Sunday, October 31, 2010


A little smattering of my recent week and a half in America, for a conference, meetings and some family-time:

Brussels airport. 7am.

Funny part was that I went through this whole rigamaroll to find an ATM because I didn't have any cash. I finally got some (after having to go back through security), ordered my shit and handed the woman a 50 Euro note, to which she got all flabbergasted because she didn't have change, because everyone pays with plastic. It didn't even occur to me that I could use plastic! Not a cash-only economy? Whaaat?
Yep, guess I've gotten used to the developing world.

Seriously though, I almost cried with happiness about beer with flavor.

Pizza. It's hard to articulate how excited I was about the food and drink.

New York: has culture. And bizarreness. I've missed this.

In NYC for a conference. View from the first day's location

Once again... can you tell what I was most excited about for being in America?

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and Raison d'Etre. The 90 minute's a little too full, Belgian-yeasty and herby for my IPA taste (even for an Imperial), and the Raison was wayyy sweet, but I enjoyed the shit outta them nonetheless.

(also brought a bottle of North Coast Brewery's Brother Thelonious back with me... stoked to drink that!)

CMJ music festival. Lily & The Parlour Tricks: RAD.

Enjoying a last bit of America on my last afternoon in New Jersey

Apparently the sandwich was called...

and Back to dirty dirty Kampala

...but at least I had a Halloween party to welcome me. With a good friend in a pretty impressive Avatar costume.

View Larger Map

in Arua now,
back to Kampala on Tues
to Masaka on Wed
then to Mbarara on Thurs
Sesse Islands for the weekend
Mukono on Monday
Mbale later on Monday or Tuesday
back to Kampala Tues or Wed
back to Arua Thurs
back to Kampala Fri
Mbarara Mon

As Mom said: "take a map so at least you know where you are!"

And then back to California on the 17th of December!

A week in Gulu

I spent first week of October in Gulu, in northern Uganda. I was attending a partner organization's training, pretty much as a consultant on research methodology and conducting some preliminary field research for a new project. Interesting stuff, but a bit hard to appreciate when I'm stretched so thin.

Gulu is a bizarre place. Along with Kitgum, it was pretty much the epicenter of terror during the twenty-ish year insurgency by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. As such, Gulu is pretty much overrun by NGO and UN presence. Though a peace accord has never been signed, the war in northern Uganda is pretty well accepted to have ended about five years ago. As the area is rapidly rebuilding and recovering, and people are returning from the IDP camps, the district capital has developed a feel of a bustling frontier town - things are still very rough and rugged, but business and society are booming.

The bothersome aspect of Gulu to me is a lot of the NGO presence. There are apparently about 600 NGOs operating in Gulu and Kitgum - I wish I had gotten a couple pictures of streets JAMMED with NGO signs and white NGO vehicles! The problems I see are two-fold:

1. Though commonly perceived to be all-good organizations, NGOs are, at the end of the day, corporate entities with staff and resources and interests. As such, they have an incentive to ensure that their bankroll does not dissipate. Some NGOs (trying pretty hard to be responsible and not point fingers right now...) continue to trade on a situation that no longer exists, namely the LRA and on-going evils like child-soldiering. Though they may use the funds they get in this manner to do good, I find it deeply problematic and unethical to gather those funds under false pretenses.

2. Dependency Theory eat your heart out. Though they're predominantly wonderful, warm people, many people in Gulu - particularly young people of the generation who pretty much grew up in camps run by the UN and the like - have become completely accustomed to living on handouts. Rather than learning how to make their own ways in life, many people have instead become experts at subscribing to and portraying the stereotypes that bring in NGO funding, to their own ultimate detriment.

Right then, off the soap-box. How about some pictures?

The view from my hotel room, complete with a taste of local civil engineering

I found this skinny little building comically delightful

A chapati-wrapped banana from street vendors (chapati in the North are way fluffier and tastier than in Kampala!) and a cup of coffee at Cafe Larem - a bizarrely muzungu cafe in town

There's a bunch of construction going on in Gulu, which is a great sign for what it says about the region's stability and economic viability... except that most of the construction is hotels. I imagine the main target for these hotels must be the still-inflated NGO staff population, but if the situation and economy is stable enough to foster this magnitude of construction, then it's also about the time the NGOs will start pulling out!

NGO bubble, anybody?

Ugandan food! (sigh...)
Oily fried bitter greens.

(I can not WAIT for my week and a half in the land of flavor, starting Tuesday!)

From the balcony of my hotel, on the edge of town

Into town

On the way back to Kampala, we had to stop in a little town because a colleague hd had his license impounded for speeding on the way up. Pretty amusing situation that involved going to the police station, taking one cop to the home of the cop who'd impounded the license, then taking that cop to some ambiguous household/store to pick up the license, dropping them all off and continuing on our way back to Kampala

Outside the police station