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Showing posts from April, 2009

avn a gr8t tym her n mbale

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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)

Therapist's Chair II: Hey Mithter

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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 t…

Mbugs in our computer

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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…

Therapist's Chair - Inaugural edition

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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) se…

Farewell Lira Town

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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 cre…

Saturday morning in Liratown

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[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, …

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 h…

beautiful day in the neighborhood

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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)

The word on Mbale

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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 s…

Mbalin in Mbale*

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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…

Time Warp

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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)

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 …

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 wal…

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 highw…

Friday Afternoon in Lira

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"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

Night Terrors

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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 convinc…

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 th…

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 …