Saturday, 31 October 2009

Unhappy Halloween

Well, here we are, October 31st again, and I think this is the last year I can get away with avoiding the whole subject of Halloween with the girls.

I don't 'do' Halloween. I don't do it a) on principle and b) on preference. On principle because it's a pagan festival, specifically a celebration of spirits, witchcraft etc etc and as a Christian it's against my religion, man. On preference because a) I find the sight of little kids dressed up as vampires and skeletons weird and creepy b) I've had bad experiences with South London hoodies trick-or-treating c) why mess up a lovely harvest autumn vibe with skeletons and occulty stuff? And pumpkin pie? It's a crime against cuisine! D) (yes, I'm on a roll, but ranting can be good for you) it's also a peculiarly American festival and I resent the Americans taking over my cultural anniversaries. What was wrong with bonfire night?

Have your say, because I am feeling comment-starved. Am I
a) a miserable old fart. Put on your witches' hat and party!
b) spot on! Those trick-or-treaters should be locked up and force-fed pumpkin pie til they repent.
c) right and wrong, because I'm a nice person (not like you) and I like to sit on the fence

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Forget cereal..

I have been on my own the whole morning. R has taken the girls, plus good friend Zia, to the shops, leaving me to potter and fiddle around the house in perfect peace. So far I have managed to write a long email; swap the girls bookshelves and tidy them, arranging the books in order of height; pick lots of things off the floor; read The Week from cover to cover and eat some of last night's beans and sweet potato. Now I'm bored.

This afternoon Zia has promised to give me a curry masterclass. I *heart* curry, but like so many things -sigh- I can't cook a good one. Last week I tried a lamb rogan josh, and despite following the recipe to the letter, I got comments along the lines of "bit stringy and fatty", "more of a casserole than a curry isn't it?" and "are you sure this is lamb, not mutton?"

Now what do you think of our weekend breakfast? Fried with onion and a little oil, termites are a very tasty snack as well as being full of iron. And as Her Majesty The Queen Termite lays on average 30,000 eggs a day, more sustainable than beef or lamb or mutton.

Yum yum!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Should dentists be camp?

I went to the dentist yesterday. Visits to the dentist are something I am very skilled at putting off, especially in Uganda where finding a good dentist involves committed research.

I have serious dentist fear. When I was a kid, I spent every three or four months in the chair (my mother was and still is, very conscientious about oral health.) It involved lots of fillings and nasty flouride treatment with mouth guards filled with vile-tasting bright blue gel. When I was old enough to decide whether or not to visit the dentist, I chose not. I have had long spells of truancy, the longest of which has been four years. But I am trying to turn over a new leaf: set an example to the children, something like that. Add to that the sneaking suspicion that all is not well dans ma bouche, and, having a terrible sweet tooth, the realisation that my chocolate chickens might be finally coming home to roost.

"Why don't you try Doctor T," said my boss. "He's great! It's so relaxing I often fall asleep in the chair!" I liked the idea of falling asleep in the chair, even if I didn't believe it for a second.

Fast-forward to a smart area of Kampala, a nice courtyard and shaded parking. "WELCOME!" said Dr T, a Ugandan man in his early forties. By this time I was already in the chair, sweating, both through nerves and the fact it was covered in plastic. He took digital photos of my teeth (very cool), some X rays, poked around...and said I needed a filling.

"Because it's only a superficial cavity, I will drill without anaesthetic ok? Any pain, just raise your hand." A split-second later, after I almost leapt off the chair in sudden agony, I got my injection. So much for falling asleep in the chair. "My, we have a jumpy one here!" quipped Dr T. For the record: I have had three children, none of which involved anaesthetic. Again it's the dentist thing: someone poking around in my mouth just gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. I really think I would rather give birth.

After I was filled, her reviewed my x rays, oo-ing and ah-ing like a pantomime dame. (I don't want a camp dentist: sorry. I want an earnest dentist, an academic type with glasses, who pauses before he gives a considered answer from the well of his experience and long medical training.) "You have another cavity right there!" he said, pointing at what I thought looked like a perfectly decent looking tooth. I have to go back in a month.

Then I went home, nursed my fat cheek and ate some mashed potato for dinner. I'm not sure I will make my follow-up appointment.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

A posh function

There is nothing like the words "official " and "work dinner" that make me reach for the excuses or feign sudden illness. So I still have no idea why I did actually end up going to this:

Okay, so I'm not exactly a huge fan of his, but my head was turned by the likelihood of el presidente turning up. And he did! He was two hours late, which I think is moderate lateness for a president, by which time I'd had ample opportunity to catch up on my texting, and by which time the nice waiters had filled up my wine glass many times...not good when the food, like the president, is also late, and I am supposed to be a poised and dutiful wife.

So when el P arrived with his security detail and we'd sung the national anthem (no-one sang along actually, but there were at least some chest-clutching patriots in the room), I was a little pink around the eyes and minded less that my posh frock was a little 'gappy'.

Then came the awards - the whole thing was like the export equivalent of the Oscars - and Gandaman's company got the gold award for cocoa. Hooray! Other categories included 'hides and skins' and 'stationery'. Yes, Uganda exports stationery! And fish, fyi, lots of it - wouldn't have guessed that one.

El P gave some handshakes, there were some speeches from ministers. The banana lady had the line of the night: "he who touches the banana, touches everyone!" El p came across well in a grand-fatherly sort of way, though I didn't really take it in as I was very hungry and it was past my bedtime (10:15). Gman kicked me twice for nodding off, but I woke up just in time for the buffet.

In other news: the whole of Kampala and probably the whole of Australia is overjoyed at the safe arrival of the baby warthog. Would pay good money to hop over the Brisbane and tickle his little tusks!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Ugandan dudes

Week three of being a working girl again, and I am slowly getting into my job. There are things that make me want to bang my head on the table in boredom - measuring bag handles - and tasks that are such good fun I can't believe I'm getting paid to do them.
One of the fun things is visiting lots of Ugandan artists and taking pictures of their work for potential buyers overseas. That's how I met Eria Sane (above), at his parents' house in Entebbe. He does big, exuberant, acrylic paintings and treats his subject matter with a lot of humour and playful irreverance. Eria himself is bright, ambitious and articulate. At 30, he has ten years of painting already behind him, and is still energetically churning them out.
"Ugandan artists don't make money because they're not very productive! They just wait for an exhibition or something. I am very productive," he tells me proudly. I ask him if he thinks the lack of productivity is a cultural thing. "You see, colonisation brought suits and ties and office jobs and made black people despise working with their hands! Now we have all these people in offices, but what are they actually doing? We are not producing food anymore!" As he continues his productivity rant, I tell him he reminds me of Margaret Thatcher which makes him laugh.
What is Eria's favourite subject matter? "I'm a humanist. I like things like justice, fairness...I like being a social critic. I like being fluid. I am painting a lot of forests right now, because it's so important that in Uganda we keep our forests, our swamps." (De-forestation is a big problem here.) I ask him his plans for the future. "I want my art to go worldwide. I want to make a name for myself. I want to market our culture, who we are."