Baubles and Bangles
I've worn a row of seven aluminum bracelets on my right wrist since our transition to Africa nearly seven years ago. They are a Karimojong cultural tradition these bangles; people trade them with their friends and wear dozens on their arms like a primitive version of Facebook. New bracelets are hard grey in colour, chiseled and sharply metallic. After wearing them day after day for years, they aluminium surface smooths into the shape of your forearm leaving remarkable tan lines and keeping the skin beneath a pasty white.
"Will you wear these Karamojong things when you become married?" A Ugandan friend asks me in church on Sunday, fingering the aluminum bands encasing my wrist and forearm.
"Perhaps not, " I admit, staring at the silver; one bracelet is merely a piece of barbed wire...a young girl in Nakaale village gave it to me during a bible study several years ago.
"Ah then you must remove them. The sun will make you look very funny if they remain."
She is referring to the tan lines I have not been able to get rid of for seven years.
Carefully bending each bangle back, she slips the bracelets off my wrist, revealing the translucent and somewhat hideous skin of mine beneath.
I let her remove all but one. While at Geneva, I never considered taking off such a part of me that was characteristically so African; I couldn't bear the thought of loosing some of my adopted culture. Perhaps now that I am home it seems less severe for a Ugandan to tell me to take off my jewlery...though I find it highly amusing that it is all for the sake of an even tan.