Sunday, June 6, 2010

Welcome to Uganda

My first week overseas was spent in Syria, with friends. A blog for another time! The only significant piece to report is DON'T eat the greens. Still trying to recuperate a week later.

We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda after a full tour of Cairo's pyramids and sphinx including the old city. Really nice, really tiring day. (We had only slept 3 hours the night before.) We boarded our flight at 10:30 p.m. and arrived at 3:3o a.m. and at our guest house in Kampala at 5:30 after filling out forms and finding luggage. I had to check a bag I hadn't intended to check but it was too large (they said) for carry-on. Somewhere in that long long day, my iphone disappeared, still hoping I left it in the tour bus but....

Anyway, we tried to sleep for a few hours only to be woken by a very loud rooster and our hosts anxious to talk. I am staying at a "teach and tour" very nice guest house (image on left) with 3 other professors, each teaching throughout the colleges. The hosts are wonderful! They arrange for your meeting with the appropriate people. They are young and enthusiastic, have some connections with government officials, colleges, administrators and work very hard to set up visiting professors. We were guarded all night but felt very safe anyway. They drove us everywhere. I don't know how I could have done it without them in terms of getting around in that traffic and finding the appropriate people. The only thing I did not anticipate was that the colleges followed the same schedule as my college and most college students were off for the summer. So for this trip, I had appointments with administrators and some students. Will pick another time of year next time.

On the left, this is the building next door to the guest house. At first, I thought we were staying in a broken down area, especially since the dirt road was riddled with potholes and the police station nearby had their laundry hanging outside the station. I asked Larry, my host and guide, and he informed me that this building is on the way UP, not DOWN. Who knew! Apparently, the building is first scaffolded with sticks, yes sticks, and as they get more money, they start the bricking process. So, as it turns out, all over Uganda, you will see piles of bricks in front of stick buildings, waiting for labor and money to complete. They have time.

I thought I would practice my lectures. First, my colleague blew out the electricity. Turned out only to be an adapter, so we bought another- a big sturdy one (which added to my already full electronics case as I came with everything from power strips to routers, cables and adapters). Then came the fun. Internet is sketchy so you don't know if problems you experience are from your computer, the Internet, the electricity which goes up and down, etc. One of my computers suffered damage in the transport so a tech came to help. After a few hours of problem-solving, I plan to only use that for plan B. I wanted to show that PC using VNC to display the screen of the XO. We got it to work! But... and there is always a but, the lamp on the projector finally gave out, so plan B needs to rent a projector! I lugged that thing across 3 countries, 4 planes, paid extra charges only to have it blow when I needed it!

Plan A is to use my alternate computer, the netbook, to jump between my powerpoints, the web, and SOAS for the XO. For now that is working.

It is now Monday morning, awakened by the roosters and typing by the very dim light so that I can't see my keyboard. Remember what I said about electricity. My colleague plugged in the coffee pot to boil water for INSTANT coffee and blew out the second outlet. Yes, that was the very same colleague who blew out the first one. She must have electrical energy running through her veins! Welcome to Monday in Uganda!

Today, Monday,we are getting oriented to the area. Apparently, each college visitor is taken to the site of the future Teach and Tour Museum. Right now, it is about an hour's ride to Nansu (sic?) up a really rocky road, not for those with back problems. We passed very rudementary housing where there is no electricity. People waved and children shouted Muzamgu, meaning white person, also angel- a good term for them. They waved and cheered. I felt like I was in a pageant. Our purpose was to plant our "flag".
We first had gone to a local sign maker shop to create signs that represented our college. Mine- Dominican, my colleague's Touro. It took about an hour in the blazing heat, sharing their ONE brush, and only two paint colors. Rude awakening.

See pictures-forget my hair ( remember, the hair dryer blew out).

We took these signs up the mountain, the last part was a climb over craggy rocks with lots of children in tow. There, we found the "flags" of other colleges such as Cornell, Fordham, Alvernia, etc. It is the intention of the museum to provide information about colleges who visit to help and to build a hut for each one. The setting is gorgeous overlooking Lake Victoria. See more pictures.

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