Friday, June 30, 2006

equator living and the solstice

i should have remembered this from our trip to peru a couple years ago. i normally have an instant sense of direction, even in new places. but after looking at a city map of where we are, i’m realizing that i’m a little turned around. so then it dawns (ha!) on me – the sun rises in the east and heads north as it travels west. it was the same in peru in the southern hemisphere. astute geographers will note that i am not in the southern hemisphere – kampala is about 30km north of the equator. but astute astronomers will inform those geographers about the orbit of the earth around the sun and what goes on with that 23 degree tilt of the axis.

i am neither an astute geographer nor astronomer so you can correct my reasoning here. we got here a week after the solstice, leaving minneapolis and its 45 degree north latitude. subtracting the 23 degrees that the northern hemisphere tilts toward the sun during the day, minneapolis was somewhere between 22 and 23 degrees north of the virtual equator. my own made-up name. on the solstice, the sun is directly over the tropic of cancer at noon. anyway, when we arrived here at the equator, with the southern hemisphere’s 23 degree tilt away from the sun, we were somewhere between 22 and 23 degrees south of the virtual equator. more simply put, because minneapolis and kampala are the same distance from the tropic of cancer, on the summer solstice the sun ascends to the same height in the sky. except the sun is to the south in minneapolis and to the north in kampala.

it was also interesting traveling on the solstice because we went from the longest day of the year at 16 hours to one of the shortest day here. granted, at the equator it doesn’t change much from june to december, but the change from minneapolis was pretty dramatic. 101phil 101africa

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

kampala on foot

Like I said last night, today’s task was to buy a cell phone, which involved a 45 minute walk across town to the Lugogo shopping mall. Lugogo Mall has

  • 1 Shoprite (equivalent to a cross between Walgreen’s & Safeway),
  • 1 Game (equivalent to Wal-Mart),
  • 4 Ugandan cell phone companies: MTN, CelTel, Uganda Telecom, Simba Telecom,
  • 2 branches of major banks: Barclay’s, Standard Chartered, and
  • 1 Banana Boat (one of Kampala’s only classic, artsy-touristy stores).

Needless to say, it’s a gathering place for ex-pats. We didn’t buy anything other than the cell phone, but at least we now know where to go if we ever need anything.

Today reminded me a lot of one of the first days I lived in Chicago. It was (probably) the first Saturday that I lived there – I still didn’t know a soul in the city and still heavily relied on my trusty map to get me around. It was the day of the annual Air & Water Show and I’d heard that the best place to see the planes was at North Beach. I still hadn’t reached my love affair stage with public transportation – I was only months out of college having lived in small town Minnesota my whole life…public transportation, huh? – so I decided to hoof it to North Beach. I lived more or less at the Addison & Damen intersection at the time. If you know anything about Chicago geography you know that it’s a hike from there to North Beach. It took me a good 1 ½-2 hours to get there, my feet hurt, and I missed the air show, but in the end I learned more about the city and its layout and its character in an afternoon than I could’ve expected. The same happened today. After the Lugogo Mall, Phil & I decided to seek out a satellite radio (we can’t live long without our NPR). Little did we know that we were heading out on a wild goose chase that would take us all afternoon and all over the city. We walked and walked and walked, got a ride from a nice woman who told us we now have a Ugandan family, and I don’t think once talked to someone who actually knew what a satellite radio is. But, by the time we got home, we had essentially circumnavigated the city and had learned more about the city, its layout, and its character today than we could've expected when we woke up this morning.

I think it sunk in today that we’re actually here…in Africa. It’s unfamiliar with unfamiliar faces. That’s why our new friends Majo & Luc came into our lives just at the right time. They’re a young thirtysomething Belgian couple with a 1-year old daughter who live across the way from us in the same complex. They invited us over for drinks and we stayed chatting for over 3 hours. They were super helpful with tons of suggestions on how to get things done – buying a car, hooking up the internet, getting electricity – and really friendly. It felt good to be social and to know there are people who have the answers to all the questions we have. 101paige 101africa

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

our first day

Our first day in Kampala is just about done – for all intents and purposes, even though it's only 9 o'clock-ish, the day is done. Being on the equator, the sun rises at 7am and sets at 7pm pretty much year round. It’s 9:15pm and it’s black outside. We’re coming from the northern part of the world where the sun is rising early (5:30ish) and setting late (9:30ish) because it’s just days after the summer solstice. Subtract the extra sunlight and subtract electricity (we moved into our apartment today on the 24-hour electricity hiatus that happens every other day here) and suddenly our days are done at 9 o’clock. I’m not complaining, though – it’s kind of apropos to read the 25-year HIV/AIDS commemorative issue of the American Journal of Public Health by candlelight in Africa. Plus, Phil & I agreed that when we finally got to Africa we were going to live on Africa-time. After the whirlwind of activity that has been our lives for the last 6 months – get engaged, accept job offer in Africa, move from Seattle to Mpls, go to Africa for a month, coach Syzygy, get married, move to Africa – we’re ready to welcome a more relaxed lifestyle. Which isn’t to say the last 6 months haven’t been absolutely amazing (we wouldn’t change a thing!), it’s just that we’re ready for a break.

We started cleaning out our apartment and packing for Africa Monday, June 12, the week after our wedding, and we left for Africa the morning of Monday, June 26. Exactly 14 days of packing, preparing, storing, moving, packing, cleaning out…non-stop. 6 trips to the Goodwill plus a bunch of donated furniture to the woman who moved into our apartment. A 5x10 storage unit in downtown Mpls – organized, but packed to capacity. Yet, we were awake for 28 hours straight by the time we boarded our plane at MSP.

There’s a 70-pound limit on all checked luggage – soon to be changed to 50 pounds by British Airways, maybe other airlines to follow? We checked 8 bags at MSP, 3 of which scraped by the 70-pound limit by about 2-3 pounds each. We didn’t weigh anything before going to the airport, so there’s no question we got lucky. Granted our luggage luck has since run out considering not a one of the 8 bags we checked made its way to Kampala. Who knows if any of it’ll show up? Our lives are in those bags, but oh well, there’s nothing in there that’s not irreplaceable. Thank goodness. So far it’s been a minor inconvenience – we’ve been wearing the same clothes for 2 ½ days now – which could become bigger if we have to start from scratch, but we were kind of looking forward to a less materialistic lifestyle here anyway. So, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise?

Anyway, throughout the whole luggage adventure in Entebbe (Uganda’s airport city, about 40 km from Kampala), I looked over at Phil and we both laughed and smiled. Here we were having lost all of our material possessions and it didn’t matter because we were together and we were smiling. I knew then (as I know day after day) that I married the right man.

Total door-to-door travel time Minneapolis to Kampala was 40 hours. A number that could be decreased if you subtract our 12 hour layover in London Heathrow, and a number that could have been much worse if it wasn’t for our Club World business class seats on our British Airways flight Chicago O’Hare to Heathrow. Wow – business class is definitely all it is cracked up to be…fully reclining seats, food cooked by a chef, personal televisions, etc. We were much happier people because of it when we landed in London.

Our apartment is pretty amazing – a 2 bedroom, 2 bath first-floor flat in a "compound" in the Kampala neighborhood, Bugolobi. I say compound 'cos there’s a swimming pool, garden/park space, resident German Shephard, 3 small apartment buildings and 3-4 houses...all in the same complex. When you walk through the entrance gate it’s obvious that you’re in a mini ex-pat community. It’s somewhat of a haven from the “real” Africa outside, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe after a while we’ll appreciate having a quieter, more American/European environment to escape to? Or, maybe we’ll resent the separation we feel from the Africans living around us?

As far as conveniently located, though, the apartment is awesome. All within 100 yards of our apartment: internet café, grocery store, market, restaurant/bar showing the World Cup games.

Tomorrow’s task: buy a cell phone. 101paige 101africa

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