Saturday, 26 September 2009

A birthday picture

With Adri and Juliet (my birthday twin!)

Go West!

Hello again from a relatively peaceful Kampala - all seems back to Normal after the rioting has subsided, at least on the surface. At least 90 rioters have been arrested and put to trial (but no sign of any military personnel facing the same strict treatment, even those responsible for the killing of unarmed civilians...)

But rioting and tensions aside, the past 2 weeks or so have been great - Adri arrived at the start of last week, and after a couple of "chill out" days in Kampala we headed west to see some of the beautiful sights Uganda has to offer, guided by Michael of TUSH Adventures and starting with Murchison Falls National Park, where the River Nile is squeezed into a narrow gorge ending in one of the most impressive water falls I have ever seen before starting its long journey to Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Aside from the amazing views, we were also lucky enough to meet elephants, hippos, lions (at close range!), giraffes, various types of antelope, (one) crocodile, buffaloes and some rare and wonderful birds (photos soon!). We then continued to Kibale Forest (monkeys, monkeys and more monkeys but sadly no chimps!) as well as Semliki National Park and its hot springs. It was a much needed break for us both after a hard few months!

But not all the sights were beautiful and uplifting - having visited the impressive hot springs at Semliki National Park, we then headed to the Pygmy settlement in the nearby village - one of the most depressing experiences I have had in a long time. The Pygmy people, traditionally forest dwellers relying on hunting and gathering, have been undergoing "resettlement" since the late '80s out of conservation areas and into permanent village life, without being provided with the agricultural or other skills that would integrate them into the Ugandan cash economy and Ugandan society.

It's hard to describe how I felt during this brief visit, apart from wishing I was elsewhere. I don't know what was worse - feeling sorry for the people who were either drunk or high on opium or desperately shoving hand-made souveniers in our faces, or the feeling of almost revulsion I felt at being near this worse kind of poverty - the kind that makes you want to close your eyes and pretend it doesn't exist, or even blame them for their own pathetic existence. I wish I knew how to describe it better but I am still lost for words.

Well, that is all for now - I promise photos are coming soon (since I had a gifted photographer with me at all times, these are bound to be lovely!)

Friday, 11 September 2009

Freedom of Silence

Day 2 of the Kampala riots and apart from less cars on the road, all is quiet in this part of town. Only news reports of 10 dead (including a 14 year old student:, burnt busses and closed roads let us know that this mess is still happening. I'm being a good girl and keeping well out of it in this quiet neighbourhood. I have been trying to find out how is it that Government can justify shooting unarmed civilians using live bullets, but people just shake their heads. Of course, it makes no sense.

Continuing yesterday's theme, the Government today closed 3 more radio stations, and I quote: "President Yoweri Museveni, in a pre-recorded television address aired yesterday, accused CBS FM of engaging in an active campaign against the NRM government. Although he admitted to only listening to CBS FM once, he said he was shocked by the insults heaped against him. He said his government would not suffer any more abuse against them". It must be nice to be able to just close down a radio station for insulting you...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Royalists vs. Loyalists - the Kampala version

Never a boring moment in Kampala, as I learnt today when while in a workshop (luckily NOT in the town centre) we received news of rioting on the streets of central Kampala, a result of tensions between Baganda Kingdom supporters and the central Government. 2 People have been confirmed dead.

Here is a link to the most up-to-date news report I could find:

In true "democratic" fashion (maybe as a welcome gesture for Avigdor Liebermann who is in Kampala today), the government used military forces to close down a couple of radio stations - either to prevent more rioting, or to prevent the media from reporting police violence - you can take your pick.

I was lucky enough to avoid experiencing any of the rioting - the only effect was being stuck in traffic for 2.5 hours instead of the 15 minutes the journey would have taken... not such a bad thing all things considered.

Will keep you posted!


Monday, 31 August 2009

Check out Adri's great Blog:


News from the deep end...

Yes, I know, I promised more frequent updates... but having been away in far away (and connectivity-challenged places) and then buried under work over the past few weeks, I have been struggling to find the time. I hang my head in shame.

So, a quick update:

Spent 2 weeks travelling in Western Uganda - visiting WaterAid partners and gathering data for the NGO water and sanitation annual performance report (link here soon for all you water and sanitation geeks! I know you're out there!) which I have been writing on behalf of the Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network. The journey took me to the beautiful Fort Portal at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains, complete with tea plantations, beautiful views, forests and crater lakes, then through Queen Elizabeth National Park to Mbarara, Kabale and Kisoro (the latter involving a 5 hour journey on a narrow and bumpy road - in each direction! Interestingly, the road is being tarmacked by Solel Bone, the Israeli parastatal - we get everywhere!).

Came back to Kampala last weekend and have worked non-stop since then to get the report ready - and although I haven't had a day off in 3 weeks and the black shadows under my eyes would have earned me the nickname of 'panda' (if only there were pandas in Uganda), it has been an interesting time and I have learned so much!

But as much as I enjoy work, I think I have earned a break - Adrián is coming over in mid September and we will spend a couple of weeks enjoying the sights and sounds, but most importantly, eachother's company! :)

So that's all for now! Just wanted you to know I am still alive, and if you haven't heard from me in a while, it's nothing personal.....

Much love, till next time :)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

...And some traditional dancing!

Hi everyone, here is a video of a traditional Banyankole dance I took last week at the wedding I attended - hope you manage to see the beauty of the dance despite the shoddy camera-work!
I have been told that the men are meant to be cattle hereders, and the women represent the cows, hands held up to signify the long horns of the Western Ugandan cattle. The dance represents the importance of cattle in Western Ugandan culture. Enjoy!