Trip to Ruhija and Muzungu Status

So I have finally started my research project. I am sampling two different groups of gorillas in Bwindi. One group lives in the mountains right near my camp, so I can go sample those myself each week. The other group is in the eastern side of Bwindi in a place called Ruhija. I needed to go to Ruhija, to meet the person who would take my samples for me each week. I took the samples this week, and I got to see those gorillas which was very exciting. (There were 6 young ones!!!) It took about two and half hours to drive 45km, and it was on a motorcycle. Which might sound lovely in the beautiful weather but the roads are not paved and can be quite narrow. It was definitely an adventure but the view was beautiful. I saw mountain after mountain after mountain. I saw the valleys where people grow a lot of tea and coffee plants, pseudo-green houses to dry out charcoal, goats and pigs tied to small plants along side the road edges, chickens crossing the road in front of the motorcycle. There were so many turns in the road that I couldnt navigate which direction was which. All of the children would run to the edge of the road to say hello to me, because I’m a white person of course. Sometimes we drove through a forest, sometimes it was on top of the mountain, sometimes it was the edge of the mountain. I wish I could sit there and paint the views sometimes. When we got to Ruhija, we went straight to the ranger office to introduce myself and then we went to our lodge. Although there are similar amount of people in Ruhija to Buhoma (where I am staying) they dont get as many tourists so I stood out a lot more than I do here. Its funny how used to I am to sleeping in my tent, with the free air and not enclosed within walls. The accommodations in Ruhija was basically a room with a bed. The bathrooms were separate and though had running water, didnt have lights inside. The room felt like a prison honestly. It did lock and I could lock it from the outside as well when I left. The lodge gates were closed at night so I was not actually concerned about my safety but it was uncomfortable needless to say. When the receptionist spoke with Stephen and me, she was cordial. But when she spoke to just myself, she was rude and condescending. I actually missed my camp which doesnt have running water and where I live in a tent and where even though I’m the white person, I am respected.

A white person is called Muzungu in the local language here. It was one of the first words that I learned, and its a word I hear a lot. Its a funny joke between myself and the guys who work in my camp. Its even a joke between the rangers and I. But it wasnt a joke to be the only Muzungu in Ruhija, where not that many speak english. The children just walk up and ask for money, calling me a Muzungu. While we were riding the motorcycle, some children would try to hit my bag as we drove by. A lot of older people looked at me with anger. But then there were the children who said how are you!!! instead of asking for money, and there was a beautiful older woman who gave me a smile that reminded me of grandma when I waved.

A female here is quieter, wears dresses or skirts almost all of the time. She doesn’t wear hats, and cooks, cleans and takes care of the children here. So if you are reading this post, you already know Im frustrated. I have been told that I dress like a man because I wear trousers or pants, that I shouldn’t wear hats because women don’t wear hats. After I said I didn’t like a type of drink, the response was that men are stronger because they drink it. I am reminded that I am a female quite often here, whether its by watching the locals, or by my own interactions. Its not that I dont feel safe. I do really! Its just that this is a culture that gives respect to the man above the women and I come from a family of strong independent women who work hard. But within the males that I interact with each day, there is also a hierarchy. But they seem like servants to me more than employees. Multiple guys were talking to me at once, and I just happened to choose the ‘lesser’ employee to answer before the other, and the ‘higher’ employee spoke over me to finish his statement – he was more important. But I was raised better. I have more to talk about with the ‘servants’ than I do with the staff. I enjoy being with them more than the staff. They are nice, friendly, smart, hard working people and in my opinion deserve more respect than those who might have a degree and seem to be higher in the hierarchy.

I could sit here and be the rich, white female with one degree, working on another at the young age of 24. But I am not. I am happy to be here, although this post might not have shown that picture. Because even though its a bit hard, thats part of the experience. DSCN8888 DSCN8913 IMG_2691

Photos: top left is a black back, top right is a juvenile eating fruits (awesome picture of him staring right at me) and the bottom is a silverback with a baby on his back, and three sitting around him.

The main photo for this blog, is a real picture I took on top of the Ruhija Mountain. I say this because it looks like a computer generated it.

2 thoughts on “Trip to Ruhija and Muzungu Status

  1. Wonderful Maggie. You will come home appreciating the fact you have the freedom to be a strong independent woman! Imagine you are learning so much about life, patience and different cultures in addition to all the cool animal research that started you on this journey. Glad you are safe and sound after your latest trip further into the Uganda mountains. Huggs and Kisses.

    Liked by 1 person

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