Sunday, July 8, 2012

Photo :: story

So many things I witness here are stories in an instant. I wanted to take you along on this one.

The characters:
Yokaneh: Our guard yesterday, and one of our favorites. Like a handful of our guards, he is Mukonjo, a tribe with mostly smaller, compactly built men (he's 5'3" or '4, maybe?) who have all seemed to be extremely friendly and hardworking. Their people live out in western Uganda by the Rwenzori mountains. Also like many of our guards, his family--his wife Jolly, his three-year-old daughter, and his four-year-old son--actually live back in his village, where they are near extended family and where I would presume it is also much less expensive. He's excited to see them at the end of this month. His name means "John" in Luganda (Side note: "Husband" in Luganda is actually mwami. So to distinguish my husband, I've been told to call my John Mwami Yokaneh. It was a little weird at first, calling him something so close to the word "Mommy". But of course, I digress. Again.)

Oliver: We increasingly love this lady! She's considering starting to sell some of her clothes--something she enjoys and has a great eye for--in order to pay for school in guidance and counseling. She's been asking to work on Saturdays so she can save money for school and to help provide for one of her brothers, since she's an orphan. And she's a good cook. See how she bends in the picture above? Many women bend at the waist for all their cooking and mopping and laundry, which to me seems like a ripe opportunity for a chiropractor. Owie.

C.: Well, we increasingly love this little lady, too. For those of you who've heard of the Leading from Your Strengths personality profile, this one is most certainly an Otter (i.e. she loves people, and loves to have fun!). She's the one who does everything with the door open because she "wants company." She's full of stories, and along with J., likes to hang out with the guards and help them work in the garden or landscaping, open the gate with them, tell them stories, ask them questions, eat dinner with them, etc. I often ask the guards if my kids or C. is disturbing them. They seem to genuinely enjoy the kids' interest and like having fun with them. Yesterday Yokaneh remarked something like, "You see, I am very much missing my own children, so I like this!"

The story:

Since Oliver got lunch at our house, she shared her matooke with Yokaneh, who left his sitting on the table as he rushed to leave for work. (I see her generosity in so many ways!) C. was having a lot of fun with him, so she asked to help him cook.

He is cooking it with sweet potatoes, which are white in color here, on the charcoal stove, or segirit, in view behind C.'s knee. This is how many Kampalans cook their food. It's economic for them; a bag of charcoal the size of John with B. on his shoulders was about $25. And it's how they know to cook, which is why we initially purchased a stove and charcoal for the guards and Oliver to use here for their dinner. But we've discovered that the creation of the charcoal creates a lot of deforestation. So we're still thinking of an alternative. (To give you perspective, deforestation from coffee production is said to be a big culprit in the recent landslide that wiped out three villages on Mt. Elgon a few hours away.)

Oliver, however, shook her head at this guy's cooking methods. Yokaneh has been batchin' it for awhile. She picked up his already-peeled sweet potatoes and peeled off the brown spots, took out a couple of pieces of charcoal with her bare hands (so many Ugandans seem to have built-in oven mitts). Then she stripped a banana leaf from the nearest tree, and can be seen here peeling off its spine with a knife. she then folded it and tucked it around the top of his cooking pot: a homemade lid. It keeps in the steam and prevents the dinner from getting overcooked. Ugandans' resourcefulness continues to amaze me. I have never looked at a banana leaf and thought, man, I broke that pot lid when I first came here (true story). Perfect! That'll work!

Yokaneh just kept laughing and looking happy that someone was going to help him eat better that day. It was fun, too, to see the universal "woman steps in to help cooking bachelor" theme. And I love to see how my kids grow up here, with these wonderful people who are so different than them, as an integral part of their lives.


Soaring High said...

Love the pictures you paint for us!

Maggie said...

Banana leaves are also rain protection covers, clean mats to sit upon, clean table for dressed meat when butchering a goat, food for goats that they love.....