Tag Archives: food

A few small bananas

My third day in Nakivale, Uganda’s oldest refugee settlement, and feeling ready to move on tomorrow. Meanwhile my guide and translator, a film-maker and actor called Alex, is in his ninth year of living here. Some Rwandans I’ve spoken to have been here 16 years. Some mention those who were resettled in the US, Canada, Denmark; many have disappeared to try to make it in Uganda’s cities. Most people stay.

And they come. New arrivals — about 3000 each month — put the current number of inhabitants at 110,000. The population looks set to keep growing:  Uganda is receiving refugees from not one next-door crisis, but three: DR Congo, Burundi, South Sudan.

I’ve talked to maybe 20 people, some for five minutes, some for several hours. Olga, a warm young Congolese woman who has galvanised a group of her peers to start making and selling crafts, tells me in well-spoken French that life is better here for simple reasons: securité, liberté. We can do what we want. Many others are less positive. Yes, we could go and live elsewhere, but how can we afford to? Yes, we can set up businesses here in Nakivale, but how, without capital? Yes, we could buy better or cheaper goods from the cities, but who pays our transport there? Continue reading

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The luxury of leaving

Washing lineOn day 4, we stood in a circle and held hands while Lawrence – fondly nicknamed ‘the Pastor’ – asked that God bless my safe return. It was nearly dark: we’d waited a long time for Okwiri, who’d spent all day with a mechanic after some kids vandalised the friend’s car he’d borrowed to drive us into Dandora.

But there was still time for a prayer. ‘Does it feel like a ritual?’, laughed Okwiri, who seems – either from experience or instinct – to know where the great divides between Africans and Europeans lie. ‘No! It’s nice’, I said – and was glad I didn’t have to lie.

Their enthusiasm to work with me all week was heartening – though given that the chef at my hotel and my taxi driver seemed equally sad to say goodbye I don’t quite take it as a measure of success. Continue reading

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On St Paddy’s Day

It’s nice to be part of the expat community renowned for throwing the best diplomatic parties. Last night I lived out that image people always seem to have of expat life: rubbing shoulders with ministers, CEOs, and ambassadors’ wives in a leafy suburban garden with a pool, fed by dozens of local staff with endless rounds of smoked salmon appetisers.

There were lots of other ordinary folk there too, of all nationalities: the NGO manager, the Toyota sales manager, the teacher, the consultant-turned-author – and, this being an Irish event, a few missionaries too.

Being Irish in Tanzania has its drawbacks though, like the 100 USD tourists pay to enter the country (for some reason, many other European nationals pay less). Continue reading

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Tell an African woman she’s got mzigo – ‘luggage’ – behind, and she’ll be delighted – but I’m not that integrated yet. In the meantime, however, I don’t have much choice but to join in with the greasy, fatty, fried stuff that makes up most African meals. Even for breakfast.

Chapatti, donuts, samosas, or cake