Friday, October 10, 2008

Roasted Ants and the Choleric Slums

This week I have been further acculturated. I danced traditional dances with my sisters while the help were cracking up laughing at me. I also ate ants at tea time the other day. During the rainy season, so many flying ants are disabled, and you can find them in swarms on the ground after the rain. In fact, while they were cooking the ants, I walked around to the side of the house and found thousands of wings lying on the ground from where Kiisa had been preparing them. For those of you are interested in trying them the recipe is simple:

Roasted Ants:
Ingrediants: Ants (dewinged)

First, put the ants in a pot. Roast over a charcoal stove until they cease looking like maggots and turn brown (about 45 minutes over low heat). Remove from heat, put in a bowl, and gross out your friends or your foreign exchange student. Watch them eat the ants for your own entertainment.
Warning: the dismembered insect heads, legs, and bodies get stuck in your teeth. You may choose to pretend that the thorax caught in your molar is popcorn. To each her own.

While we are on the topic of food… I will talk about traditional Ugandan food. Food is only food if it is cooked and served with sauce. Otherwise it is not food (example: fruit is not food nor is chicken). Food includes rice, matooke, cassava, posho (millet), and potatoes. The sauces include beef, chicken, fish, gnut, and beans. I learned that chicken is not considered meat pretty quickly. When I moved into my home, I told my mom that I did not take meat. Fine. A couple days later she began serving me pieces of one of our chickens. I pawned them off on our siblings thinking she had forgotten. She was offended and asked me why I would not eat chicken. I think we were both confused, so she asked me why I told her I didn’t want meat but I neglected to mention I didn’t want chicken. Anyways, meat is a sauce, because it is mixed with water when cooked and the stew like liquid is poured over food. Gnut sauce which I have grown to love is ground peanuts cooked with water and salt (it doesn’t taste to much like peanuts). These meals are eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in HUGE proportions. I can stomach a dinner finally, but an African lunch is still ridiculous for me (I tell them I want little more than the amount given to Buwembo- the almost three year old who lives with us. I can barely finish that). Here no one ever leaves any food on their plate after a meal. The plates are left looking almost clean.

The meat (and chicken) is another story. I have been told that the beef tastes 10X fresher than America’s. None of their food or animals are given any kind of chemicals or pesticides to grow. However, meat here isn’t refrigerated when sold. It hangs everywhere in little stands without windows along the dirty streets and traffic fumes. Meat can be brought to the butcher from the trunk of a taxi, from a boda boda man, from someone walking with a couple cow legs thrown over his shoulder. Boda bodas can tie 30 chickens to their motorcycles. Some hang in front of the exhaust pipes. Another thing I learned is that most other countries don’t refrigerate eggs. Here, we have about 5 dozen eggs that sit outside my home until we decide to eat one.

Also, Ugandan tradition is to make extra food in case visitors come. In Uganda, visitors aren’t usually scheduled even if they plan on staying overnight. People just stop in and are always fed. For example, the town drunk frequents my home and gets a little food each time. Also, I will never forget being scared almost out of my seat on my second night in the homestay when our auntie literally popped her head through the curtained window in the dark dark night during our dinner to say “hi.” People are much more trusting and inviting. There is a saying that “In a house, there is no road.” Meaning people don’t come to your home in order to get something or go somewhere. They come to socialize, just to be there. I love that quote.
Okay, enough about food. This week was a real learning experience for me. As part of my gender studies course that I took last week with 5 other girls, we went to the slums this week with the Slum Aid Project. Many of the shanty houses I see on the side of the road are already worse than anything I have seen in America. But the slums are so much worse. They are buildings with about 5 or 6 one-bedroom homes. The homes are 10ftX10ft. We talked to families that share these rooms with 11 kids. Most of the families have at least 5 kids.

One of the first things that struck me about the slums was the awful stench. They smell like rotting food, burning trash, and the sewers that run through the slum which you have to be careful not to fall into. SAP does advocacy and counsels people involved in domestic violence, child sexual abuse, drugs, prostitution, etc . We talked to the community leaders and to citizens who lived in the communities. We saw hungry children, battered women… spoke to a former prostitute, to internally displaced persons from Northern Uganda, to refugees from DRC, Eritrea, and Somalia.
That’s all for now. I am leaving for another week of traveling yay!!


Anonymous said...

That's my girl! You're bravery and adventurous spirit are not surprising to all who know you.

I miss you, Love, Mom.

P.S. I'll wait until you return and we will eat roasted ants together:)

Katy, Planet Perspectives said...

Someone named Tom mentioned your site to me at some website about study abroad. Based on the comment here from your mom, I'm assuming you are NOT Tom...
I have my own blog at: I'm writing about my study abroad time in Senegal a decade ago, as well as my more current visits to Africa for work. I really enjoyed your blog so I have added a link to your site on my blog, if you don't mind. If you like my blog, maybe you could link to me too. I think it's so important to share these kinds of experiences with as many Americans as we can! Best of luck in Uganda.