Monday, January 19, 2009

When You Tamper with Liana, You Tamper with Hot Soup

I'm back, I'm back, slowly acclimating to cold snowy days and working and sleeping less. I love New York, and am always happy to come home to it, but it was nice to have an interlude somewhere warmer and less intense.

One of the best parts of the trip was visiting Liana's current home and workplace, a crumbly boarding school up a hill from the small village of Bukuumi, near the town of Kakumiro, 30km from the small city of Mubende, Uganda. In other words, it's pretty remote.

Still, Liana has a pretty nice house on campus, which resembles an old summer camp, with large dorms and bats and what not. School wasn't in session when we visited, so it was very quiet, and we just spent a few days sitting around, and of course trying out her kitchen setup.Except for rice, most of what Ugandans eat is grown very locally indeed, if not in your garden than in your neighbor's. Staple foods are maize porridge (posho), cassava, yams and sweet potatoes and 'irish' potatoes, and especially steamed plantain (matoke). With these, people eat beans or thin stews of beef, chicken (a comparative delicacy), and goat. Green vegetables aren't in abundance, although almost everyone is growing cabbage and doodo (doe-Doe), a spinach-like green. Eggplant and tomatoes and carrots are also usually available, along with onions and garlic. Bananas are big, and passion fruits are plentiful, with mangoes, papayas, and pineapple usually available at some point.

Food is pretty standardized, and everyone pretty much eats the same thing as everyone else, every day. Indian influence can be seen in the chapatis sold by street vendors and made at home, usually a little more deep fried and oily than their indian counterparts.

When we cooked at Liana's, we ate simply--biscuits with peanut butter for breakfast, vegetables and rice or pasta (macrons(!)) for dinner. Here I am frying eggplant on Liana's gas stove, which is great (most people cook over little charcoal burners, so it's high end).
Enjoy the shirt I'm wearing, as it vanished shortly thereafter and has not been seen again. Liana's house has a sink and toilet, but no running water anymore, as the school infrastructure is well below what it seems to have once been, and the pond is polluted. She (or more honestly her students) bring water from a borehole down the hill from her house.The twenty-litre jugs are heavy. In case anyone is wondering, as we were, the term jerrycan comes from the Allied force's nickname for the Germans, 'jerries,' who invented them as a war product, the Wehrmachtskanister, before the Second World War. Speaking of powerful armies, Liana says that her headmaster (more on him later), likes to bring her up at staff meetings and talk about how she is doing good work and is backed by a large organization (the Peace Corps), saying 'when you tamper with Liana, you tamper with hot soup.' Hot soup aside, it seems like he's been very supportive of her teaching efforts (biology, 'life skills,' a little reproduction, and a rising amount of computer instruction, should the electricity ever become more reliable), and very interested in the kind of intercultural exchange she can offer the students just by being herself.Liana's kitchen options are somewhat limited, but she and her friends do a lot of cooking, even baking in a covered baker. Now that I know what her setup and raw materials are, I hope to send her a lot more ideas for what she could do with them.
But for now, why be fancy? There's always sugarcane.
And good views and goats to look at in their goat house.

1 comment:

Hasdai said...

Hooray for miniature sister and her hot soup.