So first off, the national language of Uganda is supposed to be Swahili. I guess it's because east Africa is trying to become more unified so everyone speaks the same language. But in Uganda they speak a lot of languages and not many people speak Swahili on the daily. Usually it is English (also the national language?) and another language. So around Mbale where we stay, many people speak Lugisu (loo GHEE soo – really not sure if I spelled it right) and we have picked up a few greetings and fun words. Our country coordinator Chris is super good with the locals and usually impresses them by giving a more traditional greeting when we start our meetings. When he is done they all clap and laugh and it makes them love him. This is how it goes:
*disclaimer, I am totally making up these spellings
Greeting: “Malembe” → means “Hello” or can even be thought of as, “How are you?”
Response: “Malembe” (muh LEM beh)
Greeting: “Outiena” → (oo tee EN ah) means more literally “How are you?”
Response: “Bulaiyee” → (boo LAH yee) “I am fine/well”
Geeting: “Maqwua” or “Kamahooah” → (which one you say just depends on where you are) “What is the news?”
Response: “Gassala” → (GAH sah lah)“No news”
You say this entire thing in a row and it is super fun. So far I have only succeeded in doing it with the guy who taught it to me as we were hiking to Wanale falls on Mt. Elgon. The next day he tested me and it took a second, but I did it! I need to be braver and try it in front of a group. Sometimes after I greet locals, they ask how I am doing in Lugisu, but I usually freeze and can't think of the correct response! Haha
Not everyone speaks Lugisu though. I meet with a group of women that has a few who “are not Malembe” as they put it. So they speak Luganda or Swahili or another language besides English. The English here is pretty good. It is funny and can be tricky to understand just the vocabulary choices. It is adorable to hear the little children on the street shouting “Mzungu! Howareyouu??” The correct response to that question is “I am fine!” That answer threw us the first time we heard it because usually that's not a positive response in the states! You say, “good” or “great” or “doing well!” When you just say “fine” it sounds like something is wrong. But in Uganda, it's what you say! Also just their grammar is funny. When you are leaving someone's company (generally a stranger you won't see again but it works for friends too) instead of saying something like “Have a good day!” you say “nice time!” The other day I was visiting some widows who are a part of the savings group I meet with. They each have some wonderful skills and they were showing me their homes and the things they make and what they do for work. One woman named Jane was telling me about the beautiful shirts and dresses and bags she makes. She wore one of her dresses to a meeting in the past and they were describing it to me. Instead of saying “She was wearing it at the last meeting.” They say “She was putting that one on last time” and even said “The one she was putting on” to reference the one she made. It makes me laugh and love them even more. Similarly, when they talk about going to get something, they use the word “pick”. For example, if they ask a child to get the guest book for us to sign, often the say “You go and pick it and bring it back.” Or when we tell them we need to get supplies, they tell us to “pick it”. They also use the word “move” in a fun way. When we go visit somewhere like a school or health clinic, we meet in an office or something first and then when they want to give a tour of the grounds to us, they say “can we move around?” Or “Let us move.” That's one of my favorite ones. I understand what they are saying and have tried my best to communicate clearly with them as well! It has definitely been a learning curve.
Some funny words they say here are “branch” to turn. So when I am directing someone taking me home, I tell them to branch left and branch right. They also use the word “extend” to get someone to move forward or back. We were helping to paint a school and the children were crowding around us watching us mix the paint. When I tried to move in and get them to back up, one of the older girls stepped back and told the kids in front of her to extend back and make room. When we ask drivers for change, we ask for “balance”. That's probably my favorite one!
We hear them taking group pictures at the school we visit sometimes. You know they are taking a picture because, instead of saying “cheese!” to get you to smile, they laugh. “Ha! Ha! Ha!” Like big laughs all together so that the picture looks more natural I guess. It is kinda weird but really amusing to listen to!
The food here is great. Pretty much they eat staple foods for every meal. The variety is not nearly as much as it is in the states, but there is still plenty to choose from! So we have a woman that we have hired as a cook for us. She makes us dinner Sunday-Thursday. Then on the weekends we are on our own. Breakfast is also provided for us, so during the week we only have to pay for lunches ourselves.
So for breakfast, we usually have Chapoti (pretty sure I have spelled that differently every time I write it [chap OT ee]) All it is is like a really thick and kinda greasy tortilla! It is delicious. And one, or 1.5 is usually enough to fill me with a little banana or mango or pineapple on the side. We eat those fruits a lot and they are SO GOOD here. I normally do not like really ripe bananas, I like them more green. That's more how ripe bananas taste here and I love it. Lots of people like to put honey or jam on their chapoti and it is pretty good, but I also really like it plain.
This is Jamima in our kitchen making Chapoti for us! She taught me how as well but I didn't get a pic
For lunch we can go get street food which is super cheap, it's usually chapoti or beans and rice and avocado. You can also get street rolex which is something we also like to order at our favorite cafe, Casa. Rolex is just a chapoti with an omelet rolled into the middle. They make the omelets with onion and pepper and tomato and then just put it on the rolex and roll it up! It is really yummy. At Casa, they chapoti is less greasy and the egg is a bit more substantial, and you can get it with “gravy” which is just this sauce that I think is tomato based and has like some Indian spices? I don't know but it is too good.
Chapoti at Casa!
We drink a lot of soda here. Everything in glass bottles, so the Coke is delicious. It also helps to have a coke with a meal you are unsure of the safety level on so it can maybe kill some bacteria that might get in your stomach. Mostly the soda choices here are Coke, Sprite, and Orange Fanta. But there is also Ginger Beer, and berry Fanta which is sooo good. Also there are some other brands of soda I haven't seen anywhere else and one of them is Mirinda. It is a fruit soda kinda like Fanta and there is a red/purple berry one very similar to the Fanta that is probably my favorite. I'm gonna have to see if I can find it in Provo when I get back. Usually when you get a soda here, you give back the bottle so it can be recycled/reused. So two people could order a Coke or something and the labeling on the bottle could be totally different. Haha, makes you wonder how many times that bottle has been used... Soda tastes great though! I am sad there is no Dr. Pepper but I guess I can appreciate it that much more at home ;)
Our cook, Jamima, makes some delicious food. I can't really pick a favorite. But I love her samosas. It's like a fried triangle full of meat or veggies. She makes them with chicken and some veggies. I requested cabbage and guac with those the other day and it was great. Her cabbage was not as good as the cabbage we had in a village earlier in the week but it was still good! “Irish potatoes” are very popular here. Most people tell us that is one of their favorites. They are just normal potatoes as far as I can tell, but yellow instead of white? And I have liked them a lot more! Super flavorful. We eat lots of rice and beans here. Pretty much every meal comes with avocado here and it is way better than any avocado I have had in the states. Tonight we had rice and peas. Sounds so gross because I do not like peas, but this was surprisingly quite good. The peas were almost in a soup or broth more similar to how beans are prepared and they had onions and carrots mixed in too, just mostly peas. I liked it! And the pineapple we had on the side was delicious. More unique to Uganda would be foods like matoke or posho. Matoke is plantain which I had never had until I came here. It is kinda bland by itself but it goes great with Jamima's chicken and g-nut sauce. G-nuts are ground nuts, or peanuts. They make peanut butter, and g-nut paste which is a little thinner, and also g-nut sauce which s my favorite. It's super thin and actually like a light purple color. Depending on who makes it, it doesn't even taste a lot like peanut butter, but it is perfect on the side of some of the more bland foods we eat here. Posho is just corn flour mixed into boiling water until it gets super super thick. I would compare the texture to leftover cream of wheat, and it holds shape like it too! The one time we ate it, we had it with beans and it was fine, until I was full, and then it was really hard to finish. It is filling and easy to make and most anyone here can afford it. Posho is possibly my least favorite Ugandan food. It's just not very flavorful.
Samosas and cabbage and pineapple!
This was a fish dish that was absolutely delicious and we had it with sweet potatoes and something called Casava. I don't know what Casava is except that it's a vegeatble and looks a little bit like a potato and almost tastes like one but not really? It went great with the fish.