Saturday, April 30, 2011

Coca-Cola Memories

Coca-Cola Memories

Finally it's time.

Children's and young-adult literature hold a special place in my heart. I would argue that some of the most important, interesting and challenging topics and themes address in contemporary literature are done remarkable well if not the best within the pages of books targeting these age-brackets. Maybe I'm expressing symptoms of Peter-Pan syndrome, and I'm refusing to grow up, or it's the angst that I feel that provokes within me a wannabe-teen mentality. It could just be that I'm simply immature. Whatever the cause or reason, and regardless of it's value, I'm a fan of books earmarked for young readers.

Of the books I've read since the beginning of this year, two titles have really stood out: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly and A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. Fabulous, fantastic reads. The protagonists in these two books could not be more different, Callie T. of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a young girl from a privileged family on the verge of womanhood in 1899 Texas. A Long Walk to Water's Salva is forced to abandon his childhood in war-torn southern Sudan in the 1980s and 1990s. The characters are from separate worlds; however, no matter where you are in the world (or in time since 1899) you can always enjoy the fizz and unmistakable flavour of a caramel-coloured Coca-Cola.

These books are beautifully written by highly-regarded authors, and the descriptions of the first time Callie T. and Salva experienced the taste of a Coca-Cola and what it meant to them are the most beautiful adverts The Coca-Cola Company never had to pay for.

Young Calpurnia describes her experience at the Fentress Fair:

I still had fifteen cents left over from babysitting during the harvest... I considered spending some of it on the brand-new drink we'd all heard about, Coca-Cola...

I turned my head back on Mr. Grassel and pretended to study the red-and-white advertising bunting overhead... Then it was our turn, and we each paid our nickel for a Coca-Cola. We carefully carried our fizzing drinks outside. Travis lifted his to drink and exclaimed, "Oh! It tickles!" I held mine up and felt
bubbles dancing against my lips, then sipped it, feeling it burn in my throat, raw and sweet and unlike anything I'd had before. How could you ever drink milk or water again after this? We both downed the stuff greedily and straightaway ran back into the tent to stand in line again... We drank them more slowly, looking at the rising bubbles and making them last. We both felt extraordinarily peppy and, I would say, extremely refreshed.

When Salva is being resettled to the United States from a refugee camp, onboard a flight from Nairobi, a flight attendant offers him a beverage:
She smiled. "Coca-Cola? Orange juice?"

Coca-Cola! Long ago, Salva's father had once brought a few bottles of Coca-Cola back from his trip to the market. Salva's first taste had been startling--all those bubbles jumping around in his mouth! What are rare treat it had been.

"Coca-Cola, thank you," Salva said. And with each sip, he remembered his family passing the bottles from hand to hand, laughing at the tickly bubbles, sharing and laughing together....
Like Coca-Cola or not, you must admit that the brand is responsible for some pretty special and memorable ads. Would Santa Claus be as significant in American culture without the assistance of Coca-Cola? Would we all want to teach the world to sing? These two books, set in different times, with extremely different characters, addressing very different issues and themes demonstrate the signifiant role that Coca-Cola plays in our lives. I'd bet that we all have a special Coca-Cola-related memory. I have many. Grandma always had 'cold Co-Cola' waiting for us in her 'fridge' on a hot summer's day. When we wanted a candy bar from Kirkland's Store, we used to wander the neighbourhood (even plundered neighbours' sheds) to find empty Coke bottles we could return for the deposits.

Our memories provide Coca-Cola's best advertising. In fact, I want to head out to Jazz Supermarket and pick a Coke right now.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Others' Words

Others' Words

I just don't know what to say. I'm going to borrow a friend's description: dumbstruck. Being dumbstruck, I need to use the words of others to make my post today. Most are from local newspapers; articles are linked so you can read the quotes in context and get a broader scope of the events of the today. Some quotes are from facebook updates, and I did not link them to protect privacy.
  • Dear Mr President, yes! there is sthg u can do about prices: isnt this exciting news? U can cancel those pretty new jets! More exciting? U wont need to look to fuel levy for 700Bn to fund a third of Karuma dam- what with saving trillions!!??
  • I ve heard lots of nonsense e past few weeks saying police had no choice but 2 block e walk 2 work but 2day was an insult 2 all Ugandans.
  • Tonight I kept vigil for Uganda & it's slide deeper into the political abyss :( "Insomnia v. Insanity" Truth is: I was too horrified to sleep without risking nightmares!
  • Grumble, grumble... Gunshots in my neighbour hood. Oh, when the bullets hit a person, then they are stray. But, only the police and army firing....
Can you pick out which ones are government propaganda?

We got the kids safely home; that was a major concern of mine today. I went straight to the gym from work for an intense workout (maybe too intense, left nauseated) to relieve some stress. I feel a migraine coming on. I don't think a good night's sleep is going to resolve these issues, but I'm still hoping for a better day tomorrow. There's the optimisms peaking through the clouds.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Police Brutality

Police Brutality

So much for the light-weight, jovial blog post about Coca-Cola memories I'd planned for today. A YouTube video of NTV's coverage of Kizza Besigye's fourth arrest related to the walk to work campaign left me mouthing the word: disgusting, and put my thoughts of Callie T. on a back burner.

This disturbing footage of the disgusting, inhumane treatment of Dr. Besigye today penetrated the safe cocoon in which I live/work and had had a lovely, happy and productive day. It was hard to believe that this violence had taken place in the same city--just a few, short kilometers away.

In my mind played the screams of a young Ricky Lake, as Tracy Turnblad in 1988's Hairspray:

Police brutality!

Police brutality!

Police brutality!

An imprisoned Penny Pingleton joined in the protest:

Police brutality!

But this is not 1963 Baltimore, John Waters is not directing the action, and I really doubt that Besigye is in his prison cell ironing his hair in another form of protest, soon to emerge into freedom dancing The Roach.

The reality is what was caught on camera and broadcast on today's news.

And the world is taking notice: BBC, Huffington Post, Aljazeera, TIME, The Wall Street Journal.

Last year it was the Bahati 'Kill the Gays' bill, and this year is becoming spray with tear gas and beat Besigye and other non-violent, civil-disobedient protesters. What's going on?

Kampala 2011 and Birmingham 1963


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

By Candlelight is More Romantic, Right?

By Candlelight is More Romantic, Right?

It was back to work for me today. Because of my track record, I was pretty afraid I'd sleep through my alarm this morning, especially because I stayed up way too late last night writing my blog post, which should not have taken so long to write. Except when I'm sleepy and rushing myself, errors just seem to pop out of nowhere. When proofreading before posting, I ask, "Who wrote that?" or think, "I have no idea what I mean by that." Then I post, re-read what I've posted and find some more mistakes. Eh, all in a day.

I had a pretty sizable 'to do' list today, and surprisingly, I ticked off all of the items. Yes, there was a lot to get done, but the tasks were apparently easier or less time consuming than I thought they'd be. I'm either getting better at my job or just not being as careful with tasks as I was before. Either way, the work was completed, and the results (so far) seem positive. ...We'll see.

I was in the kitchen again this evening. I'm in the process of baking a lasagna. I've not made one in years, and this afternoon reminded me of why I don't really enjoy doing it very often. It's not that lasagna in itself is difficult to make. It's the the process of having to go to at least four different supermarkets to find all of the ingredients; I've spent a good part of two evenings collecting the simple things I needed. Who has time for that?

I've also whipped up some buttercream icing to go on top of the chocolate cupcakes I would like to bake for dessert. As the goddesses would have it, the power went out just moments ago. I'm sitting in the dark, can't use my mixer and really do not feel like beating cake batter by candlelight.

Lasagna and buttercream icing. Everything eaten by candlelight is more romantic, right? Tempting, but I think I'll pass. Funny thing is, I spent all that time in the kitchen, and now I do not feel like eating. I hate wasting food.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Benetton Ad

My Benetton Ad

I prepared Thai red curry tonight for the second and best time in my life. The curry paste makes all the difference. Fortunately the tub I found at a Cape Town Spar turned out to be pretty good. (I know, random). Unfortunately, it won't last forever, and curry paste is not so easily accessible in Kampala. Fortunately, I bought two tubs of paste in Cape Town, so I hope to host several curry dinners while I can. Tonight was a lovely success with two beautiful guests (Leo and Lynne, and we all realised that each one of us is one of six children. 666. Beastly, I'd say) who contributed spicy conversation to our already peppered meal.

During our meal, of course the topic of my recent participation in the Two Oceans Marathon came up. Ok, I admit to forcing the unsolicited viewing of my homemade video, but that's not where I'm heading with this narrative. Leo asked if there were any Ugandans running that day. At the International Friendship run on Friday, they announced that Uganda had four runners registered. Unfortunately, I did not meet any Ugandans during the run; however, I would have loved to.

During the International Friendship Run, a representative of each country ran with their country's flag. I did (kinda) meet the woman who ran with Uganda's flag.

She's the one in the green shirt. It's hard to see the flag, but look down by her leg.

Maybe I'm narrow minded, but I was surprised to see this mzungu woman representing Uganda in the run. I think I was even more surprised that I didn't know her. Kampala's not a huge city. The ex-pat community is not so large. The running community is even smaller, and the ex-pat running community, well, is a community I know well. And let's face it, I know a lot of people in Kampala. I might not be friends with you, but I usually know who you are from a distance. Or we have met and just didn't hit it off. I'd never seen this woman before in my life. That really sparked my curiosity. Robyn and I made our way over to meet this woman (because I'm so friendly... hahahaha!). We walked up the Ms. Uganda, and Robyn politely asked, "Are you running for Uganda?" The woman, looking annoyed, turned around huffed, "Yes." Then turned back to her friends and did not give us any notice.


Oyo mukazi ki akutte bendela?

I'm not going to make a public judgement here, I'm just going to attribute her response to pre-run nerves. We all get them right? But I'll admit to being put off and a bit annoyed, until I thought, "Hell, I'm here to have a good time, enjoy a new city and a fantastic, fun run."

It made me think back to when I was a Peace Corps volunteer sitting out in front of Kato's restaurant, having a conversation with him about one of his trips to Switzerland when he was in the business of textiles. He said no matter where he was, if he saw another African, he'd be so happy and go to meet them. His observation was that Europeans did not behave in the same way; they'd often ignore each other and not show signs of happiness to meet others. This situation would definitely prove his theory correct.

Oh well, her loss. I met some pretty terrific people over the past week, people from all over the world. It was like a picture-perfect Benetton ad, as was tonight's dinner: from diverse backgrounds, enjoying a delicious Thai dinner in Kampala, Uganda prepared by an American. Oh, and varying degrees of being clothed. Most importantly, we were all so very photogenic.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bend Into Leaning

Bend Into Leaning

Well, I'm home.

I succeeded in getting up at 4:15 this morning. My cab was on time this time: 5:00am pick up. My flight from Cape Town set off at 7:00am without a hitch. It was the 2:00pm departure from Jo'burg that gave a little hiccough. After boarding the plane it was announced that our take off would be delayed. Of the three toilets on board the aircraft, two of them were not working. Making a 4-hour flight with 2/3 of the toilets on the plane out of order would have turned into a very shitty situation. They kept us on the plane while they made the repairs, would not even let people disembark to use a toilet--saying that if people were let off the plane they wonder away and prolong the delay.

About an hour later, the problem with the toilets was rectified. And we were off: up, up and away!

The rest of my journey home was without event. Vincent was at the airport to pick me up. (Fortunately for him, I was able to shoot him an SMS to make him aware of the delay so he didn't waste time coming early to the airport.) There was a bit of traffic on Entebbe Road, which did slow us down a bit.

I'm home now.

Suddenly the raindrops that fall have a meaning.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Dreamed of Jeanie

I Dreamed of Jeanie

Today's journey took me to Stellenbosch for wine tasting. Wine is my second favourite export from Stellenbosch because they produce it oh so well. My favourite export from Stellenbosch, my absolute favourite is Jeanie J.

Stellen B. is Jeanie J. to me. XOXO! My life just wouldn't be the same.

The tour took us to the estates of Tokara, Muratie, Simonsig and Warwick. It was an entire-day outing, and today, of all the days I've been in the area, was the best for such a tour because the weather was rainy and cold. While the views from the vineyards were not as stunning as they might have been on a clearer day, being indoors with fires in fireplaces and sipping glasses of some spectacular red wines was a pretty good day to spend a cold, wet day in SA. We tasted some pretty good whites as well. I'm no connoisseur of wine, but I do aspire to one day be able to differentiate and identify the various scents and flavours influenced by nature and terroir that are captured by the vignerons, winewakers and vintners who then share them with us.

My little holiday is drawing to a close. I leave for the airport at 5:ooam. (This is the third time in the past seven days that I've had a 4:00am wake up. Ridiculous!) It's been a fabulous time with lots of memories made. However, I'm really looking forward to returning to Kampala and my wonderful peeps, including Jeanie J--hopefully accompanied by a nice glass of wine.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Big Day: Two Oceans Marathon 2011, Cape Town, South Africa

The Big Day: Two Oceans Marathon 2011, Cape Town, South Africa

I don't believe in omens, good or bad. If I did, I would have had serious doubts about the 21 kilometers I was planning to run this morning. In order to have plenty of time to get all sorted out at the starting site before the race, I was up at 4:00am (insanity, I know). The cab was ordered for 5:00am. Bad omen: he was 20 minutes late. Another piece of bad luck: we couldn't find the guy we were supposed to give a lift to the race site, so we ended up wasting even more time. Oh, and then because of our late departure for Newlands, we got caught in messy, slow-moving traffic. In the end, Robyn and I jumped out of the car and speed-walked down the hill to get to the starting line on time. We'd worked too hard preparing for today to let a series of unfortunate events keep us from achieving our moment. (Which was the theme for this year's marathon: This is your moment. Cue Whitney Houston... Give me one moment.... racing with destiny... Ok. Stop!)

The morning was cold. I was not fond of that. Guess what happens whenever over 14,000 bodies squash together in a confined area to push their way towards a starting line: it warms up. Yet another plus for body heat. Robyn and I did not have much time to get too cozy with our neighbours because we only made it to the starting area exactly one minute before the signal was given for the race to begin. ...And we were off... Kind of. We were only able to shuffle our way forward a bit and dance in place a lot (also helpful to keep warm when one is scantly dressed). 14,000 (+) people take up quite a bit of space and do not move quickly.

(At the starting line while waiting for the human mass to move forward)

Because of my seeding and late arrival to the venue, I was in the far, far back of the amoeba of people moving as one on the streets of Cape Town. I'd never been in such a crowded half-marathon before. I've only ever run the MTN half-marathon in Kampala two times, so that's not much experience. In Kampala, more than double the number of people opt for the 10km run than the 21km or the 42km runs. The number of participants in today's 21km race was comparable (but less, I believe) to the number that run the 10km in Kampala. After my experience with congestion on the run today, I can only imagine the chaos that occurred and the resulting frustration during the the infamous 2009 MTN Marathon. The streets stayed crowded this morning for the entire duration of the 21km run. It was not until after the first hour of the run that I finally gained enough freedom to move about and run as needed, and I was able to make up for a lot of lost time.

If I had to choose one word to sum up my experience with today's run, it would be inspiring. I was inspired by the positive energy the exuded from everyone and surrounded me. I was inspired by the encouragement we gave each other. The streets were lined with people clapping, cheering, playing instruments, beating frying pans, giving support. I was inspired by the level of fitness of so many thousands of people. There was an 82-year-old may running with us. I did not overtake a 70-year-old women until just meters before the finish line. I hope to achieve a similar level of fitness as I age. I was inspired by the progress I could feel that I've already made with my personal fitness. I felt so good along the route and ran more strongly than I ever have. Yes, it was an inspiring day.

(Running 'the world's most beautiful marathon')

I've officially competed in three half-marathons, and I've completed two full marathons, but it was not until the Two Oceans Marathon that I was awarded a participant medal at the finish line. What a fabulous, pleasant surprise! I am so proud of that medal. Getting here was not easy. I had to go outside of my comfort zone. But I didn't just step outside of it, I took a running start and did an olympic-distance long jump out of it. It was the first time I travelled a significant distance to compete in a race, and it was also the first time in a long time that I travelled on my own to an unfamiliar destination. I really do not love big crowds, yet I had to endure one when collecting a marathon kit and another one today at the start and, well, for pretty much the entire run and after. Overcoming my insecurities was worth it.

(Basking after the big finish)

I ran with my little Canon digital camera and filmed a few bits at the beginning, along the way and the finish line. I've pieced together a little video. I've blogged two times before about the power of Nicky Minaj when running. Today Kelis, Britney, Kanye and Lillian joined Nicky on my race-day playlist. Roman's Revenge is the soundtrack for my video. The footage is a bit shaky, Blair-Witch-Project-maybe-make-you-sick-when-watching shaky. Oh, and the language in the song is a bit rough, so beware if you have delicate ears. Enjoy!

My trip to Cape Town is not ever yet. Wine country is on the itinerary for tomorrow.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Robben with Robyn

Robben with Robyn

Go ahead and laugh. I've been sitting on that alliterative pun all week, and I finally get to use it. Robyn finally arrived in Cape Town, and we've... well, walked a lot since said arrival. Tomorrow morning's the big run, and we both turned in for an early night. That 4:00am wake up will be sounded by an annoying alarm (which I'll probably sleep through) sooner than I'd like it. Unfortunately for me, I'm not sleeping; I'm blogging. However, I'm in bed, so that must count for something.

Before setting off on the boat for Robben Island, Robyn and I had a packed schedule today. First was the International Friendship Run, which set off from the V&A Waterfront and made a loop around the Cape Town Stadium to end up back at the Waterfront. There were more than 1000 runners from over 70 countries (more than double the number of countries represented at last year's Football World Cup, a good year for international exposure for South Africa). I was one of 195 Americans. Part of the run included a charity event at which we, participants in the run, took a break from running and distributed pairs of shoes to needed school children. The distribution of the shoes took place just outside the stadium.

My two home countries, the flags were appropriately set up side by side at the run's finish.

The visit to Robben Island was quite fascinating. It was more than I'd expected (there was a bus tour, then a walking tour), and it lasted more than 3 hours. While the island has a rather tainted past, it is a very lovely place; the view of Cape Town and Table Mountain from Robben Island is spectacular.

The prison is empty now and serves as a kind of museum. Past political prisoners serve as tour guides, and you cannot help but get an eerie feeling as you try to imagine the lives that were once lived within the thick stone and concrete walls and behind those bars.

There were no hot-crossed buns for me this Good Friday. There were not even any cupcakes that I planned for today because Charly's was closed. I did not even get to do the financial damaged I predicted at the marathon expo because all of my sized items had sold out by the time I went with Robyn to pick up her kit. For a few moments, Good Friday was not looking so good to me.

All it took was some fabulous food to prevent the sour mood from setting in. There will always be other fabulous cupcake shops, and saving my wallet today means it may live to shop another day!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Today's All About the Penguins

Today's All About the Penguins

There's so much I could write about today. But I'm choosing to follow my mother's example and change the topic to avoid having to face issues that are truly unpleasant. D.E.N.I.A.L. Come on, Pollyanna, let's get this post together. If you feel let down by this avoidance of reality, feel free to visit and imagine what I'd have to say. Today, it's all about the penguins.

During my first year of teaching at the elementary level (2005-2006), I did a unit with my students in American Samoa on penguins. We read Mr. Popper's Penguins (one of my all-time favourite books which I'm sorry to hear that it's been made into a film staring Jim Carrey), made posters to advertise a penguin show, researched different species of penguins around the world, watched March of the Penguins, and in PE we raced along the road carrying penguin eggs (aka rolled up socks) on the tops of our feet.

Everything we did was related to our investigation of penguins, and it was a very enjoyable learning experience... Well, at least for the teacher. One of my students chose the African penguin (also know as the black-footed penguin and once known as the jackass penguin because of the jackass-like noise that it makes) as her research topic. I'd never heard of penguins in Africa before, and I've been fascinated with them ever since.

When I decided to come to Cape Town for the Two Oceans Marathon, going to visit the penguins at Boulders Beach was high on my 'to do' list. Well, today I did it. The penguins were visited.

Figuratively ticking that item off of the proverbial list made me very happy.

As the penguins waddled around, I kept expecting Bert to jump out from behind one of the huge rocks and begin dancing with the little birds.

As it turned out, he didn't. No worries. It was still a 'lovely holiday', even without Bert.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More About Prices

More About Prices

What a fabulous day I had it Cape Town today! Annika, it was a real pleasure to have lunch with you and catch up. Yes, you should definitely go for the 21km on Saturday!!!

I went to the Two Oceans Marathon Expo today at the Good Hope Center. Loved, loved, loved it! Fortunately, I had not exchanged money before going to pick up my running kits, so I could not succumb to temptation... No matter how much I wanted to. With prices beyond me current budget, I could only afford a chocochino today, but come Friday (when I return with Robyn), I might be reporting an entirely different story.

Annika picked me up from the Expo (it was raining cats and dogs at one point) and took me to a nearby bakery for lunch and a delicious gossip session. Charly's Bakery is like one of those bakeries you see on a TLC or FoodNetwork reality TV show. It's quite funky and colourful, and the food items deserve their reputation in Cape Town. Charly's quickly became my favourite place in town. With it's tasty baked goods and prestige, the prices are still very reasonable: cupcakes cost less than those of a Kampala joint I can think of whose quality just does not compare. I wonder if a couple of boxes of goodies from Charly's would survive a trip back to KLA???

Practically around the corner from the bakery is the District 6 Museum. Prior to this trip, I was not aware of District 6. I am so ignorant about so many topics. But I guess that's why I love to travel--to improve my awareness, knowledge, experience with, and understanding of topics, issues and circumstances in the world we live in. My, my, my, the visit to this museum really stressed my out and set my stomach acids a churning. And I believe that is a good thing.

District 6 is an example of the price that some people have been willing to pay for 'development'. District 6 is an example of a price that should never be paid for 'development'. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like to be displaced in such a way--a refugee in one's own country, not fleeing war or natural disaster--to make space for 'developments' you were never intended to enjoy. Sobering.

From the museum, I wondered to the National Art Gallery. On my way there, I stopped by a fantastic independent bookshop that inspired and helped clarify an ambition I carry around with me.

Besides some of the permanent pieces on display, the gallery was showcasing photographs by Ernest Cole. Cole, from Pretoria, was South Africa's first black freelance photographer who moved to New York in the 1960s--exile, a price he paid to express what he needed. Cole published the controversial House of Bondage (which is a book I'd love to have if you're looking for gift ideas), a stark look at Apartheid in black and white, in 1967.

This was my favourite photo of the exhibition. The look in his eyes and sweat; he's determined to learn and get the hell out of his current situation.

Humiliation: at times the price of survival.

I found this photo to be the most disturbing of the exhibition.

Art is often considered a luxury, and having the luxury of a national gallery in which to treasure and exhibit art for the benefit of others now and in the future can only be done when a country:
a) values art;

Tomorrow's priority is penguins.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Still Walking... (Sometimes it even gets steep)

Still Walking...
(Sometimes it even gets steep)

Taking Platteklip Gorge, I hiked my way to the top of Table Mountain this morning. It was a much easier hike than going to the top of Lamoj in Kidepo earlier this year. Maybe I'm just in better shape. Perhaps it was the excellent condition of the trail that allowed me to keep a steady and well-paced walk as I went up. It was most likely a combination of the two, strongly influenced by the lack of explosive diarrhea the night before today's hike. The view from the top of the mountain was spectacular, and the satisfaction of having climbed to the top made the sights all the more enjoyable.

After a return to my lodging and a brief, one-hour rest, it was off to the V&A Waterfront. Since I was not going to get a run in today, I decided to walk. I walked and walked and walked and... From the Waterfront, I walked on to the Cape Town Stadium, the one built for the World Cup. But who gives a rat's ass about football anyway? That's right, I don't. Oh, the crazy things tourists do!

Back at the Waterfront, at one of the shopping centers I found a Body Shop. That could put my credit card in a dangerous, dangerous situation...

The walks continued in Kampala yesterday, but unfortunately, those were not as enjoyable as mine today here in SA. Fools have been given power and weapons they do not have the sense to use with discretion. As happens all too often in our lovely world, innocent children have fallen victim.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Long, Strange Day

A Long, Strange Day

Disorientated. That's one word that can sum up how I feel at the end of what has been a long, long day. I left Kampala for a week in Cape Town. I've travelled alone and not sure if I like it, but Robyn arrives on later in the week. Marathon's on Saturday. It's gonna be a great week. But as for now: disorientated. Another word: exhausted.

I slept through two separate alarms this morning that were set to wake me up for my 4:30am pick-up for the airport. Despite my superhuman ability to sleep through any din, I did make it it to the airport on time; Vincent always gets me there when I need to be. This morning, he was very talkative. The subject of his 4:45 conversation was the ongoing walk to work campaign. Vincent's view was that troublemakers are destroying the peace in Uganda. I was too sleepy to offer any form of rebuttal. I took it as on opportunity to exercise patience and simply listen to (without comment) another's opinion, one that I really don't agree with. Simply listen I did.

Cape Town in beautiful.

A more scenic location for a city could not have been selected. I must admit that I once again feel like I've paid a visit to the Twilight Zone. I've not gone very far, yet I've gone very far. Am I making sense? I'm finding my footing, and I'm sure I'll end up having an amazing time.

I had a few surprises on my trip here. Are South Africans super-superstitious, or is it common to not have an aisle 13 for airplane seating?

I've never noticed this practice before. I got confused when trying to find my seat, 14c. 10, 11, 12, ...14? Is this an anomaly, or have I just not been very observant on other flights?

Surges of emotion often give me relief, confirming that I've not become too calloused, my heart is intact and functions, and I still have human feelings. However, surges of emotion that trigger tears are not convenient when on a full aircraft, especially when you forgot to put ahandkerchief in you pocket in the morning when rushing to make an early flight after having slept through two separate alarms.

I highly recommend A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. While the book is short (just over 100 pages), Park succeeds in intertwining two challenging and beautiful stories. Written for young readers, Park sensitively, yet powerfully, writes about the struggles, horrors and triumphs of children and youth in South Sudan during and after the war that began in 1983. Yes, tears were flowing from my eyes at the end of Salva's story. Then it happened again at the culmination of Nya's.

I've got another blog post churning in my head. There is something that Salva (A Long Walk to Water), Lost Boy from Sudan, and Calpurnia Tate (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate), young American girl from the Midwest in 1899, have in common, at least one particular experience that is highlighted in both books. See if you can figure out what it is before I blog about it next week.

I started a new book on the plane after finishing A long Walk to Water, Methland by Nick Reding. I can hardly put it down.

The subject matter is pretty grim, but it's a fascinating read, very well researched and written. I bought it during my visit home last month at small, independent book shop in Port St. Joe, FL--another town suffering from the effects of meth addiction. I have already learnt so much from the 80 pages I've read. Methamphetamine is no joke. It can 'eff' up your life (including your teeth), your family, your whole town. Even though the small town in the book is in Iowa, it could be any small town in America. It's like I personally know the people being described in the book. The events in the depressed small town, I've lived through them. What I've read today makes me very worried about people I love.

I don't to end of that depressing thought...

It's gonna be a great week... Let me just focus on now: It's gonna be a good night.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Prices Crisis

Prices Crisis

My original intention was to blog about last night's Greek-themed cook club that was a delicious success. However, while driving home after having my run rained out this morning, I listened to a report on the BBC about the tolls the rising food prices are taking around the world. I felt a little embarrassed about the luxury my friends and I have to play around with food for pleasure while millions of others are struggling just to eat today. I recognise the comfort and privilege I am fortunate to enjoy in my life. While far from (my concept of) ideal, I know I have a pretty good life. I face my challenges, but I'm very careful about what I complain about. I see everyday in the streets and on the roadsides what a hard life really is.

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, has said that the world is "one shock away" from a crisis in food supply and prices. It is estimated that 44 million people sunk into poverty within the past year (that's about equal to the entire population of countries like Spain and South Africa), and that a 10% increase in food prices could send another 10 million to the ranks of poverty. And to think that one of the biggest concerns of some of the people I work with is too many carbs on the lunch buffet line they enjoy free of charge Monday-Friday.

Protests against the rising costs in Kampala turned sour last week. But according to a recent World Bank news report, Uganda has more serious issues to combat than people walking to work. Inflation has pretty much doubled over the past month to 11.1 percent, and fuel prices have risen by over 50 percent; prices are approaching $7.00 per gallon. Major impact: prices of some staple foods have tripled since December.

Poverty is not a pretty picture, and starvation doesn't look good on anyone. I'm hoping that the "shock" referred to by Mr. Zoellick never happens and some kind of global economic recovery can be made quickly. Is that being too optimistic? Well, cancelled runs and rising food prices are not going to transform me into a Debbie Downer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Boot Scootin' Reminiscence

A Boot Scootin' Reminiscence

I think it was a recent conversation (maybe the conversation also involved a quasi-singing session that included such greats as Hank William's Hey Good Lookin') with a friend about his appreciation of country music. I confessed that in my youth, my dislike of country music was strong and a point of contention in my household, which included several diehard country music fans. I cannot count the number of times my brothers and I quarreled over which radio station to be played during road trips.

The conversation left me thinking about the country music of my youth (late 70s, 80s and most of the 90s). Like it or not, country music composes a good portion of the soundtrack of my life. If you mention country music to me, the first image that pops into my mind is the small transistor radio playing the twangy hits as Grandma Henderson shelled peas while seated in her rocking chair. Next I feel my cheeks getting a little red and I recall how ridiculous my dad used to look as he bobbed back and forth singing off key while blaring 92.5 (WPAP) while driving the 1982 brown Ford Econoline van into the driveway after a day at work.

Today my mind was stuck on last week's country-music conversation. I opened up the Stickies application and composed a list of country songs from my childhood that I remember liking; many triggering significant and/or special memories. I then had a field day on iTunes, downloading several of them. This is my list:
  • Baby I Lied by Deborah Allen: This song doesn't really trigger a memory. It's just great song.
  • Boot Scootin' Boogie by Brooks and Dunn: This one takes me back to my first teenage job, working fast food at Hardee's. A little boot scootin' with Becky and Christy sure did making sweeping and mopping the floors more fun and go a lot faster.
  • Elvira by The Oak Ridge Boys: This song is the soundtrack of kindergarten and part of first grade. If you knew all of the words you were cool. My mom and dad loved the Oak Ridge Boys and saw them in concert more than once. I remember one time they went, and my brother and I really wanted to go with them, but we couldn't. When my parents came home, they surprised us with Survivor's Eye of the Tiger LP.
  • Forever and Ever, Amen by Randy Travis: This is the only song that brings back memories of Grandpa Henderson. He always got a kick out of Randy's line about old men sitting and talking about he weather and old women sitting and talking about old men.
  • Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ol' Days) by The Judds: How many young girls performed this song in elementary school talent shows in 1986, 1987, 1988... ?
  • He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones: My best friend's mother, Ms. Peggy, has told us since early on that this is the song she wants played when she dies.
  • Nobody by Sylvia: This song is first grade in the elementary school auditorium in Bristol, FL.
  • Sleeping Single in a Double Bed by Barbara Mandrell: Oh, how we loved the Mandrells! When my little sister, Melissa, was born, my brothers and I argued in the back of the green Datsun station wagon over which Mandrell sister (Barbara, Louise or Irlene) she was going to be named after. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived at the hospital and learned she was already named Melissa Sue.
  • Smokey Mountain Range by Ronnie Milsap: Kirkland's Store used to be located at the foot of the White City draw bridge (which is also no longer there). We'd go there for RC Colas, to read the semi-lewd (I hunt white tail all year) bumper stickers and Oreo Big Stuff cookies. You could also buy live bait: crickets, minnows and earthworms. Hal worked at the store on most days. He wore large dark sunglasses that always made me think of Ronnie Milsap.
I still would not consider myself a huge country fan, but I am better able to identify and appreciate its value. I will say that I am a fan of several country artists like Dolly, Loretta, and The Dixie Chicks. I love songs that tell stories. Few genres do that as well a country, and telling my life story would not be possible without including country.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Delightful Day

A Delightful Day
  • Sleeping in
  • Getting a haircut
  • Treating a friend to lunch
  • Having a pedicure and manicure
  • Taking an afternoon nap
  • Starting a new book
  • Staying over at a friend's
  • Watching The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
  • Enjoying a Dogfish Head from Delaware
  • Making homemade ice cream
I wonder what delights tomorrow has in store. Ok, I know one: cook club!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience

Times are tough and rents are high... and that's not all. Prices are skyrocketing all around; much of this is a domino effect from the price of fuel hitting all-time highs. People are having a tough time. A friend I've known since 2006--who has only asked me for assistance once before, and that was because he was going through a tough moment of unemployment--this past week asked me to help him out: he was having trouble getting to work each day. For many people, earning a salary is not enough for survival, and it's getting more and more difficult.

Many people here feel that the Ugandan government should be doing more to alleviate that strain put on the people. A campaign calling people to walk to work in protest of the government's actions (or lack there of thus far) was initiated this week. Well, it was made very evident on Monday morning that the government was not pleased with people's disagreement with their policies and actions when one of the protest organisers and participants, Dr. Kizza Besigye, was arrested as he trekked his way to his office. Today the efforts continued, and Dr. Besigye was waylaid on his route once again, this time shot with a rubber bullet and forced to seek refuge in a ditch. He, by no means, is the only person participating in this campaign, but he is the most high-profile person so far, and it appears that he is in charge.

So far I have been impressed with the peaceful nature of Dr. Besigye's civil disobedience. Henry David Thoreau has been credited with coining the phrase civil disobedience in 1846. Since that time many people in various societies around the world have employed this concept of refusing to obey law, command and/or demand of a government they believe is unjust; some efforts have been very successful. To many people, Gandhi's campaigns in India against Imperial Britain come to mind when they think of civil disobedience. When I first heard of the walk to work campaign, The Montgomery Bus Boycott came to my mind. That little endeavor was successfully led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1955.

While the participants of the bus boycott were protesting a very different issue, the solidarity and peaceful actions of those involved brought to light the injustice going on in the US South and swayed the government to change laws. But it was a very long and difficult road. People were walking to work for more than a year.

Will Besigye and others who share his desire for change in Uganda be as patient and long suffering? We won't know that until it happens, I guess. At this point, I admire his perseverance, and I think that peaceful demonstration and protest is a positive step in the streets of Kampala.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Impediment to Pretty Goodness

Impediment to Pretty Goodness

I have a pretty good idea for a blog post that will have to wait until a later date for sharing. Today has not been a very writer-friendly day for me. Headache, nausea and general exhaustion (all leading me to rue yesterday's decision to turn around and walk down that hill; damn you B, A and G!) are a combination that make you feel more like shutting your eyes in bed and drifting off to relieving slumber and less like thinking about and channeling your pretty good idea for a blog into fruition.

While the tormenting trio (headache, nausea and general exhaustion) have cast a shadow on my day, there were moments when the clouds spread and sun light did shine through.
  • The pitter-pattering rain soothed me to sleep as the thunder played me a lullaby.
  • I ate a whole cheese pizza by myself for lunch. (And I question why the pudge won't leave my stomach.)
  • Pilates was fantastic tonight. Pascale is a wonderful instructor, and we did some exercises tonight that I'd never done before. Beautiful for the obliques.
  • Conversation with a dear friend on the the phone always makes me happy.
  • Oh, did I mention that school let out today for two weeks? Cape Town, come Monday: I'm on my way!

No need for that pill in the bottle labelled: wonderful feeling.

However, I do need to sleep. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get my pretty goodness out.

To those of you walking to work tomorrow: peace.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011



Remember when the Black Eyed Peas actually had something to say?

Me too.

What happened? And don't blame it on Fergie. I <3 Stacy. There's something there. She outlasted all of the other original cast members of Kid Incorporated, and no one held out for so many seasons. She also endured fabulous albums with Wild Orchid that never hit and a crystal meth addiction. Drive, that's what you call it.

I guess Mr. Diddy (Puff Daddy at the time) was right.

Anxiety: the BEPs really Elephunked it up with this one. Yes, some days I feel like I wanna bitch slap somebody (or have multiple bowel movements... or both). However, I'm too above my wife-beater social class for that one.

But it's true that I've been dealing with something worse than most things pitched my way, and it's my anxiety. In a way, it's good; It's making me a more tolerant person, so bring it!

Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that I'll feel better.

However, I hope.

Monday, April 11, 2011



I don't have the excuses or optimism for change of a teenager, but the angst wages on.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Could It Be the Accent?

Could It Be the Accent?

Rumour has been circulating around the blogosphere recently about Britney and Nicki teaming up this summer to tour together. Well, Ms. Minaj is adding fuel to that proverbial flame with her straightforward and indirect responses during an MTV interview.

In addition to superior show-womanship, questionable taste in fashion and upbeat pop tunes that push boundaries and stir controversy, these two women share a love for reasonably passable fake British accents.

If it were to happen, this would be a show I'd happily sell my left kidney to attend.

I'm gonna go put on a kettle for tea now.


Twilight and After

Twilight and After

Events of today leave me questioning whether I made a visit to the twilight zone. It all began normally enough, with a another fantastic Ambrosoli Family Fun Day. From there, I went to the Stanbic Bank at Garden City to withdraw my past-due rent, which I failed to do because I arrived five minutes after the bank had closed. Then I went to the Orange Shop to renew my internet subscription (thus being able to post on my blog again). A conversation might have taken place about customer-unfriendly systems that are in place that are convenient for no one, not even the business itself, so why not change the system? I went upstairs to the Cineplex to check out what was new this week. I will not be attending a film this Tuesday night. Even half price is too much to pay to see an Adam Sandler flick. To make it worse, it's that one with Jennifer Aniston. Sandler and Aniston, sharing the screen, shouldn't the audience be paid for the time lost while watching that disaster flick?

Cue Twilight Zone theme music here.

I went to meet a friend I'd not seen in ages in Ntinda. (On the way there, I stopped by Edison Mugalu's new exhibition at Afriart Gallery. Overall, it was not my favourite exhibition by Edison, whose work I love, but there were some really fantastic paintings, definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.) While waiting for my friend to get off from work, I did a bit of shopping at Quality Supermarket. Quality Supermarket in Ntinda a little treasure trove, with exceptionally bad parking, where you can find gluten-free pastas for only 2000 UGX for 500g and dark chocolate covered McVitie's digestive biscuits.

When my friend showed up, we were both feeling a bit peckish. Since I was not very familiar with that side of town, I let him direct me to a place to eat. We ended up at Buddies, a place I knew to be a bar, but he assured me they had decent food as well. I found parking in the rear on a mound of broken bricks, just outside of a Mormon meeting house--being in such close proximity to a bar that I'm sure blares music must lead to some interesting church meetings. The security guard at Buddies' entrance was over-zealous with his inspection. I think I even got a salute from him as I approached the door. When we entered the cave of a building, we started walking to the seating area to the immediate right. There was a guy standing at the rear wall, at an entrance to another area. He just looked at us and started flailing his arms. I had no idea how to interpret his motion, so I was sure they were not intended for us, and we kept walking toward the seating area. The guy obstructed out path, still flailing his arms, but never speaking a word. Well, with the guy standing in our way, it was pretty obvious that his fit-like movements were a sign that he did not want us in the seating area, so we went outside in the back.

Buddies is kind of gross. There were random piles of rubbish and stray cats abounded. The strangest part of the Buddies experience is that I did not just walk out and leave, but we stayed, ordered food, and ate. Eww. Why? Food eaten and bill paid, we decided to leave. I left a tip (not usually expected in Uganda, especially not in a place like Buddies). I didn't expect a thank you or anything, but I surely didn't expect the response I got: laughter. Yes, the rude bitch laughed.

From there we migrated to the Nob View Hotel. Now I had no idea what nob meant, so I looked it up in my phone's dictionary. Nob is a British term for a person of wealth or high position. The hotel has a pretty good view of Naguru Hill, so I guess the owner of the hotel wanted to make sure that the guests there knew they could have a look at all the privileged class's houses from his/her hotel. That's just weird. But not as weird as the enormous angel statue holding a lighted orb that rests atop the roof, just over from the bar.

Why? I guess someone thought it was pretty... or just wanted to be tacky as hell.

Earlier at Family Fun Day, I bought some roses to put in a vase at home. Well, I did not make it home before heading to Ntinda, so the poor flowers were suffering from lack of water in the back seat of my car. My friend told me that no one had ever given him flowers, so I told him he could have them. He decided it would be fun to carry the flowers with him when we went to the Nob View bar. He cradled them in his arms like a baby and made sure that all the waitstaff was aware that he had flowers. Then he stuffed the roses in the upper foliage of a potted ficus tree on the outside veranda, next to our table. I'm not sure if he meant his actions as a joke, but I sure had a good laugh inside, considering how bizarre the whole situation seemed to me.

Reflecting on tonight's events now, they do not seem so oddball. They seem like just another Saturday night in KLA. However, at the time, I really felt like I was in another dimension. Maybe it was heat stroke... or just exhaustion.

Or maybe none of the above.