Showing posts from July, 2009

A fair and balanced view of Kampala

Kampala is a bit of a puzzle. On the one hand, it really has a lot of things going for it. It's the financial, cultural and social capital of the country. If you're a looking for a good cup of coffee, or an air-conditioned screening of Harry Potter, or some mexican food, or even a Michael Jackson tribute concert, there's really no other option. In a country where the vast majority of people live in small towns and The Village, Kampala is first and last option for a little bit of city life.

For example, even though the coffee in Uganda is all grown just outside of Mbale, on the slopes of mighty Mt. Elgon, there's really no place to get a decent cup of coffee in town (Income-generating activity, anyone?). If that weren't enough, remember that we also drank coffee boiled in an aluminum pot for three months, so this is basically a little cup of heaven.

(If a bit excessive with the inscription)

Not to mention, when you just have to rub elbows with the rich and powerful, kn…

All Business, All the Time

A little bird told me that some people out there think we don't do anything but sit around playing cards and eating any bug that crawls by. Well, I'm here to set the record straight. We work hard. We just don't talk about it, because it's top secret. And maybe a bit boring. So to spice things up, I might throw in a few random pictures.

(Lifeguard Man- He dances. He guards your life. Get it?)

Basically, as the project now stands, MAPLE works with microentrepreneurs, providing basic skills training to complement the financial resources that have been assembled within the community. We shifted away from trying to work with the larger microfinance banks, because they were bureaucratic and, frankly, didn't always seem to have the borrowers' best interests at heart. This isn't really the place to get into the whole debate over the need for financial sustainability in order to reach to the most people and all that noise. Leave it that we shifted to working with SACC…

The Graveyard

In honor of those who are no longer with us:

Nambozo Hercules
? - June 29, 2009

A good chicken with a real lust for life. A family man who enjoyed enjoyed chicks, millet seed and the early morning. Seasoned with a cumin & coriander spice rub and served with roasted matooke, onions and irish potatoes. You will be missed.

Kintu Dwight Howard
? - July 03, 2009

A true prince among poultry who never hesitated to give to others. Never has a chicken been so strong and such an inspiring leader. Seasoned with black pepper and salt. Served with roasted matooke and fried cabbage.

Tin Can Tony I
? - July 04, 2009

Never before has such a noble goat graced this green earth. The memory of Tony will without a doubt be cherished for generations to come by all who knew him. Truly a goat with a passion for excellence. Tony, in death you live forever. Seasoned with red chili, served with mashed Irish potatoes, locaal brrew and chocolate cake.

Odongo Venus and Akello Serena
? - July 22, 2009

Though we knew you on…

Another day in the life

A while back we did a post about the morning routine around these parts. Lately, we have found ourselves "busy" enough that we can't exactly sit out in the sun for a few hours reading each morning (tough life, I know. We manage). On the other hand, we really don't need any alarm clock.

5:15 am - Call to Prayer goes out from the nearby mosque. Not too bad, if maybe a little odd at first. Honestly, it's not a bad sound to wake up to, though, and it would be totally fine, except that it wakes up the neighbor's rooster. Maybe he (the rooster) is Muslim too, I'm not really sure. Religion is sort of a touchy subject sometimes.

5:17 am - Obnoxious rooster next door comes over to make passes at our chickens, who must have no morals at all. The rooster is always prowling around, and these girls just don't know how to say "no."

5:18 am - 7:00 am - Rooster sets up shop in the yard, meaning that at times, he's probably 18 inches from my sleeping face, …


Local Brew. Pronounced Locaaaal Brrrrrew, with a strong rolling of the R just like you learned in Spanish class. It hard to really describe just how wild the whole experience was. But I'm gonna give it my level best.

First thing. Locaaal Brrrew is best consumed with a bunch of other dudes. You sit around the communal pot, grab onto your straw and hang on tight. From what we could gather, you show up whenever you get out of work, say around 2, maybe 3 or 4. Then you get to sit there drinking until the sun goes down and the mosquitos come out (unless they're friendly mosquitos, which it turns out, most are). Maybe you play some cards, maybe you sing a bit or dance if the spirit catches you. But mostly you just sit there, sipping at your straw and running your mouth. Not unlike a lot of bars in that respect.

But then there's the drink itself. Marua. How best to describe it? It's made from a variety of tasty ingredients, which vary depending on who you ask but include fermen…

5 sweeping generalizations about Africa

The tourist-ness of the Nile made me think about what is Africa really like? When I say this I guess I actually mean Uganda- or at most East Africa. I wouldn't exactly say I've seen Europe or European culture after my two weeks in Italy, right? I don't want to be one of those people who generalize about a continent based on a few weeks in one town. "Well the thing about North America (Cleveland) is its really hot (in August)." Anyway, philosofizing about Africa just sounds cooler than about Uganda, so what is Africa like for me really? I'm not going to talk about The Poverty for two reasons. 1: it's depressing and I'm tired of writing about stuff that makes me sad. And more importantly 2: if you visited Washington DC you wouldn't really say the homeless people and crime are the characteristic features. It's marginalizing and unfair to do that, and bottom line I wouldn't like it if someone did that about my home.

5 sweeping generalizations …


I heard on the radio that Obama is making his first visit to Africa as Black American President. Unfortunately, he is going to Ghana, meaning he is not going to be able to enjoy a surprise visit from MAPLE Microdevelopment. And even though he is going to be in West Africa, I figured now is a good time to tell some fun stories about Obamamania here in Uganda.

People are pretty psyched about the whole thing. Even though they are sometimes surprised that we supported him in the election (because we're white? i'm not sure), peeps love to talk about him. Not his politics, necessarily, but definitely about the man, his family, his relationship with God, those types of things. With the exception of a few cranky Kenyans, who said that since he's Luo he's really not even Kenyan, so they can't figure what all the fuss about, people are into it in a big way. To more than one person, we are known affectionately as the Obama Brothers, which was a bit strange at first but has sin…

Tin Can Tony I

Well be back. Well be back. We've had a busy last week picking up our newest MAPLE field team members from the airport, whisking through Kampala and heading back to Mbale. We arrived safely Thusday afternoon, only to turn around and head up to Sipi Falls for the weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July and Luke's Birthday.

Sipi Falls, some of you more dedicated readers may remember, is the site of our previous misadventures with the rastas. So naturally, we couldn't resist the temptation to go back. This time around, though, what with it being a big celebration, we opted to grill some meat. Beef and swine, typically the first choice for such occasions, were out due to various dietary restrictions and a general fear of flies-covered meat. Delicious chicken, while easy and satisfying, is just not special enough. That really only leaves one option:

Tin Can Tony I. The first in (hopefully) a long line of Tonys that will be eaten by the MAPLE Uganda field team. I wish I could say …

The Nile

We went to the Nile river in Jinja last week for an afternoon of relaxation. A little sun, a few beers, the Indian equivalent of fajitas. All around it was a good time. It was not that different than your average Oregon-style summer afternoon chillaxing at the rio, except it was the Nile. Y'know the river you read about, with pyramids, crocodiles that eat you whole, and sleeping sickness where you wake up dead. It wasn't really all that though, just a river- albeit a massive one. It was big, it was fast, it was nice.

Though I guess it wasn't too big and too fast for this dude to float the Nile on a jerry can.

If you've spent time in Africa, you know a jerrycan when you see it. A jerrycan is like the one object no household can do without. It's a big plastic container with a handle for carrying liquid- like a gas can basically. Considering that the vast, vast majority of the population doesn't just spin a tap and have water where they want it, this becomes a pre…