Over the past six days we have reflected and pondered on some parts of the local Acholi African culture that have challenged us in one way or another. The final post in this little Unplugged mini-series is also a challenge, but a positive one and hopefully one we can all learn from. The Bible says that some people are gifted in hospitality; well I would almost have to say that all Acholi people are blessed with this gift! Hospitality is a part of life here, and on many occasions we have been blessed to be on the receiving end of such kind and generous hospitality.
Most families will cook more than they need for meal times, the main reason for this is to feed an unexpected visitor. Many times we have dropped in on a neighbour and before long a plate of chicken and rice or beans and posho (remember that lovely corn flour play-dough thing) is placed in front of us, it’s like it just appears out of thin air! We are a bit slow to learn from our hospitable neighbours and when we have unexpected guests we scrounge around for something but can rarely find anything comparable (why do we only cook just enough for us?)
Whenever we go anywhere, and I mean almost anywhere, if we stand for more than 30 seconds or so a chair miraculously appears beside us: “you sit!” is the command that generally follows. It took us a while to get used to this – visitors should never stand. Visitors also get the privilege of eating first and are quickly reprimanded for taking small portions and almost coerced into serving more. Anytime a visitor walks into a classroom at school they are greeted with a whole range of brilliant school praise gestures; from rhythmic clapping to flower actions and sounds.
If you travel anywhere and then come back you will always bring with you ‘greetings’ from where you came. Everyone in the community knows each other, it’s not just a matter of knowing your neighbours, people know their community! When you arrive for work it is common for someone to greet everyone on site before getting down to business (now that can take a little time and may well be frowned upon in our results-based world). Relationships seem to take much higher importance and priority over physical work, in any institution.
We have learnt a lot in our time here, and one of those things is the importance of just ‘being’; although we don’t practise this very well.