torsdag 22. oktober 2009

Blending in

Finally achieving to arrange workshops, meetings and brick testing sessions has lifted the spirit and motivation for the two of us. In addition to working on the project, we are doing our best to integrate and getting to know the community. A good start has been to learn some useful words in the local language, Lukonzo. After greeting “good morning, madam” the lukonzo way everybody looses their sceptic frowns, starts smiling and stops for a chat. Making the effort of trying to learn their language is highly appreciated and strongly encouraged by many locals.

Some basic Lukonzo:

Good morning - Wabuchire
Good afternoon - Wessibire
How are you? - Woneyo?
I’m fine - Ganeyo
Thank you - Wasingya
Bye - Wichire
Brown person (swahili) - Mzungu
Good (swahili) - Saua

There are many ways to trip or fall into cultural potholes, but mostly they are fully aware of the fact that mzungos come from far away and accept all kind of silly and impolite behaviour. Only yesterday we were told that it is considered rude to greet someone who’s eating. The same man also told us that it is not good to talk while eating. Probably why it is always very quiet at our restaurant… When it comes to eating, it is also considered arrogant to eat with knife and fork. If you really like the food, you eat with your hand and make a big mess. This was a bit difficult to get used to, but we’re getting there, improving day by day. We eat at Sharon´s place almost every night, were we get very nice, local food. Variation is not her speciality, but it’s tasty and cheap. And we get a fork each.

Sharon’s menu:
Matoke - mashed green banana
Pocho - mash of maïs flour
Bean stu
Rice with some spices
Meat - goat, swine or beef

Sometimes she also has:
Tapioka - mash of cassava flour and millet
Tilapia - fish

An advantage of the politeness in making a mess is obvious when one realizes the amounts of bone fragments and sand in the food. We think they crush the bones and boil everything together. This makes everything very tasty, but we keep wondering were they put the fillets??

To get back to the blending-in part, Tuesday I went to join the boys for football training. I went there a bit early, and was suddenly invited to join in a game of 10-13 year old girls. I must admit that with most of them in school uniforms (dresses!) and a strategy resembling the one of bees, I could not tell my team from the others. But it was great fun and inspiring to see how much fun the girls had in playing. They seem bonded across ages and proud of the attraction from their peers from school and neighbourhood around the field.

Later on I got to play with the oldest boys in a game of (a bit to) organized football. Very different from the first game, but just as fun. Stephen said afterwards that he was surprised they didn’t “kill me,” and that I had gained respect by not being a sissy or a push over. Puh! Looking forward to next time!

Another attempt to integrate came in the longing for Italian food. We had bought some spaghetti in Kasese and decided to cook for the first time in 5 weeks. I found the lodge kitchen, which turned out to be a small brick house with dirt floor and 3 stones as a fireplace, and asked if Agnes (the only staff that is nice and actually does something useful) would help us. So we went out to buy tomatoes, onions and oil, made fire and sat outside in the dark outside the kitchen, cutting and cooking spaghetti and tomato sauce. It is incredible how little tools and equipment they have to help in the everyday life. Agnes ran around fetching water, looking for knives, buying kerosene and cleaning sauce pans. But we had a nice time and got the best spaghetti we’ve eaten in weeks!

Sorry about the lack of photos, but some occasions are best illustrated in the head...


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