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See how Nubian children in West Nile Uganda greet visitors.
The Gifts of Africa:
Imported cheese and a rooster named Roho
You never know what a day in Africa will bring.
It often involves gifts that were unexpected and delightful.
I received two in the last month.
Two rounds of Imported cheese.
And a rooster named Roho.
I drove to Jinja, Uganda last week for seminary graduation.
My friend Pascal Ndihokubwimana had finished seminary.
Pascal is a brave pastor with a long last name.
I’d like to have been there on the first day of seminary class when Dr. Sivage called roll.
Pascal had perservered to graduate.
Eleven long trips over three years
Making the bus journey through a war zone in eastern Congo, through Rwanda and across Uganda.
We had the privilege of being a small part of helping him make and complete this journey.
His wife Juliet, whom I’m met in Congo, came to see him graduate.
She doesn’t speak English and my French and Swahili are poor.
He smiled as she handed me a plastic bag.
I peeked in at two perfect rounds of yellow cheese.
“You made it?”
Pascal answered for her. “She made it for you.”
I cut a slice off. It was wonderful.
“Thank you . . . or Merci beaucoup.”
I proudly brought the cheese home to DeDe.
Pascal and Juliet
Our recent volunteers had left a can of spam.
There’s not much I like better than fried spam.
Go ahead and laugh and shake your finger.
I know it’s bad for you.
And I don’t want to know what it’s really made of.
DeDe made a toasted spam and cheese sandwich.
I sat down with a cold coke and a spam sandwich.
Made with imported cheese and imported spam.
Cheese imported from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
And Spam brought with care from Kentucky.
As that beer commercial used to say,
“It doesn’t get any better than this.”
My second gift started out as a Coca-Cola.
Ethan Bossier and I were on our last day in the refugee camps of Adjumani, Uganda.
Our friend Joseph said, “Before you leave, Mildred wants to see you.”
“Yes, you met her at church yesterday. She wants to give you a Coca-Cola.”
We drove by Mildred’s roadside market store.
She greeted us with the warm African hospitality I’ve come to take for granted,
sharing hot fried cassava hush puppies from a plastic bucket.
I’m not crazy about cassava. It’s a sweet potato-like tuber that’s neither bad nor good.
But fried it’s not bad. (I come from a culture where a fried piece of leather shoe would be eaten with relish.)
Mildred excused herself, presumably to retrieve my Coca-Cola. I hoped in my heart it might be cold but knew better than to get my hopes up. Africa is the home of cold showers and hot cokes.
Mildred didn’t return with a coke. Under one arm she held a plastic bag. In the other, she cradled a red rooster.
She handed them to me. Ethan laughed so hard I believe he peed in his pants.
I laughed too but knew this was a serious gift.
Africans seldom eat meat with a meal.
To give away a chicken is a sacrifice.
A sacrifice. A gift of love.
The plastic bag contained sim-sim, a sesame seed like grain that makes great honey cakes.
I handed both to Ethan. It was then that I noticed Mr. Rooster’s legs were tied.
Mildred gave us instructions on how to keep the rooster well in our car. A little water. A little sim sim. Keep the windows rolled down.
It was as if she was sending one of her children off to boarding school.
We began our drive to the Lapori Ferry on the Nile. On our ferry crossing four days earlier, Ethan and I had sat by a goat on the boat. This time we had our own chicken.
I named him Roho after a nearly forgotten song of my childhood about a Mexican rooster of the same name.
Ethan named him Kojak.
I had no problem with that. Everyone in Africa has multiple names spelled in multiple ways.
Roho/Kojak was a fine looking rooster. A healthy Rhode Island Red. Ethan kind of wrested ownership of Roho from me, talking to it all the way along the bumpy road.
He was pretty docile on our three hour ride to Koboko Town.
“What are we going to do with him, Bro. Curt?”
“I don’t know. We’ll decide when we get there.”
It was a busy time as we reunited with our other team members. We soon walked into the village to share stories.
It was dark when we returned. I got Roho out of the truck and took him behind the guesthouse where the chickens roost. (My daughter in law Sara says you can judge African restuarants by how sorry or good the yard chickens look. These didn’t look too good.
I cut his legs loose and Roho strutted through the yard.
“You don’t think anyone will steal him, do you?”
“Nah, he’ll be here in the morning.”
We were eating supper an hour later when a commotion began among the girls near the kitchen door.
A fast moving rooster darted past them into the dining area.
It was Roho.
He ran straight toward Ethan.
“Ethan, I believe he’s looking for you.”
He was returned to the roost and that’s where we found him the next morning.
We tied his legs and took him with us to Pastor Mark Vukoni’s house. Ethan presented the rooster to Rose, Mark’s wife. The Vukoni’s both are Madi and come from Adjumani town. At least we were leaving our rooster with kinfolk.
Ethan, who is a load of fun, whispered, “Do you think she’ll cook him for our dinner?”
“I sure hope not. I don’t want to eat a friend.”
Our American team and the local pastors sat in the dim light of the mud hut and shared ideas.
About two hours into our meeting, Rose entered with a serving tray with tea cups and a covered plate.
It was my turn to whisper. “If our rooster’s on that plate, I’m running out.”
He wasn’t. It was chapattis.
We were back in Koboko last week.
I asked Rose, “What about the rooster?”
“It was sure good.”
What more can I say?
The gifts of Africa.
Given by Africans.