Monday, August 21, 2006

Neighbors and the NFL

Power at last!

We have power now at Compassion. And computers. Shortly after I arrived we purchased 3 computers but now we have power to go with them. The building was already wired for electricity. The building we are in is an old church that is next to the new church that has been built. There was power going to the church, so all that was necessary was for a line to be run from the pole to our building. I’ve heard it said that nearly 60% of the electricity in Uganda is stolen, meaning that they have illegally connected to the power lines. I know at my homestay we didn’t have power one day so Kefa, my homestay brother, took a long pole and poked around at the power lines at the top of the telephone pole and eventually the power worked. Now I don’t think that was an example of stolen power, but to be poking around a power line with a long stick is not exactly my idea of a good time. I thought about trying to talk him out of it but then I realized that this wasn’t exactly the first time he’s done this and apparently it has some success. You might be surprised at how many things I see where I think, “that’s not safe” or “shouldn’t you instead try…” but then I just sit back and watch them do what they do, knowing that it’s just a cultural thing and that’s why I’m here, to learn another culture and another way of doing things.

Sometimes to get electricity (or a variety of other services for that matter) it must be accompanied by a bribe. They might even say something to the effect of, “If you could provide us with some small assistance.” Basically your application is put in a pile and to move your stack up the pile means to pay some additional money, which the processor places in his pocket. Bribery is common here. Police do it. They might even be considered the worst. They pull you over, instead of paying the full fine you pay them something. They also have one of the worst pays in this country as well. I personally was asked to pay a bribe while visiting a primary school. The man who would be equivalent to the superintendent and I were talking. Apparently this school wasn’t taking regular attendance (which is strange, most do) and he wanted me to create a form for them to record attendance and then pay ‘some small contribution to assist them’. I couldn’t believe my ears. “Me pay something for you to do your JOB?” I though. What a crook! But that’s life in the 3rd world I guess. If you really think about it, we have bribes in America. We just call them ‘service charges’ or ‘processing fees’ and we charge them to everyone, not just to a select few. The other fact remains that if you want to get something done in a timely manner, you almost have to pay the bribes. Some volunteers say they just hound the company that is refusing to help without the bribe, calling them every day for electricity for example, thus believing that the squeaky wheel will get the oil.

I don’t think we suffered that, however. We went down to the electric office in Mbarara, paid them, 2 weeks later (standard turnover time) they came and attached the wire, which they charged $25 for the wire. I’m not sure if that was a bribe or standard. Most purchases are negotiated here, so prices aren’t exactly fixed. Regardless, we now have power and working computers. I spent the day today teaching Barbarah what a ‘left click’ and a ‘double click’ was and then got her busy on a program called Typing Master which teaches typing. The bad thing is that I have workshops for the next 2 weeks and won’t be around to dig them out of trouble, but I guess that’s a good way to learn. Figure it out on your own…

Kampala Marathon

The Kampala marathon is in November. There are a couple of us running it. Should be a good time. As good as running 26.2 miles can be. There were about 3,000 runners last year. Not sure what to expect as far as water stations, etc. like a regular marathon would be, but I guess that’ll come later. Meantime I’m trying to recruit some supporting cast along the way.

NFL in Uganda

Some GREEEAAAATTT news!!! No, the NFL isn’t playing a game in Uganda in the pre-season next year… nice try though. Instead, Jacob and I (and other volunteers) will be able to watch the NFL in Uganda!!! They have an international ESPN station (I think broadcast from Israel) and we found a schedule online and have discovered that they play 2 games a week. The Sunday game is played on Monday and the Tuesday game is played on Wednesday. So every week at 5pm on Tuesday and Wednesday we will be kicked back at our favorite restaurant that serves Mzungu (white person) food (and the BEST fries in all of Uganda!), watching REAL AMERICAN FOOTBALL!! Here ALL they watch and think about and are interested is in European Soccer! Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool… I’ve never heard of these teams before I came. So they always as me what football team I support, expecting me to say Man U or Arsenal and I proudly exclaim ‘The Colts, Baby!’ at which point they get a confused look and then try and fail to even pronounce the word ‘Colts’ (they don’t use the letter L here much, kind of like in Japan) So… Manning vs Manning, Colts vs Giants on Sept 10… I’ll be watching it (be it tape delayed) They show the games live but they’re at like 4am or something ridiculous like that.

My Neighbors

I live in a quiet neighborhood. My house is really an office building that happens to have a bathing area in one room. I live next to the Cannon and his wife. They live in a very modest house and have a house girl (very very common here). Close by is the assistant headmaster of the primary school named Willy and then it’s the Compassion House which houses the compassion staff (in a few months I’ll move in there, they are building additional housing). Then after that it’s another house where a teacher lives and then it’s Jacob and Aine (ah-EE-ney), the headmaster of the primary school. Jacob lives in basicly a du-plex. Then it’s another few houses on the hill and that’s it. It’s quiet but there are enough people to feel secure. The Cannon (it’s a religious title within the Anglican Church) has children who are older and are either on their own or in college (university). I do, however, see several young children that stay at his house. There is a boy who is about 7 named Keith. Keith is one of my favorites! He’s all boy, but he’s SO shy! He loves hanging around, but if you ask him how he is, he smiles and looks down. He’s so shy it’s what you could call ‘adorable’ if you were a female (men don’t say things are adorable). Now he’s usually taking care of a little guy named Mark who is about 1. Keith LOVES Mark. He is so kind and patient and gentle with him. Now the Cannon is too old to have these kids, so I asked someone on the compassion staff about them and here’s the explanation I got: For Keith, he is one of the Cannon’s son’s kids, but because he is still in the university he leaves the child with the grandparents (apparently this is common). Now Mark… this is interesting to me… Marks father is another one of Cannon’s son’s. Now before I go further, let me say that the Cannon is such a kind, caring, soft spoken but highly respected man in the community. He just has this ‘way’ about him where you know he’s a trustworthy, wise man, but when you find out about his kids… you just think, ‘wow!’ Where did the apple fall from that tree? So Mark’s dad is one of the Cannon’s son’s. Apparently the son came home from the university for a weekend and slept with one of the girls at the high school which is a boarding school here at Kyamate. There are only a few buildings up here on the hill. The church, compassion, the few houses and the 2secondary school. So this girl got pregnant and confronted the son. He did admit that the child was his and so… the girls mother went to the Cannon and said, basicly, “Either I’m going to the Police and your son will be thrown in prison for 2 years for defilement, or you must meet my demands… You will pay for my daughters education through high school and you must look after her child until she is out of school.” So the Cannon more or less had no choice. So goes life in Africa

The Next 2 weeks.

For the 2 weeks I’ll have some workshops that the PC is putting on, so my internet availability may be limited. I’ll try to post again next Tuesday, but no promises. Also… I realized that I had not ‘posted’ a couple of blogs this month but had only saved them as ‘drafts’ so if you scroll down you might find a couple of new postings that weren’t there before… sorry about that.


I’ve recently added a few Videos. Check to see if you can view them… It’s called My Videos under the Albums section in the Right Column. I'm doing something weird with my hands in some of them... not sure what that's about...


At 22 August, 2006, Anonymous Nathan's Mom Sherry said...

Hi, Brian - or is it Pervis? I'm Nathan's mom. Just want to tell you that we very much enjoy reading about your PC adventures. All of the PC volunteers must be made of steel but obviously have the ability to be super strong while at the same time being very caring. Amazing! We're particularly interested in your work with Compassion since, for many years, we have sponsored a Ugandan boy who lives in the Jinga area. When we make the trip to visit Nathan, we hope to be able to meet our Ugandan "son"!

Please know that we uphold not only Nathan, but all of Nathan's PC friends in our prayers. You've already had more adventure since March 2 than most of us have in a lifetime! Whenever we make that trip to Uganda, we're looking forward to meeting you! God bless you today and each day.

Sherry Epp


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