Monday, 25 June 2012

This is Dwaniro:


I was asked about where I was staying while I was in Rakai District, Uganda. So I thought maybe more of you would be interested in knowing more about where I was staying...

The courtyard in which I was staying was open to the road through a space between two store fronts (above). If you did not know the courtyard was there you would think it would be just a space between two buildings. You will notice the beautiful path into the compound? It is the remains of a foundation. When it rained, which it did frequently, water would pour from the ground inside and down to the lower elevation outside the compound. The entrance turned into a mud puddle and those old bricks became a saving grace to our shoes.

Dwaniro is small. There are shops up and down the road we lived off of (the only main road in the village), but I could never figure out what each one sold. A conglomeration of materials was stocked in each store and you just had to go up to the owner and ask for what you wanted. Over time you learned where to go for specific things, but if you wanted signs that advertised merchandise...too bad for you.
A view to the left from the above entrance to the guest house compound. This is the main street of Dwaniro
And a view to the right
There are few if any street signs. Africa however, is weird like that; there are few signs in front of stores. Sometimes it is guesswork which building is a store or a home. I was free to come and go as I pleased from the courtyard. Mama Maga had a restaurant a couple hundred metres down the street from our home (to the left) and I would often go and meet her there after a day at school. There was little other reason to leave the compound however, as the village would often come to visit me out of curiosity. As you probably already could have guessed. Walking down the street was an interesting event with children yelling "mzungu," adults staring and young men talking and laughing.

There was little that I did or said that was not circulated through dozens of households. As a remote village with little access to the outside world, news that the mzungu was sick was earth shattering. That she enjoyed mamba, but did not like yam was worth learning. How little she needed to fill her stomach was also great news. (I have learned that Africans are capable of downing enormous amounts of food and still maintain a stick-like, muscular appearance. I attribute this to their high level of activity...)

There were about 8-10 rooms around the courtyard (below). Four or five were occupied by long term guests- mostly teachers who lived there during the school term and then went home to their husbands during the holidays.

 Mama made all my meals, although I tried to help as much as I could. I learned how to cook and peel like the Africans do (below), and even carry children like they do (below). I was even able to prepare a decent Canadian meal for her using the meagre African implements available.



Mama had two rooms, one for sleeping and one with couches and a cooking area- About the size of a dining room table in total. I would eat in there with mama and keep her company while she did her frequent cleaning.

The most common dish we ate was matooke- essentially mashed bananas- which is the main crop of the area. It has a very vague resemblance to mashed potatoes. It really does look like mashed bananas, but oddly does not taste like our yellow bananas in North America. There was also posho- water mixed with maize flour until it hardens. There was porridge- the same recipe as posho but with more water to make it a gelatin-like texture as well as a high amount of sugar. Tea is like water and the common amount of sugar per cup is about 6 heaping teaspoons. Sugar cane is common as are sweet bananas, mangoes, pineapples, pau pau, sweet potato and yam. Beans or peas were often an accompaniment to the matooke. As a side note, I have learned that the African version of “this is good” is “this is sweet.” My eyes were opened to this interesting fact after I ate something that was described as “sweet” and wondered how this salty food could be classified as a sweet food.

The first week or so that I was in Dwaniro, mama fed me a mixture of different types of foods to figure out what I liked. Once she established my tastes she rarely went out of those boundaries. She is undoubtedly the best cook in the area so I had no problem enjoying the food prepared however different it was... although I could never eat enough to satisfy her ...

School began early in Tata, however it does not really feel early as the village starts to stir before 6 For the natives, I am not sure when they sleep because they stay out for all hours at night and get up before the sun... but somehow they survive.

The school was situated near Tata on the top of a hill. I could comfortably wear a sweater each day as a cool breeze blew across the hill at all times. On the days that I did not have school however and stayed in Dwaniro, the temperatures would often skyrocket in the afternoon. For some reason though, the evenings were cool enough to use a fleece blanket.

NB: If there is anything you would like to know about, please ask. I'm only scratching the surface of the experiences here...


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