Thursday, April 30, 2009

avn a gr8t tym her n mbale

Since its the end of the month and all the banks are super busy, our most recent adventure has been trying to find a house here in Mbale. It's been an interesting experience, particularly given that both of us have been having tons of fun dealing with our old landlords in the States.

Also, as it turns out, asking for an already furnished house is about the craziest thing people have ever heard of. Lesson learned. Does that mean we need to buy a fridge, stove and beds? Maybe. Does that mean we should just try to find a few apartments instead? Possibly. Are we completely fumbling around in the dark on this? Absolutely. Is that any different from what we normally do? Nope.

Otherwise, I just wanted to post a quick visual comparison between Mbale and Lira:


(Mbale: Note the charming clock tower...)

(The mountain that keeps us cool)



(Lira is equally charming, in its own way)


(But seriously hot and dry)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Therapist's Chair II: Hey Mithter

So to keep this thing alive, here is my contribution to the dream interpretation thing. Don't be shy in those comments; it makes us feel a little less on the dark side of the moon (I know more than just our family reads this).

So I'm driving and I pull into the drivethru at like a McDonalds or something, weird enough as I never eat that kind of food. I'm wearing a plain red tee shirt, which will become significant later. Like most McDonalds, it has the three windows. I go past the first window to the second one, and there is a tow headed young Dennis the Menace (actually more like Problem Child) type kid with a pronounced lisp working the window.
He says: "Hey mithter, that'll be thirteen fifty." As I look to down the wad of Ugandan shillings in my hand, he says "Hey Mithter, that'll be one thouthand dollarth."

I'm like "no way, you said it was only $13.50. I'm not paying 1000" And he says: "Thirteen fifty for the food, one thouthand for copywrite infringement." I look at him confused and in explanation he points to his shirt, also a plain red tee. Then I woke up.

Best interpretation as judged by our expert panel receives: one genuine bootleg Barack Obama watch, lightly worn.

Pointed shout out to all my psych majors: if that piece of paper on your wall means anything, you should be able to do better than Pat's Country Club College friends.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mbugs in our computer

We're back in action after another too long pause, we did not in fact get eaten by lions. We're trying our hardest to post on some sort of regular-ish basis, but have had a few difficulties. For one thing our computer is struggling. We learned the hard way that indiscriminately sticking your flash drive in any old computer gives you the sickness. Duh. It could be that. More likely though, it could be related to the fact that we opened the cd drive to watch a movie and found it full of... you guessed it- ANTS! I don't know why they thought that would be a good place to set up shop, maybe it looked like home? Either way, the old girl's not doing so hot.

(I don't use your house to type term papers, jerk)

We're getting reestablished in our new home Mbale, and I couldn't be happier. I grew to be very fond of Lira, but it was just a hard-livin kind of place. Mbale is to Lira as San Francisco is to Bakersfield- not a bad place by any stretch, just kind of harder and not as sweet. Mbale is much cooler, as in not hot, because its at the base of a looming Lord of the Rings type mountain. We are back on the flipflop business meeting circuit work retracing our steps in a new town, doing a 2.0 kind of deal.

We are going to post more, I swear. We're good though. Loving life, loving being in a city with >1 international food options.

Therapist's Chair - Inaugural edition

We are starting up a fun new feature here, mostly because the dreams that we have been having are so weird and funny that it would be a shame to forget them. But we are also thinking that with all the budding psychologists out there, it would be a fun way to get some feedback from anyone reading the blog that isn't our parents and extended family (not that we don't love hearing from the fam).

We will periodically be posting dreams that are especially noteworthy and fun, and encourage/insist/demand that people put their best psychological interpretations in the comments. In case anyone missed the earlier posts, one of the exciting side effects of the anti-malarials we are taking is vivid, lsd-like dreams. The best explanation will be selected by our resident psychologist after consulting our panel of experts.

The winner will receive any number of exciting prizes, including: one (1) rapid malaria test kit, hand-delivered in September; one rolex (2 fried eggs wrapped in chipati) sent via standard mail; one bootleg chinese DVD of Rob Schneider vs. Anthony Hopkins (40 movies! 0 intellectual property laws! Yay!). But you can't win unless you enter. So just do it. Humor us.

* * * * *

Last night I dreamt that I was playing baseball at Oak Hill, the small private school that I went to for middle and high school. Pretty much a baseball diamond like any other, but with me playing third. Of course, I never played much baseball as a kid, due to an uncanny ability to get hit in the face with the ball, but whatever. It's just a dream.

But there I am, glove in hand, ready to play. I look over to the shortstop to say something hepful like "here we go, now" or "two outs, cmon." And I notice something odd. The shortstop is a certain basketball player. A certain famous basketball player. A certain Sidney Dean.

("You either smoke or you get smoked. And you got smoked")

OK. So that in itself would be weird, but fine. We talk a bit, mostly trash about the relative shortcomings of our respective races and how that might impact the ability to play baseball. A lot like the movie. It's funny, without going into too much detail because I can't remember any. And naturally, the same guy is playing all the other positions for our team. So this is getting more weird by the minute.

Then I look to the plate. And who should be coming up to bat, but another famous cinematic baseball player. I'll give you a clue: He's very fast, a little flashy and can't hit to save his life, but ultimately a good guy.


Yup, Wesley Snipes again. Willie Mays Hays vs. me and an army of Sidney Deans. After some more trash-talking from all parties, Willie hits a dinger into center field. He's rounding second as the throw comes in and gets caught in a run-down between third (me) and home (him). After a lot of fakes, throws back and forth and general chaos, Willie just beats the throw home, sliding under the glove and scoring the game winning run.

(SAFE!)

Me, Wes and Wes, vs. Wes. What could it all mean?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Farewell Lira Town

A funny thing happened this week. We got back from Mbale, moved out into a great house with a mango tree and a big family, and generally found our place here in Lira. Seriously. We have been living it up this past week. We met with the microfinance institutions in town and sold them on our idea of training borrowers in basic business administration. We found a makeshift office (read: bar/restaurant) with decent food, a place to work and a solid pool table. We even learned a sweet Ugandan version of Uno (the card game) from a 12 year old who then spent the next few days thoroughly embarrassing us.

Then we taught him to play Presidents and 'Losers,' which he picked up quickly (the other name rhymes with grass hole). So quickly, in fact, we even told him about how cheating is, if not encouraged, at least tacitly approved of in the game. Apparently, though, we didn't explain the subtle nuances of acceptable cheating, because now he cheats blatantly on every hand. We've created a monster.


Sadly, we also decided that it really makes the most sense to move our program to Mbale, which is just a little bigger, a little more centrally located and a little more suited to our program's needs at this point. We are thinking that we will be back to open a branch in Lira in the next stage of MAPLE's life, but for a central office, Lira just isn't ideal.

It's a shame too, because even though Lira is amazingly hot (even during the rainy season), it's a great little town. We are leaving behind some great new friends, and will be coming back up here a few times before we head back to the States just to keep the ball rolling with some of the contacts we've made. But I guess that's just part of the game.

We are leaving town tomorrow morning, if all goes according to plan (it rarely does, btw). We've got our man Rodney on the case to make sure we don't end up homeless again, but if nothing else we met a rock-solid Indian dude who runs a great hotel/restaurant on the outskirts of Mbale . So all is well. (Except for the road between here and Mbale. It's a story for another day, but for some reason, there is a beautiful sealed road that is totes off-limits. We have to drive on a muddy, rutted and hole-filled track that runs alongside the beautiful road. It's an exercise in irony and patience.)

So long, Lira town. Thanks for the memories. We'll be coming back, but before we do, go ahead and teach your damn dive-bombing lizards some manners.

(our footballer friends)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Saturday morning in Liratown

[Note: Reposted from two weeks ago because the pictures are too cool to miss]

Life is slowing down a lot now that we're in Lira. So far, there is not much of anything to do here, ever. We're still in the same house, no word on the new one. Last night we watched Ace Ventura and went to sleep at like 11, which was both an uncharcteristcally exciting and late night. Not much to do after the lights go down around here.

It's sunny and beautiful as always, we're starting to get less ghostly pale. We were sitting out in the backyard this morning just cheeyillin and had our first genuine encounter. There's this really big tree on the other side of the fence that's always shaking around- whatever probably birds or something. On a related note, we often hear the kids calling out monu (white guy) while we're just hangin around in our compound. It confused me, because it's not like there's many white people around these parts. Who are they talking about? Anyway, it turns out the big tree is, and probably always has been, full of kids. It's a big big tree. They see that we finally see them after all this time, and start yelling at us. So, after some sweet talking by Mr. Patrick Philips, Field Director, they start throwing us down mangos.


They then demanded that we come out and play futbol with them. We come out of the compound and there's like 20 or 30 little kids, probably all less than 10. It was as fun as it sounds, I'll post some pics next time. After they got bored took us back into the village and showed us the other sweet activity to do on a Saturday morning. It's a little mini hill with a little launchpad. They take turns throwing no-hands backflips and cartwheels off it into the dirt. Again, I'll post pics next time. We decide it's time to leave and go into town. One last thing we're told: One of the bigger kids climbs up onto a concrete structure of some type, maybe 6 feet tall, and does a backflip off it into the dirt.


Wow. These kiddies need a playground.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another Day in the Life

We are now back in Lira after a busy extended weekend. After a brief stint of homelessness, we are at the house where we will, god willing, be living for a while. I'm at the point where it takes faith in a higher power to believe that what works today will work tomorrow. It would be so nice if just this one time there were no hitch that meant taking two steps backward for every step forward.

I can now say that I've been homeless in rural East Africa, which I guess is a notch on my belt. Not that it was much of a big deal, since accommodation for two runs from $6 a night at a sketchy place to $20 at the upperend place we actually stayed in. You'd think that given there were no dogs (NGO house), roosters (Sipi), boda accidents (Mbale downtown), ghosts (Mbale nicer place), or lizards, that I'd have slept like death. As it turned out, for some reason I couldn't sleep at all, so instead I fell asleep sitting in the dirt this afternoon. I'm not sure that I don't have malaria. Things are good though, just another day in the life. We finally found our guy, he seems totally legit and as it turns out is an expert on microfinance. Really nice guy, really nice house, mango tree in the backyard. So What's the hitch?

I'm not jaded, I swear. We're having a great time and meeting really cool people. Living in Africa is hard work though.

Friday, April 17, 2009

beautiful day in the neighborhood

good morning everyone. we are officially no longer homeless in africa (hopefully). we got in touch with our guy that we are supposed to be staying with, only had to spend one night in a hotel here and are going to see the place later this morning. hopefully, everything works out and we are all set. but things have a way of not going accordingly to plan around here, so we are just playing it cool.

i really just wanted to say that we went back and added a bunch of pictures to the mbale posts, so be sure to check those out. now it's off to grab some breakfast before meeting with our guy. what is breakfast in uganda like? oh pretty similar. it's called Katogo, check it out:

(steamed plantains and goat meat. breakfast of champions)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The word on Mbale

We've spent a very pleasant few days in Mbale. As I think is becoming clear, Lira is a nice little town, but with a very strong emphasis on "little." Not that it doesn't have its charm, because it does. But as a small town in what was until recently basically a war zone, there are a number of challenges to life in Lira. At least as far as I'm concerned. I'm hopeful that with the start of the rainy season, things will pick up a bit in terms of the surrounding environs and the food available at the markets and such, but at the end of the day, Lira is a small town in a tough location. Tough ecologically (dry), tough socially (TINY), tough economically (still recovering from the rebels).

So with that in mind, Mbale is markedly bigger, more stable and just generally more pleasant. It's located in Eastern Uganda, at the base of Mount Elgon, a massive sprawl of a mountain that erupts out of the plains pretty unexpectedly. From town you can see the mountain just sort of looming over everything, and when the clouds around the mountain clear, you can even see a few waterfalls. Being country folk from the mountains forested hills of Oregon, just having that mountain out there makes us feel a whole lot better. I can't really explain it.


But even beyond that, Mbale just feels like a city with a pulse, a life of its own. We wandered around a sweet market for a few hours, and picked up a Lakers jersey for Luke and a sweet Obama watch that is probably the size of a bread plate. I almost got my long-long guitar, but I couldn't get the guy down to a reasonable price. Alas. I'll keep trying.


And then today. Secret Agent Mission Codename Hijack the Disco. Mbale Resort Hotel, we had heard from a few people, is the place for relaxing. There's even a pool. Now, we weren't about to pay to stay in such an upscale joint, but we figured we could just sneak in. ha


Now the secret to such things is not to slink around like some shady dude, but to walk right in like you own the place. So we did. Nodded at the guards, who opened the gate right up. Sauntered past the reception desk with a friendly hello, like we'd done it a million times. Cruised up to the pool, dropped off our things and got changed. Cool like a cucumber.


Then one of the guys walks up and asks us if we'd like towels. Of course we do. Hot, mon. Sure, no problem, just head up to the window and grab them. At this point, I couldn't believe how smooth we were. At the window, the nice lady hands us two towels. And the book, to sign in. And then, just as cool, charges us. 5,000 shillings each. Like she'd done it a million times.

Damn. Luckily that only set us back about $5. Money well spent. I guess that we sorta stand out around here after all.

Mbalin in Mbale*

So we're back in action after a long weekend of relaxification and fun. Sorry for the huge downtime in posting, but I think it will be worth it because we actually have something interesting to talk about now. For everyone who sent me angry emails for not keeping up on the posting, it's nice to hear that y'all are staying interested.

We decided it was time for a little vacation and went to the mountains on the border with Kenya. We cruised up to Sipi Falls, on mt. Elgon, with our friend we've been staying with in Lira. When we got there, we met up with some French girls and some Rastas named Brown, Roots and Dennis (don't let the decidedly un-irie name throw you, homie can hang). It was my first time ever really hanging out with forreallife rastas, it was everything you'd expect it to be. We basically spent the entire weekend listening to reggae and laying around in hammocks. It's a hard life, it really is.

(burn it down)

(breakfast at speed zero)

The place we were at was really beautiful. It was like a mile above sealevel, waaaaaay up in the mountains. There were huge sweeping views of the valley stretching into Karamajong country, Uganda and Kenya. About the Karamajong: word is they're a cattle herding people. It sounds like they're a nomadic people and cattle is their lifelihood, that's really just what they do. From time to time there's a rival tribe in Kenya that rolls through to rustle cattle, when this happens all hell breaks loose and they say to get the hell out of dodge. I picture it like Tombstone, but with assault rifles and the specter of RPG's; honestly I don't know that I'm that far off. Anyway, there are these three pretty big waterfalls, which apparently get huge when you're not at the tail end of an abnormally long dry season. There's also a lot of good hiking that we missed out on because the weather turned on us. We're talking about coming back and attacking the summit, a 3 day hike that requires at least one stop for altitude acclimation.

(the view from our campsite)

We decided to go up to the ol' swammin' hole to get some relief from the heat. Swimming hole in rural africa, no big deal right? So we pack into the van and drive up there, and it is ruuural. Folks living their lives just like the rest of us though. We get to the spot, which looks very cold and inviting, but it's Africa and you're not supposed to swim in the water. How serious can they be? Oh, dude, that cow just shit in the water! Maybe lets just take a little walksie to think this through. We walked for like 5 minutes through a little mudhut village and ended up on top of this huge cliff looking out over like a million foot drop, which was of course amazing. But hey look, a woman washing dirty (visibly very dirty) diapers in, you guessed it, the very same river. Ok, Swimming is out. We took in the views and had a good chat with our guide Juma about life, fun times.

(sipi falls residential neighborhood)

So, it was a fun weekend. It was really a lot like your average mid-summer Oregon trip to the reever, except the water was sketchy (or maybe we need to get over it. Various real, fake and future Doctors out there, what's the recommendation?), and the hippies were rastas. We drank a lot of Waragi, which is the Ugandan liquor. It tastes kind of like gin, I think if we found some top shelf it would be really pretty tasty.

It started raining so we went to Mbale, the town at the base of the mountain. Mbale is awesome, no doubt my favorite town in Uganda so far. It's a cool little provincial town, there's even a clock tower.

We head back to Lira tomorrow. I think the plan is to go for little vacations like this every couple weeks just to see more of the country. So things should stay reasonably interesting.

*Credit to P-Pheezyon on the solid use of language

Monday, April 13, 2009

Time Warp

And we're back...

There hasn't been a lot of electricity in Lira this past week, so that means no internets. These things just happen. But we are going to take advantage of technology, the time change and quantum molecular mechanical dynamics and just retroactively post some things.

Highlights include reggae night in lira town, chillin in the mountains with rasta brown, roots and the french connection and straight Mballin in Mbale (haha. get it? probably not).


(for the fam)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Da Club

We checked out the most happening night spot in Lira on Thursday night. Club 24/7. All in all it was a pretty fun time. It was actually surprising because Lira is a VERY small town, with maybe three main streets, no stoplights and not too much else. But Club 24/7 was happenin. And the people showed up dressed to impress. once again, as has been our style for much of the time in africa, we were the worst dressed people in the room. Note to self: always wear a collar. ALWAYS. and lose the flips.

Thursday night was reggae night, so we tagged along with some friends to check it out. Now I don't know too much about reggae beyond what I learned from BigUpRadio.com in my cubicle. But I know enough to enjoy it, and to have a good time.

But there were some surprises. For example, when we walked in, it was just standard reggae beats. Chillin. We start chatting with our news friends and order some Nile Special (the dark, strong beer, coming in somewhere just south of Bud Heavy). By and by, we overhear some of the words.

"knock. Jah knock. knock, knockin."

wait, what?

"on heaven's dooooor"

yeah, i think i just heard... a reggae cover of hair metal. That's weird. Some of the other big hits of the night included "hero" by enrique, a song that's always been near and dear to my heart, and "do you believe in life after love" by celine dion CHER, one of the top five most hated songs ever. but as reggae, it kinda worked. Hard to believe.

So we drank beer and danced to reggae beats. Luke saw some excellent cricket highlights on sportscenter while in line at the bar, and we finished the night with some delicious goat meat on a stick. goat is tasty by the way. It's a little salty, but it has a "robust" flavor that i'm really learning to love. much tastier than the beef, which is sorta gnarls.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The only thing worse than peanutbutter for dinner

Our friend took us to the open air market yesterday, and made some progress on life here in Lira. Of course we have a homie here too. We bought some red beans and rice, some veggies, some curry, all types of good stuff. We are pumped about our first opportunity since leaving Boston to make ourselves an honest meal. So we're sitting on the porch playing dominos, putting off starting dinner. Waiting for that moment when you are so hungry that you just have to get started, knowing that beans take like hours to cook. Uh oh, storm brewing. We get pushed inside because all hell is breaking loose, which is pretty normal so far as far as weather is concerned.

We go into the kitchen and get started. Pat's cutting onions, I'm washing the beans and tomatoes. I'm getting excited, we're getting along well. Then Pat discovers we have no propane. No!!!!! So we go back to the couch to sort out our options. We're watching the storm, pretty solid on the fact that we can't walk to town in this downpour. Then the power goes out. Great. Just great.

I had peanutbutter for dinner again. This time in the dark.

Nothing new in the fishbowl

[Luke, Thursday night]

Nothing terribly exciting to post right now, mostly I'm just bored. I did not, for example, get attacked by any reptlls. We're still at the NGO house, still haven't gotten a hold of our guy. I think the beds we have been given have an experation date, I think that date is soon. The anxiety level creeps a little higher.

So Pat and I were talking about this whole drive one hour and they speak a different language thing, and he brought up an interesting point. What with the lack of highway and the generally bumpy state of the roads here, driving an hour is not very far. We drove for like seven hours to get from Kampala to Lira, which is about 200 kilometers give or take 500. Thats like the distance from Eugene to Portland plus a bit, For anyone who doesn't live in the Willamette valley, I don't know what to tell you, 1.7K= 1Mile. Which by the way, I figured out all by myself using my stallar mental math skills. Like a two hour drive on a USA highway, and we drove through like 10 languages. We were talking with some peeps in K'la and they were saying that for all the languages in the central region, they can all understand eachother's language but can't speak it. Kind of a trip.

BTW, all these facts are generally made up, so don't go citing me in your research papers, we're like Wikipedia.

I think we determined that people here are just friendly and like white people.

And one more thing: I ate Peanutbutter and Jelly (capitalized of course) for dinner last night. I have a little trueism I've been working on. It goes: anytime someone has peanutbutter for dinner, you know their day went wrong somewhere along the way. Peanutbutter is the worst. The devils plaything, put on this earth to irrtate me. The only thing worse than breakfast-for-dinner, is peanutbutter.

So anyways, nothing new in the fishbowl.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Afternoon in Lira


"We finally arrived in Lira Town. It felt as if we had just been airdropped there. The town seemed to have mushroomed form the ground, isolated, open on all sides. It was just like any other African town: the frugal facilities, the smallness of the building structures under the open skies, the cheerful disorder."

-Abyssinian Chronicles by Moses Isegawa

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Night Terrors

OK, time for a confession. When I was a kid, I used to watch Unsolved Mysteries, a true crime type show about real live criminals who had done heinous things and were out running around. I think the show especially focused on bad dudes who did bad things to good little kids. Clearly, I wasn't supposed to watch it, because it was not kid-friendly tv. And I didn't even really want to watch it, because it scared the hell out of me. But every time I flipped past it, I'd stop to watch a bit (and we only had maybe five channels, so it's not like I had a lot of other options).

Anyway, I used to get so freaked out by this show. Just the music would probably give me cold sweats even today. Because I used to wake up in the middle of the night, hearing something. And living out in the country, there was always something. Probably just an animal, but something out rustling around.

So I'd wake up, hear these sounds and just be convinced that my time was up. I'd try to convince myself it was nothing. It's just a TV show. That murderer lunatic went missing in Kentucky, which is probably a long way from Oregon. I'd tell myself these stories, but really, somebody was definitely coming through the window to get me, and that was that. Tough break kid, but maybe your story will make it on TV.

So there were a few problems with this. One, once you wake up convinced you're about to be murdered, you get a serious surge of adrenaline and can't fall back asleep. And two, which is probably related but I ain't no doctor, you start to hear everything. And like I said, out in the country where I grew up, there were lots of sounds. So forget falling back asleep.

Picture little six year old me, lying in bed terrified with the covers pulled up to his chin. Dying to turn on the light and make sure there's no killer out there, but too scared to move. At least in the dark I'd have a fighting chance. The only hope was that the sun would come up soon, the killer would have to run away and hide, and maybe I'd live to see another day. I would stare out the window, trying to will the sky to start turning pink and solve all my problems.

OK. Fast-forward a decade or two. Picture full-grown me (the man), lying on some cot in Africa, sweating bullets and trying to fall asleep. Like Luke said, there are a lot of sounds here, but most of them are distinctly domestic animals. So, not that scary right? Whatever. Exactly. Then something heavy lands on the corrugated tin roof of our little bungalow and scratches around for a while. No big deal. I'm grown. Probably a chicken or something.

The scratching continues. For a while. And I'm starting to get annoyed. I'm trying to sleep here people. Keep down the racket. Scritchscratchscritchscratch, right above my head. Now this is getting ridic--

Then the scratching goes from above my head to sliding down the wall. Quickly. Then my mosquito net starts to shake. At this point, I'm six years old again. About to get killed in Africa by a cobra, or a mongoose, or a mongoose-cobra fight. The specific mechanism isn't important, just that I'm toast. I briefly consider trying to hide.

No, that isn't going to work. So I call out for Luke to turn on the light. He groans. SERIOUSLY. TURN ON THE LIGHT.


Dive-bombed by a stinking lizard. He was still chilling up there when I woke up the next morning by the way, so this weren't no LSD dream, thank you very much.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hey look, a parade!

[Luke, Wednesday morning]

Our second full day in Lira. We are just hanging out in the house where we have been staying for the last couple days. The house where we are supposed to move into for the next 5 months is in theory available today. In theory. The extent of the conversation with this guy was like "yes I have rooms in my house that I have rented to American students in the past, yes you are welcome to them." He has been in Europe or something for the past x weeks and is supposed to get back to town today. Hopefully we don't get an April's Fools Day prank of epic proportions. "Welcome to my mudhut, Here's your room. Haha April Fools!" "Nope, I don't really live in Lira at all. April Fools!" Worst case scenario, there are hotels (plural, but not very) and I guess there are a lot of houses for rent because all the NGO's have packed up and moved to Gulu. So good that there's space, not so good that apparently we showed up to the ball at 12:01.

I guess the rainy season started in earnest yesterday. Everyone has been saying that it's late and who knows what to expect. Well, Luke and Pat got here, so that means of course its time for the torrential downpour. It rained hard hard hard. Funny that pouring rain, crazy wind and overcast sky was the big thing so far that has made me think of home. It was nice though, the rains cooled everything down and it was quiet and cool all night (I guess the dogs were all hiding from the rain). Slept solid all the way through. Like most places around the equator, it was hot sun all morning, then rain for a couple hours in the afternoon. Will this be the trend, I have no idea.

We ventured into town yesterday, with moderate success. We had no idea where town was or really how we would know when we got there. So we set off, walking along no big deal. We see a school in the distance, little kids. They all swarm up against the fence, like easily hundreds of little kids. They are all waving and chanting, forreal chanting, something. It sounded like mona(o?) which we were told means "whiteman." They continued this treatment until we were out of sight. We couldn't tell if it was like a "Hey, look at those," or a "Hey, what's up." Kind of uncomfortable. On a related note, kind of strange that they yell something sounding like mono at us. Pat was saying that at the Euroleague soccer games, all the racist-ass Spanish fans scream "mono" at the black stars. Mono means "monkey" in Spanish. As far as I could tell, five hundred small children were crowded up against a fence heckling us screaming "monkey" as we walked past. Like I said, kind of uncomfortable. Then we passed another school; smaller kids, less organized. Not quite so weird because they just crowded the fence but didn't chant anything. Weird way to start your day.

So then we walked walked walked along and came to what we clearly the "main road," I don't know how we determined this because there sure weren't signs or distinguishing marks of any kind. It was clear that one way led to town and success, and the other to abject failure and possible angry lions. As if you couldn't already guess, of course the human compass is just sure that left (the opposite direction as the little market stalls mind you) is the way to go. Like 45 minutes of walking later, umm maybe not. It was good getting in a little walk though, we have been cooped up in meetings, operating on other people's schedules since we left Boston. It was nice to get lost on our own terms.

Long story slightly-less-long we got to town and wandered around looking for food for a couple hours. Moderate success. We bought some peanut butter and bread, ready to accept defeat but found a traditional Ugandan food buffet (always buffets in Ugandan food) on our way back. I think beans and rice for lunch is going to be a common theme. Everyone had been telling us that up north, the staple is millet, and they were right. Allow me to describe millet: It's black and grainy, with a thick consistency kind of like if you mixed the jello with cornmeal. It doesn't really taste per se. In the sense that good is the absence of bad, it's delicious. In the sense that good is the presence of goodness, its nothing to write home about (I'm writing home about it right now, so I think I should be struck by lightning at any second?). But yea, town was normal and eminently doable. A few grocery stores, a few cafes, a market, several banks, etc. Maybe like 8 square blocks of distinct townishness, which is very manageable. It is not the mudhut hole in the ground I was dreading. I have begun to develop an unhealthy cynicism in the last few days, always expecting the absolute worst. Hopefully I get over that when we get a house to live in.

So we survived our first day in town, it didn't start raining until after we got back. Aside from the school children, nobody seemed terribly impressed by us, which is a good sign. We walked through the market and no body hassled us, also a good sign. I think we are just starting to get a handle on one of the major differences between Latin America and here: there, anybody who is trying to get your attention is probably trying to hassle you and sell you gum. Here that may not be the case, they may just want to say 'what's up." If so, we are probably being the rudest people ever.

Hopefully the next post is us basking in the air conditioned wirelessness of our new home sipping on Gin & Tonics (gotta get those anti-malarial properties, you know) [oh! Wednesday is malaria pill day. We woudn't want to forget that that now would we] .

10 things that woke me up last night/ early this morning

[Luke, Tuesday morning]

1. Every little dog and dog-like creature howling at the moon simultaneously. I woke up with no idea where I was and thought for sure Baby Jesus was coming home. Seriously, like dozens of little dogs coming from every direction. It was like in 101 Dalmatians, when all the dogs come out and night and start barking at eachother to spread the news about the dognapping. I woke up last night and immediately remembered that scene even though I haven't seen the movie in like 10 years.

2. Rambo, the big German Sheppard that lives in the yard where we are staying. It was very clear that when he started barking, they all listened and shut up for a while. Unfortunately, he had a lot to say and apparently was sleeping beneath my window.

3. A group of men running by singing and clapping in a call and response. I have no idea what this was, I'm 95% sure it really happened.

4. Roosters, lots of them.

5. Turkeys? gobbling.

6. Kids laughing and screaming

7. Adults yelling and chattering in Luo, the major language spoken up here in Lira. Every hour or so you drive in Uganda means there is a different predominant language. In Kampala it was Luganda, up here it is Luo.

8. Goats & cows

9. Velociraptor. Or possibly a pig, the jury's still out. Whatever it is, it sure aint happy.

10. A bird chirping that made the stereotypical whistle that one makes when a hot chick walks by. You know the one, weee-weooo. I guess that came from Africa? Or someone though Africa was distinctly lacking in cat-calls and imported one? Another scooby doo mystery..

The malaria meds are known to cause reaally weird, real-seeming dreams, so honestly none of this may have happened. And to the Leprechaun who stole my gold fillings: I know what you did, so don't think for a second that I'm chalking that ish up to the mephloquin. You gonna pay me what you owe.

BTW, my fears in the last post were unfounded. We weren't in town. Town is distinctly town-ish.