May, 2019 back to Jul, 2007: (nothing)
I have uploaded pictures from my travels in East Africa to http://picasaweb.google.com/adam.hooper/UgandaRwandaTanzania. For Google-agnostic viewers, the same pictures are available at http://adamhooper.com/photos/?galerie=Uganda-Rwanda-Tanzania.
This will be my last Uganda blog entry. As such, I feel I should end with a flourish: my ultimate opinion of the world? My avid readers may remember my two previous opinions: that education should be separate from religion; and that everybody is ignorant of most things and we should all acknowledge and accept that fact. For my final opinion, once again, I will approach my conclusion in a roundabout manner.
I should begin where I left off on a previous topic. Last Thursday, I mentioned riots in Kampala. I promised to revisit the topic of sugar cane and environmentalism.
Will I give my opinion on the matter? No, but I will try to give others' perspectives.
Imagine yourself as a manager of a sugar company. A series of fortuitous events has led you to a business deal unlike any other: a godsend! Are you responsible for the country's welfare?
Time for Opinion Number Two.
In the course of my time in Uganda I have been keeping a journal. At one point in February, I wrote down one particular paragraph which seems appropriate for this blog entry. It is slightly naïve, but surprisingly less so than most things I wrote in February:
I feel awareness in the first world is terribly important. I feel throwing money at a problem will never solve it. I feel most people cannot fathom what it's like here. I think humility should be everywhere: it would decrease HIV, increase first-world support, stop sexism.... Most people are wrong about most things; I feel they should be open to that possibility. I of course include myself.
Let me explain myself, in a roundabout manner.
Some time in the late 19th century, an explorer named Speke made his way along the famous River Nile, starting at the delta in Egypt and ending in what he named Lake Victoria. The village which was here was called Jinja, and Speke discovered it.
Naturally, in the century following, the village became a hotspot for adrenaline junkies. After all, not only is the river suitable for kayaking, white-water rafting, river boarding, and other extreme sports: it is also the Nile.
I am a visitor to Africa within an age bracket which gives me no options: I had to do it, sooner or later. And so, on Saturday, I went white-water rafting down the Nile.
I was part of the majority in our raft who had never experimented with white-water rafting before. Our guide taught us the ropes with some conveniently-placed small rapids. We then got to the real fun. Scattered along the first few kilometres of the Nile are five class five rapids. (Whatever that means. I'm told class five is pretty impressive.)
Uganda made the front page of BBC news today, with a story about a Mabira protest.
At the time the deaths began, I was actually in a taxi heading into the city. As Ugandans ran from police bullets, I ran from Ugandans: lest I be mistaken for an Asian. I particularly enjoyed my boda driver negotiations while in the midst of fleeing masses: You don't care how much it costs. Get on.
No, I didn't die.
My last post described how stepping outside your doorstep is always an adventure. I have certainly proved my point. Naturally, today is a completely different day: I am not even remotely afraid because of yesterday's events.
There is no way I can phrase this blog entry which can make people back home understand what things are like here; but I'll try anyway. I think the easiest way to relate to people back home is to begin by copy/pasting from a post I wrote on my first week in Uganda.
Things I will miss about Africa:
- Cold showers (or on a good day, wildly-varying-temperature showers)
- Bugs (though I haven't had a cockroach in my room yet)
- The smell
- New food
- Boiling or buying water
- Crossing the street through terrifying traffic
- Saying a friendly hello to a guard walking down the street with an AK-47 in his hand
- Haggling for a better deal on just about every purchase
- Tipping more frugally (and often not at all)
- Frequent power outages
And the one thing I'll be glad to be rid of:
I have found, in Africa, that it is futile to attempt to plan anything in advance: the only way to get something done is to begin doing it immediately.
And so, the night before the four-day-long Easter holiday, I decided to plan an excursion. I flipped through a couple of travel books (which, incidentally, I don't own) and I decided to go to Sipi Falls. The Post Office Bus left at 8am the next morning; so, having decided upon my course of action twelve hours prior to my departure, I went out for dinner and went to bed late. This is Africa.
Sipi lies in northeastern Uganda, at the edge of Mt. Elgon (which straddles the Uganda/Kenya border). The Post Office Bus only travels as far as Mbale (in 6 hours or so). This leg of my journey was uneventful (which is why I chose the Post Office Bus in the first place). On the bus I met somebody who directed me through Mbale to the taxi park; then I took a taxi (matatu) up to Sipi.
I think the taxi ride warrants a bit of analysis: not because it was particularly frightening or exciting, but because it is a good example of a typical Ugandan travel experience.
I had never thought about the role of a documentary filmmaker before coming to Uganda. It seems quite obvious now that the final cut doesn't even convey a fraction of the available footage, knowledge, or emotion.
Last night I watched Invisible Children, a documentary about the night commuters. What was going through these documentary makers' minds when they made their film (and Movement)? Their goal, I imagine, was to invoke a sense of need and urgency, without making people feel too helpless.
Invisible Children shows one miniscule piece of a much larger story. It presents no facts, and I'm almost certain the documentary filmmakers cut out their most terrifying footage: relatively speaking, the worst stuff in that movie ain't all that bad. (You know, that scene of raw emotion, flashing scene after scene of horror). I've seen worse on the main streets of Kampala. The movie does not blame anybody for the war; it does not describe the LRA; it does not describe the Acholi; it does not present any stakeholders besides the night commuters; simply put, it does not present any explanations of anything.
What the movie does present is a movement of which one may easily become a part. It does this by presenting a miniscule subset of information about the situation in northern Uganda. There is more on the website; but even this paints extremely broad strokes. The website focuses on how to contribute, not your contribution's effects. I'd go as far as to say the website focuses on America, not Uganda.
On my blog, I have attempted to abstain from giving personal opinions. I have tried my utmost to provide impartial insights, relying upon abstract reasoning or vague examples to deliver my ideas. On such a public forum, I don't want to offend anybody. This abstinence is not just to defend my friends: it is also because I am aware of my insurmountable ignorance.
It has recently struck me that I will only be staying in Uganda for about four more weeks. And so I must, slowly but surely, wrap up my blog. I feel I have learned enough about a few small topics to publish some choice opinions; and so in this entry I will risk offending some of my more spiritual readers with a heavily-restrained argument.
Where to start? Let us begin with the topic of truth.
Fun Fact: Mabira rainforest may be cut in the near future to make way for sugar plantations. Its dense tree population is estimated to be worth over USD$900M in carbon credits and other benefits. Fact: Cutting down the forest won't cost $900M, and preserving it won't preserve $900M of Uganda's GDP (or any other sensible metric). That $900M is a complete fiction.