Home Away from Home
My home stay family calls me Laker (Lah-kay). The first day that I was with them, my mommy sat me down and told me she was going to give me a new name. Most people in Gulu have a name that follows the same pattern: traditional name-Christian name-family name. The traditional names all have meanings. For example, one of my host sister’s names is Aber (Ah-bay), which means beautiful. For me, Laker means “coming from a royal family” or “princess.” For so many reasons that I probably don’t need to get into, that made me very uncomfortable. Honestly, it made me uncomfortable to have an African name at all, but for some reason they find Jess to be an impossible name to say. Therefore, I literally have a new name, as Laker is the only name they call me. As if I wasn’t already having a weird existential “who am I” kind of last two weeks, I have actually embodied a new identity. Well, a new identity by title, at the very least.
Gulu has become my home. People on the streets shout my name and wave. The people in the stores that I frequent ask me how my momma is. Most importantly, I have Acoli friends. We hang out on the weekends, and we get dinner sometimes after school. Actually, the most important part of my stay here so far has been the love and support that I found immediately after moving in with my host momma. The uneasy feelings that I had during my first weeks here disappeared when I settled in. When I arrived with my mummy, the kids in the house were a little disappointed because she had been telling them she was bringing home a new baby. They were expecting an infant, but alas I am not that. I am my mummy’s last born, as she likes to remind me when I come home too late. The house is full of women and girls, save for my brother who is 22. His girlfriend, who happens to be our paid helper around the house, is my best friend there. She’s 19 and we listen to Reggae, dance around the house, and go out together to take beer.
This is my Momma. She is an elegant woman who takes care of the majority of her grandchildren. She is a retired teacher, and currently farms chickens, has a brick making business, makes and sells chapathi and samosas, and rents houses to people. She is constantly forcing me to eat more food.
These are some of the girls, Ayari, Tyra, and Abe. They are pretty shy, but they always greet me warmly when I come home. They love to watch the Mexican show La Patrona, dubbed in english. The next little girl that you will see took this picture. Actually, when I first came they all grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures and giggling like crazy.
This is my best friend in the house. Her name is Kaluma Tracey. She is, as they say here in Gulu, very stubborn. They say stubborn whenever she does anything. By that I think they mean that she is the most mischievous little thing ever. My mommy and older sisters say the same thing about me, though, so I think that is why Ms. Kaluma and I get along. She sat me down during my first couple of hours here, and showed me all of her school work. She literally got every single answer correct throughout all three books, except for one that was marked down because she wrote her six backwards. She runs around naked and constantly jumps on you. If you can’t tell, she is the best.