A Guilty Lunch
Almost every day for lunch, I have been going to the Sankofa Café, a little outpost on the outskirts of Gulu. The place is popular with the expat set for its wide selection of continental fare and tranquil secret garden ambiance. Having eaten a variation of beans and rice dishes for close to six months, I look forward to ordering veggie burgers and avocado smoothies for lunch. I would have probably continued this routine without guilt had I not shared my lunch table with a person on the wait staff. She told me that she would never pay 12,000 Ugandan Shillings (approx. $4.61) for lunch every day. According to her estimations, that amount could buy a kg of rice, beans, posho, sugar, greens, tomatoes, onions and the charcoal for cooking it all. It is not hard to imagine that what I casually spend in an afternoon, could sustain a family of four for two days. PeacebuildingData.org, an NGO focused on providing quantitative and qualitative research in countries that have been affected by war reports that the average income per week in Gulu is 23, 157 UGX, which is less than $9 a week. Other Acholi districts such as Amuru, Kitgum, and Pader don’t do much better with average weekly incomes being $6.47, $4.20, and $2.46 respectively (PeacebealdingData.org, 2010). In many cases, household income shortages are supplemented with resources gained from farming. In the village, people will typically survive on one meal a day, which is served in the late afternoon. Until that point, they sustain themselves with fruits and dried vegetables.
As an expat you acknowledge the realities around you, but simultaneously sequester yourself in spaces where you find repose from the urgent need and crisis. You just learn to enjoy your veggie burger with the guilt.