[i know this is two posts in one day. but i am having a CRISIS, people. this is an EMERGENCY!]

I am an idiot.

As many of you know either from my packing vlog or my count-ups at the end of each blog post, I am attempting to read the entirety of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace this summer. My reasoning was sound; I am young, tempestuous, and out to seek my Great Perhaps- what better time to read the ultimate human-versus-the-world novel? Furthermore, as much work as is being done, I do have ample time in the evenings devoid of TV (and often power, for that matter) and wanted to spend this time devouring something that would dually keep most of the dust bunnies out of my academic cranium and force me to question, deeply, the meaning of War and the root of Peace.

I even have another, perfectly legitimate reason; one of my bucket list wishes for my lifetime is to see every single film with Audrey Hepburn- including the ones from the early 1950s where she only has small roles. One of her lesser-known films was, in fact, a horrendous adaptation of none other than Tolstoy’s classic. The poor adaptation, so I’ve read in the biography Enchantment by Donald Spoto, is due to the poor direction, production, and overwhelming number of screenwriters (who never communicated with each other). In the knowledge of my borderline-obsession with one miss Hepburn, my most wonderful Grandmother gave me a copy of the VHS a few years ago (thanks Mema!). Determined, as ever, to read the book prior to seeing the film (despite its rumored horrible-ness (which I have a Ph. D in (and if you get that reference, ten points to Gryffindor!))) I promised myself four years ago I would someday read the novel.

And let’s be real, I’m a pretentious-Mount-Holyoke-collegiate-Ivory-Tower-dweller. I want to read the damn book to say I’ve read the (supposedly) Greatest (and Longest) Book Ever Written in All of History.

Which is why, nearly a month ago now, I walked down to the second-hand bookshop in my hometown and paid $2.50 for a copy of the Barnes & Noble Classic: War and Peace.

Now, after all this hullabaloo about me wanting to be an authentic scholar, true-to-the-book Audrey fan, and to explore this famous commentary on war, one would think I would have done my research on the translation I wanted.

Alas, here I sit, humbled again by my own lack of foresight.

Whilst looking to procure a copy I merely assumed one in English would be enough, so when the time came to decide upon which shelved copy in the local joint I went with the copy that (a) did not look like someone had puked all over the cover, and (b) was three bucks cheaper than the other.

Famous last mistake.

As I’ve been trucking through this rendition of the book, I marveled at its clarity and brevity (being only 696 pages). Then, looking at the back cover, my eyes fell upon treacherously overlooked, drastically important words:

Translated and Abridged by Princess Alexandra Kropotkin.

Translated and abridged. ABRIDGED? ABRIDGED?!?!?!

In a fit of fury and disbelief I whipped out my still-unnamed laptop, willing the excruciatingly slow internet to load my search on the Kropotkin translation (I dared not write abridgment) of the work.

Dear reader, how I wish I could tell you it was a mistake, a misprint, or loose translation of the wretched term. Alas, this is not so. I am indeed reading an abridged version of the book I so desperately wanted to be genuine on.

The stuffy academic reviews of said abomination all ripped it to shreads, declaring the work to maintain the poignancy and ethic of the story, but in its shredding of an extra 600 pages lacking in dignity and …. I can hardly say it … appropriate for high school students.


One might infer I was a little, teensy bit distraught.

After some assuring words from my housemates (who patiently endured my threats to burn the book, hurl it against the wall, or swear off all Russian literature) we came up with three potential solutions to my existential dilemma, which I shall now present for you:

  1. Find an e-reader complete version of the original 1,700 pages and read the entire book as a PDF on my laptop. Pros: I retain my dignity and enhance my credibility as a certified smart-ass nincompoop whose sole goal in life is to out-do her professors. Also, the copy I found for free is the Maude translation, recommended by the aforementioned stuffy academic reviewer. Cons: backlight is bad for already-bad eyes AND I won’t always have my computer with me AND it’s going to take at least eight hours to download. Not to mention there is no comfort like holding a book.
  2. Wait and do not read the book until I can find another copy… which may mean waiting until our next voyage to Kampala (which is, in all likelihood, going to be in late July). Or even worse, wait until I’m back in the states and starting school again.
  3. Just read what I have.

Of course, I might combine the two options and read what I have and fill in later with the passages Princess Kropotkin cut out…

I’m still not sure what to do, and since this is THE WORST AND BIGGEST PROBLEM I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED I’m just going to curl up in a crying ball until someone Important tells me what I should Think and Act Upon.

(but seriously, suggestions?)

current jam: bon iver, to still my deeply disturbed soul.



it’s time to recommence (thirty day photo challenge, ugandan style)

Ladies, Gentlemen, and variations thereupon, it is at long last time to recommence the 30 Day Photo Challenge!

For those of you new around these parts, a couple months ago I did a daily blog posting series for 30 (mostly) consecutive days surrounding the photographic idea of documenting the “little things” of my American collegiate life. It was in part inspired by the facebook group of the same name and idea, except the prompts were (almost) entirely of my own design and meant to be a pattern of photographs that could be replicated once in Uganda. My intent, to be blunt (as I am fond of being), is to compare dually the vast DIFFERENT-ness of my two worlds, but more importantly to express similarities. So often I think in American culture we’re spoon-fed false images of foreign places- after all, the news only really reports international crisis and wars rather than incredible progress or lessons to be learned from other places. In my own small way, I hope to dually internally and externally explore this dialectic of old and new, ancient and modern, learned and unlearned, and wealth expressed complexly materially and in spirit.

All the photos taken in America are on this page should you ever like a point of reference!

Now, I must make a disclaimer: in the states while at Mount Holyoke I reaped the benefits of incredibly fast wireless internet. Here in Kotido, that is sadly not the case. On good days, it takes a minute to load the WordPress homepage, but more often than not it’s a bad day and it takes up to five or six minutes. So I must beg your indulgence, for I will be compressing most of my pictures to a smaller and less HD-fancy quality to preserve my own sanity and as to not kill my battery uploading photographs daily.

Upon my return to the states I fully intend to post a public flickr album (or kodak, or some other photo sharing host) with all the 30 day pictures as well as other photos taken from Uganda!

Whew, that was long-winded. ANYWAYS, it is now time for me to present to you all (with much flourish and the opening of large red curtains)…

Day One: A Picture of Yourself with 10 Facts

1. I cut off all my hair since the original 30 DPC; it was rather spur-of-the-moment as there was a Locks for Love drive at MHC. It was free if you chopped ten inches or more, so I told the guy to buzz it off. No need for abundant, luscious locks in this heat, lemme tell you!

2. If one were to compare a picture of me from every month of the year for the past, hmm, three or four years, no hairdo would be the same. I’m always perming, chopping, growing out, or giving myself bangs. This perverbial need to alter my appearance perhaps has to do with a quest for self-identity, or with a prevalent boredom and need to push away the complacency that is all too tempting to fall into.

3. In this photo, taken by the lovely Thera (supervisor, mentor, housemate, and blogger extraordinaire), I am reading The Secret Life of Bees (review here).

4. If you look a little closely, you can see the lovely burn on my leg (story here). Assuredly, it has healed much more since then!

5. This picture was taken in Owino, a chaotic, haphazard, maze-like market in the heart of Kampala. The book section, where I plopped down after an exhausting afternoon while Thera and Elizabeth perused the titles, is nigh on impossible to find.

6. The pants I’m wearing once belonged to my brother, Thomas, who procured them from our mutual favorite thrift store, Time After Time.

7. I’m running out of egocentric things to say… Hmm… Ah! As much as I love writing, performing, singing in front of people I absolutely detest talking about myself in front of people. Today at church I had to introduce myself to the congregation and my pulse was racing. Kind of pathetic, considering I’ve (fake) died on stages multiple times, run around in a prosthetic nose and chin for the Wizard of Oz, and sung about the Outcasts of Paris for a senior spotlight. Yeesh.

8. I’m rather fond of the blue-yellow-and-red (/primary colors, for fellow artists) combinations in all things, as clearly evidenced here by my Karamajong beads and my Katange shirt.

9. My absolute favorite film would have to be V for Vendetta (remember, remember, the fifth of november…).

10. I really, really want a tattoo. I’ve already got three in mind, despite having a crippling aforementioned phobia of needles. Let’s just say it will be years before I work up the courage to actually get them/one done!

Alright kiddos, I’m out for now. If you have any requests for themes, pictures, or tales to be regaled, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

current jam: “mil besos” patty griffin (thinking of you, mary day!)

best thing in my life right now: last night i began the introduction of a very potter musical to thera and our housemate; twas an excellent evening, to say the minimal. it shall continue until july 15th, whence a large ug potter extravaganza shall occur (with organic pumpkin juice! seriously people, you have to come to uganda some time).

pages read: um…still 17…

fantas consumed: still five.

What exactly are you DOING in Uganda?

A dear friend and mentor whom I met on my first sojourn to Uganda and whom has remained dear to me since then (ahem, Gann!) once told me that, upon my return to the states, I needed three replies ready for the abysmal question “So, how was Africa?”

This question is abysmal for the following reasons:

1. Africa, as I have repeatedly mentioned, is a continent and NOT a country. Yes, I’ve been to six (and by the end of the summer, possibly 7…more for another time!) African nations in both Western and Eastern Africa. This accounts for approximately 10% of the countries on this continent, and as for Burundi and Côte d’Ivoire I hardly spent any time in-nation and did not even get my passport stamped (a tale for another time). So really, I’ve only come to know Rwanda, Uganda, and Ghana. A blessing, but by no means enough to make me capable of answering how a continent that is larger than Russia, China, all of Western Europe, and the USA combined is faring.

2. Condensing ten weeks worth of time, experience, feeling, learning, and growing into one little question is like asking Jo Rowling what it was like to write one of the Harry Potter masterpieces. It’s your entire life for an intense amount of time- how is one supposed to compound it all into a sentence?

Now, unfortunately, I see no easy answer to the problematic question, because I do generally really appreciate that people who ask such questions (a) actually care enough and remember that this is what I did for the summer, which humbles me and reminds me of the incredible people who fill this world, and (b) are opening a space, usually, for dialogue to ensue.

And, let’s be real, so many times questions like this are asked over punch after church or in passing in the cereal isle, so it’s not exactly like I’m going to go NGO-fanatic all over you and nit pick the question and belligerently proclaim myself to be a sage whose mighty wisdom deserves more than a measly sentence asking. (Mighty wisdom, ha!). Perhaps a better question might be, “Tell me about your time in Uganda” or, the money-maker, “This must have been quite the adventure [/experience/formative time…] and I’d love to hear more over coffee [/drinks/a meal/a long romantic walk on the beach…].” Alas, these exist in dream worlds and not really in reality. And, let’s be real, I may not want to take a quixotic stroll with you on the sand- no offense.

In lieu of this microcosmic dilemma, my dear mentor told me I needed to prepare three kinds of responses: the two-sentence/thirty-second reply for those vaguely interested and merely fishing for a conversational topic; the five-minute story for those who have genuine interest whom you either do not want to divulge all or, more commonly, are more on the periphery of your life and therefore don’t have the time for the hand-holding sharing session; and lastly, the full experience, to be shared with the few people who truly want to know it all.

The last divulgence is a rarity; usually among family and close friends. I tend to include pictures and video with this sharing and, if you’re especially lucky, some full Ugandan regalia.

Having taken this to heart, my return to the states at the age of fourteen was a little less burdened by this guidance. Still, I struggled for months post-landing, wrestling with questions of why I am white, American, middle-class, and handed an excellent education merely because I was conceived in a womb of parents with the same privilege. I was blessed with people wanting the whole story, but blinded in some ways because not everyone wanted the full, gory, intensive retelling. A little older now, I understand why. Not everyone can care about what I feel passion for and people have their own lives. This is neither here nor there, but learning to respect people’s passions is a lifelong journey for me. Regardless, this kowledge doesn’t mean my return is going to be any easier.

Which was, in part, my secret motivation for creating this blog. Yes, I wanted to have a place besides my journal to look back on fondly to recall my time; yes, I wanted a central place to share my tales of woe and glory with friends and family; yes, I think someday I’ll write memoir (I’ve already got a title, is that bad?) and this will be a place to begin; yes, I think a life-abroad is rich material for blogging; but most of all, I thought (and still think) that by sharing the micro-events and big feelings bit by bit as they happen I will have created a space for healthy transition and sharing. Ultimately, selfish as it is, this blog is for me. I’m so grateful you all are along for the ride, especially because you being here (virtually) is helping and encouraging me every step of the way.

But now, having laid out for you my trick to sanity and transition, I now must make one further confession.

A question I am often asked pertaining to my internship here in Uganda for the summer is: what exactly are you doing in Uganda? It is, admittedly, a perfectly fair and reasonable question to ask as I have yet to be explicit with projects to be undertaken or outlines of my job description.

My avoidance of writing out a concrete, as-you-please, simple explanation are one of two reasons; the first being I like to be counter-cultural in my avoidance of feeding what surely People want to hear: a clean-cut, two-sentence sized-down version of an entire summer’s worth of work, meditation, and exploration. The second is because, as in many things pertaining to NGO work in Uganda, what tangibly can be accomplished in ten weeks is often not apparent until those ten weeks have commenced. And, you know, it’s my rebellion against the two-sentence reply.

But, having forced you all to endure my aloofness and avoidance of the subject long enough (though, strictly speaking, I do feel that you all read this blog of your own will and therefore I haven’t, per se, forced you to do anything (dually, however, if I pester you in real life (which could well be the case) to read my blog is some sense that is forcing you…hmmm, food for thought)) I think it is high time I made a material list of our project goals for the end of the summer.

(This might also have been prompted by the planning session held by Thera and I yesterday…but to keep the mystery alive, I won’t share that…oops.)

So here it is, at long last, my thirty seconds condensation of three weeks thus far:

In the Karamoja region of Northwestern Uganda I am working for the North Karamoja Diocese of the Church of Uganda under the Educational Coordinator. Our principle jobs were in capacity building, community living, and educational support and reform.

Now, if you’re like me, you might say “what does that mean?” (ENSUE MY TRICK!) For, if you are in fact looking at the screen with a dubious and confused expression scrawled across your visage, you might ask “Tell me more about that” or “What exactly does capacity building mean?”

And now, dear reader, you have transitioned from the two-sentence to the five-minute reply. (I HAVE ENSNARED YOU, HAHA!) And I might reply, “capacity building is the idea that we, as Western NGO workers, recognize that the Karamajong are perfectly capable of raising themselves out of material poverty and creating their own educational reform. With this recognition we seek to build this capacity within the community in which we live, creating a space and laying the foundation for those native to this community to create their own change. We create sustaining relationships until there is no need for us, not necessarily until we feel like leaving mid-project.”

Should you be even more curious, you might ask me to explain in detail some projects to enlighten one’s understanding of this fabulous concept of capacity building.

And now, after this ridiculous ramble, I present to you three key projects Thera and I hope to accomplish (or make serious headway on) for the summer:

1. Education Surveys

A few months ago Thera took a comprehensive survey of all the schools in the district; what they needed, how they were doing, etc. There are a few schools left to be surveyed which is our first task: to complete the data compilation so as to have a full report on the district. However, as any researcher knows, paper-copied data is a pain in the ass to read through and, dually, needs to be compiled into a more cohesive and read-able format for future workers and fellow Diocese employees and volunteers. Thus, the concrete:

–       To finish surveying the remaining three schools.

–       To compile all the data into on cohesive and legible format both on paper and electronically.

–       To write a narrative report of the data with an easily updateable at-a-glance for every school.

The analytical:

–       This project falls under “educational reform and support”

–       We also hope, once the data is coherent, to find ways to satisfy the needs of the schools.

2. Water Bottle Building

Unbeknownst to many, water bottles actually make incredibly sturdy and useful bricks when building homes (my new friend and fellow MCC worker, Elizabeth, has an awesome blog post about the first-ever water bottle house built in africa here). Filled with concrete/dirt and sealed together like any other mud-brick home these bottle-bricks are both incredibly good for repurposing and thus, our environment and a very cheap way to build a home. We are hoping to receive grant money to begin the project (for which we’ve been saving all of our bottles (which are many, when one cannot drink tap water and therefore often must drink bottled water)) and, praying all goes well, we shall begin the campaign for collecting plastic bottles from across Kotido. Once enough are collected, we hope to construct a structure on the Church property (probably a latrine).

The concrete:

–       To collect water bottles so as to reduce carbon footprints and as an innovative and useful way of recycling

–       To build, with professional guidance, an example structure on the Diocese’s property

The analytical:

–       Capacity building resides in the idea of “we did this from local materials for cheap and so can you!”

–       Community living will have ensured trust within (hopefully hopefully hopefully) much of the community and, therefore, we hope to have a successful bottle-collecting campaign as our fellows will have trusted us with our initiative (crazy as it may sound to Karamajong or Westerner alike)

3. Solar Appliances (Oven/Cooker & Dryer)

This might by my favorite project initiative, and certainly seems the most do-able. We intend to build a solar cooker and solar dryer for our own compound completely from found materials within the community. Solar cookers have been around even in the states since the 1960s and are (a) incredibly efficient, (b) good for the earth, and (c) very easy to make from fancy materials or found trash. This is the biggest capacity building and community living project; we build the oven/cooker as a demonstration to the rest of the community, bringing it with us to visits and sharing food we will make in the oven with others. Most importantly, in using local materials we can show (once again) that it is a relatively simple project that anyone can do! Assuredly a video will ensue of the whole process, but it’s already looking to be incredibly cool!!

The concrete:

–       To collect the necessary materials, visibly, from our surroundings (two cardboard boxes, a sheet of glass, flour paste and soot to make natural black paint, a piece of hanger wire, and the silvery metallic insides of plastic bags)

–       To build the solar cooker and dryer

–       To cook in the oven/cooker and then share it with the community to prove its effectiveness.

The analytical:

–       Capacity building at its finest!

–       Efforts towards long-term renewable energy and sustainability

–       To also show you, dearest readers, that you can make these as well and reduce your carbon footprint! I fully intend to make on my return to the states as well! (this, in turn, is Western capacity building)

These are the three main objectives we hope to achieve. I am, understandably, terribly eager to begin. And while these are the tangible, so much of work in NGOs abroad is simply living as a community member, understanding cultures and embracing and learning from the collision space between us.

current jam: “swee swee” mountain men

best thing in my life right now: i woke up to a snuggly cat on my lap this morning!

pages read: still 17; it’s barely noon here and i spent all morning writing this, okay?! (judgement judgement judgement)

fantas consumed: 5

words words words words words

Since takeoff from North Carolina, I have inhaled no less than five novels. I might have mentioned, I’m an avid reader when there are no papers to write or articles to have made mental commentary on for class. And, let’s be real, I’ve been killing time so I didn’t have to start what I promised to my self I would do: read War and Peace. Thogh, as you know from yesterday’s update, I have now begun perusing its pages to uncover the illness of Anna Pavlovna…and you thought  I had only said I’d started to appease your harsh criticisms of my intlelect! Nay, ye scurvey dogs, I speak true! A plague o’ both your platoons!

I digress.

In my literary procrastination, I have consumed some excellently entertaining literature. Not Tolstoy, but a good Young Adult fiction cleansing is good even for the academic soul. Empties out the facts and fills the mind with creativity when a pensieve isn’t handy. And, in the spirit of creative writing and desire to share good reads, I now present to you:


Book #1: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (5 out of 10) read on the plane

Okay, so I’m loyal to Dessen because she is, after all, from Chapel Hill. And a good chick lit book is always welcome, but I have to say compared to The Truth About Forever this particular piece was sub-par. The structure was excellent, the characters believable as always, and the leading man just as desirable as ever (he is a radio DJ…can we say dream man for la lizzie?). Perhaps because my angsty adolescence has nearly had its sunset, I found the storyline a little irrelevant and a lot of silliness. To be fair, I was engrossed for the three hours it took for me to read it on the flight, but even so it merely lived up to my expectations without blowing them out of the water. Good for a one-time read as a chickling, but not for this womanly lit-seeker. I suppose I should more freely admit that, were I fifteen and still pining away for boys, this would have been the best ever…even if a dragon or time-traveling machine would have spiced things up a little.

Book #2: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (9.0) read in Kampala

If you do not know who Sedaris is, you need to stop reading right now and take yourself over to the public library and check out ANYTHING by this man. He’s a riot, to make a brash understatement; but you can read reviews to hear glowing praise of his wit. What I found especially appealing and enthralling about this literary work was his recollection of growing up in Raleigh, NC. Having spent the better part of my life living an hour away from the state capital of Raleigh, I knew many of the places he mentioned and all the wry remarks about Mountain Dew and snuff. Needless to say, I was rolling the whole read through, even if his consumption of meth kind of scared the giggle out of me.

Book #3: The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson (8.0) read in Kampala, which provided a marvelous, real-world backdrop of Lake Victoria and jungle-bush to visualize Jamaica

Not what I expected, but supremely well written and incredibly well-paced. The title, which misdirected me to believe the tale was one surrounding one of my favorite subjects- pirates!- but in fact was about Jamaica from the forties to the mid-seventies. The plot itself surrounds, at first, a young girl named Ida who, despite her youth, begins to fall for the (actually real!) actor Errol Flynn. The story both follows her personal journey, but is more so a dialectic of race politics in Jamaica before and after independence, told through the lens of this vibrantly written narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even if it lacked clashing ships and battles in the Pacific.

Book #4: The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.C. King (8.5) read in Kampala

This, however, was the exact kind of swashbuckling feminist yarn I was yearning for. While King’s writing style certainly could have used some refining, her inventive tale about a teenage Irish pirate queen, Emer Morrisey, doomed to live the life of 100 dogs as punishment for the murder of her sworn enemy. When she awakes, 100 dog lives later, she is in 1970s small-town Pennsylvania…with all of her memories in tact. There are three interwoven narratives in the book; the story of how Emer became a pirate (my personal favorite), some anecdotes from her dog years; and the story of how Saffron, her post-dog-human-form has set out on a quest to recover Emer’s incredible buried treasure. I loved every page of this wry, fast-paced, and compelling novel. Its unusual structure and element of fantasy augmented what could have merely been an excellent piratica; it is now that and an innovative and witty tale. Highly recommended!

Book #5: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (9.4) read in Lira & Kotido

I literally could not put this particular piece of literature down; the wit, the style, the lush and extremely accurate South Carolinian setting laid the foundation for a remarkable spun tale rich with adult themes meshed, beautifully, with childhood coming-of-age. Monk’s characters were believable, the plot mostly convincing, and the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement in America so wonderful. The storytelling capability exuded by Monk is really something to marvel at. The whole way through I was rooting for Lily, even if once again I’d found myself a book where the main character was caught in a web of lies. Seriously people, tell the damn truth and in the end things WILL work out. If everyone was honest with themselves and each other, Lordy would the world run smoother. At any rate, I highly, highly recommend this book and am bent on seeing the film as soon as possible!

current jam: “it won’t be long” by the beatles, but the version performed by evan rachel wood (who is from raleigh!!) from across the universe

best thing in my life right now: i just read, on the whole, five marvelous novels. life is swell!

pages read: 17!!

fantas consumed: still 5.

thoughts from the journey: kampala to lira to kotido

On Monday, June 13th, I left Kampala for the much-anticipated journey to Kotido with Thera and our housemate. The journey itself was to be spread over two days, for while the first leg of the journey was over paved roads, the second would require four-wheel masterful driving over four hours’ worth of bumpy, hole-filled dirt road through the mountains of Abim.

After having spent the better part of two weeks playing musical houses for places to stay whilst exploring all that the capital held for us, I think we all were eager to depart and go home. As I’ve been hearing about the wild beauty and complete different-ness that is the Karamoja district (where Kotido is) since February, I was completely ready to finally see it for my own eyes.

But I was to wait a little longer.

The journey to Lira was long; we tried, for a time, to listen to my specially-cooked-up-revamped-Road trip-Mix on some very old and well-used iPod speakers. Alas, that ended all too soon. So I took entirely too much video and tried, for a spell, to play the Alphabet Game. As there really only four designs for the billboards to Lira that had a rather brief jaunt as well.

So I drank in the Ugandan countryside- which, dear reader, was certainly enough. There were fields upon fields of sunflowers, their vibrant yellowness contrasting with the expanseless blue of the sky, painted with rolling white clouds. There were painted-on signs above shops for Celltell and MTN in hues of red and red and red and blue. And all else was that lush green you read so much about in the Nat Geos and Out of Africas dotting our bookshelves.

But most important was the crossing of the Nile. Before we crossed, Thera turned to me and said, “You’re going to want to look.”

I wish I could show you photographs, because the Nile is everything one might dream; raging, voracious, crashing, unnerving, and majestic. Alas, the bridge that crosses the Nile is a crucial security point- it is the lifeline to the North. Thus, no photography is allowed.

But allow me to paint for you: the water is so blue it almost black in some places, but where is spews over rocks (of which there are many) you can see the greenish shade to the water. Fringed along every wave are frothy white bubbles; the torrential turning and twisting of the current seems as though with one pull one might drown. The river is wide, deep, old, and worth the tales woven for it. As a marker for the boundary between Northern and Southern Uganda, it stands to reason it too is a physical manifestation of a colliding space. A crash between a region recovering from war and one not; the barrier and bridge between tribes, between prejudices and curiosities. It is to be feared and loved.

As in all things, being reminded of the collisionary vessel in which I now abide was necessary.

When we arrived in Lira night was falling, so the four of us (Elizabeth, Thera, housemate, and I) collapsed on the singular bed and ordered sandwiches to dine. I had my first hot shower in two weeks- JUBILANTLY, I might fill in- and scarfed down the salami wonderland that was my dinner. Lira was looking to be pretty good.

Until it was time for sleep.

With three in a bed and one on the floor, it was promising already to be mildly uncomfortable. When the mosquito net proved to be abrim in gaps in the netting, the night was shaping up to be hellacious.

Now, allow me to go further back.

This is my third time to the Continent. Everywhere I have been, I have used my mosquito net because it is an immense privilege to have one. I have never felt, however, that I needed it where I was in Ghana or Rwanda or even Uganda. But in Lira? By Jove, was that net necessary. And yet it was my first time with a malfunctioning net. Of all the gin joints in all the world.

Thus, we four, slathered in deet, tried to sleep despite the persistent, grinding whir of the bloody insects. It hardly worked. I, per what seems to be usual, seemed to bear the brunt of the bites. I’ve counted eighty on my legs alone; my arms are even worse. All that was warm and fuzzy about Lira faded into miserable heat and horrible itching.

By dawn I hated Lira and all the buzzing creatures in it.

After a morning dash of tea and grocery shopping, we dropped Elizabeth off and the three of us began our sojourn to Kotido. I confess I was not in the brightest of spirits; my leg is still healing (it is now the size of two half-dollars rather than my palm) and was in blistering pain, everywhere itched from the blasted mosquitoes, I had hardly slept, and was facing the second and more arduous leg of our journey. The silver lining was that I was not driving, but still, I kept quiet and internally pouted.

Until we, after driving through much of the glorious and wild and untamed bush, came to Abim. Already my spirits were lifting from the lustrous and incredible Earth around us- but there is no place in the world like the mountains of Abim. It was truly like arriving in Shangri-La, or heaven, or some untamed and uncharted Middle Earth of the tropics. Jutting out of the orange earth are, what the Karamajong refer to, as “hills.” These “hills” put Appalachia to shame; their rolling and monstrous peaks towered far above, their unoccupied sides dotted with trees and greenery. Against the endless sky even they seemed like the shoulders and feet and faces of slumbering giants.

i took this on the road through abim

One such mountain, called Rwot, captivated my attention even before Kelly explained to me its significance. The shape was distinctive from the other, multi-peaked mounds around us; it looked somewhat bald, the trees stopping mid-way up to give way to an enormous rock face protruding up, ascending to the clouds. From afar it was impressive; cast under its shadow, it was worthy of reverence.

Which is why, when Kelly explained to me its name and history, I wanted to make pilgrimage to it. Rwot means “chief” or “king” in the local tongue; the mountain is dutifully treated as such. Believed to posses magical qualities, all animals hunted from its ground will reassemble their stripped parts in the night so as to return to the King. No ambitious rock climber has ever successfully scaled its solid rock peak; tools have broken, ropes snapped, souls lost to the mountain. It is said that once a helicopter landed on its top, and when the people departed, the helicopter crashed. Small gods are believed to live in its hidden cave, deities whom the Elders of the surrounding villages visit once a year for wisdom and stories surrounding the mighty Rwot. Forever a lover of fantasy and a good story, I was completely enthralled by the tales woven around this massive piece of earth.

Rwot, from a distance in the car

As we drove past, I thanked Rwot for the safe passage and made mental notes to ask for more stories surrounding the mountain from people in Kotido. Call me a spook or gullible fool, but there was a total aura around the rock- it was humbling and scary and terribly intriguing. But we drove past, onward and northward to Kotido. After passing through more “hills” we arrived in the vast plains of Karamoja. While Abim is technically in the Karamoja district, it looked nothing like the land where I now sit, typing this. Equally marvel-worthy, equally beautiful is Kotido.

The land, like the sky, seems to roll out in all directions forever. It was like driving onto another planet; resilient land and resourceful inhabitants. I truly cannot wait to explore it fully, to share in and deepen relationships with the Karamojong and begin the real work.

Yet, as the journey was arduous (to put it mildly) over miles upon miles of rocky, unpaved roads, we have taken today to do laundry and crafts and unpack. I’m settling into my corner of the living room- assuredly, when the 30 Day Photo Challenge recommences in full on Ugandan style, you shall have the full tour. But for now I must muse on Rwot and its inexplicable wonder…and get to folding clothes. Til then!

—                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         current jam: “we won’t run” sarah blasco

best thing in my life right now: well, as you are about to discover below…I started Tolstoy! Not by much, but still. A beginning is a beginning, no matter how small.

pages read in war & peace:TWO! and now to bed…

thoughts from places, blog edition: kampala

Kampala, the city of seven hills, crawling and rolling over low mountains and spilling over every which way as a city seems to bear the physical manifestation of its own persona. Whereas Washington D.C. is a wide-reaching city with orderly streets and large, trying-to-be-Roman buildings filled with people in suits and heels and ugly ties, Kampala is a sprawling and haphazard mass of chaos. Like D.C. though, the people are very direct in their attitude and reflective of their home; at first Kampala appears to be completely lacking in navigation- few street signs, a number of winding roads that could really go anywhere, and everywhere people. But as I spent more time in the city, the more I was able to find my own way winding through crowded taxi buses, private hires, and the abundant boda-bodas. As the things tend to be, there is a method to the madness. Perhaps one that required more of an attention to landmarks like billboards and cafes rather than avenue markers, but still. As planned and organized and deliberate as the USA’s capital city is, so is the inverse of Uganda’s.

I truly like Kampala; the winding mess and confusion is like a melody you have to learn all on your own. This is something endearing to me, something alluring, something a little dangerous and a lot loud. The city’s pandemonium is at once entirely Western and utterly East African. The music is like that of a land that is, after enduring all that is wrong and evil and bad, waking to its morning. It is not an easy awakening, not one without bumps or poor decisions, but perfectly capable and smart and willing people are taking on an incredible challenge in redefining their reality.

One of my favorite quotes pertaining to post-colonialism is from, of all films, Bride and Prejudice, a Bollywood/Americano twist on Jane Austen’s classic. The character Lalita (who is the Indian version of Elizabeth Bennett) is engaged in a lovely verbal tête-à-tête with the American named (gasp!) Darcy. He claims India is incredibly backward, and when he says such Lalita snaps back with a “Well where do you think America was sixty years after independence? In the middle of a bloody civil war!”

I think so often Americans forget our struggle to be MODERN and ON TOP (if, I might add, we even are as such or, as I am more inclined to believe, we prefer to have the illusion of being a SUPEERPOWER). We did not truly endure the brunt of either World War; we lost thousands- which is a horrific, horrific tragedy- whereas nations like Russia lost millions. And I don’t mean millions at the hands of Stalin- millions in combat. Our land was not ravished, we required no foreign aid post-conflict. In fact, we emerged from WWII as the self-proclaimed superpower. Economically we certainly were.

But the United States, in their firstness of liberation from colonialism, had so many advantages we forget when scoffing at Africa (which is not a country, but an entire continent five times the size of our little nation) and its slowness to be MODERN. We see only our own good and the great Other’s backwardness. We claim our ingenuity and brashness to be the catalyst for our Success- yet most white Americans chose to come to the New World because they had the means to. Africa was occupied without much choice, just as most Black Americans can trace their ancestry back to people forced to leave without say into slavery. We forget that even centuries after our Glorious Declaration was signed that we had our own Apartheid.

It bears reminding, I thought, as we left Kampala. We all come from somewhere, we all can only know what we ourselves know. I say this having just spewed gross generalizations pertaining to the American Colonies, but still. I only have seen Kampala through my own cultural lens, my own presumptions and curiosities prompted by everything I have ever heard, thought, read, or seen from my entire life thus far. My lens is my own- just as you read this with your own everything tied in.

My smallness and my Herstory (to be the blatant Feminist, for which I will never apologize) seem to be percolating in all that I am experiencing in Uganda. As we learned in Anthropology, my cultural herstory is colliding with everything Uganda. I acknowledge it, and am trying to dive into that collision space- the place where potential lives.

From this intermediary one draws, in my humble opinion, one of two grounded principles: we choose to Fear the other culture, or we choose to Learn from it. In Learning there is Listening, and in Listening there is Love (thank you, Mennonites and Gann!).  I am learning to Listen this summer. In my choice against Fear (which, need I mention, is a daily decision) I have to live into that awkward colliding space. Processing.

Much like, I think, Kampala is learning to Listen. To the voices of all the tribes, all the people of Uganda. It’s a colliding space, where next to grandiose malls abrim with European and Asian and North American tourists are tin-roofed, mudbrick homes.

Culture is a living and breathing entity with its own life. So the collision is one hell of a ride, if you ask me.

current jam: “dog days are over” florence + the machine

best thing in my life right now: my new barbie shoes from oweno!

pages read in war & peace: still none…an explanation post to come soon!

fantas consumed: 5

Lizzie’s First International Clinic Visit

Now if that’s not a captivating (albeit it worrying) title, I’ll retire as an amateur blogger and swear off all creative fiction from now until the end of time.

Or, not.

Now, dear reader, I have a confession to make to you all. This admittance is one I hesitate to publish if only because it is terribly unfortunately true, and in this miserable actuality I wonder as I type if it is a good idea to tell the wide world at all.

But, in the interest of being as honest and open as possible about my life abroad I shall now tell you my secret: I have an entirely irrational fear of one single thing (which soon shall be divulged).

Now, I feel as though I have some healthy fears and worries in my life; I worry about my family and friends falling ill or dying. I am not fond of snakes or other kinds of creepy-crawly things, but with a brother who for some time wanted to be a Herpatoligist I was forced to (mostly) overcome that fear. Yet both of these things I think are reasonable- and more importantly, they are rational. I can trace said worries to sources in my past or mind.

My phobia, then, is not one of heights or bald people or belly buttons or feet. I am not afraid of the ocean, or motorcycles, or skydiving. Having performed in front of audiences of nearly 1000 people I have no stage fright or concern about being judged; making impromptu speeches in front of important people (which I have also done) makes me a little nervous- but if it didn’t, I might be a little too egocentric. Nothing of normal fear factor value truly phases me. I have an exceedingly high tolerance for pain and truly can say that marching up to strangers to ask for directions or numbers or whateveryouplease doesn’t phase me in the slightest.

Which is why I am increasingly frustrated, hurt, and mostly annoyed at my one inconsolable and completely irrational fear.

I am cripplingly afraid of needles, doctor’s offices, and anyone in a white lab coat. Or even one clad in scrubs sewed from colorful prints depicting adorable kittens or fish or smiling reptilia.

Believe me, dear reader, if I could get over this, I truly would. Yes, having taken theatre as long as I have certainly has endowed me with something of a melodramatic personality (although that could be the other way around…) and yes, as I child I was known to fake drowning or through tantrums over my beanie babies. I have grown some (no more temper issues 95% of the time) and learned that crying wolf is bad when you are actually drowning (learned that the hard way).

But I take no delight in the hysterics that occur in the clinics and emergency rooms and doctors offices that have been forced to endure my poor phobia-ridden self. It is no fun to be so afraid of something for no tangible reason, trust me. Now, as I have told you this secret, I must tell you another: this is not the first time I have admitted said fear. And, this being another unfortunate fact, I know exactly how you are reacting right now.

Generally I prefer not to assume how someone else responds to things or to make such a brash statement as to say that I know what you are thinking. But in this instance, you fall into one of four categories. Yes, dear reader, you do. Forgive the assumption, but having had this irrational fear my entire life and, under varying amounts of diress had to admit such a burden as this phobia, I have experienced the same four reactions over and over again…which I shall now outline for you:

The Four Responses to Lizzie’s Admittance of he Cripplingly Irrational Fear of You-Know-Whats and You-Know Whos (Which are most certainly applicable to all manner of utterances to irrational fears)

Response #1: The Jerk

You, my friend, are the jerk. For as soon as I confess- in an act of trust and hope that you will respect my irrational fear- you decide to launch into a harrowing tale of this ENORMOUS NEEDLE that you once had to endure plunged into your skin in TOTAL AGONY. Thanks, bitch, for really helping me out. I just told you I was terrified of said instruments- way to make my fear worse AND to completely disregard (a) the trust I had in you to tell you said fear and (b) my feelings and fears in the matter. I don’t care how bad it was; I don’t want to hear it. Often, the Jerk’s descriptive and disgusting tale will instigate and dialogue of swapping medical horror stories, always to my chagrin. People love to share their gross medical endeavors. That’s fine and good- just be sure to NOT do it around folks like me.

Response #2: The Concerned Disbeliever

You, dear one, instantly reply with: “Where is that rooted? Have you tried therapy?” Unsure of whether or not what I’m saying is, in fact, real and dually certain it is actually a rational and cure-able worry, you insist that were I to flush money down the drain of Freud-alikes I could conquer my phobia. Therapists are lovely and I wholly respect their profession and admit that I am grateful, if not for myself but for others, for their existence. But to spend hundreds of dollars on a fear I shouldn’t have? No thanks. I’d rather go to Uganda.

Response #3: The Genuine Non-empathizer But Otherwise Kind Soul

You are my favorite. Because, in your infinite wisdom, realize that when I say IRRATIONAL I am being authentic and true to the dictionary definition of the term, and when I say FEAR I genuinely mean terrified out of my wits. So you simpy nod and say “that sucks” and we move on. Ten gold stars to you!

Response #4: The Emphatic Empathizer

You are also my favorite responder because you, lovely one of my soul, totally understand. You nod emphatically, sharing with me the same or deeply similar dark secret. We stand in solidarity- each knowing intimately well the other’s strife; how much of a burden and weariness it is to carry with us such painful fear of you-know-whats or toes or large moustaches or arachnids. I am with you my friend.

And now that I have divulged to you the responder that you are, I ask only this if you fall into the first two categories: PLEASE LISTEN. Don’t share your horror stories, don’t try to play doctor (pun!) to me, just keep that to yourself. Truly, I do the same for you.

But for the tale that is instigated by the title:

*Fair warning to ye faint of heart, this tale ranks at about a 3 on a scale of 10 for gross-ness. No detail, but if you’re like me, turn back now!

As you now know in excruciating detail, I don’t like needles. The doctor/clinic fear is a subsequent response to the aforementioned phobia. But still, as more often than not a needle is involved in a visit to the d-office, the fears have become one in the same. So when it came time for me to visit a clinic, I was really not happy.

Remember in this post when I described the exhilaration and fear of riding a boda-boda? Yeah, well, I got what was coming to me. While dismounting said motorcycle, my right leg brushed the muffler of the vehicle. It was literally a second long of a touch, but it was enough to give me a pretty serious palm-sized burn on my leg.

Being one who can tolerate high amounts of pain (by the way, boys, you have nothing on women. Trust me on this- you’re total wimps at the end of the day. Try enduring blistering muscular agony once a month for a week for the better part of your life and see how much that paper cut hurts now.) I made not a peep. I mentioned it to Thera but otherwise slathered it up in Neosporin, popped some IBUprofen, and hoped for the best. But by day three, it had turned yellow and hurt like hell. So I decided it was time to see what the doc had to say about it.

It was a MONUMENTAL decision to do such a thing, as you now can understand more fully. The biggest “grown-up” moment I had in college was when I went to health center to get my flu shot sans-Mom. Laugh and judge all you want; moving out and starting over was less scary than that. And I even had a friend come to hold my hand, which brought what normally would be uncontrollable sobbing down to a few whimpers. Serious progress, people.

But I was in pain and LORD KNOWS I do not want anything serious while abroad. Less so because of being away and more so because my Mom wouldn’t be here to hold my hand. So to the clinic I went, friends with me. We walked into the small building down the block from the flat, and I was warmly welcomed and brought to a small room by a nun-nurse. She took one look at my leg and sighed deeply, muttering her profuse apologies for the pain she knew I had to be in.

And then began the hydrogen peroxide bathing of my leg.

If you are so fortunate to never have endured such a cleansing, be grateful. Picture bleach for skin; acid being dumped on an open wound. Worse than salt. Yeah, I wish I was exaggerating.

So I sat there, my bandana in my mouth but otherwise calm and in a state of non-sobbing. She cleaned for five minutes and then generously applied some antiseptic. Reaching over to grasp my hand, she told me it was infected and I need antibiotics right away. Grateful for her kindness and firmness and no-needles, I nodded. She walked and I hobbled out into the “lobby” area and she handed my a package of penicillin, with instructions scribbled on the envelope.

But the best part was this: the entire walk-in appointment and prescription cost me 6,000 Ugandan shillings, or a little less than three American dollars. I was floored; as painful as the cleaning was, she was very kind and efficient. I have no traveling insurance or fancy plan; Uganda is not a socialist country; health care and medication was just that readily available. Thus, while I was miserable throughout the whole process, I consider it a double-success: I did not panic, cry, or otherwise make a scene even though I endured the process solo AND the care that was given to me was of the utmost quality and incredibly efficient.

So there, American ideas that other countries can’t take care of themselves.

And, to quell your worrying (Mom) my leg is healing. It’s still painful, and still pretty grody to look at, but the medicine mixed with hearty amounts of saltwater soaking is cleaning it out well. And truly, if this is why I had to go to the clinic, then I am exceedingly grateful.

Thanks for sticking with my through the diatribe, friends. A happier post to ensue soon!

current jam: “don’t worry, be happy”

best thing in my life right now: antibiotics.

pages read: 0, but I finished The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson. It was most marvelous; I shall post a book review post soon of the three books I have now completed. Currently I’m in The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.C. King (thanks for the loan, Austin!). One pirate novel to another, folks. Yo-Ho!

marriage proposals: 0

fantas consumed: 4

thoughts in my head: collective concern

Reflections on my First In-Practicum Nonviolence Meeting

 Since arriving in Uganda I have been spending my days around the city of Kampala as you, dear reader, have come to learn. I’ve had a swell time trying Turkish cuisine (something I confess to not having anticipated doing while in Africa), seeing the new Pirates movie at the Garden City movie theatre, purchasing paintings and vintage dresses from thrift stores and craft markets, and generally being an adventuresome teenager with my newfound and oldfound friends. This kind of vacation mentality has really eased me into being in Uganda and given me necessary space to adjust, be a little homesick, and mostly to marvel at a true East African city.

But I did not travel halfway around the world for a big whopping vacation. And, believe me, I’ve enjoyed myself, but the time is approaching when the real work begins…and I cannot wait!

Today I had my first taste of MCC, what they stand for, whom they work with, what I’ll be doing in Kotido, and perhaps most especially, I attended my first real nonviolent planning meeting. It was the Annual General Meeting (AGM) for MCC and their partners, meaning that there were logistics covered (spending reports, clarifying transitions in staff, etc) but more importantly, there was an open discussion between the partners, office staff, Service Workers, Country Representatives (bosses of MCC Uganda, essentially), and all those affiliated with MCC Uganda around the central theme of nonviolence vs. violence.

As you might imagine, I was in a state of note-writing frenzy and intellectual bliss as these wonderful people shared their wisdom and insights. But this was so much more than my class last semester- for as profound as said academic venture was in exposing me to the writings of Gandhi, Bonhoeffer, Cleaver, and others, our discussions were always in the abstract. Sure, historical examples and scenarios were mentally played out, but at the end of the hour and fifteen minutes we each went on with our Mount Holyoke lives. And there is no badness in this; I am truly home in my snug Ivory Tower of MoHome.

But today- today was tangible. Real. Partners from various organizations that MCC endorses, funds, and supports were providing real-life examples of when nonviolence needed to be implemented. Real strategies and demands and questions were posed with the intent of truly implementing them. It was a sliver of what I imagine it must have been like to be a part of the American Apartheid struggle- a small sliver, but one nonetheless.

With the spike in fuel and food prices in Uganda as of late, there were a series of “demonstrations” in Kampala a few weeks ago. In part prompted, no doubt, by the Tunisian and Egyptian (etc) revolutions, Ugandans began walking to work to protest the high petrol prices. This idea, rooted in the same mentality with which blacks and allies applied in Montgomery during the Bus Boycott of the 1960s, had the workings of being a truly successful and effective nonviolent protest. But, as no group seems to have truly stepped up to the plate to teach and organize nonviolent methods of protests, these demonstrations turned into riots. This specifically was addressed, as well as problems within school beatings, domestic violence, and political corruption.

These are monstrously huge problems. But, as one partner said, Uganda is more than its political parties, more than its tribes, and most of all, more than its problems. And change begins with an internal decision- the act of choosing Love. Once this choice is made, we as a people (a universal people, folks, because this is absolutely applicable to American or Canadian or Indonesian or Whateverian culture too) must recognize some crucial aspects to the act of the choice.

For, in the choosing of Love there is an integral realization and acknowledgment of universal human rights. But, as another partner addressed, with our Rights come some major Responsibilities. Chief among these is discipline; the discipline to endure methods of violence, discipline to realize each human being is of worth and to therefore treat everyone as such, the discipline to realize that choosing Love is an every moment act.

Forgive the preach-y tone, but in this idea of the Constant Choice I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Thomas Merton from his (phenomenal!) essay Gandhi and the One-Eyed Giant: “…love triumphs, at least in this life, not by eliminating evil once and for all but by resisting and overcoming it anew every day.” Choosing nonviolence takes a helluva lot of work. My mother is fond of quoting John Wesley, the (unintentional) founder of the Methodist church, and his belief that human beings are “morally depraved.”

In this vein the act of violence is therefore something gutteral, something insitinctive on an animalistic level. To me, violence is rooted in Hate, which itself is rooted in fear. This idea was thrown around a great deal today as well; children act out in school or domestic violence occurs because of instability, insecurity, distrust- the unknown and subsequent unnerved attitude making a deadly toxin of fear. When we are afraid, we are incapacitated. We are confined to only that which is tangible, and when what is tangible is pain and loss and volatility, we desperately try to escape, to acquire enough power to get the hell out of wherever we are. In this desperation we choose violence; out of fear of returning and desire to remain where we are we fight like hell to keep what ephemeral power we have acquired.

And so the vicious cycle rotates on.

But with the Choice comes the power to exit. Enter the concrete discussion today from people who support MCC, an organization that explicitly is dedicated to Peace and moral ends by moral means. Right in my little MCC brochure was written their Truth that acts of violence disregard the sanctity of human life and “is destructive and costly, and robs the poor of needed resources.”

Therefore, in order to build capacity (my new favorite phrase) one must create a space for nonviolent education among all people, but most especially the youth. If We from a young age can understand dually we have Rights and therefore Responsibilities, what is not possible?

With all of these concepts in a flurry around the discussion and, admittedly, in my splotchy-from-the-furious-writing-pace notes, I was not only in total brain-euphoria but refueled for the coming weeks. Because this is not an easy path, whether I agree with Wesleyan thought or not (I confess, I’m still working my way through that one). From this interfaith dialogue (did I mention the number of religions and denominations within Christianity that were represented peacefully? And that a Muslim man had an enriching and profound demand for nonviolent action and Love in the family and within marriage? Eat it, Islamaphobia!) I gleaned so many plans of action and the vocabulary to share with you, dearest reader.

In brief, the All-Inclusive We need:

1. Collective concern; the recognition and action upon the belief that every single human being, regardless of their Kinsey scale identity, race, religion, class, nationality, gender, age, or background are people of worth and therefore deserve more than sympathy. We deserve action, support, and Community.

2.  A space for nonviolent education.

3. To acknowledge that having Rights demands Responsibilities (thanks, Peter Parker!).

4. To admit that Fear is the ultimate root of violence; we fear what we do not understand, and out of instinct to glean power and disassociate we come to hate what we do not know. From this misunderstanding comes forth violence, which degrades and disempowers the perpurtrators as much as the victims.

5. Violence, when it occurs, must be identified explicitly as such.

6. To Choose and to Change begins with the individual.

So therein lies my summer manifesto; Laws to live by, rules to obey, and a space for me to disagree and agree and explore and wonder and question. I have so much to learn to do and to be disenchanted by and to find the marvelous of the Universe within.

And good grief, I am in for one uprooting and smashing and affirming and hard summer.

current jam: “hair” lady gaga

best thing in my life right now: the discovery of mars bars!

pages read in war & peace: okay, okay, none. but i am nearly done with me talk pretty one day by david sedaris and i started the pirate’s daughter by a wellesly prof. so, there.

marriage proposals: kind of one? he was yelling out the cab window blowing kisses, but i missed the actual word choice. so we’ll say none still…?

fantas consumed: 3

No Place Like Home

Perhaps I never should have bothered to leave North Carolina.

I mean, as endearing as chewing tobacco and Rebel Flags are, one truly can find all that the wide world has to offer in my hometown. There are coffee shops with imported fair trade coffee from places in South America (like Uganda*) and thrift stores with such novelties as blouses with shoulder pads (GaGa is going help them make a comeback, let me tell you!). Why, just today in Kampala I felt like I had never left Carolina at all.

Despite the obvious parallels in the brutal heat (though, to be fair, Kampala has a far better breeze than the stifling summers spent in the American South) today I found myself in a coffee shop so akin to Open Eye I might have merely been waking up from one enormous and pervasive slumber. Or high. Take your pick.

The place itself, called 1000 Cups is located near Kampala Road in the center of downtown. The coffee was excellent, the food delicious, and the music totally fitting to our setting in an East African city. I mean, James Taylor was born in Entebbe, right?

Okay, for those of you now either completely lost or wondering why the dry-er-than-usual tone, James Taylor is from my hometown in North Carolina (thus the abundant dogwood references, etc, in his tunes). He went to my alma mater for high school, there’s a bridge named for him quasi-near my house, and one is always guaranteed to find a Taylor song playing on at least one NC radio station. So to walk into a coffee shop that looked surprisingly like a hybrid between Looking Glass and Open Eye to hear James dreaming of Carolina was kind of an out-of-body experience this afternoon.

And, in true Chapel Hillian style, after we ladies finished our coffee, we hit up the local second-hand clothing joint. I procured a dress (with pockets!),  a shirt, and a belt. So now when/if someone compliments the ensemble I can be the triple-hipster in my self-congratulatory reply: “Thanks! You know its second-hand (point one) and I bought it from a locally-owned (point two) thrift store in Kampala, Uganda (point three).”

And in all honesty, I love the mélange of culture. I can’t help but picture my anthropology professor waving his hands enthusiastically, exclaiming, “See! Culture collision and conversation! You can’t escape it!” James Taylor in a Kampalan coffee shop? Love it. Let’s continue to break stereotypes and create a space for dialogue.

Simply put, Ugandan and I are getting along just fine!

current jam: something blaring from the bar across the street. it’s one am, people. can we knock it down a notch or two?

best thing in my life right now: my new second-hand dress with pockets that makes me feel womanly and powerful…and di i mention its ugandan? i’ve officially achieved new heights in the realm of hipster mario.

pages read in war & peace: um, zero. for now!

marriage proposals: none….yet.

*this is a reference to the frequent comment “Uganda…isn’t that in South America?” or, better yet, “Uganda! Well, you best be good at Spanish.” That’s Uruguay friends. Geography 101.


It’s day two spent fully in Uganda, and I cannot be more content with where I am and the time for me to be here.

Today in Uganda there is a big football match (go Cranes!) against Guinea (I think). As I am no stranger to pan-African passion for this sport having been in Ghana during the world cup when the Black Stars beat the US (thankyouverymuch) I find the total-psyched up persona embodied in everyone today exhilarating.

For those of you unfamiliar:

Football (a.k.a. American Soccer) is THE sport everywhere I have been in Africa. You think the Steelers have some nutty fans? Try again. Everyone in Ghana during the world cup was nearly always sporting the colors or black stars, if they weren’t completely decked out for the match day. Cars were painted or covered in flags, and the [NAME] horns that make such a droning sound were abundant. Everyone- I mean everyone- watches or listens to the matches on televisions or radios. In our small motel in Ghana the lobby, built for at max twenty people, was more often than not crammed with forty people. Guards with guns, the hairbraider from across the road, the hotel staff, our Habitat for Humanity cooks and guides and friends, as well as we sixteen mzungus.*

Now, today is not nearly as unbelievable as Ghana, mostly due to the fact that it is not the World Cup. But the sentiment remains the same; all of town now is tuned in and glued to their screens and dials. Normally across the street from the flat of our friends in Kampala there is blaring music from the video store. That lasts until three (ish) in the morning. And while the music is still jamming away, the volume is noticeably lower so the match can be heard. Moments ago there was an enormous roar; Thera and I inferred (correctly, we think) a goal had been scored.

Earlier today, however, we decided it was high time for us to get out of the flat and into downtown Kampala. So, dressed in my traveller’s blouse, skirt, and wide-brimmed Van Gogh inspired straw hat, we headed from Bbunga (the suburb we’re in) to Garden City, the mall. But Bbunga, much like Brooklyn to NYC, is not a mere walking distance. And unlike the Big Apple, Kampala has no metro system.

So in true UG fashion, Thera and I embarked on something that has been on my bucket list for some time: we took othing other than boda bodas.

Boda boda, which sounds like a vraiment Lugandan word, in fact is a shortened and Ugandan-a-fied slang for “border-border.” When the border between Kenya and Uganda was closed boda-bodas would voyage- quickly and unsees (mostly)- between the nations. Hence the name.

And by now, if you are not versed in the slang of East Africa, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m referring to. Boda-bodas are (sorry Mom) motorcycles captained by Ugandans.

They function much like a taxi- a pretty unsafe, far more spine-tingling taxi, but a vehicle of transport nonetheless. I’ve always wanted to ride on one since first landing in Entebbe, but being in bigger groups with rented buses there was never a need. And you know, you’ve got to be kind of gutsy to clamber on the back of a Bike with a stranger in Ugandan city traffic.

But I’m here in the spirit of adventure and self-discovery, right?!

And I have to say, riding on a boda-boda is honestly one of the coolest and most incredibly fun things I have ever done! The breeze feels absolutely marvelous and there’s really no better way to see Kampala than darting in and out of cars past shops and stalls and buildings. There is something so alluring in the thrill of such a truly Kampalan action to pursue! Besides, a boda-boda on match day was far faster than the jammed-up taxis trying to get to the stadium.

And no worries dear readers (*ahem*parents*ahem*) I am alive and well and certainly still stand by my position, Tom, that you cannot buy a motorcycle.

But back to Kampala. Should one ever need to disprove the National Geographic mythical Africa where all babies are pot-bellied and all people backwards, look no further than Kampala, the burgeoning and noisy and rebellious and wonderful capital of Uganda. There are malls (yes, in the plural), plenty of cuisine options other than Ugandan, businesses, tourists, locals, and everything a big city has in the states. Sure, there’s no Empire State building, but that’s kind of why I love it. The streets are crammed with boda-bodas and taxis and people of all nationalities and purposes. While we mzungu do stand out, I find that absolutely not to the detriment or discredit of this city. And, at Thera’s urging and my own observations, I am drinking in the accessibility in Kampala because once we head north to Kotido that influx of Chinese and American and European goods is going to drastically decrease.

Which is why we hit up the mall. I wanted to go to a bookstore merely to poke around (and to procure more easy read fiction, as I finished the Dessen novel). Upon first entering the establishment (that is, I might add, as nice as any given Barnes & Noble) What book should be the first I see other than this: the most recent publication by none other than Professor Ellis, of Mount Holyoke College’s history department. Irony? Yes. Divine sign that Community transcends? Perhaps. Proof that when they say they’re world-reknown they mean it? Okay, fine, yes. Needless to say I was floored and laughing my butt off and mostly really impressed. Good job, MoHo.

While I did not procure a copy I did pick up a paperback of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Yeah, it’s my fourth. But I didn’t bring any of the HP books with me and it was super cheap and it is my favorite and really I just wanted it with me for a comfort blanket of goodly British humor and affirmation of the Revolution. So go ahead and snort and judge and laugh. I know you are.

Additionally at the craft market where we journeyed to after a delicious lunch of pizza and sushi, I procured this beautiful painting and while I know it’s far too soon in my trip to be buying so much and truly I only meant to peruse but…it was yellow and blue and of baobab trees. Too many things I loved to pass up such an opportunity. And I swore no more silly gift things until the end of the trip. But today I caved, if only a little. After said purchase we were rather tired and decided it was time to boda-boda back to Bbunga, where I now sit tapping away, listening to the reaction of the crowd gathered round for the match.

*mzungu = foreigner/white person in karamjong, lugandan, and twi

current jam: something ugandan on the radio

best thing in my life right now: internet in uganda!

my dad suggested counting down to my birthday…still thinking on it 🙂 any further count-ups or downs suggestions?