Field Day, Feast Day

This post will actually be short and mainly be told through pictures. Here goes.

The Acholi, like many people, enjoy feasts and festivities. And considering the years they lived in fear and war, boy can they throw a partay! (We Americans were not that bad either, but more on that later.) School closed during every celebration while we were there. When we arrived, the town was celebrating the Ugandan Martyrs Day, a day commerating the deaths of 22 Catholic converts who died for their beliefs in Christianity. About a week later the secondary schools in our district competed in track and field events. This was an all day affair in the sorching heat. I will take the time to brag here: Our team came back champions and I felt bad for my colleagues’ teams. (Yeah right!)

These meets were qualifying meets for the National competitions that were to be held in Gulu for the first time in about twenty-five years (remember, Gulu is in Uganda’s wartorn Northern region). Pece is a stadium that holds approximately 30,000 people. There are few bleechers and the track is delineated in the grass. During the course of the event, there were many events occuring simultaneously and I was somewhat upset that I missed the javelin and diskus throws. It was sometimes hard to know what school a team was from because the uniforms are varied. Generally, there are no team colors and the economic status of an athlete is manifested in their running attire. Many students, especially the girls it seems, piece together a uniform of whatever they find that will allow some freedom of movement. Remarkably, some students ran in brand name sneakers while others ran in their bare feet. It was a rousing, albeit hot day and I enjoyed bonding with the students.

The last celebration done by the Ugandans was Feast Day. I am not clear why this day is celebrated, but festivities were done in grand style. The day started early with students and staff preparing for 300+ guests. The Home Ec students prepared food for the students and I believe some food was catered. I was a server for the day, again standing in scorching sunlight (I am originally from Florida so why did this bother me?).  Still, I really felt like I was a part of the people that day. It was bitersweet because we were leaving Gulu the next day so all the girls wanted to take pictures and get my address. I really wanted to cry, especially when I realized I would not hear their beautiful voices for a year or more. We were supposed to record the girls’ singing that day but we were behind schedule so we were not able to record. Simon said (no pun intended) he’d attempt to record the songs then bring the camera to me in the morning…you’ve heard the story already and hopefully have listened to the video. The point is, I was unconsciously missing the ladies already and I became the classic worry wart. Anyway it all worked out and I play the girls’ video frequently when I am sad.

That’s the story.  I share the people and pictures with you in the pages marked Field Day videos, Feast Day pictures and videos, and traditional dancing. Enjoy! Apwoyo!

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 4:33 am  Leave a Comment  

The exchange through song.

In addition to sharing food , I had the privilege to share song and music with my students. What an experience! Madam Ogwetta, my Ugandan partner teacher in English, started it all when she asked me to sing the first day I met her S4 girls.  Djore, I’m sorry but I could not remember a single thing from the Gospel Choir. Please don’t kick me out. I finally thought of Gabi Gabi, a South African praise and protest song. This became our signature tune. I also taught them Uyai Mose and I Need You. Then I attempted to teach them Wanting Memories and You Brought the Sunshine but there was not enough time and  I had to make sure I was teaching Drama and English, the subjects I was there to teach. My song ministry continued when I told Sister Dinah, one of the Nuns, about the song with her name in it. She asked me to teach it to students and I doubt you have heard a better version of Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah. I rounded out the song instruction with an attempt to teach the Peace Club Mark Miller’s Make Me An Instrument (the slow version) but we just didn’t have the time. As my last week approached, I reminded the girls that they had not taught me a single song. They taught me Nimaro, Unless a Man, Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So, and a song that I don’t know the name of but that was one of my favorites. On my last day with the students, I realized I really didn’t know the songs they taught me and I was hoping to teach Nimaro to the Marble Collegiate Gospel Choir. I was beginning to miss them and I hadn’t left yet. I just couln’t leave without their voices recorded but time was running out. I had to go pack, so , out of desperation, I left my camera with Ajum Simon, a partner teacher with Dana Plotkin, an American Teacher Exchange colleague. He said he couldn’t promise me but that he would try to record the S4s singing the songs they taught me. He and the girls graciously recorded the songs for me. I have included the video of their session. I know you will enjoy these voices as much as I did. Listen to the entire thing because the girls repeated some songs so that I could teach them to the Gospel Choir.  That way you will hear all the songs. Well, that’s all folks!

Laker Runita


The Songs

I was not sure of all the lyrics for this South African praise song. I also was not sure how to pronounce the words correctly. I taught the song anyway and it became our anthem.

Gabi Gabi                                                                               

Gabi Gabi

Bash a bal sa wan

Gabi Gabi

Bash a bal sa wan

He frees all the captives

And gives the hungry bread.

He frees all the captives

And gives the hungry bread

God Almighty!

Liberator Lord

God Almighty!

Liberator Lord

Repeat He frees, then back to Gabi Gabi


Uyai  Mose   

Uyai  Mose                             

Tene mate mwari

Uyai Mose

Tene mate mwari

Uyai Mose

Tene mate mwari


Uya Mose Sweno.


Come all you people

Come and praise your maker

Come all you people

Come and praise your maker

Come all you people

Come and praise your maker

Come now and worship the Lord.


Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah (My version)

 Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah

Someone’s in the kitchen I know o o o.

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah

Cookin’ the food just right!

Mary Kay’s version

 The same as above except change cookin the food just right to strummin’ on the ole banjo!

The Ugandan Songs

I saved the best for last. Here are the songs they taught me.



Nimaro pa Lubonga pe lokee…

I komwa

Dong wa maro en  (repeat melody)

Pi maa mereee….

I komwa


Dong polo ki ngom dong opong

Ki deyo mereeeeeeeee (x2)


Deyo, Deyo Obed bot Rwot

Deyo Alleluia  (repeat several times)


Glory Glory be to God, Glory Alleluia

Unless a Man


Unless a man- a man is

Born again (echo)

He will never enter into the Kingdom of God (2xs)

Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 4:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Food the way it really should taste.

I initially was worried about the food and water in Uganda because I’d been told to avoid so many things. I felt the warnings were overstated; however, they turned out to be necessary because one person with our organization actually got Malaria and parasites. It was pretty serious but she got over it. But back to this post. I didn’t have to worry about the food because I lived at the Invisible Children Intern House. Doreen, a spectacular Ugandan cook, made western style dishes for our group almost every morning and every night.( On Sundays we had to eat out and the schools provided lunch every day during the week.) For breakfast we generally had Mandazi’s, a donut like pastry popular in Kenya and Uganda, hot African tea, omelets and eggs of some sort, mango, banana, pancakes, and on occasion bacon and sausage. Dinner was mostly vegetarian with chicken and beef thrown in for variety. Doreen made what seemed like stir frys of different vegetables she purchased from the market such as string beans, carrots, onions, tomatoes, green peppers etc. She usually had some sort of curry or other sauce that she put on the vegetables that made them absolutely scrumptious! Her Mexican night was to die for and her chips (french fries) were excellent. In some ways I felt as if I hadn’t left the United States.

So that was the food we ate at “home”. What about at restaurants and the houses of our friends? What did we eat there? Well, there are many westerners in Gulu, and there are many restaurants that cater to western tastes. Also, there is a sizable Indian population in Uganda so the food reflects this fact. At Kope Cafe, we could get pizza (cheese is rare in Gulu and I believe they have one choice, a kind of goat cheese), curried chicken, chapati, talapia, chips, cassava, coke, mountain dew, fanta, and local brand sodas. There was more on the menu, but this is what I remember. I also went to more “indigenous” restaurants. There I had stewed beef, goat, or chicken, millet, and posho and beans. What is posho and beans?

Posho is a Maize (corn) flour mixture that looks and tastes sort of like grits to me. It has a coarser, grainier texture. We ate this every single day in the schools without fail-ok sometimes we got rice and beans instead. Sometimes the beans were mixed in Sim Sim (sesame seed paste), usually on Fridays. We’d also have some greens that tasted like spinach mixed in sim sim sauce on occasion. For some, this menu became boring. Not for me! I love Posho and beans and I am going to see if anyone makes it in New York. I”ll keep you posted.


Ummm! Posho and Beans!

Posho and Beans
Posho, beans, the greens with sim sim, and I think either sweet potato or cassava.

The name of this post is Food the way it really should taste.  I chose this title because the food in Uganda, especially Gulu has lots of flavor. The potatoes are the best I’ve ever tasted and I don’t usually eat potatoes (the chips are slammin’!). Mangoes, bananas and other fruits are mouth watering. I think the reason for this is that the soil in Uganda is fertile and has not been tainted with pesticides and killed from over-planting.  Also, most people in Gulu cultivate their own vegetables and raise their own chickens and goats so most of the food you eat is fresh, usually picked or killed that very day. I am praying that as they grow, Gulu won’t lose this aspect of their culture. There’s got to be some place on earth where you can get unadulterated food that’s not grown in a petri dish.



OK, OK. I  know you want to know. Did I eat anything “weird” while abroad? I am going to attempt to handle this question delicately because this sort of  question usually supports vicious stereotypes and I hope by including this topic here and writing the title the way I am not perpetuating any stereotypes. But I feel that this was a cultural exchange and to not include all the details will not do justice to my experience. I will approach this subject how I approached and approach it in both my US  and Ugandan classrooms.

Uganda, 2009

I am teaching Home Economics and my three students, Bibian, Mercy and Irene are listening intently. I don’t remember what we were talking about but I am flipping through a textbook and they see a picture of a lobster and go Eew! I tell them that this food is very popular in some parts of the States.  They stare at me in disbelief. I tell them that there are things they eat that don’t sound appetizing to me and that  would make many Americans go Eew! I told them many of us would not eat the flying white ant or the small grasshoppers that they eat. I explained to the girls that people everywhere eat things others think of as unappetizing. I tell them that I eat chitterlings (chitlins) and they ask me what it is. I tell them pig intestines and  they laugh, give me a major EEEW!, and scrunch up their faces. I ask them would they be willing to try the lobster or the chitlins and they aren’t sure. I tell them that I was willing to try the white flying ant and the grasshopper if it were in season. The white flying ant was in season but there was very little rain. When it rains there are swarms of the ants flying around. There are so many you literally can’t see. The night it rained a lot this happened and I couldn’ believe it! I could not sit in the living room. We had some high school and undergrad students from the States visiting and they caught some and try to burn them alive with matches. I told them I was sure that is not how you cooked them. I told them I would ask my teachers how to prepare them and let them know. I was told that you pull the wings off and then fry them in some oil with salt and pepper. Unfortunately for me and the students, there wasn’t another rainy night so we were unable to try the recipe. Two of my colleagues did try some. One ate them raw and the other went to a dinner where they were served cooked. They both said they had a nutty taste to them. When I go back, I will try them if they are available.

In NYC, I teach a similar lesson and I usually go for the gross factor. However, my goal is always to share food culture and to dispel negative views and beliefs about who eats “strange” foods. Generally speaking, these negative attitudes are directed at third world countries and ethnic minorities. My students in the US are from these groups and they say they eat things like grasshoppers, frog legs, snakes, snails, blood sausages, goat, deer and the like. I debunk the negatives by telling them about chitlins, which grosses them out. I also talk about eating roast duck, drinking carrot and spinach juice, and eating escagot and caviar. The reaction is the same, eew! I tell that I’m willing to try every food once (maybe not completely raw meat) and if I don’t like it, so be it. I explain that every culture eats things others may not like, but they should not judge people negatively because of their food. It’s just what they eat.

 So, What do you eat that I might not like?

The White flying ant

The White flying ant

Mac and Cheese, Sim Sim Balls and Mandazis

That’s not all we did in Home Economics. We could cook too! We had a day where we exchanged recipes. I taught the students (Bibian, Irene and Mercy) how to make Macaroni and Cheese and they taught me how to Make Mandazis and Sim Sim Balls/Squares. We would have made Sweet Potato Pie but sweet potatoes were out of season. Also, if they ever make a sweet potato pie it would be white instead of orange. White sweet potato? Yes. The orange variety is rare in Uganda. The grow a white version and it is sweetest during November/December. Lydia, my Home Ec partner teacher said she would make it then. I sure hope so and I wish I was there to taste it. These two American recipes are expensive to make in Uganda because of the scarcity of cheese and potatoes. I felt bad that these were the only recipes I knew and loved that we make in my family. I know they couldn’t make collard greens because they don’t exist there. OK let me start from the beginning. When I met Lydia, she asked me to give her recipes for some foods that we ate in my family. I told her that I am really not a cook but that I liked dishes like collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and sweet potato pie. I also told her about the mean 3-4 layer chocolate cake my Mom makes. Lydia was excited. We narrowed it down to the Mac and Cheese and sweet potato pie because those ingredients were simple and available (but not readily as I stated previously). The issue with this is that whereas, I may be able to make the recipes they shared with me without a problem-generally things are more readily available in the States-they may not be able to make my recipes as often. I decided not to fret over it; Lydia wanted to make them. Anyway, without further delay, I give you the Food Exchange Recipes.

Ugandan Recipes


Sim Sim Balls(or squares for the thin-skinned, faint of heart cook)

 1.  2-4 cups of Sim Sim (sesame seeds)

2.  Brown or raw sugar

 Roast the sim sim. Melt sugar (put in a dry pan over heat-just the sugar). When melted pour in sim sim. Mix well. Little by little it will take shape. Careful! The mixture is hot, have cold water nearby to dip hands into before attempting the roll the balls. If unable to make the balls, then take a rolling pin and flatten the mixture out. Then cut it into squares.

 This next recipe actually can be found on-line. I included two recipes, one from a student and the other from Lydia, my partner teacher.

 Mandazi Recipe # 1 (student)

 You need:

  • Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Sugar
  • Warm water
  • Cinnamon or mixed spices


  • Put 250 grams of Flour (wheat, maize or sweet potato) in a bowl.
  • 1 Tbsp of Baking Powder. Mix
  • 100 grams or less of sugar. Mix
  • Blend in water (warm water)

 Make your batter as thick or thin as you like.  Drop the batter into the hot pan.


Mandazi Recipe # 2 (Lydia)

 Need same ingredients as previous recipe. You may substitute milk, eggs and milk, or eggs and water for the water you put in the other recipe. As state before you can also put in different spices. Cinnamon , nutmeg, allspice, and ginger work well.


  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • Margarine, butter or oil. 50  grams of Margarine or butter. 3 tablespoons of oil.


 Rub in oil with the flour. Put sugar. Mix your liquid of choice (see introduction above) and pour it in the middle of your flour and oil rubbing. Knead-add the liquid in gradually. Let stand. Dip hand in hot water when you are ready to put it in the pan to avoid sticking batter.

Ingredients: Chapati
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
warm water, as needed
1. If the ingredients have been in the refrigerator, allow them to come to room temperature.
2. In a bowl, mix the flour with the salt.
3. Slowly add enough water to make a thick dough.
4. Mix in one spoonful of oil.
5. Knead the dough for a few minutes on a cool surface, adding a few spoonfuls of dry flour.
6. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a clean cloth and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
7. Lightly grease a griddle or skillet with cooking oil and preheat.
8. Divide the dough into 6 orange-sized balls and flatten them into six-inch circles. Fry them in the griddle or skillet until each side is golden brown and spotted, turning once.
9. Serve them with butter and any soup, stew or curry dish.

Servings: 6

Excerpted from:

How to make Posho/Ugali/Kawunga/Busiima/Nshima


  • 400 g white maize flour
  • 750 ml water
  • 1⁄2 t salt


You will need a strong wooden or plastic utensil suitable for mingling
a very stiff mixture.

  • Bring the water with the salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium.
  • Carefully and slowly pour the flour into the pan while vigorously mixing to avoid any lumps forming, to form a smooth mixture. You will note that it very rapidly thickens to a very stiff consistency. You may need to hold the pan down with one hand.
  • Keep mixing and turning for 5 – 10 minutes. Look at the middle picture to see what it should roughly look like. The heat should be such that you can mingle for that length of time without the layer at the bottom getting burnt.

Serve hot.

If you have no way of measuring the ingredients, this is what has worked for me: 1 measure of flour requires a little less than twice the volume of water. So 1 cup of flour needs about 2 cups of water. You may need to experiment a bit …

Excerpted from:

American Recipes

Mac and Cheese

2 quarts of water

1 ¾  teaspoons of salt

2  ½  cups of macaroni (elbow)

1 tablespoon of butter or margarine

1 egg

1 pint of milk

Salt and pepper

2 ½ cups of Mild Cheddar Cheese


Bring salt and water to a rolling boil. Add Macaroni (10 ounces) and cook for about 10 minutes or until firm but not soft. Remove from heat and drain in a colander. Place macaroni in a casserole. Stir butter into hot macaroni. Break egg into bowl and beat with a wire whip or fork. Blend in milk, salt and pepper to taste. Pour mix over the macaroni and blend in 1 ¼  cups of grated cheese. Allow mix to stand approximately 15 minutes. Top with 1 ¼ cups of grated cheese. Bake in oven for ten to fifteen minutes at about 350 degrees.

From Morrison’s Imperial House



 Sweet Potato Pie

Orange sweet potatoes are rare in Uganda, Therefore, to make this pie, they would most likely use the white variety. Didn’t know they existed? Me either. Lydia said she could probably try this around November or December when the white sweet potatoes are the sweetest. I’d sure like to be there to try it.


3 small sweet potatoes

¼ pounds of butter

1 cup of milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 ¼ cups of sugar

½ teaspoons of allspice

1 unbaked pie shell


Grate raw sweet potato. Melt butter and add other ingredients. Stir in grated potatoes and pour in shell. Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees F. Then 50 minutes at  325 degrees F or until custard is set in middle. Cool on rack to prevent soggy crust. For a variation sprinkle the top thinly with a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter before baking. Also generally, the sweet potatoes are cooked before they are put into the pie shell. This recipe says the raw sweet potatoes make for a different flavor and texture than the more traditional way of making it.

Mrs. A.M. Crowell, Jr

Hey, I know these are not my Mom’s recipes. You’ll have to talk to her about that. I tried to get her to share and this is what she had my cousin send me! Hey but the Ugandan Mac and Cheese was the bomb!

Bon Appetit!

The girls measuring for the Mandazis, Lydia supervising.

The girls measuring for the Mandazis, Lydia supervising.

Published in: on August 14, 2009 at 2:23 am  Comments (2)  

Boda, Boda!

Ichoo Maber,

One of the biggest features of Gulu is the Boda ride. A boda is a motorcycle that is used as a taxi and in Gulu, is the number one mode of transport aside from hoofing it. It is not for the faint of heart for there are many near accidents. I remember one incident when I thought I was definitely a goner. I was on my way to Sacred Heart and for some reason the Boda driver thought I was in a hurry because he speed demoned down the dusty, red clay road. I held on for dear life-oh I forgot to mention that women sit sideways for modesty reasons (they mostly wear skirts).  We were going around a roundabout when some nincompoop decided it was a good idea to step in front of the Boda. We were going too fast. I closed my eyes and braced for impact. Miraculously, we did not collide. The Boda driver called the pedestrian crazy and we continued on our merry little way. Whew!

Bodas are very interesting to watch. How so? Well it has to do with how people ride them. There is the curiosity of the number of people able to ride a Boda. My colleagues and I saw as many as five people on a Boda and we dubbed these the Boda bus. Then there is what cargo a Boda can carry. Bodas are not only cabs. Some Ugandans own a Boda and use them to transport anything from chickens in a crate to couches. One of the biggest things we saw on a Boda was an upright refrigerator, and one of the most peculiar-another Boda.

I have a video clip of me riding a Boda and it is filmed from the vantage point of the rider, me. Aside from a few excess exclamations (hey, I’m a drama queen), it is a fairly accurate account of my journey to work every morning. I will try to include it on this blog, but in the event of download issues, I will post it on Facebook.


Laker Runita

P.S- for those of you who don’t know, my Acoli name is Laker, which means Princess or Queen. It is common for you to use your
Acoli name first then your Christian name second. I guess Runita is my “Christian” name.


Prayers for Boda driver Ariem Simon.

I’m  including this entry here because our subject is Bodas. It’s regarding a haunting Boda ride I had going into town during the middle of my trip. I have forgotten my precise reason for going to town but I remember Ariem. He must be in his mid-late twenties or early thirties at the most. We we talking as often happens between Boda drivers and their riders. Perhaps I was asking him how I, an African American was viewed. Was I a Muno? By some accounts this is the the Acoli name for white person and others a name meaning westerner or foreingner. At any rate, as we neared town he started telling me this was his last night in Gulu; he was moving to Kampala. He told me he was an orphan and had no one. Kampala is a big city. I wondered and asked what he hoped to accomplish there. He said he would drive the Boda there and hoped he would make more money. He was from Gulu and from the way he talked, I started to worry about him in the big city. He was not animated the way many Boda drivers I met had been. I often wonder why they are so animated when many were abductees and former soldiers in the war (that’s what I was told, I’m not certain). Anyway, Simon was very soft spoken and had a far off quality about him. I couldn’t help wishing that I had the means to help him somehow. We had been warned against throwing money at situations with no real thought about sustainability. I found myself wondering how I could help, he seemed so lost. We arrived at my destination and he had a hard time saying goodbye. Not knowing what else to do, I gave him a little extra for the ride (my colleagues would balk because this practice does not bode well for locals who can’t afford the inflated price) and told him I would keep him in my prayers. With that he reluctantly rode off. I am still haunted by this experience, so I would like to ask you to pray for Ariem Simon as well. Apwoyo.

Published in: on July 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm  Comments (3)  

Getting ready for Uganda – Ramblings

It’s been a while since I’ve written or visited my blog. I’ve been living life…finishing my first semester at NYU, attending to family matters, fundraising…I haven’t had much time. Now it’s 11:59 pm on Saturday, May 23, and I need to go to bed soon. I just thought I’d better put up a post or something before the blog directiories delete me.  So here is what’s up with me.

I am officially finished with my first year of Graduate study. Yea! It has been a great first year with lots of challenges to my idea of what a teacher should be. I hope I will be able to explore some of my new beliefs in the African, post conflict environment. However, this blog is not about teaching methods, so I will end this thread here. I think I named this post Getting Ready for Uganda so that’s what I’ll breifly discuss.

I have been reading the texts required and not required for this study/teach abroad. The list includes:

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,  Applied Theatre: Creating Transformative Encounters in the Community, The Arts and the Creation of the Mind. These are my required texts. Books I’ve taken it upon myself to read include: Issues in African Education: Sociological Perspectives, Africa: Progress & Problems-Education in Africa, and Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction. I’m hoping to finish the required reading texts by Saturday…no, I don’t have a lot of time…

…That actually seems to be the theme for me right now. The trip seemed to have crept upon me. Today I went shopping for my Uganda clothes. My skirts and dresses have to be below the knee, even when sitting down and blouses have to have capped ( short sleeves ). No shoulders showing. Ok. How difficult can this be? Right? Difficult. I bought cute skirts and I’m having a time finding matching shirts. LOL. I am going to continue my shopping spree tomorrow, see what I find.

Well, these are indeed ramblings. I will return with reflections on what I hope to accomplish with this blog.