Hey you all, this is Brenda! 💋 I want to tell you more about me and my work, so that you totally understand: you can’t miss my BBBB on Boxing Day (that’s 26/12, if you have never heard of the holiday)!

BBBB stands for Brenda’s Bunyonyi Boxing Buffet and this will be the second time I have it, hooray! I am upping my game a bit: not only will I feed you amazingly, you will leave with a little gift handmade by the very me! And, more, I can send a dugout canoe for you wherever you are! All that for USh 60,000 per person ONLY, imagine! Make your reservation here: +256 782 779 599.

The leaflet you are going to find at the bottom of this story mentions Gorilla Highlands Silverchef. I attended the 2019 edition of this regional cooking competition in Musanze, Rwanda, representing my area, Lake Bunyonyi. It was the most interesting event for me, I got to meet new people and I gained confidence. I proved myself that I could rub shoulders with the best chefs of three countries. 🏆

Honestly that was big for me. You know, I used to be a nanny and I learned cooking on the go.

From Village to City to Village

I am the first of four daughters from Bulisa in northwestern Uganda, born in a village called Wanseko Town, on the shores of Lake Albert. The only thing we knew how to do was swim and collect fish … hahahaha … and the only thing we ate was also fish and cassava posho, some call it kalo .. hahahaha… I never really liked 🐟🐟🐟 even up to now.

My sisters and I went to the same school, in the village, till later when our parents separated. Then unfortunately we had to part our ways too… As for me, one of our aunties brought me to Kampala when I was 12 years old, and that’s where I continued with my studies … the studies of life. I learned everything from a family I stayed with in Kampala.

After 14 years of nannying it was a small miracle that I could transition into a career at Edirisa, a simple lodge on beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. I joined Edirisa in August 2018, stayed there in Bufuka, a village in Kabale district in Uganda, for five months and then moved to Rwanda with my boss, where I worked as a nanny to his adorable son Lan 😍 — when I say adorable I literally mean it.

Covid Spoils It All For Me

I worked there for ten months, then came back to Edirisa again in November 2019. This time my efforts where rewarded with a managerial position and that scared me, mostly because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to cook anymore. Luckily I discovered the art of multitasking 😎, so that’s how I manage. It’s challenging but also interesting.

2020 was supposed to be my big year but then Covid happened… At first travel shut down, and everybody became isolated because of the coronavirus. Well, almost everyone. I still saw some people moving around in motorboats and canoes, for these are the means of transportation on Lake Bunyonyi, but not nearly as many as there used to be. There was just no work to do.

I missed cooking so much, I missed the clients, and missed my family too. Since my biological family is really far from where I stay and work, I never get the time to go visit them. My boss and his wife and kids became my close family, the family that I have right here, right now in the Gorilla Highlands region — but unfortunately I can’t even visit them in Musanze because Rwanda’s borders are closed 😕.

I miss Lan so much (the little one) and I can’t wait for all this ‘Corona Thing’ to go away so that I can see them. Ohhhh did I mention I’m in love with children? ♥️ 😍 Lan is so grown now and even talks. I do get pictures of him from time to time but my heart needs one of his big hugs.

Because we were not allowed to move for a long time (#stayhome #staysafe), I decided to engage myself in making pillows and other stuff. I was also trying to plant vegetables and flowers around the grounds. Sometimes I would go swimming or hike around, and also read my Bible.

Even when we couldn’t visit Kabale Town to shop, we still had our Rutinda nearby here, an open market 🥬 and a trading center on the lake. You will find almost every basic thing that you ever need there, with bars, shops, salons, clinics, bank agents, etc.

The market time on Mondays and Fridays is when most of the local people would get together, sell stuff and engage in drinking obushera. That is our local brew 🍺, meant to be shared, so you find that 5 or 10 people drink from one giant cup. We are now thankfully back to that kind of life, but for months there was pretty much NOTHING. Everybody was at home; no friends to hang out, and I was stuck with my two coworkers. Sometimes it got really boring.

In the second half of 2020 some customers came 😎, but not for long. And that meant that I didn’t have that much to do. 🥺

How My Days Go

This is my routine: I wake up in the morning, shower (note: the bathrooms are 5-10 meters outside of my house — it’s an ‘open air enclosed shower’ beside the stairs, under the moon, stars, trees and the magnificent blue skies). Afterwards I dress up, then go down (this area is hilly) to the canteen and kitchen which is just some meters away from the lake and where I literally do everything. 🍔 The kitchen is one of my favorite places, so I painted it this year, with (almost) all of the the colors I could think of….hahahaha… it’s very colorful and I like it.

I normally begin by doing my report, that is if I have any reports to do that particular day. I rarely eat breakfast. Then I start making my pillows by tearing the stuffing from the mattresses. It’s really hard because, I use my hands to do all that. It gets a little bit painful but, it’s fun since it keeps me occupied. At least I have something to do every morning. So far I have made 30 pillows, both big and small, and there are more to come. That’s really how my day goes.

In as much as I like to do active stuff, sometimes it feels a bit lonely … and lately I have been having trouble sleeping. I’m so exhausted and I don’t know why I can’t sleep… I have tried during the day and the night but failed. The only time sleep starts to come is around 6:00 in the morning. I doze off for like one to two hours if something or someone doesn’t wake me up. Birds and rain can be loud here at the lake! And once I’m awakened, I can’t find my self going back to sleep 😎 and I hate it. To fight that, I am trying to follow what I read on uncle Google 🤓: waking up at the same time and sleeping at the same time is helpful.

Reap What You Sow

I think that’s pretty much what has been happening with me, #Brenda 🤭.

The most “exciting” part of 2020 was one night when one of my coworker’s girlfriend showed up and said she was pregnant and wouldn’t go home until he married her…. hahahahhaha… marriage!… 😜 Our man got so disoriented! I wasn’t entirely sure how I could help him, so I asked him to take the girl to his home and also tell his parents about what was happening. Little did I know that he had already made plans with the girl and had met her parents, so he brought her to Edirisa to spend time!

Lake Bunyonyi is very romantic. They are like busy bees and have now married! 🤭 Hopefully something good will come out of this, probably a bouncing baby boy or girl 😍.

I mentioned earlier how I used to do some gardening. Like the nearby farmers, I planted beans, cabbages, some lettuce and sweet potatoes. I took good care of them and the rain was friendly. All these vegetables are actually ready for harvesting now. We will be starting to eat beans next month, and have already enjoyed the sweet potatoes. The cabbages are almost ready and we are starting to eat them very soon.

Aside from all that, there’s hope that things are coming back to normal. The roads are open, the hotels are operating again and we are trying to promote domestic tourism as #GHLocalExperiences. But it’s not going that well….. 😏 I mean it’s all about trying new stuff, and currently my boss and I and the team have come up with new activities mostly to attract Ugandan guests.

We’re getting ready for the festive season 🎄 and I don’t know how it is going to be. I may spend it alone or with clients, but still it’s not going to be the same. 😟 It’s sad I won’t be with my family or with any friends … and even my boss won’t be around. So yeah, it may not be a very happy Christmas for me. … But if you come join me, that will very much change! ☺️

text: Brenda Katusiime; photo: Brenda Katusiime, Nadege Plante, Miha Logar, Arthur Musinguzi, Pablo Paul Ryckaert, Speedo Byomugabe