Monday, September 04, 2006

Force Out at 2nd

The Taxi from Hell

I had one of my Fantasy Football drafts last night. I thought I’d be able to do it at Africare, where I do all of my internet. They are closed on Saturdays but the night watchman usually lets me in to do internet, however, upon arriving they told me that the new administration has taken the keys from them and they cannot get into the building anymore (I think they might have been blowing me off…). Now, I had planned for just such a situation (always be prepared in Africa, this usually involves bringing a good book along wherever you go), so I boarded a taxi-van going to Mbarara where I knew I could use the internet. The driver peeled out after picking me up, barely giving me a chance to sit down. People don’t ‘peel out’ here, mainly because they drive vehicles like Honda Civics that have the horsepower of a lawnmower. I thought to myself (SWEET! We’ll make good time getting there!) However, after this doofus proceeded to drive at an excessively high rate of speed in this run down, rusted metal box on wheels. He was even racing another taxi along the way, apparently some friend of his. He was talking on his phone for a time, FLYING through towns where there were many people, kids, goats, cattle, etc. I was clutching the underneath part of my seat trying to decide if I should just go with it or get off. The thing is, I LIKE speed and a certain degree of recklessness when driving, but usually only when I’m in control. Finally, the last straw was when he sped past a potential passenger, then decided to slam on the brakes and drive in reverse to pick them up. While he was doing this there was a car coming in the opposite direction. The driver of the van couldn’t back up well enough to save his life and he didn’t even acknowledge this car coming (the larger vehicle always has the right of way in this country). He was taking up 2 lanes and the car had to stop and wait on him, which is surprising because they’ll pass any vehicle on any curve or hill here. So I told them I was getting out. Now, getting out isn’t as simple as it sounds. There is a conductor that sits by the door and WILL NOT let you pass until you have paid whatever amt they have decided, so I had to negotiate a price which ended up being almost what it would have cost me for the entire trip, though I was only half way to my destination. If you don’t negotiate then they will just keep driving until you agree with their price. What didn’t help matters, I’m sure, is that I was telling this guy (in the local language) that he had bad manners and he couldn’t drive. Then in English I told him that he was endangering the lives of these passengers whom he had a responsibility for delivering safely to their destinations and that he was trying to make more orphans in Uganda by killing their parents through reckless driving and that he should NEVER be permitted to drive again. He said he would drive slower if I remained in the vehicle, and I told him that he in fact would, but that I wouldn’t be there to witness it.

So I got out and walked some 2 miles through the middle of nowhere while people again gawked at the strange white man who was WALKING in the middle of nowhere. People saw me coming and called their kids to come out and see the “Clown” who was passing through their village. Eventually another taxi came by and I rode safely the rest of the way there. Ahh…life in Uganda.

A Rude…Departure

We’re losing another PCV this week. This one isn’t going home on his own accord, however. He’s (more or less) being sent home by the Peace Corps for violating one of their no-nonsense rules. Chapman (you can check out the link to his blog on the Right for what I’m sure will be a thorough explanation) had the most coveted site of all of the health volunteers. He was assigned to work in Bwindi National Park…ie to work with the GORILLAS! Bwindi had requested a health volunteer to help to improve the health in the general area of the park, believing that the improved health of the people there would directly improve the health of the animals, especially the gorillas in the park. When people have diseases, inevitably the animals sometimes can acquire those diseases by rummaging through the rubbish and waste left behind. So they requested a volunteer.

The stories I heard Chapman tell through his first 3 months was that he was in a VERY rural place and transportation was difficult there. It was especially difficult to get food to his site. Peace Corps Volunteers are not permitted to ride motorbikes and that is the most accessible and cheapest mode of transportation around. They are also not permitted to drive a vehicle or ride in the back of a truck. (did you hear that, Rus?) Now from what I’ve heard, the PC does make some exeptions to those rule, but I believe they would be more likely to move a person to another site than to make a transportation exception. He had also said that there was some corruption within his organization and that he hadn’t received the warmest of welcomes there. To make a long story short, the Peace Corps Administration found out (because he told them) that his organization had given him a car and that he had been driving it around. So… they called him into Kampala, talked for a bit, then drove him back to Bwindi where he got all his stuff and now he’s leaving this week for home (there’s several days of paperwork and medical stuff before you actually leave).

It’s truly a sad situation and there is a group of PCVs that have written a letter detailing the circumstances that surrounded the episode and are sending it to some higher powers in an attempt to reconcile the situation, but from my understanding, at this point there’s nothing that can be done. The fact remains that he broke a major rule, the consequences were made very clear early on in training, and now he’s leaving. If there is a good side to the story it is that he is not being Admin Sepd (administratively separated) but he is given the option to ET (early termination), the latter meaning that if he wanted to do the PC again in the future, he could. The problem with that is it took him 18 months from start to finish to get to Uganda (it took me 9 months) and that’s a long time to wait… Another good part, not to belittle the situation, is that his new dog gets to go back to Atlanta with him. I’ll throw that in for the animal lovers out there.

Chained Up

I was at a workshop a few weeks ago and I saw a decent sized church that I wanted to check out. One of my favorite things is to go into an old church in America, one with cool architecture, tall tall ceilings and arches and that has stained glass showing various scenes of the Bible in pictures that only stained glass can truly capture. (stained glass is truly a lost art in my opinion!) It was a Pentecostal church and I could hear people singing and praying loudly several feet before I reached the door. The church itself wasn’t all that, really. It’s rare to find much architecture of note anywhere in Uganda in my opinion. It was a big open room where people were walking around praying and praising. I didn’t really need to stay long and I certainly didn’t want to go in to be the only white man for everyone to gawk at, so I turned to leave. Upon turning, however, I saw a young woman whom I thought was just sleeping there at the front door. When I looked closer I saw that she had a chain around her with a padlock. Apparently she was chained up to the railing of the church! I was, of course, shocked, so I asked Alice the nurse, who was with me at the time, why in the world this girl would be chained up to the church, thinking that it was some personal act of submission or servantude like wearing a chalice (can you tell I just finished reading the Davinci Code?) or something. Alice the nurse told me that someone had chained here there. Reason being was that she was ‘mad’ and that her family, in all likelihood, had chained her there for people to pray for her! …now I try to find a ‘place’ in my mind to put things that don’t make sense. Some instances are cultural or due to general lack of education or ignorance if you will. And I can deal with many situations by having a ‘place’ to put things. However, more often than not I come upon something that has no place, no box to store it in and my mind can hardly grasp things like: what it really means? what impact it has? what should be done? what can I do?


At 08 September, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Enjoyed reading the Post. Wow, what a crazy Taxi RIDE!!!!! I can only guess what it was like because I can't truly see you getting out of the vehicle like that. Just to update you... the first NFL game is Complete... Steelers over Dolphins 27-17 with Charlie Batch at the helm. Fantasy Player of the day Ronnie Brown - with 2 TD's. COLTS OPEN in just a couple more days!!!! Hope everythings going well. Keep up the AWESOME WORK.

Your Little Bro,

At 08 September, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Brian, do you still want Ultimate Frisbee frisbees?



Post a Comment

<< Home