….. baking in Kibaale

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In Kibaale, I have a propane stove with an oven. It is like a gas stove in that you must lite each burner as well as the oven. There is a difference, however, in that this oven is either on or off…. There is no way to regulate the temperature. In fact, there is no way to know what the temperature is. If I want to bake something I use the top rack and hope that it does not burn; or use the lowest rack to brown foods like making crispy potato wedges. Baking, roasting or cooking in this oven is a BIG challenge and always an adventure.

When I think something will be easy to make; it frequently becomes more complicated. I have had to adapt every recipe after numerous burned offerings. One of my favourite recipes is banana bread. Bananas are very inexpensive, readily available, and frequently given to me as a gift. It seems that I always have over ripe bananas. In “Jungle Camp Cook book” by Wycliffe Bible Translators, there is a great recipe for banana bread. I have attempted to make this loaf many times only to discover that the top and bottom are burnt while the inside remains raw. I now made banana bread muffins and they turn out perfect if I bake them for exactly 22 minutes. At 25 minutes they are burnt.

I tell you this because one of the Kibaale teachers is interested in purchasing an oven… Patricia wants to learn how to bake fancy decorative cakes. To help me understand exactly what type of cakes she is looking to bake, she showed me a 200 page cookbook with the most beautiful and elaborate cakes I have ever seen. This could easily be a cookbook created by “Martha Stewart”. I told Patricia that she had the wrong person if she wanted to learn how to bake such cakes. BUT then again, I am the only one in Kibaale with an oven.

Patricia and I have had many discussions about the stove, how it works, and the recipes in her cookbook. Much of our conversations have been around the ingredients; Patricia did not know what raisins, almonds, dates, icing sugar, candied cherries and mixed peel were nor had she ever tasted any of them. She did not know about measuring cups, teaspoons and tablespoons. Nor did she understand that there is a process when baking a cake… like when they say cream sugar and butter together. All this was new to her.

So, before she and her husband make a final decision to purchase a stove with an oven, I thought it would be a good idea for her to do some baking. She wanted to bake a fruit cake like those we enjoy over the Christmas Holidays. I have made a few in the past but quickly realized the store bought ones are almost as good. Unfortunately, that is not the answer. This teacher, Patricia, wants to learn how to bake.

Our first cooking lesson was a banana bread which of course turned out acceptable. Her family liked it. Then a few weeks later, she arrived with all the ingredients for a fruit cake. I have to say that our first attempt was a complete failure. I put the cake at the top of the oven and after less than half the baking time, it was black on top, sides and bottom. I carefully removed as much burnt cake as possible before sending the rest home. As she left….. I started to cry. I had just cost her a significant amount of shillings. It does not matter how much it cost in Canadian dollars; I found the price of the necessary items expensive. Here is a teacher on a limited income spending her shillings on costly ingredients which I just burnt. I felt terrible! It was a disaster! So, for the next few weeks, I thought about what I might do to make the next cake a success….

The day after our burnt disaster, Patricia came and told me her family loved the fruit cake much better than the banana bread and they wanted her to try again.

On our second attempt at a fruit cake, we did many things differently. First of all, we added extra liquids, then we put the cake on the every top rack of the oven just after I lite the oven… and finally I put a two inch stick at the top of the oven door like a wedge to keep the door open and lower the temperature. We also checked to see whether the cake was done every 10 minutes. After 45 minutes we had a magnificent cake…. SUCCESS at last.

Now my story about the “princess cake” begins. Over the Christmas holidays, there were a number of family members visiting from Canada including Carina’s mother and father better know as Mormor and Morfar (Swedish for mother’s mother and mother’s father). Mormor pack one of her suitcase with all the ingredients to make a Swedish princess cake for the Christmas festivities but this suitcase got lost in transit and did not turn up until a few days before their departure back to Canada. I have never heard nor tasted a princess cake but have heard many stories of how it is made and how over the years bakeries are making a simpler version since it takes a long of time and ingredients. Of course, this only added to the mystery of this very special cake.

So, last Friday morning as I was preparing to leave Masaka for Kibaale, I remember that I needed to say “Goodbye” to Mormor and Morfar since they were leave in a few days. Just as I was getting ready to walk up and say goodbye, I received a phone call inviting me to coffee…. I thought that it was nice to say goodbye over a cup of coffee…. but little did I know that Mormor had made the princess cake.

Out from the fridge came a cake almost exactly like the one in this picture but more beautiful. The mint green marzipan icing had three pink marzipan flowers on top…. It was truly a work of art. How could anyone cut into a cake that majestic!!!!! BUT Mormor cut the cake and gave me the first piece of princess cake. I am challenged to find words to describe the delicate taste of the layers of mouth watering sponge cake with fresh raspberries, custard and whipping cream. You have to research this cake to appreciate that this cake would be impressive by Canadian standards but to think that it was made in Uganda with an oven like mine……. what words can I use…. Well done, Mormor.

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…. what have I learned in my first year of living in Uganda.

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QE park june 2012 070>>>>>>> what have I learned in my first year living in Uganda……………..

I have learned that even though I live south of the equator, the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. But what I have discovered is the night sky is something very different…. I love to stand in the middle of the soccer field with no lights for miles around, and stare at the night sky full of brilliant diamonds which appear to be so close that I could reach out and grab one. The sky is covered with a new set of constellations to explore; comets and satellites to watch out for.

I have learned that I took many things for granted in Canada which do not exist in Kibaale. If I am going to do more than just survive…… I need to remember to pump water when the generator is on; remember there are no lights in my bathroom except when the generator comes on; and that sometimes the generator does not come on because there is no fuel. Therefore, I need to ensure that my solar panel flashlights, and lamps are always ready and charged.

I have learned that not everything in Canada is available in Uganda…….. like mushrooms, feta cheese, red wine vinegar, sour cream, cottage cheese, apple sauce for example… Some of these may be found in one of the grocery stores in Kampala, but then maybe not, or maybe not on the day you are there. I am still learning to live on what is available…. all recipes have to be adapted. Here is an example, I wanted to make some cookies. I went onto the internet in search of a recipe where I had most of the ingredients. I found a cookie recipe with a glace. The glace required one tablespoon of lemon juice. Well, I cannot buy a lemon in Kibaale; a might be able to buy one in Masaka and definitely I could purchase one in Kampala. What was I going to use?… I looked around my house and found one lonely passion fruit and decided to try it in this recipe. To my surprise the cookies taste great.

I have learned that even though the clinic is suppose to be open at 8 am … it may be after 9 before the clinic staff arrive and this is especially true when it rains during the night or in the early morning hours. If at 8 am, it is still raining then I am unlikely to see anyone clinic staff or patients until after the rains have stopped. Why you may ask…. it is because everyone has to walk to the clinic; no one owns a car, very few own a raincoat or jacket and only a few own an umbrella….. this is the way it is in Africa.

I have learned that sometimes you can barter over the price of bananas, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and anything else which is sold in the market place. I am fairly certain there is a mzungu (white man’s) price and an Ugandan price. The staff at the clinic get very upset and even angry when I am over charged. Therefore, to keep the peace and the staff happy I frequently ask them to purchase certain items for me….. It is not that I am lazy but it helps build relationships.

I have learned the folks in Kibaale town and on the compound frequently greet me with “good morning my mzungu.” The first time I heard it I was shocked, confused and even upset. I was not someone’s property. But I quickly learned from the staff that it is a term of endearment. They are giving me respect and acknowledgment for living and being part of Kibaale and Kibaale Community Centre. You need to understand that I am the only white person for at least 20 to 30 kilometers in any direction.

I have learned that Kibaale is an extremely beautiful place…. One of my favourite places to sit is on the porch at the entrance to the clinic where I can see for miles, the rolling hills, many types of trees and watch the various birds fly down the valley at eye level…. like the national bird of Uganda, the grey crested crane.

I have learned there is a big difference between how time is used and understood in Uganda…… Time has a different meaning for each person and in each new situation…. the Ugandan frequently use the word “now now” which we might translate as immediately. It can mean anytime within the next few hours to anytime in the next few days. They are not trying to be disrespectful but the exact opposite… they want to please and do the right thing and it may take some time.

I have learned even when I say what I mean and mean what I say…. it is almost always misunderstood… it seems that it has a different meaning for each person. I have worked hard to teach those who wish to travel with me that when I say I am leaving the gate at 12 o’clock I mean that I will be leaving at 12 o’clock. On Dec 22, I was going to be traveling to Masaka… and I told everyone that I would be leaving from the front gate at 8:30 am…. …… Six people asked for a ride…. I spoke to each of them, repeating the information and ensuring that each one of them understood the departure time………. And still on that day, I arrived at the front gate at 8:30 and no one was present. At 9:15 three people arrived and told me they were on time…. then 10 minutes later two more arrived and finally at 9:30 the last one called to say I could pick her up on route out of Kibaale. I would have normally left at 8:30 but this was a special day since everyone was trying to get ready and travel to his or her village for Christmas. I waited patiently.

I have learned the people of central southern Uganda are from the Baganda tribe….. Now, here is a story. It is the week before Christmas, I asked one of the nurses to check and let me know if there are vaccines available for our outreach the next day. He came back and stood in my office, I asked him if he needed anything but he said “No!”… nevertheless, he remain standing in my office. Finally, after a number of minutes, I asked him if he need some airtime to make the calls; he took a few minutes to respond with the answer “Yes!” I could not help myself, I had to ask him why he did not tell me immediately that he need airtime. He gave me this response….

“A friend will come to your house and he will sit down and talk with you. You will ask him if he is hungry and he will say “No.” He will continue to sit and wait. You will make some food and you will offer him some but he will say “No, thanks.” But you will ask him again and again if he would like some food. Finally, very reluctantly he will take some of your food and you will be very surprised at the amount of food he has eaten.”

This nurse leaves and I am totally confused…. It just so happens another nurse has been sitting in my office and she had heard the whole story.. I ask her for an translation or an interpretation………………… After a few minutes, she starts “The Baganda people like to play the game of pretense….. Of course, the person was hungry but he was not going to tell you the truth. It is part of how we are brought up… We have learned our lessons well from our mothers, and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandmother and grandfathers. No one tells you the truth. It is especially worse with the cell phone (as she points to mine). I heard a person talking, telling the person on the phone that he was just about to arrive in Nairobi and was not sure if his phone would continue to function and then he rang off…He was not in Kenya but in Masaka, Uganda only a few minutes from his friends village.”

I would say I still have lots to learn but I think it has been a good beginning. I have spend the year working to build relationship with each member of the clinic staff and many in the school and in Kibaale town. I know that even a few months ago, neither one of the nurses would have helped me to understand their culture in such as interesting way. At least we are talking and I hope this helps us work together to move the clinic forward in the coming year……..as well as help me become the person I need to be to help support these changes.

….Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda

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It is New Year’s Day and I am still trying to write this blog…. I have had one challenge after another. I wanted to write and post this blog from Queen Elizabeth National Park which is in the western section of Uganda about 4 to 5 hours drive from Kibaale but the network stopped working. Then it was time to travel back to Masaka; once again the network was not cooperating. Each time I start working on this blog…. I would get company. Now company is not bad; in fact it is good… but I truly wanted to complete this blog before the end of the year. Well, it has been a busy week, I have traveled to Lake Mburo and stayed a night in what you would think is a typical safari lodge… Each room was an independent thatched hut with a four poster bed and windows overlooking the savannah grasslands. It was an exciting adventure traveling across the wet grassland following an imaginary road to get to the lodge. Then there was the trip over good paved road to get to Kasese and visit Queen Elizabeth Park. Now, my vacation is over and I am back in Kibaale only to figure out that I had run out of airtime for my internet to work…. So off to downtown Kibaale I went to buy airtime. Of course, all this takes time….

So, what was so special that I had to blog….. I had this amazing trip to see the animals of Queen Elizabeth Park. The park is almost 2,000 square kilometers in size boasting 95 species of mammals and 612 species of birds. It is an awesome place…. you are right in the middle of a real life game reserve…. this is where the animals live; cape buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, Ugandan Kobe, baboons and hippopotamuses to name of few.

On December 27 just before 6 pm we had arrived at one of the gates to the park….. after paying the entrance fee we asked the park rangers if they had heard any news about lion sightings…. Yes, four lions had killed an antelope that morning and the kill was close to the road. They explained exactly where to go.

The park opens at dawn and closes at dusk which is around 7 pm so we did not have a lot time to travel the dirt roads of the park to the exact location with great hope that one or more of the four lions were still in the area. An antelope is a good size kill and it is unlikely that the lions would be able to eat the whole animal in one “sitting”….

We were about half way to the location when we came upon an Ugandan riding on a motorcycle with a back flat tire. He was riding on the rim when he stopped. It was clear that he was not going to be able to ride it any further. When the park was established in 1954 there were 11 village within the newly created park boundaries. These villages continue. The village where this young man lives is about 10 to 15 minutes past the location of the kill…..So, what were we going to do? Could we leave him to fend for himself and push or walk through the park to his village? It was decided that we would lift his motorcycle into the back of the Toyota pick up and those who had seen a lion before would travel in the Toyota to the village whereas the visitors from Canada would squeeze into the Noah and try and see lions.

It did not take as long as expected to arrive at the young man’s village… even though the motorcycle almost slipped out of the back of the Toyota a couple of times… Once in the village, the young man had friends to help him unload his motorcycle. We waved goodbye and turned around and headed for the location of the lions. We had high hopes to see something before the sunset.

We arrived back at the last sighting of lions to be told nothing was happening… a lion was about 200 feet from the side of the road hidden by the tall grass. As we came parallel with the other vehicles, she became restless… she would stand up for a few seconds then lay down …. she was hardly up long enough for a photo….We stayed and watched her for at least 20 to 30 minutes and we were about to leave when we heard from some other folks that there were two or maybe three more lions hidden by the tall grasses less than 300 feet to the right of the first one…. We moved our vehicle passed the bushes and watched…. Sure enough I could see a head pop up at two different locations and the swishing of a long black tipped tail. It was exciting to see heads and tails of three lions in one location….

It was getting dark; too dark for photos… I was putting my camera away when suddenly the second lion stood up and with an amazing grace moved quickly towards a large thick clump of trees. I guessed that she was heading into the trees to get away from our prying eyes….. but that was not the case. The third lion was on the move… he or she was moving so gracefully that within seconds he or she was beside the second one. They were now active…. racing across the savannah, jumping and bounding with powerful ease….and out from behind the bushes came the first lion. It was time to play…. or that is what it looked like… the game was on…. and who was going to win the race as they vanished into the darkness….

It was dark and it was going to be at least 30 to 40 minutes before we were back at the lodge……..the safari for the day was over but what majestic beauty, what amazing power ….. my mind was memorized by these three lions…I did not want to leave. I wanted to somehow be able to stay and observe their activities even though I knew that it was not possible.

The road to the lodge is paved if you can call it that… there are potholes every few feet and some of them are so deep that a vehicle could be swallowed up…. We were still within the park when we came upon a very large snake on the road… It had to be somewhere between 6 and 8 feet long and at least the width of my upper arm in the middle…. It was moving fast and we had only seconds to see it. No one has been able to discover what kind of snake we saw…

I cannot help but think that the sighting of the snake reinforced the fact that we were in a park… and not at the zoo. Queen Elizabeth National Park of Uganda is a real life habitat for hundreds of wild animals, birds and reptiles. It is their home and we are the visitors…..

Now, you know why I had to write this blog…. what an amazing and exciting adventure!!!!!