Sunday, May 29, 2011

More Pictures? Already?! YES!!

Weebaleo! Welcome back!

The last pictures I posted were pretty animal-heavy, so I thought I would a few pictures from the people side of my life. As you may know, my group and I recently hit the 1 year mark (it happened on April 21), so we were given clearance to head through Kampala for a Mid-Service Conference in Seeta earlier this month. These are a few of the pictures from the week before the trip and as I passed through Kampala.

This is one NOISY-ass bird! He has some sort of edible-something in his mouth, and still he is able to making screaming, high-pitch squeaks. He and his buddy landed here, one on the rail, the other on the window ledge. The one on the ledge was looking at his reflection and screaming as a result. The bird on the rail was screaming right back. And I was screaming to scare them off.

Strangest contents of a pannier I have ever seen. Hands down.

A few of us got together to build a climbing wall at a buddies place. These were the climbing holds we made from spare bits of wood laying around his parish. While the manufacturing of the holds was successful, the wall itself was an epic fail, as (a.) we, I mean, I broke the drill bit that allowed us to pre-drill the holes for the concrete nails in the wood. This left us driving the nails through brittle wood... which is similar to driving nails through glass bottles... CRACK, SPLIT, DESTRUCTION! and (b.) We were trying to anchor the pieces in the wall with cement nails instead of expansion bolts. Getting the nails in was a challenge, but once in they tended to wiggle loose and then pull out of the wall. Bummer. The good news is that we did get a few holds to stick, we built a very cool rope ladder attached to my buddies rafters that he can do some strength training on, and, ANNNNNNND, we got to drink some VERY classy Bushmills Whiskey. YEAH BABY!!

Halt. Who goes there?


Yeah! Funny faces! This was a group of children at Elizabeth's site who waited with us for a taxi. We began playing around with them, and this collage is the result. Take a closer look... some of these kids are hilarious. (One of the hand gestures was an attempt at Spock's "Live long and prosper.")

The horse became a motorcycle, the carriage a small sedan. The tumbleweeds became empty vodka plastic baggies blowing in the wind. But the immortal dust remains. Uganda: A slightly more modern Wild West.

While waiting for a taxi in Nakaseke with Brian and Elizabeth, I broke out Brian's newly purchased used guitar. This small girl sat down next to me to hear me play and was happy to help me strum when given the opportunity.

A small child in at the market.

I've presented this picture twice because I would like you to download both and use a viewer that lets you switch back and fourth between each picture quickly. As you do it, I want you to note your emotions. When you move from color to black and white, does something change inside you? Does one picture draw out more emotion? And if so, why do you think that is?

Far more effective than a "No Parking" sign.

A street vendor with her merchandise. Woman vendors such as this one can be found on just about every street around the city selling books, school materials, newspapers, sweets, locks, wallets, bracelets, necklaces, etc... you name a trinket, and you can probably find a street vendor who has it. In certain spots, fresh produce can also be found. As you move more towards the richer areas of the city (i.e. Kololo) where the malls and golf course and upscale restaurants are, you will see far fewer vendors crowding the sidewalks. Surely, this is an attempt to keep a certain *image* in the Ex-pat side of town.
Entering my favorite restaurant alley in Kampala. Crowded. Dirty. Delicious. I've visited here enough that people know me by nickname, and I always get shouts of "Amooti!" as I pass by.

My favorite dish: Chapati and Beans. A dish like this costs 700-1000 Ugx ($0.29-0.41).

The chapati-man at my favorite restaurant.

Women further down the alleyway serving up their various dishes for customers.

One of Kampala's many homeless citizens.

Ever wanted to know if it is possible to carry 10 mattresses at once? Here's your answer!

This is the street outside Owino Market in Kampala around rush-hour. Owino (the shack-looking structures with steel roofs in the upper right of the picture) has... anything you could ever want to buy.

Imagine the largest maze on the planet earth: A maze with walls, often narrow enough that you can hit vendors on either side of the isle with your elbows if you walk face-forward; walls of clothing (used and new), shoes, backpacks, chickens, belts, flashlights, tarps, ropes, hangers, metals, fruits, vegetables, sewing machines, fabrics, people, used wood, sacks of grain ... just about anything you can imagine... dirt floors that develop puddles big enough to swallow people after stiff rains because the patchy roofs can't keep the inclement weather out... and add, at least in my case, shouts of "American!", "Spaniard!", "Muzungu!", "American Height!", "Ohhhh, my friend, my friend!", "T-shirts?!", "Jeans (I've got diesel!)!", "Yes! Yes!" accompanied with sweeping gestures of the arms towards their wares (or in the case of the more aggressive, grabbing of my arm to pull me towards their stalls) and you've got Owino.

Needless to say, there are some who when presented the choice between being burned at the stake or a venture into those walls would gladly choose the fiery stake. I've grown quite fond of the market, however. Walking the maze has become an adventure, and I've made friends with several of the salesman inside, so my visits have become more fun than stressful.

The same street as before. Owino Market and Nakivubo War Memorial stadium are on the left. In the upper left side of the picture you can see the mosque in Old Kampala. (See google maps to get a better handle on where this is in the city.)

Thats all for now. Thanks for looking/reading. I'll try to get even more pictures up in the next couple weeks.

I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)


Thursday, May 26, 2011


You all are well aware that I am a shit-bag at posting pictures with any regularity. Months can go by, and then 30 will pop up. A few weeks after that, perhaps 20 more will appear. By this point, you've probably ascertained that you are never fully aware of what is going on in my day to day life, what I did last weekend, the weekend before it, or even the month before that (unless of course you are Michelle, who we can all agree is RAD).

The good thing about my delayed posts is this: When I do post pictures, my guilt for having left you in the dark so long gets the best of me and the picture counts are usually pretty good. Right? Right?! Right.

(In my defense, uploading just the following 25 pictures took me close to 5 hours because of the maddeningly slow internet speeds.)

The following pictures are my favorites from a trip I took with friends in early February (I could have said last weekend to make you think I was changing my ways, but I frown on dishonesty).

I'm gonna go ahead and quote the Uganda Wildlife Authority website to introduce you to the magic that is Murchison Falls National Park:

"Uganda's largest national park protects a chunk of untamed African savannah bisected by the mighty river Nile.

It is named for the dramatic Murchison Falls, where the world's longest river explodes violently through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment to plunge into a frothing pool 43m below. Wildlife populations have largely recovered from the poaching of the 1980s; in the lush borassus grassland to the north of the Nile, elephant, buffalo, giraffe and a variety of antelope are regularly encountered on game drives, while lion are seen with increasing frequency.

In the southeast, Rabongo Forest is home to chimps and other rainforest creatures.

The Nile itself hosts one of Africa's densest hippo and crocodile populations, and a dazzling variety of waterbirds including the world's most accessible wild population of the rare shoebill stork."

Altogether, we spent two days in the park, entering early on a Saturday morning from our friend Jake's house, spending one night at a small lodge in the center of the park and leaving the following day after a 5 hour game drive the following morning.

A momma warthog with her babies.

This is a crop of an already zoomed shot. I dig the hair.

As the mass stampes off, the lone buffalo stands his ground. Renown as Africa's most dangerous animal, these guys are BURLY and aggressive. On seeing you in the land cruiser they usually grunt and shuffle away only to turn, buck their head up and try (with their terrible eye site) to see just what in the hell you are. If you are anywhere CLOSE to their size or smaller, look out.

This trip gave me my first glimpse of giraffe's in the wild. Let me say: If there is anything more graceful than a Giraffe sprinting across the savannah, I've not yet seen it. So smooth was their gate that it wasn't until I compared their speeds to the wild bush bucks sprinting alongside them that I realized that the "fast walk" was an all out run.

Approaching the river, we stopped to snap pictures of three elephants gobbling up leaves on the trees.

One of many baboons hanging around the river crossing site. Of course stupid tourists are keen on feeding them. And then the stupid tourists get pissed when a jealous baboon who WASN'T fed runs up and snatches their pineapple.

He must be thinking: "Washu lookin' at BISH?!"

Elephants on the riverside. At this point we were on a boat headed up the Nile towards Murchison falls. For $15, we got a three our game float up river followed by another 2 hours down the river.

Another animal you should NOT mess with. Hippos. The rule: don't get between a hippo and water lest ye be trampled.

I know what you're thinking. No. It's an African Fishing Eagle. We saw one of these guys on Lake Victoria while kicking back on Banda Island for July 4th last year. Very fitting.


These guys were all over the place as we approached the falls. All of us were hoping for a Planet Earth-worthy kill, but it was a no go.

A heard of elephants.

The crew with Murchison falls in the background. From this angle, they don't look big. In fact, for anyone who only sees them from this angle they usually scoff at the statement "Murchison Falls is recognized as the most powerful waterfall on the planet (in terms of water pressure)." The next pictures show why...

After the river cruise, we hopped into the land cruisers and drove to the top of the falls. We could have hiked up there and saved time, but the hike is only 2k-ish, and it wasn't even CLOSE to worth it for the 10 USD they were charging. These are awe-inspiring rapids. Your chin drops, and you gasp a bit when you see them. My first thought was, "I wonder if anyone has ever sent them in a kayak." This the Nile river at its most furious!

Brennan washing the feet gives the river some scale.

This answers the kayak question. HELL NO! no one has paddled through this.

Looking up river just down from the rapids. Ferocious.

Murchison Falls at Sunset: "Where soul meets body."

Another sunset pic.

On the following morning, we set out early to cross back over the river in hopes of seeing some lions. Epic fail. But we did see more bucks of all sorts, and we hung out a bit at the delta where the Nile meets Lake Albert. (I got bit on the foot by something with much stronger than I and got a few of my friends worried that the injury was fatal with my cussing.)

It is this type of territorial flex-nutting that leads to...

...enormous hunks of flesh being ripped out of your side!

I LOVE the trees in Africa!

That it, and that's all! I'll do what I can to have more pictures up soon (but don't hold your breath).

Thanks for reading/looking!

I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"To celebrate or not to celebrate?"

“To celebrate or not to celebrate?” That is the question.

September 11, 2001: I’m sitting in freshman Chemistry with several hundred other stunned students. The classroom projector flashes images of chaos on repeat. A plane hits a tower. A plane hits another tower. People are jumping out of windows. A tower collapses. The other tower collapses. Over, and over.

The video cuts to new footage from somewhere in the Middle East. Crowds have gathered in celebration. American flags and effigies are being burned. A woman, front and center, dances while exclaiming “LA! LA! LA! LA! LA!” at the top of her lungs.

For the first time in my life, the enemy has a face. I hate it. I hate them. I hate her. My rage is fueled by their celebrations.

May 2, 2011: Initially, the stateside celebrations ignited by the death of Osama Bin Laden had me torn between two sides of the same coin. The near decade long search for the leader of Al Qaeda is over. Good. But is it cause to run through the streets with American flags and bottles of beer, screaming and singing "Osama, Osama, hey, hey, hey, goodbye!"?

Should the answer be obvious? Has my distance from home desensitized me to the momentousness of the occasion? I don't think so. Instead, I believe the distance has provided me a new vantage point from which to view the actions of my fellow American's more critically (a more or less arrogant way of saying, “my ‘World View’ has developed.”).

So what do I see?

Never have our televised actions been more aptly represented by the parody on American patriotism, the movie "Team America: World Police", than now. And for the first time since moving to Uganda, I must admit… I’m embarrassed.

I am reminded of the video footage of “the enemy” the cheering crowds and the “LA! LA! LA! LA! LA!”-woman. I compare and contrast the memory with the exuberant partying of the last 36 hours. The only difference? Us and them. In my eyes, it has reduced the "War on Terror" to nothing more than a college football game: when they score, they cheer; when we score, we cheer.

But it isn't a game. It's a WAR.

Further, I am troubled by the implication of these celebrations (The head has been removed, so the body will soon die!). To this I suggest the following: more damaging to our society is not the inability to see the forest for the trees but the common delusion that a tree IS the forest.

Bin Laden wasn’t the Fountain of Terrorism. He was merely a vessel. "Ding, dong, the Witch is dead!" Indeed. But the evil lives on.

I digress. “To celebrate or not to celebrate?”… that was the question.

Well, if a leader is humble in victory and gracious in defeat, then a world leader is humble in victory and never accepts defeat. The common thread is humility. Thus, as representatives of the most powerful nation on Earth, we should act as such. Do we have a right to be happy that a battle has been won? Of course. But should that victory, the death of a single man, induce riotous celebration around the country that will only stoke the flames of hatred from our opposition?

Decidedly, no.