Ugandan Birthday Celebration

Jason and I were just pulling in the gate arriving back home from a long exhausting trip to Kampala, when Morris our Askari (night guard) was there to greet us on his day off.  He was there to invite us to his birthday celebration at 5:50, I looked at my watch and it was 5:00. All I wanted to do was go inside, see the kids, take a shower and crash.  Instead, we loaded up all the kids and went to celebrate with Morris for his birthday.  As we were loading up we had no idea what to expect, how long we should stay or what in the world we were going to feed the kids or when.  The kids were already hungry and asking for dinner. When we arrived Zippy, Morris's wife, was busy preparing a meal outside in lots of sagiris, which are outdoor cookers. Morris invited us all in to sit and poured us all some juice, which is the polite thing to do in the Ugandan culture.  In his politeness he poured us all a huge mug full of Coke, just what every Mom wants their child to have at 6pm.

I went outside to help Zippy with the cooking and she put me right to work.  We were preparing rice, matoke (mashed bananas), meat, cabbage and pineapple.  As I was watching Zippy masterfully work with the small sigiris it hit me that the "play" kitchen we had built for Hadlee's birthday was more of a kitchen than Zippy had to prepare this huge meal.  She had no stove top or counter space, just a rock to sit on and several outdoor cookers going all at once.  She was doing this all while 9 months pregnant.

All of us packed inside celebrating 
When the rest of the guest arrived we all went into their house, which is a room that is no larger than 7 feet by 11 maybe 12 feet.  By the time we all were seated there were 8 adults and 7 kids squeezed into their house. We started the celebration by Zippy giving a small speech and praying for Morris on his birthday and welcoming all her guests.  Morris cut the cake and served it before dinner. He also served everyone a bottle of soda, mountain dew this time.  Another sugar rush for our kids! Apio, Zippy and I then went outside, in the dark, to serve the plates. We ate dinner and visited.  Unfortunately, Hadlee had a tummy ache and we had to leave, but it gave us a reason to make an exit and get the kids in bed after a long day.

At one part of the night, somewhere between the first coke and the cake, Karson approached me and asked if we were eating dinner there.  I told him that I thought so (it hadn't really been talked about at all, but since I was busy helping prepare dinner, I thought that must be the plan).  Then he told me, "Ok then, I will be sure to try a little of everything and keep eating even if I don't like it."  Then, after he saw Morris pulling out the birthday cake, Karson came to me very worried, saying that Morris was doing too much and he felt bad because he knew how little Morris and his wife had.  I tried to explain to him that this was a joyous occasion for Morris, not to feel bad, but to help celebrate his life.  Karson still couldn't quite shake a feeling of guilt, but he really made an effort to make it a special night for Morris.  I love his heart!

Morris and his wife Zippy
I was amazed at Morris and his wife's hospitality and her ability to cook a huge meal for 15 people outdoors and 9 months pregnant.  Jason and I have been truly blessed by our Ugandan friends here and having these glimpses into their culture, and being invited in as their friends and family is so incredible to us.  Morris and his wife are such an example of finding true joy in the absence of material things that so much of our American culture tells a person they need to have in order to be happy.  They truly inspired me to be thankful for what I have and treasure these moments.

The meal they prepared and shared with us.

Apio serving plates in the dark

Pierce on a mission heading outside

Matthew Ortega2 Comments