Yesterday, to celebrate Easter, the kids and I went with Resty, one of the Sunday school teachers from Amazing Grace church, to her village about an hour north of Kampala. I wasn't too excited about the drive there and back (since traffic is usually backed up on that particular route) and wondered whether I would regret accepting her invitation. In the end, despite getting home well after the kids' bedtime, we were all happy we went. After a hearty lunch of matooke, rice, g-nut sauce, chicken, pork, cassava and greens, we had a look around the property, six acres boasting fruit trees and vegetable crops and home to chickens and pigs. During lunch, one of Resty's friends who had joined us for the day, told me a little bit about the culture where she comes from in Eastern Uganda. She told me how once she is married, she will not be allowed to eat or speak in the presence of her father-in-law. Only after two years, will there be a formal ritual which will change the nature of their relationship and give her permission to be a little more relaxed in his presence. She also told me that, after she marries, while her mother will not be permitted in her bedroom, her mother-in-law may enter whenever she likes. Her father, too, may enter...but not her father-in-law. Unusual customs, at least in the mind of this unaccustomed mzungu.
After lunch, the kids went to work hoeing in the "garden" and harvesting eggplants, avocados and mangoes. Resty's father, left her mother, when Resty was just two years old and her mother has been working hard ever since to provide for the family (which now includes her deceased brother's two children). Somehow, she has managed to purchase land and build a house and does her best to earn cash by raising livestock and selling surplus fruits and vegetables and, up until last year, producing a local home brew called tonto.
After our garden tour, we went around to visit the neighbours. One woman, called Nalongo (because she is the mother of twins -- two sets, actually) has fourteen children which she has been raising along since her husband died of AIDS several years back. The youngest of all the twins is HIV-positive as are some of the older children. The children don't speak English and don't attend school and I tried not to think about the bleakness of their future. Her children and mine danced together and we were given several large avocados -- a thank you gift for performing.
While we were out and about getting to know the neighbours, Resty's older sister arrived with an entourage of young boys toting a generator, sound system and laptop. Apparently, they were the youth from her church and were there to help host a birthday party. All of this seemed to come as a surprise to Resty, but she quickly took on the role of MC and with the help of members of the audience (including my girls who were scheduled to perform a song and dance) put on a rather formal show. Parties and celebrations are a big deal here; everything was very official, despite the fact that the celebrations were for a one-year old who seemed oblivious to the fact that he had reached the one-year milestone. Good fun and a very memorable experience!
Resty and her mother, a resourceful lady whose bubbly laugh belies a life of hardship
a special type of locally-grown banana which is ripened underground and then, in what I've been told is a three-person job, is pounded and wrung out to produce banana juice...a special treat we got to sample with Easter dinner
Mama Resty grows coffee beans
Mama Resty, busy in the "kitchen"
Graham holds up a huge avocado we received as a gift from one of Resty's neighbours
Mara and her friend, Dianna, enter a neighbour's home, arm in arm
Resty's oldest sister holding her last-born (youngest child) who also happened to be the birthday boy
Pretty girl in a pretty dress
Little did my girls know they were on the program for live entertainment! They were good sports and happily played the part of party entertainers
Cutting the cake