Being a queen for the day as a bride is almost every little girl’s dream. At least that was the case 40yrs back…Nowadays, the dream is that of appearing on any reality show going, as a shortcut to fame – at any cost. I was of the school of belief that soon as I’d qualified in my nursing studies, the next step was to get a work placement, marry and have children then return to working full time; and in that very order. All I had to do was find a fitting candidate that would be acceptable to my goals of what was expected from me. I didn’t spare much thought for the reasons of the candidate’s acceptance of my offer – he basically opted to exploit what was availed him.
I still have fond memories of my adoptive Dad even after they had divorced with my adoptive Mum. (I would just like to remind you – I had been adopted by my biological paternal aunt from the age of 2. Both my biological mother and father are very much alive) In my childhood eyes I felt like my world was disrupted when I returned from boarding school in my first term holiday to find that Dad was no longer living with us. I couldn’t cuddle him or be spoilt by him anymore – he appeared to have just vanished off the face of the earth. I didn’t see him again until much later prior to his death when he visited London. Sadly, I’d lost any connection with him by then. I guess this is what drove me to ensure my children have free access to their father no matter how much I personally would’ve preferred to migrate to Australia and cut off ties with him. I had missed my dad or a father figure – even though I loved my mum dearly, and did not wish that my children should ever experience that sense of loss because of divorce.
Following the divorce or separation, mum had moved house and we now lived in a flat in town next door to some white persons that kept a monkey for a pet. I found it strange…monkeys were the bain of my school life at primary. They were definitely not the cute pet that this family had – no, the monkeys at my boarding school could often be very horrid. You see we had a borehole near the school, but use of this was limited. On the very special occasions when it was unlocked for rations to all, there had been a tendency to use the borehole as a cage-fighting venue that in the end access to the borehole ceased to exit. This meant that we had to head down to the well located in a forest which was about 6miles downhill from the school, hence the confrontation with monkeys who felt they had every right to tease and torture us. We had taken to washing ourselves by the well to save on the water we would eventually have to fetch and carry back to school. The monkeys would wait until we had soaped ourselves all over, including our shaven heads and face, before pouncing. Sneakily they would take our clothes and simply leave them hanging up in the trees before creeping up and tipping all the basins holding the water on the ground. With soap in your eyes and no immediate water to wash it out, I guess you could see the predicament, if not for having to walk back to school in your birthday suit.
I digress, so shall return back to the change of residential home brought about by the divorce of my parents, which was met with bewilderment on my part anyway. I missed my dad, missed the big house, and my step siblings – albeit maybe not so much, I recall they had not been very nice to me…My mum never re-married albeit she had very set opinions on marriage and discipline as a whole. I owe a lot to her and miss her dearly with every passing day…I recall a time in my teenage years when all my girl friends had started talking about dating and boyfriends. On the topic of boyfriends, she had simply told me – “in our culture, there is no term for boyfriends, just husband”. So if I so much as wanted to date – then marriage would be the resulting step. That had cooled my teenage head and made me focus on my books. I’d seen my older biological sisters’ marriage unions…their partners or the treatment met out to them by their husbands, didn’t leave me wanting to rush to join such a club any time soon.
Still, when your peers all but start inviting you to their weddings, marriage starts to take on a new meaning and before you know it, the fever catches you before you can even care to find an antidote. The thing about marriage whilst residing abroad and marriage within Uganda is that the pressures of remaining true to the union no matter what, are somewhat at different parallels. Perhaps because in Uganda, society is still very much male dominated and indeed access to positions etc is commonly dependent on being married or reference still aimed at the “Mrs so-and-so”, most women would walk on hot coals to get married irrespective of the character of the man or even whether he already has a 1st wife or various mistresses. Financial security too plays a huge factor – albeit this trend would appear to be changing as more and more women have either outlived their spouses or come to inherit many financial assets, or the Dubai-business women effect (DBWE) that has seen a rise in so-called sugar-mommies.
In a similar fashion to what has been a subject to debates in the USA whereupon American males have travelled to the Philippines or European males heading to Thailand in search of so-called economical wives, a similar parallel is seen with Ugandans in the Diaspora who will for reasons varying from nostalgia of set roles to genuine romantic notions head back to Uganda to find wives. The similarities would appear to end here in this parallel. The thing that continues to puzzle me is why so many marriages or relationships of Ugandan Diasporians to fellow Ugandans appear to head down in the divorce courts? Is it a case of too much freedom threatening the known set roles of either gender or pressures of living in the Diaspora yet having to account and be responsible for the extended family members back in Uganda? For a certainty living in the Diaspora is akeen to having a person who commutes to work in the city but having to return to the village at set times to check on his family. The difference here being that the city worker might take on a mistress but retain his homestead and wife in the village with the understanding that the mistress does not bear him any children – is merely there for his physical and occasional emotional needs. Such arrangement would allow him to focus on putting in hours to make money for his family back in the village without the added pressures of caring for a second family in the city. It gets messy when the mistress decides to change the roles… So I’m left wondering if being married whilst residing abroad yet somewhat still committed to taking care of the extended family could be one of the major causes of so many divorces by Ugandans in the Diaspora. Or is it simply the case that we just fail to work on marriage as our fellow persons on ground in Uganda.