Monday, May 23, 2011

Lunch with Anna

Sheets of green upholstery fabric with a small flower print hung from a nylon cord. The fabric was used to disguise the bunk beds shared by Anna and Emmanuel. The main room (2.5 x 2 meters) housed a love seat and small table atop a hand woven mat. All the furniture was covered with crocheted yarn doilies.

Anna is one of the many women attending the weekly Bible study with Konoweka Orphans and Widows Hut. Last week she invited me to visit her home (which typically means food) in Banda 9. She is originally from Soroti, a small town we’ll pass through just before reaching Karamoja. I remember Soroti for two things: toilets and banana bread. By the time we reach Soroti, I can’t hold it any longer and the banana bread there is so moist and yummy compared to most other breads in Uganda.

Anna picked Emmanuel out of the gutter not long ago and has taken him to be her son. Together this lonely old woman – whose husband died in 1995 and whose daughter has gone off to college – and this tiny tot are the perfect picture of completion and happiness.

Rice, irishes (potatoes), chicken stew (whole pieces of bone-in chicken in a broth soup), coleslaw, beans, chipati…Anna is a wonderful cook. I don’t tend to have the same size appetite here as at home, not for lack of good food, but I managed to stuff myself anyhow. Just as I had finished my bowl I was informed by Pastor Gideon that the guest must eat the best part of the chicken. Gulp…and what might that be? He said that, according to culture, if the guest didn’t eat that best part the husband would beat the wife because the guests did not like her cooking. Although Anna has no husband, I reluctantly accepted this mangled piece of something.

Once I was informed that I would be eating the gizzard I relaxed a bit. Mom used to fry gizzards at home and I think I even liked them…if you don’t mind chewing on a mouth full of rubber bands. Okay…I could do this. Into my mouth went this most tender piece of meat I’ve ever tasted. I’m not sure how she did it but this gizzard tasted nothing like the rubber bands I remember.

Emmanuel cried when I arrived for fear of that glowing mzungu and he cried when I left because he missed his new friend. After the Bible study was finished, Anna gave me what I have come to learn (from another Anna…huh) is the Pentecostal handshake. She padded my hand with a shilling bill, one that I knew she could not afford to give. Oh the tenderness of this beautiful lady. I am so blessed.