Emotions, Elephants and Exceptional Cooking Skills

IMG_0712I have changed so much since I first came to Uganda three years ago and have experienced so many amazing things but I won’t lie, living here is hard.  I know that my ability to Instagram happy photos is on point but sometimes living here is just exhausting and I wish I was curled up on my parent’s couch eating nachos and watching Netflix.  Work is extremely challenging and you have to do so much just to move an inch.    Adjusting to the way of life here is also difficult – from getting used to ‘African time’ with people showing up 2 hours late to meetings to being hissed at by men on the streets who grunt ‘mzungu, my size’ at you as you walk by. Sometimes I really miss Canada.    Living here is a roller coaster of emotions.  People who know me well will already know that I am somewhat emotionally talented but that gets amplified here.  I love Uganda with all my heart and am quite happy here but some weeks I can go from “I love Uganda! I am changing my name to Anyadwe, burning my passport and never leaving!” to “What am I doing with my life!  I want to go home and sleep for a year!”.  Everyone on Facebook seems to be getting engaged and starting their careers and here I am kneeling on kitchen floor cooking over a propane tank.  But let’s be honest people, does anyone really know what they want to be when they grow up?

I was feeling a bit down before the holidays but thankfully we had the Easter long weekend to relax!  For Easter, Christine and I decided to take a bus to Pakwach and visit Murchison Falls National Park to  see some animals.  The last time I was in Uganda I was here for a year and I didn’t see a single elephant!  It was time to correct that.  I had heard that sometimes you can see elephants on the bus to Pakwach but unfortunately there were none to be found on the 6 hour long bus ride North.  Saturday we woke up at 5:30am to catch the sunrise in the park.  I think one of my favourite things about Uganda is the sun.  Sunrises and sunsets here are absolutely stunning.  The skies here are always so colourful and even on sunny days you can see streaks of various shades of blue running through the clouds.  I always get excited by the sunrises in national parks here because it looks just like The Lion King guys!

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We spent the morning doing a game drive and I SAW AN ELEPHANT!   Yaaaay!  Naturally I had to pose for a picture with the elephant in the background.  I never seem to see lions on these game drives but whatever, elephants and giraffes were all that I cared about.  And warthogs.  Baby warthogs are adorable.

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We came back from our Easter weekend relaxed and jumped back into work visiting some past project participants to do some follow-up interviews at Joyce’s home.  Our interview skills have actually improved a lot since we first arrived in Kampala and this time we were able to gain some insight into why some of the past projects succeeded and why some had issues.  People here have a tendency to hide problems and tell NGOs what they think they want to hear.  Answers often sound rehearsed and development ‘buzzwords’ are often thrown in – “Organization X has changed my life for forever, now I am empowered”.  A woman may tell us that the project was amazing but when pressed for details will admit that she struggles to find work in the vocation that she was trained in and can’t afford to send her children to school.  While it’s important to capture the positive, hearing the challenges that people face is extremely useful to help organizations learn and work to improve future projects.  Tracy is incredibly helpful when it comes to interviewing past participants because she has known them for so long.  She is  really good with people!

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Joyce, one of my favourite people from the Needy Support Centre, in her home after being interviewed about how she is the mother of 25 children! We asked her if she would ever consider taking in more children and she said ‘’Im experienced as a mother now – and you never know, if there are more orphans who need someone, I can take them”. …someone needs to put this woman on TV!

IMG_0718After our interviews we were given a jar of odii (a paste made of sesame and peanuts that is popular in northern Uganda) by Joyce as a gift.  People use it here to ‘paste’ things.  So you can have cooked greens or beans pasted in peanut sauce.  Sounds weird but it is actually kind of good.  That being said, I will probably never cook greens in peanut sauce at home so I came up with the idea of doing a garlic- ginger- soy sauce – odii….asian flavoured? tofu thingy and it turned out amazing!  My cooking skills have definitely improved since I first moved to Luweero where I struggled to make pasta sauce and learnt how to make english muffins.  I love cooking now!  It’s a great way to relax after a frustrating day and Christine is always willing to do the dishes! So far I haven’t given her typhoid so I must be doing something right!  Tonight I’m trying a pineapple fried rice dish and will have to let you know how it goes!

P.S. I know it’s been awhile since Uganda held their presidential elections but I wrote a thing and it got published which is pretty cool!  So check it out if you are bored and trying to kill time at work 😉

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