Boston Lagon Airport; 'I like your accent', he says. And I, smiling sheepishly, ask, 'Why?' I like how you pronounce all the letters, not like this American accent where people do not speak words as they are supposed to be - I say the 'Thank You' and he continues, 'you are not American are you?' - Of course I am not, so I tell him so. He asks, 'Are you British?' - 'No,' I say. 'Ah, maybe Canadian', he pursues!
To stop this guesswork, I tell him I am Ugandan. 'Oh, African, I see', he says this in a way that suggests that he had thought about it but dismissed it at first. So, we move on to other things. I wanted him to help me get to the bus-station where I could board a bus to New Haven, so I did not want to push him into a discussion of the difference between being Ugandan and African. But he returned to the thing after we had flagged down a cab to take us to the station. 'I wonder why the Americans do not speak English the British way. You Africans speak it better,' he says.
But you are black, I almost tell him seeing his admiration of the closeness of the African English accent to the British, but I am at his mercy so I do not tell him. I try as much to avoid the discussion, but this was one hell of an unavoidable discussion. I wish for some sleep to come and start pushing my head down and up in those classic dozing head movements but sleep refuses to honour my wishes. So, he asks, finally, 'Why do many Africans want to shed off their accents to adopt the fake American one?'
I want to answer him honestly, but I think to myself, this dude is speaking in that heavy American accent himself, he is a black American, he had told me earlier, he wishes he had a British accent, then why does he question Africans who have close-to-British accents and want to have American ones? Anyway, the bus to New Haven was soon leaving, and he was going to New York, so I had to leave, but as I left, I kept thinking to myself, did this dude know that my English accent is actually Rukiga-influenced? Did it matter to him that African and Ugandan may not mean much to my accent as being Mukiga who spoke Rukiga before English does?
Anyway, it was my first time in the United States of America, the USA, it was a pleasure being helped to find my way around by a black person, who thinks he is different from myself, an African. He even allowed me to use his i-phone to check my Facebook where I found a message from Gloria Mujyawimana relaying some bad news from LDC. I was not ready to loudly ask questions. Not ready to enjoy the awkwardness!