Sometimes I think the culture here is too much to overcome. If you have been following Uganda in the news recently, it is one crazy bill after another being passed over seemingly senseless things when there are real problems and issues that need to be addressed.
Living in a culture where women are second class citizens can be exhausting and infuriating. Men will cut you in line because they think they should be first. They will say the most offensive of things because they think that you don't deserve respect. That is just the beginning...it goes downhill from there.
But at home, I try really, really hard to teach these boys differently. But sometimes I think that the culture of this country is too much for little, old me to overcome. Many times my views and opinions are dismissed not only because I am a woman but also because I am an outsider. They can be swept aside by simply saying she doesn't get it, she isn't from here. Which is totally true. Many things I will never get because even if I die in Uganda, I will still die as an outsider.
What doesn't help the situation of trying to teach these boys to be different than the rest of the men in Uganda is they have, for the most part, never had a kind woman in their life. The person that sent them to the streets? Usually a step-mom, mom or grandma. The people that were ruthless to them on the streets? Women. So how do I teach these boys that have only been persecuted by women to have respect for women?
I fail to answer it properly everyday. I just try my best to show them endless and unconditional love and pray that it is all going to be fine.
But some days, I get so frustrated because when I feel like we are making strides forward, something happens and they behave just like everyone else. And I feel like I am failing and it is too much and they have been exposed to the bad behavior for too long and nothing is going to change.
That is how I felt a few days ago and when I was on the verge of tears, one of the boys came into my room. His English isn't the best still, but he is always checking on me and making sure I am fine. When we don't know the words to say to each other, we just sit there. If you saw him, you would definitely be afraid, especially if it was late at night and in a dark alley. He is taller and more muscular than your average Ugandan, or most men for that matter. If we are playing around and I try to prevent him from passing me, he simply picks me up and moves me to where he wants me. If we arm wrestle, I have to put my whole body on his arm to just try and move it. But he is like a gentle giant. A huge teddy bear. Incapable of hurting a flea.
So just as I was convinced that the boys were doomed to making terrible choices and incapable of respecting women and their future wives were going to be miserable and it was all my fault (I'm a bit dramatic, I know...), he came into my room and sat down. He looked at my feet and saw that they were filthy. I commented that I knew that and I needed to wash them. His response was to get up, get a basin of water and proceed to wash my feet and scrub them with a pumice stone.
At that moment, I knew that everything would be fine. The boys do make mistakes. They do let the culture overtake them sometimes, but underneath they have hearts of gold and their future wives and children are going to be lucky.