Washing Clothes and Feeding Children

At the same time that I want my kids to miss me (what mother doesn’t want to be missed?) I am so thankful they are doing well. Thank You, Lord, for the assurance they have that “Mommy will come back—with Patrick” without the sense that it’s taking too long (although next week when I’m not back for Em’s Kansas concert, I think it will really hit home for her.)

This morning I washed clothes African-style. They use a blue soap for pretty much all washing. It comes in a long bar that they cut up into smaller pieces. Three tubs filled with water (the same ones we use for bathing; they’re about the size of a cat litter pan, but round, and about as deep), you wash in one, rubbing the blue soap into the “dirty” portions of the clothes (armpits and neck for shirts), and then scrubbing them across the thumb portion of your hand. Then you wring them out, and plop them into the middle tub, where you swish them to get most of the soap out and then wring again. Then it’s into the last tub for the final rinsing, then the wringing and onto the line. As the water gets soapier or dirtier, it either gets thrown out or recycled to become a different part of the process.

So now all my clothes are clean. Good thing since I was down to my last pair of pants. My favorite pair—favorite because they’re very light and dry lickety split—somehow got a hole in them (just a small one), but since I’m without the capabilities of stitching it up here, I had to improvise and use a bandaid. It will work so that I can wear them as well as serve to keep the hole from expanding.

The only difficulty of being alone much of today is that I don’t know the system. Kidney beans were left simmering on the charcoal cooking fire, but I wasn’t sure if they were just being boiled or cooked till they were paste (I let them get between the two and then took them off). Florence assumed Angel would be back sooner; Angel probably assumed Florence would be here till later. When Florence left, I asked her, “What should I feed the kids?”

“There’s porridge in the black thermos,” she answered. “And then Angel will be back to fix lunch.” (Lunch is around 2 here). But Angel returned around six, so I had to punt, feeding the kids beans and water and going without myself (which is fine since my stomach’s still recovering from earlier this week.) There is food in the house (pineapple in the fridge, leftover potatoes in a pot on the counter, beans in a bag), but I am limited in my ability to cook and I don’t know what is being saved for dinner or the next day. It is partly my outside culture looking in, but it seems to me the Africans act as if there is ONE right way to do things (washing clothes for instance). I’m sure there isn’t, there must be as many variations as there are for sorting clothes in the States for instance, but whatever way I am doing things does not seem to be one of the variations. I am just doing it WRONG!

When Angel got back this evening, she fed the kids more porridge, and then we walked up the hill to get Rolexes (eggs fried with green pepper, onions, and salt and wrapped up in a wheat tortilla-type thing).  Each one was about 700 shillings, the equivalent of about 75 cents. Then we got a small pumpkin and a good-sized pineapple (each about 75 cents as well). As we walked back down the hill, I asked Angel how much mangoes are.

“About 300 shillings each,” she said. “How much are they in the States?”

“Much, much more,” I answered. Much, much more—besides not being nearly as good as the mango I’ve eaten here in Uganda.

As we walked up the hill, I looked back over my shoulder at the rolling hills of Uganda. They are beautiful, lushly green, with handmade red-brick homes dotting the sides. I wonder if those more isolated, country homes have as much trash surrounding them as the ones I walk past right now. I remember last year that our trip to Masaka was such a breath of fresh air, a contrast to the slums and crowded conditions of Kampala. Yet Masaka is still called by many the birthplace of AIDS, and I have photos I took of family graves there—two big and a varying range of medium to small to tiny—signifying that entire families died of the pandemic all about the same time.

At this moment the battery-charged computer provides the only light. The electricity shut off a few minutes ago. Who knows when it will be back on, but it seems to return more quickly than running water does when it goes out. I will sign off now to save some battery for later, since I do not know when I will be able to recharge.

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