Saturday, June 28, 2008

From my comrades in arms (and hysterics)

I found this on the Facebook group "You know you've been in Uganda a long time when." Anyone who has been here will roll on the floor laughing, because it is all so true:

  • Your phone rings and it is a wrong number and you can keep the Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello's going back and forth like a tennis match until eventually the caller realises you are the wrong number and abruptly hangs up, after spending at least 2 minutes worth of airtime. (Natalie McComb)

  • You get arrested and start bargaining over the bribe whilst you drive yourself to jail. (Jason McKelvie)

  • When malaria number 10 is cause for a party. (Ailsa Woolard)

  • When the power goes off in Chicago during a storm and it makes you homesick...(Sarah Larson)

  • When you enter into a room of people and say 'Well done!' (Tamar Stockley)

  • Your standard response to someone's greetings becomes "I AM FINE, HOW ARE YOU?!". (Maanan Madhvani)

  • [Maisha's personal favorite:] You start saying "the what?" in every what? In every sentence. (Christopher Laughlin)

  • Al's bar becomes a form of speed dating! (Tom Slater)

  • You start referring to people as “this one” or “that one”. (Heather Lawrence)

  • Clothes becomes a two-syllable word. Clo - thes. (Ruth Townley)

  • When the sight of a boda-boda with a passenger carrying yet another boda-boda [effectively a boda-boda breakdown service] does not cause you to raise an eyebrow. (Kaz Kasozi)

  • When you stand in a queue and feel something is very wrong because it is orderly and the person behind you respects your personal space. (Nick Astles)

  • When you're no longer surprised that a boda boda guy will try to convince you to become his customer by running you over. (Andrea Bohnstedt)

  • When you have named the potholes. (Nanna Schneidermann)

  • Your knees ache from squating over a long drop 4 times a day because you ran out of ciproflaxcin a month ago...(Jeremy Schmitz)

  • Its 32 degrees C outside and you can still see one or two people fully dressed Sweater and all. (Kaliika Annat)

  • When you know that a Swiss Loll at the Belgian bakery is a Swiss Roll. And that the man asking for Lose actually refers to Rose. (Sanne Andersen)

  • When you don't get confused even though the person you're talking to keeps mixing up 'he' and 'she' in the same sentence. (Kirstine Corneliussen Magoola)

  • When you point with your lips and say yes with your eyebrows. (Marcia Baugh)

  • When are reluctant to let go of a new, CLEAN 1000 shilling note. (Daisy Asiimwe)

  • You start thinking drinking beer with a straw is cool. (Joel Wandurwa)

  • When your home does not have an address. (Alice Kimbowa)

  • When you exhibit NRE bar behaviour in a Michelin star restaurant in a ball gown in London... (Naomi Swain)

  • When people use please in everything they say when talking to you and it does not sound weird at all ... 'bye please' ... "thank you please" (Mimmy Khamis )

  • When you still have to look left,right and left again before crossing a one way street. (Francis Musinguzi)

  • When that article in Wikipedia on Ugandan English totally makes sense (Martin Ucanda / Anne Mugisha)

  • When you consider going to Garden City a "trip to the Mall", made even more special if the escalator is switched on (Stuart Cook)

  • The idea of using someone's establishment as a waiting or meeting room without giving them any business does not appall you at all (Lydia Namubiru)

  • You yell "muzungu" at other muzungus you see walking down the road as you pass them in your car (Virginia Earwicker)

... Wow, I just went to the article in Wikipedia on Ugandan English, and it totally does make sense!


Someone told Mom that I'm heading to Karamoja, and that Karamoja is dangerous. Please, please, with all respect, don't tell Mom things like that! I always leave my location with my travel insurance company in case anything happens, and we have lawyers and CSOs here who know our position -- as well as the military, since they're sending us with an escort. I promise we'll be fine. We take overly cautious measures. Telling Mom will just worry her when there's little she can do. I just blog about these things because I need to get concerns off my chest, but that's because I'm a worrier.

... Maybe I should save these posts until I get back ...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Little updates

I found out the name of that bird I keep rattling on about! It's the Marabou stork. They are these big gray and white birds that almost look like vultures, and when they launch themselves into the sky they're like aeroplanes taking off.

Are you lost?
People keep asking me that question. It had me very confused. Was there a reason? Am I too soft-spoken? Do I look confused?

Finally I figured out what the question means. I'm not doing anything wrong, and fortunately I don't look as lost as I feel. It's just the local way of saying "hey, where the heck have you been? We missed you."

Like shaking hands, there are a million little things I didn't know, here. For example, the currency sign for shillings is /-. Dialing out of the office involves calling the secretary, giving her the phone number, then hanging up and waiting for the ring to reconnect you. And names are different -- everyone has a Christian name and an African name. Evidently it doesn't matter what order you list them in, or which name gets the honorific (although it is most frequently associated with the African name). So my boss, for example, is Onyango John Francis or John or Francis or Onyango or John Francis Onyango or Mr. Onyango or Mr. Francis or ...

As for handshakes, there are two distinct methods. You can do the firm European grip for business associates, but there's also a shake for friends. First you pump once Euro-style, then you flip your hand upward and grasp, then you flip back down and clasp hands one last time. If you're very fond of the person, you hold hands for a moment after that while you're talking, as if you've just forgotten to let go. The first time someone shook my hand that way, I was afraid it was going to turn into some sort of arcane system of shaking, like in the U.S. where you might rap knuckles, pound fists, slap palms or whatever. But this is actually pretty straightforward and standard, by comparison. Also, more sweetly affectionate -- or maybe I'm just romanticizing things.

Current events

A lot has been going on at the ICC and in Uganda.

  • Yesterday, Juba peace negotiations between the government of Uganda and the LRA came to a halt again, because eight of the LRA's twelve negotiators resigned over arguments with Kony.

  • Two days ago, Thomas Lubango Dyilo's trial was temporarily stayed because the prosecutor refused to release potentially exculpatory documents. It will be interesting to see what happens to the DRC general allegedly responsible for a campaign of cannibalism.

  • On May 23, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for DRC general Jean-Pierre Bemba, accused of crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic. Bemba was in Belgium seeking refuge. One day after the arrest warrant was issued, in compliance with its obligations under the Rome Statute, Belgium turned Bemba over to the Hague. It is a rare instance of the ICC interacting effectively with the international community.

  • In Zimbabwe, Mugabe won elections that many people are claiming is unfair. The U.S. declined to recognize him as president, and Mugabe, like much of his party, has come into criticism by much of the international community.

I leave for Moroto in the Karamoja region Sunday at some insane hour, like 5 a.m. We're stopping in Mbale to pick up our focal point person, and I will be the only woman in the car with five other men. Am trying not to think about it. Just focusing on Karamoja, and how beautiful it will be, and how excited I am to see the people and browse the art and enjoy a few days out of Kampala. I've been here a month, now. It is actually starting to feel more like home. Sort of.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's not always bad

Having written that last depressing post, I'd like to say that Uganda is actually a nice place. I'm sitting in the office right now feeling like a movie star on vacation. There's a rooster outside that's been crowing its head off all morning, birds tweeting, cows lowing, the perfect breeze coming in through the window, and the rustle of palm fronds just across the fence. Tonight, when I go home, I might just get a free massage at the gym. Well, not exactly free. I might have to tip my masseuse a whole dollar.

I was talking with Onyango this morning, chatting about the western media. "They never show something nice in Uganda, like Queen Victoria Park. Queen Victoria is beautiful. They never even show pictures of a good hotel." And there is some validity to that statement. When's the last time you saw something nice about Uganda on TV, outside of the National Geographic Channel or PBS?

Last week Onyango took me and a partner from his soon-to-be law firm out to dinner. The place was called Faze 2, and wow, not only was the food delicious, but the setting was gorgeous! We had the perfect patio seats, meat on skewers and steaks on sizzling plates, delicious fruit shakes, and excellent service. Even the smaller pubs are cute, once you get past the dusty storefront to the well-kept back patios.

It's easy for me as a westerner to criticize governmental corruption and bad hospitals, but keep in mind this country hasn't been around as long as the United States, and it has a whole lot more to deal with in terms of cultural conflict and business disputes. Think Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, and you've got an idea of what property managers deal with every day, trying to figure wrestle clear title from the Kabaka (the Baganda king), the national government, and the squatters who have been cultivating the land for decades. Try to build a new business on land like that, and see how many wars you have to contend with before you see any economic development!

But folks still manage. The people who can afford it are much more educated than we are in the U.S. My boss, for example, speaks seven languages. He has his bachelor's and master's degrees in law, and is about to return to school for a second masters in international relations. He's thinking he might get an LLM after that. Meanwhile, he owns two separate businesses, coordinates the UCICC, and is applying for a fourth job with a religious political human rights association. And he's raising a family. That's what people are like, out here. Everyone who can afford it is brilliant and industrious. It's the best way to survive.

When I write those sadder posts, please understand that this isn't the armpit of the world. Uganda is very, very rich in very many ways. That's part of what makes working to support it worthwhile. It's just that there's no public safety net. If something doesn't work in your favor, there is no welfare to fall back on, no credit line to draw on, and likely no doctor to tend to your wounds. I guess that's the biggest difference between Uganda and the United States. You've got only got one shot to live like a king. (But when you do, oh, what easy luxury!)

What would you do?

Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9 sec. 3

[post redacted for security purposes]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Advocacy and cattle raids

It looks like I am in charge of organizing and hosting the UCICC's annual general meeting. I just found out today. I have three days to figure everything out, from budget requisitioning to catering to minutes to scheduling. After that, we will be traveling north to Karamoja, and I will be out of commission for a full week. The UCICC meeting is two days after I come home.

I guess it's not that bad, except that I have to write and organize a petition to the Parliament of Uganda, first. That part ... yeah. That's going to take time. Petitions out here are published as books. The sample copy of a Kenyan petition that I'm holding in my hand right now is about 40 pages long. And I have to figure out how to distribute this thing, and get the signatures for it. So I broke out in a cold sweat when I heard the news this afternoon. Advocate for the nationalization of the Rome Statute? Me? Well, if you say so.

On the other hand, psh, I can totally handle it! I've already got a five-page document, and I've barely started. It's just surprising, suddenly becoming the point person for a national campaign after having been here for only two weeks. I kind of love it. And I feel much less guilty about not having written memos or opinions, now.

The trip to Karamoja actually gives me more concern. Supposedly we have to arrange a military escort. The soldiers will be there as an extra precaution, but I'm still nervous. There are a lot of cattle raiders in that district, and I don't mean cute cowboys with spangled outfits. I have a friend who got caught in one of those raids, once, and had to duck under her counter while gunfire whizzed overhead. I suppose I'm not in as much danger as my journalist friends who have spent time in Iraq and Jerusalem, but then, I never intended to put myself in a potentially dangerous situation, either. So I'm trying not to think about it. It's funny, because you ask people here if it's safe, and they say "Sure, it's safe!" Then they talk about potential guns and death while I quietly try to slow my heart rate.

Please don't tell Mom until I'm back in Kampala safely. She's already so scared, she can barely speak coherently. Poor Mom. This internship is a lot harder on her than it is on me.

Anyway, I'm going to get back to working. These next two weeks are going to be busy. Do me a favor and send me an e-mail to let me know how you're doing. It feels so good to hear from people in the United States. Like strawberry ice cream on a muggy day in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Workin' on the railroad

I was chatting with Alejandro on Skype today, and he asked me what I was doing.

//Chewing some really tough beef,// I typed, trying not to get juice splattered on the keyboard. But that wasn't what he meant.

//No, I mean at work!// the response came.

Oh, that. I guess I haven't written much about that, because this part of my life, anyway, is easy. The Uganda Coalition for the International Criminal Court is a tiny organization, not even a full-fledged NGO. The full-time staff in our bureau is one lawyer who knows quite a bit about the ICC but is actually more of an advocate for victims' rights. The rest of us are interns. I've already seen two people cycle out on their way back to school. Apparently there are other bureaus scattered throughout the country, with a focal person in each office. Their job is to educate people in the region about the activities of the ICC, discuss the many forms of justice available in Uganda, and advocate for victims' rights. This manifests as training sessions with police officers, university outreach, fundless campaigns for legislation, regional information sessions with locals, more intensive sessions about the ICC for paralegals, playwriting, poster making, and generalized public relations. We write articles, visit courts when human rights cases are involved and talk with advocates, magistrates, justices, and members of Parliament.

The work is really very similar to what I did for the newspapers. At first I was a little bit nervous. Onyango or one of the interns would hand me a paper and ask, "Can you type this for me?" I began to worry that they were doing this because I am a woman, therefore I must be more like a secretary. But as time went on, I discovered that this is actually because I'm the only person here who can really type. Everyone else in the office hunts and pecks, and it takes them ages to type up a manuscript I can have completed in a few minutes.

I've spent the bulk of my time building a web site for the organization. You can check it out at I've also set up a Facebook group for the UCICC, and a MySpace profile comes next. The UCICC has very little notoriety outside of Uganda, so I am trying to develop a presence online. Hopefully it will help us find sponsors. I've also drafted a few information packets, drawn up a poster, generated some logos, read through the 1995 Uganda Constitution, edited a paper for a university outreach session, helped with logistics for the annual general meeting, and written letters to Parliament. Nothing fancy at all. I can tell you a lot more about the Rome Statute and the structure of the ICC now than I could have two weeks ago, I know the exact date Uganda ratified the treaty (14 June 2002), and I can rattle off the names of the five LRA leaders for whom the ICC has issued a warrant: Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, and Dominic Ongwen.

That's about it.

Really, the work is simple and quiet. It takes me a long time to get anything finished, but only because of connectivity issues and power fluctuations. Also, because people here like to talk. But talking is how I do most of my learning, and I don't regret a minute of it. Today I got to play with a baby. That was fun. Babies smell good. Everyone said she looked like me, then asked when I was going to have a child. I can't seem to convey that I am not exactly hot stuff in the United States. To them, over 20 and you get married. That's that.

I guess this pace is what I need, after last year. It's allowing me to shore up the few strands of self-respect I've got left, which is good, because our readings at school have been hard to swim through and I haven't tested well. At least I know that I can be useful in the world of NGOs. I've been setting people up with e-mail addresses and teaching staff the basic elements of photography, videography, and web site creation. The women in HURINET-U's capacity building department are especially happy about that.

I do wish I had more legal work to do. Alejandro has been writing policy papers in Hong Kong, and Emily is drafting court opinions. That sounds awesome! I'm trying to read what they've done, so I can learn from them, too. It makes me a bit nervous to know that I'll be going to a firm next summer with only partially relevant professional experience. To feel better, I tell myself that by the time I'm done I'll have lived for ten weeks in a developing country, handled sickness and financial trouble and pushy men and communication issues, and supported a drive to pass implementing legislation for the ICC. It's not like I haven't gotten a lot out of this, already, right?

There are a few interesting subjects I've come across that we didn't mention in class, too. National corruption is a big one. I'll write more on that in another post. Reasons for implementing ICC legislation is a big question, too. A lot of people here truly believe that the only purpose for embracing the ICC is to end the war in the North. They're not thinking longterm about the resolution of potential future violations or jurisdictional issues such as rationae personae.

This morning I had a fantastic conversation with a young man who is trying to categorize victims of the war in the North. His thoughts were very interesting. You have rape victims, land mine victims, victims of (generalized) violence, child soldiers, torture victims, and the list goes on. If you lump all of those people into one category and grant them some award, how should that award be divided? Who has suffered more, and who will need more for recovery? I gave him some information about victim participation in ICC trials, but I'll bet his report will be a lot more detailed than that.

Since brevity is the soul of wit, I will be brief. There is a lot to learn here. Maybe not book learnin', but that's not my comparative strength, anyway. It's experience, and all the richness of life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Western Union is my best friend

The crisis is over, after only one night. I even remembered I had soup mix, so I got to eat something yesterday. Still, it gives me a little perspective on what the days must feel like for people who don't have enough to eat. I was scared.

Mom sent me enough money to live off of for weeks, bless her heart. I have to find a good way to pay her back. She and Dad always say "what is ours is yours" (honestly, they just might be the best people in the world), but days like this, when I literally feel cut off from every resource I have, mean a lot. I don't have a credit card, I don't have a bank card, international calls don't work, the power goes out, the water gets shut off, and the roads are closed down ... but I still have my family! I wish they knew. My eyes are literally welling up, right now. I love them so much.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Uganda for less than $3


I tried to go to the bank on Friday. Work was busy, though, and when I finally got a chance to hit the road, traffic was so backed up I realized there was no way I would make it to downtown Kampala while the doors were still open. So I gave up.

I tried again on Saturday, and certain roads were shut down. It took two hours to get from Ntinda to downtown Kampala, and by the time I got there, the bank was closed.

The banks aren't open on Sunday.

Today I went back, and the teller refused my credit card. She also refused my debit card. Which means I have no money. Well, that's not entirely true. I had 10,000 shillings. I spent 5,000 trying to call the bank to get them to reopen my account. I got as far as giving my social security number before the phone cut out on me. And as much as I argued, the girl at the phone booth insisted I owed her the full 5,000. Then I had to take a matatu back home. I am down to 4,000 shillings now -- less than $3. Thank God for Skype and Western Union. I think I'm getting Mom to wire me some cash. I think.

So I probably won't get to eat tonight. Well, I have peanut butter and Nutella at home, for what it's worth. Which is still probably more than most people get on a daily basis.

I did, however, have myself my first good cry.

Trust, Government, and Corruption

On Friday, the parent network that sponsors the Uganda Coalition for the International Criminal Court held its Annual General Meeting. HURINET (Uganda) is a HUman RIghts NETwork of about 270 NGOs throughout the country -- although I am under the impression that most of these NGOs are regional divisions of the same body. Once a year they come together to review accomplishments, reinforce goals, discuss strategy and elect new officers. It was great for me, because I met folks from different human rights organizations all over Uganda. The oldest (and hence most respected) member of the network works in Gulu. He's a very nice man named Otto I hope to visit next month. I also met a lady from an organization called Hope After Rape, and others from an organization that rehabilitates torture victims. They all seemed willing to share information and tour me around their organizations. One woman even told me she was going to be my other mother in Uganda. (It was a sweet gesture, but she left before I could give her my e-mail address or phone number.)

I was assigned to take minutes. And I did, too -- 25 pages worth of notes. I guess schools here don't teach kids to type without looking, because people kept approaching me about how fast I could move my fingers. I'm not a fast typist by U.S. standards, but I had a small audience when I described the learning method: practicing the home row, branching off from that, covering your hands with paper so you can't see the keyboard ...

The meeting itself began normally enough. A professor gave a very fine speech on the differences between networks and networking, and the reasons why so many networks fail. The chairman of the organization followed with a welcome, and then the secretary of the organization reviewed the previous year's minutes. During the review, a very heated debate came up about a civil suit brought against the state by HURINET. I've since discussed the conversation with UCICC members, and here is what I pieced together about the facts:

Certain individuals were accused by the national government of being members of a rebel organization called the PRA. According to one HURINET staff member, this PRA doesn't actually exist -- it's a figment of the government's imagination, a mechanism used to condemn political threats like President Museveni's primary campaign opponent, Besigye. The government line is that the PRA is planning a coup. The staff member I spoke with said this isn't true, it's only government paranoia.

But forget, for a moment, whether or not the PRA exists. A number of men were put in prison. At a pre-trial hearing, a judge set bail for these individuals. The accused paid the set amount and were free to leave prison. Only the state refused to give the men up; Some of the men remained in prison for much longer, and at least one is still incarcerated.

HURINET brought a complaint seeking the release of two accused parties. The lawyers were concerned that the government had circumvented the rule of law to keep a number of individuals detained. One staff counselor was sent to represent their case. The state was represented by eight attorneys.

Now here's the kicker, here's why the folks at the Annual General Meeting were upset: One of the government attorneys happened to be the vice chair of HURINET. Nathan Twinomugisha is a founding member of HURINET on the staff of an amnesty organization run by the government. He accepted payment to attend this trial in Swaziland and act on the government's behalf against his own organization. His actions at trial may not have been so bad; apparently, all he did was explain to the Court what amnesty was; according to the HURINET counselor, he didn't say a word at the trial. Explaining amnesty would actually work in favor of the accused, who would be given a temporary reprieve from arrest. So the problem was not what Twinomugisha said, if he in fact said what he claimed. The problem is that he concealed his participation in the trial from the board and body of HURINET. That hiding was enough to call his entire behavior into question. HURINET staff members wanted to know -- had he revealed any secrets about the organization? Had he revealed their counselor's strategy? How far would the man go, for government money?

Here in Uganda, as in many East African nations, human rights workers see the government as the enemy. The government is the perpetrator of the most greivous human rights violations; the government is the threat to civilization. This presents two interesting conundrums:

1. If the government, the force that regulates civilization, is also a corrupting influence, how can that civilization possibly be sustained?

2. If human rights workers refuse to work within the government, how will that government ever come to believe in human rights?

I posed the latter question to various members of HURINET, and they bristled somewhat. The line is clear enough to them: human rights good, government bad. For me, the two have to be reconciled or both will face extinction. I believe Twinomugisha made a mistake, going off to this trial without alerting the HURINET board first. It's as if Dick Cheney accepted a large sum of money to secretly attend an Al Qaeda training camp -- even if his mission were to dissuade terrorists from attacking, U.S. citizens would still question his actions. All the same, though, I found the conversation distressing. The underlying insinuation was that no government employee should ever be involved with HURINET, and no human rights worker should ever get involved with the government.

If human rights workers never become legislators, how will human rights ever be incorporated into the law?

If the government keeps flaunting human rights, how will people ever trust their elected officials enough to allow for a stable government?

And if you can't trust the human rights workers to be free of corruption, who the hell can you trust?

I'm including my notes on the discussion, below. I know it's odd to include meeting minutes in a blog, but I found the argument very interesting.

Speaker 1: The rumor is with my ears that a member of HURINET represented the state. Would someone give us the real truth?

Prior Attorney: My response would be that the state was represented by eight lawyers. These eight were seated on one side, and I was seated on the other side. The lead counselor for the state was the solicitor general. The other eight lawyers were together and did not speak. Now, maybe (name redacted), it would be good to mention the name so that I can confirm whether the person was there or not.

[Goes through the list of counselors he can remember.]

Speaker 1: The vice chair participated. The vice chair has an interest. I don’t know whether that is not tantamount to what you lawyers would call a “conflict of interest.” If I were in Nathan’s position, I would decline. To me, that poses a problem. It is like shooting yourself in the foot. That is all I can say for now.

Speaker 2: There are many of us who are members of human rights organizations but also act in other capacities in our professions. From what we know of Nathan Twinomugisha, he has demanded to explain to whoever needs to know the process of amnesty. I wonder if explaining the process of amnesty conflicts. I know, because I am a lawyer, that this is not a problem. He does not prosecute because he is not a part of the ministry of justice.

National Coordinator: The issue here is that the board of HURINET received a communication from a person who was in Swaziland attending a session, who had accosted the vice chair there and actually thanked him for coming to represent HURINET. The vice chair actually corrected him and said “I am on the other side; I have not come to represent HURINET.” The matter was brought before the board, and a communication was made to the vice to explain what his situation was, but also the lawyer who participated and represented HURINET was asked to make a submission. What was at issue was not talking to PRA suspects and advising them. What was at issue was that the advice was at a closed session in Swaziland and was part of the group of eight that acted against HURINET. We received communication, but it is not for me to declare what the board decided or resolved.

Speaker 3: Are these two suspects out on bail, now? I ask because there is no information, but I happened to meet one of the suspects at a funeral. He is out on bail, and he has to report three times a month in Ajumani, Arua and Kampala.

Secretary: Yes, the PRA suspects were released, but on very stringent terms. Let me call the meeting to order.

Prior Attorney: One person is still in detention and has not been let out.

Secretary: Should we consider this right now, or should we give it another moment and discuss it in detail? I would like to get a consensus from the members.

Speaker 4: I believe in a fair hearing. We are all human rights activists who believe in a fair hearing. We have the person accused here, in our midst. Let’s hear from him, and hear what exactly happened. It seems like we are condemning him without hearing what has happened.

Secretary: It seems like, from the speaker, it seems like we are in consensus about discussing this now. I suggest that I hand over the microphone to the chairperson to lead us in this discussion and start with his view on this matter.

Chairperson: Thank you very much, Secretary. Definitely, we will give an opportunity to Nathan to illustrate his view, but we welcome any person to give it. But I would remind you that our lunch there is getting cold. A communication was received from “a friend of HURINET.” He wrote an e-mail to me as chairperson saying that he was disturbed that our vice chairperson was attending a session in Swaziland. Our communication to the African Commission was being heard, but he was on the other side. He was saying that this was not acceptable. How could we have somebody on our board speaking against us? He thought that the board should consider this issue as a conflict of interest, and he was saying that we should actually, if possible, take disciplinary action against the vice. But we said, before we do that, we should give him an option to explain himself. We wrote to the vice asking if it was true, if he was there, and also why he acted that way and compromise his position on the board? At the same time, we also wrote to our lawyer in Swaziland to tell us what the position of Nathan was. As the lawyers explained, Mr. Nathan was on the other side, the side of the state, defending the action of the state. Nathan explained his position in writing that yes, he was there, but that he did not talk during the session. Later on, we invited him and other members of the board to a special board meeting, and this was one of the issues we wanted to talk about. At the end of it all, Nathan admitted that it was an error on his part, and if there was any other African Commission session, he wouldn’t sit there. He admitted that he was on the other side and made an error to have done that. We would like to hear as much from you as possible, but the board’s view is that at all times, we should be united. We should be seen to be acting together. We should not act in any way that would indicate that we are not together. The board took this as a very, very serious issue. I am glad that, at the end of it, Nathan admitted that it was wrong for him to have done that. That is where it is at the moment. Is there anything else I have left behind? Okay, then I would like to give Nathan a chance to respond.

Nathan: It is true that I wear another heart. In an organization, you will find many members. When this opportunity came, the Amnesty Commission said to go and explain what amnesty is. I asked them to put in writing what I was supposed to say, and I have the letter here. You see, many countries don’t know what amnesty is. They wanted me to explain to the African Commission what amnesty was. When I arrived there, someone explained to me that HURINET had filed a case against the state. Actually, I played a very, very little role. This communication was not going to be heard if I were not in Swaziland. The lawyer from HURINET had not arrived, and the case had already been postponed. I told them the lawyer from HURINET is coming, please be patient. I told them “please don’t go.” If they had left, this case was not going to be heard. They said, “do you know this lawyer?” I said “yes,” because I was staying almost in the same room. They agreed with me, and they waited. So you should be thanking me that this case was heard. I never uttered any word. My interest was, I just sat. I never uttered one sentence. And so I never prejudiced the case. I have been with them, I have given their human rights, I have given them amnesty.

Chairperson: Any reaction? Let’s have ten minutes.

Speaker 5: What Nathan has said really doesn’t convince me, because you fly all the way from Uganda and you do nothing, and you try to convince me. Mr. Chairman, this is very, very serious. When he came back, he should have been suspended immediately from his vice chairmanship. That is how things are done. And he is sitting there comfortably right next to you. Are we becoming part of propaganda machinery for the government? How will we know what you are telling the lawyers that were representing the government? The court has awarded billions of shillings, and no one has paid. The victims are there. This is a very serious matter. Thank you very much.

Speaker 6: Chairman, thank you, and members, thank you. I think, to me, if we are fighting for human rights, we need every available avenue to do it. If Nathan happened to be on the other side and convinced the other members to see it the way HURINET sees it, then he is the mole. He was there on the path of the Amnesty Commission. Are we going to say, anyone who does anything for the government should not be one of us? It is not an issue, it is good, we should have more members on the other side.

Speaker 7: Thank you, chair. I was one of the ones who went with HURINET. We were disappointed by the rumor, but we can confirm it. I don’t condemn Nathan to have gone there and do what he did. Just as we heard here from the secretariat that HURINET is a mirror, and it reflects good, and it reflects also bad. So, what went on in Botswana is exactly what is before us. Nathan already explained, but in the back of my mind as a lawyer, I would have said “I am involved with HURINET. Please send another lawyer if one is available?”

Speaker 8: Where are our professional ethics? You, as a lawyer, you have professional ethics. Two, as vice chairperson of HURINET, you should have absconded from going there. Three, how do you go to do nothing and just keep quiet? The board should have noted that this was a conflict of interest. We have standing, governing policies.

Speaker 9: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My standing here is not to convince, but let us try to reason. Let us ask ourselves what was our vice’s motive, doing this? We’ve heard a presentation in the morning about networking. We brought our vice chairman on board because of how we think he could have been of help to us. I know he is very useful. Let us refer to what went wrong. If we knew HURINET had interest in that case, HURINET should have known that he was going to speak against HURINET. He should have consulted us and seen how we reacted. If he had a spirit of putting HURINET down, we should have seen that motive. If he had motives other than that, maybe we can make use of him in these issues. Let us push HURINET as a network. If he feels that he cannot uphold the values of HURINET, then the (inaudible).

Speaker 10: We can only condemn Nathan if the constitution prohibits what he did. If the constitution does not prohibit what he did, then condemnation would be improper. You must disclose that you have an interest here, to declare. He disclosed and participated, so the decision is for the members to make.

Speaker 11: We have been given these papers considering the activities here. He went there escorting the other team. In this paper, in number five, they list the lawyers. In number six, they say “the abovementioned government lawyers consulted together to defeat …” (etc.) With all these documents, it becomes very hard to convince me otherwise of the role of Nathan.

Speaker 12: At least I’ve heard from the other side. What I’d like to tell everyone here is that we should look at our constitution. We need to resolve this matter. We asked Nathan what he did, and the other lawyer can bring out something. If what Nathan did, because the issue at hand is now what Nathan did, is it a conflict of interest? We may have to make a decision. If it is not in conflict, then we will have to see what to do.

Speaker 13: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I wanted to ask a question. Mr. Twinomugisha was sent by the government to explain what the amnesty act was all about. (Inaudible.)

Speaker 14: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Having heard all this about Nathan, I would say that if Nathan is abrogating HURINET’s constitution, then he should be liable for that. (Inaudible.) He should cease to be the chair.

Chairman: The position of the board, you have heard it. We met, we heard from both sides, and Nathan said he had made an error. But if the AGM has got something else they would like to do, then that is it. You are the supreme body of HURINET. You either accept the judgment on his side, that he would not do it again, and that was enough. Or if that is not enough, it is up to you to take some other action. Therefore, what I am proposing is that we have some people from the floor proposing a way forward on this: Whether you want to leave it on the level that the board had left it, or you want to go forward. I would like to hear from one or two people to suggest a way forward on this, and then we close. Before that, I would like the National Coordinator to read out some relevant sections which the board actually considered when we heard this news of apparent conflict of interest, and which we thought we would use.

National Coordinator: Concerning the matter, inasfar as the constitution is concerned, this is what it provides:

The general meeting may remove from office on any of the grounds:
1. Using the funds of the network
2. Acting contrary to the interest of the network
3. Vote of no confidence, when 2/3 of the members of the committee are in attendance

Speaker 1: Mr. Chairman, I would like to cite an incident which happened in 2001, when I was on the board as vice-chair. Our secretary, without consulting, joined a campaign team for the president. We communicated to her that it would be in her best interest that she resign, and she did. If I were Nathan, I would bow out like a gentleman. But he is unremorseful.

Nathan: He is quoting an affidavit that is not dated. Should we take this paper as anything? When was it made? Read it!

[Proposed and seconded that there be a vote of no confidence.]

Chairman: Before we take a vote, let’s hear from one more person.

Speaker 15: Are we doing enough to self-regulate and make sure we admit credible institutions with our best interests at heart. We get our mandate from the Constitution of Uganda, Article 38. We become an entity that can be sued or to sue. (Etc. Too rapid to transcribe.)

Chairman: In the meantime, Mr. Nathan be suspended from the Board.

Speaker 16: Inaudible.

[Argument ensues about whether 2/3 of the members are present]

[Break for lunch]

[Welcome back]

Chairperson: There was discussion with legal officers of HURINET to advise us on the way forward, and the advice is that the board should go back and make a definite resolution on this and then report back to the body. This is because the provisions in the constitution do not actually support the motion of suspension. If you members agree that this motion is withdrawn, and you can agree with the suggestion of the legal officers that the board goes back and takes a definite stand on this, which then, when they do that, they will advise the members of the network – is that acceptable? I would like to spend maybe five more minutes on this.

Speaker 1: I want clarification, because Nathan is on the board of the Human Rights Commission, and I have heard that he is no longer on the board.

Chairperson: That Nathan is not the vice chairperson.

Speaker 2: The members are the ultimate owners of the organization.

Speaker 3: This is timely advice. We were acting on rumors. We should leave it to the board.

Speaker 4: The constitution is very silent to such scenarios. We might need to get back to that chapter.

Speaker 5: Who is superior? The board, or the AGM?

Speaker 6: We have a competent board, and we are going to have elections. Let’s leave it to the new board to come up with something, and if they fail, they can come back to the AGM.

Board Member: Thank you, chair. The board looked at this situation, and you have heard our position. Let’s resolve it, because it has ongoing implications, some financial. We may have to call another general meeting.

Nathan: I agree with what the legal minds have said. It would be sad for a human rights organization to ignore a constitution.

Speaker 7: This is a very contentious issue, and I am not convinced because you did not address it at all. Did you have a hidden agenda? Let us finish it today and afresh.

Speaker 8: We have a constitution. Let’s stand by it. The people we are dealing with are people who have dealt with legal issues. Maybe the vice chair will leave the seat. You can’t tell.

Speaker 9: I believe that an extraordinary meeting of the board was called, it should have been put on the AGM to consider. But since it was raised as a rumor by one of our members, we should throw it back to the board to consider, and then take their minds.

Legal Advisor: I know this is a contentious issue, and we would like to dispense with it today, but where there is a constitution, our hands are tied. There are three relevant positions that we have looked at. One of the most appropriate things to do would be for the Board to meet and vote on the matter. They would inform you at the next AGM. That is article 10. The other provision is to come from the board, and not from you as the AGM. It is a 2/3 majority of the board that must make a vote of no confidence. The board has the power to vote and then make a recommendation to the AGM. The constitution does not tell us what the AGM can do. We cannot say that you can vote on it, because the constitution does not say anything. Then, the other provision is for the members of the AGM to move a vote of no confidence by 2/3 of the board. But there must be notice at least one month in advance, and there was none.

Chairperson: It seems like there is consensus that the Board is being given the responsibility to go back and reconsider this issue. Number two, it also gives homework. My advice here is to think about this issue. This gives time for Nathan to resign or whatever. Sometimes, in the interest of an organization you say “let me do this” rather than going all the way to the supreme court. Is there anyone with a serious objection to our going back as a board to resolve this as Nathan thinks about this issue?

Speaker 10: As the legal advisor said, our hands are tied.

Chairperson: Thank you very much. We move on.


Maybe it was that same day, maybe it was a day or so later. I don't know. Time doesn't matter so much, here. Anyway, I was walking home, listening to the birds cry. I've mentioned the birds here, before. They are amazing. There are birds that look like crows, only maybe twice as large with white breasts. There are big black birds with plumage that turns into a rainbow when the light bounces just so, kind of like an oil spill over the midnight ocean. There are birds I think might be vultures, and others that look like herons, others that look like turkeys, and some that look like cranes. And of course, there are the massive man-sized birds that I can't name. I'll have to learn what they are, before I leave.

Anyway, I pay a lot of attention to their music because it is so different from what I hear at home. And as I was walking back to the hotel that particular night, the birds were really active. One in particular seemed insistant and close by. I finally realized it must be right next to my foot, so I looked down to see what kind of bird it was.

Turns out, it was the kind of bird that is a cat. A kitten, to be precise. Small little lonely thing, all black and brown patches with big, bright blue eyes. It must have been hungry, because it kept peeping these little "meep! meep!" sounds, and it was desperately trying to reach me. That's what I'd mistaken for bird song; the creature was still too small to sound like an actual cat. I was separated from the kitten by a trench about two feet wide, and the little thing was getting ready to pounce across just to snuggle up to me. There was no way it would have made the leap, so I stepped over to it, instead. It kept mewing and padded over to my legs. I didn't know what to do. The kitten was adorable, but a thousand red flags went off in my head at once. I'm allergic to cats. Having an allergy attack here would be bad. Christine says people with cat allergies don't react to kittens, but I've never tested that theory before. And it probably had fleas. It definitely had ear mites and mange. But it was still the cutest thing in the world. Couldn't I pick it up and take it to the vet? Its eyes were bright blue; I've never seen blue eyes on a cat like that. Maybe the color of kittens' eyes change as they age. This was certainly a tiny creature; it could fit into my palm. Maybe it had just opened its eyes.

But where was its mother? I looked around and couldn't see anything. I had no way of knowing whose house it came from, or where its litter was. I had nothing to feed it with, and no way of knowing what to feed a kitten. And are there vetrinarians in Uganda? There must be, because people rely so much on their cattle. All the same, though, I don't know any. And even if there are vets, is there medicine? For a kitten?

The cat kept approaching me, and I lowered my computer case so it would have something other than me to caress. I knew if I touched it once, I was a goner. Oh, not like I'd die or anything (Mom told me not to touch any animals; rabies is a problem in Uganda and I'm not vaccinated!), but if I touched the kitten I would for sure pick it up, cradle it like it wanted to be cradled, and take it home. I'd probably feed it and let it get its fleas all over my hotel room, and wind up killing it because I don't know how to take care of such a young cat. It would probably be better off with its own mother. But how to help it find its mother? I didn't even know how to scoop it up so I could bring it to the homes in the area. Someone would have claimed it, right?

As I'm thinking all of these things, the cat saunters over to my computer case and starts rubbing all over it, reaching up and stretching out its little claws to hook into the bag, trying to climb up toward my face. It was so adorable, I bent over and almost started petting it with a finger. Almost. Then I realized -- what am I doing? I can't take care of a cat! I don't know how. And what am I going to do, take it to Gulu with me? Import it back to the United States? There is a pet store not far from where I'm staying, but the only time I looked in, all I could see was a desk and bare walls. I think it's a place you order animals to be bred for you; it's definitely not PetSmart.

So I let logic take over. I straightened up, and walked away from the kitten. "Mew!" went the little voice behind me, and I looked over my shoulder to see this tiny, indignant face. It was as if the cat were trying to rationalize how, with all that cuteness, I could possibly leave it behind.

"I'm sorry, kitten," I said. "I can't take care of you." And I walked away. Not the easiest thing I've ever done. I hope it found its home.

Mulago Hospital

There is a woman named Joyce who works for the Human Rights Network in the same office where the UCICC is located. I'd seen her once or twice and taken her picture, but that's all. Anyway, at one point John Francis and I were editing our new web site, and Joyce came up and announced, "John, I am leaving. I know you won't come with me, so I am taking her, instead." And she pointed to me. "You will come with me, right?"

"Uh, sure," I said. I've been learning to roll with the punches, here. People say they will do something, then don't. Or they say they'll be at such and such a place at a certain time, and they show up hours later. In the same fashion, they will suddenly tell me that I am in charge of something two seconds before I am supposed to have the task completed. I am learning to stay calm and just expect that kind of instant responsibility. Thank goodness for my newsroom training: I am used to making snap decisions under tight deadlines, and it helps in an environment like this.

Anyway, I'm here to serve these people's needs, so if someone wants me to go for a ride, I'll do it. I obediently followed Joyce to her car.

Yeah, so this ride was interesting. Joyce is a nice lady, but a horrible driver. As much as I've said that I never want to drive in Uganda, I'd be more willing to get behind the wheel than ride with Joyce again. And that is saying a lot, because even in the United States I'm a pretty horrible driver. Of course, I didn't know she was a bad driver until I was already in the car. At that point, it was the best I could do to look unphased. I watched the road as closely as possible and tried to calm myself with conversation. "So where are we going?" I asked.

"To visit my friend in the hospital," Joyce answered. "He was in a car accident."


Mulago hospital is the biggest hospital in Uganda. I hope it's not the nicest. When we got in there, there were gnats everywhere. Some flies, too. Paint was peeling off the walls, and the ratio of patients to personnel was ... overwhelming. People were on gurneys in the waiting room and in the halls. Most of the wards were common rooms; private rooms were reserved for the most serious cases. That's where Joyce's ex-boyfriend Augustine was staying.

I don't know how to evaluate Augustine's chances. When we saw him, he could barely speak above a whisper. Apparently he got into a car accident one day as he was coming back from his university (Augustine is just becoming a medical doctor) and sustained abdominal punctures which have subsequently become infected. He's on antibiotics but has needed a number of surgeries. One of his legs is broken, too. He has been in the hospital for three weeks, now. There aren't a lot of X-ray machines here; I don't think there are any CAT scanners or MRI devices or anything. Onyango has told me stories about people hit by shrapnel who nearly die of infection because no one can find the pieces embedded in the victim's flesh. Even western surgeons are afraid to operate without the necessary equipment.

There really isn't a convenient way to end an entry like this. I guess ultimately I just wish Augustine the best, and I have a heightened appreciation for the work John and Andrea are doing in Mali.


Coming here has surprised me with the realization that many of my personality quirks are, in fact, cultural habits I didn't know I had. There are things that I do that are somewhat uncommon in the United States that turn out to be completely appropriate, here. For example, some of my closer friends have pointed out that I am overeffusive in my affection. If I like someone, I tell them how pretty / handsome they are, I give hugs, I bring presents, I feed them, etc. A lot of Americans have told me I'm a pushover -- that I'm too nice, and people take advantage of me because of it. I come here, and instantly the women at work start telling me how beautiful I am. They hold my hand when they want to take me somewhere. We go on field trips together. They've brought me gifts, I've bought them food; we support one another. It's strange and wonderful, having affection so readily reflected. I really do trust these women, too. They seem completely sincere -- just like the children here are serious about playing, and the men, when they flirt, are about as subtle as a big rig wearing a tutu. People here seem very honest. Even the liars are obviously lying, it's like artifice is largely unpracticed. The ladies have started including me in their activities, and I love it. I feel almost like I belong somewhere.

Case in point: Early last week, Zam rushes into the board room where I'm fighting with my computer. "Would it bother you if we come in heah?" she asks, and then waves in a crowd of giggling women. Apparently, Zam's friend has come by to sell shoes. And what shoes! They all have spike heels that are at least three inches high. Name brands I couldn't repeat, but I remember Emily told me she used to sell them at Nordstrom's. Shiny shoes, glittery shoes, jeweled shoes, severe shoes, party shoes, zebra-print shoes, you name it. The shoe saleswoman brought them in two large canvas handbags, and the ladies from work started pulling them out and setting them on the table for examination. There was so much laughter!

"What about this one? Do you have it biggah?"

"Next time you bring shoes with no heels!"

"These ah all pawty shoes! Do you have any foah office?"

"I want to get those. But these ah good too, eh? Once you staht picking them, you can't stop!"

"Take both and pay me back latah."

I wished Emily were there. She would have gone bananas. It was such a cute little scene. Eventually, a young intern named Katuele picked out one pair of shoes she liked. All that work, and only one woman found anything she liked in her size. (The saleswoman brings many different styles, but only one size of each pair -- if you want a different size, you have to ask for it and wait until she comes back again.) Supposedly, we get the shoe sale sequel next week. I want to watch the purchasing ritual, just because it's cute seeing these women hug one another and squeal over the shoes like teenagers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Joseph Kony is dead

Another aside, as reported on the front page of Uganda tabloid Red Pepper:

Friday, 06 June 2008
The latest on Kony is that US Intelligence and government personnel are suggesting that the Juba peace talks be closed because the LRA rebel leader is no more. Sources close to UPDF in tracking Kony's communication have not tracked any correspondences either on radio or satellite communication. Information from within the LRA seems to suggest that he could have committed suicide in the same style as German dictator, Adolf Hitler.

Saturday, 07 June 2008
Kony in his will to his son he made it clear that when he dies, he should not be buried under the soil but be left above the ground as an Acholi hero. Kony had become so paranoid that he sent away all his 40 wives suspecting they would conspire to kill him. He had accused some of them of sleeping around with his deputy, Otti Vincent.

My response:
I wonder what Kony thinks about these headlines?
Someone still trusts U.S. intelligence?
Also, I love the relationship between large and small type, here. Eye-tracking studies in the U.S. have shown that many people only glance at headlines. Hm, their loss ...

Do you want matoke with that?

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to talk about food.

Anyone reading this knows me. I like to eat. Specifically, I like to eat cheeseburgers. It is as much an addiction for me as nicotine is for a smoker. Give me french fries, give me trans fats, and add a slice of cheesecake to top it all off.

Uganda is not a place for fast food.

There are signs here and there that advertise "fast foods," but all they really mean is that you will get the same goat meat, matoke, rice, beans, and potatoes that you'd find anywhere else more quickly because it's already been cooked. The local fare is pretty standard. You can swap out your goat meat for chicken (which I don't recommend, because the chickens here have tough skins and very little meat) or beef (which I also don't recommend, because the beef is tough and stringy). Some places offer fish, and I've found one restaurant in Karamoja that sells your goat-chicken-beef-fish selection drowned in ground nuts. However, you will still get beans, rice, matoke, and potatoes whether you like it or not. Maybe with a chapati.

A Culinary Glossary
matoke: cooked mashed bananas
chapati: a big doughy crepe without anything on it
ground nuts: seeds mashed into a stew that tastes vaguely like peanut butter without any sweetener

Matoke is definitely a favorite, here. The first time Jamira dragged me out of the house, she took me to this restaurant and asked, "Have you evah tryed matoke?" I shook my head no, and she insisted I try it. The next day I tried a new restaurant on my own. The waiter's English was so garbled, I finally gave up. "Just bring me anything. Food. Anything," I said. He brought me a plate with a small side of goat and an oversized helping of matoke. Mmm, thanks. The day after that, I ate lunch in Kampala with Onyango. Who ordered for me. Guess what he ordered?

There are days when I don't eat anything here at all. The idea of consuming one more bite of matoke makes me want to cry, so I drink a lot of juice and water and ignore food entirely. Most days I have one meal, and maybe a slice of bread with peanut butter at night. This is, by far, the least I have ever eaten since I threw out my lunches in high school, and I eat like a queen compared to most people.

I do allow myself one indulgence: one bottle of Fanta per day. I'm not sure why I developed this obsession with Fanta (I don't want Pepsi, or chocolate, or anything else Western -- just Fanta), but at the moment it is the most satisfying beverage in the world. Must have something to do with replacing electrolytes. The clerks at Quality, the supermarket around the corner from my hotel, all recognize me at this point. I pick up my Fanta and scuttle out of the store as they try to take me on weekend getaways. Their attempts at seduction are honest and simple, but they make me feel awkward. All the same, my Fanta is worth the trouble. I wonder if the stuff is addictive.

Despite the sugar habit, I'm glad Emily convinced me to get a tight suit back in the U.S. One and a half weeks after landing, and it's not so tight anymore. Jeans that fit just right before I left home are actually sliding off my butt, now. I'm going to have to buy a belt, and I might have to go shopping for smaller sizes when I get ready for interviews this fall. Not that shrinking makes me sad. Lord knows I let myself eat too much in the U.S.

People have no trouble telling me that, here. "You need to exercise your muscles," said John, today. "All you do is eat and sleep," Jamira told me two nights ago. They were both teasing, so I tried not to look completely abashed. I walk to work and back every day, and I doubt I'm consuming more than 2000 calories. If only they knew the difference.

Of course, when I say I only eat one meal a day that doesn't mean I'm suffering. All the local food is fresh and starchy. It probably has more vitamins than our processed junk in the U.S., and it definitely expands in the stomach. One small meal each afternoon is all I need to feel full for the rest of the night. I'm usually just starting to get hungry again when lunch rolls around the next day.

It's different for a lot of people here. Two nights ago, I dragged Jamira to downtown Kampala for dinner at a nice restaurant. She'd just mopped my floors and done my laundry, and aside from the payment I wanted to thank her for all her work. So we went to this posh hotel called the Grand Imperial, where a local band was singing American tunes (badly) and Zairian high life (excellently), and I bought us both a huge meal with incredible African tea for about $20. Most of the people at this restaurant were fat -- either rich Ugandans or foreigners like me. But when we finished dinner, I started walking home and was immediately confronted by children. I guess they come out at night to beg. These aren't like homeless people in the U.S., full-grown adults who could potentially hold jobs or fend for themselves. These are five- and six-year-olds, usually taking care of other kids, and clearly starving. Makes me feel bad about all the matoke I throw out.

You can't say no to the little ones. At least, I can't. There isn't any justifiable reason. It's not like I'm going to run out of money if I give them a few cents each. So I hand them a 500 shilling piece, which will buy at least two bananas, or a 5000 shilling bill if I have it on me -- that gets a nice meal at a local restaurant, or a loaf of bread at the supermarket. And I try not to think about going to the bank, yanking out a few hundred bucks, and just walking down Kampala Road giving handouts. I still have student loans to consider, you know?

Eating is complicated. Maybe I'll never feel right about it, no matter where I am in the world.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Getting around

The power died a lot, yesterday. No problem, really, except that I had to throw away my leftover goat meat (BOO) and I couldn't finish writing in the dark. Today is Akim's birthday. I hope my phone works enough to call him.

Jamira came over this morning with a bunch of gigantic, intensely sweet bananas and three newspapers: The Monitor, New Vision, and Red Pepper. The papers were really interesting. I'm taking them home. A lot of what we study is in their pages.

Since today is a public holiday, I think I'll venture out to town and have dinner somewhere. Jamira tells me there's someplace called Nando's on Kampala Road. Maybe I'll try that. She's also mentioned the Sheraton, Grand Imperial, Equatorial and some other spots. Those are supposed to be harder to find. I wish I could take Jamira to Buddakhan. Maybe if I go corporate, I'll buy her a trip the U.S. She's helped me so much, I want to pay her back. Maybe I could send her money for school.

What was I writing about, yesterday? Oh yeah, the boda boda. So I hop one to get to work in the morning, and when we stop I offer the driver 1,000 Uganda shillings (USH). I know this is too much. It costs 1,000 USH to take the taxi from Ntinda to Kampala. You go through several other neighborhoods to get there. A boda boda is more expensive, but not that much more. I probably owed the guy 500 USH. He doesn't neglect the opportunity to extort more, though.

"Why not make it 1,500 USH?" he asks.

I pause, grinning. "Because I'm only half mzungu."

The driver laughs so hard he almost knocks himself out of his seat, and he drives away, waving. Later that day, I took another boda from Kampala to Karamoja. The driver stopped in Kololo. "Here you are," he says.

"Uh, no." I argue. "I am supposed to be near a police station."

"How do you get there?" the driver asks, challenging me. Lost, I call Vincent, then hand the phone to the driver so he can get instructions. They talk for a minute in Luganda, then the driver gives the phone back. "You told me Kololo, but it's Karamoja. That's farther! 10,000 shillings."

I pretend to be upset. "I said Karamoja in the first place! I'll just find myself another boda." And I started walking away.

"No, no, come back, come back," the driver shouts, and I turn around.

"Five thousand," I demand. Little do I know, I have just stumbled upon the actual price of the ride.

"Make it seven thousand," he counters, and I grumble.

"Fine, but I'm still a mzungu." I think Ugandans are tickled by this, because the driver laughs his head off. When we finally get to the police station of Kiira Road in Karamoja (like I had directed in the first place), I gave the guy his 7,000 shillings. Then I held up another 500. "If the man on the phone had paid you, how much would you have gotten?"

The driver looks down at his pedals, but it doesn't take much coaxing to get the answer out of him. "5,000," he says.

I handed him the money and grinned. "That's what I thought."

The driver saw the laughter in my eyes and flashed me a big grin. "God bless you," he said, before scooting off. I really do have to learn the value of things.

Back to my day, today. I am way too shy. I go from my room and safe talks with Jamira straight to the internet cafe. I should go find some beautiful place to walk and see the wildlife. But just watching people seems adventure enough. Folks stare, and I grin like an idiot to make them feel comfortable, and they stare more. I am meeting people, though ...

Out of time, more later.

Clown cars and death matches

Today I hunted my office down. It took some effort. I called the agency and asked for directions, but of course didn't know any of the landmarks. Have I mentioned that street names are very irregularly posted? Anyway, I wound up jotting down the landmarks that the receptionist gave me, guessing at their spelling by her pronunciation -- not an easy feat when you're speaking with someone with a thick Lugandan accent. Then I went downstairs and wandered around the health club asking people where Old Kiira Road going toward Kyanbogo University might be. Nobody had ever heard of Kyanbogo (although ironically, I actually spelled that correctly). There were arguments concerning the location of Old Kiira Road. Eventually, the folks at the health club put me on a boda boda, gave the driver a lot of directions and gestures in Lugandan, and sent us off.

It was my first time on a boda. Have I explained these particular vehicles, yet? They are these tiny sticks of a motorcycle, more a scooter really, with an elongated back seat for extra passengers or baggage. Using them is kind of fun, but it's also like riding a Vespa with a death wish. Over potholes. In the rain. Without stoplights or helmets or seatbelts or handholds.

Don't tell Mom and Dad that I rode on a boda, and I promise never to take one again.

The other form of public transport that I've encountered is the matatu, which I've written about before. These vehicles are the size of a minivan and usually sit 12-15 people. A conductor sits by the door waving people in, and the car will stop roughly near your destination, wherever the driver sees fit. If one person in the back corner of the vehicle wants to get out, five or six people are displaced from their seats and might have to fight to get back on. And here's to hoping you can actually find your desitnation from the spot where the conductor drops you off.

Of course, locating yourself is no easier on a boda. I thought Philly cab drivers were nuts, but at least they know where they're going. No such luck in Kampala! If you can't tell your driver exactly how to get where you're going, they'll just take you somewhere and stop, then ask for more money. This might be because they're lost ... or maybe they just know that you are. Here's to being a stranger.

Negotiating prices is half the fun. Drivers will radically overcharge a mzungu. After all, we're rich. I have to explain to these Ugandans that the U.S. dollar is only half the value of a euro, and I'm a student so I don't have a lot of money in the first place. I tried to explain it to Jamira last night, I even went into details about student loans and how I'll be working to pay the money back for the rest of my life. She just looked at me as if she were thinking "a dollar is a dollar, you crazy mzungu." Oh well.

Uh. The power just died, and I'm writing in the dark ...

5/30 to 6/1 (continued)

Here are two other things that Africans value:

On touching down in Nairobi, I had my first exposure to NTV (Nairobi TV). It was airing an hour-long expose on marriage. How to do it, what to consider, its sanctity and value. There were guest speakers and questions from the viewing audience. It made some sense. The African (Banjul) Charter on Human and People's Rights gives States a mandate to protect the family unit. Article 18. So I was not surprised that when I reached Uganda, most locals that I spoke with who were my age were also married.

"Will people think I'm strange for being single?" I asked Vincent as we drove home from the airport.

"No," he replied. "We do not interfere with your personal business. But you will get proposals." And then he laughed and laughed and laughed until I about melted into the car seat.

At one point on the ride to Kampala, I started talking to Vincent about my Sudanese land project.

"Maybe I can help you with that," he said. "We are very much similar in Uganda, eh? More so than in the United States. You use money, yeah? But for us, money is not always good. If you have land, that is something to pass on to your children. That is the only way you are sure of wealth. Land is very important, and people get very, very excited about it."

(At this point writing in my journal, I fell asleep.)

The sun just came up. You should hear the birds outside! They almost sound like monkeys. Folks at the health club where I'm staying have already started blasting Afropop in the pool area outside my bathroom window. Heck, that started before the sun came up. Now I can hear car horns tooting, too. That's what they do, says Vincent. They don't honk, they toot. Cute.

(Another gap in time)

I tried to eat a little bit today, and it really made my stomach feel better. Asia came by and taught me how to take the matatu into Kampala. Now if I can figure out where the UCICC is, I'll be set. Sort of.

I need a few things. A purse. Better walking shoes. And most of all, a wedding band. A guy today on the matatu wanted to take me out. I said I didn't have the time, but he literally followed me home. It was creepy. I hid for a while in the ladies' room downstairs in the gym, but he waited outside for a long time. Asia finally told him off. So as of now, I have decided that I am officially married.

Michael, darling, do you remember where we took our honeymoon? (Ahem, I hope you're not mortally offended that I married you without asking your permission.) By the way, you might want to take some anger management classes, because your jealous streak has just become extremely violent. Just let me know if you want to move in to Ntinda. The flights aren't that bad, and I have a spare bed with a mosquito net and everything.


I have to get brave enough to go out on my own. It's just hard, trying to parse together the heavy English and explain everything I say. Conversations are repetitive and exhausting. Being outside is strange in itself. The clay earth turns into dust without rain, and the dust blows into every orifice. Sometimes it feels like my teeth are coated with it. And then when it rains, everything turns to slippery mud. So wears thin the veil of optimism. It's late and I'm hungry again, but I can't just go out and pick up a microwave dinner. I really don't want more bananas and bread. What will I feel like in six weeks? I have no friends here, little money, and only a thread of language. I think I'm going to go watch season three of Battlestar Galactica. Maybe that will make me feel better.

You know what I want? A Ugandan woman to be my friend. My banking problems resolved. Not to feel trapped behind a mosquito net, three locked doors and a guard with a rifle. Why do I always have to be the scared one? Why can't I be free-spirited and adventurous, like Professor Burke-White and Asia?

Well, I wanted to face my demons, and here they are. Just wish I could stop crapping long enough to stare them down.

(A day goes by.)

I prayed today for the first time in aeons. Seemed appropriate. I asked for a Ugandan friend -- a woman I would feel safe around. Then I proceeded to hide in my bedroom all day.

Around five p.m., the cleaning lady called from the door. "Hello! Are you there?" Jamira wanted to know why I hadn't come out of my room for three days, and whether I was bored. "You have to move about Uganda," she said, and she took me out tot he grocery store and sat with me for dinner. I bought food for both of us. Tried goat meat for the first time, and this cooked banana mush called mtoke. Darn fine stuff! And not just because I'm eating a meal a day.

Jamira and I talked about school and family and traveling and money. "Uganda is so poor!" she said. I respectfully disagree. It's true that there is no money here, but you have only to smell the grass at night after a rain, hear drums of the nightclubs down the streets, or watch the children run around laughing. This country is rich in land, spirit, and family in ways that put the USA to shame. Jamira thinks I'm nuts for saying so. Maybe I am.

Anyway, I'm thankful for the friend. I had a good evening walk, too. People wander up and down the streets, crowds cluster around plastic tables and swell out of bars. Feels like college nights in Hollywood, smells like jasmine.

I still haven't heard about my luggage.

Am reviewing material about the ICC before work tomorrow. Lord knows, with my sorry test performance in Public International Law, I need it. I feel like I understand this stuff well enough, though: the beginnings of formal international criminal proceedings at Nuremberg, the justifiable criticism that such trials represented victor's justice, the attempts to codify internationally criminal acts and subsequent penalties to avoid future critique, the advent of international criminal tribunals such as the Internantional Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribuna for Rwanda, their expense, the eventual signing and ratification of the Rome Statute, the U.S. abstention and fears, and the problems reconciling peace and justice.

I have read Kony's indictment. I know that the ICC has jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression. I know that the Coalition for the International Criminal Court was a lobbying force for the ICC, and now serves as a public educator and advocate. I'm honored to play the tiniest role.

What else should I learn? Besides how to get to work, of course. Sigh.

Random aside: I am journaling beneath my mosquito net right now and still can't kick the feeling that I am trapped inside a nylon stocking.

Quick aside

We have begun to receive our grades from last semester at school. Once again, the grade I am most proud of was for a class I barely understood. The course I excelled in throughout the semester, I got a horrible grade. So I'm taking a moment to vent. I don't understand what I'm doing wrong, but clearly, either the system does not reflect our skill, or everything I know about essay writing is wrong.

Either way, I hope employers are able to see through the lie that is my transcript. This summer and my seven years as a journalist have proved that I am not only professionally competent, but a quick learner and a strong asset to any team that I work with. So I've decided not to let grades bother me any more. I hereby vow to:

1. Continue working myself to exhaustion
2. Ignore my grades
3. Pursue my desires regardless of whether my transcript reflects my interests

I have a very clear purpose for entering the legal profession. I intend to follow it. Somehow, there will be a way.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

5/30 through 6/1

Well, I’m here. We’re off to a mixed start. I managed to get my flight to Nairobi rebooked at no extra cost. Score. Flew out here next to an international documentarian named Alex who was both friendly and fascinating. Slept and watched Om Shanti Om, an adorable Bollywood film about an aspiring actor and the superstar actress he loved. The flight itself was very comfortable.

Nairobi airport, however, is not so nice. I was bitten by … something. Trying not to panic about the expanding red mark on my leg. The flight was delayed, and when I got to Entebbe, one of my bags was gone – the one full of books for the human rights clinic. At least Entebbe Airport is more manageable than Nairobi and London. The floors are brand new, polished marble – fresh since last year. The terminal I was in was small, no endless halls, no getting lost. You just walk off the plane, stand in line for your visa, pick up your bags, walk ten paces to the lost baggage claim, and go through customs. Customs was fun; we got to examine my three remaining bags. Bag #1 was fine, but the bag with my toiletries, shoes and books had turned into a cesspool of goop. I was worried that would happen! Unfortunately I had to mix my luggage so that I could meet the weight limits, so before I left I made sure that everything was sealed, wrapped, and padded. What I didn’t account for was the TSA search. Some brilliant airport employee decided to take my shampoo out of a plastic bag, unscrew the cap, then replace the shampoo in my luggage without the cap on. The contents flowed everywhere, mixing with the red ink from the Target bags I had used to wrap our textbooks for Gulu. It ate through the plastic bags and canvas pockets, corroded my shoes, and gooped up the books. Incredible. The customs agent let me pass without going through that bag at all, that’s how nasty it was. And bag #3 had ripped open. I’ll have to get someone to repair it for me if I intend to bring it home. Hopefully I won’t have to – my goal is to come back with two bags or less. I should have more for other people than I have for myself.

Leaving the airport took my breath away. Entebbe is beautiful. So pristine! And very, very verdant – life erupts out of the ground like lava; shooting grasses, splayed vines, trees like rockets. The canopy that mushrooms out above it all is blue like the heart of a fire, and the cranes flying over Lake Victoria must be nearly as large as men.

And the people, you should see the people! Flawless skin nearly black, deep eyes, faces all determined angles, and sudden, lightning-white smiles. They are friendly in an uncanny way. Even the customs agent – I offered her my bag of Starburst, and she smiled and said, “Oh, I have to have your phone numbah!” I didn’t have my phone here in Uganda yet, but I gave her my e-mail address. I hope she writes.

This world is absolutely timeless. I mean that in many different ways, too. Flora and fauna seem prehistoric, neighborhoods are both modern and pre-industrial, and society itself has long since ditched its day planner. Witness the sunny California architecture of one lovely home: its giant windows, plastered walls, and tiled roof paired with goats chomping the grass in the front yard. Consider how friends who say “I will meet you at eleven” might arrive at one or two in the afternoon or even seven o’clock in the morning.

I’ve mentioned before that I booked my hotel room through a company called Avarts Housing Agency. The owner, Vincent, and his employee, Asia (pronounced ah-shuh), had promised to meet me at the airport. And indeed they did, poor things. My plane from Nairobi was an hour late getting off the tarmac because of some mechanical problem, and our landing was further delayed because there was no space on the runway. I was one of the last people off the plane, and so one of the last people to make it through immigration. Then I had to file a report for my lost baggage. I was about two and a half hours late getting out of the airport, and there were Vincent and Asia, bright smiles, happy to wait. “Oh, we expected that!” they said, and waived off the extra fee I offered them for their trouble.

They also weren’t angry when MoneyGram closed my account instead of transferring the hotel fee. Day one, and I have to scavenge up $1,150 somehow. I tried an ATM, but no luck. We went to a bank, and they turned me away. “No forane Visas heah, try Bahclay’s.” We go to Barclay’s. “Not this queue, you have to go to the forane bureau downstayuhs.” We go to the foreign bureau. “Do you have yoah passpoat?” No, sleep-deprived Maisha was stupid enough to forget it back in the car. (Cut me some credit, though. I had been in airports or in the air for more than 36 hours. I don’t even remember taking my passport bag off, but I must have been sweaty and dumped it in my duffel bag.) So we get the passport, wait in line at the foreign bureau again, where I finally offer up my Visa and passport.

“Sorry, yoah card has been declined.”

I turned around and walked out. It wasn’t until we were half way to my hotel in Ntinda that I realized I could have just tried my credit card instead of my debit card. Oh well. Next time.

I had a few shillings from the airport ATM – probably the transaction that triggered the account freeze – but certainly not enough to pay for my hotel stay. The landlord, Kawooya Kasule, was gracious enough to let me move in anyway. Before I leave, I have to buy that man a thank-you gift. I mean, technically I paid for four days’ stay with the $100 security deposit, but I still felt like I was living on Ugandan hospitality.

It is hard being somewhere with randomly limited services. This especially hit home during my first two days. The hotel that I’m staying at is actually a health club with some rooms over it. So I can visit the sauna and get a free massage, but there is no clock in my room and no satellite to adjust my cell phone, so for a day I wandered around with no bloody idea what time it was. I can have a “girl” do my laundry for the equivalent of $3 (the exchange rate is also mystifying – $1 is about 1650 shillings), but “doing the laundry” here involves rubbing it the clothes really hard and then pressing them with an iron. No washing machines. There is, however, a courtesy tub that the hotel owner left in my shower; I am supposed to take care of my unmentionables with that.

A few things I miss intensely. My internet connection, for one. I am a junkie – a complete addict. My student loans, signing up for classes, checking grades – I’m supposed to do all of that on the net. But there isn’t a connection at the health club, and I have yet to try the internet cafes. Even phone service is a problem. I bought a mobile phone, but there is a seven hour time difference between Uganda and Pennsylvania, and ten hours between Uganda and California. So it’s not like chatting with home is easy. Not to mention, I have a limited number of minutes on my prepaid card. They go fast if I call internationally, and the connection is spotty so I spend half the time repeating myself. My phone was the cheapest one available, this Nokia that’s so small I can cover the whole thing with my hand. I have to hold it up to my ear to hear, then move it down to my mouth and yell to communicate, and I accidentally cover the internal antenna even for a second the person on the other end of the line can’t hear. In other words, my phone is pretty much useless.

What I missed most immediately, though, was toilet paper. There wasn’t a square to spare in my little apartment. The holder was completely empty. And of course, I didn’t realize that until it was much, much too late. Kasule, the hotel manager, took a long time explaining the accommodations to me. He was very proud of the pool, and the billiards table, the step aerobics room, and the sauna. He showed me how to use the water heater, then the keys, and then he gave me a tour of my apartment naming every piece of furniture. My eyes were dry and I had no idea what to say to make him feel as though I was settled, and the more I nodded the more Kasule talked. He explained the cleaning services, told me about the people who were moving in to neighboring rooms, and then started describing how to get around the city. I thought it would never end. Eventually Asia saw me swaying on my feet and came to my rescue. “She has had a long flight, musei (old man – respectfully), let’s let her rest.” She took the man by the arm and practically dragged him down the stairs and out the padlocked gate that serves as my front door. I tottered into my room and collapsed on a bed. Then it hit me.

Malarone, my malaria medication, has been wreaking havoc on my intestinal system. It started in the United States, although I didn’t realize that until just recently. (I was sick in the supermarket parking lot at home; I thought it was just nerves, but now I’d guess otherwise.) As soon as I relaxed, it was like being punched in the gut and given an enema at the same time. I tried to ignore it, but I literally couldn’t contain myself. I dashed for the bathroom and erupted.

That’s when I realized that there was no toilet paper.

I panicked. I really, truly panicked. There were no towels here, no tissues, no toilet paper, not even a newspaper or a bunch of leaves. Nothing. And there was no way in the world that I could get up to dig through my bags. I won’t tell you the gory details about how I finally resolved the problem; let’s just say there is a certain shirt that has a new home in a Kampala dumpster.

After that, I slept for a good eighteen hours, waking up only to call Mom for help with my bank account and race to the bathroom. Fortunately I found some tissues in my medical bag (YAY!!!!!) on day two. I feel as though my body is expelling everything Western. Uganda is certainly the best diet I’ve ever had. Malarone works just like Alli, and I’m so afraid of eating, I didn’t touch food at all until this morning. Even today I’ll only risk simple carbs.

Other things that will take adjusting:

• I have to go outside the hotel room and flip a switch for hot water. When I’m done, I have to switch the water heater off. But “hot water” doesn’t mean anything remotely resembling warmth. “Hot” isn’t even lukewarm, just a half step above freezing.

• People carry rifles around here. A lot. Especially the soldiers. These men are helpful and friendly like anyone else.

• The beds have mosquito nets. The problem with these nets is that they trap mosquitoes in as much as they keep mosquitoes out.

• People begging on the streets are Live 8 Africa starving, not healthy like our U.S. transients.

• Muslims here really do stop working to pray five times per day, but those that I’ve met will also shake a woman’s hand.

• People here are nuts about football (soccer). As we were coming home from Entebbe airport, we got stuck behind a convoy of buses holding screaming fans. Everyone had on the same turquoise t-shirt, and they were all waving flags and trying to get us to honk. Other fans wove around the convoy on motor scooters – those must be the boda bodas I’ve heard about.

• Driving is insane. First of all, it’s on the left side of the road, like in England. Unfortunately, that is the only aspect that is like England. There are no traffic lights to speak of excepting a few in downtown Kampala, and subsequently there are no crosswalks. Emily should probably never come here; she would have nightmares trying to get around town. (For those of you who don’t know Emily’s story, she was hit by a truck while using a crosswalk. She flew thirty feet and rolled. According to Ems, morphine did nothing for the pain. She had to go through therapy, and she still has scars. So it’s understandable how much she hates jaywalking.) Emily has made quite the impression on my sense of traffic safety and I try to be careful on the streets, but it isn’t easy. The roads are narrow, walking space is limited, and drivers will swoop into opposing traffic lanes just to pass slow cars. Getting through intersections is a game of chicken, and it’s clear that the city planners never considered certain concepts like whether an incline is too steep for a puttering 20-year-old Toyota, or whether the angle of a turn might make oncoming traffic invisible. In other words, don’t drive in Kampala. If you have to hit the streets, put someone else behind the wheel so you can close your eyes and pray.

Nothing I’ve experienced so far seems unfamiliar – I consider all of these things eventualities in a trip to Africa, so I’m not complaining. It’s just odd feeling it happen to me, like living in a situation comedy that I’ve seen a dozen times.

Waking up left me completely disoriented. I checked in the mirror, and it looked like an ogre had been hitting me in the face with an iron club. And I smelled like rhino sweat. It was just foul. So I took a frigid shower, changed my clothes for the first time in at least 60 hours, and wandered outside asking people what time it was. I got a lot of bemused stares.

Folks really don’t know how to treat me, here. I’m noticing that more and more as time goes on. In Pennsylvania, most folks’ initial assumption is that I am African American (as in, I must venerate Tupac and have obviously forgotten my gold hoop earrings at home). Here they call me mzungu, which Asia says basically translates to “rich whitey naïve to the ways of the world.” I’ve always managed to defeat assumptions at home, and I’m sure I’ll do the same here. It’s just strange being seen as a black person among whites and a white person among blacks, an outsider no matter where I am in the world. It makes me feel all Langston Hughes inside:

My old man’s a white old man
And my old mother’s black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back
If ever I cursed my white old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I'm sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I’m gonna die,
Being neither white nor black.

But really it doesn’t matter. I’d feel foreign even if I looked exactly the same as everybody else. I just don’t know this place. Honestly, it’s a delight to learn. Take the economy, for instance. Shillings are the official monetary unit. But you can easily trade in other currencies. I don’t mean foreign currencies either; these alternatives are quite home-grown. For example, laughter is worth a lot of money. If you can make someone laugh, it won’t be half as hard to negotiate prices. People will charge you less just because they like you.

Optimism is another quality that has tangible value. Look at the individuals who have made it here, and they are the happy ones. Look at those who struggle, and they are sad. It’s not like rich people are wealthy, either. Folks that I’ve met so far come from very little money. Even Vincent, the housing agency owner, raised goats as a child. It is the ability to see good in anything that gives people the strength to endure. I’ve seen that in my dad, and I see it here.

Food is worth a lot, too. And water. Give anyone something to eat or drink, and they’ll bend over backwards for you. It’s the easy route to friendship. Music works in much the same fashion.

The oldest unit of trade is, of course, sex. Bat an eye and look pretty, and people will help you with anything. Asia is the master of this. Men carry her bags, they take her on all-expense-paid weekend vacations, they buy her drinks, and they give her rides in the middle of the night. She has these poor souls completely enthralled. I can understand why, despite missing Poland, Asia has stayed in Uganda for so long. All she has to do is point, and she can have anyone or anything she wants.

Money counts for something here, too, but it sure isn’t the country’s most valuable commodity. This is one thing we westerners have to understand as we come in with our NGOs. We just can’t go around restructuring local values to match ours, or assuming our own values will hold as a structure for business. It won’t work, and maybe the Africans have a better idea of how to value life.