here, there, everywhere

A Day at the County Fair

In Africa, Uganda on January 17, 2017 at 11:25 pm

My goat, Kenneth

This was the part of the trip where I sort of got to relax, hanging with the family, leisurely mornings waking up and enjoying the day outside the city, going for drives, swims, sightseeing.  All that stuff you want to take the time to do and are grateful when it actually happens.  Then there is that one day that makes the whole trip.It started off with Mum saying she wanted to get me a goat for dinner.  Not the kind you go to the butcher’s for but the kind you go to the farm and pick from the herd.  Lil Bro and I jumped in the car to complete the mission but at the last minute Mum decided to come too, which ultimately probably added about 2 hours to the trip.  She likes to stop and do ‘errands’ on the way, and she likes to take her time about it.  So we stopped for water.  And bread.  And gas.  And a bunch of other things I can’t remember.  Eventually we were officially on our way and drove down the highway to turn off on some dirt rode.  Then we drove and drove and drove into the middle of nowhere.  Dusty hills on either side, lots of dusty farms with cows and goats.  Some houses here and there, and a few huts functioning as shops en route.

I should mention by this point of the trip most of the country was suffering from drought after a very very dry spell, with the exception of one 5 minute downpour two weeks earlier.  Water was scarce at the house where I was staying – the reservoir dried up most nights so we had to use water stored in buckets.  The toilets flushed once in the middle of each night when they seemed to remember someone (probably me) had depressed the plunger at some point during the day.  Meals were cooked with bottled water and eventually we ran out of all supply so had to drive into the city to fill up a bunch of jerry cans.  This is worth mentioning because in spite of what we in the West might perceive a hardship, driving to get potable water, was still actually quite luxurious as we at least had a source of water close by.  On the trip to get the goat, I can’t emphasize how far it was in the middle of nowhere and yet young boys were on their bikes, cycling 5 or more km to fill up one or two jerry cans, then cycle back to their village or home.  Five km doesn’t sounds like much, but as mentioned in every other post, the roads in Uganda are poor – potholes, ruts, and the never-ending piles of dirt on either side and in front of you.  Imagine riding a bike with an extra 40-50lbs of water strapped on negotiating the safest and straightest route.  And that’s if you have a bike.  And as always, the sun is scorching  hot and there is no shade.  Watching how many of them were doing this, knowing it was probably daily, made me ashamed of wanting to take a shower every day, of knowing that back home I can let my shower run as long as I want, or leave the taps going as I wait for cold water to come out.  It’s not the first time I’ve been in a land that views water as precious and life-saving, but every time I’m caught off guard by how utterly simple we have it in the West and by how much we take it for granted.  Can you imagine sending your 5 year old kid to the store to get a bottle of water by themselves?  Probably not, but that’s life here.

Eventually we got to our destination, a farm with dry dirt hills and groves of matoke trees.  There was a young boy, presumably one of the cow/goat herders.  When I got out of the car he whipped out a cell phone and started taking pictures, so I went up to him and said, “What’s your name?”  “Kenneth,” he responded.

Me:  What are you doing?

Kenneth: Taking pictures of you.

Me: What you going to do with them?

Kenneth:  Post them on facebook.  (!!!!)

Even in the middle of nowhere people use facebook.  Amazing.

Kenneth and Me

One Alison equals two Kenneths

Turned out the goats were on the other side of the mountain and we needed to wait for them to come back to make our selection.  To kill time, Mum slept in the back seat of the car and I got Kenneth to show me around.  In the picture above you can see what looks like a green field.  That’s actually a man-made pond which they use to water the cattle.  The thing beside Kenneth is the trough and you fill it up by using the stair master.

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Gotta git them cows some drinkin’ lovin’

After giving the cows their fluids, Kenneth showed me how to milk a cow.  Despite what Lil Bro says, I actually managed to get some in the bucket.

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There’s a first time for everything.

Kenneth’s brother, Brian, had shown up by this point (still no goats) and told me to take a turn on his bicycle which was way harder than you would have thought for someone who used to race (a long long time ago).  Solid steel and you could feel the weight right up into the handle bars.

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We’ll keep this ride short.

Eventually we ran out of things to do and then they told us the goats were still about 2 hours away.  Even Mum was done at this point and told them to bring us one by motorcycle when they came back.  I decided I’d name my goat Kenneth which apparently is: 1. not done, you don’t go naming your livestock, and 2. is a perceived insult to the person whom I named it after.  Well, 1. I name my livestock, how often do I get any? and 2. Kenneth the human doesn’t know I named it after him so no issues there.

We got back in the car but had to stop at some house on a hill because apparently they were relatives and they were going to give us free matoke.  Shuttle back to the farm, get the machete to cut down the bunches, throw them back in the car, and pile in the food and some new faces cuz everyone’s gotta get somewhere.  We dropped them off on the way back to the highway and eventually made it back home.  Only for 2 seconds though because we had to go into town to run errands.  We dropped Mum at her lumber shop then Lil Bro ordered me into the driver’s seat.  I drive right-side at home but here it was left-side so one more adventure and another opportunity for me to kill myself and anyone within a 1 metre radius.  The boda boda drivers were very encouraging though and got close to the car to give me some advice.  I got the hang of the driving but kept turning on the windshield wipers in attempts to activate the turn signal.

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Better let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.

After the jaunt we dropped the car off for servicing (not because of me).  Lil Bro commandeered a boda boda and off we went for another motorized adventure.  For anyone who’s into bikes, the one I was riding was 3 gears and all gears are down.  You get them back up by stepping on another shift with your heel which makes total sense because everyone is wearing flip flops and you’d totally gouge out your toes if you had to do everything front foot.  It’s not overly common for women to drive motorcycles themselves – in the background you can see two figures and they stood there watching this whole escapade, I hope they were entertained.

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Happy is as happy does.

We made our way back up to the house and by the time we got there the goat was home!  And turns out Kenneth was a girl but by that point Mum had phoned relatives around the country to tell them I named a goat and it was such a novel thing that the name stuck and everyone was asking how Kenneth was.  Well, it was too late to do anything about her so we tied her up in the backyard and left her there for night.  By 4am the next morning I was ready for the butcher, that goat was loud!  And probably knew her fate so was none to happy about it and expressing her anger.

So in case you’re wondering… if you want to butcher a goat in Mbarara, go the local bus stop and hire a butcher there.  They will come to your home with all the gear including the grill, and take care of all your requirements.  By 5 in the evening there will be lovely smells of grilled meat in the air.  Neighbours will stop by and help you eat because there is too much for one family.  If you can get past the idea that a goat was slaughtered for you then it is a pretty great dinner.

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  1. So long Kenneth, I hope you were good.

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