Wednesday, July 28, 2004

the NYC project gets all the big stars

The NYC project has gotten some more press in uganda's leading daily newspaper, the New Vision online. Uganda's reigning beauty queen apparently pulls in the journalists, but not apparently the ones who put a premium on getting their story straight. (i.e. we aren't raising money for who they say we are, and the contact phone numbers they've provided so people can donate are wrong too.)

But hey, any news is good news, right?!?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Here's a picture from of the NYC committee at the end of our big fundraising bazaar in June.  We had all been working really hard since about 7 that morning, and were finally getting a chance to chill out and watch the 3-on-3 basketball tournament. I have no idea what we're laughing so hard at.

From left to right is Emily Wissanji (my fellow NYC marketing manager, and the *first person i met in Uganda*, aka 'the only reason i ever met any friends'), Darren Hynes (NYC project coordinator; fellow Aga Khan flats resident; party animal), Sara Shymko (NYC business manager; workaholic; party animal when not working), Me, and Heather Harris (NYC events manager; teacher; my roommate.)  Missing from the photo is Zahid Wissanji (NYC business manager; emily's husband; all-round-passionate-guy; in the absence of a photo: medium height, long & wavy black hair in a ponytail, brown skin, looks kinda like my brother.)


Okay, so its been a while since I've updated.  A lot has happened within the last three weeks, and yet absolutely nothing has happened at the same time.  For those who are wondering, no i haven't been not-posting because i'm busy backpacking through kenya, as originally planned.  I'm still sittin' in Kampala.  There's been a lot of hurry-up-and-wait.  And because i'm still waiting, I haven't written anything, in the hopes that the waiting will end and I'll have something to write about.

My three main delayers have been:

1) Finishing up at the job.  I was supposed to be done on june 30th, but because I slacked at work while being phenomenaly busy with the NYC project, I had a lot to catch up on. I ended up working like a maniac until about the 10th trying to get everything done: manuals and policies for the mentorship program, a bunch of funding proposals, compiling and writing the organisation's newsletter, a situational analysis of the organisations' branch system.  It was a lot. But its' done. (YAY!)  So then i had to wait to get paid, which happened today. (Extra YAY!) To give you an idea of how long i feared that was going to take, I was paid for the month of May on June 30th.  So the fact that my June cashola arrived July 21st was pretty great.

2)  Getting my passport back from Uganda's Internal Affairs Department.  For those of you keeping up, you may remember that I *accidentally* let my Ugandan visa expire in May, and that i didn't do anything about until early July.  I expected this to cause me some problems, and went to the Visa & Immigration Department all apologetic-smiles and silly-me-muzungu downcast-eyes, ready for the worst.  It turned out i needn't have worried about that, on my third visit (the first one, they closed the door for a two hour lunch, after i'd been waiting in line for an hour, the second time they just... told me... to come back tomorow... without any eplanation) the visa-guy just looked at my documentation, and arranged to back-date my new visa to May 4th. Fabulous, I thought, done and done.  I'll pay the fee, he'll stamp my passport, I'll be hittin' the road to Nairobi by the weekend. I was oh so wrong.   

I was told to take my form, go to the Orient Bank, and pay the fee there, and then pick up my passport in 7 working days. Sigh. No kenya for me that weekend, obviously.  I headed straight for the bank, they told me to come back the next day at 8:30 am. A few days later, i made in, discovered i could have gone any time between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., grumbled to my non-morning-person self, paid the fee, and looked forward to getting my passport in a couple of days.  I returned to the visa office last friday, on the appointed 7th working day, and was told by the official that despite having presented a valid proof-of-payment of the fee, that  because the money hadn't yet been transferred from the bank to the visa office, that i couldn't have my passport back. 'Try coming back on monday.' Argh.  My 'discussion point' that since i had obviously paid, and that there was no doubt about that, and that it therefore didn't makes sense to withhold my passport fell on deaf (aka 'non-bribe-receiving') ears.  I went back on monday. I went back on tuesday. On tuesday they told me to come back on thursday. I'm going back tomorrow, and if they don't have my passport gift-wrapped and accompanied by a cocktail, I'll... okay, i'll just be very very very annoyed. Because really there's nothing else i can do. And no where else i can go.

3)  I might have another job here.  This has been another key delayer.  A few months ago, I sat at a dinner between two older indian/ugandan men who own a very large manufacturing company, and apparently somehow came off sounding fairly charming and intelligent. (Hey, all those childhood years of camp plays and drama classes have paid off, i guess.)  Through a connection, they requested my CV, and two weeks ago I went in for a chat with one of the company big cheeses. He didn't really know what he wanted me to do, but he liked the idea of me coming on and doing something to do with marketing for something that they make.  No ideas of if he wanted an employee, a contractor, a consultant, or what he wanted them to do. Just ... liked me., thought I'd be good.  Could i send them a proposal? Sure.  And now i'm waiting to hear back. I have another meeting with them tomorrow.

This delayer obviously has the biggest impact on my time here. I am definitely not returning to Canada on August 4th, as my plane ticket currently indicates, since I haven't even had a chance to go travelling yet.  But until i have my meeting tomorrow, i have no idea if I'll be coming home in a month, in two months, or (possibly) in a year.  I've been a little paralyzed by it - not knowing at all what i'll be doing beyond next week is like that.  So that's why i haven't written. Cuz i didn't know what to write.

During all this waiting of course, i have been doing other things.  The NYC project has gotten some press (here's an example, from Uganda's national newspaper, the  New Vision, where the idea of a woman managing something is foreign that i've been referred to as 'he'), i got out of the city with a weekend trip to jinja, my friend larissa left to go back to Canada, and I was involved in yet another robbery.  Larissa, heather and I were in a taxi on our way to a restaurant, when this rodenty-looking horrible man reached into the front passenger window and tried to grab Larissa's purse. Larissa was warned a split second before by my yelling of 'laarissaaaa!' so she had a pretty good grip going when he grabbed, and heather, who was seated directly behind larissa, reached forward, holding on to larissa with one arm ('i don't know why my instinct was that he was trying to steal larissa') while she scratched the guy's eyes and face through the window with the other hand, and while I leaned forward and dug my fingernails into the guy's hands as he continued to pull. Larissa kept up her grip and screamed and screamed and screamed. He finally gave up. We sat there staring at each other and catching our breath - heather and I actually had his skin under our nails - then we actually started yelling and high-fiving each other in the car.  It was pretty scary, but felt really fucking amazing when we'd realised what we'd done.  Heather made note that had we been in nairobi - a much more dangerous city - at least one of us would probably have a knife in us right then.  Then we met our friends for dinner and had a much more interesting story to tell then the usual traffic-was-horrible spiel.

So that's why I haven't written much!

*'Sorrysorry' is one of my favourite Ugandan expressions. They say it for everything. I used to find it weird - 'why are you apologising, i just got a paper cut, its not your fault', but now I can never even think of what else i used to say instead. 

I also really like:
'Somehow' - stuck in the most funny places, as a do-it-all modifier. 'It is somehow hot out today.'
'The what?' - inserted into sentences, usually by people trying to display power.  Creates anxiety when you realise you had predicted the wrong answer. 'On the agenda for the what? the meeting, is a discussion about the what? the convention.'
'Lost/found' - a little exchange, when two people haven't seen each other for a while, even a few days. 'Ah, you have been lost!'  'Ah, but i have been found.'
'Used' - you don't get 'used to' something, you just get 'used'.  'You like matoke? Ah, you are really used!'
'Fearing/paining' - nobody's scared, nothing hurts, people are fearing and paining. 'Ah! You are fearing the cockroach?!', 'Oh, my head it is paining!'
'G/G' - hard g's where there should be soft g's and vice versa. ie. Tarjet markets; diggital cameras, En-ghee-oh (NGO).
So that's that.  See you kids later.

Friday, July 02, 2004

I just can't answer all the fan mail, but i thought i'd just do it this once

Dear Deanna,
You work in Uganda, right? I'm nosy, and i was wondering, what does your office look like? How about your co-worker Ruth? What's the view look like from the doorway of your office building? And I hear that the street your office is on is quite lovely?

And besides, your work days must be pretty relaxing, what with you spending all that time going for lunch with your friends? I know that today it was with your friends Sara and your roommate Heather, but what's the usual routine?

Oh, and you told me aaaggges ago that you were going to show me some gorrilla pictures and you never did. What gives?

Imaginary Soandso

Dear Imaginary,
I can tell by your name that you must be Ugandan. Are you related to Innocent, or Peace, or Harriet, or Harriet, or Harriet, or Sara, or Sara, or Sara? No? Weird.

Your right. My office is quite nice! The building houses one of about 6 broadband-service-providers in the whole freakin' country, and the road has relatively little traffic. Most of the buildings are NGOs or embassies, so the people on the street are pretty used to the sight of muzungus, so it's a relatively harrassment-free zone. It feels really isolated and quiet, but its actually only a 5 minute boda-boda ride from downtown (in one direction) and home (the other way.) The office is pretty good too - although I'm done working there this week. I have to say I'm not too broken up about that! Its time to move along! (Although I will miss the lunch-time socials- it started off in January as a grouping of about 8 female CIDA interns, but our numbers have dwindled as people move back home. We still do it about 2-3 times a week, but now its usually 3 or 4 people at the most.)

Oh, and I feel badly about the gorilla pictures. I've been having trouble uploading them for some reason. I've got a few though- one of the market in Kabale, on the way to bwindi, one of Maria trekking in front of me through Bwindi Impenetrable forest (pretty impenetrable, huh?) and one of an actual gorilla. I have some super cute baby gorilla pictures but they're not cooperating. Maybe in a few days. And I mean it this time!


a market stall in Kabale:

On the way through the forest:

The big bad silverback gorilla:

[Oh! And an Update! Somehow things started to cooperate, don't know why. Here is an adorable-roarablebaby gorilla and a gorilla who was peeling a stick to feed the middle to her baby. Also, this is what the four of us looked like on the way down the mountain after it stopped raining (by the end we were a lot muddier!) And how many people do you think it takes to escort 4 girls gorilla trekking? More than THIS. There was probably about 3 or 4 more guys out of the frame. We had two porters, one guide, and a bunch of soldiers accompanying us. (MOM COVER YOUR EYES NOW.) The soldiers were there because in 1998, eight gorilla-tracking tourists were murdered by Congolese rebels. So to woo back the tourists they now send everyone out with a bunch of bored, but armed, soldiers. (MOM YOU CAN OPEN YOUR EYES NOW.) But its all perfectly safe now. (Or, at least it was three months ago, the congo is sort of heating up again, so who knows.)
And here is my favourite gorilla-tracking picture:
What are Maria and the Gorilla both looking at?

P.S. Oh, and one last thing: On the way home, we bought this big bag of strawberry-flavour candies (which must be confusing for people here, because strawberries don't exist in east africa) and then we kept on making our driver stop so we could give the candies to kids on the side of the road. (Our driver 'loooved' that, let me tell you.) Anyways, these kids were really excited and shy, and it was really cute, so i thought i'd share it,