“I Want to be a Part of it…”

The girl who managed to fall into the sewer before crashing a wedding, who succeeded in getting stabbed (or something…) and having all her yogurts stolen, who went to change the world and came back a self-centered narcissist – is off to New York.

And I think you’re stuck with me.

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40 More Pages and a Lot of Depression.

Feeling a little too happy lately? Think you’ve found some meaning in life? Feeling a tiny bit significant in the universe?

Read The Fountainhead. You will never be happy again.

I wonder whether I will. I wonder when I will regain the courage to finish the book. But I will. So if everyone dies in the end, don’t say a word.

I’ve learned a lot. Mainly, that if I have no framework, keep my phone off and read Ayn Rand all day, I will not be happy. Oh, and if I’ve been screening you lately, I’m sorry. It’s her fault.

I’ve never felt so unbelievably tiny, weak and pointless. I’ve never really been depressed. I am aware that I am a lucky, sheltered bitch.

My dad helped cure my woes with ice cream. I then moved onto higher spiritual levels, such as picking the raisins out of the challah and licking peanut butter out of the jar.

My brother agreed with me that there was no meaning in life. He then suggested I make a purpose for myself by helping him with his website.

My mom was genuinely concerned about me for about five seconds, proceeded to tell me that what I was going through was perfectly normal and finished by suggesting that instead of reading the end of the book I burn it. Then we watched this:

So there may be no meaning to life, but there are still funny videos, ice cream and people who love me. And thinking about the meaning of life is a luxury… right?

A Little Patience

pa·tience

…an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay…

 

I have no patience. I want to do everything and I want to do it now. That would be fine, if the entire world were mine. But I am not here alone, and doing things usually involves or affects other people. And so I get annoyed. I get restless. I get impatient.

A sizable portion of my time in Africa was spent waiting. I waited for the guide to tell us what the plan was. I waited for the bus to come. I waited for the rain to end. I waited for the students to saunter into class. I waited for people to answer my questions. I waited for the continent to move. It didn’t budge. Nor did it give a damn.

But within all those wasted, waiting minutes, lie so many precious moments. When have I ever discussed the concept of marriage with a shopkeeper? When do I sit down to share a fruit with strangers? When do I lie down to look for animal shapes in the clouds? When do I take time to learn how to cook something I will never make again? Above all, when do I see – really see – the person in front of me?

I now ask people how they are, before I ask them how much something costs. I’ve gotten some surprised reactions. The woman at the fruit and vegetable store seemed suspicious of my interest. The guy I asked for directions thought I was flirting with him. People are confused. Because they have gotten used to being invisible to others. How many people ask you how you are, and show interest in the answer?

I am still possessive about my time. I like to spend it my own way. I know that one day it will all be finished and try as I may, I won’t get a refill. And I like to think I am important.

I am not.

In fact, I am extraordinarily insignificant. Which is why I no longer think it is a criminal offense to sleep late. Or not to have a to-do list.

I am learning that sometimes, wasting time is the best way to use it. It is experiencing. If I really really live – smell, taste, see, hear and feel the world, am I not doing everything?

What Was I Doing?

I went to Uganda ready to change the world. I came back bruised, disillusioned and wondering: What was I doing there?

I am from Israel. It’s a tiny country; ten of us could fit into Uganda’s open arms, with extra room to breathe. Israel is two percent water; Uganda rests on Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria. We pray for rain; Uganda has two rainy seasons a year. We are surrounded by enemies and violence, whereas Uganda has been living in peace for years. And still, I left my dusty, arid country and went to a lush green land – in order to help them.

Uganda’s beauty is hard to overlook.  From the enormous lakes to the tall misty mountains and exotic animals, it is rich and diverse. Underneath it all, lies an abundance of natural oils, minerals and gases. But it recieves more international aid than most countries in the world. What is the problem?

The problem is the people. They have been ruled, beaten, betrayed and now they are being given money and again, being told what to do. How could they not end up tired, dependent and lazy? The mzungus are here. The whites will do it. I once walked down the road in my village in Uganda, when a group of schoolchildren all whined at me, “Mzungu! Mzungu, help him!” pointing to a filthy-looking man. What was I supposed to do?

Very early in my trip I decided that giving money to beggars was a bad thing which I wouldn’t do. It would only create dependency. Giving large sums of money in aid was equally harmful, as I knew it would all go directly into corrupt politicians’ pockets. Teaching, perhaps, would be all right.

But a lot has happened since my smiling, idealistic self built a curriculum for the “poor African orphans.” Now, a few miles and days away, I look back at my time volunteering in Uganda with more than a trace of sadness. Because despite the fact that I loved those kids dearly and felt passionate about my work, I think I may have done them more harm than good.

Firstly, I don’t believe I am the right person to serve as a role model for those students. It’s inevitable that any teacher who is remotely capable, will be looked up to and emulated. And so I can say honestly and modestly that I think those students will want tom in some ways, be like me. But they will never be white. They will never be Western. They will never, really, be like me. And why should they want to be?

Why should those students know more about Shakira and Rihanna than they know about their tribal dances and exciting history?Why should they want to wear jeans instead of dresses made of kitenge fabric? Why should they have to listen to me speak about things I think are important, in my accent, on my conditions, when there are plenty of apt Ugandans out there? (They exist. But they are in universities, in hi-tech companies and in other countries, making money. They are not teaching because they don’t feel the need to. The whites are doing just fine.)

Another painful question I ask myself, is: How much can you possibly teach in a few months, that will make the tearful goodbye worthwhile? Did I change their lives? Did I make such a lasting impact that the experience of parting and being left behind will be forgotten?

These are kids who have had to lose many close people in their lives. I think the traumatic experience might stay with them a little longer than those arithmetic problems I gave them. They will remember that I avoided the question of when I’d be coming back, more than they’d remember what I taught them in English class.

So what if I opened a slice of the world for them? All I did was make them aware of how tiny and distant they are from it all.

Which is why I think perhaps whites should pick up their bags and good intentions and leave. Of course, I am scared as you are of what will happen: Buildings will stop being built. Students won’t be taught. Healthcare won’t be given. People will die and things will be a mess.

But time will pass. And then a new generation will rise – a questioning, tuned-in and intelligent portion of society will stand up. They will vote. They will shout. They will make a change. And I know it will be so much deeper, so much more rooted and lasting and real than any change we mzungus might make.

KamPalak Paneer

This might be more relevant for people living in Kampala than those of you in Honduras and Iceland (I can see you!), but I wrote it, so I have to post it! Here goes – trying my hand at food writing:)

Kampala is full of pollution, motorcycles, potholes and… Indians. Fortunately, lots of Indians also means lots of Indian food – of excellent quality and superb taste! I discovered this early on and embarked on a journey to discover Kampala’s most delicious Palak Paneer (an Indian dish of mashed spinach with cheese cubes, typically eaten with na’an bread or with rice) and I’d like you to have a taste of my findings:

 1. Kati Kati

Kati Kati’s palak paneer is a delicious medley of spinach, tomatoes, ginger, and I even tasted parsley and mint. The winning feature, though, is the paneer (cheese). The cheese cubes are plump and fresh and although they are as soft as mozzarella they are still distinctly Indian. The na’an is simple, but with so many flavors it was exactly what the meal needed.

Except for its location just off a busy road, Kati Kati is a serene outdoor restaurant with a number of different areas to sit in. The service is prompt and the price is decent.

2. Club 5, Makerere University

This is the place where I was enlightened and it is a very close runner-up to Kati Kati. “What’s that green thing?” I had asked my friend, eyeing her green bowl of mush. I tasted one bite, immediately ordered a bowl for myself, and embarked on my life-changing journey.

The palak paneer is fresh, hot and smooth. In the heart of the university campus, Club 5 is a hip and happening place but somewhat slow service.

3. Masala Chaat, 3 Dewinton Rd (Near the National Theater)

I asked two Indians where I could get good Indian food. They stuffed me in their car and dropped me off here. Although it was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done, it led me to a wonderful restaurant.

Masala Chaat has an all-encompassing menu, an authentic feel, and very affordable prices. The palak was very good (although a tad bit too oily) but the na’an was the best I’ve ever had – simultaneously soft and crisp, making this restaurant the bronze medalist.

4. Haandi, Commercial Plaza, Kampala Road

Despite its sophisticated setting and well-dressed waiters, the price of palak was within the normal range (the price of na’an, however, was ridiculous).

The food was artistically presented and we were treated like royalty – served hot towels before the meal, and a bowl of water to wash our hands in after it. The palak was flavorful and authentic and the whole-wheat na’an added a special twist.

5. New Delhi, Windsor Loop, Kololo

from their facebook page

My friends took me here a few days after the incident, in order to get me out of the house and happy. Nothing like an outdoor restaurant and delectable food to get your mind off things.

Since I was slightly Indianed out, and felt it was okay to abandon my duty as palak paneer researcher just this once – I ordered a Navratan Korma, which was unanimously voted the best dish among all of ours. Creamy, spicy and rich. Vegetables, cashews, pineapple… Wow.

I tasted my friend’s palak, which was good but a little too basic. And the cheese felt like plastic. Still, for the pleasant atmosphere and quiet setting, I highly recommend this place.

6. Khyber Pass, Speke Hotel 

This was a splurge for a friend’s birthday. The palak was not the most memorable I’ve had, but the wonderful service and pretty setting made the meal very enjoyable. Unfortunately, the experience was tainted when we were informed that the prices on the menu didn’t include taxes.

7. Mom’s Kitchen, William Street

This is the place to go for fast-food Indian, and an oily palak paneer. It had no candle underneath it which was unfortunate, but walking there from the hectic area of the taxi park, I wasn’t expecting fine cuisine. But I did get friendly owners and a restaurant that stays open very late!

8. New Sagaar Restaurant, Bombo Road by the King Fahd Plaza

I came to this restaurant equipped with useful information from a friend who had eaten there, who had told me there was hardly any palak (spinach) in her palak. So after a long discussion with the waiter, the chef and then the manager, it was decided that I would be given a very spinachy palak.

There was a power outage, so we sat in the dark. The bathroom floor was one big puddle and the tap didn’t shut properly. The na’an was undercooked and the palak had a strangely watery texture.

I must admit, I greatly enjoyed the meal. But looking at my Indian-aficionado friend shaking her head with disappointment and disgust the entire meal, assured me I would never make a good food critic; I’ll eat anything.