Showing posts from March, 2009

Hangin' on the Corner Slangin' Cane...

[Luke, Monday afternoon]

We have now arrived in Lira, just got some lunch. This is like first-first impression, seriously we've been here for less than an hour. We're waiting for a driver to take us to where we will be staying. Could be five minutes, more likely to be five hours. We have no way to know. It was a long hard drive, but we made it. So far nothing too shocking, very rural. Lots of jungle, lots of mudhuts, lots of monkeys. The landscape on the way here was very beautiful. We crossed the Nile, which was pretty cool. We would post pictures, but the word is if the soldiers on the bridge see a camera they stop you and you have to pay your way out. I guess, cameras must be pretty dangerous. After we crossed the Nile, things started getting progressively less and less beautiful. Now we're in Lira, and it hasn't bucked the trend. So anyway we go to our temporary home for the next couple days in the house of this NGO here in Lira. Hopefully we make a good enough impr…

The Economics of Microfinance

Who needs a library?

Uganda 1, Me 0

[Luke, Thursday afternoon]

Last night I had the single most terrifying food experience of my life. It took a little bit, but I have now been bested by the local food. I saw that my opponent was more powerful than I, and I laid my sword down and supplicated in defeat.

Our friend from the business school, Mr. Rodney, said he wanted to take us out to dinner for a special Ugandan treat, that probably should have been a red flag. So far all the Ugandan food has been pretty good, so I was ready for whatever he had to throw at me. He said it was called molokoni** and the women in the room looked up at us and tittered, that probably should have been a red flag. He then described it in English, which included extensive pointing at our feet. Ro-digga speaks better English than I do, so that definitely should have been a red flag. Whatever though- we're brave, we're open minded.

He picks us up around 8 or something and takes us to Wandegare Wondegeya (think Spanish, juan-de-guerr), which is…


We've been here in Kampala now for about a week. By now you've heard all about our various successes (and less about our failures, natch) meeting with people and getting our little fledgling organization off the ground. That whole aspect of the trip is going reasonably well.
But there's a completely different process also happening (and I can only speak for myself here). The one where I go from being totally overwhelmed, shocked at the things I see and just being generally at a loss to process life here. To be honest, when we landed, I really wasn't sure how I was going to survive six months here. Not survive, really, but settle in and enjoy the time here. It was just too hectic, too different. Too damn hot.
(some. other. business.)
(going. on. here.)
But here I am a week later, and things seem relatively normal. Still very unsettled, given that we haven't gotten to Lira yet and are living in a hostel, but I don't have that overwhelmed feeling of "what the he…

It rained today, and for once I was glad.

Everything's good around here. We're at the business school just kickin' it. Pat's doing some work revising our project proposal, so that means I'm doing nothing. As per usual. We've been meeting with execs from microfinance institutions in Kampala all week, which is absolutely awesome, We managed to get linked up with someone who is as entrenched in this stuff as you can be and is interested in working with us on a research paper using data from project. The stars really aligned for us on this one.

So the meetings have been an interesting thing. We are ALWAYS, no matter where, the worst dressed people in the room. By a wide margin, coat and tie vs flipflops. It was pretty uncomfortable at first, but we're getting over it. I guess people realize that 1) We're here to do field work out in the sticks up north and 2) our little white bodies aren't built for this climate.

So anyway, I am for the first time seeing how one could enjoy working in the greater…

We're gonna need a bigger boda

[Luke, Tuesday afternoon]
I think I just figured out how to post via email from an ipod touch
but I'm not really sure how it works, so hopefully this is legit.
We've been jetting around town a lot lately, going to meetings and
such. It's going well.The best way to get from A to B in this city is by boda-boda, which is
a motorcycle taxi. The best way for one person to get around, that is.
When there's too people, like in our situation for example, it gets a
liiitle bit sketchy. Three grown-ass men on a 100cc bike that probably
hasn't seen the business end of a wrench in my lifetime, weaving in
and out of traffic. It's like disneyland. Except no safety features.

My job > Your job

So here we are, another day down. I can't speak for the big man Pat, but I'm having an absolute blast in Kampala. We have the best hosts a person could possibly ask for. Actually this whole trip (Boston and Italy included) has really been amazing in that I've had locals showing me the real scene. I have never really felt sketched out since I've been here, and I know that if anything were to go wrong we have one of the best problem solvers in the game in our corner from the business school.

So we're having lunch the other day with like a who's who of the business school in East Africa. It comes up that there's an event on Friday night, do we want to come? Ofcoursewedo, what is it? It was a beauty pageant. We went to an African beauty pageant. I can honestly say it was in the top few most coolest cultural experiences of my life. But it wasn't just any beauty pageant, it was to crown miss MUBS (that the name of the business school). I cannot even begin to i…

"Rebels in the north, Women in the bars, cars in the showrooms and money in the banks. Uganda has everything in its place and in abundance."

(Pretend this is Pat on Friday Morning)

It has been a surreal couple of days. I'm not sure what Luke has already posted, because the internet (it's a series of tubes, BTW) in these parts is a little skittish (as in, we have free wifi at the place where we're staying, but it's super slow and drops everything), but we landed Wednesday morning, and by Thursday night we were having drinks with a business school bigwig in the Kampala Casino with the rest of the big ballers. What??

Yeah, for serious. So in the course of meetings his "friends," we have tentative appointments with some serious folk. The well-connected, executive types (one of whom kindly supplied the title to this post). Most of them were probably just being friendly, but they all seemed to have varying degrees of relevance to microfinance, so we'll just see what develops. We did meet at least one legit microfinance exec last night, so we'll keep our fingers crossed on that one.
Superficial reac…

I don't know if you heard, but Africa is pretty hot

First day in Kampala is done. It was a little intense. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I don’t think it was this.

It’s not so much that I wasn’t ready for it, in a lot of ways I was surprised by how normal it seemed. From a safe distance that is. Out a car window, the stretch of villages really looked strikingly similar to the Domincan Republic. I was all ready to be Mr. Anthropologist and declare that we’re all just the same, really. But then we got into Kampala. Kampala was not just like the Dominican. It was soooo busy; just people people everywhere. That plus the omnipresent boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) (Note the proper use of the vocab) and the fact that they drive on the wrong side of the damn street, makes everything a bit more challenging.

We were met at the airport by our lovely tour guide. She is from Kampala and shows white folk like us how to survive in this country without paying $100 for an unmatched pair of socks. Plus she’s going to show us the “real” Kampala, se…

Ciao babee

And that about does it for Italy. I still can't believe we (read: Luke) got this side-trip to work. We've eaten some delicious treats, learned a LOT about fire and just generally gotten the five-star treatment. Tonight we finish off with some non-verbal observation training (meaning a behind the scenes look at the kitchen in a local restaurant).

(Just this little Villa where we've been staying)

Nathaniel has been just an excellent host Between the remedial science lessons (some of us only studied fluffy social sciences in college) and a window into the inner gossip of Tortona, he's kept us entertained at every moment. And take my word, this gossip is racy stuff.

But just like that, we're leaving. And this is where things get a little weird, folks. Among the helpful bits of advice we got from some of the field teams: bring a case of syringes. Hopefully we will write this one up as an abundance of caution, but if something happens and there aren't any clean syringes…


We are, at heart, still children of the Northwest.
(Blazer's Edge)

Oregon > Southern California

And we're back...

Venice was sorta cool, but overrun with tourists and generally not that sweet. And there's something I'd like to get off my chest right quick.

Venice, built on top of over a hundred islands, seems to emerge out of mystical fogs, drifting on quiet waters.Appearing just as it did long ago to traders and travelers on merchant ships approaching from distant lands, she still continues to enchant vacationers and honeymooners arriving by boat today. She speaks to the heart of lovers and dreamers, business tycoons and vendors, that nothing new can rival her ancient splendour, that her store of hidden treasures and mysteries can never be exhausted. The anticipation of new discoveries belongs to long-time residents and visitors alike as they motor or paddle out to her veiled silhouette on the sea.**At least that's the story. But look at the guys steering those boats. Know what they say?

They say …

How you say, this little bird? that makes the flowers? And says bzzzzz, bzzzzz?

:(Pat's mad photojournalism skills.)

We have finished our little tour of Italy and are back in Tortona now, approximately 850 stairs later. It was a great four days, lots of fun and saw some amazing sights. We spent the last two nights in Florence, which is an amazing city. All the churches and history were really something to take in. If nothing else, we put in a lot of miles of aimless wandering.

(The tower and dome are in the center of the photo)

We climbed to the top of the tower next to the Duomo Santa Maria, 415 steps. The view was great, all the clay roofs and foothills with the Alps in the distance. Really a great experience. That would have been enough to hold us on the great view/ lots of stairs front, but we got more this morning. I woke up this morning and said I was down to do anything that didn't require too much walking, so we decided we just go see the Duomo ( means church in Italian?) and call it good. We were trying to go into the main chapel to take a look arou…

I used to kinda hate Italian food

We have been in Italy for about a week now maybe, I'm not really sure. Not having a watch, calendar or job is making it hard to remember where and when I am, all the timezone changes don't help either. Think about that while you watch the clock at your desk waiting for your lunch break.

We have gotten set up in Tortona as our homebase. It's a great little town where everyone knows everyone else and their business. Our new friend Nathaniel is hosting us and being our tour guide introducing us to all his friends, which is just great. Incomparable as a way to learn the real culture. We've been eating great food and drinking great wine of course. All in all things are great.

We went down to Genova on the riviera on Saturday for dinner, about an hour drive south. We had dinner and drinks in a bar on the water, then walked around on the seashore for a good long while. It took me a long time to remember the last time I saw the ocean (thanksgiving in Santa Booboo) -does this not…

The Jump Off

Well, it's time. We're both all packed and ready to go, now we're just kinda hanging out at the house waiting for the signal. It feels like just another day to me, probably at some point here I'm going to completely flip out. Or maybe I'm just ice.

I averted my first small-major crisis. I called my bank to tell them I'd be in Africa so don't freak out if there are weird charges. Imagine my surprise when they then told me that my one and only piece of plastic was set to expire the next day because some visa holding house had been hacked. "So do you want to come by and pick up a new card at your convenience?" Probably that's not an option. My bank is local, local to another time zone. So thanks to some helpful people at the bank, my dear old dad, and the good people at FedEx; crisis averted. No big deal.

Next up on the menu is getting from Heathrow to Gatwick without completely screwing the whole thing up.

Titles are hard. Me in Boston Now?

The journey has officially begun. I'm in Boston and Pat is unemployed, so it's too late to back out even if we wanted to. Being that I'm going to Africa, I packed for Africa. Being that I'm in Boston in winter, its cold. Very cold. It's been a while since I've been someplace that gets cold like this when I haven't had a snowboard strapped to my feet. That's one thing you can say for Oregon. It's cool though that I'm going to go through such climate extremes within a month, and if you factor in the monsoon rains in Oregon the last week, that's another one. I imagine there will be nights where I'm too hot to sleep and surrounded by bugs wanting to eat my blood when I would give anything for a handful of this snow and ice.

Thanks to everybody who came out to see me off or sent me their wishes the last few nights. You all mean the world to me, and it was the best sendoff I could ask for. My night in Portland particularly, was everything a per…