Monday, March 26, 2007

Best news this


My digital camera

is not dead!

How long does it take for a digital camera that was left to soak in a tub of soapy water for the duration of an episode of Will & Grace to dry out and function like a digital camera that was never left to soak in a tub of soapy water for the duration of an episode of Will & Grace?

18 day, apparently.

After two and a half weeks, I guess the interior of the camera finally dried out completely, and the circuits were not fried. The camera began to function and take photos about a week ago, but the screen in back did not work. I could still used to regular view-finder to take snapshots, but I never knew what the camera was set on, and I was unable to make any adjustments; the screen was necessary for that. On Tuesday, during a three-day field trip with my kids, the screen just decided to come on, and it has been on ever since. Two and a half weeks after putting the camera in the laundry, it is working as well as ever. I can vouch for Canon: They make a durable camera. Maybe I should send them a letter detailing my experience.

On the final night of the field trip, about $200 dollars was stolen from our trip money (possibly the security guard, cooking or cleaning staff) while we slept. Otherwise, we had an amazing time at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre. Luckily, we’d already paid for everything we needed: food, accommodation, transportation and fees. Unfortunately, the remaining money was going to be left as a donation to the Centre to assist with the care of the abducted, harmed, abandoned or orphaned animals.

I think I previously blogged about developing a fear of heights. I was never afraid of going higher in my younger years, but now going up makes me quite uneasy and nauseated. I’ve always been pretty good at facing my fears and not letting them control me and keep me from doing things that I really want to do. At Zika Forest, along Entebbe Road, there is a tower that visitors can climb to get a view above the canopy of trees. I HAD TO GO UP IT. I just had to. I trembled ands sweat my way up the rungs of the steel ladder to the top platform of the tower. My friend, Kat, instructed as I went up, “Always make sure that you always have three parts of your body in contact with the ladder: two hands, one foot; or two feet, one hand.” I felt so weak when I got to the top, and the sway of the tower did not make me feel any more comfortable. I never stood on the top platform; sitting was good enough for me. The important thing was that I made to the top. The view from the top was spectacular!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On a Clear Day…

As promised, I have the makings of an amazing blog posting from my trip to Hoima a week and a half ago. Hoima is a district in Western Uganda; it borders on Lake Albert and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the west. From the cliffs at the lake shore, you can see across to the Blue Mountains of Congo on a clear day: breathtaking. On a hazy day, you see haze. I did not make it to the lake during my visit, so I’m not sure why I’m taking about it. I went to visit the village I called home for three year, Bulindi. I wrote about most of my weekend adventure in a previous post, and I do not want to be redundant, so most of this post will be the photos I took during my journey. (In the Disaster Strikes Back post, I described my digital camera ordeal. No, it is still not working. I was, however, able to salvage the photos saved on the disk.)

Cooking with kerosene is something that I do not miss. Carrying the gas can to the petrol station was SO much fun, as was the the stench of the fluid you had to carry with you on your journey back to the village.

I enjoy cooking, and I got pretty good at making tasty food with next to nothing. In the dry season, the only vegetables that can be found in the village (and then if you are lucky) are tomatoes and onions. Man, I love rain.

Can you see my two little visitors peering through the window?

Bujumbura Catholic Cathedral.

Innocent and I, could we be any happier? He's such a good kid. See his Puerto Rico shirt. Melissa and I tried to turn him into are real Boriqua. Like I know anything about that. But the shirt looked nice.

In Hoima, just outside of town, travelling a dusty road on a motorbike. In Peace Corps, there were not allowed. In fact, I hear that one of the current volunteers is about to be or was just sent home for being spotted on the back of a motorcycle when visiting Kampala. Boda-bodas (as they are called locally) can be very convenient, but they multiply the traffic problem in the city, and drivers are too wreckless making them a dangerous option. You can see my green shirt in the mirror's reflection in the bottom of the photo. Yes, I'm daring.

Being in the village is not excuse for neglecting personal hygiene.

A common mode of transportation upcountry.

On the road again. This was my machine for three year. Not this exact one, but one like it. The Hero bike is H-E-A-V-Y and a piece of crap until you replace all the orginal pieces with spares, then it becomes and indestructable machine that can carry unimaginable loads: firewood, car batteries, goats, pigs. I made a wind chime from the old parts of my Hero. 30-60km per day on one of these beasts gives one really great legs.

Sittin' on top of the world. We used to joke about phone reception in the village and say that the only place to get network was standing on top of a termite mound with your arms extended. Sadly, that is not far from the truth. In one location, a clever entrepreneur built a high stand (almost like a deer stand) and charged a fee for you to climb it to use your phone. It was the only place to receive a bar of network, so he came out a winner.

A simple kind of life.

Monday, March 12, 2007

No Caterpillars


in the Swimming


Yesterday was a great day. I spent the entire morning cleaning house and washing bedsheets and clothes. To you, that might not sound like much, but I think it's swell. I love walking barefoot on a freshly mopped floor and the clean scent of bedsheets that have dried in the sun. Cleaning house always brings me joy. Maybe it is quickly visible results of my efforts that bring great satisfaction, and reducing the clutter around seems to exponentially reduce my stress.

After a quick lunch, I called up two of my closest friends for an afternoon at the swimming pool. (Did I mention I'm on a health kick these day? Inspired by Fergie: I be up in the gym just workin' on my fitness. I, too, ain't sleazy.) It was perfect pool weather: hot sun and blue skies. There was a new pool on the other side of town that I was convinced I needed to check out, and by the time we arrived there, our group had grown from three to five members. The place was packed with families. This squashed my hope of swimming laps, but it was a great time, nonetheless. It was beautiful to be at the pool on such a beautiful day with all the beautiful families and friends having a lovely time. I felt a happy energy I have not felt in a while.

I was so great being at the pool with good fiends. Ugandans, like most people anywhere that swim, are much less modest when swimming, and the suits that most people were wearing exposed A LOT; there was very little left over for the imagination. One guy could've left his tight, little Speedo at home. I think it was two sizes too small, and everything was hanging out throughout the afternoon. He'd pull up the back to cover his ass, and the front would come down to expose his prize. Then he'd pull up the front only to show his crack. One of my friends was wearing a little spandex number, and when it was wet, it really hugged and prominently displayed what he had to offer. Another friend commented on this. Apparently one of the soft words used is Uganda to talk about the penis is caterpillar because that is what he called it in their local language. I did not understand it, so it had to be translated for me. He jokingly said to our well-endowed friend that caterpillars were not allowed in the pool. The pool attendants might come and ask us to leave; other swimmers might get scared.

We left the pool sometime after 6:00pm, went to a friend's house and watched Steel Magnolias. I've been quoting Oiuser a lot lately: I've been a bad mood for 40 years. The power went out when we were about to find out that Shelby had been drivin' nails in her arm. Uganda: gotta love it!

Good times with good friends are what weekends are all about. We pledged to make pool visits together a regular weekend occurrence. I know how well my pledges for regularity normally work out, but I'm hoping for a change.

Hot fun in the summertime!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Strikes Back

I have a great blog entry in the making. I traveled to Hoima over the weekend with my friend, Tinka. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, I worked in Hoima for three years, and I never went out in the town; I lived in the village (Bulindi). This past Friday night was spent out on the town, and I saw a whole new world. After a surprisingly exciting night, Saturday was tranquilly spent in the village, and it was amazing. I left Bulindi about two years ago. I was surprised to have very young children come up to me and greet me by name. Some of my young friends were disappointed to learn that I'd not come back to stay. Village hospitality is very generous, and I ended up with more food than I could handle of Saturday: fresh peas, bananas, peanut paste and pineapples. I'm still a known figure within the tranportation circuit, and my clout got my friends and I seats on an overpacked vehicle. One guy even lost his spot to us. I felt bad for almost a second, but then I was just happy to be on my way back to town. I have a hard-earned reputation in that area. I worked my ass off with that community, and my efforts appear to be well appreciated. I also tried very hard to be respectful and appreciative of all. Hint: If you ever plan to live in rural Uganda, establish a respectful relationship with the taxi conductors and drivers. A friendly relationship has its benefits. You cannot trust them (they'll cheat you in a heartbeat), but establishing a mutual respect will definitely come in handy.

It's the dry season in Western Uganda, so dust was in the air. I came back to Kampala somewhat orange. My computer bag was quite dirty, so I decided to wash it immediatly after returning home. I removed all of the contents and left them on my coffee table, and I put the bag in the wash basin to soak. I settled down with my laptop and an episode of Will & Grace. I was feeling a little antsy and decide to make better use of my time by putting all the phots from my journey on my computer. I paused the show and went to get my camera and cables from the sitting room. I could not find my camera. F*CK! I forgot to remove it from the side pocket of my bag (sound familiar?), and it was soaking in the wash basin. Quickly, I fished it out and removed the battery, and it is laying out drying. My hope is that if I let it dry out completely, it will work when I switch it on again. My fear is that I've just ruined my digital camera and will not be able to afford another one for quite a while.

To make my post more interesting today, I answered a few questions to make a personality profile. I found it on Nicole's blog. I find it interesting how much can be learned about someone just by having him answer a few questions. Overall, I think the profile is accurate. So for those who are interested in getting to know me a little better (or think you already have a good idea of who I am) read on.

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."


You have high conscientiousness.
Intelligent and reliable, you tend to succeed in life.
Most things in your life are organized and planned well.
But you borderline on being a total perfectionist.


You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.


You have medium neuroticism.
You're generally cool and collected, but sometimes you do panic.
Little worries or problems can consume you, draining your energy.
Your life is pretty smooth, but there's a few emotional bumps you'd like to get rid of.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is high.
In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.
You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.
A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.