Spanish? In Uganda?

by Lorien E. Menhennett

“Es un día de turquesa!” I belted out as Jemella and I walked down the path to the adult medicine ward at Naggalama Hospital. I was commenting on the fact that four of us had randomly worn turquoise shirts and khaki pants that day. Obviously, no one here speaks Spanish. It’s the weirdest thing. Being here in Uganda, hearing the local language (Luganda) all around me, I suddenly have the urge to speak the only foreign language I do know — Spanish.

This is what I’ve concluded about that impulse: Most of the international traveling I’ve done has been in South America. I’m fluent in Spanish, so language wasn’t an issue there. I told my taxi driver where to go, ordered pisco sours, bought fresh bread, and did pretty much everything else without a problem. Uganda is a different case entirely. I know all of four words in Luganda. With so many strange sounds flying around, I think I’m grasping at something with both foreign and familiar flavors (Spanish). While not helpful in the slightest, the urge remains. And it remains unhelpful, though entertaining.

Dr. Randi Diamond and me, out in the field doing palliative care house calls — in our matching turquoise and khaki outfits.