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Africa Inland Mission
August 24, 2013 6:47 am

The word ‘work’ means something a little different in Africa. Here in the south of Uganda there is electricity and readily available fuel. However, the electricity would never be described as robust and there are only a few farming implements that utilize fuel. Instead, the people here capitalize on another abundant resource, that is, themselves. Emmy and I recently spent a few days learning these tasks. I hope you find this interesting.

There are washing machines in Uganda. Apparently they can cost about 1.5 million shillings. To put that in scale, a waiter likely makes between 5,000 and 10,000 shillings a day (the exchange rate to dollars is around 2,560:1). So these machines are a bit out of reach for the general public. Even for a large organization like ACHERU, who could afford such a machine, the electrical grid may or may not be up to the task at any given time. Furthermore, water can be a precious commodity depending on the rain. So we wash by hand. We are blessed with a matron (Margret) that does this task on our behalf. But let us explore the process of washing.

You begin by putting a few garments in a basin half full of water, add soap, and swish. Now if you’re me, the job is done and it is time to rinse. However, if you intend to do it properly (Click to see how!), you take a six inch segment of the garment and rub it against itself, swish, and shift to the next six inch segment. A T-shirt can take about fifteen repetitions. Step two, put the shirt in another basin and do all of that again. There are bars of soap for particularly difficult spots and stains. Now you rinse in a third basin. All of this water comes out of a tap (in the rainy season), but the tap is over there under the tree and you are not. So go and fill your jerry can with water and lug it back over here. A basin of water is good for maybe five or six not so dirty garments. This will take a while.

Mama Lubowa, Emmy, and Carrol

Mama Lubowa, Emmy, and Carrol









After you finish the wash, maybe tomorrow, you can chop wood. A band saw (handheld) is the cutting tool of choice for this task. Every week or so a truck comes and dumps a trailer load of 10 foot branches behind the kitchen. They need to be cut into 9 inch segments and split (with a dull axe welded to a 1.5 inch metal pipe) until they are only about 2 inches deep. This also takes a while.


They look happy!

This also takes a while

But now it’s time for cooking! Today we are making posho, for 70. Posho, Yay Posho (Click to see how!), is kind of like grits, made from maize flour, and cooked until it is stiff. It’s actually not all that much like grits. To make it you first heat the stove with the wood we just cut and put a huge pot of water on to boil. If you keep the fire high, the smoke is much more bearable. After we get a nice rolling boil, we add in scoops of maize flour. Then we take a wooden spatula/canoeing oar and begin to mix. Round and round and round we mix the flour until it begins to thicken. Now comes time for some muscle. Push down, lift up, sorry about the lump that fell on your foot, the burns will heal quickly. But watch out for the open flame under the pot. Remember that the Africans wear sandals for this. At this point our posho is the consistency of setting cement. Stirring it becomes a whole body exercise, made more difficult by the fire starting to smoke in earnest. There are chimneys that lift about 60% of the smoke out of the fire. The other 40% is filtered via the eyes.


Adisa is a great teacher

Just kidding

Kitchen sink

After we have finished cooking we might like to lie down for a bit. Sadly there is not time. Onto the fields to dig (farm). Using hoes, a group of 3 women can clear a football field in about half a day. I can’t. Then we plant. Ground nuts, maize, cassava, eggplant, and tomatoes will all be ready in less than 3 months. There are 2 growing seasons per year in this part of Uganda and planting begins as soon as the rains come.

All of this work happens all of the time. Many of the women will work at one or all of these tasks in any given day. For the most part the men do not participate, except to cut wood. I am certain that I was the first man that Mama Lubowa ever taught how to wash clothes. The work is very physical in a way that takes more than muscle. After washing 3 shirts my skin began to chafe. I think a whole load of wash would draw blood. The farming is done barefoot and thistles and thorns will always claim their payment. I wonder what life will be like here when technology becomes as ubiquitous as it is in the states. Will the people lose something by their modernization? I know one thing for certain. Hard work and dedication do not make a person rich in this world, but they can sharpen a focus on Christ. Daily bread is a real thing here, and so is praying for it.

2 Responses to “Ode to the African Woman”

  1. christina gunther Says:

    What a wonderful account of how hard the Ugandans work on a daily basis and most likely without complaint also. They are really an incredibly people. Thanks for the videos also which really depict what they are doing and what you were attempting to help with! P.S. I wish they had wash boards.

  2. Susan Says:

    Wow. Reminds me a bit of how my grandma would describe growing up on the farm before the depression, although they did have washboards Christina! I’m guessing they never take a Pajama Day Saturday 🙁 but do they perhaps prepare for a Sunday day of rest? And if so, what is that like?

    Beautiful entry, and lovely friends. Thanks for sharing. And Emmy, are you picking up an accent???

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