Life as I know it… (3)

Installment 3 – Food

When I arrived in Gulu, the DTS team had just made the decision to have rice and beans for lunch and dinner each day with rare variation. However, with the food being prepared by the wonderful Cissy (a Ugandan who the team employed to cook), this ‘simple’ meal never failed to satisfy or lose its appeal. She was a really good cook! The rice and beans on the YWAM base were a little less appetising but still more than edible. I don’t think there were any dishes or foods in Uganda that I didn’t like and I know I am going to miss the food, although I will enjoy having more fresh produce again, such as meat, vegetables and fruit.

We did not have refrigeration in any of the places where we stayed and so, when we treated ourselves to items such as milk, it had to be in quantities that we could consume either in that time or else a form of long life milk. Meat was also usually freshly prepared, with the chickens being brought home before killed and plucked. I really admire those who do this task as I hated hearing or seeing the chickens squirm as their vein was severed. I must be too soft and so my “thank you” to those who did this unpleasant task!

The majority of people outside of urban centers produce much of their own food. Dinners usually consist of a sauce or gravy with a staple or two plus small amounts of meat and fewer vegetables. Rice, beans, matoke (made from bananas), cassava, sweet potatoes, chapatti, and plantain were common staples eaten. Meat was commonly chicken, fish, goat or pork. Other foods include white potatoes, corn, cabbage, pumpkin, tomatoes, beans, groundnuts (peanuts), and milk. Oranges, papayas, mangoes, and pineapples are common fruits. On an irrelevant side-note, I did not see an ‘orange’ orange but only yellowish ones.

One of my favourite sauces was a paste made by g-nuts (like peanuts) and sim sim (sesame). A dish I liked, but that seemed to be an acquired taste amongst visitors, was called malaquan (a rich spinach-ish and g-nut sauce). Another favourite was rolexes. I don’t know how it got its name but at first I thought they were calling them “rolled eggs” and that is essentially what they are. Street venders first cook the chapatti on grill plates and then fry an egg, put the chapatti on top, and roll it up. Cabbage or onion may also be added to the egg. They are soooo good!

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Life as I know it… (2)

Installment 2 – Lights

In Gulu, we were blessed to have small solar lights that we could charge during the day and use when power went off at night. The power usually went off whenever a storm came in and remained off for half an hour to overnight; occasionally it would remain off for a little longer. The lights really were sufficient for our needs and, as cooking was over coals, it never interrupted our meals.

When we arrived in Jinja, we were warned that the power would go off every second evening. However, we were blessed during our time there with far less frequent power outages. No longer having the solar lights, we had to use a kerosene lamp and a self-charging torch. Kerosene lamps are foul-smelling but, more so than their terrible smell, the fumes are toxic. It wasn’t such a concern for us using it in a home with good ventilation but imagine using one for light whilst cooking over a charcoal fire. I’ve been told it is the equivalent of smoking ten cigarettes but do not quote me on that figure.

There is a ministry called “Light the Night” if you are interested in reading more about the problem of kerosene lamps. YWAM Colorado Springs is coordinating this ministry. The recent team that we were working alongside from YWAM brought over lights in their baggage. They are sold cheaply (the money from the donated lights goes to Soldiers of Christ) to the community for what kerosene fuel would cost a family for two months. As the lights can last 2 years it is definitely a worthwhile investment for families!

Life as I know it… (1)

Installment 1 – Transport

Travel in Uganda was an experience, that is for sure! We used a range of transport modes. Footing was a commonly used option and I was alternatively amused and frustrated by the frequently expressed amazement of Ugandans to we Muzungus (whites) walking. In Kampala we would ask for directions and were met with the exertion that we could not walk there, it was too far!, only to find ourselves at the destination not 20 minutes later.

The second most common option chosen was to hop on to a boda. In Australia I blankly refuse to get on a motorcycle due to the videos and case studies I saw in my Occupational Therapy studies. Images of the rehabilitation process required post accident, assuming the driver survived, has always made me wonder how people could chose to get on one. But as is often the case, once I leave Australian shores my reservations leave me too.

 

Although I did not have reservations against getting on to one, I often found myself praying fervently as we drove between two trucks, went up on to foot paths, or scooted in to oncoming traffic to skip a few cars up in the line. I think I found Kampala the most daunting place to be on a boda due to the city traffic.

It was also interesting to observe what people will chose to carry and can get to fit on to a boda. We saw 4 adults plus a child on one boda, you might see stacked suitcases on the back or perhaps a couple of office chairs roped on. In Jinja we even discovered Ice cream Bodas – fitted with speakers to play the Ice cream truck tune and with a large sports drink cooler on the back that contained the sherbet ice cream. The most we fitted on was 4 adults (Jenny, Maggie and I plus the driver) and two backpacks. That was an interesting ride!

The short distances in Gulu between destinations made bodas an easy option. However, once arriving in Jinja it cost about 4 times more to take a boda to town and so we also began to take public taxis. These are small vans that carry up to 14 passengers. They were far cheaper but you found yourself squished in, often partly sitting on your neighbour’s lap, nursing luggage or beside a wiggling child.

 

Looking through a Lens

 

I would like to share with you a bit of what daily life has been like for me during my time here in Uganda. But before I do this I want to share with you what our different lenses can have us focus on.
One of our dear friends here, Joel, is a gifted photographer. One night when we were out together he was amusing us with the different subject matter that we use for our photos. I have pictures of bodas (motorbikes that are a main form of transport), pictures of rough dirt roads and many pictures of the children we met during our ministry.

What catches my eyes as I walk down the street? In Kampala I was facinated by the taxi park; hundreds of mini-vans making their way in to the park, three a breast in the street, at a stand still waiting for other taxis to head out from the park. At least a thousand taxis sat in the park and I wondered how they ever left again with taxis parking one another in. For them it is an ordinary day at work and the system seems to have an order to it that my mind just couldn’t quite comprehend.

In Jinja town I have passed more than one shop front that has made me ask the question what form of business it actually is and how they manage to keep their shop when all they seem to be is a group of four or five men sitting around talking to one another all day.
I am always amazed at the ingenuity of the people and what they find to make a craft out of. For example, restoring used shoes, making furniture out of scraps of wood, or the boda repair stands displaying various new seat covers.

On our way back to Jinja from Kampala we stopped by a road-side market so our driver could get out and purchase bananas. The number of times our driver had already stopped on the drive to make personal purchases was a foreign concept to me but at this stop our taxi was bombarded by 20+ individuals all waving fruit, vegetables, meat sticks and soft drinks in our faces through the window. They remained at our taxi only until the next vehicle pulled up and then all but those with an interested passenger rushed off to vie for the attention of the next car.

Above are just a few of the images that stand out in my mind where I have had experiences different to what I would be faced with when in Australia. So what about Ugandans? What was Joel laughing at us for? What do they find different? For starters most of the people I’ve talked to here about pets find the concept amusing, even more so that many of us view our pets as part of the family. Joel said he would find a pet cat sleeping someone’s bed in the home worth a picture. After all, who allows an animal sleep on their bed?

Another close friend, Collines, told us to our embarrasement that when on tour with Invisible Children in the USA she was pulled aside on a number of occasions by well-meaning people instructing her on flushing a toilet and turning on a tap. She said she politely thanked them, feigning prior ignorance on how to operate these utilites. I feel she handles this with far more grace then I have when people here have stated that I can’t ‘foot it’ because I am white (aka that I wouldn’t walk from place (a) to place (b)). I find it amusing but also frustrating the concept some of them have here of what us Westerners are able to do and what we can’t do. But then I hear the stories of friends like Collines and Joel and I am forced to acknowledge that I am often just as unjust to them.

So please keep this in mind as you read through the next couple of blogs on the things that stand out to me here to do with daily life. I’m going to try and share mainly abut what is different but I know that it is no more than simply not bing used to these ways. What I chose to take photos of will naturally differ from what others would capture if in that same place at the same time.

An African Wedding

Yesterday Maggie, Jenny and I were privileged to attend an African wedding. We were invited by the bride’s parents who direct YWAM Uganda. It was the most relaxed affair of such importance that I have attended!

The night before we still didn’t know exactly where it was to be held, what we were expected to wear or bring nor what time it was to commence. Luckily Eric, a fellow YWAMer from Arua and part of the wedding party, was to stay at the Jinja base the night before. Only thing was… he didn’t know any of the particulars either!

We went to bed Friday night waiting for Eric to call and woke up at 6:45am to Jenny telling us Eric had called and we were leaving at 7:30. We ended up walking out of the base at 7:55 and headed towards the main road. Half an hour later we were at the taxi stand. The taxis are mini buses that they cram with as many people as possible. They are cheap and convenient modes of transport. A half hour trip into town followed and from there we took another communal taxi out to Kamuli, a further 1 ½ hour trip spent with four people to a bench-seat.

Arriving in Kamuli we proceeded to the home where Esther, the bride, was getting ready. Despite not knowing anyone, we were warmly welcomed in. It was 11am when Eric informed us that the wedding was to commence soon but as, “no one is here yet” and “African weddings can take a while”, he advised us that we should go and get some lunch!

We walked the short distance from the house to the main street in search of food but instead found the wedding party that had travelled from the Arua base. Eric introduced us to some of the party and Jenny introduced Maggie and I to Pastor Sam, the Father of the Bride. We then hopped into the mini bus with the rest of them and went to the church.

 At the church I felt the words of Christ in Luke 14:8-11 was appropriate: “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.” We started in the very back row of the church, were told to come down to the middle, and then finally pulled up by Agnes, the Mother of the Bride, to sit in the fourth row. This placed us only behind the bridal party and parents! Talk about humbling! I felt like a royal wedding crasher! And yet in true Ugandan style we were made to feel like we belonged and had every right to be there!

 The ceremony was not dissimilar to our own. It commenced with worship, the bride followed her bridesmaids into the church, there was an exchanging of vows and rings, prayers and a sermon. They signed the register and proceeded from the church for photos. The only difference was it took 3x as long and there were lots of “ay-yi-yiiii”s amd “ay-eeee”s!

We were also invited to the reception which was similar again to what I would expect back home, except this time 3x shorter! Esther and Dan with the rest of the bridal party arrived after us. They began serving our meals before they arrived. We had flavoured rice with about 3 types of meat and cabbage. It was really good! When the bridal party arrived, the bride and groom cut a ribbon between an arch and passed underneath. They then cut the cake and brought it around on a plate, serving their guests. The bridal party then ate their meals, speeches were said, gifts exchanged and before we knew it the party was splitting up!

Thank you to Esther and Dan for letting us gate crash your wedding! We pray blessings upon your marriage and ask that God will bind you together in unity, love and servanthood.

It was a privilege to be part of such a special occasion as two believers became one.