It’s harvest season here so everyone is gone from sunup till sundown out in the gardens, which most often are located long walks away from the village center. Or some travel in a truck for some time till they reach the village where all the big gardens are located, then they stay there for two weeks to harvest and plant next season’s crops. I have yet to travel out to the big garden center, but have seen some of the smaller gardens around Nwoya.
Alice, the founder of CCF the organization I am interning for, has no income because all the funding she secures goes to those that are working for the organization under her and to her projects. She takes none of it and thus supplements her income with making and selling peanut butter and honey. I don’t understand all of the financial interworkings that go on here quite yet, but from what I have gathered Alice petitions to many larger corporations and organizations in Europe, especially Switzerland, and gets funding for the schools, community projects, and research that she makes happen here. Then she harvests tons of what are called Gnuts, which are essentially peanuts. It takes four days of full sun to dry out the harvested nuts, or a week if there are some cloudy days. So for the past week, early in the morning women from around the community come out to Alice’s place and help her spread out the Gnuts outside on tarps to dry under the sun. Then in the evening as the distant storm clouds roll in and you begin hearing the evening thunder, the women and a group of girls from the school come back to Alice’s place and gather all the nuts and put them back in bags to store safely away in a hut for the night.
I have found that while the people in Uganda have been some of the most welcoming and gracious people, they also tend to think all Westerners are a bunch of princes and princesses and a bit incapable when it comes to hard work. I grew up spending my summers working on a big farm. Bending over under a summer sun isn’t easy, but the methodical and rewarding work of harvest is something I enjoy. Food tastes all the more delicious if it has been your hands, dirty with dark soil, which grew it. I also love backpacking, hauling all I need to survive on my back. And while I like to think I can live simply, my pack is not always all that light. But challenging your body to keep climbing up the mountain with the pack on your back just makes the view when you get to the top all the more beautiful and sliding into your sleeping bag that night all the more blissful. I don’t enjoy sitting back. I am actually pretty terrible when it comes to relaxing and vacations. If I’m not exploring or bent over working I’m moody and more confused and upset than if someone had said there’s a problem over there, go figure out how to fix it. So all and all when Ugandan mothers tell me stop you can’t do that and try to take over for me while I do something physically straining or turn their heads and gawk in aw at the fact that I am bending over washing my own laundry in a bucket, I find I enjoy doing that activity all the more. I find I like to prove that even though I do live over an ocean away, I am still the same as them and when it comes to bending over and getting things done I can do it just as they can.
One of my two favorite times of this has been the days I spent helping with the Gnuts. At first the girls looked at me like I must be crazy bending over and picking up heavy loads of nuts. But gradually they realized I wasn’t going anywhere and learned to work with me. We ended up all singing, them laughing whenever I tried to join in whistling, and soon the tarps and tarps full of nuts where packed up and stored. Everyone then sat around as the sun slipped away with handfuls of nuts taking a post work snack. The first day I helped with the nuts, I was walking back from teaching at the school, pretty tired and ready to just nap, but then I saw the girls working to get the nuts put away and so I helped them instead of napping. It turned out to do the same thing as a nap as in after working I was invigorated and awake. Physical labor can do that, invigorate or focus you; it has a bit of charm to it in the sense that it can do that while also bringing people together. It brings people together like a hard workout does for teammates I spose, draws them closer, shows them they can rely and believe in each other. If you ask me, more people should bend over in a garden and learn how good food tastes when you’ve labored to make it grow yourself.
My other favorite memory has been dinner with my family. After coming back from the school in the evening, I walk into my family’s compound to my little brothers running up to welcome me back with a energetic waves or a hug. Then we all sit under the stars on a mat talking and telling stories to the dim light of my solarlamp. Then mama Milianna, who has been up working in the garden since before I woke up at 7:30am and has only just now come back to cook dinner for the family, comes out of the hut with plates full of warm food. Often beans and rice, posho, or paste with greens. Then we all wash our hands in bowls of warm soapy water and eat. My family recently told me that they were quite proud I learned to eat with my hands instead of with the spoon and fork they so put out for me. It isn’t always easy to eat soupy paste with your hands, but you learn to make the posho into a scoop, posho is like corn flour and water cooked together into a dough. Then after filling our stomachs, we talk more till I am falling asleep sitting and have to slip away to brush my teeth and go to bed. While I still don’t quite understand how everyone is related because often more and more join my family or pass through that I have not met before, my family is one of my favorite memories of my time here. Whether it is eating dinner on mats, playing soccer with my little brothers and their ball made from plastic bags, chasing my little sister around the huts, or playing music off my phone and dancing with my littlest brother as my too-big-for-him sunglasses slip off his face, life with these kind people is sweet.