Friday, March 19, 2010

A Boy Becomes Emanzi

I know it's only been just over three weeks, but I continue to like this place more everyday. I am getting closer to some of the PCTs, and I am starting to interact more with some of the locals. I think I will wait to speak in more detail about some of these friendships as they progress because I honestly don't feel much like journaling tonight, but there is one thing I definitely want to get down.
I killed a chicken today. It was part of our instructional session on cooking in Uganda. It wasn't something we all did, and in fact I am the only trainee in our group that this particular task fell to. If you think you are surprised by the fact that I did this, I can assure you that your shock does not exceed my own. Before any of you may start thinking less of me, I'd like to explain a little bit about why I agreed to do it. I have been eating meat all of my life, and if I am going to continue to do so with a clear conscience then I thought this was something I should be willing to face. I have often heard us meat-eaters accused of only being capable of doing what we do because we are so far removed from the source of our food that we no longer have to think about it. I guess I wanted to proove to myself that this was not the case.

To be honest, I am still not sure how I feel about the whole ordeal. On the one hand, I am glad I did it for the reason I talked about above, and I now have a new respect for exactly what goes into what I eat. On the other hand it was not at all a fun experience. In fact it was pretty terrible.

The whole ordeal went something like this: first, I stepped on the chickens pinned back wings and its bound legs, I picked up its head with my off-hand, and then I slit its throat with my other hand. I would not have enjoyed killing the animal under any circumstances, but to make matters worse I did not cut it correctly. While I thought it was bleeding out, it let out a pretty terrible squawk and began to struggle around a bit. In my mind I was in pure panic, but I tried to keep my cool. I knew that I had to put the thing of it's misery so, after allowing myself just a second for a much needed explitive, I took the knife back to it and finished the job. Richard, my language trainer and cooking instructor for the day, later told me that I initially cut a bit too high, and this caused the animal to take 5-10 extra seconds to die. I feel horrible about that, and wish I could take it back, but like my friend and fellow PCT Brian told me afterward, "What's done is done." As I said, I do feel bad about the way it went down, but in the end I am a bit proud of myself for actually going through with it. Before I got to Uganda, I never imagined myself doing something like that, and it's always a good feeling to find that you still have the ability to surprise yourself.

In the Ugandan tradition, Richard and Kabayo gave me a new name to mark the occasion. In many African cultures, whenever a person experiences a defining moment they are given a name in reference to the event. They are not nicknames, as Richard and Kabayo adamently insisted, but are just new names that are tacked onto your already existing names. This is why you see many Africans with 4-5 names. Anyway, my new name is Emanzi. It means "Brave One" or "Hero" depending on the context. I thought it was a bit much, but they insisted that it was appropriate, and added that it is just a name that means something and is not the same as just calling someone "Brave One" in English. I reluctantly agreed to the name, although I was informed that my consent was not a necessary part of the naming process. Despite my initial humility, I have to admit that it's pretty badass.


  1. sometimes you gotta make sure the chicken knows that its your barbecue...and it sure tastes good

  2. I really like that tradition-- the adding of names for significant events in your life. Because I do not know your local language, I have given you the name "Bear Grylls" for this particular defining moment. You are now christened David Bear Grylls Szaronos. Miss you lots. Glad all is well.