Sunday, February 27, 2011

matoke, matatu, and other random thoughts

- posted by mika

It’s a quiet Sun. afternoon here. Reynah is napping, and the boys are outside playing with friends. I have a few min. before my “cooking teachers” come over to give me a lesson. A couple of the girls from Choir 41 (that visited our church last yr) have taken it upon themselves to teach me how to cook Ugandan-style! Last Sunday, they came over and showed me how to make Matoke, which is THE staple food here in Uganda. It is made from a small, green banana called matoke. Basically, you just peel it, steam it, and mash it up. Most Ugandans eat it with g-nut sauce (similar to liquefied peanut butter) on top. Otherwise, it is pretty bland. Most Ugandan food is bland, actually. There’s not a whole lot of variety. They eat rice, beans, and matoke… and pineapple! The meat here is expensive and poor quality. I would say we eat meat only like once a week. That’s more of a sacrifice for T than for me. I’m fairly content with all the fruits and veggies we can buy. I am really eager to learn how to bake my own bread. The bread we buy at the supermarket works ok for toast and sandwiches, but it’s not too fresh and seems to go stale quickly. We don’t have an oven in our apt, but we have neighbors that have one we can use. They are two single guys (go figure!) who would be delighted for me to bake away and share some of the goods with them.
It has been a big adjustment for me to not be able to grocery shop whenever I want. I’m so used to only loosely planning our family’s meals for the week, then making a run to Kroger as I need to… or even down the street to the gas station for a pint of ice cream when that craving hits! The cravings must be ignored here! The pattern here so far is that once a week we can make a trip (it takes about an hour) into Kampala to stock up. I literally felt some panic the first few days here at the village, because I was so afraid we would run out of food. I mean, i have really never had to worry about running out of food before. But T helped me to put it into perspective one day when I was complaining. He opened our cupboard and said, “I think you would have a really hard time convincing an African that we are low on food right now.” So true. So, I’m doing a better job of chilling out about it, and realizing that we aren’t going to starve or anything! I also found out I can walk about a mile down the hill to the main road and buy some things from roadside stands – things like rice, tomatoes, onions/peppers, and eggs. They will try to charge me an outrageous price, because I’m a white girl. But, I’m learning this game of bartering!
This brings up the subject of transportation, since we got a crash course in negotiating our prices for this recently. First let me explain our options for transportation: #1 Ride the “Suubi Village Van” it makes trips into town daily. It’s nice because it is free, and we can trust the people we’re riding with. But we are subject to driver’s (and everyone else’s) schedule. We took the van into town this past Fri – what an experience! The van can hold 15, packed in tightly… by American standards. We counted 22 people on there! It was particularly uncomfortable this trip because the AC was barely working, and the windows of the van don’t open. You can imagine after one hour how ill and soppy-sweaty we all were. The van dropped everyone off where they needed to go, then it went to the shop for the AC to get worked on. After we finished our shopping, T needed to stay at the Central church for a men’s service that evening. It was still going to be a wait before the van was finished being worked on, so we decided to go with our #2 transportation option – a private hire.
We found a guy willing to take us back to Suubi for just under $20, which we had been told was reasonable. He dropped T off at the church, then headed out of Kampala with me and the kids. It was our first time doing this private hire thing. The traffic was even crazier than normal; it was getting dark, and I couldn’t EXACTLY tell him how to get me back home. But – obviously – we did arrive safely. And we liked this guy well enough to get his ph.# and use him again. He was trustworthy and friendly. Probably, especially friendly because we’re from the States, and he explained it is his dream to go to the States someday. But to get a visa, he needs an American to give him a letter of invitation… and maybe our family could give him that letter??? I just laughed and said I’d need to do research on how all that works.
Of course, we can’t afford to have a private hire every time that we can’t take the Suubi van, so our #3 option is a matatu – a public taxi-van. They are crowded and hot too, but cheap… unless you are a mzungu (white person), then they try to “gouge” you with their prices. We learned this last week when we took one to Mpanga Forest. Every step of the process involved us trying to convince them that we aren’t stupid foreigners who will pay whatever price they suggest. T did a really good job of being firm and certain. This was confusing to the boys, so, at one point, Josiah whispered in my ear, “Mama, why are we arguing with everyone?”
I am so amused by listening to the boys pretend, because it helps me understand how they are processing things. This am, while I was getting ready for church, they were pretending like they were going to Sam’s Club to eat some pizza and then on to Snappy’s to play “Big Buck Hunter.” But then they couldn’t buy pizza from one guy because he was going to charge them a $1,000 for their pizza!!! I think they are missing some pizza.
So, I feel like only a few of you are really interested in these ramblings. But I know that a few of you really ARE interested, so I ramble. I know nothing of this post tells of what we are doing here ministry-wise, but I recognize that not every post can be profoundly inspirational. We have had some very inspiring moments… like teaching the kids “I Like Bananas” this morning! Haha! So, maybe T can handle the next post, and it will be more substantial.


  1. Mika, you can ramble as much as you want. I love it! Even though you didn't talk about ministry specifically and it wasn't "profound", those activities of your new life can reveal truth to someone.

    Love you guys. I think about you so much and I'm praying for you!

  2. I love it too! It is awesome just to hear about your everyday experiences. I think I would panic over the food too if I wasn't sure I could go back and get more anytime! I'm so glad the choir ladies have taken you under their wings! Their impact just keeps going and going! Can't wait to hear more! :)

  3. I love reading about your every day life also! I often wonder what that's like for you guys. Maybe you can share some of those great recipes that the choir ladies teach you??? Sounds like pizza may be one of the first things you guys eat when you get back home. :o)
    Everything you have to say touches someone in one way or another!
    We love you guys and continue to pray for you!

  4. Mika, we really look forward to your posts and I especially like to hear your "ramblings"...your day to day thoughts and experiences. They paint a picture for the ones of us that continually wonder what it's like to do what you're doing. I know it takes time to write these posts and we appreciate your efforts. You guys are incredibly missed and we continue to pray for you.

  5. Mika, I definitely agree with all those who posted before me: your comments touch me more than you realize. Seeing things from the children's point of view is very interesting, also. Please continue to share as you are, as it opens eyes to the total aspect of cultural awareness as well as spiritual experiences. It all gives glory to our God! Love you guys--Aunt Suzanne

  6. Don't worry, Mika, I love to hear your ramblings! Can it ever be boring to hear about life in such an exotic place? You guys are all being so brave and patient, and I'm sure have learned a lifetime of things. Feel free to ramble whenever you feel like it-it makes my day :)

  7. thanks, everyone, for your encouragment to keep rambling! lol :) i must clarify that the "choir ladies" are two 11yr.old girls. they are good little cooks! i will def. post a recipe... as soon as i find one that i know has all the ingredients available in the U.S.

  8. I love that the "choir ladies" are 11 years fun! :o)

  9. I'm so upset that this blog won't allow me to "like" almost every thing you say! I love reading about your experiences; I go from laughter to tears at any given moment. I have the feeling that Judah and Josiah will have more pizza than they know what to do with (well Judah will know what to do with it) when you get back. We love and miss all of you so much.

  10. Aww, I'm a few days late on this one, but I love your ramblings too :) Thanks for taking the time to jot down what's going on with you guys. I know that you'll enjoy going back and reading your initial thoughts that you're encountering with these different parts of the Ugandan culture. So, really, these ramblings are pretty important for you to get down. :) Love you so so much!! Hope to Skype with you once I get in Carthage to help Mimi and Pappy.