I had had a tedious morning and was walking through town. After about five children called “BYE MZUNGU” to me, one grabbed my arm to test whether my skin was magically different, and twelve boda boda drivers asked me “sister, sister, where are you going,” I was mildly annoyed. All of a sudden, I hear someone yelling, “Nakiwala, Nakiwala!” (one of my Luganda names that I use to introduce myself since Hilary is a bit hard to say and a man’s name here.) Upon turning around, a boda boda driver I took a few days ago waved to me and asked how I was doing.

But now not only do boda boda drivers recognize me but also my neighbors. One man came up to me and welcomed me back as I was walking home. Even better, a few weeks ago, I was at a training session for teachers; students from a nearby school saw me and asked the headmistress to introduce me to them. Next thing I know, I am standing in a room with over 200 children being asked questions like “what is science?” and “what are the names of your parents?” A week later, I showed back up at the school, turns out this is the second school piloting my project. I stood up and introduced myself as Hilary. Since so many people have problems pronouncing my name, I asked them to repeat it back to me. My question was met with 130 blank stares. Finally, one brave boy raised his hand and told me my name was Nakiwala. I squealed a little, clasped my hands together happily, said yes, and sat back down. They remembered me.

I have a morning routine. Wake up, stretch, wash face, brush my teeth, listen to music as I dance around my room putting on make-up, drink some tea, greet my family and workers, then head off to work. When I get home, sometimes, I help the workers for our catering business peel potatoes. They all try to talk to be in Luganda, and I attempt to string together simple sentences. They laugh at me, and I just clumsily keep at the potatoes or whatever else they think I can handle.

If I am not helping out, Tosha, my host sister, and I try to bond over our mutual love of Disney movies. I sing along and she laughs at me. If we aren’t watching movies sometimes we take photos on my computer or tuzina (we dance) to random music videos or the radio. Once again, my family laughs as I twirl her around or try to teach her the twist.

The place that is building the ballot boxes for my project is called Masaka Vocational and Rehabilitation Center. This organization trains disabled students in things like knitting, carpentry, and computers. Last semester, I took a sign language class and can pull out some random phrases and sentences. The man building my boxes is mute and an absolute sweetheart. Literally, I just want to hug him. Anyways, I really wanted to show him how thankful I was for the amazing work he was doing so I signed thank you. He asked my name, something I am still competent enough to be able to sign. After that, I was far out of my league. But the way he smiled when I tried to sign to him…

It is little moments, tiny things here and there, that make it so hard for me to consider I have less than a week left. I am not only comfortable here but enjoying the haggling with vendors, the calls of mzungu in octaves only audible to canines, falling on my ass because I step in potholes, chowing down on banana chips, spending time with my family, and meeting truly amazing and lovely people.

Hilary Lanfried ’13