Saturday, July 4, 2009

Trusty Blue Rubbish Bin

I am so sick.
Not cool.
We have been eating breakfast and dinner at the Acholli Inn, which is where we stay when we are in Gulu. It’s a very nice Inn, I’d absolutely recommend it, for the record. They have pretty Western food as far as Africa goes, so for example in the morning you can have beans, eggs, toast, tea, etc. The strangest things they’ve served thus far have been goat and liver. For lunch I usually leave the site with Phil or Dusman and we find a local restaurant to try some local food. I keep being surprised when I try something that looks gross but is actually quite good. There is a runny brown paste called odee that is basically peanut butter; a white millet made out of corn (which is referred to as maize) and tastes like newspaper; sweet potatoes that are good but are green in colour; a yellow goo that is made out of cooked plantains and is kind of a strange, gluey texture in your mouth but appropriately a nice bright yellow; and matoki. Matoki is the staple food in most parts of the country, and wow is it terrible. You mix what looks like little green plantains with real, yellow plantains, boil them in water and out comes a grainy, kind of bitter, cream-coloured paste. I don’t suggest it. Usually one of these base foods – or rice – is served on a plate separate from a meat dish of your choice with sauce over top. Meat might be your standard beef or chicken, but there is also boar, goat, liver from a few different animals, or a variety of fish I cannot pronounce.
The most exciting of these dishes thus far was when I received a fish a little larger than my hand with a peanut sauce over top. Fish and runny peanut butter taste really rather odd together, but I’d do odee on rice again.
Anyway, this ‘try local food’ thing was a grand idea until yesterday.
I am now as comfortable as I will ever be being served a whole fish. Head, tail, eyes, scales, truly the whole fish. It is a common dish in this little land-locked country, which kind of worries me being as the refrigeration in the north is quite questionable. Either way, I had tried whole fishes in a variety of sizes and sauces over the last couple days, and yesterday I was thinking ‘hm, the last fish I ate had more bones than meat, let’s try something different’. So, Dusman had a gigantic whole fish and I had an innocuous fish fillet and chips. A second whole fish was brought back to the site for Phil. Nice, common meals, right? Hm… no.
All three of us woke up in the middle of the night with the runs.
Phil and Dusman are in a different room than I am, and so I did not know at first that they were also experiencing not goodness. My lack of knowledge initially brought me a scare that I had mixed medications by accident, had food poisoning, or caught malaria or some other equally nasty tropical disease. The good news is that it is none of these, and I will not need to be moved back to Kampala for any sort of hospitalization or treatment. Yes! Points for Kenna!
Phil ended up splitting his fish with someone on the site, so he is in the best shape. Dusman was down until about 10am, and I am still not doing so hot. It’s been a long time since I was last sick like this. My new best friend is the trusty blue rubbish pale that used to live in my bathroom. Oh trusty blue rubbish pale, what a good friend to me you have been.
In other news the Ground Breaking Ceremony went very smoothly yesterday. It was great! There are kids from Baby Class (kindergarten) through Primary Seven (grade seven, year seven) at Laleobaro Primary School, and all 728 of them showed up for the ceremony. Just for reference, the average class ratio is 100 or more students to one teacher. The school choir sang some songs for us in both the local language (which none of the three of us happen to speak, but sounded very nice) and English. Definitely got that on tape for this year’s promotional video. We were also presented with a poem by one of the girls in P7. Poem is kind of a loose term though; in Canada we’d probably call it a spoken word piece but all the same it was done very well.
Speeches were given, and Phil and Dusman managed to secure some guests that really made Ssubi look good. The best speaker by far was a high-standing member of parliament who went by the name of Jacob. Most of his speech was given in the local language of the Acholli tribe but it didn’t really matter because he was so charismatic. The kids smiled and laughed, clapped and waved their hands, he was excellent.
Construction started right after the ceremony and is going fast. The tools they use here are very different from the ones we use back in Canada and so the labor is much more intensive. The building is first measured with string and a measuring tape, then outlined with a slightly raised stick and string frame. From there the hoes come out and everyone starts to dig foundation for the walls, pulling out unwanted rocks and such as they go. The thing about the hoes is that they aren’t terribly reliable though. Phil asked that when I’m on media duty with the video cam and the camera I not stand in front of anybody digging. This was kind of a strange sounding request, so I asked why. Well, turns out that the tops of the hoes are known to come flying off on occasion, and if you happen to be in front of a hoe when this happens you get hit with a great big flying chunk of metal.
The workers are pretty relaxed about the whole thing though, the first time I saw it happen he walked over, retrieved his top and banged it back onto the handle with another hoe as the hammer.
How about that.
Cheers to everyone back home, have a ginger ale for me!

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad construction is going well so far. It must be really awesome to get to know the kids who are going to be able to make use of that library! I'm super jealous. Do you think the library will be finished before you leave? Are you going to be labouring too, or just taking video?

    I hope you get better soon! If you were like me, and didn't eat fish, you'd never have had this problem! :P