Outside, the sweltering North Carolina summer was threatening to melt us all — even I could not deny it. It was as hot as Africa and, feeling as though we might drown in the afternoon’s humidity, our family moved inside to the meat locker — er, the house.
Although I welcomed the cool, my body was not conditioned to the foreign-feeling air condition. It only took a few minutes before I was freezing and wistfully gazing outside at the sun baking down on the back porch.
After experiencing reverse culture shock upon our return home from Japan in 2014, I knew I would struggle with some adjustments during our visit to North Carolina this summer. So what are the adjustments we're experiencing? And what excites us most about being back in the States? Grab a glass of sweet tea and sit back as we reveal it all in this little Q&A.
What was your first meal after returning to the States?
Sarah: My mom’s pimento cheese. It was supposed to be an appetizer before dinner, but I lost control about halfway through the bowl.
Gabriel: Maui Wowie pizza from Mellow Mushroom.
S: My second meal after returning was Maui Wowie pizza from Mellow Mushroom.
While we’re on the topic of food — what is the most unique thing you ate in Uganda?
G: Matooke is really… interesting. It’s basically plantains/green bananas boiled or steamed in banana leaves and mushed up. It’s mildly sweet, but not really savory either. Very starchy and dense. Usually, it’s eaten with some kind of broth poured over it. The students used to tell us the story of a westerner who came to Uganda a long time ago. When the westerner was offered matooke, he ate it and asked what was the name of the food? The Ugandans replied, “matooke.” But he misheard them and thought they said “a-bit-OK.” So he left and returned home thinking he was eating a food called “a-bit-OK.” I would probably describe the taste of matooke as “a bit OK.”
S: I never formed a final opinion about g-nut sauce. It was gray and its texture reminded me of runny refried beans. But it tasted like peanut butter. To make it, the Ugandans ground the g-nuts into a paste, which you heated on the stove while adding water to form a sauce. Eventually, an oil would form on top of the sauce and that signaled it was ready to eat.
What did you miss the most while in Uganda? (Food or material object)
G: Good cheese was hard to find.
S: A DRYER. The Mzungu Machine that Gabriel created was great, but I missed the smell of warm laundry freshly pulled from the dryer.
Did you bring back any funny Ugandan sayings?
S: Yes. Our Ugandan friends tried to convince us they were speaking "British English," but we knew better.
G: If they wanted to tell you their opinion about something, they would always start their sentence with, "for me..."
S: And if they wanted to interrupt you (but to do so politely), they would interject "you first wait!" into a conversation. It was something that I...
G: You first wait! They also added "please" to the end of random words or sentences, to make the word or sentence more polite. We heard a lot of "thank you please" or "goodbye please" phrases.
What was more terrifying — feeding a lion or contracting bilharzia?
G: Death by lion would have been quick. I’d prefer that over waiting twenty years to die from a slow infection caused by parasitic worms found in Nile River snails.
S: Neither. For me, I was just trying to avoid Mango Flies and malaria.
Other than adapting to air condition, what was an adjustment you had to make upon return to the States?
G: I’m not like Sarah — I plan to blast the AC and take full advantage of it while we’re Stateside.
S: Being able to hop out of bed without doing a snake or spider check. During our first week back in the States, I was still scanning floors for foes before setting foot down on the ground. But I’m proud to admit that, after The Invasion, I continued to be a bug-killing-machine in Africa and while I still occasionally scan the floors, I'm prepared for action if needed.
G: It’s also an adjustment to see people on their phones, 24/7. They’re trolling social media while you’re in the middle of a conversation. Or they’re texting and driving.
Did you bring back any new skills?
S: In case Gabriel is too modest to mention it, I’ll go ahead and say he brought back some pretty awesome dance moves.
G: We did have dance parties every Sunday night with our girls.
S: For years to come, when I think back on our time in Uganda, the image of Gabriel trying to copy our girls' dance moves will always make me laugh!
S: In the best of ways.
What are five things you want to do while you’re home?
G: Spend as much time as we can with family and friends.
S: Get my hair cut. Actually, it was the very first thing I did after we returned.
G: Yea, me too.
S: Eat sushi.
G: Ride our Russian motorcycle. And wash our clothes about 10x in attempt to get the red dirt out of them!
So… what will be your last meal before leaving for Senegal?
G: A Maui Wowie pizza from Mellow Mushroom.
S: A bucket of my mom’s pimento cheese.
Last question — when do you return to Africa?
We leave for Senegal at the end of July. If you haven't already, subscribe to our blog and be the first to receive posts and updates on our work and travels. The subscription is free, and we promise to not clog your inbox.
While Stateside, we are also looking to connect with financial partners who will support our work in West Africa. The cost of living in Senegal is higher than Uganda and we need to find new partners to offset this difference. If you're interested in learning more, send us an email!