African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

English Mustard

We each have that seminal moment when we suddenly realize we know everything there is to know. I've been there myself, what with my advanced age and the attendant accumulation of experiences. Well in all honesty, I have been there several times. As sure as day follows night, as soon as we reach that nirvana of complete knowledge of all things, we will have an English mustard experience...

It is not unusual to find black pudding on the breakfast table in English hotels. This is a savory concoction of parts that do not quite achieve the level of "meat," masquerading as a sausage. And by savory, I mean "Yecch!" I happened to express this opinion with colleagues I was working with in Rochdale, England during one of my visits there and discovered that they did not share my lack of enthusiasm for this tasty, nutritional product ("Yecch!"). In the ensuing discussion it was revealed I had not used mustard; the obvious conclusion was that I could not lay claim to having had a proper black pudding experience. They would fix that.

At dinner, I ordered the black pudding appetizer, a specialty of the restaurant. It was served on a plate accompanied by a pot of yellow mustard, looking for all the world like the stuff you squeeze out of a plastic bottle onto your hot dog. I put a generous amount on the "sausage" and took a bite - "Yowww...!! -- Yech!"

A couple of things became crystal clear at that moment. First, in England, the word "mustard" is short for "fortified wasabi." I did not know that. And, with the possible exception of the numbing effect of searing taste buds, it improves the black pudding experience by exactly zero percent.

It is actually nice to know that you do not know everything because learning something new is, in the end, a satisfying experience. And, since I do not, in fact, know everything, one that I get to enjoy quite often. Like this example...

You would find Rotary International in the long list of things I knew little or nothing about. Nonetheless, In 2011 I was invited to present our work with schools in Uganda at a meeting of a local club: Rotary After Hours. Interest expressed then has turned into a plan for the group to get involved with a club in Uganda for the benefit of primary schools in the eastern part of the country. I was back at the club's meeting about a week ago as the project is starting to get some real momentum.

At the Rotary Meeting in October

Getting to know more about Rotary in general and this club in particular was another of those "English mustard" things. I might have thought I knew what it was all about, but once I got involved by talking about the schools and opportunities for helping, I had a real ah-ha experience. A club meeting is an impressive gathering of people with energy and enthusiasm, committed to serving others and taking seriously the Four-Way Test:

Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Is that good or what?

You can be sure I am thrilled that the club has chosen work with the primary schools in eastern Uganda as an international project. But whether it is this project or some other avenue of service, I would still be impressed with this group that I did not know much about. Until that jar of mustard got opened...

You can find information about the Uganda project and a December fundraiser here -- OneUgly5k

Check it out. Sign up for the run. And start looking through your sweaters!