A taste of the familiar, amid the foreign

by Lorien E. Menhennett

I recently enjoyed a post-lunch “latte” (coarse ground coffee brewed in boiled milk, to espresso strength) on the veranda of my hut at Sina Village near Mpigi, Uganda.

Living in a new environment always takes getting used to. You take for granted the little things at home, not realizing how much they’re part of your routine until they’re gone.

For me here in Uganda, it’s been paper towels. They’re not a thing here; neither are napkins, really, except for us mzungus*. I’ve gotten along fine without paper towels, of course. And maybe living without them for four weeks is a good thing. Maybe when I go home, I’ll rely on them less, and waste less paper.

One thing I knew I would struggle without, and so brought with me, is my morning coffee routine. I survived last time here for three weeks without it. So it wasn’t absolutely necessary. But it brings me so much joy! And in a foreign environment, when you expend so much energy to get very basic tasks done, having something familiar can go a long way toward making you feel comfortable, and more at home.

Breakfast of champions: Hot water, hot milk, my travel French press, and a malaria prophylaxis pill. Mmmmmmm.

So as I’ve mentioned before, I packed a travel French press and coarse ground coffee beans. People here in Uganda don’t drink much coffee, but they are serious about their tea. Thankfully, that means getting my hands on boiling water has been easier here than it would be if I were traveling in the United States. It’s available at every meal. And no one looks askance if you request it any other time either, morning, noon, or night.

On my most recent trip, to Gombe Hospital, I stayed in a lovely place called Sina Village in Mpigi. For breakfast, I was brought hot milk. That morning, I discovered that my French press can also make something that resembles a latte. I’ll have to try this at home now.

So yeah … Starbucks? Who needs Starbucks? I found something better, something I can make myself, while living in Uganda. If only I could take a little sliver of the Ugandan countryside home with me too.


*Mzungu. Pronunciation: “mah-zoon-goo.” Language: Luganda. Referring to foreigners, especially of European descent.