Showing posts from May, 2009

Microfinance Tour

Exciting times around here. We're leaving tomorrow morning for a tour of microfinance projects in the Southwest with the Business School in Kampala. It just so happens that the Southwest is ALSO alledgedly one of the more scenic regions of an already quite scenic country, so clearly we're looking forward to that.

As an added bonus, it sounds like we will be joining a school from somewhere in the midwest for the tour, so we get to hang around with a bunch of Americans. Should be fun, as long as they don't bring any of that swine flu along for the ride. We may even briefly get to play the role of grizzled, experienced field workers. On that note, we spent last night at the same hostel in Kampala that we were staying in when we first got to the country. This time around, we're much less surprised/terrified by cockroaches, lizard attacks, monkey fights, etc. The experience was almost like going back to visit your elementary school after getting grown, where everything looks…

Psychologist's Chair- Our Web Presense

So the weird dreams came back with a vengeance last night:

It's game day for Oregon Ducks basketball. I'm at Mac court and people are streaming by.
(Home Sweet Home)

I run into some lady that apparently has a job I want. So we sit down at a plastic table and chairs (a restaurant/bar standard in Uganda) in front of the ticket window. We are talking about this and that, job interview stuff and Pat walks up. We call to him but he's like sleep walking or something because he's dead to the world. He comes up and places a stack of 3 project description documents on the table (this is something we do at every meeting). She picks them up and looks at them: "What are these?"

Document 1: The first is titled something like "What's important to us." There a bunch of chicken scratch and halfway down there is a subheading that says "Crumpled Peanut Sandwich." At this point Pat reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wadded up peanutbutter sandwich and…

brotherly love

We have moved into our house and we are approaching a sense of normalcy now. Not a moment too soon, that's for sure. We're finally getting into a normal routine, even drinking coffee every morning. It's nothing fancy, really just cowboy coffee brewed in a pot of water. But it's legit, non-instant coffee, and it makes a big difference when you're cooped up with the same stinking deadbeat brother for weeks on end. No mango tree unfortunately, but Luke is back to his routine of sitting in the early morning sun until it gets too hot to bear and retreating inside. That African sun is no joke, let me tell you.

Our house also has a family living in the back quarters for now, which has been fun because it means we have some kiddies to play with. It's less fun when they start running around the back yard yelling and playing at 6 in the morning, but you take the good with the bad.

(What you Africans call Football)

(What we Americans call football)

We do a lot of reading arou…

Village Visit

Last weekend we went up into the mountains with our SACCO friends to see if the bamboo had made it to market yet. It hadn't really, at least not in the quantity they were looking for, but we did get to see market day up on the slopes of Mount Elgon. Check it out:

Other than that, it's just been more of the same. We've been focusing on trying to bring our house "up to code" (we have a gas cooker that doesn't cook, a hot water heater that doesn't heat and a shower with no pressure. And the toilet sometimes refuses to flush) and haven't done too much work lately, but we made some appointments this morning to get back in action. Also, we have a meeting with a local university hopefully this afternoon, which promises to be fruitful and productive (fingers crossed).

Mbugs in my sandwich

You don't want to play the weird foods game with me. Not now. You don't stand a chance. I traveled in Africa, I've seen some things.

Plates are always covered here, I guess it's probably either for suspense or to keep the bugs out. Opening your plate is a major event, because you never know what will be in there that you never thought to eat. Not because Ugandans eat weird food, but because they eat different food. As much as I think things I'm served are strange, the same goes the other way. Nutella is seen as bizarre and spicy food borderline dangerous. Our friend saw a package of pasta, and demanded an in-depth explanation of how, and why, we eat that bag of pointy ends. I'm now at the point, by the way, where I speak for my entire race as if its no big deal. I'll say "pasta is like matooke for white people." Meaning a major starch staple of our diet that's welcome anytime.

We went over to the house of the woman who's SACCO we are working…

Making Progress, Slowly by Slowly

Sorry for another break in the posting. We are in the process of moving into our new house, so we've been out in the 'burbs supervising the various repairs. But it's starting to come together. We had a nice home-cooked meal of rice and beans last night, complete with the obligatory avocado. Tonight, it's pasta. Luke is giddy like a schoolgirl at just the thought of some good ol' white folk eatin'.

The past week has actually been amazingly productive. We met with a local SACCO, a type of informal-ish credit institution. Basically, there are a bunch of members who pay in some small sum, then take turns borrowing a larger portion of the group funds. The one that we have partnered with focuses on vulnerable women and children, and is actually based out in our neighborhood. It's looking much more promising than trying to work with the larger microfinance institutions, if only because there is much less bureaucratic nonsense to work through. Plus, we may have more…

A word on the roads...

As we have mentioned, the roads in Northern Uganda weren't the best. I've been lazy lately and haven't posted this, so here goes. I was going to make a little poetry reference, but like I said I'm lazy. I think you all can piece together on your own where I would have gone with this.

I came to a fork in the road.

Obviously there is a good choice and a bad choice here. One is a road, the other is not. Roads are for driving, driving is for roads. This should be a no-brainer. Of course of course of course there should be no question in anybody's mind which we ended up on.

This is pretty much par for the course, just a small hitch in an otherwise fully functional road. Hopefully by the next time we travel up there, the new road will be finished. That would shave off a good couple hours from our journey from Mbale to Lira.

Oh, and a little math for your minds:

1 km = .6 Miles

Mbale to Lira =250km
x .6 =150 miles

Mbale to Lira = 6 hours by bus

250km/ 6 hours = 41 …

Good times

Because we are nothing if not fair and balanced, I'm going to whine about some things that went wrong the other day. Also, Luke gave me the beating of a lifetime playing Gin, which never gets old.

1. As some of you may know, the NBA playoffs are in full swing right now. Given that we are decidedly not in basketball country, we've given up trying to follow with any regularity. However, there are maybe two or three games a week that make it on the South Africa satellite feed. Amazingly, there were games on Saturday and Sunday, so even though that is prime soccer time in these parts, we had double the odds of catching a game. One we had to miss for official business (seriously, we are really starting to make real progress), but we were all set to watch the other.

Except that the power was out and there were big soccer games. But that is relatively common, so we had a contingency plan. A small place, with a generator, that the soccer hoards only frequent for the biggest of games. We…

This Little Life of Mine

We are beginning to settle into some sort of routine again, now that we’re in Mbale. Or at least as much as one can while sharing a hotel room the size of a very stingy dorm single and eating out every meal. This time around we won’t be pulling up the stakes and moving to a new town, so things are good. Still loving things in Mbale, still smile every time I look up and see the huge mountain, still very happy in my new home.

We’ve found our spot for internet: it’s fast and always empty, the computers are totally legit with brand new mice and keyboards, which goes a long way around here. We’ve found four places with really good (and relatively cheap by our standards) Indian food, dinner is usually one of those three. We found a handful of pretty decent local spots, where we do breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is always eggs and tea, because that’s really the only choice. Lunch is always some combination of: rice, beans, cassava, sweet potato, matooke and meat of one kind or another. Let me…

The Gardens

On our way out to Kalangala we stopped at the Botanical Gardens in Entebbe. It was also really cool, though not at all what I was picturing. African Botanical Gardens is to "What I was Expecting", as:

(African cow)

is to:
(American Cow)

Fiercer, less manicured, and just generally more likely to eat you. The garden was not too many steps removed from the jungle it was carved out of.


Really beautiful though.

and monkeys.

(see him in there?)

There were all kinds of plants and trees that I only knew from a jar. Nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, stuff like that. Of course because we weren't in America it was no big deal for our guide to break off pieces for us to smell. Word is that the old Tarzan movie was filmed here, though Pat says that's a common myth.

Obviously the internet is much better here, as all the pictures indicate. This is the way its going to be, PMW 2.0

Therapist's Chair V.4

So, unfortunately, I don't remember my dreams as well as Pat. Here what I have to work with:

I had a timemachine, but it was broken and could only go to the industrial revolution.

It was also a Transmogrifier ala Calvin and Hobbes. I got turned into some historically significant martyr from the time period but I don't remember who. In the dream I knew who I was, and realized that I was this guy right before his big moment in the spotlight.

That's about it.

American Sensitivities

Several times here, we've been informed that Americans are just too damn sensitive about race. I don't want to get into just why that might be, or whether it could be a good or bad thing, but I will just say this. I was surprised to see the image on one of the bank notes here.

Let's put it this way. I don't think this is something you would see in the US. If that makes us oversensitive, so be it.

In other news, we finally have a mailing address. If anyone wants to send us some sweet things from the motherland (that we won't have to pay import duties on), send us an email and we'll hook you up with the address. Although you'd probably need to send it tomorrow for it to get here before the end of September. Word on the street is that the Pony Express around here is on the slow side.

Also, a sign said that it is illegal to send things that are offensive to Muslim sensibilities. Based on the picture, that means that pigs stuffed into envelopes will not be delivere…

Yohoho and a Bottle of Waragi

We're back in Mbale after a nice weekend in the southern parts of this nice little country called Uganda. We spent a few days in the Ssese Islands, in the district of Kalangala. Quick geography lesson, Uganda is landlocked, so the island is in the middle of a lake. Considering the island hosts a population of well in excess of 30,000, and you can't see it from the mainland, that's a pretty big lake. The second biggest in the world, some will tell you. It was nice, relaxing and quiet. We took a ferry out there, which around here is a little terrifying. About half of the Africans we talk to say they wouldn't be caught dead on a boat, which I can understand. We were told that "yes, there are pirates. But they're not like those Somalis on tanker ships you here about, so don't worry." To recap: the two of us set out to take a boat that even the locals think is way sketchy out to an island in the middle of a lake populated with pirates in the middle of Afri…

Therapist's Chair - Vol. 3

Big shout out to Brito, who seems to really get how this is supposed to work. And to the anonymous hater in Boston, who gets it but it too scared to own up.
The prize this time is one box of authentic African tea. I will say that after both parts of this dream, I woke up laughing. And I'm really thinking I need to find a way to keep taking these drugs after coming back to the States.

* * * * *

Act I - Picture a warm summer afternoon. I am sitting at a table drinking tea with Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Bill passes me the sugar. I put in one spoonful, then pass it on to Jimmy. Bill looked at me incredulously. "Is that all the sugar you want," he asked me. I told him it was.

Then he looks across the table at Jimmy. "Well," he says, giving Jimmy a wink, "us country boys like our tea suh-weeet." They both laugh like drunken rednecks for a good spell.

(Haw Haw Haw. Dango Boy)

Act II - Now I am riding in the backseat of a white Ford Focus, which is apparently …

business lunch, aka did this make me sick?

This delicious drink is called Jal Jeera.

The menu described it as a "cooling drink made from mango." It looked like swamp water. It tasted delicious, with hints of mango, cumin and cilantro.

But the real question is, did it make me sick?
UPDATE: Nope. Just delicious.