The nice thing about the people here is that they are typically really nice and pleasant to be around. They are social towards you, when you first initiate the conversation. Also, Ugandans really value the concept of close friends. This is where it gets a bit strange, at least to me. In an attempt to be around the locals as much as possible, I have joined a local gym. It is about $14/month and I get my own "coach", or trainer. This place is covered with remnant carpet on the floor and magazine pictures of body builders taped all over the walls. It is four times longer than it is wide and has pit latrines for toilets. All that being said, there are a number of people who go there and the friendship and brotherhood is top notch.
I have been at this gym for about one month now, I go daily around mid-day and I am there for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours at a time. I get to see the same people daily, talk with them, joke around and just hang out. Much to my surprise, one of the men (actually the owner) was talking with me one day when he grabbed my hand and began to hold it much like an American boyfriend and girlfriend would. Now, this is not the first time this has happened to me. This is a sign of much respect and adoration for each other, the kind of brotherhood that teammates would experience on the same football or baseball team. Needless to say, every time this happens...I freeze. It is not something that I am comfortable with at all. I think the reasons speak for themselves, but here it is such an honor to have someone hold your hand. The women do it, the men do it, and it shows they truly care one for another.
For me, it will take some getting used to, if it is something that one can actually get used to. I still remember the first time it happened to me, a man grabbing my hand and swinging back and forth. It took several people explaining to me that he didn't find me attractive, but that he thought of our friendship as very special.
Though I would not try this at home, it is something unique here.
Grace and Peace,