Pauline, Celeste's neighborThere is no snow on the ground. The temperature still sits in the 80’s daily. Green vegetation and flowers abound everywhere you look. This is not the image my mind usually envisions when I think of Thanksgiving. But these are the images and feelings I now associate with Thanksgiving in Uganda. This was my second Thanksgiving in Uganda and after a wonderful time last year with Peace Corps friends, I was excited for another experience. Celeste invited me and some friends to have Thanksgiving at her site where we were to prepare Thanksgiving for her community.
We all worked together making different dishes: Stuffing, pumpkin pie, sweet potato casserole, and green beans with cransins and pecans. The Ugandans contributed with matoke, a tomato sauce, the turkey, cabbage and a pizza. Celeste and Joe made decorations to hang around and remind us of holiday traditions we have from America.
Celeste making a wreathAll day we wished people a Happy Thanksgiving which led to many conversations about having a holiday for the purpose of giving thanks. The Ugandans really liked this idea and it caused us to step back and also remember the importance of giving thanks. Sister Valentine, the head nun in Celeste’s community, organized a Thanksgiving Mass for us. A priest lead mass from an American prayer book he’d found that was copyrighted in 1984. It was a beautiful time together and I am so thankful for this family we have made in Uganda who supports us and offers what they have to make us feel welcome and loved.
As is only fitting, just as we were about to eat the power went out. Sister Valentine said, “God can take the power when He wants and return the power when he wants. I think God knows we don’t need the power right now.” And so, our Thanksgiving continued without light. As is also customary, the evening could not end until speeches were made. Sister Valentine thanked God for bringing Celeste to their community and for Celeste’s hospitality in bringing friends to meet her Ugandan community. As frustrated and annoyed as I can sometimes get over the lengthy, usually lack of substance filled speeches, I was very touched by the words Sister Valentine conveyed and also of the words Celeste offered to her community. Celeste was able to express her thankfulness for the family she has been adopted into and how their generosity and kindness has shown her a deeper love in this world. It was a beautiful Thanksgiving.
Father Edward, Valentino, Pauline, and SisterAs we were leaving on Friday morning we ran into a Canadian nun who wished us a happy Thanksgiving and then asked if we were off to practice our consumer culture, it being Black Friday and all. We laughed and in reality that’s exactly where we were headed. Joe needed to get some gifts for his family at the craft market, I needed to go grocery shopping, and even Celeste had a few items she needed to pick up.
I am currently cat sitting for my Country Director who is home for Thanksgiving in the States. I have been able to enjoy his full kitchen and offer his house as a refuge for a few other friends. After our Ugandan Thanksgiving, we decided to utilize the big kitchen and have a dinner party making another meal that is close to my heart – Enchiladas! Thanks to my wonderful sister in California we had corn tortillas to work with. It was a delicious and fun filled dinner with good friends.
I am thankful for my life in Uganda. I am thankful for the opportunities to share special parts of my culture with my Ugandan friends and also for the opportunities to enjoy good food with American friends. As the Ugandans have reminded me, it’s important to spend time giving thanks for what we have, where we are and who we are. Happy Thanksgiving!