Travel Live Evolve’s Weblog

my next big adventure…

The Pink Palace April 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelliveevolve @ 6:37 pm

So, moving on!  Peace Corps is behind me and I am starting as fresh as possible.  Before I quit I knew that I, at least potentially, had a job lined up with a small family run safari company, which among other reasons at the time, gave me grounds for not hopping on the next plane and flying home. 

 

To make a long story simple, after living in Sipi for about two months I came down to Jinja as that is where Ku Tunza is based.  I have moved into a big communal house called “the Pink Palace” where I have taken up the niche somewhere between house midget and house youngin.  I think its quite funny when my friends who are still serving in Peace Corps ask me if I live with locals or muzungus and I answer that almost everyone I live with is African but we are all white.  There’s Jane, who’s the house mum, she’s a Safa (South African) in her 40’s.  She’s the head river guide at Nile River Explorers, one of two local river companies.  She’s a real cut and dry kinda gal, but good shit.  There’s George who is effectively either the house dad or creepy old man (also in his 40’s), depending on the day/fancy dress party.  George is fully a book worm and has probably read anything you ever have, maybe twice.  He’s something like 6’2” and enjoys constantly reminding me that I am short.  Blaise is another 40-something Zimbo, who if you know anything about Zimbabwe, was one of those successful farmers ousted by clever black power leaders (insert hint of sarcasm here).  Super nice guy, who in keeping with everyone having a household role a family role, is our drunken uncle and cocktail specialist.  Steve and Des are a 30-something Safa couple who live outback with me in the servants’ quarters.  Steve Fisher is quite notorious in the kayaking world and doesn’t mind telling you about it, but due to his notorieties isn’t around very much.  Des would be my big sister and is always willing to have a vodka and a chat.  There is also Sylvia, a German girl who’s in her early thirties and is also a safari guide for a German-speaking tour company, but she has barely been around since I have moved in.  We also have two dogs which is really nice.  There’s Grunt who’s the “house bitch” as Jane says.  Grunt is supposedly fixed although she apparently still has a time of the month somehow.  But instead of trying for other dogs she’ll get in licking fits (that’s doggy for foreplay), before she humps your leg.  She’s on the small side, maybe 30lbs, but some of that counts for her being a bit of a fatty.  Her best feature is her big dark circled and wide-set eyes.  We also have Thandi who’s some sort of ratty terrier with halitosis.  Before Thandi came to us she had a bad habit of starting fights with bigger dogs because the other dogs in her family were quite big and would defend her.  Unfortunately, in Uganda when your dogs annoy the neighbours too much, they just poison them.  So on account of Thandi’s starting fights, her big protectors got poisoned and the next time she got in a fight got what was coming to her.  Her rear left leg got pulled from socket and now it has a bad joint and Thandi has a dead straight back leg, which just adds to the humour.  Besides the leg, the best thing about Thandi is how much she loves us using her as a mop.

 

Every Monday morning and Thursday afternoon we have yoga in our backyard which is a lot of fun.  Tuesdays which have often ended up as Wednesdays George has his little band over for jam sessions.  Most of their songs are covers with changed genres and when Steve isn’t on the drums they actually sound really good.  (Probably a good thing for them Steve isn’t in the band.)  We have at least one dinner party at the house each week—lots of good drinks, food and friends.

 

Like I said earlier, I live outback in the servants’ quarters.  I got a small room that I pay about $50 a month for plus utilities.  It’s really convenient though because I get use of the whole house and really don’t need much more that a bed and a place to store my stuff.  The Pink Palace is better set up than anywhere else I have lived since I left the states.  We’ve got a big kitchen, a living room with and entertainment system, internet, a big balcony upstairs with hammocks and day-beds and warm water!

 

So far the safari business is pretty slow, although it looks like we should have a trip running this weekend.  That will be for the best as a “top local artist” Jose Chameleone (pronounced more like “Josie Chameleon”) will be performing at the rugby pitch across the street, as it seems most locals have little understanding of “volume control,” I am more than happy to vacate for a few days.  It looks like we will have a few big departures this summer which should win a bit of green, but for now we, along with most everyone else in the tourism industry are pretty quiet.

 

I will do my best to keep everyone posted of the safari adventures when they start, until then……

 

 

 

 

the road to the end.. March 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelliveevolve @ 3:06 pm

Through some combination of  Peace Corps Uganda’s administration ineptitude and potential PC hosts manipulation a lot of sites here get approved that should not be.  My first placement in Murchison sounded amazing…on paper. That was until the reality of it all sunk in.  I was stuck in the middle of the bush with little to no transportation options to do things like go out and get food or visit a friend for one of our allotted weekends without “breaking policy”.  If feeling stranded didn’t stress me enough, there was the issue that I wasn’t wanted.  PC and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquarters seem to have discussed the want for volunteers and when said volunteers were granted chucked them to their two biggest game parks.  There never seems to have been discussion with the park wardens whether they wanted a volunteer or not or had work for a volunteer, etc…  So there I was, with nothing to do and no where to go and without the promise of the big budgets that other organizations like GTZ and USAID bring.  Luckily for me, there was another small NGO doing work nearby in the park, I just had to sit tight and wait for their work to re-start.  I started helping Soft Power Education with their museum project in the park; a project which promised to promote livelihoods of locals, help prevent poaching and educate both students and visitors…again on paper. Not that Soft Power was failing on any of their projected goals, but that UWA was being impossible to work with.  The chief warden who’s a big, fat corruptible creep never could understand why I was working with Soft Power, but never offered any other options for me to look into.  The wardens that I should have been working with, tourism and community conservation each had their own set of vices.  The former was a loose, manipulative woman and the latter got his “esteemed position” through nepotism and never had the slightest clue where to start.  As they say here, “Ey, they are not serious!”  So I had nothing to do. My good friend’s advice was to stop caring and “just go to the office and look busy.  You can get good at solitaire.”  But who leaves everything behind for two years to get good at a computer card game?  Eventually I broke down and in a visit to told Peace Corps I couldn’t go back to site.  The Country Director was particularly displeased with me even though she had told me six months back that this placement probably wouldn’t work, but that I should go and try.  I call six months a fair shot.

 

So I got thrown rather haphazardly to my second site which was surely a favour being done to a friend through the PC Education Director.  I was placed at an “eco-lodge” run by some old Ugandan woman.  I still am unclear what makes the place “eco,” I don’t think having grass thatched roofs makes you “green.”  At any rate, this woman built this campsite that was clearly popular with overland companies back in its heyday, but fifteen year of no maintenance, bad customer service and worse management, slowly turned almost everyone away.  So this was my new “economic development activity”….to work as this woman’s free muzungu manager.  I didn’t think that being someone’s free labour fit into the frame of “community development.”  The owner tried to play this runaround that she works with a women’s group in the community and maybe getting a volunteer would force them to “be serious”….but then she had to “get ready for the holiday season” and had no time at all to help me.  After struggling for weeks on end to try to get the women to meet to talk about a “way forward” without the help of a counterpart or supervisor, my faith in my work began to rapidly fall away.  Besides the fact that I am a foreigner, I was also younger than all these women.  Although my supervisor believed the best way to deal with them was to “treat them like children,” I firmly disagreed.  I believed they had to care themselves.  I could not force them to care about savings or a better life and I certainly wasn’t going to be patronizing to try to achieve such ends.

 

I decided that even if out of the odd chance a devil like Country Director McGrath Thomas would grant a third placement (which by the way is considered an “extreme circumstance”), I didn’t want it.  I am an adult and I don’t need a bunch of inept clowns fooling around to decide my future for me.  I can make my own decisions and my own mistakes.  At least in doing so I can be certain that I know me best and can make the best judgments.  So I packed up my house and headed to Kampala to meet with the one Peace Corps staff member that I consider decent and competent, Jolie Dennis.  She had the job of handing me my ultimatum, quit or be terminated.  The only reason this came as a disappointment was because I wanted to be the one to break the news to them that I was quitting and instead got given the ultimatum before I could get it out.

 

Having a boyfriend at the time, lots of friends here that I didn’t want to leave, a potential job on the line and a faint glimmer that maybe if I stayed I could still “do something meaningful,” I made the blind leap of faith called a field termination.  Here I give up my work visa, my no-fee passport and my flight home in order to stay in country.

 

With a bit of help from my boyfriend, I shifted my things up to Sipi and settled into helping my boyfriend and his partner with setting up their lodge.  I was never paid and knew I wasn’t going to be from the get go.  All I asked was that I was fed (sounds pretty dire, huh?  And looking back I guess it really was.)  I gave them practically everything I owned and did my best to be as helpful as often as possible.  I still don’t know if they really know how grateful I am that they took me in; for all the good and all the bad, I couldn’t have made it this far if I hadn’t been allowed to stay. 

 

The unfortunate side effect of all of this “time together” with the boyfriend ended up with us breaking up.  I guess it did become a bit much to date, live together and work together…and I still think there were other issues involved but that the lack of space definitely had a defining role in our undoing.  The positive side is that we really are trying to be friends.  We don’t hate each other which is good, because god knows, some relationships really do properly end up in the shitter.

 

So now… on to the now!!  With the last year being so shit, there should be nowhere to go but up I suppose…. (ok, i’ll try to write more tonite!)

 

 

 

Why it can be hard to work here

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelliveevolve @ 2:59 pm

A little background…

 So, at long last, I will shed a bit of light on the events of the last few months of which the vast majority of you have been in the dark. First let me preface my absence of communication by saying that the last few months, for a variety of reasons, had been very difficult for me. The truth of the matter is that my Peace Corps service took a turn for the worse and I didn’t think it would be terribly wise to write blogs and emails moaning about how miserable I was. I figured this would surely succeed in little else than either causing people to worry about me or create negative views of Uganda/Africa. Neither of which would be productive in helping solve the problems I was having.

When I signed up for Peace Corps early in 2007, I did it out of a sense of adventure and charity. I had been blessed with a good education and wasn’t ready for the structure of 9-5 yet. I have traveled in the past and thought what better idea than to go to a developing country somewhere and share my knowledge and creativity to help better a growing community?

To take a step back from the hustle of the American pace and learn a lot more than I could at home. As I thought, through Peace Corps I would be able to do some grassroots eco-tourism development; help people capitalize on what they already had. Folks with my major always get, “So, you gonna be, a park ranger?” And while most of us don’t take that path, a lot of us do find some way to stick to the field. I think it is critical to our future and the preservation of diversity of environments, culture and our collective health, to act now. To learn to appreciate what we have before it’s gone and we are stuck kicking our selves over the extinction of species or peoples or global warming. I think it is essential to make the most of what we have in the greenest way possible and that this is perhaps most important to do so in the developing world where people are more easily blindsided by a quick payout. Why not find sustainable projects that embrace their culture and the uniqueness of the local flora and fauna, then at least they have an alternative against the “payout promises.”

Too often big corporations who “know better” will plant themselves in developing countries, taking advantage of cheap labour, a lack of environmental and safely laws and regulations, and corruptible officials. Too often those involved in development get their eyes glues to the quick and easy buck. Particularly here in Uganda natural resources promise big payouts. But the repercussions of extracting and altering the natural settings these resources are found in severely impact the potential longevity of alternative activities which would be long-term and sustainable (ie, the rafting and safari industries).

The longer I am here the more I learn about how environmental and political issues collide and what a devastating hand corruption has in such affairs. I am not saying that similar things don’t happen at home, for example, Satan Palin (sorry, did I misspell her name?) is still gung hoe to drill in ANWR. But the difference at home is the amount of green groups and activists getting the word out to support the opposition, the availability of information on the internet, and the relative economic stability found in the US. Relative meaning oil exploration at home does not promising big developments for communities who are literally dirt poor, whose homes are made out of mud, who have health problems like malaria and AIDS, who don’t have easy access to potable water, all problems you find here. Sure, all things in life are relative, but the repercussions of oil development here is not the same as at home. Sure, for SUV driving Americans a relief of a few cents in gas prices would be a welcomed relief, but in Africa, where most people don’t own cars, the costs of oil will outweigh benefits. Oil will make things much worse for the vast majority of people before it makes it any better; meanwhile, for the elite few who benefit, their pockets will fill.  There is just something fundamentally wrong about stealing from poor people. 

Alternatively, some communities don’t have these big ethical questions like ‘oil vs wildlife’ looming over their heads, some simply are just poor. But they, no less than the others, need help too. Often it is just a matter of organization and creativity. The education system here which most Ugandans experience is modeled after an archaic version of the British system…one used in England almost a century ago. In schools here the teacher is ALWAYS right and the students will be silent and learn by repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating. Creative, deductive or rational thinking is not taught in schools which tend to have a damaging effect on ones ability to think “outside the box” in other situations. Not to mention, due to lack of funding, there is also no art in the curriculum. I mentioned the creativity issues in one of my very first blogs, but sitting here, nearly a year later, I am still baffled by how far reaching the creativity void is for so many people. It stretches from eating the same few foods everyday (creating a nutritional deficit) to a lack of real entrepreneurial endeavors (economic stagnation) to poor judgment while driving (bad to horrific accidents).

Perhaps this sounds like a really pessimistic rant, but stick with me….. (really a lot more can be said, this is just part of the big picture, but in the light of not being really really pessimistic, we’ll leave it here for now.)

 

meat on a stick and three tongues July 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelliveevolve @ 8:17 am

The other night after sitting around enjoying a few drinks with Ade, the Soft Power Education group and our South African friend, Johann we decided it was getting late and it was time to head out.  Some of the others stayed on at Traveler’s Corner for a few more, but Ade, Johann and I headed back to the hotel.  There was a man on the corner selling meat on a stick.  He told us that a stick of goat meat was 500/= and that the chicken on a stick was 1500/=.  Johann was very convinced that the goat should be 200-300/= and the chicken should be 500/=.  So here we were arguing with the meat stand man about what it should cost.  Well, not arguing in an angry way, it was much more of an animated discussion where all the locals kept laughing at us. Ade was arguing in Swahili, Johann in Afrikaans, and me in Runyoro.  I kept asking “Habwaki okunseera?” (Why are you overcharging me?)… Unfortunately I don’t know enough of the language to make much of the rational given. When it boiled down to it we are pretty sure it was mazungu tax and nothing more.  So we left without chicken and that only left me craving chicken on a stick for the next five days.

 

Change Of Address!! July 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelliveevolve @ 8:12 am

Hey everyone,

Please note the Change of address

its not 225, not 445.

so now i have my own post box incase you send any letters or anything. my organisation is a bit disorganized, so this is a bit safer in the light of things NOT getting lost.

THANKS

 

Fight!! Fight!!! June 11, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelliveevolve @ 8:21 am

 

The two male baboons that live around my house got in a fight over something this morning.  It sounded like a dog fight almost.  Remember in highschool when there would be a fight and there was always the town crier who would let everyone know, “FIGHT!! FIGHT!!”  One of the baboon was on the other ones tail chasing him all around the place, barking and making all kinds of noise.  One of the warthog sows with the three piglets perks her head up to watch and so do two of the piglets, the third one comes running around from somewhere else to watch.  Seriously, they all stopped eating to watch the baboons fight!  It was hilarious to watch.

 

Questions/Comments/Concerns

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelliveevolve @ 8:19 am

 

I know I don’t always think that I have something to write about, but that’s mostly as I am getting used to the way things are here.  So I thought I would just ask if anyone has any questions about life, work, animals, et cetera here in the park or in Uganda in general.  Leave a comment on this entry and I will create a new entry with the answers.  Thanks!

 

 
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