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Uganda

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UgandaUganda

Elephant Men Vs. Men Who Sleep

South Africa’s striker sprinted at full speed with the ball, a rocket of legs and swinging arms tearing across the field.  For a split second the man enjoyed a wide patch of grass all to himself, but only for a second.  His fastest wasn’t fast enough.  One of Mexico’s defenders ... read more

UgandaUganda

Sick of Being Sick

 Ahemmmmmm.  Hemmmmm.  Cough.  Cough. I can’t get this green gooey stuff out of my throat.  No matter how much I try, I can’t get rid of it.  I would pass off my incessant hacking as nothing more than dust-induced coughing were it not for my sore neck.  Looking to the ... read more

UgandaUganda

Blood in the Alley and Soda Bottle Cows

 Twenty of us circled the guesthouse’s only pool table, a lopsided clunker with faded green felt, and—hypnotized—watched for hours as teams chased the elusive final black ball, the jokar.  The first official pool tournament for our organization, a methodically documented, highly competitive affair, saw staffers from two different departments go ... read more

UgandaUganda

Love, Cows, and Cash

 Awkwardly, the men crawled into the circular hut, leaving their shoes in a colorful pile at the door.  They slid their knees across the worn, earthen threshold—slacks and all.  Under the light of a lone bare bulb dangling overhead like a banished star, they took their places against the mud ... read more

UgandaUganda

If You See Bats in the Sky...

There is a row of trees that lines the red dusty road by the prison.  The trees, tall and thick-barked, produce a cylindrical yellow fruit.  Sometimes at dusk, bats—waves of them—descend upon the trees to feast.  When seen from below, their vein-riddled wings, thin as paper, become transparent in the ... read more

UgandaUganda

Dead Body on a Saturday Morning Sidewalk

 “Excuse me, is this the line for the bus to Kampala?” I asked the woman next to me, nodding to the group of people standing bleary-eyed on the sidewalk. She nodded. A perfect, intricate lattice of oiled orange braids framed her plump face. “Yes, we’re all waiting for the Kampala bus,” she ... read more

UgandaUganda

Learn or Perish

“Humans learn.  That is what we do.  It is part of who we are.”  Masaba’s father, slow-speaking and a pillar of a man, stood before us next to a pole flashing with Christmas lights.  With red, green, orange, and blue light splashing across his face, he said,  “If you cease ... read more

UgandaUganda

Teaching Ronald Reagan

I have a student in my class named Ronald Reagan. Okot Ronald Reagan.  Here in Uganda, it’s common for people to name their children after famous Americans.  The guard at our house, for example, is named Abraham Lincoln.  Like his historical namesake, Ugandan Abe is tall, introspective, and knowledgeable on ... read more

UgandaUganda

Microfinance Packing a Macro Punch

Even though I studied education in college and spent a lot of time teaching in the past few years, education initiatives here in Uganda are not the projects I find most fascinating. Lots of NGOs (including my employer, Invisible Children) are working on different in-country education-based programs, and although I see ... read more

UgandaUganda

Agnes' Story

"It was in the morning, very early, and we heard a loud bang at the door. We woke up only to find that we had been surrounded by the rebels. There had been reports that the rebels were coming closer to the school, but that night we had been assured ... read more

Adam Lichtenheld

UgandaUganda

The Love, the Lesson and the Leper

The twelve passenger van screeched to a halt in front of the soccer stadium, sending a cloud of red dust into the air, which didn;t seem to faze the cheery, heavyset woman passing by with a basket of ripe bananas on her head.I jumped out of the Ugandan version of ... read more

Adam Lichtenheld

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Books

Skimpy Bookstore Selection

Andrew Morgan

03 Jul 2010

Uganda

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If you have a few books you want to read while in Uganda, bring 'em out with you. Buying books here is difficult and expensive. Most bookstores are small and sell only textbooks and religious texts. Because Uganda is landlocked, books, like most other imported products here, are expensive. Aristoc, the biggest and best bookstore in the country, is located in the Garden City shopping mall in Kampala. There you'll be able to find current releases (albeit at high prices) and a wide selection of Uganda-related books.

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Getting Around

Mutatu Madness

Andrew Morgan

03 Jul 2010

Uganda

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White taxi vans, 'mutatus' in Swahili, are ever bouncing over Uganda's rutted dirt roads. In Kampala, the nation's capital, swarms of them clog streets and spew exhaust into the air. When you ride a mutatu, you only pay the driver toward the end of the ride. They're cheap, but never comfortable: a packed mutatu can always get a bit more packed. There's always room for one more passenger, one more chicken. For longer rides, take a bus. In most towns and cities, buses and mutatus leave from the same part of town, areas referred to as 'bus parks'. Don't expect buses or mutatus to leave at regularly scheduled intervals. Trips only start once a vehicle is packed.

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Festivals & Events

You can't exonerate without breaking some eggs

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Pete  Muller

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In September 2008, I photographed a traditional Acholi reconciliation ceremony for six senior commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The ceremony focused on Opio Makasi, the Senior Operations Commander and close confidant of LRA leader Joseph Kony. The ceremony requires that the men walk barefoot over an egg, an act which symbolizes exoneration for past wrongdoing. The ceremony is part of Mato Oput, an age-old, traditional process that aims to repair communal relationships after serious transgression.

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Culture Shock

Material poverty doesn't always equate to misery

Andrew Morgan

23 May 2010

Uganda

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In the summer, when I travel with a group of American teenagers around Uganda, invariably a few of them struggle with the country's poverty. "How do they live like this, in these huts with no electricity?" they'll ask. Everywhere buildings are weathered; kids wear holed shirts and are often shoeless; the streets are cleaned of trash each morning, but not really. We talk about how material poverty is not always a recipe for depression and misery, as we're taught in the West. Even though many Ugandans have few material possessions, most do have tight family ties, a good sense of humor, and love for their friends. For many here, happiness doesn't hinge on stuff, on consumption.

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Must Do

Ride the bus. Feel the fear.

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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I think that everyone should take the bus a few times. No trip is complete without knowing that fear.

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Etiquette

Take Time to Sit, to Talk

Andrew Morgan

03 Jul 2010

Uganda

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Coming from the US, I know all too well how to eat on the run; how to wave hello to a friend from across the street and mime 'Call me!'; how to text and walk at the same time. Time is different in Uganda. People don't stress over it, and if you try to, things will be awkward. If you have the chance to meet someone at his/her home, you'll be invited to sit and talk. Chairs will be put out for you and your host. You'll be expected to take a break in the shade of a tree, to enjoy your host's company or take a cup of tea. Don't rush through these moments---they're important to Ugandans. Although waiting 20 minutes for a meeting to start might be frustrating, enjoying the slow pace of life during quiet moments with new friends is not.

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Food

Street food is good food

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Pete  Muller

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I survived largely on Rolexes, Uganda’s signature street food. It’s essentially a greasy, two-egg omelet wrapped in thin, fried bread called chapatti. The vendors will make it to order, often with green pepper, onion, tomatoes and cabbage. I stuck faithfully to the two former ingredients as cabbage in eggs is just gross. Other than that, you can buy small bags of sim-sim (sesame seeds), which are solid. Fried cassava is also decent, tasting a bit like steak fries.

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Film

To watch before you go

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Pete  Muller

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I highly recommend War Dance, an Academy Award nominated documentary about northern Uganda. Beyond being an incisive and touching treatise on the issues, the film’s photography is absolutely breathtaking.

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Packing

Stuff I Wish I Brought

Andrew Morgan

03 Jul 2010

Uganda

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There are tons of things that are hard to find in Uganda. If I had it to do all over again, here's a list of things I wish I had brought out with me: 1. A few sticks of deodorant. The stuff here is expensive and comes in small increments. 2. Toothbrushes. Good quality, soft ones are hard to find here. 3. Olive oil. I know---weird thing to bring out---but if you're going to live in Uganda for a while, bring a bottle out. Olive oil is some of the most expensive stuff you'll find in Ugandan supermarkets. 4. A good rain jacket. The rainy season lasts six to eight months here. 'Nuff said. 5. Natural bug spray. The only kind you can find here is the stuff that is both potent and toxic.

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Religion

Awkward agnosticism

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Most people in northern Uganda are Christians. If you’re agnostic like me and not comfortable discussing it, you may want to pick a denomination to fib about. I was open about my views and created some mildly awkward situations as a result.

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Politics

If they don't want to talk, there's a reason

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Pete  Muller

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Given northern Uganda’s violent political history, I was surprised to find virtually no serious political discussion. Political inquiries are often met with blank stares and ambiguous statements that trail off before illustrating anything. I often asked basic questions, such as why Kony and the LRA are fighting. The question usually got the same response, “Even us, we don’t know.” Having worked in conflicted areas of the Middle East, where everyone has an opinion, I was skeptical of this unwillingness to share. After some time, however, certain individuals did open up to me. If done in populated areas, their hushed words were often preceded by a look over both shoulders. This dynamic, which occurs regularly, illustrates the unfinished nature of political turbulence in northern Uganda. The era of Kony and the LRA may be at an end but the legitimate grievances of the Acholi people persist, at great concern to the central government. The region also remains trapped amid larger geopolitical considerations regarding oil, the future of South, or “New” Sudan, alleged weapons testing and other issues not openly discussed. I believe that the Ugandan military and intelligence community maintain a fairly expansive spying network throughout population centers in the north. If people don’t want to talk politics, respect that.

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Music

Hip-hop on the rise

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Pete  Muller

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Uganda has a growing hip-hop scene. I spent some time shooting in a music recording studio in Gulu called Bushfire Records. My favorite artist on that scene is Smokey Allan, an Acholi emcee who’s getting a fair amount of radio play in Kampala. Check out the video for his nationwide single “Muyaye”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHZM3OAX7RE

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Sports

England's still the team to root for

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Pete  Muller

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I found it surprising that Ugandans seem obsessed only with teams from England, their former colonizer.

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TV

You are watching Big Brother

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Pete  Muller

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It seems like people love Big Brother.

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Fashion

For designer jeans (or slabs of goat) head to Owino

Shaina Shealy

21 Sep 2009

Uganda

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Shaina Shealy

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After my first few days in Kampala, I realized that my hiking boots and quick-dry zip pants weren't helping me blend into smartly dressed Kampala. So a local friend escorted me to Owino for a true Ugandan shopping experience. The busy market is made up of crowded stalls where thousands of vendors eagerly sell everything from produce to clothing. We went for a full day of hard bargaining and sweating, and I ended up with my best fitting pair of jeans to date. When you're there, don't express too much interest in an item--you'll be prodded and pinched by vendors, chased through a maze of stalls, or, in extreme cases, get a marriage proposal.

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Dating

Be wary of your sudden powers of seduction

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Pete  Muller

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I am in a committed relationship so dating was not part of my experience in Uganda. On the basis of previous experience, however, I would urge singles to be conscious of what I call the “passport prospect.” Foreigners traveling in deeply impoverished countries often enjoy a degree of sexual interest they may not receive at home. This is intoxicating and can be difficult to resist but should be evaluated within the broader context. Sex is extremely powerful and can be a means to an end for some looking to escape a life of poverty. Men and women alike can find themselves in situations where careful calculations are disguised as romantic or sexual interest. That said, everyone’s curious about things (and people) they haven’t “done” before. Sometimes in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is virtually no racial variance, sexual interest is rooted in curiosity. This topic was endless during my time at the New Town Way Inn in Gulu. “So how can we get one of the NGO white girls?” the guys would ask. “Are they different?” While women in Uganda are certainly less publicly vocal about their sexual curiosity, I am certain of a similar dialogue, even if it’s internal.

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Health

Stomachs Twist Here

Andrew Morgan

03 Jul 2010

Uganda

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No matter how hard I try, I can never stay healthy for long in Uganda. The thing that ails me most here is an upset stomach. I don't eat those sketchy meat kabobs from the street vendors, and I don't drink water unless it's bottled, but still, my stomach knots up every couple of weeks. If you see any kitchen in a Ugandan restaurant, you would see why: nothing is refrigerated and everything is prepared in cramped quarters. Cats and chickens often keep a cook company while he/she prepares your rice and beans. If you stick to 'safe' foods and restaurants, you can cut down on stomach weirdness, but there's no way to completely prevent it. Bring your Pepto-Bismol.

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Slang

Keep it clean

Pete Muller

10 Feb 2009

Uganda

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Pete  Muller

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Through the advice of an Acholi friend, I learned only words and phrases that were appropriate to use across all age ranges. I think its useful advice.

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Nightlife

Land of Booze and Bars

Andrew Morgan

03 Jul 2010

Uganda

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A few years ago, the World Health Organization said Ugandans consumed more alcohol per capita than any other country in the world. Beer is everywhere here; five-cent bags of whiskey can be purchased at even the smallest grocery kiosks in the countryside. Bars of all sizes are easy to find in the towns and cities. At night, men gather around pool tables and, for hours, drink beer, crack jokes, and shoot pool. For $1 US, you can buy a 500 mL bottle of strong Ugandan beer, so it's easy to have a long night out without breaking the bank.

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Being an American

Not a Problem Being From Obama-Land

Andrew Morgan

03 Jul 2010

Uganda

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Because many parts of Uganda have been steeped in NGO and missionary activity, lots of Ugandans have seen foreigners before. But interaction with these types of foreigners---foreigners on a mission of some sort---has left lots of Ugandans thinking that foreigners on Ugandan soil are people who are determined to spread an ideology or build a school. Fighting against these assumptions can be frustrating. With that said, however, Ugandans are incredibly friendly and chatty. Many people love Barack Obama, so saying you're American is often an instant conversation starter. Expect your American-ness to be met with respect and lots of questions about life back home.

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