Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Queen[s] and I

-| Ye Olde Rules |-

Way back when [the exact date of this period is unknown, depending on who you ask.  It's safe to say that this period ended about 50 or so years ago], women in Uganda were forced to follow rules, some of which are listed below:
  1. When you greet a man, you bow and/or curtsy.
  2. Do not wear trousers or short skirts.
  3. Do not climb trees.
  4. Do not ride bicycles.
  5. Do not sit on chairs.
  6. Do not eat chicken.
  7. Do not say 'no' to a man; not only will you be forced to say 'yes,' you will get boxed [punched].
The exact reasons these rules [undoubtedly written and enforced by men] exist are still unknown.  Modern Ugandan women do not abide by these rules; most are comfortable making that apparent.  For those who aren't or still wish to respect their elders, these women quickly jump down from trees, slip on a knee-length dress, hide their bicycles behind a nearby chair, and spit out chicken before doing man's bidding.

Introducing two hilariously exceptional women who fall under the former category.

-| Bridget |-

"My mom thinks they will lead me to steal and do drugs and hurt people.  That they will give me bad morals," she said, "She doesn't want me hanging out with the guys at Breakdance Project Uganda."

We walked down the street after the session, she walking casually, and I trying to wring the sweat from my shirt without looking like I suffered from hyperhidrosis.  I had asked the basics: When did you start breakdancing? [one year ago], Why did you start? [saw a performance, thought it was awesome, had to join] Why did you stop? [school], and What did your parents think?

"She doesn't think breakdancing is for girls.  When she saw all these boys throwing their legs up in the air and spreading them, she said that girls shouldn't be doing that."

Attempting to put two and two together, I asked what made her mom change her mind.

"She hasn't.  She thinks I'm reading now, studying for school.  Which I still need to do, so I'll see you later."

-| Nancy |-

"The boys on this street fear me," she said.  

The dancers and musicians didn't show up at Luo Talent Centre, so we had stayed behind to add more Acholi phrases to my repertoire.  She said that I could walk her home [it being on the way back to town], and the conversation had turned to what rules women used to follow.

[Perhaps it had to do with the fact that she had taught me ee Acholi mon pee-kee yeh-nee goo beh-ree kom, or "Women are not allowed to sit in chairs in Acholi."  Nancy thought I could use this as an ice breaker in conversations with Northern Ugandans, and that deemed it necessary.]

Wondering exactly with whom I was walking, I asked why.  Was it because she wore pants, or climbed trees,  or rode bicycles, or sat on chairs, or at chicken?

"No," she said blankly, "It's because when boys box me, I box back."

-| Note to Self |-

Regardless of the oppression they may appear to suffer, it is probably well advised to never say no to or mess with a Ugandan woman.  She's most likely to find a way around it, and you're most likely to get hurt.

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