Nick leaving for his tropical medicine course was a major bonding point with my neighbours. My wonderful neighbours are female, and they all have little babies. Allegedly, there are husbands. I’ve made a couple of sightings of these rare specimens, and usually by night. A common reason for their scarcity? Well, not infrequently their time is divided between multiple wives. Legal? Yip. Culturally accepted? Depends who you ask. All the wives I’ve met aren’t that fussed on it. Interestingly, the Acholi word for ‘co-wife’ literally means ‘jealous woman.’ For different reasons, it seems my neighbours often stay alone, caring for babies and children and getting through the endless domestic and farming work by themselves. In their opinion, we now share something in common:
Neighbour 1: You are sad because Nick has gone, you stay alone
Neighbour 2: Yes, you are now like us! (laughing) We all stay alone
Neighbour 3: But we are not alone, we stay as one, as one!
Me: As one, as one!
Its true. We are not really alone. There are no fences. Our homes all face inwards in little clusters. We do most of our domestic activities outside in the area between our homes:
Neighbour 1: Tessa, can I boil my babies bathing water on your fire?
Me: Eep, how do I catch this rat in my home? Can I get it out without killing it
Neighbour 2: Tessa, don’t be silly. I’ll help you with a trap. Lend me your pot?
Me: Are these sesame seeds roasted enough to make odi? (Peanut butter)
Neighbour one: you hold the baby please!
And yes, I realise my blog title sounds a little like a cheesily-named single parent support group. But its kind of appropriate… ‘single parent support groups’ occur completely naturally here, and they function very well. For the record, the neighbour in this photo happens to have a supportive monogamous husband…