Ramblings of a Mzungu wife in Uganda

Shoshana on her wedding

Shoshana on her wedding

I am an American expat wife in Uganda. It came to my attention several months back that some non-insignificant portion of Ugandan men wonder what it would be like to have a Mzungu as a wife.

Well, once you secure your Mzungu, let me advise how one might make her transition a bit easier. To start with, your Mzungu maybe like me, an African-American, who has idealized dreams of returning to the Motherland. After centuries of slavery and segregation that my people endured, I would triumphantly return, bringing the cosmic redemption of injustice through the ages.

That I would step off the plane and absolute strangers would stop to hug me and say, “Welcome home, my sister”! As in, your Mzungu may not even realize she is one!

The first thing to note is that your Mzungu has likely only experienced Uganda from within the tourist life. Her knowledge of how to conduct mobile money, food shopping and other daily tasks is minimal. You must keep a close eye and over-explain almost everything.

At first, she will want to get Jumia and Cafe Javas delivery for every meal. Rest in peace, Shoprite!

I remember my first adventure outside the gates of the compound. I took my big American phone and the small Ugandan phone from my husband. I went walking down the hill, which shall be referred to as “sloping”.

Imagine my surprise when I had the urgent impulse to turn my back, only to see two men leading seven sheep and 10 long-horned cattle down my dusty five-meter wide street! ‘I am not in Kansas anymore’, I thought to myself. Not that I have ever actually been to Kansas.

Getting used to seeing livestock in almost any place around the cities of Uganda will take time for your Mzungu. There is a phone store next to a barber salon with two goats outside on ropes. A loose cow somehow calmly milling about the car washing bay, while someone barbecues nyama choma.

If your Mzungu would care to drive, please be kind enough not to live in Kampala. The chaos and bustle and horns and traffic jams of the capital are far too intimidating for your average Mzungu. Should you be lucky enough to have an above-average Mzungu (of which I am not), please allow her more training sessions than you think she needs.

Her typical glass-smooth roads with painted lanes won’t prepare her for the mantle piercing potholes and sense of adventure one gets behind the wheel here. Rest in peace, Didi’s World!

Taking care of household chores will also be an adjustment for her. If you have arranged some house help for her, she will be very thankful. There is a severe lack of dishwashing machines in Ugandan homes. I am tempted to start an NGO for this cause!

Within the domestic sphere, there is men’s work and women’s work. The gender assignment of tasks differs from one culture to another. Please don’t be appalled when your Mzungu wife expects you to empty the rubbish bins. Especially the heavy large one in the kitchen, which requires a quarterly outing across-town to get kaveeras for.

A lesser foreign woman might wait until the second generation of flies are born from that bin before she does it herself. In America, marriages can end over a recalcitrant husband’s refusal to empty the bin!

Now we come to the issue of laundry. Thankfully for me, my husband is a self-sufficient [one] and does his own. I, however, tried to enlist the aid of our helper with my laundry. Please explain to your Mzungu the taboos related to undergarments! She is to pull them out of the laundry basket and wash these herself.

When our helper asked my husband, “Am I to wash her panties?” I thought she was protesting against doing my laundry. Little did I know it was actually about the panties. The panties are in a separate laundry bag from the rest of the washing, forevermore.

Now, we come to the issues related to social gatherings and leisure. Tell your Mzungu to be careful how many friends she invites.

Hosts are often expected to arrange transportation home for their guests. During coronavirus lockdown, it was impossible to get everyone home before the curfew. There were no curfews in my home country of America but the American variant could not transmit at night.

There are so, so many things for your Mzungu wife to learn; how to mingle the posho like Jajja, which restaurants have real ketchup (not tomato sauce), which months the nsenene return. Why it is raining so hard when it is supposedly the dry season.
Gentlemen, take care of your wives; a long and happy life together awaits!

Thankfully for me, my husband is a self-sufficient [one] and does his own. I, however, tried to enlist the aid of our helper with my laundry. Please explain to your Mzungu the taboos related to undergarments!


© 2016 Observer Media Ltd