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On a Mission(ary) – remembering the Muzungu’s first Christmas in Uganda

Jan 1 • 4471 views • 5 Comments on On a Mission(ary) – remembering the Muzungu’s first Christmas in Uganda African food, Kampala, Society and culture

An expat Christmas in Kampala

It hardly befitted common (misconceived) notions of the starving in Africa: there was marquee after marquee of food.

I’ve never seen so much food in my life, honestly.

The buffet was immense.

Here I am ‘busy saving the world’ – apparently – spending my first Christmas in Africa and we’re all wasting platefuls of food. I was quite disgusted at how many rich Ugandans piled their plates high with food and didn’t eat more than a few spoonfuls of it.

Christmas Day buffet Speke Resort Kampala

Christmas Day buffet Speke Resort Kampala – that’s a lot of food – and this was just one of many marquees …

The Speke Resort Munyonyo is where we impoverished volunteers had decided to blow our December allowance. Living on a volunteer allowance means you end up eating the same food, day in day out. This one day feasting at Speke more than made up for the penny pinching! (How my belly hurts just remembering my repeat trips to the various marquees!)

Christmas cheese selection Speke Resort

Despite the country’s obsession with cows, cheese remains an imported delicacy in Uganda

There was a double marquee of Ugandan food, another of international food including various pastas.

There was a small marquee dedicated to Chinese stirfry!

expat Christmas in Kampala

Seafood – a whole table of it – never before seen in Kampala (not by a volunteer at least!)

Another marquee was full of cheese – CHEESE! in Uganda! – which was mostly plasticky and a bit foul to be honest; but of course, that didn’t stop me eating far too much.

The last marquee I visited had a massive cake. I’ve actually been inside a REAL Ugandan church the same size as this one (but the roof didn’t taste so sweet and lovely).

Christmas cake Speke Resort

Christmas cake Speke Resort. Yes, I’m holding two plates… two plates x several visits to the various marquees = way, way too greedy, I confess

Christmas in Kampala was fun – apart from the bloody weather. It started drizzling the moment we arrived at Speke Resort. It didn’t stop raining until the next day as we packed our bags into the car to leave! So much for making use of the fantastic (almost Olympic) swimming pool.

“This is the last time I spend the Bank Holiday with you!” I teased Cheryl (we had previously spent a very wet week-end at Lake Bunyonyi at Easter). Is she the Wet Weather Omen?

Twenty of us VSO volunteers and families had a poolside table booked … so we could watch the rain come down… it seemed, rather than enjoy sunbathing and swimming, as planned.

Christmas staff rain Speke Resort

Bedraggled Christmas Day staff at the fantastic Speke Resort, Munyonyo on Lake Victoria, Kampala

Christmas Eve was spent fumigating the kitchen cupboards: “Oh how festive!” you cry.

And so onto my first Kampala New Year’s celebrations…

“There’s not enough sex on your blog” was the feedback on last year’s blogging – and that was just from the family!

So, not wanting to besmirch the family reputation, out I went on New Year’s Eve … on a Mission.

The evening started with a few drinks with fellow VSO volunteers Jo and Liam and pharmacist friend Cheryl, at her accommodation in Nsambya hospital.

In the bathroom, Cheryl’s new housemate Gerald nearly steals the show! With antennae of at least an inch long, wiggling at me from underneath the hand basin, I don’t hang about to see how long his fearful body must be. [In my first year living in Uganda. I had an obsession: with cockroaches].

En route to (miscellaneous) Kampala nightclubs, we pass the nuns as we walk down through the hospital to catch the boda bodas into town. The traffic is hell: dust, pollution, vehicles everywhere, everyone in a hurry to go to church, return to the village or simply GO PARTY.

steamed matooke banana Speke Resort Munyonyo

Steamed matooke: no Ugandan meal is complete without the famous green banana

I was too busy dancing at midnight to see the fireworks.

Typical Uganda, it was several minutes after midnight that our countdown to the New Year started…

Was it the Full Moon or was it the tequilla? Long awaited moment with a Certain Someone was but a blur and I woke up the next day wondering if I’d dreamed it all…

It’s not easy being a single woman in Kampala: the social life is fantastic but where are all the single men?

The Dutchman is married, the Ugandan has a girlfriend, the Congolese guy is cute but has terrible breath … I get upset sometimes but tell myself “at least I have Baldrick.”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Last night I decided to laugh about it.

Christmas Day bread and butter pudding Speke Resort Munyonyo Kampala

OK so repeat after me: “I just came to Uganda to volunteer, I was not expecting you to kill me with food” – did they really think there would be room for a hefty slab of bread and butter pudding on top of several marquees of savoury dishes?

So where will you be this Christmas?

And will you save me some bread and butter pudding?

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5 Responses to On a Mission(ary) – remembering the Muzungu’s first Christmas in Uganda

  1. lizziema says:

    Well I did wonder what could possibly be interesting about Gerald if it was only an inch long and dangling. But I think now you are talking about your favourite, and dad's, little creature! Nearly packed and having to get a laaaaaaarger suitcase for all the goodies and medication!!!!Thaw has set in at last and Heathrow here we come!!!!! Shall we bring rum, vodka or whisky? Can we make rum punch?

  2. Charlie says:

    Of course you can make rum punch Ma but the local drink is Waragi (gin) and tonic. v v cheap. can't get the Diet version (as you'll notice by my spare tyre!) lol. few places serve ice tho I'm sure you'll get it where you're staying.

  3. the muzungu says:

    Four Christmases later… and this year I’ll be back in Kibale Forest, looking forward to Bahati’s chicken ‘roasted in a suitcase!’ My balmy (and barmy) Christmas in a Ugandan forest

  4. Michael omara ( says:

    Well it’s the indelible imprint of your experiences on to your life that stirs your imaginations and unending quest to truly discover Uganda. Join us at Kampala to Kibale for another discovery.

    • the muzungu says:

      You’re right – for me, ‘truly discovering Uganda’ is an unending quest …I thought I may have covered the whole country by now but it’s as if the country keeps getting bigger and bigger… There are so many new tourism activities, projects and lodges that my Uganda travel bucket list keeps getting longer, not shorter! But I’m quite happy about that 🙂

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