Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter in Soroti

Dear Family and Friends,

A happy Easter to you from Soroti, Uganda. It's raining here, and almost as cool as a San Francisco summer day. The first day in my nearly ten weeks here so far that is actually legit for a sweater. Folks are about in their colorful Sunday dresses or proudly worn goodwill clothing with out of place brand names, slogans or the token of a 10k or pancake breakfast fundraiser. Most are moving on foot or boda bicycle taxis from town to the church or village where relatives await in mud huts with thatched grass roofs that will be tested through the emerging rainy season. I tried to meet some friends at a Baptist Church in the former IDP (internally displaced people) camp this morning to have that experience but everyone was gone for two funerals. AIDS, malaria - a mother, a child. So it goes here. The tragedy amidst the beauty.

Later my sole other American colleague Julia and I will head to the home of our primary host, Village Enterprise Fund Uganda country director Michael Ewalu. On the menu is likely to be ugali and atap, dense and gummy breads made by boiling millet and sorghum. We will tear a piece from a pile of the bread and form it into a scoop as one would be able to with clay and dip it into a thick sauce of groundnuts and greens. Other dishes may be beans or lentils stewed with chopped green pepper and carrot, roast or fried sweet potato, cassava, "irish" (irish potatoes) or matooke, a starchy unsweet banana. Beef, pork, or a chicken freshly slaughtered then and there will round out the meal that we'll eat with bottled sodas, water or beer.

Julia and I have prepared a fruit salad for desert - local papaya, green oranges, banana, watermelon, pineapple, and apples imported from South Africa. Mangoes are not yet in season in the semi-arid east of the country where I am though soon they will infiltrate the olfactories of all residents. Like drip irrigation the teardrop fruits are slowly growing larger and eventually will fall by the thousands to rot on the ground lining village paths and town streets. There are just too many to eat for the locals and no efficient drying or export business in place. Interestingly, I experienced the fruit rot phenomenon in Costa Rica, where you might also catch knowledge of the Easter Bunny in a western-style mall. But no mythical rabbit hopping around the minds of children here, just another day of very real goats, pigs, cattle and chickens scratching out sustenance amidst the sparse end-of-dry-season grasses and abundant piles of trash.

My love towards your good health and spirits,

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