Monday, September 22, 2014

Back in America! {Reynah's perspective}

September 18 - 10:10pm
Tomorrow will be two weeks that we’ve been back on American soil – two fantastic weeks with T’s family in North Carolina.  My kids have been in heaven having all their cousins to play with, PawPaw’s tractor to ride, and the yummy goodies in MawMaw’s kitchen.  At this precise moment, we’re on our way to Florida… somewhere in South GA, hoping to make it to Jacksonville before midnight. 
Allow me to pause here and just appreciate what I see before me - a smooth, 6-lane interstate with white lines, reflectors, and informative road signs where we can speed along at 75 miles an hour.  (That’s a 100 klm an hour for my friends who don’t speak “American.”)  A road with NO bodas, bicycles, goats, potholes, and especially no over-sized trucks coming at me in my lane blinding me with bright lights!  It’s beautiful.  Really.  I am already missing some things about Uganda, but her roads are not among them. 
We’ve had just a few culture shock moments here since re-entering.   Interestingly, for me, most of these have occurred at Wal-Mart.  Actually, I guess that shouldn’t be interesting or surprising, since lots of shocking things happen at Wal-Mart. First, there was the lady spending 20 bucks to buy a Halloween costume for her dog!  I don’t even know what to say about that.  Then, there were the countless cereal options.  Oh. My. Word.  How did I ever make a breakfast decision before in less than 15 minutes? In Uganda, it’s either over-priced Kellogg’s cornflakes or over-priced generic cornflakes from Nairobi.  And then, I couldn’t help but think about how my stylish Ugandan friends (who love button-up shirts and high heels) would be so amused if they could see how Americans dress to go shopping.  For my fellow Americans, I’m sure you have plenty of visual images right now, so I need not reinforce this point.
T and I both agree that it feels a little weird being around only white people all the time.  In fact, we’re pretty eager to get to Jackson, TN, see our African-American friends, and have some color back in our life! But, for the most part, we’ve eased right back into the familiar abundance of food, water, electricity, conveniences, Wi-Fi.  I'm sure that when December arrives, we will be ready to head back to Uganda, but, for now, we are here and America feels like home.  As the title suggest, however, there is one little person in our family who has a very different perspective on America.
Reynah was just one when we moved to Uganda in 2011.  She was two when we visited the US in 2012.  She remembers some people from that visit, but little else.  She is 4 ½ now, and this is her first real impression of America.  It’s been quite interesting for us to watch her as she learns some basic things for the first time.  Here are some conversations and situations that I’ve been jotting down in a notebook the last few days…

Day of Departure - Entebbe Airport parking lot, Uganda
Reynah: (chanting) We’re going to America, we’re going to America, we’re going to America…` I’ve never been to America before! 
Judah: (in the expert, big brother voice) Yes, you have.  You were BORN in America. 
Reynah:  (in her tattle-tale voice) Mama, Judah just said I was born in America…
Lay-over – Doha International Airport, Qatar
The boys gleefully spot water fountains and make a dash to get a drink. 
Reynah: What’s that?
Me: It’s a water fountain.
Reynah: (looks at me blankly)
Me: Look, you hold down this button and water comes out and you drink it.
Reynah: (pushes the button and watches in wide-eyed fascination for a whole minute)

Arrival – Philadelphia Airport
Customs Officer (who is a pretty African-American lady) leans over the counter and talks to Reynah:  Well, hey there, little Mama!  How are you?
Reynah:  (in her perfected, sing-song Ugandan accent) I am fiiiiineeee.  And yoooouu??
Me (thinking): Oh dear, she’s going to address every black person she sees for the next 3 months like a Ugandan!
First morning in the U.S. - I wake up from my jet-lag coma and find Reynah has already eaten breakfast with her grandma. 
Me: Did you enjoy breakfast?
Reynah: Yes! I ate circle cereal!!!  (she makes little circle motions with her fingers)
Me: Ummm… Cheerios??
Reynah: Yep!  Cheerios!
After an outing with her aunt and cousins -
Me: What did you do?
Reynah: I played in water and ate black circle cookies with white icing inside…
Me: Oreos?
Reynah: Yeah.  And we saw smoke trucks…
Me: Fire trucks?
Reynah: Yeah.
Bathroom at Wal-Mart -
Me: OK, you go in this stall, and I will go in the one beside you.
Reynah:  Wow!  Mama, that’s a whole lot of toilet paper!!  (side note: Public restrooms in Uganda are generally not equipped with toilet paper.)
Two minutes later: The toilet automatically flushes while Reynah simultaneously screams and runs out of the stall with her panties still around her ankles.
Driving through down town –
Reynah: Daddy, what are those yellow thingies that are green and red?
Daddy: (looks at me with that “What in the world is she talking about??” expression)
Me: Reynah, what yellow thingies?
Reynah: You know, those yellow thingies on a string on a pole…
Me: Ooh, those are traffic lights!
At Mawmaw & Pawpaw’s house –
Me: Reynah, take your snack out on the porch to eat it.
Reynah: What’s the porch?
Me (opening the door and motioning with my hand): This is the porch, Reynah.
Reynah: I don’t see a porch.
Me (stepping out of the house):  Look, Reynah, I’m standing on the porch.
Reynah: You mean on the veranda?
Me: OK, yes, sure!  Go eat your snack on the VERANDA.

 with some of the cousins
 There also was the occasion when she discovered what a vacuum cleaner is, which kinda started out like when she discovered the automatic toilet flush... except, of course, all her clothes were in their proper place.  She has developed her own version of the "punch bug" game, and has yet to grow weary of playing it.  Every time (and I do mean every time) she sees an American flag or a playground, she loudly announces her discovery (and I do mean loudly), punctuated by over-the-top gestures and bounces.  But we do love her exuberance.  Thomas and I had a conversation a long time ago about how fun it would be if we could teleport some of our Ugandan friends to America and watch them experience it for the first time.  Little did we know that we would get a similar experience with our own little, white African.  So, if you find her talking funny or getting alternatively excited/ scared over random things, maybe you'll find it as amusing as I do.