Sunday, March 13, 2011

Life's Little Aspects: Part 1

Forget about dictionary definitions and the blueprints in your mind, when it comes to things like food, time and housework the same rules simply don’t apply in Uganda. As it’s the small things that really make up life, let’s go through a few definitions of every day aspects of life.

When you think of Uganda most people are probably thinking lions, monkeys, giraffe, gorillas, elephants etc. Yes, these animals are of course here but they are not part of everyday life, in fact they are very much confined to the numerous national parks. 
Not many of these little critters in these here parts
Monkeys are an exception, they can be found playing in the trees of some towns including Kampala and Jinja. However, the most exotic animals that I am in contact with here in Kabale are pigs, goats and of course, my nightly visitors- the mosquito.

Never mind the fact that we are thousands of miles away from Britain. Loyalty to the teams of the English premier league runs deep. Everyone supports a team, most commonly Manchester United or Arsenal and they will stay awake until 1am in order to catch the games. It’s one of the most common questions you get asked when people first meet you, they want to find where your football loyalties lie. I must say though, I’m pretty grateful to Manchester United and to Ryan Giggs in particular. Why? Well because when I say that I am from Wales people actually know where I’m talking about (and no, mentioning Princess Di does not have the same effect, clearly Giggs is much more celeb-worthy)!
‘Food’ here is considered to be stews (meat, beans etc) and various kinds of carbohydrates for accompaniment:

Irish: Boiled potatoes
Kalo: Millet flour and water mixed until it becomes stretchy, brown and entirely unappetising.
Matooke – mashed plantain (savoury bananas)
Posho – maize flour and water ‘mingled’ until it becomes a solid starch lump, horrendous
Rice – delicious, why would anyone ever choose posho over it?
Sweet Potatoes: Not the orangey kind, but the white wiggly kind, boiled.
Sweet potatoes, matooke and devil eggplants
Anything else is not referred to as food, but rather as snacks. This can obviously get a bit confusing when you go into restaurants (see below) and ask if they have food. They may well answer no even if they do in fact have eggs, chips, chapattis, samosa etc. As you can tell, the diet is carbohydrate heavy, thank goodness for cheap and delicious pineapples, passion fruits, avocadoes and tomatoes!

Ladies will happily spend hours in the ‘saloon’ (and not that is not a typo here salons are known as saloons) having their own, and generally copious amounts of fake, hair braided into weird and wonderful styles. For men the only acceptable styles are those shaved close to the head. Men with long hair, or heaven forbid, dreadlocks are immediately associated with the Rastafarian culture, which socially has negative connotations (thieves, marijuana smokers etc).
Washing machines, vacuum cleaners, hot water – you never truly appreciate them until you’re in Africa and scrubbing your pants in a basin of cold water with Blue Star, a multi-purpose wonder soap. I’m not joking, I love blue star, it would probably ruin your washing machine if you shaved off some and put it in the drawer, melt the drum or something. I confess that I'm not a very good clothes washing, opting to pay a lovely lady to do most of mine for me. Anyway I could never get my whites that white again, I've come to the conclusion that locals must use witchcraft, there is no other explanation.

I’ve mentioned the state of music before, but really, for someone who loves music and live gigs in particular, it’s a big deal. There is some OK local music being made and I confess to have been won over by some of the more catchy Ugandan songs, particularly those of Radio and Weasel. But on the whole things are pretty bad. Alarmingly, Westlife, Celine Dion and Shania Twain are more popular here than they were in Britain in the 90s (early 00s for Westlife).
Ludicrous amounts of love for Celine
 Locals love a good soppy ballad, they also love songs with slightly questionable lyrics, I refer you to P Square’s smash hit “Do Me”.  It should also be noted (so that I don’t look negatively biased) Museveni’s political rap was voted the  best song of the year. I rest my case.

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