It is one of those days. You wake up and check the weather update. ‘4 degrees but feels like 0 degrees,’ it reads. You check your mood. It seems to agree with the temperature. You open up your laptop to try and accomplish the easiest tasks first. Fail. You ever have one of those days? Linda has been going through the same phase. She is barely motivated and feels like she is carrying the weight of the entire world on her shoulder. She is afraid of speaking up because once she gives this period a name, it may slowly begin to think it has found a home. Nope, it shall remain nameless.
She cooks, she cleans, anything to keep busy. She tries to concentrate one more time. Nothing. The words are blurry. She is neither sleepy nor tired but that irritating migraine is trying to come back. She can visualise the exact spot she left her magic painkillers back at home, with the faith that she wouldn’t need them. What to do? “God, you know I can’t continue like this,” she pleads. “Can you hear me? Well of course you can, but you know what I mean,” she muses. She looks up at the sticky note she recently added to her wall. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” She reads it out loud. She plays a collection on gospel music but does not sing along even once. She knows something is definitely wrong, but what and why?
*Change environment* Classes must be have ended by now. She grabs her jacket and goes on a search for human interaction. She will visit Grace and Jacob and talk about everything and nothing, that should help. Grace seems perturbed but Linda is not sure where to start. They talk about school. “The other day, we were taught by a lecturer who is a young girl like you.” Linda laughs. When she is with the rest of the East African team, she is a ‘young girl,’ back at her floor, she is hanging with teenagers. Grace finally opens up. She’d received her bank statement and noticed she only received half her pay at work. Her and her husband had made plans for the full amount. His salary to take care of other bills and hers to pay the balance on school fees for the children while the rest goes to servicing a loan. The 50% was pretty much all going to the loan. She wrote to the school to ask for an explanation, only to be told it is ‘policy’ yet they had promised her full pay before she left. She was distraught and yet she kept smiling and speaking calmly. “Where is this woman from?” Linda thought. She was a mastermind at controlling emotions. They kept talking as she thought of ways to navigate her stipend and send money home. Linda was torn. To hug or not to hug? Is a few weeks not too soon to be in a friend’s personal space? “Why am I over thinking this?” As you can imagine, the moment passed while she played ‘kawuna’ with her thoughts. She made a mental note to do something else to cheer her up.
Jacob on the other hand had been under the weather. He had struggled with headaches too. Linda found out that almost everyone she spoke too had been troubled by the same. It seems the bodies were still struggling to adopt. He was speaking to his little son. Both Grace and Jacob, along with the other Kenyans in the group, continued to lace all their conversations with Swahili. She’d never mentioned to any of them that she understood almost every word they said. However, she wondered what it’d be like to be oblivious of what the conversations were about 50% of the time. Rose joined in and subsequently complained about a nasty headache. Her son was ill and she’d been up very early that day so as to catch him before he went to hospital. Linda could not help but be consumed by thoughts on how everyone in the group had a spouse and/or children to worry about, while her troubles were of a completely different nature.
As she planned to leave, Jacob insisted that she joins them for supper. She resisted for a bit although she knew how depressing eating alone had been for her. She’d still not got the hang of it and often gave up after a few bites into whatever she cooked. How does a Kenyan man cook minus ugali(posho)? He doesn’t! He made ugali, sukuma wiki and warmed some chicken that he’d already fried. When he asked what ‘sukuma wiki’ was called in Uganda, Linda mentioned it had the same name. In her mind, it was just another ‘local’ name for vegetables like Dodo or Nakati. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Jacob explained that the name was from the literal meaning Sukuma-to push, wiki-week. Basically, it is the meal that ‘pushes you through the week.’ His illustration was a casual worker who makes Ksh 100 per day (about Ugx 3,300) and has to feed his family, plan for rent and other bills. He knows that with 10shs, he can get some ‘sukuma wiki’ that, together with the ugali will keep his family satisfied until the next meal. Oh the things you’ll learn!
P.s:The English name for this healthy vegetable is ‘kale’ (no, not pronounced like the Luganda word, read in ‘English’ please, thanks :p) and it belongs to the cabbage family
Although for Linda, ugali is a reminder of the ‘posho and beans’ combo consumed throughout her young school life, she found herself enjoying the meal (all consumed sans fork) and even more so, the ‘family setting.’
As she walked back to her room, she barely noticed the breeze. Everyone was fighting a battle, sometimes similar or completely different from the ‘next guy.’ She simply needed to figure out a strategy to be able to ‘sukuma wiki’ for the next few months and essentially the duration of the course….and life in general.