Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 3: Some eating and mind wandering in Mityana

                                                                  17 May 2012
            Yesterday, after the market we went to eat at a restaurant recommended by Justin, a journalist grad of UC Berkeley that we met here. 
            The traditional Ugandan food that we ate there “matoke” (plantains boiled and mashed up), what looked like mashed potatoes (except very, very hard, as if it was made with no milk or butter, and with flour instead) (which I later found out was Ugali, made out of cornmeal) pinto beans and rice.  They also served meat but we didn’t eat it to not get sick (plus, we had just come from the market with the hanging cows and black fish and eating them would not have been the greatest of ideas).  The food was pretty good and it filled me up immediately. It is amazing, Ugandans eat almost all carbohydrates!  We have heard that vegetables are expensive and salad is a luxury.  No wonder they have so many nutrition issues!  But I can also completely understand why it is so practical to eat this way.. you get full quickly and thus need to eat a lot less then if what you were eating was something else.  With just one small handful of matoke I was full.  And yes, I am not one to judge by because I don’t usually eat large portions, but I am sure the rest of the group would agree when I say that the food was very filling.
            The restaurant was on the main street of Mityana, in a small room at the back of another, with walls painted of light orange, and four tables with Pepsi tablecloths.  There were 3 women there, waiting for customers to come in.  One had a baby and when she began to set our tables she set the baby on the ground and the cute little girl started crying and screaming away while the mom went back into the kitchen to cook our meals.  You can imagine that 13 white, strange people looking at her, smiling, and making funny baby noises to make her happy did not work very well.

I had a similar picture of our food.  Beginning from left, clockwise: pinto beans, some more bean juice, rice, matoke, and there used to be some ugali here as well.
Photo taken by LeeAnn

            It took us a while to explain to the waitress what we wanted… first she brought over the whole combo dish.. with meat, liver, matoke, mashed potatoes, rice, beef sauce, and beans.  Then, after some very slow English and funny miming she brought another dish with no liver, but with the meat.  Finally after three tries we ended up eating rice, beans, matoke and mashed potatoes.  It was a very funny miscommunication situation…
            Today, I have still been reflecting on the market from yesterday.  When we went it was just incredible how people looked at us!  I mean, yes, it made perfect sense… after all we were 13 white woman, taking pictures and walking around the market in the middle of Uganda as if we were shopping or sight-seeing.   But still, it impressed me nevertheless.  They looked at us as if we were animals.  I don’t mean that in a bad sense... maybe animals wasn’t the best word choice... as pieces in a museum… as interesting things that they don’t usually see in their day to day lives… exactly the same way we were probably looking at them.  The majority was happy to see us, others, you could easily tell wanted us far, far away.  And I understand them completely.  I mean, who are we to just peruse around their market?  Who are we to go around taking pictures of their children, their men and women, the state of poverty in which they live in?  Who are we to do all that when in a week or so we will just go back to our nice and comfortable lives, with cars, and food everyday, and clothes to buy and computers, and cell phones... the list could go on and on and on.  Who are we to enter into their lives, look at them, and then leave… when we have everything… and they have nothing?  We are NO ONE.
            That is what makes me feel so uneasy, guilty, ashamed… I don’t quite know what name to give it. Here we are, wanting to teach these people things when in reality we are the ignorant ones that know absolutely nothing about what their lives are like!  It seems as if they think of us as superior, as intelligent, successful people that they aspire to be like... and that just makes me feel so… I don’t know!  Yes, we may have more economic resources, and a better education, and more job opportunities… but what about what’s really important in life? What about what’s it’s like to suffer, and be resilient and strong and courageous and keep fighting and fighting?  And the value of family, friends, food, shelter… life? We know nothing about all that in comparison!  And that is what makes me feel… uneasy.   A part of me doesn’t want them to follow in our footsteps.  I don’t want them to start a business and then get consumed with the capitalist mentality of individual superiority that the rest of the world has.  That “I must succeed, and under no circumstances stop reaching for more, and more and more” attitude that drives the “developing” of the “first world countries” … I don’t want them to have that!  That kind of mindset often becomes more important to some people than their family, their friends, their values, their time to enjoy life and not spend it always trying to get what is in the future.  But here, in Uganda, it is relieving to see that those values and ways of life still seem to be in place.  That sense of community, of brotherhood and sisterhood, of helping one another so that everyone can succeed and not just me, me, me… that is still here!  And, of course, I know that what we came here to do will not have a catastrophic impact and immediately cause them to lose those values and become self-centered, “success” hungry, superficial people, obviously no… what we do here will help them have a better life… but I am just pondering on it though, on the big picture of helping those in developing countries.  It is such a sensible thing to do, in the sense that we have to be so careful!  I want them to be well and happy and have food and clothing and shelter, but I don’t want them to end up like extreme capitalist, competitive, individualist, self absorbed people like the majority of the world!  Okay, maybe I am going a little far, I get wrapped in things sometimes and take them to irrational levels.... I don´t want anyone to think that helping others is bad and I am afraid that if I keep babbling on it may seem that way… my mind is just wandering now... and that is a very, very dangerous thing…

Here we are at work with our posters for the presentations.

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1 comment:

  1. You have your heart where it should be, Mane! Love you!!