Each morning around 10 am, the staff of the clinic as well as the staff from Kibaale Community school have tea. I watch as one individual after another carries large thermos of hot water from the cook house to their classrooms or into the staff room of the clinic…… tea is what is enjoyed.

Over the past few months, I have learned a lot about the importance of tea. Tea comes in many shapes and sizes. These small packages are filled with loose tea leaves. About a month ago, I hired a new receptionist for the clinic and she is doing her very best to ensure all is working well including making sure there is tea each morning…….she came to me that other day to let me know that there is no tea….. I had to assume that she was asking me to buy or purchase tea. Since I know nothing about buying tea for the clinic staff….. I buy large boxes of tea bags…. but that is not how the staff of the clinic drink their tea, I asked her how much would tea cost? She did not respond….. so I knew that I had not asked the correct question….. So how much do you need for tea? I still did not get a response…… I was stumped….. what was the question……….

How much does a package of tea cost? with that question I got my first response….. She did not know the cost but would go and ask. There is a small convenience shop beside the clinic….. so off she went to discover the cost of a package of tea…… the cost for one package of tea was 150 Ugandan Shillings. Now there are 2,500 Ugandan shillings to one US dollar. So, a package was worth about 6 cents. My quick calculations told me that one package was not enough tea to supply the clinic staff…… So I gave her 2,000 shillings. The Ugandan currency comes in 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 shilling notes. So I gave her a 2,000 shilling note and sent her off to buy tea. I had no idea how many packets of tea could be bought for 2,000 shillings since I was giving her about 80 cents. I did not expect her back in my office…… it was only 80 cents of tea. BUT she returned to my office with 13 of these small packages…. and for the next 45 minutes to an hour she tried to calculate that 13 packages at 150 shillings would cost 1,950 shillings with 50 shillings back in change. She wanted to make sure that I got the correct amount of tea packets and the correct change. I told her that she had done a good job….. but she would not quit until she was sure that I had received the correct number of tea packets and changes….. One hour was spent on buying tea.

But they do not just have tea at 10 am but they want something to go along with their tea….. Let me start with the statement that not all words have the same meaning….. and that is true with the word the Ugandans use for an accompaniment with tea.

It all started a month or so ago….. Charles, one of the clinic nurses came up to Joyce another clinic nurse and asked for money for escort…… now this was strange to me. Joyce gave Charles some money. I observed over the next few weeks that Charles was asking all the females nurses if they wanted an escort. Each time he asked the question…. the nurse handed over some money……. I can truthfully say…. that I was very slow in finally understanding that the word escort means the snack or food that goes with tea.

10 am tea is loose tea leaves covered with hot water and many spoonfuls of sugar plus an escort…. some kind of food such as cassava chips, small two inch discs they call pancakes, or chapattis. I have tried each of these food groups and I can tolerate cassava chips when they are hot and chapattis but the pancakes are like pucks….. which could break my teeth.

I refuse to try the tea…… they drink the leaves along with the sugar.

I still enjoy my cup of coffee….. Uganda makes great coffee….. and since the Ugandan people seems to support the tea companies…. I will support the coffee plantations.

To each one……. enjoy of cup of tea or coffee but make sure you have an escort too.