This is the Otim Family of Gulu, Uganda, who reside in a village across the road from St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor. The matriarch, Grace Otim sits to my far right, and is holding the apple of her eye, her grandson Andrew, who is mostly deaf and mute and has limited use of his legs and arms. He smiles with a heartwarming grin and very big eyes when you say “Andrew, Andrew” to him as Lucy was doing before this picture was taken.
Lucy is her niece and the young lady to my left, who is my neighbor, literally living in a hut next to mine about 10 steps away. She is my hired cook, guide, and mentor to everything Ugandan. We were on the way to the local market to buy vegetables, meat, tea, cooking oil, and the favored okra, of which is the heart of the story. We stopped by to visit Grace and her father, Mr. Mariana Lucky, who is 97 years young. Mariana is like many old men the world around who enjoys sitting on his porch drinking tea and sharing the time with his family and his new friend, me. I was greeted with a warm smile, a handshake, and a hearty ‘Welcome’ for visiting. Seems most Ugandans enjoy a proper greeting and a smile when we meet and are very, very open and hospitable.
Grace, a spring chicken at 68 years young, or so she thinks, not certain of her actual age, is an expert on cooking okra. Those of us from Louisiana now that gumbo is not gumbo without okra. Seems Uganda grows okra by the tons as well as Kenya, but Kenya exports and Uganda does not. We chatted on how to cook okra, its wonderful taste and how it adds to a meal, no matter what meal, if you cook it slow at low heat in proper oils. I love her!!!
We met Lucy’s sister, a brother, and many family friends on our walk to the main road to catch a boda boda ride to the Gulu Market. Like said, it is a village of Otims. One young man, Godfrey, came by to visit Lucy that same morning and we ran into him on the way back from the market. Lucy considers him a brother, a friend, and someone who will come to her aide in the middle of the night no matter what.
On a sad note, Grace Otim’s father was murdered by Idi Amin during the conflict between Uganda and Tanzania, which left her as an orphan in her teen years. She was a midwife for many years and is now not working to care for her father and Andrew. She was extremely polite and welcoming to me and sat me down and just started telling me everything she could about herself and her family and I even had the honor of signing my name to her guest book.
I felt honored to meet the Otim family and am lucky to have Lucy as my neighbor.