Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Apt

So, I am now living in, what i think is, a really nice house. This is a many steps above La Fontein :) I am renting a room in a five bedroom house. There are 4 other Muzungus (white people) staying here with me. There is a girl named Elizabeth who just graduated from Duke Law School and is working with an organization that deals with ICC (international cirminal court) legislation and implimetnation. Sarah is from Minnesota a free lance journalist who wants to write some stuff on maternal health for the NYTimes. A girl named Daisy, from Germany, is moving in tomorrow. A girl named Kate is moving in this weekend and is a doctor from England and seems really really cool. And finally, Janet is a PH D student in Political Science from Harvard who is doing her dissertation research. Yes, I am the only guy, but what I have realized is that most people that come to Africa and do NGO and other type of development work are mostly women. but, here are a few pictures of my house; there are no poeple in them, so they are pretty lame, but I thought my mom might want to see what type of place I am staying at.

It is actually really nice because we have a guard that stays all night every night and then a lady that cleans, does the dishes, and does the laundry, and I have my own room all for just under $250 per month, eat that provo BYU housing!

Here is our front room . . . I know, our TV is sadly small :)

And the kitchern . . .

And this is my bedroom; it is the second biggest in the house since I have been here the second longest. Then, once Janet leaves, I will get the master bedroom with my own bathroom and office area for that same $250 price!

And of course, no Muzungu house in Uganda is compelte without its subtle, African tribute to Obama :) this beauty hangs in our dining room.

Dissemination Workshops

As part of my job, we are doing workshops where we present various constituencies throughout the country with the scorecard for their MP (member of parliament). We have these workshops in order to measure the impact of the scorecard on the voters. In these workshops, we present the scorecard and explain what it means. All the scores and grade we give are relative to other MPs, because otherwise i fear that too many would fail :) We also invite the MPs to come to these workshops to defend their actions and explain why they scored the way they did. We had our first workshop on August 21st and there were two MPs for this workshop and both of them came. The reason there were two MPs for this workshop is because there are different types of MPs: one type is the "universal adult suffrage" (UAS) MPs who are voted in as we woudl vote in Senators or Reps. Then there are Women MPs, and each district has a Woman MP, only a woman can hold this position, but all voters, both male and female, vote for them. So, this workshop was for the constituency UAS MP (Honorable Kawuma) and for the District Women MP (Honorable Seninde). And everyone addresses MPs with the titel "Honorable".

Anyway, the reason I tell you this, is because I had to do the methodology and results presentations. I had to explain how we came up with the scores and then what the scores mean. So, I was explaining that "Hon. Seninde got an F in constituency, which means that she performed worse than the average Women MP and the average MP from the Central Region . . ." needless to say, she was not very happy.

Niether of these MPs performed particularly well, but Kawuma was quite respectful and said things like "I will use this scorecard to strengthen my weaknesses" but Seninde was like "How could they give me an F!?!?! AFLI [the organization I work for] has no moral authority to judge me! It is you, the voters to judge!" It got pretty intense, but it was really fun and people seemed to support what we were doing. We are not out on a witch hunt, we are just trying to help the peopel see how their MPs are performing.

After the workshop, I was interveiwed by one of the TV stations and they aired it on TV the next night which was pretty cool.

Here are some pictures:

These are the two MPs (from left to right): Kawuma and Seninde. This is them while I was doing my presentation, she looks like she wants to rip my head off!

This is me presenting the methodology and results; behind me is our last minute way to post the large copies of the scorecard :) yeah, we were not that organized :)

Here I am using the make-shift pointer, and yes everyone laughed when I pulled it out to use :)

And here is Hon. Kawuma responding to his results

And here is Hon. seninde cussing AFLI and me out for giving her a bad score . . . if you want a better score then do your flippin job!

And here is a picture of past of the audience; we had about 160 peopel come, which was really cool.

Rafting the Nile

So, Uganda is home to the source of the Nile River (Lake Victoria), and there are some great rapids to be rafted!

I am staying in Kampala, Uganda, and the source of the Nile is in Jinga, Uganda which is about 1 hour away from Kampala (keeping in mind that my distance/time estimates are really crappy).

So, my friend Jeff and I went on Saturday and rafted the 30 kms!

It was freaking awesome. There were about 5 class 5 rapids and a lot of classes 2-4 (for anyone who does not know, there are 6 classes of rapids, with 5 being the biggest and 6 being so big that they are un-raft-able). The raft flipped like 5 times i think, but we did successfully ride 3 of the class 5's. We ashamedly flipped on a 2.5 . . . yeah, I don't know how that happened.

And unfortunately I did no put on enough sunscreen . . . I put on sunscreen like 3 different times throughout the day (and 30 spf at that), but I still got burned like i have never been burned before! I realized later that evening that I got so burned because my malaria pills make me sensitive to the sun: damn you malaria pills!

and don't worry, i don't have leprosy, I'm just burned like you wouldn't believe! And I will spare you a picture of my violently red thighs :)

I don't have any pictures of the rapids, but if you check out you tube for some cool footage of the rapids that I did. Just you tube "Nile River Explorers" or here are a couple that I thought were pretty good: and

Then, you can see and get a feel for the rapids that we did.

And here are some pictures of the Nile:

Beautiful place hey!

African Bureaucracy = Hell

This post is going to be long and full of my venting, so get ready!

So, I just got back to Uganda from South Africa, and it was a unnecessarily crazy and frustrating process to get my visa to Uganda:

I decided to do the visa in South Africa because the Immigration office in Kampala was giving me hell about getting a visa, so I thought it would be easier to do it in South Africa . . . boy was I wrong.

I had to go to the Ugandan Embassy in Pretoria (about 45 minutes from where I am working in Joburg) 3 times:

First Visit: I get to the office and try to submit my application; the time is 12:15 pm. The secretary looks at me and says: we're closed, you have to submit your application before 11:45. I look at her and her desk that has the applications that need to be processed, and I say "Can you just take mine? I can see the other applications." And then she acts like I just shot her and huffs over to take my application. She looks at the application and says, "Where is the attachment?" and I say "What attachment?". She then explains to me that I must have a letter of invitation from someone that I will be staying with (proof of a place to live while in Uganda) and a copy of my return plane ticket. I then explain to her that this is the second visa I have applied for and the first one (which is of the exact same type as the one I am currently applying for) did not require that. She then says that since I applied for the first one in the US, it is different because we are in South Africa. So, I leave it at that and then I get those other documents organized. First trip to Pretoria = a waste of time.

Second Visit: So, a few weeks later (this past monday), I go back; I spent the whole day in Pretoria because I had to drop the application before 11:45 and pick it up between 2 and 3. This time, I drop of the completed application. She looks through it and complains that the letter from my friend Janet is not on letterhead, so how will she know it is from Uganda (I don't really see how letterhead makes that much of a difference because I can make up any letterhead I want and say it's from a Ugandan company or whatever, but oh well, I guess letterhead legitimizes all letters!), and she also complains that I printed the application form on the back of something else (but really?!?! what difference does it make, the information is there and that was all the paper I had at my office). Then, she says "Come back between 2 and 3 . . . if they will even give you a visa!" Wow; she really likes to be a pain in my ass!

So, I come back at 2. She says the visa is not ready. While I wait, a Ugandan lady who is waiting for her travel documents is asking to speak to someone else because she has a question that this secretary woman cannot/refuses to answer. the secretary says that this woman as a Ugandan will not receive special treatment here and that only South Africans get special treatment. WHAT!?!?! This secretary is South African, so how dare she insult this Ugandan woman in such a way; in her own embassy, which is actually Ugandan soil if I am not mistaken. Can anyone say xenophobia . . . how can they get someone like this to work in an embassy?!?! Then, after waiting for an hour, this secretary woman says that we must all come back (there are about 4 of us) tomorrow because the visas and travel documents are not finished. At this point, I am fuming mad!

I ask her why. She says that there is a problem with my passport/visa application that the guy upstairs cannot understand, so someone else needs to take a look at it, but that person is not in the office at the moment (now it took me like 15 minutes to get her to actually answer me, because she just kept saying: "There's a problem, come back tomorrow!"). Then I asked her if she could let me talk to the person upstairs so that I can see if there is a problem that I can fix, so that it can get done today. She refuses but I push and she calls the guy (does not let me talk to him) and says the same thing "There is a problem, and you need to come back tomorrow." So, I tell her that I cannot spend an entire day in Pretoria again, so I need to know exactly when it will be done; I ask her to promise me that it will be done by 9 am (the time she told me to come back) because I don't want to come back and see that it is not finished. She promises that it will be done by 9 am. I then ask her what time the embassy opens; she says 9 am. So, I say "If you say it will be finished by 9 am but you only open at 9 am, then this person that needs to check my application must be coming in sometime later today because he will need time to work on it; so why can't I come back later today so that I don't have to make another trip?" She then realizes that I caught her in her lie and she resorts to repeating herself without explaining and without making sense "No, it will be done at 9 am and he is not coming in until tomorrow." So I keep arguing with her and she just walks out of the office into the back, so I wait! She comes back; we argue more because I am stubborn and want to make my point. She then says "Don't ruin my day! I am not coming back!" And she leaves the office again. She has to come back because it is the front desk of the embassy, but I leave anyway.

Third Visit:

I get to the embassy at 10:30 the next morning and is the visa ready? Nope! So, I wait and then she has me talk to “the guy upstairs” and he tells me that they can not give me a visa because my letter of invitation from my housemate needs to be more specific and they need proof of employment in the US. WHAT!?!?!?! If they would have told me that yesterday, I could have organized to bring that stuff today, but now I can’t afford to come here again (too much to do). So, I tell him that I cannot come here again and that I will just get a visa at the airport. He then tells me not be arrogant. WHAT!?!?!? He goes on to say “Whose airport is that? Is it your’s?” . . . . um, no!? . . . He then goes on to explain to me that Uganda is a sovereign nation, just like the US . . . wow! that is amazing, because I actually thought that Uganda was not a country of its own! . . . So, I just ask for my passport back and I leave. R500 ($62) down the tube, but at least I did not have to deal with them again! And, when I got to the airport to get a visa, guess what they needed . . . $50 and my passport, That’s all!!!! But at least I am safely in Uganda again.

So, if you ever need to go to Uganda, just get your tourist visa at the airport!

Oh how I hate African bureaucracy! And guess what, I still have to get my year long multiple entry visa . . . good luck right?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

La Fontein

I am currently living above a restaurant called La Fontein. There is a kind of flat (apartment) above the restaurant that has 4 bedrooms which are all separately rented out, and then everyone shares the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Living at La Fontein is quite the experience. It is right next to a bar/club called Iguana which blazes music until about 5 am on the weekends (and yes, my window looks right into the club, but luckily I have curtains). Also, every Thursday night, they have this ridiculous lounge singer that performs. He sucks really bad and it always sounds like there is no one there: he will shout “I love you all!” and there is no response. Oh and this past Thursday he blessed everyone with his rendition of “Let’s talk about Sex”. It was gem!

Now the flat itself. The kitchen sink either does not turn on when you turn the water on or it will spit at you and spray water all over you. The toilet does not exactly flush every time, so sometimes there is a nice surprise in the toilet when you go to use it. Also, the shower is a room of its own, it has door just like any other room in the house except when you walk in there is a sink and a shower head. It is pretty awesome. And there are chickens running all over in the back yard and of course there is a rooster that crows every morning. I am not a fan of said rooster! It is especially weird when the crowing of the rooster gets into my dreams, and I think that it is the sound that that glowing orb in Sleeping Beauty makes when it is lulling her to the spinning wheel (thanks Grace (my niece) for watching that every day so that that could make its way into my dreams so that I thought the rooster crow was the orb from Sleeping Beauty).

Living In Uganda

Living in Kampala is great! It is a little bit crazy and the jam (local term for traffic jams) is out of control. I thought Joburg was bad, but it is nothing compared to Kampala. I don’t think I could handle driving here.

The dominate language is Luganda here in Kampala. I have learned a little bit: nange = me too, sagala = I don’t like, masou = stop (that is what one says when one wants to get off the taxi); and please excuse my spelling :)

The food is also pretty great. At work, we are fed lunch every day. It is quite consistently beans and the stickiest rice you have ever had with g-nut sause. “G-nuts” stands for ground nuts, but which actually means peanuts. It tastes like peanuts for sure but it is in the form of a sauce and it is actually really good. We have also had matoke which is green bananas, pealed, boiled (or steamed), and then mashed into a really heavy mound (it is not exactly what you would expect and will take some getting used to). We have also had posha (again, I think my spelling is off) which is the same thing as pap in South Africa, but Ugandans make it much heavier. Posha/pap is boiled corn meal. It is similar to making cream of wheat where you put in too much cream of wheat relative to water so that you can put it on you plate in mound rather than an porridge.

But one of my favorite things is what they call “rolex”. It is a Kipati (which is similar to a tortilla or roti, but a little thicker) with scrambled eggs, cabbage, tomatoes, and onions. It is like the best thing to eat at like 2:00 am!

It’s nice because the food is conducive to helping me keep up my vegetarian lifestyle. They do eat a lot of meat as well; Ugandans especially like pork. From what I have heard, “going for pork” is like a social event here.