Mzungus, “Only In America”

We had the pleasure of hosting Patrick and Joanita Mulondo at our home here in Rancho. Patrick is the artist we met in Jinga, Uganda who makes amazing sculptures welded from scrap metal collected by local street kids. Scrap metal he pays 4-10 USD per kilo because Patrick pays 2x normal street price, which he overpays because he is fortunate. He used to be one of them.

Parick grew up orphaned, after losing both his parents from AIDS at 4 years of age. He was found on the streets by a family friend, had his art talent discovered by a Christian organization who put him thru art school. Today, he is 30, and a successful sculptor.

While Patrick has been to the US 3 times, his new wife Joanita had never left Uganda. What made our friendship and interaction on their visit so special was seeing Americs through the eyes of a person who had only ever seen our country through whatever bits are shown on Ugandan television, be it news or select TV shows. And what an innocent, and eye opening lens she has. The number of times I heard, “only in America”, and for what reasons, was fascinating. It was a lesson in humility, appreciation, and discovery of things we cannot fully understand. In no particular order, here are the anecdotes from our day about.

The notable differences between California and Uganda range from how clean the streets are, to how good a life the Mzungu dogs have! Huh? (Reminder, Mzungu is the East African generic name for “white guy”)

Yup. How good Mzungu dogs have it. As they entered our house Joanita recoiled at our little Shiba Inu dog. I asked if she was afraid of dogs? “No, not Mzungu dogs.” Whaaat?!?!

Mzungu dogs apparently “sure have it good.” That they “would never make it in Africa where they must live digging thru garbage and hunt for food in the streets.”

I casually asked Joanita why she married Patrick. “Because he is not like other African men…he’s more like a Mzungu. Kind, helps with cooking and cleaning. Not running around.” We laughed at that one.

One of my favorites was when I took them to visit the school the boys attend in LaJolla and we passed thru security. Get this…”Why is there security…at a SCHOOL?”, came the ask, with puzzled faces. “We don’t have that in Uganda.” I have often quipped that many of the supposedly scary places we’ve traveled in the world are far less spooky and dangerous than in the US. Exclamation point on that.

One really great moment was taking our Ugandan friends to the beach in LaJolla. Get this. At 29 years old, Joani has never set foot in sand, or the ocean! It was like being with a young child; the discovery, the joy, the smiles. “Way past our view, across the Pacific, is Mozambique.”

Another big difference was that “in Uganda, your nose fills with dust and dirt, and after one day you could never wear the same clothes again. But here, everything is so clean. What you wear today, you can wear again on Thursday.”

Prior to arrival in San Diego, they had been at a benefit in Sacramento where Patrick’s art was sold at auction. While there, they were in a 4 car pile up (with no one injured), they were in the first car. They marveled at the way everyone got out and shared their information with the police and other drivers. When Stacia asked why that was so amazing? They howled, “In Uganda, everyone involved would get out and run away to disappear!”

Getting into the Tesla, after unplugging the power cable. All the goodies: no gasoline, large GPS screen enabled, great acceleration…”WHAT is this thing?!?! Only in America cars like this. You could never have a car like this in Africa. Would get destroyed by the roads!”

Final anecdote. They told me the performer SHAGGY was big in Africa. All Jamaican/Reggae base music is in fact. I just happened to have on my playlist the album by Sting and Shaggy. 44/876. I put it on and it was very popular with my guests. They had not heard it. But the confusing part to them? WHO is this Sting?!?! Shaggy is known all over Africa but they had never heard of Sting! Even after I played Roxanne and Message in a Bottle, I got completely blank stares.

It’s a small world indeed, punctuated by little differences that make one smile, and again appreciate how lucky we all are…


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