Scott leaves for Uganda on Wednesday. You may be wondering why he's going back. Didn't we just get home from Uganda? Yes, we arrived in the States five weeks ago, but we knew even before our plane touched down in Atlanta that Scott would be leaving again the following month.
Why? Well, he didn't finish everything he needed to do while we were there. Kanzi needs some more inventory. Our awesome African sling bags are almost sold out! AND we are filling a huge order for World Crafts who will now be carrying a handful of our Kanzi and Ornaments4Orphans products. We are very excited about this opportunity!
I am also very, very glad that Scott is going to be able to be with Theophilus again. There are a lot of struggles in the ministry right now and Theophilus seems low. When Scott is in Uganda he and Theophilus are practically inseparable. Sometimes they really grate on each other's nerves, but just as any two people who love each other a lot , they'd rather be together annoying one another than apart. I am hoping and praying Scott's time in Uganda will be refreshing for both men.
I don't know if I've ever explained here on the blog, but the national language of Uganda is English. This is because Uganda was a British protectorate until it gained independence in the 1960's. There are dozens of different tribes all living in Uganda and dozens of tribal languages. Most Ugandans speak at least two if not three to five different languages! Still there are many Ugandans who are not able to communicate with one another unless they are speaking in English. Theophilus is from western Uganda and grew up speaking a different langauge than his wife, Sarah. Theophilus can speak her native tongue. She cannot speak his.
When we rescued a little boy named Abraham off the streets of Kampala two years ago he only spoke Acholi, a northern language. No one understood him. Thankfully our oldest boy, Joe, is also Acholi and was able to act as a translator. In his two years spent at Ranch Abraham has learned Lugandan and is learning English. English is the common connector between the various tribes and dialects.
Of course "Ugandan English" isn't really the English we're used to hearing in America. Obviously people there speak with a distinct African accent and because the English was introduced to Uganda by the British, it has some distinctly European traits. The trunk of your car is called "the boot." Flashlights are called "torches." But these little nuances aren't the only difference, for Ugandans have taken what the British gave them and learned to make English all their own. Ugandan English has distinct phrasings and intonations.
When our family is in Uganda things are simple because we are able to speak English. But I'll let you in on a little secret. We speak Ugandan English. The first time I heard a white person speaking in Ugandan English was only hours after first arriving in Kampala seven years ago.
Our teammate, Josh, had flown ahead of our college group due to scheduling and had already been in Uganda for a week once we arrived. When we met him at the hotel I noticed he was speaking strangely to the Ugandans in our midst...he sounded eerily like them. I wondered if he was aware of his shift in accent. Had he just been away from Americans so long that he was unaware of how weird he sounded? Did he realize how silly he sounded and worst of all, did the Ugandans think he was silly? Wasn't this kind of demeaning towards them?
I stopped wondering these questions soon enough when two days into the trip I also picked up this weird accent in my speech. I found people just understood me better, which is a pretty important thing when your primary day to day activity is sharing the gospel with people. I not only picked up the accent, I started saying things like "Let's slope to the church." "Can you extend?" and "more better."
I came to the conclusion that the Ugandans were already accommodating me by speaking my native tongue. The least I could do was try to adapt my English so that it was more like theirs. I decided speaking Ugandan English wasn't demeaning, rather, it was respectful. I've held this view for several years, but today I had a linguist confirm it for me over the radio. As we were out doing errands I listened as Diane Rehm interviewed Robert Lane Greene, author of "You are What You Speak." Greene had a lot of interesting things to say, but I perked up as I heard him discussing the way tourists often inadvertently adapt their speech patterns to mirror those they encounter on their travels. Spend a week in Ireland you may sound a tad Irish. So spend a month in Uganda and...you get the picture.
Greene stated that those who seek to adapt their speech to fit another's are in actuality acknowledging the humanity of the other person. It is a gesture of goodwill...of respect. So there it was. My proof that by speaking English the way a Ugandan does I wasn't treating them as if they were inferior, but as if they were equal or potentially superior. Now I'll have to stop making fun of Scott for constantly mirroring the accent of whoever he is chatting with (Ugandan, southern, Ebonic, British or Michigan...Once I heard him talking with an Indian customer service representative in a total Bollywood accent. Yes I did!) Apparently Scott is really, really good at acknowledging the humanity of others!
When we are in Uganda Scott and I purely speak Ugandan English. It took us a while to get all of the nuances down. Adopting Ugandan phrasing was fairly simple, but shedding ourselves of American phrasing was more difficult, especially in more emotional or intense circumstances. We still have a running joke with the Kamaras to this day about the time I was throwing up in the back of the van while Scott kept shouting at the driver to "pull over!!!" Apparently this only informed him to change lanes. Thankfully Sarah yelled "stop!!!" before we did too much weaving. To this day if you say "pull over" to Sarah or Theophilus they will burst into laughter.
Talking like a Ugandan has become so second nature that we even speak Ugandan English in private when there are no Ugandans nearby. We'll be sitting in a coffee shop by ourselves jabbering away in our funny accents. I'll give Vivian instructions in our hotel room in a thoroughly African way. We almost have to flip a switch in our brains to force ourselves to revert to "normal" when we are alone. Sometimes when we are in the States I miss speaking Ugandan English. But I can guarantee that when I skpe Scott next week he'll talk to me in his Ugandan accent. It's totally weird, but I totally love it!