With a new life comes new accessories. I knew life in Karamoja would be very different from my life in San Diego, but I never thought to be so pleasantly surprised by local inventions or conveniences that would assist in that transition. I thought about what items we already had and figured we’d make do. That being said, I’ve come to truly appreciate some items you find locally that make my new life easier and color it Uganda!
Mud boots – being from San Diego where we get maybe 9 inches of rain a year and have mostly paved roads, I really had no concept how ongoing rain can change your plans, kill your crops and make your back yard into a kiddie pool. Mud boots are rubber boots that come almost to the knee and they are awesome! They mean I can wade a river without getting my feet wet (at drier times, presently the river is up to my knees). I can slosh through puddles and make-shift streams on our property to get to fellow missionaries’ houses without being worried about muddy feet or losing a sandal in the mud or all of the fabulous things that are in mud (yes, it is agro-pastorlist society and everywhere is grazing ground).
Neem tea – now don’t get confused, this is not something we drink on wet nights when the aforesaid rain is falling and mud is gathering. Neem is a local tree that grows practically like a weed. The locals will snap off small branches and use them for tooth brushes. Apparently it is also very nutritious if you can get past the extremely bitter taste. All the same, the reason why I’m thankful for it is because it is also a natural pesticide (ironic, yes?). Christopher and I have taken to making up a pot of neem tea from trees around our house and then spraying it all over our garden. It kills aphids and discourages other insects from eating our plants and produce.
Chapati pans – one of the skills I’ve been working on since our arrival is the making of flour tortillas. I love tortillas, and well you need them for basically every Mexican dish I know. A chapati is an Indian version of the tortilla that arrived here when the Indians immigrated to Uganda. The Indian population now makes up a bulk of the middle-class entrepreneurs and traders. Therefore, chapatis and chapati pans are commonly available. Although it wouldn’t be too heinously difficult to find something else to cook my tortillas on, the chapati pan is exactly what I needed!
Pilipili – Through all the conquering and re-conquering of the world, a very spicy tiny bright-red pepper made its way from South America to Africa and ultimately Uganda. The pilipili is reported to be 15 times hotter than a jalapeno and probably about a 15th of the size. We have a dozen or so bushes growing right outside our door. You want to make dinner a little spicy? Grab three or four and that will be more than enough for any dish! Fresh spice right outside our door!
Ngalepan (fresh milk) – since most everyone owns a cow, fresh milk is readily available. You simply let a compound worker know you’re looking milk and within a few days someone will show up with a small pitcher full. I haven’t made a habit of buying it yet since you do need to pasteurize it yourself, but I’m hoping to use the local fare more often. (Don’t try this in the States, it is illegal!)
These are just a few of the little things in Karamoja life!
Actually, the Portuguese got it from the Aztecs, brought it home, and with them to Africa. It spread from there. Pili-pili or peri-peri just means pepper-pepper, so I’m told, and refers to any hot pepper found around East Africa for the most part. The particular variety we have in Karamoja is about three-quarters of an inch long and spicy as the dickens…
“pilipili” — hey, that sounds like the “peri-peri” pepper (aka “swahili name for Bird’s Eye chili”) that T&I came to love at the Nando’s Chicken restaurants common in England. I thought it was Portuguese, but I guess they got it from Africa!