21 February 2011

Vote, Rocked

As pretty much all of our northern neighbors -- South Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and on up to Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon, Iran, and, hell, even Belgium just set a record for the longest time a country's been without an official government, and back to Africa now to stampedes in Mali, and of course there's always Somalia, oh, and it's not just north, now we can go south too, to Zimbabwe, where people were arrested for watching Al Jazeera videos of the protests in all of those other countries --  are overthrowing (or attempting to overthrow) their collective or respective governments, the election here ended up pretty much the same way I said it was going the other day.

Quiet, slow, orderly, mostly peaceful, and rigged (depending on who you ask).
Here's another NYT article on the whole process.

When I went to the polling station near my house around 4.00 or so, it was empty except for the workers, everybody either having marked their ballots already or been driven home by the wind storm that whipped dust and garbage into cyclones up and down the street earlier in the afternoon.

But the results are out, Museveni won with around 68% of the votes.

His victory was "categorically rejected" by the opposition on the basis of widespread ballot tampering, bribing and intimidation of voters.

And now we'll just be waiting -- to see what the opposition decides to do, and to see what happens next.

18 February 2011

Rock the Vote

It's finally here, after months of build-up and speculation and yellow NRM t-shirts and pickup trucks with massive speakers driving around endlessly blasting ear splitting music: election day.

So far, so quiet, which means so far, so good. I just spoke with my neighbor who'd just returned from voting in town. He said the line was long, but orderly, and that seems to be the case around the country.

Here's an article from the New York Times with a short background on the election, current president Yoweri Museveni and his twenty-five (and counting?) year time in power and his ridiculous hat, and why Uganda probably won't turn into Egypt in the next few days.

"On Friday, Mr. Museveni, a close American ally whose relatively small nation gets hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid, faces re-election, seeking his fifth consecutive stint as president. By all measures — polls, diplomatic analyses, even taxi-driver talk — he is expected to win.
But while Uganda shares many of the same, combustible conditions that have fueled popular uprisings in the Arab world — grinding poverty, masses of jobless, students glued to Facebook and a leader who refuses to step down after more than two decades in power — few here expect widespread upheaval."

That's the gist of the article, and probably how the election's going to turn out, for better or worse -- but mostly likely for more of the same.

16 February 2011

Six Months Update

As of last week, I've been in Uganda for six months.

Does that sound insane to anyone else?

And, I know what you're thinking, because I'm thinking it too: Just what, exactly, have I been doing this whole time? So here's just a little update with a bunch of random things from the last half-year. Which might, somehow, answer that question (although I can tell you now that the answer is either Not a whole lot, you lazy jerk, or, That's a lot of cool stuff, you lazy jerk, depending on how much you like me).

Places in Uganda I've been: Wakiso. Kampala. Gulu. Pader. Entebbe. Ngora. Kumi. Soroti. Ngai. Mbale. Masindi. Lira. Budadiri. Jinja. Iganga.

Books that I've read: 21 (and a half) -- but I won't list them all. My favorites though: 1 Let the Great World Spin. 2 White Teeth. 3 A Fraction of the Whole. 4 The Satanic Verses. 5a Interpreter of Maladies. 5b A Fine Balance. 5c The Lizard Cage. And I reread You Shall Know Our Velocity! before giving it as a birthday present, but that's in a category of its own.

Most played songs (of the last six months) on my iTunes: 1 "Knotty Pine" by Dirty Projectors & David Byrne. 2 "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" by Talking Heads. 3 "Fools" by The Dodos. 4 "Romance is Boring" by Los Campesinos!. 5 "Surprise Hotel" by Fools Gold.

Things that I'd never done before these last six months: 1 --------. 2 --------. (Censored. You'll just have to ask me in person if you want to know what these ones are. Gotta get you guys to talk to me somehow.) 3 Seen a pineapple plant. 4 Danced until 4am. 5 Eaten offals (surprisingly good!).
6 Eaten chicken gizzards (unsurprisingly terrible!). 7 Eaten jackfruit, passionfruit, liver, matooke, and drank ajon (all surprisingly or unsurprisingly mediocre!). 8 --------. (Again: ask if you need to know.) 9 Waited out a thunderstorm inside a mud hut. 10 Been in one country abroad for this long. 11 Been out of the States for this long at one time. 12 Hand-washed a whole load of laundry (and then started paying someone to do it for me). 13 Seen the heads of cows, recently removed from their bodies, lying in the dirt on the street, and the head of a goat, recently removed from its body, nailed to a tree by the ear. 14 Seen birds the size of the maribou storks. 15 Scored goals in a soccer game (and yeah, ok, sure it was against tiny orphan children, but I still feel good about it, ok?). 16 Seen so many guns so often and so casually. 17 Thought brownies could taste so good.
18 Killed so many cockroaches. 19 Heard the footsteps of thousands of termites. 20 Seen over a dozen cockroaches crawl out of the hole of the pit latrine to crawl around the floor at my feet and up the walls by my head. 21 Seen, up close, the effects of a recent war. 22 Used a machete, for any reason, or, more specifically, to chop up bricks into smaller bricks. 23 Thought insects could taste as good as fried termites. 24 Stood ankle-deep in the Nile River and watched the sunrise.
25 Celebrated Christmas and rang in the New Year in Africa. 26 Had a baby named after me.
27 Had to chase away goats so they didn't eat the laundry. 28 Seen mob-justice in action (though, fortunately, not with fatal results; which is a story to come soon). 29 Had a crowd of forty-ish kids in the village come just to look at me and mistake me for Wayne Rooney. 30 Gotten water from a borehole (which is another story to come soon).  31 Seen so many boobs much breastfeeding.
32 Ridden twelve hours in six taxis across almost an entire country in one day to see the people I like the most.

In the manuals the Peace Corps gave us for our Phase II assignments (that we completed the first three months at site), one suggestion was that, since the first few weeks at site can be stressful, we should make a list of all the things here that make us happy. I read that, laughed at how cheesy it sounded, and then did it anyway, not out of stress but out of just the fact that it was something to do one afternoon when there was nothing else to do. Here are some of those things: 1 Walking home with the sun setting in my eyes and the acrid smell of the smoke from cooking fires in my nose and kids running along by my side. 2 Cheese, brownies, real coffee, pizza (all at the same time even, I don't even care!). 3 Two dicks, vertical (--that one's just for you, Dan). 4 Pineapple trees. 5 The sound of heavy rain on my tin roof. 6 Lightning in the distance at night when it's not raining and it colors the clouds purple-black. 7 Open-back lorries packed with cows with curving, pointed, three-foot long horns. 8 Traveling: the hours of stories when I'm sitting next to a friend on the bus, or spacing out while staring out the window, buying meat on a stick when the bus or the taxi stops, and knowing that I'm on my way to see people I like or on my way home feeling refreshed and ready to work after spending time with those same people. 9 Telling people my name and having them understand me. 10 When a new person in town, who I haven't introduced myself to, somehow, one random day, knows my name. 11 The guy with the upside-down bicycle who pedals backwards to sharpen knives and machetes on the wheel, sending sparks flying, orange and bright. 12 Old women riding bicycles in traditional dresses, garishly and synthetically colored, with conical shoulder-pads. 13 The goats that, for some reason, love standing on top of four foot high anthills. 14 Falling asleep crammed into the backseat of a taxi with three other adults and three little kids and having it be the best nap I've gotten in months (because when you wake up and realize your head was resting on a stranger's head, you've taken napping to a whole 'nother level). 15 Cows, five feet from my door, cutting the grass. 16 Free mangoes. 17 Lying in bed, early morning, while monkeys climb the walls (outside, un?fortunately) and jump on the roof. 18 Sitting outside, early morning, with samosas and coffee for breakfast. 19 Packages from home. 20 Finding good, fulfilling, challenging work, which, really, just means feeling useful, or, at least, good, fulfilled, and challenged.

So there ya go. Six months. All right there in just a couple paragraphs.

I guess that answers that question.