An eventful day today and one that for me, took an unexpected turn.
After some much needed sleep, our team was refreshed and promptly left our new home at 0900. The plan was to go to the market and purchase food supplies to cook a meal at a traditional Ugandan home under the guidance of “Prossy” and her family on the outskirts of Kampala. Prossy is the first Mama Nguvu, a Ugandan woman sponsored in 2013 under this particular ISEE Solutions Program. After an in-depth interview to apply for this sponsorship, Prossy was provided piglets, chickens and supplies so start a business. She is now thriving with a paper bag making business whereby the bags are sold to others to use.
Of course in keeping with Ugandan style shopping, we arrived at the outdoor market place with Andrew, the Ugandan based Project Manager for ISEE leading the way, and 9 women in tow. While he bargained for each purchase, the rest of us were observing and interacting with the local people at the market. Potatoes, chard, beef, sweet potato, bananas, matooke ( another type of banana), peppers, onions, and variety of cooking pots, plates and an intriguing looking hibachi and coal. Yes, live chickens were available but thankfully, we bought the chicken at a more western style market that had refrigeration.
After an hours drive, we arrived at Prossy’s home and were very warmly welcomed along with her son and daughters and a number of children, grandchildren and a variety of neighbours who happened to drop by to see the muzungu, white people. With some instruction from Erika, our fearless leader, Prossy delegated the tasks for cooking. Now keep in mind, this is a traditional home with no readily available running water or electricity. No kitchen counters or cutting boards. How were we to maintain food safe here I wondered. But we did. Jenaya was escorted to the tap in the village to get fresh water and once that arrived, cooking pots were washed with soap/water and dried and utensils also cleaned. Sitting in a circle, we began the food prep under the guidance or Prossy and her daughters and helpful assistance by Andrew. Maddy was assigned cutting up the beef for the stew. It takes two people… one to hold the meat while the other cut it up and put into a clean pot so it never touched the ground. Linda K, and Erika peeled the bananas, Shalann and Marie cut up banana leaves, readily nearby on the property, to wrap the matooke. Linda F and Liz peeled potatoes, the old fashioned way with a paring knife, and I was in charge of the chard, checking each leaf for bugs and then washing it and scrubbing it, wrapping several leaves and slicing off thin slices in to the pot. Our driver Appollo and Andrew took great pride in starting and maintaining the hibachi and roasted the corn. The camaraderie and the sense of community in preparing the meal the was evident and felt by all. Until uh oh… downpour. Everything was quickly moved under cover, a canopy that Prossy had borrowed for this special event. The food prep continued. Ah, the corn is ready and we took a little break to enjoy it. I took a small piece and readily munched away on the crunchy kernels. Oh dear!! I felt my upper tooth fall away, I had broken my tooth and it was dangling at the gum line. I hated to announce this fatal corn eating outcome but I didn’t think I could last another two weeks with the tooth broken away and unable to determine how it would affect me. Erika, didn’t miss a beat and quickly asked Andrew to contact his dentist by cell phone…not available. No problem, “I will call my brother, he’s a dentist”. Locating him at a car wash, Andrew asked him to meet us at his office and he was bringing a muzungu woman. We would have to leave right away in order to get there before the onset of rush hour, which in Kampala, is deadly. Not literally, well maybe literally if you could experience the traffic here, but could certainly add on hours to our trip. I was sorry to cause Erika, Andrew and Apollo and myself to have to miss our meal that we had lovingly prepared. We left the rest of group to enjoy it and drove back into town. Did I have a few fears about seeing a dentist in Uganda? Secretly yes. Being a nurse, the sterility of the equipment was paramount, not to mention I hate going to the dentist under the best of conditions. Andrew reassured me his brother was well trained and had been practicing for several years. No need to worry. Thankfully, family members are welcomed into the dentist’s office for the assessment and treatment. One look at the equipment, I knew it wasn’t state of the art but Dr Issaac was warm and kind and invited me to sit in the chair to have a look a my tooth after a brief history of this tooth. In fact, I had had a root canal done back home in Kelowna 2 months earlier and was supposed to get a crown put on soon after. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get the crown put on before I left for Uganda, leaving the enamel weak and unstable. Dr Issaac explained very thoroughly why the tooth had broke and the filling used being metal would expand and contract making it all the more apt to break. He made his recommendation to rebuild the filling with a different material, but no anesthetic. What, no anesthetic!! He smiled and further explained that the nerve had already been deadened by the root canal and to prove it had me swish around some cold water. Yep, no pain.
After removing the broken part of the tooth that was dangling he began rebuilding the filling. So gentle, and with careful attention to then grinding it down so that it felt comfortable, I was done. No pain, no blood and the tooth feels great. I am very grateful to him and to Erika and Andrew who got me to the dentist and stayed in the room with me, missing the delightful meal that we were about to eat. Oh and since Apollo had dropped us off and had to go back to Prossy’s to get the others, who drove us three back to the dorms, the dentist, Dr Isaac. How’s that for good service.
As we drove home, it struck me in a moment of pure enlightenment. Modern, western, expensive and fancy isn’t always better. Maybe never really better. Cooking without all the things we used to having, seeing a dentist without the latest equipment, didn’t put us at risk for anything bad. Just different and certainly with more care and kindness then personally, I have experienced in a long time. Lesson learned.