journey to juba: juba-failed attempts but a damn good burrito

well! there we were in juba, for real this time. J was there waiting for us in the mcc landcruiser. i feel pretty sure i can speak for all three of us: we were quite pleased to see a familiar face..especially one with a vehicle!

we piled in and were whisked away to the mcc sudan office. see, i even took a picture to prove that we went there:

the first order of business, upon arrival to the office was not to take this picture but to take this one…the prompt i gave was “how do you feel, ladies?”

later that evening we went for the “damn good burritos” at the place that has the burritos every friday night. its a strange place. in short: it reminded me of MASH, you know, the t.v. show? but it was more posh than the 4077. tents? yes, but fancy air conditioned tents.

and then we had burritos (that were damn good) while sitting at a lovely table overlooking the nile. post burrito i had south sudan’s finest: white bull lager:

post damn-good-burrito-fun-times and being totally weirded out by this “camp” we piled back into the car and headed home for the night. showers were had by all, and there was sleep. glorious sleep.

the power-gods were pretty good to us and we had power for most of the night- meaning that the ceiling fans were able to at least churn the hot air around the room, helping to trick our bodies into thinking that it was cool enough to sleep. and we did sleep.

in the morning there was coffee. and sitting around until J’s housemate, also J so she’ll be…J2, returned from a trip. we all sat around the living room “visiting” as my grandmother would say. it was eventually decided that, yes, lunch would be a great idea.

elizabeth had something called the “try me” sandwich. the name of the sandwich made it worth reporting, i think. she said it was good. anyway.

at this juncture the group decided that we would like to tour the white bull lager factory, on the outskirts of juba. once again we piled into the car and the J’s took us to the factory.

host j and hostess j2

housemate was elected to go to the gate to see if we could have a tour of the place. as she was going elizabeth, j, j2 and i discussed that housemate generally is chosen for tasks such as this. the example given was that she has consistantly been the one to forge through crowds for visa forms. we decided she was generally the one sent because of her success rate.

"so, can we have a tour?"

we got a “thumbs up” from housemate, parked the car and made our way to the gate to join her, just in time to learn that it was actually too late! it was just coming to 5:00 and it was going to be too much of a hassle to give us the tour. dejected, we piled back into the car. #fail

to lift our spirits from our rejection we decided that a trip to the market for fabric shopping was in order. and so we went. and we bought fabric that i did not take photos of. but, its really cool fabric, believe me.

pre fabric shopping, we toured a grocery store for things we needed, and things we didn’t. things like beet seeds, water, splm stickers, a 10-in-one movie dvd of only dance movies, shampoo and chewing gum. essentials, all!

and then we went home. and “visited” some more.


we love sunday!

on the way to brunch we stopped at the vegetable pharmacy (yes, really) for some fresh veg etc. i bought the first energy drink i have ever purchased and remembered why i never buy them: they are GROSS. but this one was pretty funny…

emu energy...

there was brunch at some fantastic place that had really tasty coffee, but a fly problem like most of juba. let me demonstrate:

sad juice

post brunch we decided that a boat trip on the nile river would be a great way to spend our sunday afternoon as the brewery wasn’t open that day and we therefore couldn’t attempt that feat. after a grand tour of juba (a weird place) and navigating roads where there were supposed to be bridges but weren’t, we found the camp where the boat trips launch from.

after being told that a trip would be “soon” we sat down, ordered some afternoon beers and “visited” some more while waiting for the boat. the boat that never came. well, actually it did, but there was confusion and the fellow controlling the boat went away without us. and then it was too late for boating. #fail

to lift our spirits this time we decided that a lovely indian food dinner was in order. and it was rather lovely. see also: delicious.

we retired to the house to “visit” some more, have beverages and groan every time the power went out. (i mean, the ceiling fans really make a difference!) there was laughing, a little crying (really) and general frivolity amongst the members. delight.

since we three from uganda had to catch our bus earlish in the morning we retired to bed earlish. sorta. and the power even came back to lull us to sleep with the marvelous fans. (can you tell how i feel about the fans?!)

bright and early the next morning J dropped us off at the bus (we’d booked our tickets the day before, and were even able to choose our seats!) and we piled on, waiting for our departure. we were all in a middle row, all together. how nice.

we had to walk through the dreaded juba-check-point again to get out of the city. there was a fellow who kept trying to cut in front of us, and eventually we all squeezed ourselves together and kept our places in line. as housemate was getting ready to go through the check point this fellow tried to just walk through. thankfully the man checking papers kept his head about him and just stopped him and pointed at the line. he complied. ptl.

back on the bus we all settled in and were rather american about it: ipods were put on and we zoned out into our collective head-spaces. sleeping was had on the trip to the border. partially because we were tired, but also perhaps as a defense mechanism to the extreme speed the driver seemed to be applying. wow.

back at the sudan border we had another interesting crossing…there was a man standing on the steps outside (the very same one that yelled at me a few days before) who was only letting a few people at a time into the building. there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for who was let in when but he was quite serious about his job.

elizabeth was ahead of me, and i thought he told me to go with her. when i started to move forward his arm zipped down in front of me, not unlike the swinging arm on a school bus, and he gave me an evil look. “NOT. YET.” he said. “oh. okay, sorry.” i replied. not 4 seconds later he said, “okay. now.”

his attempts to create organization out of the chaos of the inside of the building wasn’t noticed by this traveler. once inside it was just chaos again, people pushing forward in a mass that did not even remotely resemble a line. alas.

the woman who had “helped” us the other day noticed us languishing in the back of the faux-que and gestured for us to hand her our passports and visas. we did. she stamped them and then decided it was time to comment on my attire:

“you are looking very smart!” she said.
“oh, well, thank you.”
“i didn’t like the outfit of the other day. but this one is very nice. you should wear like this more often.”
“oh. um. okay.”
“yes, this one is very nice. the one of the other day, not so much.”
“thank you?”
“okay. nice time.”

never a dull moment.

and then we crossed into uganda.
i was the first in line of we three this time and was in and out of the office in a jiffy. housemate and elizabeth went in at the same time and took quite a long time to return. i was getting a bit antsy wondering what was going on, but knew i had to wait to find out. eventually they emerged with a tale of an expired special pass and having to purchase a new visa. illegality is fun!

sodas were drank.

the bus loaded back up again, and we were soon in gulu noshing on an excellent expat lunch at coffee hut and returned to elizabeth’s place for resting, showers and more resting.

we stayed the following day in gulu, having a “day with the girls” which even included amazing full-body massages. the best 20,000 i ever did spend. tasty indian food for lunch and some fun purchases of many varieties.

dinner with the sisters was hilarious, as usual and we retired earlish in preparation for our next journey the following day: back to kotido!

tomorrow’s post: journey to juba: the tyre incident is the final post in this 5 part series of “journey to juba” and contains some of the more dramatic moments of the trip. put your seat belts on, and get ready for the ride!



something happened to my tyre post.

so. that’ll happen…later. in perhaps 10ish or more days when i’m back in uganda from vacation… the mystery builds…

journey to juba: the passport photo incident [crossing the border]

the sun had risen most of the way by the time the bus finally reached gulu. we were to find out later that this particular kampala coach had started at least in nairobi, if not arusha. i did not then and will not now speculate on if the driver had changed or not…

the bus was totally-packed. however, since we had booked the previous day we were given seats. or, potentially more likely, we were given seats because we’re white. these seats, however, were not together.

housemate was given what turned out to be the primo seat, in the middle of the bus and at the window. nice. elizabeth and i, at first, were together at the veryveryvery back of the bus, smashed in with our bags. the conductor came back however, to tell us that there was one seat all the way at the front of the bus–i made my way up to the veryveryvery front of the bus which meant navigating the aisle full of people and luggage. again. my flip flop fell off. again. and i made the remainder of the journey forward with it tucked under my arm and trying not to smack people accidentally with my bag.

when we took off i was only mildly worried when the driver didn’t seem to know how to get out of town. sure, it can be confusing which left turn to take toward atiak, i let that go. but when he didn’t know which way to turn at the t-intersection my confidence in the pilot was depleted.

the trouble with sitting where one can see out the front window is that you can see the road really well. so, basically, when i wasn’t forcing myself to sleep or at least pretend to, i was “driving” right along with the actual driver. only mildly stressful and probably only took 10 years off my life expectancy. no problem.

things were even worse at the back of the bus. the road to atiak is just awful–potholes the size of a sedan and corrugated like cardboard–and that awfulness is intensified by about a trillion from the very back of a bus. there was one pothole we hit at a high speed that even sent me, at the front of the bus, flying into the air. elizabeth said that she flew so high she hit her head on the baggage thingy, and then on her way down her chin collided with the seat in front of her, splitting her chin.

housemate and i learned of this after our arrival at the border, elizabeth disembarked from the bus and came to where we were waiting and we saw that her chest had blood on it. “um…what happened?” i asked pointing to the spot. she lifted her head and pointed to the wound and recounted the tale of flying, and how at least in this instance, it’s not all its cracked up to be. [as an aside, she ended up with 3 wounds from the ride to juba–the split chin, a scrape and a largeish bruise on her arm.]

so there we were at the border of uganda and south sudan, hoping that what we’d heard (that we could apply for and receive visa’s at the border) was correct. we followed our fellow busmates up the hill to the exit visa building where uganda happily stamped us out of the country and then sought out a latrine and lunch before boarding the bus to reach the entry point to sudan. which, by the way, is SUPER LONG. my question is, the people between the “borders,” which country do they live in? do they have to go through the process of entry and exit when they want to leave this space between countries? so many questions! i digress.

upon reaching the sudan side i realized that i had left my french-press travel mug somewhere at the crossing. so that was a bummer. (remember i’d already had my two lovely water bottles lifted back in gulu. sadness all the way round!)

we three gathered together before trudging up the hill to the south sudan entry offices. our trained traveler’s eyes were searching for the little square forms that are familiar at border crossings and airport entry points, but we found none. we were shepherded into the largest of the two rooms, and began what we thought was the proper process for a visa and stamp. false.

there are three desks in this room, each with at least one person behind it; no signs; and about 40 people pushing towards the front–no semblance of a proper line. housemate tried her luck with the gentleman on the far left: getting as far as getting a stamp [ENTRY] in her passport before he realized that she didn’t have a visa. he produced a form and even started filling it in for her.

"this is your entry stamp"

meanwhile, at the middle desk, elizabeth and i are being shouted at and shouting our responses to a woman behind that desk:

:blink: “UH. YES.”
e: “YES.”
at the same time me: “NO.” (internally, ‘CRAP!’)

so we followed our new friend out of this office and into the smaller office next door. to do this we had to jump the line, which i felt insanely guilty about, but no one seemed phased. ptl. after squeezing into this room, we were handed forms and told to till them in–the application for a visa.

since elizabeth already had her passport photos (not to self: always carry at least 2 when traveling, now!) she stayed in the “lobby” of the building filling in her form while i was literally pulled to a little shack to have my “photo made” for the visa application.

outside of this clearly made-from-scrap-wood-structure one of the doors had a white sheet hung on it with a small bench in front of it. i was instructed to sit on the little stool and smile for the man with the cheap-o digital camera in front of me. the seriousness + my lack of sleep + just the situation in general made me laugh, especially when the woman who had brought me over was demanding i remove my scarf that was folded and acting as a headband.

“you remove that one!” she demanded, pointing at my head.
“no…” i said with a bit of whine in my voice.
“i don’t want.” i said still kind of whiny.

everyone laughed. including me.

my posture was criticized, but i just smiled and waited for the photographer to take a photo he was satisfied with.

i then waited five minutes-i spent the time filling in my application which did not have the infuriating question that kenya’s does regarding your husband or father’s full name. grrr– and was presented 3 smaller-than-regulation-passport-sized photos. and its potentially one of my favorite photos of me. ever. i LOVE that i have an extra copy (housemate was given 4, i wonder what happened to MY 4th?!) and that it is on my official entry visa to south sudan.

passport photo of awesome

the printer line just makes it so much better than if it’d printed “perfectly.”

i paid my 10,000 uganda shillings to the man with the camera, thanked him, and followed my guide back to the offices. she took my form and my photos and skipped the line again into the little office, collecting elizabeths’ on the way past (she was actually standing in line). when i tried to follow the woman into the office some “official” man stopped me and started yelling that i had to stand in line.

after trying to explain that the lady had my form, and had gone into the office, and that one would figure that i should also accompany my form, passport and photos; i gave up and just stood there, waiting and hoping for the best. one of the men from my bus widened his eyes at me and shook his head, clicking his tongue in disapproval for that display. we both gave a little laugh and shook hands at our shared joke.

eventually the woman reappeared from the little office and asked us to follow her back to the big office where she resumed her place behind the middle desk, stapled our photos to the forms and filled out the massive visa for each of us.

even though she had all of the information in front of her, printed neatly in block letters, she asked us to spell our names, our passport numbers and other information that would probably have transferred more quickly from the forms. ah well.

please note that my eye and hair color are “black.” um…

we were then officially stamped into south sudan, handed our passports, massive visa’s and wished well. all three of us met in the “lobby” and made our collective way back to the bus for the last leg of the journey to juba.

postscript: we thought we were in the clear, but we were wrong!

along the way to juba we stopped once for “short call.” this was the sign i could see out my window:

this didnt inspire bravery to wander

and then we thought we’d arrived in juba. i suppose, technically, we HAD arrived in juba, but rather we were at the juba-check-point. we had to figure this out on our own, though.

we stopped at what looked something like a bus park, so i assumed we’d arrived. a man got on the bus and told everyone to get off. everyone started to get off of the bus, but no one was taking their luggage.


we three took our bags with us, just in case–and housemate even called the mcc-er who was to pick us up, saying that we’d arrived. it eventually became quite clear-as a man was eventually shouting at us-that we were at the check-point and we urgently needed to go make photocopies of our papers.

so, we went to the building he was pointing at as he shouted “I TELL YOU IN ARABIC? [prounounced: uh-rab-ick] DINKA? ENGLAND?” housemate offered a timid(ish) “england?” and we were sent on our way to the building.

handed over our passports and visas to the men behind the two copy machines, paid them and were then sent into the next room.

here the lone man behind a lone desk was surrounded by photocopied and stapled papers or travelers. surrounded. HUGE stacks were precariously teetering on plastic chairs, in a suitcase against a wall under the window, all over his desk and on the floor.

he pointed to one of our entry stamps and said, “this is your entry stamp. this means you are in sudan.” thanks for that.

he then collected our papers and said that they were “just in case of anything, then we can find you and rescue you.” which was very sweet and probably supposed to be reassuring. however, if a stiff breeze had come along and entered that room just right none of us would technically be IN south sudan.

hoping that we were done with this bureaucracy we pushed our tired, hot, hungry and cranky selves back to the bus to find out that the shouty man was now insisting on checking everyone’s bags.  soooo we had our bags pawed through in front of onlooking crowds. one of our group may have sassed the man searching bags, and therefore had her bag searched a little more thoroughly than others. we all learned that lesson.

finally back on the bus we were set free to cross the nile and arrive in juba, in a confusingly named section of town “customs.” in a few minutes we were on a tarmac road (whoa) and in the bus park where J met us… finally!

later that evening there were burritos…
stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode:
journey to juba: juba-failed attempts but a damn good burrito
where we hear the blogger say “that was a damn good burrito!”

journey to juba: the hedgehog incident

the journey to juba continues:

after arriving in gulu on thursday evening, we three travelers trekked across town to book bus tickets to juba the next morning. we were told that check in time was at 4:30 a.m. (yes, a.m. morning hours. the first part of the day that is not night. ugh.) we contemplated staying awake and then going to the station, but proved how sane we truly are by actually attempting to get some sleep before facing live that is not horizontal and sleep-tinged at that ungodly hour.

we trudged into the kitchen for coffee around 4something, had some breakfast and piled into sister rosemary’s car around 5something. (the fellow we had purchased the ticket from the following evening had said he’d call if we weren’t there, so we were banking on that and the fact that public transportation is rarely on time in these here parts.)

sister prayed as we left the compound, imploring god for journey mercies–and she dropped us off at the kampala coach station.

you’ll never guess what is directly next door to the kampala coach office in gulu. tired of guessing? i’ll tell you: a pub. a packed and hopping pub/dance club/bar/whatever. its called the buganda pub and the music was still BLARING and the dancing going strong when we arrived. yikes.

after declining the option to sit inside the office (in my opinion it was too stuffy) we were given chairs out on the tiny veranda–where we plunked down for several hours.

in the mean time we were provided with ample opportunity to people-watch those who were coming out of the pub and all the things that happen in gulu around 5something in the morning.

enter: the hedgehog.

there was a man who had something in his hands. he wouldn’t have been different from all the other men stumbling around outside the pub except that whatever it was that he had in his hands was attracting the curious attention of several other grown men. watch with me as the scene unfolds:

the little circle of men slowly inches into a tighter circle, with a reverence usually reserved for 6 year old boys and toads, and the man of interest hands his beer to one of these other fellows. he then slowly bends down and gently places what he is holding onto the ground, picking up the end of a piece of rope.

let me interrupt myself here to mention that it is still quite dark around this time, and the rope is the easiest thing to pick out, as it is lite in color. all i can really tell is that something round-ish has been placed on the ground, and that a short piece of rope is attached to it in some fashion.

the crowd of men, slowly growing in number, stand stock still–watching the little round thing–waiting for it to do something.

about to look away, i happened to just notice some movement from the object on the ground, my interest is re-piqued and i strain my eyes to make out what the mystery object is.

i don’t know if the light changed, or if i just willed my eyes to see better all of a sudden, but it was like when you stare at one of those hologram puzzle photos, and suddenly the picture pops out at you. all of a sudden i realized that the little lump on the ground was a hedgehog. an adorable, petite, hedgehog. THOSELITTLELEGS! so cute.

at  about the exact moment that i realized what the animal was, it came out of its playing opossum pose and righted itself on its insanely adorable little match-stick legs and painfully precious little feet, prancing about in a circle. all of the grown men watching continued to react in an endearing 6 year old boy sort of way–laughing, ooing and ahhing over this little creature, slapping each other on the back like they played some part in the creation of this little spiked-beast.

we three had a great time watching the gathered men, as well as the beady-eyed little ball of adorable. sobering the mood (but not the people), the hedgehog felt threatened again and curled up into its little ball position, waiting out the craziness.

most of the onlookers disbanded, distracted by other things or simply losing interest. the owner of the hedgehog scooped it up again, gently petted it (as is a good idea with hedgehogs, as they have little spikes all over their body) and carried it around for a while longer.

the owner was clearly displeased that the hedgehog had decided to call it a night: he kept holding it at eye level, i suppose thinking this would encourage it to open up and have a little conversation; or make it feel less threatened and uncurl itself. nada. little thing was as tight as a roly-poly.

after placing the hedgehog back on the ground and securing the leash in his hand, the owner did something that was a little sad: he poured some beer on its back. presumably this was to wake up the hedgehog, or shock it into opening up. or perhaps the little hedgehog is a lush? i guess i’ll never know the true answer to that conundrum…

except, the hedgehog did not open up to receive the beer offering. so it was a failed attempt. having totally lost his audience by now, except for we three looking on–but i don’t think he knew we were enjoying the show–the owner of the hedgehog looked dejected, giving the little animal a soft nudge with his shoe, perhaps in a last attempt to wake it from its terror slumber.

alas, the hedgehog remained tucked up.

hedgehog-owner apparently then needed to go somewhere where he couldn’t take the hedgehog. (i choose not to speculate) so, in renewed adorable-nature, he takes the little leash and ties it to the underside of a wire cart placing the hedgehog right in the center, away from feet that would trample it.

after tying the hedgehog and starting to walk away, the owner turned around every step or two to be sure that it was still alright; checking for as long as he could still see it from all the way across the street.

the hedgehog sprang to life a few minutes later and was surveying its new little area. the pub was closing down for the night, it was now around 6something in the morning and the sun was beginning to brighten. i was pleased as i could get a better look at this little animal, but less pleased that we sat up that entire time and the bus still wasn’t there!

we may or may not have oohed and awwed over the little beast as it trotted around testing the limits of its leash.

it was at this point that i my attention was drawn away from all things cute when i realize that my plastic bag of snacks and my water bottles had been lifted from under my chair. i did what we all irrationally do in situations like this and searched and researched my little 2foot x 2foot space i was occupying hoping that i was overlooking a full cavera. i wasn’t. and that was a total bummer.

lost in the bag were two water bottles that i adored–one from HB that had even made the journey to egypt  and my month in kenya, and one from EW that i didn’t even have a year yet–a lovely birthday present lost to someone who would probably not appreciate the thought and care that went into choosing and shipping them half way around the world–or the memories that they held for me.

and my hobnobs. the bastard had my hobnobs. insult to injury, people. insult to injury. sigh.

there was a brief moment of discussion among my travel compaions about attempt to either steal or purchase said hedgehog to give as a “host/ess” gift to our friends in juba. sadly, this never happened and we arrived sans host/ess gift. pole.

stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode:

journey to juba: the passport photo incident [crossing the border]
with a special side of tales of a less-than-awesome bus ride to the border…

c25k: week 5 mix 3

this interval kicked my butt.

20 nonstop minutes of running. i didn’t make it. i walked, twice.

partially i think this is due to my inability to pace well. i start off simply too fast and cannot maintain that pace for 20 minutes.also playing a role in less than stellar performance today, i didn’t really stretch well. i was in a meeting until about 6:15 and needed to get out the door by the cut off (6:30) so i wasn’t running after dark. (just not wise here.)

and the last thing to justify my toosh-kicking, i didn’t really clear my head from my meeting before heading out. this probably would have had less to do with it but the conversation was a difficult one, sad and fraught with the emotions that come from being verbally attacked. (i wasn’t verbally attacked, the conversation was sort of working through someone else’s trauma in this as it continues against them.)

all that to say: i’ll be trying that one again. sometime. but probably not saturday.

i’m going on vacation (!) to ethiopia, and while i am taking my running things and hope to get in some running with all the walking i’m planning on doing, i’m not sure how awesomely consistent i’ll be. good intentions, i have. but that doesn’t always mean anything.

the journey to juba: hedgehog incident post is written and pending posting until tomorrow afternoon (my afternoon here in east africa, your morning for the north american readers). a disclaimer: no hedgehogs were injured in the writing of this blogpost.


(i’m late for the www5k, but i DID run on the 10th! promise!)

journey to juba: the “chain-roller” incident

if you’ve known me very long or know me very well you have probably ascertained by this point that i’m a firm believer in the “its all about the journey” philosophy. therefore there will not be one blog post about getting to juba, being in juba and getting home to kotido. no, no. this is the first part of a 5-part series:

journey to juba: the “chain-roller” incident (released today, 14 april 2011)
journey to juba: the hedgehog incident (releasing tomorrow,15 april 2011)
journey to juba: the passport photo incident [crossing the border] (16 april)
journey to juba: juba-failed attempts but a damn good burrito (17 april)
journey to juba: the tyre incident (18 april)


the journey to juba began on a sunny thursday morning in my front yard in kotido. the car was loaded up, the dog chained up and doors locked: we were off towards lira with a final destination that day of gulu. the journey was going swimmingly until just after adilang where apparently i failed to notice a “diversion” sign. upon reaching the swamp area i noticed that the bridge over the wetlands was missing. gone. not there.

the car slowly came to a stop as i considered what to do next. as i surveyed the area, truly trying to figure out my next move i noticed two things: first there was another vehicle coming up behind me and secondarily that there were many construction vehicles in the marshy area.

the second vehicle also slowed to a stop, the driver and passenger walked to the precipice of the once-bridge and shook their heads. as they came back by my vehicle the driver and i exchanged glances that seemed to say, “eff.”

someone from the construction crew came to our assistance and offered this advice: “you reverse to there [he points behind about 100 meters] then enter. when you get stuck the chain-roller will pull you out.”

please note the grammar here: “…when you get stuck…” noted? good.

so we reversed.

as i was the first driver to come to the bridge and was therefore the first to attempt passing through the wetlands. which looked a little something like this:

"...and my name is mud..."

swampy marshlands

well so i went for it. “with force” as one of the living with shalom youth would have suggested [HT to job!], but still promptly got very stuck in this very spot. the above photograph was taken from that very place.

if you look closely at the photo you may see the gentleman on the right, wearing white. see? up there on the road? okay, this is the point where the driver behind me decided to enter the marsh. (its always good to go second!) much to my chagrin, he and his small pickup truck made it over the edge without tipping over (although it looked like a close call at one point) and safely through the middle section and back to the road.

we, however, were stuck for over an hour. i tried. really hard. to get out on my own power. used the diff-lock. reversed. used 4-wheel and 2-wheel drive…at one point in diff-lock it looked like i was going to be able to wiggle gertie (thats the car’s name) out of the mud. but alas, it did not work.

after about half an hour, when no one had come to our assistance, housemate decided to go speed things along. while she was gone i tried to get unstuck some more, and after giving up, investigated the situation more closely.

the tyres were freely moving when the accelerator was applied, so it wasn’t that kind of stuck…carefully alighting from the vehicle i peered at gertie’s belly to see that the entire undercarriage was totally stuck in the mud. everything BUT the tyres!

all my shouting merited was a sore throat and the fluttering of birds in the trees.
no shovel.

housemate returned with the foreman who promised that the chain roller was really coming. really. and then he went away again to make sure that the chain roller was really coming.

perhaps you’re wondering what a “chain-roller” is. i know i was at this point in the incident, and i was about to find out. something white was coming our direction through the more secure middle-bit of the wetland. i watched it come closer, pondered it for a moment, and then asked housemate, “do you suppose THAT is the chain roller?”

she peered out the window in the direction of the apparatus approaching our vehicle and said, “probably, yes.” and then she recounted a tale of her wanderings in search of the mystical chain roller–she was told that it was coming to help us as soon as its care-takers were finished doing whatever it was that it was currently doing. in what i can only suspect was an attempt to make her feel better, the fellow she was speaking with gestured somewhere in the distance and said something about “that chain roller, it is white. like you.”

well, what was coming our direction was in fact white (i wouldn’t go so far as to say that housemate is quite that white) and, we learned, called a chain-roller in these here parts.

here is a photograph of the chain roller with housemate in the foreground so as to compare their whiteness:

"white like me"

its a bulldozer!

sadly i cannot upload the hilarious video i took of it backing toward us when it, too, got stuck. the hilarious part is my narration. perhaps its for the better, you may not find me that funny in verbal-narrative-form!

unable to approach from the front of gertie, the chain roller came around behind, was hooked up, and pulled us away from the uber muddy area. twice. after being released the first time the tyres just spun and spun–totally caked in dirt! it was if they were bald (but they aren’t!)

there was a gentleman working on the construction who decided that he’d be better suited for driving gertie over the scary hill and into the middle area. stupidly, i said “okay…” however, this did give me another opportunity to film from the backseat as we went over the edge. it is also good that i cannot upload this video as i swore a little. (sorry, mom.)

we were promptly stuck. again. housemate and i decided that had i been driving at this point we would have made it through, but i wasn’t-so we didn’t. we were stuck again, and AGAIN the marvelous chain roller came to our rescue. brilliantly, i had shifted myself from the back into my rightful driver’s seat and after being dislodged this time around we were in the clear. ptl.

mud was flying off the tyres the rest of the way to lira (um, like 2 hours later?!) and gertie was DIRTYGERTIE for quite some time after.

even with our 1-hour delay in the swamp/marsh we still managed to reach gulu by around 4pm and still visit the bank to prepare for the upcoming journey to juba.

stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventure: journey to juba: the hedgehog incident

a beauty shot of the chain roller, our friend and helper

a day without dignity: shoes in karamoja, uganda

this post is my small contribution to good intentions are not enough’s “a day without dignity” campaign.

a day without dignity is a counter-campaign to TOMS shoes a day without shoes “awareness raising campaign” (commercial). on or around april 5th – the same date as a day without shoes – we’re asking aid workers, the diaspora, and people from areas that receive shoe drops and other forms of charity to speak up in blogs, on twitter, or at school.

head over here to see, read and hear more posts from around the world!


the place i call my home is in rural north-east uganda in the region of karamoja, a place that is more often than not referred to as “forgotten” or “backwards”. a common question from even other ugandans is if “those people there are putting on clothes.” well, yes, as a matter-of-fact, people do “put on clothes.” oh yes, and shoes.

part of my work in this region is that of an education secretary for a diocese of the church of uganda. and as a part of that work, i spend a lot of time in, talking about and thinking about schools. all of the schools that i work closely with are primary schools, 13 of them to be exact.

i have visited all of these schools at least twice in my tenure (some more than that), and most recently my explicit purpose in visiting was to conduct a lengthy survey the province had sent to all of the diocese in the country. this survey wanted to know darn near everything physical about the school: number of desks in each class, number of pupils, exam results for the past three years, if the school has a functioning locking-cabinet, etc. at least one teacher from each class was interviewed and their class preparations evaluated.

something that i added to this survey was to ask (or have my counterpart) ask the head teacher and the teachers two extra questions: 1. what are the things that make you really proud of this school, the pupils or the teachers? and 2. if money was no question, what would you change about the school?

now, i don’t know, maybe because of how i framed the question people weren’t thinking about shoes. i suppose you could argue that, but, why? the point is: out of 13 schools, 13 head teachers and at least 26 teachers not one person mentioned shoes. or hand-outs.

most commonly in these schools, which are surely the poster-children of “poor schools in africa” had nothing to do with shoes. or clothing. or gifts, really. the top five, in no particular order:

1. desks for the pupils– the children sit on the cracked concrete or dirt floors. all day. every day. concerns were raised about breathing in dust all the time, that sitting on the floor does nothing for a child’s dignity and that it was “difficult for them to study properly without somewhere solid to sit.”

2. energy saving cookstoves-once upon a time the world food programme (wfp) put some energy saving stoves in some schools in karamoja. this was quite a while ago, and now they are broken. “we love to save energy, but no one knows this stove. no one knows how to fix it.” on more than one occasion with zero prompting from me and without them knowing my personal passion for sustainability, head teachers asked to be taught to make energy efficient stoves. pupils can then come directly to school in the morning rather than go out looking for their daily firewood allotment, and the earth is happier in the process.

3. books-text books, writing books, planning books for the teachers. most schools have none of these things. a few years ago UNICEF gave out ‘schools in a box’ to many of these rural schools. they contained things like chalk, writing books, planning books, pencils and the like. it is my understanding that no warning was given that they would stop receiving these boxes, and that they were not even informed before receiving the boxes. one head teacher had stretched the last of the paper for over a year, handing out the very last book on the day of my surprise visit. he handed the book to the p5-aged girl who asked for it and looked at the box, sighed, and said “now what will i do when that one is empty?”

he went on to say that if there was a way that they could earn the books-the school, the pupils, both, that would be best. sometimes the children” abuse” the books they are given because they are a)children and b)under the impression that more books will drop from the un-blue and white sky. he is of the mind that if the pupils can somehow earn the books, or see that someone somewhere had to work for them, that they would take better care of them. i’ll get off my “ownership” soapbox for now…

4. clean drinking water– many schools have incomplete or damaged rain-catchment systems, if those are fixed pupils will not have to pump water but can just get it from the tap it is contained and cleaner therefore decreasing the chance of water-borne-illness. they were also asking for trainings on how to properly care for the systems as they were just dropped in by various non governmental organizations (ngos).

5. teacher upgrades– many of the teachers in these schools have been teaching for a long time with no teacher’s in-service, no workshops or extra trainings. they feel that they are unable to provide the level of education that pupils need to reach the next level of secondary school.

nary a shoe request.

gifts-in-kind are just bad aid. they just are. i’m not going to tell you what shoes to buy and not buy, or that not wearing shoes for a day doesn’t have positive impacts* but what really gets my goat regarding TOMS shoes is that it is a FOR PROFIT organization masquerading about as a charity. if you want to “raise awareness” by having middle, high school and college students go a day without shoes, great–but don’t pretend to be something you’re not. and FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE consider the local economy in places where these shoes are literally being “dropped”.

there are already enough imported second-hand shoes (dresses, skirts, trousers etc) flowing into the “developing world” that are already arguably hindering local textiles industries. not to mention the innovative and local solutions people come up with all on their very own.

some photographic evidence:

mamas on the way to market

tyre sandles (above and below) are very popular around here. men, women and children wear them alike and they come in many styles or fashions. i personally know at least one cobbler in town (uncle) who makes and repairs these and other shoes. sadly i didn’t have a chance to interview him about his work, perhaps i will on another day!

elders at an education meeting

also popular in these parts are brightly colored sandals from china, and converse knock-offs (i assume, also from china).

abek (alternative basic education for karamoja) students on parade!

the last portion of this challenge is to encourage you, the reader, to do something else to “raise awareness”. i challenge you and your good intentions to buy less (in general) buy local and fair-trade (when you must buy) and do your research in donating money.

*my friend lizzie is one of these delightful surprising outcomes of a day without shoes campaign. check out her blog and thoughts on participating in this day.

also of note: elizabeth’s post on a day without dignity: gulu edition.

c25k: week 5 runs 3 and 4

thursday the program bumped up to 2 running intervals of 8 minutes each–at the beginning of the podcast i was reminded that since i began about a month ago, my running time (if not distance) has gone up by 8 times. EIGHT TIMES! i nearly reached around and patted myself on the back. i did refrain, but am clearly now verbally congratulating myself. no shame in that, i say.

so yes, thursday. nearly had another side-stitch-incident but it started getting tight at the end of the first running interval so with some well placed breathing i was able to stave off the searing pain that is the dreaded side-stitch. ptl.

saturday (today) i stayed with this double 8 minute interval session, even though i was "supposed" to use the third of three podcasts for this week. let me explain why, as it was a lengthy choice to double up on the should-be-single-use podcasts in weeks 5 and 6:

as i believe i mentioned last time, i pay (well, mcc pays…) for the internet per kb. it takes many kb to download these podcasts and i want my [mcc's] money’s worth!
secondarily, i’m getting un-dually nervous about running for 30 straight minutes.

thirdly and perhaps most importantly, i hadn’t downloaded the next podcast yet.

i’ve noticed my stride getting shorter/choppier in the past few runs so i’m trying to ‘stretch out’ when i run, but i think that my mind is making my body attempt to conserve energy as the running times get longer and more intense. i suspect that if i continue to be mindful of this, and continue to work that my stride will return to its longer and fuller normalcy with time and effort.

how thrilling, i know.

during these last two runs i have tried to push farther distance wise that i had been going recently. i’ve been going to the closest corner of the cattle market, touching the post there and then turning around. tuesday i went to the end of the row, thursday i went all the way to the cattle-loading-ramps and today i went around said ramps. (much to the chagrin of the ever-growing-number of onlookers. now sure where i’ll head next as actually running THROUGH kanawat trading center is about as high on my list of things to do as cutting off my own foot is. [read: not high. at all.]

well, thats enough of that. maybe a non running blog post is due… keep your eyes peeled!

post interval tunes:

1. morning mr magpie from the king of limbs album – radiohead (LOVE this new album!)

2. le lune et le loup – soy un caballo
3. lemon tree-the mynabirds (one of my all time favorite songs, their version is a must-hear!)
4. lemon tree– peter paul and mary (see, love this song!)

5. white liar from the album revolution- miranda lambert
6. by the mark from the album revival- gillian welch (just. love. her.)

all from the black keys album brothers:

1. howlin’ for you
2. i’m not the one
3. never give you up
5. next girl
6. she’s long gone
7. sinister kid

c25k: week 5 runs 1 and 2

perhaps it would be wise to stop taking a week off between runs? at least i have a good excuse, i was traveling. i could have probably run when i arrived in gulu, but i didn’t. i probably could have run in juba, but i didn’t (truth be told, i was a little nervous too. thats probably silly, but its true.) certainly could have run when i was back in gulu, but had an hour long massage for $10 instead. i feel good about that choice.

so, at long last, on sunday i went for the first run of week 5. i had to change my path a bit near the beginning of my intervals. as i was rounding the corner after the latrines three women from the “bar” noticed me coming, jumped up ran to the road and were jogging in place and shouting in my direction. thinking fast (introverts are good at this when it comes to avoiding people) i took a hard right hand turn into the bush therefore avoiding their shouting and their jogging along with me. i don’t feel bad about it.

the last time i ran in kotido i had to wade through a huge swath of mud–that slippery patch is now green with new grass. the vast expanse of blowing sand is now a freshly tilled garden. and the river was rushing as i ran over the bridge to the cattle market. after finishing sunday’s run, as i was walking home, i noticed that the cactus in the bush have bloomed. rain is truly a miracle.

now i should say, this week and next are supposed to have a different podcast per day. but. i pay for my internet per kb and cannot bring myself to use one podcast and then discard it, so will be doing these 6 podcasts at least twice to mitigate my guilt. so, know that.

so today, i did the same run as sunday even though i was supposed to ‘move on’. as i set out i decided that i will probably not run by the ‘bar’ anymore and was planning my change of route. i decided to add some extra distance to the end of the route to make up for turning early. admittedly this extra distance made me a little proud of myself, which is good because i needed that confidence boost by the end of today’s intervals.

after turning around, on the final 5 minute run, i experienced my first ever “side-stitch”. i don’t know how i made it through middle and high school sports without one but i feel like the pain i experienced out there in the bush made up for the lack of
side-stitches in all my life.

never having experienced this pain before, and since its been ten years since high school where there was a coach shouting instructions to those who had them i couldn’t really remember what the “proper” thing to do when one was experiencing this shot of pain. i seem to remember coach w yelling to “KEEP MOVING!!” so i did that. there was no way in hades that running was going to continue with that sort of attach on my innards, but i did keep walking. once my breath had calmed down a bit, and the pain hadn’t really stopped i stopped moving and bent myself in half, focused my breath to the place of pain (thanks yoga!) and tried to calm down. (i needed to calm down because my body was threatening to deposit me on the ground for a bit. [blackout])

the folding myself in half and breathing and being calm did the trick. the pain subsided and i returned to my euphoria of an almost complete workout and decided (perhaps with the remnants of coach w’s voice echoing in my brain shouting phrases like “DON’T BE LAST, OR ELSE!” “COME OOOON!” “THAT WAS TERRIBLE!”) that i needed to make up for the last two minutes of running that i had spent trying to not black out.

so i set a goal, a prominent bush on the path, and started jogging towards it. just before reaching it, i chose another one about the same distance ahead of me and picked up the pace. upon reaching this bush i again kicked it up a gear and pushed myself hard to a white rock ahead of me. while i’m proud to be pushing myself, this probably wasn’t the best idea i’d had all day as i was again doubled over fighting off the encroaching darkness. (i won!)

from there i walked at a good brisk pace home, still thinking i needed to make up for my “lost” time. if only i could be so driven in other aspects of life!

post interval tunes:

the first three tracks from the album “made the harbor” by mountain man (its actually 3 ladies! and they are amazingly fantastic. highly highly recommended!)
1. buffalo
2. animal tracks
3. white heron

tuesday (today)-
today was a bob dylan kind of day:
1. subterranean homesick blues
2. lay, lady, lay
3. sara
4. the times are a-changin