Monica’s first claim to fame when she joined Elephante was her resemblance to Ronald. He liked to come up to the register, stand next to her, and ask customers if they noticed anything recognizable in her appearance. That sort of friendly teasing, common to brothers and sisters everywhere, is a hallmark of their relationship and characteristically, sometimes turned a bit more dramatic.
When she was about 17 years old, her mother asked her to cut some avocado for the family’s lunch before she went out to a party. Looking around, she noticed that none of them were very busy, judged that they were just as capable, and decided not to do it. She ended up grounded and subsequently missed the party. “I’ve always loved doing the opposite of what my mother would say,” she says cheekily. Her rebellious streak grew into a bubble that finally popped four years ago when her family moved back to Gulu from Kasese.
It took the entirety of the last four years to get used to her new life in Gulu. Making friends was hard, and as a re-transplanted Acholi, she felt shame for not knowing the language as well as other Acholis expected her to, since it’s technically her mother tongue. “Acholis are good people,” she says, “but some tend to view themselves - and their totem of the elephant - as superior to other tribes in Uganda.” From her time in Kasese, Monica was already cautious to embrace any sort of tribal pride. “There is a tribe around Kasese who are viewed as inferior by everybody else, and over time, they’ve even started to believe it about themselves,” she shares with some sadness. Witnessing their mistreatment led her to believe in the equality of all Ugandans, which augments her overall love for her country. “Uganda is so beautiful that tourists come here all the time to see it,” she brags. “We have such a large variety of beautiful physical features, like the Rwenzori Mountains I grew up next to.”
In the future, Monica wants to own a pastry shop, a deeply entrenched family dream and passion passed on to her by her father. “He would wake us children up in the middle of the night,” she recalls, “to joke about learning to make cakes, asking, ‘what if he were to die tomorrow?!’” Baking is as much a part of her identity as anything else, and her mind seems fixed on making it a reality.