Mama Cook, a Wedding, and Feeding Hungry Children

riding in the back of a truck

I especially love Saturdays in Uganda. Saturdays are Kids Club days, and every other week, it is my chance to visit the village and play with the local children. This past Saturday, I had my plan all set for the day. I planned to wake up, make breakfast, go to the village with the other volunteers, do some home visits, do Kids Club, and then come home exhausted but happy. That was the plan–but I need to stop making plans, this is Africa.

I started my day by going downstairs and finding out that I was the only volunteer going to the village. I was a bit disappointed about this news because I am an extrovert and I like being with other volunteers. Then, a few minutes later I found out that we were not going to the village at all. Things were not going as planned and I was not happy about how my Saturday was turning out. I decided go to the clinic to help feed the triplets. There is nothing like holding a baby to make a disappointing day feel better.

washing dishes for a weddingJust as I was settling in with one of the triplets, our cook at Amani (who we call “Mama Cook”) came walking into the clinic. She had blood dripping down her face, her cheek was gashed open and her arm and leg were cut up and bleeding. She explained that she had been in a Boda Boda (motorcycle) accident. Boda Bodas are the number one way of transportation in Uganda. We tried hard to convince her to go to the hospital but she refused, saying hospitals are too expensive and they don’t treat patients correctly. The nurse (Kayla) who is volunteering here at Amani, patched her up the best she could and gave her pain meds. Mama Cook was insistent that she go back to cooking, even with blood rushing down her cheek. She had about five other ladies with her helping her prepare to cater a wedding for about 350 people. After Kayla and I persuaded her to let us help, Mama Cook asked us to wash over 350 plates, but this was a challenge since the water was out. Funny how you begin to find things like this normal after living here. We compromised by thoroughly wiping down the plates.

After we were done with the plates, Mama Cook called us over and asked us to please attend the wedding with her. Without a second thought Kayla and I said “yes,” thinking it would be later in the evening. Mama Cook continued by adding that we would be leaving in 30 minutes. Not even knowing the people getting married, Kayla and I ran upstairs, got dressed, hopped in a truck, and rode to the wedding. Kayla and I stuck out like two sore thumbs as we rode up; we were the only mzungus (white people) at the entire wedding.

Kayla and I made the best of it; we had an amazing time dancing and eating and celebrating the marriage of this couple as if we had known them our whole lives.

After attracting more than our share of attention for one day, Kayla and I decided to go join Mama Cook sitting on the side behind the food away from people. As the wedding guests finished eating, we began to clean off their plates. To my right I saw some kids sitting off to the side, wearing torn clothes, covered in dirt and wearing no shoes. Mama Cook explained that they were street kids who had probably walked hours to be there. I had read stories about these children, but didn’t think I would ever witness it. They had come to eat the leftover food. We watched as the kids found every bottle of leftover soda they could and chugged them; they did the same with water bottles even when there were just drips left in them. Then we watched as the women working the buffet collected all the leftover food in one bucket and took it over to the kids. The kids acted as if it was Thanksgiving! They were extremely happy and grateful. How wild is that? You go to a wedding and see the hands and feet of Jesus.

We ended our day by hopping on the back of a tiny truck with fifteen other Ugandans, laughing till we cried and talking about how wonderful the day was. My life is a dream! How lucky am I to live out my dreams!!