confused onlookers, but in general I am just a regular old Muzungu. Surprising? For me it's not. I stick out like a sore thumb in my village, even when I ride on the motorcycle to the village all geared up with only my hands and my face peaking out from my helmet, faces of children light up and they start singing "OBUJUNGU WANGE!" with their little dance and all.  The locals know I am not Ugandan. How? Simple they say, your skin is too white, your not black like us.... your hair is not the same.....your face is not like ours..  all responses I have gotten when I ask this simple question. It is true I have been known to play jokes on people and say I am from here as they look at me with confusion. "How?", They ask. "My father is an obujungu and my mother from here"..."oh...." they reply still a little confused. "So you grew up from here?", " No, from America. But now I live here", "Oh, you are studying?", "No, I am volunteering"....."......Oh?". 

In reality it doesn't really matter what they call me. The people in my village and those I work with know me as Ateenyi Ashley, the one from America, who is here working with us now. They have adopted me and given me my pet name and even refer to me as one of them "from this side" and it's a great feeling to be accepted in my community.

So, that answers the question.... What do they call you?

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