Sukuma wiki

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!


Yum! Google image

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

sukuma 1

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.


Humps ahead

Temperatures are now as low as -2 degrees in London. A normal person would probably succumb to flu or cough at most, but no, Linda had to go and attract some other bugs.

After an almost ‘too good to be true’ fortnight, the universe decided that this lady needed to calm down a bit, thereby sending some ailments her way. Unfortunately, she had sped past the sign so all of it came as an unwelcome surprise.


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Monday was deadline day for an important assignment. 5,000 words can seem like a small novel, especially when it is on topics that don’t exactly include one’s interests.She started to feel sick but could not let herself accept that this was happening at such a crucial hour. Denial it would have to be, until further notice.

All the pain and discomfort was put on hold until she clicked ‘submit.’ “It is just fatigue,” she thought, and went to bed with the hope that everything would be okay the next morning. Unbeknownst to her, she would not be able to leave bed the following day.

It was finally clear that Linda would have to seek medical attention but possibly the next day. She freshened up and went on to fix herself the first meal of the day at 6p.m. In the kitchen (that also serves as a common room), sat the excitable , Jack. “Would you like to sit down and have a beer?” he offered. She declined, trying to seem as ‘normal’ as possible. Upon reaching her room, she realised that more people had been streaming in and music was starting to get louder. She had lost count of the parties these undergraduates held every other day. At first, it seemed like a weekend thing but gradually grew into a ‘when we feel like’ tradition. She tried to watch a movie to pass time until she received a message from her classmate. The list for people who handed in the assignment was out and Linda’s name was not on it. Talk about bad luck! She checked the email and indeed her name was not mentioned. Too disturbed to comprehend the situation, she decided to shut out the noise and find some sleep.

She thought of the people around that she could confide in about her illness but did not want any of them to have to leave work for her sake. She decided to send one message to one of the scholars, her new Kenyan friend, Grace. She hoped Grace would offer to accompany her to the clinic. Plan B, would be to ask her out rightly and if she was busy or unable, plan C would be to find it on her own. After sending this text, she closed her eyes.

Morning came as early as 4a.m,Linda  tossed and turned as she awaited daylight. The plan was to stay in bed till enough strength was amassed. At about 9 a.m, she heard a knock at her door. Still groggy and clad in pyjamas, she opened to find a concerned Grace. “I took a shower and came as soon as I read your message,” she said. Phew! Linda felt a huge sigh of relief. Grace consequently left to make them breakfast as Linda got ready.

They both didn’t know the location of the clinic but it was that much better getting lost as a pair. Linda was dizzy by the time they arrived. It turned out seeing doctors was only on appointment except for walk ins that began at 2p.m. They had over two hours to kill but at least there was comfort in knowing they were in the right place.

Time moved slowly until Linda started to notice the students who were coming in. Those registered needed to only mention their date of birth and the receptionists would find them in the system. One by one they walked in “July 2nd 1995, November 30th 1998…”
“Whhaat?!” The ladies began to muse at all those ‘babies.’ Linda played a game where she guessed the years as soon as they walked in. Some looked pretty young but others could fool anyone as being closer to 30 years than the 20 they really were. Time moved faster with this exercise.

Finally the hour came and she saw a nice doctor who understood her condition. Armed with a prescription, they found a nearby pharmacy. She thanked God she had carried emergency money because the bill brought semi-squints. She made a mental note for the 1000th time not to convert to prices to shillings.

They decided to take a bus back and look out for sites on the way to their residence.


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Grace heated up some food for Linda upon arrival as she dashed to her room to make a call to her husband and son.
All Linda could do was thank her endlessly for sacrificing most of her day to take care of her.

This morning the other two Ugandan scholars showed up at Linda’s doorstep. “We have heard the News,” they yelled. She could only laugh as she questioned their sources. “Bad news travels fast, they replied.” C’est vrai.

Grace later joined with a cup of hot chocolate for Linda in tow. The ladies shared tales of their experiences on this journey so far.

Linda found out Racheal had spent Sunday night crying because she missed her son terribly and kept promising him goodies each time they spoke. The son’s father walked out on them last year. Jane’s bosses were not paying her salary for the period she’d spend in London but she was still grateful for the opportunity.

When they left, Linda was immersed in deep thought about everyone’s journey and how nothing is guaranteed. She was reminded for the umpteenth time, how blessed she was.

Although this sickness had come at a bad time and slowed down the pace of her progress, she knew deep down that a testimony was unfolding before her very eyes. All she needed to do was be patient.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”