Today is a public holiday in Uganda. It’s International Women’s Day and the government actually gives people the day off work – another reason (aside from the weather) that I’m glad to be in Uganda, and not Canada. Even though I know the hardest working women on the face of this planet are still in the field, some with their babies strapped to their backs, throwing the ‘efuka’ (hoe) over their shoulders, clearing land on empty stomachs – only to walk an hour or two home and find four to five kids, no husband, and no food…
…even though no one gave those women their official day “off” – I’m stealing a few moments away from a very busy couple of months here to reflect on my experiences thus far. I know I have too much to say, too much to write. Way too much to process. Some days too much to share with friends back home – so much in fact that you don’t want to say or write anything at all. So I apologize for being “out of touch” – but I owe that to the fact that I have been feeling “too much in touch” with big human learning.
African Kitchen Postcard
Dear _________. During my first three weeks here, the stimuli of the place slapped me across the face and I wanted to hide out on my balcony. I missed my friends, I felt disorganized in mind and heart. And then I found my “home” in what my friends here call the ‘African Kitchen.’ Now it’s the only place I want to be when it gets dark at night and the stars come out. African kitchen is a small wooden room, just outside from the house where I live, complete with a low wooden bench, stools, and an adobe stove that uses wood and charcoal for cooking. Dinner is served later in Uganda, maybe not until nine o’clock. The large family here gathers around 8:30 pm, and we take “porridge” from plastic cups. It’s hot on the hands and warms the stomach. On a lucky night, there’s corn. We shuck the husks and roast it on the coals. When the kernels are blackened, it’s the best. There’s usually six or seven of us in the small kitchen. When food is served, we eat together. Some nights we eat from the same bowl on the ground, using our hands. There’s stories, there’s laughter, there’s simple conversation. To me, ‘African Kitchen’ is a metaphor for everything I want to live for in life: shared food, shared company.
It’s injustice, swollen, in the child’s stomach. It’s dried breast milk. It’s an exhausted mind. A body that forgets how to move. It’s neglect. It has a thousand causes and a thousand people to blame. And on the child, hunger falls the hardest. (This is a photograph of Owamani and his mother, Deseranta. Read more here).
Dear _________. I came to Uganda, on a whim, to be closer to learning about tropical agriculture within a community development framework. I found my White Rabbit here in Uganda. Quite literally – the Kenyan white. Actually, I found many rabbits here because, of course, they can reproduce every 31 days. One of the first research assignments handed to me by the organization here (Kigezi Healthcare Foundation – KIHEFO) was to research the value of rabbit production to improve health and income amongst poor families. The joke here is that I’ve now received my doctorate in rabbits, and the truth is that, yes, I could cover anything from rabbit breeding, to why rabbits rock in low-resource realities, to local people here who are raising them, to their health value – and I could answer all your questions over a meal of Rabbit Sautéed in Peanut Sauce, which I, somewhat reluctantly, slaughtered and prepared. Look forward to more stories about my deepening love and enthusiasm for bolstering rabbit breeding and processing here in Kabale.