Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's a bit long, but it's good...

So here was my day yesterday. Not that it was so interesting or so funny or so different than other days here, but it just all happened on one day and it was particularly funny to me:

I was told by my organization that I had to attend a meeting at the District Council Hall at 8am. There was a letter about an OVC committee meeting for organizations from all over the district. I asked what time I should REALLY be there and they told me 9. I arrived a bit late, about 9:05, hoping that I wasn't the last person there. To my utter astonishment I wasn't the last one, but rather the first one. Even the organizers of the event hadn't arrived. I found a seat and waited. I waited some more. I waited and waited and waited. Finally at 10am I called my organization to ask them "what's up"? They told me to leave because they needed someone to go to Mbarara to pick up messages. So I left.

I traveled to Mbarara and started to pick the things they had sent me for. First I had to pay the electricity bill. No problems. Then I had to go to a book store to buy a number of Christian books for our kids. I went to the first book store and couldn't find any of the items on my list. I went to the next book store and again came up empty. I asked the lady about the books and she referred me back to the first book store. I then decided to look for a bookstore which I heard had the books called "Focus Bookstore". I asked a small group of people, "I'm looking for Focus Bookstore. Do you know where it is?"

"It's called what?"





"FOCUS! I can't say it any differently! Fo-cus! FO-CUS!"


"It's called Focus Bookstore. Focus Bookshop. Something. It used to be next to the Pelican Hotel but it has moved."

"Oh, you're looking for Pelican Hotel?"

"No! I'm looking for a bookstore called Focus!"

"It's called what?"

"Argh!!! Never mind!"

I walked around all afternoon and I never did find the books. Every book store referred me to every other one. I decided to leave Mbarara and let someone else worry about the books. I went to the edge of town to catch a taxi, but I didn't stop there. Those taxi drivers are clever. They know that people go to the edge of town to catch a taxi, so they pick them up there and then go BACK into town to pick up other passengers, sometimes doing this for hours before they actually leave.

Well, I'm more clever than they are. I went to the edge of town and then walked an additional 1km to make SURE that they were leaving town when they reached me. A minibus came. I got in the front seat. THEY PROCEEDED TO TURN AROUND AND GO BACK INTO TOWN!!! I tried to jump out but the conductor grabbed my door and wouldn't let me out. "Muzungu! 2 minutes! 2 minutes and we'll leave. I promise." Yeah right. "I'm timing you," I told him. "2 minutes turns into an hour here!" So we went a short distance back into town, then sat for 10 minutes, a few people got out, we drove up a ways and then... turned around AGAIN to go back into town! We left 30 minutes later. Could have been worse. Ah, Uganda!

Mr Maxwell

When I was a kid I always looked forward to going to church. Not because of the flannel board stories of Daniel and the lions den; it was because Mr Maxwell always had gum for me. If I remember right, it was called Mormon gum and it was these 2 little chickletts in this small, yellow cardboard box. I wouldn’t even greet Mr Maxwell, I would just run up to him and ask for gum, and every time, he gave me some. If he didn’t have Mormon gum, then he’d give me Wrigley’s. It was the best part of church as far as my 5 year old mind was concerned.

Well, now that I’m older, I’ve decided that I want to be Mr Maxwell. I want to provide gum to the 5 year old kids of Uganda.

That was my first mistake. I started keeping candy at my place, and because I live around a number of other houses there are always kids around. I started giving candy to these little kids. Then more kids came. And more. Before I knew it, all of the kids in the neighborhood were lining up outside my door every morning with their grubby hands sretched out saying “Give me sweetie!” Not hello, not good morning. Just Give me sweetie, as if I was the candy welfare man who had bottomless pockets of sweets to hand out. Slowly I’ve been trying to wean the kids off of thinking that I’m the candy man, but it’s taken time. Each time they come to my door in droves, I open the door and show them the empty bag of candy. Sounds kind of cruel, I know, but I’m telling you, droves of kids were showing up at my door, knocking at all hours, waking me up and saying, “Mpa (give me) sweetie!” Apparently even my generosity has it’s limits when gauged against my sanity.

Spaceship Landing

I thought I had talked about this before, but I guess I hadn’t. A couple of weeks ago I saw some construction going on at the Primary School located near my house. It looked like they were building a guard house at the entrance by the road. Unusual, I thought, because it was the holidays and generally they don’t build unless there’s money and they wouldn’t have collected money until the school year had begun.

A week or so went by and I was going home one evening when I noticed the most peculiar sight. There was a light on at the ‘guard house’. The primary school doesn’t have electricity and the guard house is a good 100 meters from the school anyway. Upon a closer look I saw a satellite dish and solar panels on the structure. It also looked like there were 2 ATM monitors glowing on the building. I froze. Asked myself if I had traveled through a wormhole to the US somehow, the got closer for a better look.

They weren’t ATM monitors but the screens were computer monitors and the men there were on the internet. Internet? What the…? I must be in another country.

I stood there and gawked for at least 10 minutes (seriously) trying to comprehend what was going on. Finally I had enough. I asked the men, one of which was Indian, what this was all about. He explained to me that the government of India had donated this to Uganda. It is free public internet for anyone who wishes to use it. There were 2 monitors behind the Plexiglas, the keyboards and touch pad were secured into the wall. There was even an outdoor light and it was all powered by solar power and a battery. There were 4 of these donated to Uganda and we got one.

“Free internet?” I asked.

“Yeah. Free internet.”

“And who pays for it?”

“The government of India pays for the internet services and for any upkeep needed. If there are any problems then the school has the number to call and a technician from Kampala will come to work on it and the bill will go to India.”

Unbelievable. Really, it’s like a well for the village, but instead of providing water they provide communication. Email, news, internet, etc. It also has some children’s programs to teach them math, kids wikipedia, typing, etc. It’s really amazing, I only wish I had thought of it.

“They’ll lock it up.” I told him. “They’ll charge people to use it. They’ll do something funny with me, mark my words. Not while I’m here, I’ll make sure of it, but I’m telling you, I have my suspicions.”

Sure enough, a week later I noticed that the head teacher for the school had an energy saver (florescent) light bulb in his home and the one for the internet shack was missing. Nobody in my village uses energy saver bulbs except for me. Nobody. And he suddenly has one at the same time that the one for the new internet place disappears? Ah, Uganda. I’m not accusing anyone, I’m just observing things.

So, we’ll see how it pans out, but it seems like a great idea. To visit their website, check out http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com

The Kenya Effect

A few prices of things have gone up here. I noticed that the prices of baked goods has gone up. After inquiring I was told that wheat prices has increased from 2,500 Ush to 4,500 Ush, almost doubled. The landlocked country of Uganda continues to suffer the effects of the election in Kenya.

Republican Article

Here’s the latest article I sent to the Rushville Republican. It’s adapted from a former blog entry on a school visit I made earlier this year.


At 19 February, 2008, Blogger NanettePC said...

oh my gosh i nearly fell out of my seat (at work, how embarrassing) laughing at your african conversation! that is how it was with me all the time.
fo-cus, FO-cus, fo-CUS, FO-CUS!
but i would always get the reply, "oh! you mean focus!"
that brought back frustrating memories...
um, i'm bringing sugar free gum;) i LOVE to be the candy (wo)man. my mistake was giving m&m's once, so afterwards when i gave them a lollipop they would look at it and hold out their other hand and ask for the chocolate! greedy little gremlins! but i probably am responsible for some tooth decay, so i'll bring sugar free for your kids.
30 days and counting...

At 20 February, 2008, Anonymous Tanya said...

haha I could just hear those kids mobbing you "give me sweetie!". And cool about the internet- have you tried using it yet?


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