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Showing posts from June, 2009

Welcome to the Freakshow

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One of the fun things about the little kids here is that they have no qualms about walking up to us and pawing at our arms. They can't really believe the awesomeness of hairy white men. Most people can't, come to think of it. But when it's little kids, nbd. it's cute.

On the other hand, when a grown man does it, it's a little creepy. For example, on the bus to Rwanda, I sat down next to a respectable looking businessman type. We exchanged some minor pleasantries, but he was coming from Kenya or possibly Tanzania and didn't speak much English. I guess the extent of our conversation was probably "American!" "Obama-man!" "HAHAHA". Maybe an hour later, my head is slammed against the window by a pothole, knudging me from my slumber. And what do I discover? This guy is, ever so gently, petting my arm.


I'm not even sure if he was embarrassed. He just said something along the lines of "You Americans must have really good food. I can…

A kiddie sized life expectancy

I went to an AIDS hospital yesterday to do a product delivery with a friend.

We met in the kids room, because it was empty. It was hard. It seemed and felt like the preschools I used to volunteer in back home. Kiddie sized chairs, kiddie sized beds, kiddie sized sippy-cups. Toys everywhere, drawings on the walls. It was nice. Then I got to looking around at the posters on the walls and it hit me. All these kids are HIV positive. None of them will, based on my child's understanding of AIDS, live to see their high school graduation. It was really tough, I really almost lost it. The poster about how to work with HIV kids as a medical professional was hard. To paraphrase "Don't treat the kids as a doomed, lost cause- even though they are. They are still kids, they are still people." "Don't shy away from death or let them pretend they aren't sick. If they don't acknowledge how serious things are they won't take their meds, and they will die."

The…

The Circle of Life

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Ok. Does anyone remember the story of the mysterious land crab that terrorized us one night in Lira? I think we may have cracked the case.

We have a minor cockroach problem in our house. Actually, to be accurate, we have a minor cockroach problem only in the back bedrooms of our house. There are a bunch of tiny, transparent cockroach babies crawling on the walls most nights. Gross, I know.

On the other hand, though, we have a major, swine-flu pandemic, the communists have landed in Philadelphia, red-alert cockroach problem in our kitchen. In fact, Luke and I had a long, serous conversation the other day about just how big the monsters really are.


I said, and still believe, that they are the size of milano cookies. Luke says I'm being a melodramatic little princess, but sadly we can't find any milano to test my theory with (sad on a number of levels, you can be sure). He says they are the size of a nutter butter, which could be true for all I know, but is about as helpful as sayin…

It's not all Mangos and Zebras

Healthcare in Africa
An essay by Luke

Healthcare in Africa is no joke. Of everything we've seen here it's the hardest to make funny, because really, it just isn't.

I got malaria a couple weeks ago (allegedly, though doctor number two said doctor number one was a crackerjack). It sucked. It really sucked. It felt like I imagine you'd feel if you ran a marathon then drank cheap whiskey till you passed out, then got woken up two hours later. It sucked. Then things went wrong somewhere and I got a lung infection or pneumonia or something. So I couldn't breathe. That sucked more, because then the locals were worried. Tell an African you have Malaria, his response will be along the order of "That's a bummer. The last time I got malaria was a few years ago. It sucked." So when they got worried I got really worried.

I went to the hospital a few days later in a very much second- or even third- tier Ugandan city. It was scary. Not because there were human body par…

you must bar-GAIN

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The bargaining culture is Uganda is serious. For example, we take boda-bodas (bicycle taxis) from our house into town most days. The cost is pretty well accepted to be 300 shillings. Everybody knows this. And yet, when we get off the bikes, usually the guys tell us 500, and we have to bargain them down to the correct price. Some of it is the Mzungu Tax, but beyond that it's just a part of life here.

The same thing happens in the markets, buying vegetables and delicious mangos. But the formula is pretty standard. They say it costs more than it does, you say you couldn't possibly pay more than way too little, then you agree on something in the middle. Pretty standard, at least in theory.
On the bus back from Rwanda, we met an Australian homie. It seemed only natural, what with us being the only white people on the bus, to get to talking. Sure enough, he was also hiding out from the economic apocalypse in a place where the cost of living is a little more tolerable. We got to chatt…

I kilt me a lion

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I think it's kind of against the rules to be a mzungu in Africa and not go on safari. So, because we're good anthropologists and all, we went on a little safari. Because they're awesome, our friends at MUBS (the Ugandan business school we work with) hooked us up with a basically free trip. They do a trip every year with Drake University in Iowa, and somehow get all the park fees waived. Plus they do it in a bus, so we didn't have to pay any transport fees. All told we got a major hookup that allowed us to do something we otherwise probably wouldn't have because its so expensive. Thanks everyone.

It was a fun trip, it was interesting to spend time with American college kids again after such a long time away. Even though they were from the Midwest and as bizarre to me as anyone on this planet. What is this Midwest-Nice, why are you so friendly? It was a weird experience after explaining the basics of my country to so many people over the last couple months, I had to e…

What's a little caning among friends?

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Whew. We are back in Mbale after some few days on the road. In addition to all them wild animals (which Luke is going to cover, don't worry), we also took advantage of being near the border to pop into Rwanda for a few days. Very worth it, and a nice country from what little we saw. Although, to be fair, we had gotten pretty mixed messages from some Ugandan friends before heading in.

The rastas told us it was awesome. Clean, fun and lots of Americans. The good people of Kigali love to party, so live it up. Sounded promising.

A somewhat more respectable friend told us to be careful. We countered that the security situation was supposed to be greatly improved and nothing to worry about. So he clarified that it is the political situation that is a little tense. His advice, which may be good general advice for life: "Don't excercise your freedom of speech too much, or you may be thouroughly caned." Interesting.

(I can't even taste the air a little.)

We didn't get can…

Who do you pray for?

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It probably shouldn't come as too much of a shock that there are a lot of things that I just was not expecting when Luke floated the idea of escaping cubicleland for Uganda. I didn't realize that I would quickly come to love and crave Indian food. No idea that I would re-enter the world of Mexican soap operas with a vengeance, only unlike in Argentina, even a lot of men here follow Salvador's murder, reincarnation and resulting love triangles with a passion. Also unlike Argentina, here they're dubbed in English. Never dreamed I'd eat an entire plate of bugs.


We may have mentioned this already, but it's very common around these parts to ask people you've just met what religion they are. Like maybe the fourth thing to ask, after where are you from, what are you doing here and how do you find Uganda. Needless to say, people are generally on the conservative side and some flavor of Christian.

Now Luke and I, for those who don't know, weren't exactly raise…