Showing posts from 2009

Matooke Christmas

(Not our tree, but you get the idea)

Christmas is now past and New Year’s is right around the corner. When I decided to stay in Uganda for Christmas I knew that it would be nothing if not memorable. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but a wanted to take the chance to experience as close as I could to a traditional Ugandan Christmas. I don’t know whether I got that or not, but it was definitely a Christmas I’ll remember for a long time.

The lead up to Christmas I covered in the last couple posts, the important part is basically that the week leading up to Christmas was awesome and the week before that was pretty awful. I woke up on the 23rd to an email in my inbox from my Dad, which is always great. He was letting me know that I got a little visit from Santa (luckily my Pops had my forwarding address), and my family decided to all chip in and finance me to screw around in Africa for a few more months. How could the day get any better? Candy, that’s how. An hour or so later my roommates c…

My life such as it is

It's been a busy couple weeks with very little time around the ol' computer, so I've kind of continued the downward spiral on blogging. Beyond simply being busy, I have noticed that lately my mental capacities seem to be in decline, and I seem to spend a disproportionate amount of my time staring at walls. I had heard that this is normal (not the wall staring but the mental decline), considering this is the first time I've spent a full year away from structured learning since I learned to count. My experience may be a bit exacerbated by the fact that at the same time I have been forced to go cold turkey on a pretty crippling case of Internet Inspired ADD. When I arrived here, it took the epitome of effort to do only 2 or 3 things at once. Thankfully, with a lot of dedicated noneffort and hard nonwork, I made it to the other side.

I can now comfortably say that I could hold my own with the best of them in a do-nothing contest. Sit in the shade and eat sweet fruits? Done.…

Kampala at its Best and Rafting the Nile

The last week has been nice and busy and really fun, one of the best I've had here. My friend from college Erin has been doing PeaceCorps in Kenya for the last year or so and came to visit last week. Before this organization was anything, it was me and Erin and a few others sitting around in coffee shops and talking about microfinance, so it was cool to have her here to see what she contributed to creating. We then went to Kampala for a meeting with the business school to talk about getting interns, which was very successful and promising. It was a good meeting, one of the great (though somewhat rare) instances where I feel like a real adult who is actually accomplishing something of note and not just eating mangoes in the shade. We made our pitch, they seemed to buy into it, everyone was happy.

Since we had the whole team together in Kampala for the first time, I took them for a night out in Kampala to meet The Doctor. We are lucky any time we are fortunate enough to get some of h…

The nice thing about San Francisco...

is that it's pretty close to Santa Barbara.

And Santa Barbara, my friends, is very nice. Especially when my former home is getting buried in snow.

(A few years old, but you get the idea)

Enjoy the winter, suckers. I'm gonna go fly a kite with my big bro.

This whole gay thing

I've been getting all kinds of articles emailed to me about the anti-gay bill Uganda is talking about. Obviously it's extreme and obviously I think it's wrong. I'm not going to make some political statement, because I think it's kind of a trite argument to make- We're good and right, they're wrong and backwards I think is the basic premise. Maybe Pat will write about it since he needs something other than watching the Pacific Northwest rain to fill his time, and talking politics is probably more up his alley anyway. Anyway, to kind of understand where this thing is coming from you have to understand that society as a whole takes a different stance on homosexuality. The following is taken from the 3rd most read daily newspaper in Uganda, the Red Pepper:

"We have Homos in Cabinet"
-Top Bumshafter Ssebagala Reveals Who Plays Side B

The homos in Uganda have gone on rampage and are now making daring claims that some of their members are cabinet ministers.…

African time is there

I am beginning to worry about my employability when I get back home. It's possible that I may have picked up some habits that won't transfer well to the corporate world. A little window into my life these days:

My phone clock is the only watch I own. The other night one of my roommates picked up my phone to check the time. He was a little perturbed to find that apparently my watch is 45 minutes slow. "How do you function and do things on time," he asked. I guess I just hadn't noticed.

Apparently he thought this issue warranted further consideration because the next morning we had the following conversation:

Brad: "Remember a few days ago when we both set our alarms for like 5am for that basketball game, but I ended up having to wake you up?"
Me: "Yea, I set my alarm for the same time as yours but it didn't go off for some reason..."
Brad: "That's because your clock is 45 minutes slow you idiot."
Me: " I don't know, I guess…

Home again, home again

I always thought this might be true, but it's a tough statement to back up.

(The Sisters, as seen from Mt. Bachelor)

And yet, having had the good fortune of being able to travel a bit in my young life, I'm starting to get more and more confident in my suspicions.

(The Woods, outside my Parents' Front Door)

So I'm just gonna go right out there and say it.

(Some certain Lake, in some certain Crater)

If you wanted to make a list of the best places in the world, Oregon has to be near the top. Call me a homer if you want to, but it's true.

(The Coast, south of Lincoln City)

Luke, I'm not telling you to hurry back. Stay as long as you can, I'll take good care of your car while you're gone. But when you do decide it's time to come back, and you're sitting in the airport reminiscing about all the great times you had in Africa, barGAINing, handling human waste and eating any little creature that crawls within your grasp, just remember this:

(20% chance of ra…

Malaria Dreams, Come to Life

Why yes, that is a 40-foot statue of Babe the Blue Ox. I'm sorry if you've been driving for hours and thought that you might be having a malaria-flashback hallucination, but that's how we get the tourists to stop.

(Notice the little boy appreciating Babe's "virility")

Anyhoo, now that we've got you here, wouldn't you like to buy some Authentic Redwood Carvings(c), made from local, sustainably-harvested cedar? No? You're sure? Well you go ahead and have yourself a nice day. Drive safe now.

(Already can't decide if the Ox was real, or was a result of all the acid he took in the 60s)

What a strange country.

That's Dooty Baby

We did our second big trash cleanup in town on Saturday. It was pretty awesome really. It got off to a rocky start, and looked like the 10 of us might be cleaning up trash on our own. By like 9am we were sitting in the shade in the center of town plotting our excuses to ditch out. I've gotten pretty extreme double takes before, but the 10 of us sitting in the shade of the clock tower at the town center in matching t-shirts got something on a different level entirely. I think the rough equivalent at home would be if you saw a fleet of porpoises in matching funny hats juggling flaming chainsaws in Times Square. It might attract a little crowd.

At the 11th hour, my bulletproof excuse proved unnecessary, Brad called with good news. He was at CRO- Child Restoration Outreach, the organization for streetkids. He says he wrangled some manpower, so we should head over there. Manpower wasn't quite the right term I guess, probably kidpower would have been better. I walked into the compou…

Karamojourney- part 2

So after the buildup I pretty much was ready for anything when I got to Karomoja. It's probably the only time where a monkey riding an elephant wouldn't have caused me to significantly reassess my situation.

We stayed two nights in Moroto, the major "town" in the region. It had the feeling of being basically the last outcropping of civilization on the edge of the earth. The only cars were military or NGO, and all looked like they could survive a bomb blast- to be accurate, most looked like they just had survived a bomb blast. It was the kind of place that makes you realize what SUV's were invented for, since the main road into town had a mile or two long stretch of "bumps" easily the size of volkswagons.

On the way up there, we arranged for a friend of a friend of a friend to meet us at the buspark. It was a complete shot in the dark affair, we had no idea if this person was going to rob us, take us to his own or just flat our not exist. It was pretty muc…

Basin and Range

For all you non-geologists out there, that means that crossing Nevada is a whole lot of boring flat stretches, maybe 20-30 miles wide, broken up by some pretty steep hills. On the whole, that is less boring than just the flat (here's looking at you kansas), but possibly more annoying.

And here's the reason why. Not only did the mountains severely impact my ability to learn about the horrors of Obamacare ("git your guvment paws off my medicare." confusing, I know. That's why I wanted to listen), but I guess that Thursday also happened to be the trip to the last big rodeo in the sky for all the cows in Eastern Nevada.

I figured this out, based on three clues and my excellent skills of deduction:

(1) There was a mysterious wet, brown streak down the right hand side of my lane, even though I was driving through a desert.

(2) When we went through the mountains, the massive trucks slowed to maybe 20 mph, much slower than would have been necessary for most cargo.

(3) Wh…

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all

How big is our thanksgiving turkey?

Big enough to ride.

Karamojourney up North

This was definitely a weekend to remember. I heard some crazy mind blowing stories, I reevaluated my perspective on life a little bit, and I spent seven hours staring out the window of a bus debating whether to quit my job. Needless to say, I did more than just sit by the pool and drink margaritas. It was basically a “go to the hardest, scariest place you can think of” type weekend.

Together with two of my roommates I trekked up to Karamoja, a region in rural northeast Uganda. Talk to any Ugandan and they’ll give you their assessment of Karamoja, generally it falls under the category of super unsafe and crazy to even think about going up there. On the other hand, almost no one has been up there, and those who have say that it gets a bad rap. Upon leaving I assumed it would be something in between, particularly since they said something similar (though much less emphatically) about Lira. A few tidbits, mostly if not exclusively hearsay, to get to know to get a basic idea of where our he…

Arches National Park

I think it's official, the coldest night of the trip was in Arches. Despite waking up to a massive blizzard in Colorado, somehow I was much colder here. I think it was related to my choice of campsite. I had the option of "protected site" or "spectacular view;" I went for the latter. I'm pretty sure the ground was frozen beneath my tent, which would explain the cold, I guess.

Other than that, Arches was pretty nice. Although I have to say, I'm not sure how I feel about being able to tour parks by motorized wheelchair. It's nice that a lot of people can visit the parks, I guess, but it isn't very rugged. And it means that a night of camping will run you $30. That is just outrageous, if you ask me.

Pretty cool scenery though. Pretty cool, indeed.

Kansas (empty silence)

Really not too much to say about Kansas, so I'll let someone else handle it:
The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.

Extra credit if you can ID the passage without Google.

My Punk Ass Landlord

How about this for a strange little story that kind of changes my perspective on everything:

First the backstory: I don't like my landlord, he's kind of a punkass. Everyone hates their landlord and thinks theirs is the worst ever, but this one is on another level from home. He is allegedly the richest man in the district (vaugely like a state), and allegedly gets personal phone calls from the president. He is very fat, in a country where being fat is a major statement of wealth. Everytime I see him he tries to renegotiate the terms and fanangle us out of more money, contract be damned. The last time I paid rent he said he was tired of dealing with us and that he'd just evict us that night unless I paid him more money on top (I didn't). During the months it took to get him to sign the contract and my organization to clear the funds to pay the rent, he would just randomly show up at our house unannouced at like 7 am ready to do business and demanding money. I had thought…

Bourbon, Tent, Snow

Given Luke's latest post, I thought it would be fun to contrast his camping experience with mine last night. Yesterday I finally left the plains behind, and crossed into the Rockies. First stop was Great Sand Dunes National Park, which for those who don't know, consists of an expanse of sand dunes, tucked away against the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado. Pretty striking landscape, given that I'm used to seeing dunes on the Oregon Coast.

(Not much sign of ocean around here though)

I got here in the early afternoon, wandered around on the dunes for a bit, and couldn't help but notice some ominous looking clouds on the horizon. Sure enough, I found out that there might be some snow headed my way overnight. Nothing too serious though, or at least that was the story. I took a big nip of an Extra Special Super Select Bourbon I picked up in Kentucky to give me strength for what would inevitably be a cold, windy night at around 8,000 ft, and tucked myself in to b…

Waragi, tent, stars

(What a view, huh?)

We went for a quick work/camping trip last night, Africa style. We cruised to Tororo, the next town over to talk to an organization doing basically the same thing as us. It was kind of a uniquely African thing all around, to start with we drove 2 hours to pop in at their office because despite two weeks of looking we couldn't find any way to get in contact with them. No phone number, no website, nothing.

We hopped in a matatu and set off. A little cramped, a little slow, but business as usual. After a brief stint of wandering around lost in an unknown town, we found our bearings and strolled into the office. "Hi! Remember us? We're white, can we have a minute of your time?" Done and done.

We had a nice little meeting in the morning, and set an appointment next week to trek out into the sticks in the village and visit a bunch of their projects and clients. We had an afternoon to kill, so we decided to check out Tororo Rock, a volcanic formation loomin…

Redneck Fish Fry

If those words don't get you just a little bit excited, then you and I have have very different priorities in this life. Picture the scene. I pulled into a campsite in western Kentucky as the sun was going down, and see a few RVs huddled together. In the middle was a circle of rednecks, complete with camouflage hunting jackets, bud heavies in koozies and a seriously large campfire. As I pitched my tent, listening to the guttural, hacking hoohaw laughter, I started to wonder if I hadn't made a mistake.

Then one of the guys came over. He wanted to invite me to sit around the campfire once I finished setting up camp. "Come and be neighborly," he said with a laugh, "if'n you don't mind a bunch 'er fellers settin' aroun' and gittin' lit."

Cue one of the more entertaining nights in a while, and definitely the most culturally foreign experience I've had since getting back from Africa. It started innocently enough, just beer and chatter, a…

Another day in the Village

As I think I mentioned, we went back to Veronica's village the other day. Since I no longer have a camera of my own (thanks Kenya), here are a few pictures my roommate Joel took. His blog is The White Nile, and its on the Our Peeps list on the far right. Give his blog a look, it's pretty hilarious.
Not a lot to say, I think the pictures speak for themselves in this instance.

Look at me, I am Good! (Part 2)

In the past few months several new people have joined the team living in the house here in Mbale. Among them, Joel and Brad really hit the ground running. Before they arrived, I had spent months talking about how we should organize a neighborhood trash pickup. Within a week, they had taken on the project and developed a far reaching framework bringing in the local government and community groups for a monthly neighborhood trash cleanup.

They worked through countless ludicrus frustrations, for example one meeting with the Mbale Industrial Division Municipal Council: They waited an hour before a single councilman showed up. After an hour and a half of waiting, they finally managed to get the meeting underway. Ten minutes later the group had reached a consensus: another planning meeting with the same group of people in 3 weeks- the day of the proposed trash cleanup they were meeting to plan. It took them weeks of no-show meetings and gallons of waragi, but eventually they got the project …

Two Things:

1. I like listening to country music when I'm driving. Without even considering the just awful alternative on the radio (except for you, NPR, and your cousin, the local-affiliate music show), Country and/or Western is storytelling music and, because of that, it helps to pass the time. Plus, driving along these back roads, slapping the steering wheel and singing along about beer drinking, sexy tractors and wrong-doing women, it just feels right (my mustache is coming in quite nicely, by the way. I'll fit in in no time).

(near London, KY)

2. On a related note, I had figured that my favorite little country sweetheart came out with a new album while I was in Africa, because of all that trouble with Kanye. That's about all I knew though. Then the other day, while I'm driving through Coal Country, West Virginia, home of all your favorite mountaintop-removing, stream-poisoning, State-Supreme-Court-Seat-Buying coal executives, this song comes on. The thing is, even though it was…

Day of Rest

Russellville, KY- I decided yesterday was as good a day as any to lay off the driving for a bit, and explore. I woke up in the Daniel Boone National Forest, whipped up a delicious breakfast of instant oatmeal and bananas, then went for a nice little hike. All in all, not a bad way to start the day.

(Just missed me...)

Then I drove to various streams, waterfalls, natural arches and lookouts within a thirty mile radius of where I slept. All told, maybe one hour of driving time. A nice little break.

And because I got to my campsite early enough, I had time to gather wood for my first campfire of the trip. Nature's TV, as some grizzly through-hiker on the Long Trail once told me, laughing as I tried not to breath through my nose. He's right though, it does pass the time.

(Look Ma, no paper)

Since I just crossed into the Central Time Zone and gained an hour, I'm rewarding myself by sitting on a couch, charging my various electronic devices and enjoying some speedy, free wireless at …