It was a typical domestic scene, about five weeks ago when my husband got home from work I asked if he had had a nice day. He had. I waited until the children were all in bed and I was sure that he was relaxed and had eaten something before I said anything. As casually as I could manage I mentioned that I had been invited to fly out to Uganda to meet Lulu Sturdy and I would be able to see how Vanilla is harvested.
I waited with baited breath expecting him to say no. He didn’t. Instead he paused and then asked me lots of other questions, such as what work would I get from it, where would I stay and how long I would want to go for. Lulu Sturdy is the MD of of Ndali Vanilla, and for those of you who have bought my recipe book Prepped you will know that I have a whole chapter on vanilla in my recipe book.
It was in 2010 and I’d been buying Ndail Vanilla for quite some time from Waitrose and when I needed some to photograph and to develop the recipes I contacted Ndail and kindly Lulu sent me some beautiful pods to use. We’ve been chatting and keeping in touch ever since.
So here I am typing up my blog post before I head out to Fort Portal in West Uganda to harvest Vanilla near the Congolese border. I feel tingles across my arms as I type.
My children are still quite young and when my oldest daughter (age nine) googled Uganda last week and she got pretty upset. There is no hiding the fact that things have been difficult, and there is no escaping history. There was no point in trying pretend the things she had read were not true. I sat down with her and explained that we can’t change the past but we can help make history and I have assured the kids and my husband that I will be fine. We’ve concentrated on getting books and educational bits and pieces for me to take with me for the children there.
I hope my children will understand that we live in an imperfect world. I need them to live life and accept that we are part of one world. I explained that we mustn’t spend our lives being afraid. Life is an adventure, and I won’t pretend that I am not nervous. I am, but from all that I have read things have changed. I understand that there is a long way to go. I have never been to Africa and the last time I traveled alone was in 2000. But I am oh so excited. I can’t wait to see how fairtrade has made a real difference in peoples lives. We are all able in our own way to make a difference in the world. Even buying a fairtrade vanilla pod to make our cupcakes with makes a difference ... and I believe in making our own history.
Of course I am taking my recording equipment with me and I shall be using it to get some recordings for the BBC .. there is more to come on this subject, but I’ll share more news when I get back. In the mean time I must finish packing and double check I have all that I need.