Sunday, 29 April 2012

Helping the Ugandans Understand Acne, Freckles, and Age

So of course living in a foreign country on the other side of the world, we're obviously going to find ourselves in situations that wouldn't usually present themselves in America. For instance, many Ugandans have spent very little time with anyone of lighter-colored skin. However, they can be very blunt and if they have questions they will not hesitate to ask. The first time I ran into this problem was with a man named Henry, and the conversation went something like this:

Henry (gesturing to some pimples on my face): "What are those? Are they bug bites?"

Me (after a few moments hesitation): "" (I decided not to elaborate)

Henry: "Bug bites must be terrible, especially coming from another country. You must be having a lot of trouble with them."

Me: "Um....yup."

I have no idea what he got out of this conversation but he seemed satisfied with my answers. 


Another problem is age confusion, and it runs both ways. They haven't the slightest idea how old we are, and we can never tell how old they are. The first Sunday we attended church, Pastor Joshua had us all come up and Dad introduced each of us by giving our name and age. When he got to my little sister, the youngest Broce, he introduced her just the same, "Annaliese, 12 years old." When the audience heard her age, they all raised their eyebrows and laughed. After the service, Henry explained to us that to everyone there my sister looked at least 16, and the crowd couldn't believe she was only 12. 

Annaliese is on the left, I'm on the right

Unlike my sister, I am often confused for someone younger. During our first month in Uganda, we received a special offer at a gym near our apartment and were able to make it a regular part of our morning schedule. During one such morning, I was doing partner exercises with my sister (who, again, is 12, and I am 18). The trainer came over with two weights, one heavier than the other. Now, in the States, if people are going to confuse my age they assume I'm older. So I was surprised when the trainer had to ask who was the older sister, so he knew who needed the heavier weight. Of course, my little sister thought the idea of being older was just great and still likes to remind me now and again.

When my mom and I walk together, people are often surprised to discover she's my mom, not my sister. They are always telling her how young she looks (which is something she could never hear too often). They are even more surprised to find out she has five children, and have on more than one occasion insisted that she is lying. 


Looks yummy right?
Because we have only been here a short while, we are still trying to understand the culture. Once my mom and I visited a restaurant we hadn't been to yet. There were lots of other people there, including many foreigners, so the place looked promising. We ordered a single coffee shake to split. When it arrived it looked so delicious and refreshing we couldn't wait to devour it. So we stuck our straws in and took a big sip. We stopped mid-slurp, with the most disgusting drink we have ever tasted trapped in our mouths. We unwilling swallowed it, and stared at it. But, this was Africa, and we didn't fully understand the culture. We didn't know if they would be offended if we asked for a different drink, let alone a refund. And so, we drank it. The whole thing. And then quickly made our way over to the grocery store to find something to get rid of the nasty taste stuck to our tongues. 


The other day while searching for souvenirs (I'm such a tourist), one of the saleswomen bent over and rubbed my calf. "You have such beautiful legs," she said to me, referring to their (extremely) light color, "What kind of cream to you use?" I said I didn't use any, and she again complimented me on my lovely white skin. I thought it was funny, though, that here in Uganda my legs are beautiful while back in the States when people see them they usually shield their eyes and tell me to get a tan.


Today at church, Henry (of course) asked me about the freckles and moles on my arms.

Henry: "What are those?"

Me: "Oh they're just freckles. I get them from the sun."

Henry: "Really?? You get those from the sun? Wow. I did not know what they were. I did not know if they are bad or if they cause pain."

Me: "Oh they're normal. They don't hurt."

Henry: "Oh, ok, ok."

Me: "Yes, they're permanent though, they'll never go away."

Henry: "Never?? Wow!! They will never go away?? Oh, wow!" 

Henry is learning new things everyday. 


  1. awesome, just remember this for life. Things everybody knows in America are not as know around the world! Most people think that everyone knows about Americans but just think about how many people don't know how much they don't know. We have just as much ignorance about the world as they have about us.

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