Tuesday, June 28, 2005

well well

Looks like this is what i rode into tear gas for (see below.)

so, i guess peaceful protest ain't on the 'yessir' list

So, a couple of hours ago I headed downtown on a boda boda to meet Katie for lunch at Cafe Pap. As we (me and the boda driver) headed into town and onto Kampala Road, I felt my phone vibrate and answered it while still driving along on the motorcycle. It was Katie calling to warn me 'not to go on Kampala road, there's this massive protest going on.' To which I replied, "Too late! Already on Kampala Rd! And i can hear the protest I think I'm getting..." and then I hung up before I was able to finish my sentence with the word 'close'. I had frantically shoved my phone back into my bag and started yelling at the driver to GO GO GO because i looked behind me and realised we were about 20 feet ahead of a police truck that was spewing tear gas at the protesters. At the moment i saw the truck so did everyone else - and everyone just took off, running in all directions. The protesters themselves seemed pretty oblivious until the last minute and probably got the worst of it. The boda boda driver swerved off down a sidestreet to get out of the 'line of fire' and I speed-walked down towards Katie's office to warn her not to come up to Kampala Road to meet me. (We had lunch at a Ugandan restaurant near her office instead, as it meant we wouldn't have cross the teargassed Kampala Road. I had matoke, potato, beans, greens, cassava and chicken stew for lunch. ) An hour later after we'd eaten, I headed back up to Kampala Rd (I needed to go to the forex bureau) only to discover that people were still walking around with handkercheifs over their noses and mouths. I tried to breathe as little as possible (easier said than done) and got away with a sneeze or two.

Incidentally, this is actually the second time in the last few months that I've been in the line of fire of tear gassing. The first incident also involved me being in the wrong place at the wrong time, when I was heading to my apartment, located about half a mile from Makerere University. Apparently the student elections there are pretty controvertial stuff, and the police truck with the gas tanks was leaking so badly that that my cab driver had to pull over so we could each scramble blindly for our door handles so that we could get out of the tear-gas-filled car and and cough and sneeze and scratch out our eyes for a couple of minutes. When we got back to my apartment I invited the taxi driver in for a glass of water, as we were both having trouble with the 'breathing' and thing.

Both of these incidents involved pretty peaceful protest. I mean, how violent could student elections have gotten? And from what I saw of the protest today, the weapon of choice was slogan-bearing placards and chanting.

Could some aid agency please give the Kampala City Police some megaphones? (Or, alternatively, a crash course in Intro to Democracy?)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Never wear your gym socks twice, even if you "didn't sweat much" yesterday

God, I just had to take my socks off and throw them to other side of the room. Yeesh.

But anyways.

My week this week has involved the gloriousness of all glories: I have been supervising my employer's booth at the East African Construction Exhibition. As if exhibiting chainlink and burglar proofing grilles wasn't exciting enough, i actually added 'nail polish chipping' as an activity to my day, in order to up my mental stimulation levels. A LAUGH A MINUTE people, a laugh a minute.

Its funny how you can become exhausted by boredom. But the boredom has made me more interested in pushing for interesting conversations outside the bounds of construction-material-exhibiting. I accidentally had a pretty interesting conversation with my driver, Medy, on the way home from work the other day.* I had asked him where is family lived and how many brothers and sisters he had. Turns out, his mother and his two remaining sister and one brother live a couple miles away from him, but that he has 'about' 14 siblings in total because his dad had three wives. (His father passed away about fifteen years ago.) Apparently the whole family lived together on one compound in the village until dad died. (Some multiple-wife families i've encountered have the wives and their children all living separately. I think that generally happens when the first wife didn't anticipate the addition of the subsequent wives, and there is tension as a result. Or it could be an entirely other reason, I don't know.) So, you have the dad, the three wives, and the fourteen kids. The kids all played together, and it was fun. The wives each had a three-day shift in the kitchen. So for three days Medy's mom would cook, then another wife would cook for three days, etc. And during the days it was your turn to cook, it was also your turn to sleep with the husband, because those three days you were serving him. Serving him dinner, and serving him in bed, i guess. I thought the orderliness of that setup was pretty interesting, actually. According to Medy, he's pretty sure that jealousy wasn't really an issue, but who knows? Its probably hard to perceive these kinds of things when you're a kid. Also, i'm guessing that Medy's mom probably wasn't the first wife, because he probably would have mentioned it otherwise. First wives tend to have more status and are (i think) more jealous of the second and third wives; while the second/third wives are generally just more gratefull to have a husband. These are all just assumptions i've gleaned from informal chats, talk radio, etc. So i could be misenterpreting. It's really easy to do.

Also, Medy confirmed something about twins that I had heard from a man who was from a tribe from the north of uganda. (In other words, this is probably at least an east-africa wide practice, not just a specifically tribal one.) Apparently, when twins are born, they are given very specific names, which i will be getting Medy to write down for me tomorrow. When a boy twin is born first vs second, he gets one name or another, and when a girl twin is born she is also given a certain name based on her birth order. The parent's names change too. So when's Medy's younger twin brother and sister were born, his parents names changed. Apparently having twins is a big provider of status for the father, and so acquiring that new name is a big source of pride. ("Ah, look at my manly seed! Making two babies not just one!) So i'll be posting tomorrow what myself and michael's and our parents' names would have been had we been born in Uganda!

*Yes, I have a driver. He takes me to and from work and lunch and the gym, and to miscellaneous work-related appointments. I was supposed to be given a company car, but what with my inability-to-commandeer-a-vehicle thing, i have a driver instead. I really like him - he'd been me and several of my friends regular cab driver for the last year. But now he basically just works for me. He totally could be doing extra-curricular cab driving outside the hours i've 'reserved' him, but i think he's enjoying not having to desperately chase clients in order to feed/clothe himself now.

(In other yes-I-have-a maid issues, Nelly, our 'housegirl', keeps breaking stuff and misplacing stuff and ruining PERFECTLY GOOD $90 shirts. But she has five kids and her husband is kind of a good-for-nuthin, and so our conciensces won't let us fire her, but HOLY CRAP she is driving us freaking INSANE.) <>

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


I feel, like... hungry, man.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

This has nothing to do with Uganda, its just interesting

This article is interesting. <via>

Monday, June 06, 2005

Le Citron Velu

This past long weekend (it was Mothers Day on Friday, a civic holiday here) myself and four friends hopped on a privately-hired matatu for a relaxing weekend at the Hairy Lemon, a chillout/camping/swimming/ tanning/napping spot on a small island in the middle of the Nile River. It was lovely and relaxing, except for the fact that I am turning into a nervous wreck over the recent addition of Deanna Flesh to the week's menu at the Insect Cafe. In addition to the numerous flea bites, I have now been blessed by the beautifying effects of several large tsetse fly bites. They are big and red and big and painful. I look gohhhhrgeous, dahling.

Other than that, I really have a dearth of things to write about. Work has been work. Other stuff has been other stuff. I am suffering from the slow drip drip drip of friends leaving Uganda and going back home with the ends of their contracts here. By the end of July my social circle will have shrunk by about 85%. That process has already begun in earnest, so I'm already not going out nearly as much. Although, to be honest, that's partly because I don't really feel like it. Excessive drinking in the same bars week after week might just have been a habit I exhausted in Kingston somewhere mid-1999. I'm feeling much more enthusiastic about things like good books and games of Scrabble than I ever did before.

Ah heck, who am i kidding. This has got to be just a phase. I'm sure I'll get back to the unhealthy lifestyle patterns that make life fun any time now.

A lot of my knitting/cooking foods with many involved steps/reading/gym time is being spent thinking about the what the heck i'm going to do with myself post-Uganda. I have so many options, but they're all so much harder than, say, just getting my contract here get extended by another six months.
  • I could go back to school. (but that wouldn't be until September of 2006, and what would I do until then? And do I want to stop earning money for two years? And what program would i do? And how much benefit would an MBA have anyway, considering the expense? and if i don't do an mba, what would i do instead? and what would look like significant improvement upon my existing education to justify taking two years out? Etc?)
  • I could keep working here, for this company. (But why? And do i really want to? Sure, i'm saving more money here than i could at home, but is that enough of a reason? And are people really going to buy that i've really done this job anyway? Cause i barely believe it, frankly. So getting more experience here might not even matter?)
  • I could keep working here, for other people. (But why? Would it really make a difference to my career?)
  • I could go home and get a job. (But what? BUT WHAT? WHAT I ASK YOU?!)
  • I could go home and try to do there what i do here. (But who will let me? and how will i get people at home to see my work experience here as legitimate? and if i can't convince people of that, what kind of job can i do where i don't end up feeling like the last couple years were a COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME?)
  • I could curl up in a ball and wait for someone to pay me for that.
  • I could start capitalizing words appropriately.
Wasn't life simpler when there were no choices? (Hmm, now that i'm done the fourth grade, what should I do with myself? I could go to grade five, or i could... Wait. No. I think i'll just go to grade five. The decision is final, and I feel really good about it.)