After what seemed like an eternity, I am back in Uganda: land that I love; home of matooke and g-nut sauce, good friends, and impossible to understand rules when exchanging money. ($100 bills printed before 1999 have a significantly lower exchange rate than those printed in1999 and after, as do all bills smaller than a $50. Can someone please explain to me why?)
So how have I spend the first few days? Well, I’m staying with my friend Bethany for a little while. We know each other from Peace Corps. She worked in the East while I worked in the West, so we were never able to spend much time together, but we always enjoyed each other’s company when our paths crossed. She has been a real lifesaver, opening her house to me like this. It is a very comfortable house, and I’ve already made myself at home.
I’m cooking again! That was a significant indicator to me that I was not happy in Samoa: I stopped cooking. Anyone who knows me, knows that I enjoy being in the kitchen. I love mix it up a bit and put my stamp on classics. This might sound a bit lame, but one of my favorite foods to cook (as well as eat) is beans. My aim is to cook the perfect pot of beans. Cooking beans reminds me of my father. He, too, liked to cook. I wish he’d found his way to the kitchen a little more often. He cooked a mean pot of lima beans. He’d always begin them on Saturday, cook them on low head, and by Sunday afternoon, we’d have a fantastic lunch after church. He’d always use meat to flavor the beans: ham hocks and sausage. This became inconvenient during the vegetarian years. Sometimes he’d add a can of Rotel to them to add an extra zing. Try as she might, my mother could never match my father’s lima bean-cooking skills. There. I said it. I miss my dad.
I really love to bake. I was always that goofy person that showed up to meetings with a plate of brownies or fresh apple cake. At school, I’d bake a cake on Saturdays and leave it on the counter top for my roommates and their friends to enjoy. My conversations with friends sometimes covered the pros and cons of cooking with butter over margarine. Yes, they also thought it was funny. Butter versus margarine became a running joke between us. While living in Uganda, in the village with no electricity, I had to be creative and patient when attempting to bake. I built a makeshift over and actually got pretty good at baking on a charcoal stove. I introduced cornbread to my village, and it was a huge hit. I taught my neighbor to bake birthday cakes (We’d decorate the cake using plastic bags as icing bags. Duct tape was used to reinforce a corner to make tips and cut slits in it according to the designs we wanted to create), and she later used her skills as a second source of income. On a good weekend, I’d make cinnamon rolls. Baking was not limited to sweets. Eggplant parmesan and casseroles were also baked. I baked not one thing while in Samoa. See my point? Depressing. I’m excited that I have access to a real oven. Gas heated, so I can bake anytime despite all of the power outages!
I’ve already cooked two dinners and a breakfast. Fresh vegetables are great here! They have so much flavor, and they do not cost a fortune. I love going to the open markets. The supermarkets are also pretty well stocked. I can find most of the ingredients and spices that I want. Granted, a few items are not available. I have to get back to you later about what they are because everything I’ve wanted so far has been in stock.
I checked out the school where I’ll be teaching and had lunch with the director. I’ve been to dinner with two of the teachers I’ll be working with and tea with another one. I think that I’ll fit right into the school. The school has a great facility. I’ve also bumped into a few of my Peace Corps friends who are finishing up their second year and are preparing to COS (close of service). I’m still trying to contact and visit old friends.
It is bizarre being here. In a way, it seems like I never left. Things are pretty much the same. However, I know I’ve been a way for a year. I feel like I’ve stepped into a time warp.
Access to internet is limited. The connection tends to be slow (frustrating), and I have to pay per minute. I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update my blog, but I aim to do it at least once a week.
Taking the long way…