Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Three Jajjas

As we emerged on the other side of this hilly paradise called Bubembe Island, we came upon Vickie's three jajja’s (grandmothers). The middle jajja is her biological grandmother, but all are treated with the respect. These 80-something ladies warmly welcomed us. Jajja Ida prepared her elder and younger sisters for our arrival – visitors are unheard of beyond the wood-housed, lakeshore camp.

We removed our shoes and were seated in the place of honor, the two chairs, while the jajjas sat atop mats on the floor. Picture taking ensued as did gift giving. These ladies almost never have the benefit of a little rice as none can be found on this island. Four kilos brought big smiles. I was urged to empty my bag for these ladies and so produced two blankets my sister made for some children. Jajja Ida is a midwife and Gabriel thought perhaps she could give the blankets to her clients. Instead she and the elder jajja wrapped themselves in the blankets with glowing smiles on their faces. Meanwhile youngest jajja (remember that I am also the youngest of three sisters) graciously went without. She said she still had many years to go and could wait for a blanket for herself. Well, this won’t do. My sister got wind and said the third blanket is already made. Darling, I love her so.

We supped on the MOST delicious tiny pineapples in Africa – and remember the pineapples here are all fantastic – as well as some sugar cane. Gabriel is a master craftsman when it comes to cutting up the small fruit. He skillfully waved his knife and dropped bite-sized slices onto the plate without dirtying his hands. As our visit came to an end the three jajjas walked with us down the path toward the jungle as the three guys packed out stalks of sugar cane and pineapples as if they were Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I find myself in awe of these beautiful old women who sustain themselves on this tiny island in the middle of a giant lake.