Friday, July 28, 2006

nakasero, the department store

around the nakasero market is a pretty good shopping district. i don't mean a shopping district like chicago's magnificent mile or new york's meat packing district, but rather the place where ugandans go to shop in the city. narrow streets, even narrower alleyways, all lined with little mom&pop shops. it's like walking through a department store, but on a grander scale. picture sears - bed & bath, kitchen, mens, womens, kids, shoes, jewelry, auto, hardware. now picture the same thing, but instead of floors of a department store, you have streets in a city. the nakasero shopping district is divided up into distinct sections of shops that span several blocks, all dedicated to selling the exact same item. floor tiles or water faucets or cell phones or extension cords or shoes or watches. whatever the item is, there are umpteen shops within a 10 yard radius that are selling it. nakasero as the sears roebuck of uganda.

i don't understand the economics of how a shopowner survives in this kind of commercial set-up. if everyone's selling the same thing, how can there possibly be enough customers for everyone to be able to sell enough to break even each month? phil keeps saying that you often find home depot and menards right next to each other in the states. true. i'm sure there's millions of dollars invested into choosing the right retail location for stores on that scale, so there must be some science to it. but, i don't know...i'm still not convinced. my theory is that shoppers develop long-standing, generations-long relationships with shopowners. the relationship becomes more important than the item bought or sold.

last weekend, phil & i went to nakasero to buy fabric. the curtains in our apartment were atrocious - dull color, horrible pattern, way too long yet not wide enough - so we were out to buy african batik fabric to make new curtains. brightly colored, loudly patterned. we'd gotten vague directions on how to find the nakasero fabric district, which consisted of "get to the market, go down an alleyway, pass the tile section and the electronics section, then it'll be 1 of the streets around there." we followed the directions and sure enough, there was the fabric district. a couple of streets dedicated exclusively to selling fabric. floor-to-ceiling fabric everywhere, plus all the tailors you could need to sew that fabric for you. 1 alley was a line of sewing machines set up against the store's outside wall, each with a tailor - man, woman, young, old - sewing away.

the same friend who'd given us the directions told us that vendors would start the price for 6 yards of batik fabric at 25,000/=, but that 18,000/= was the reasonable price. phil & i pick out our 3 pieces of 6 yard apiece batik, ask the price. she says 25,000/=. i say 18,000/=. she says sold. we walk out with 18 yards of fabric for $30.

we opted for a tailor closer to home and found one in the bugolobi market right across the street from our apartment. we go into his 1-room shop armed with our fabric and curtain patterns (as designed by us) and he says, "i am francis. we specialize in making only curtains. only curtains." i guess we came to the right place. a day later we had our curtains and they make all the difference in the world for making the apartment more homey. tomorrow we're planning on going back to nakasero to buy more fabric - there's still some windows that need curtains. i imagine that we'll also be going back to francis. 101paige 101africa

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A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert M. Sapolsky

1 of the best books i've read in a while. as annbarry says, "hi-larious," but also touching & insightful.

this is the story of a wildlife biologist living in the field with his troop of baboons in kenya. but, sapolsky gives us more than that. the chapters switch from stories of the baboons - their personalities, habits, and his relationships with them - to his travels across east africa and various encounters with various africans. it's a coming-of-age story for a scientist, a baboon troop, and a kid in love with africa. so far, it's one of the better, more accurate accounts i've read about living in east africa. sapolsky isn't judgmental, just honest. okay, maybe he's a little judgmental, but i (mostly) agreed with his judgements so they didn't bother me.

the baboons take on lives of their own as characters in sapolsky's memoir and by the middle of the book i was laughing out loud at their adolescent, human-like antics as i recounted stories of their serengeti adventures to phil. the baboons alone make this book good. add to them a little travelogue, some scientific analysis, a bit of cultural anthropology, and a mix of colonial critique, self-reflection, and liberalism and this book is really good. ok, and i admit, the TB intrigued the public healther in me.101paige 101reviews

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book reviews by paige

i've always loved reading, but when i moved to seattle a year ago i became a crazy avid reader. probably 'cos phil wasn't around and i had lots of time to read at night after work. i found an awesome bookstore in seattle - queen anne books (top of queen anne hill on q.a. avenue, shares a building with an equally awesome coffee shop, el diablo) - and went on a book-reading kick. i'd go there weekly to buy a couple of books, have some coffee, pound out my masters thesis. it was also the location of 1 of phil & my best wedding-planning sprees. definitely a place i miss no longer living in seattle.

the staff at queen anne books is amazing...well read, good suggestions - when i asked for recommendations for books on africa, they emailed me a list of 20 books (fiction, nonfiction, name it). of the ones i've read, they've all been worthwhile.

anyway, after all this reading i got the notion of writing reviews. i've never written reviews before, so bear (bare?) with me. but, i figure, why not? maybe this will give you ideas of what and what not to read, insight on the literature of africa, or just be entertaining to hear me ramble about the books i read. so, there's a couple of reviews backdated in the blog - you can find them by clicking on the "reviews" category button to the right.

as i read more, i'll write more reviews. 1o1paige 101reviews

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

what is worse than walmart?

one of the best parts about moving was that it forced us to consolidate, simplify, get rid of all of our crap. our one-bedroom apartment wasn’t so big, but anytime you live someplace for 3 years, you manage to accumulate a lot of stuff you don’t really need. i had all four chicken little bobbleheads from frosted flakes. stuff like that. even though we didn’t really start packing for africa until a couple days before we left, we spent over a month making trips to the goodwill, shredding papers we didn’t need and throwing away anything that didn’t have an obvious home. we filled a 5x10 storage unit with all the stuff that we left behind. so the storage unit and the 8 bags we checked (at $190 per for the four extras) is everything we own. it felt good to know that i didn’t have anything that i didn’t want. sounds obvious, but try moving and you’ll see how much stuff you have that you don’t want.

sometimes you have to have Things, though. seemingly mostly related to kitchen and bath. we didn’t register for wedding gifts, but for the first time i can see why you’d want to if you were getting married and moving in together in a new place (that wasn’t in africa). anyway, the good feelings of inventory reduction only lasted until we walked into game. game is like walmart, but more than double the price and less than half the quality. i got so ornery that after so much work put in to getting rid of stuff, we were right back into it, spending money on plastic trash cans and crappy kitchen utensils. i had to get an extension cord so we could run the washing machine and it wasn’t until i got home that i realized that the grounding plug wasn’t actually connected to a grounding wire. the cord melted and blew our inverter and fridge. anyway.

the bright spot in buying items for making our new home (and i am very much a homemaker here) has been furniture shopping. every weekend we’ve been going back to the same man on the side of the road and ordering new items for pick-up the following week. so far we have a dining room table and chairs, two shelving units as well as two desks, a dresser and three more shelving units from a neighboring furniture maker (before we found our guy up the street).

“what kind of wood is this?” “african wood.” so, all our stuff is made of african wood. it’s beefy, simple and beautiful. we draw a picture of what we want and a week later there it is. the cash goes into the pocket of a guy with really rough hands. right where it should be. 101phil 101africa

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punctured tires

i came across an excerpt in a great book (thank you to ann barry!) that sums up everything about a subject to which i don’t feel like i’ve given proper justice. although the scene is somewhat different – blown tire in the african bush versus the uganda revenue authority in kampala – the gist is the same. rather than reinvent the wheel and attempt to be as eloquent, i thought it'd be easier just to excerpt it here. so, this is the story when interacting with any kind of service provider in Uganda...

driving out of the lodge through thorn bushes, i get my third puncture of the week. this is always a misery. first you go to the guy who repairs punctures. instead of being on the job at the lodge's gas station, he is back in the staff quarters somewhere, sleeping. head back there, go through the same interchange with the twenty different people you run into, namely first exchanging news with each about the health of their parents and my then reiterating that, no, actually i can't give you my hiking shoes, as i need them. tire repair guy is located, and after ninety minutes of easily distracted labor, he has fixed the puncture. he gives me a stub, which i take to the cashier at the other end of the lodge, who fills out a note saying "1 puncture, 40 shillings," which the other man signs, which allows me to pay the cashier - all a procedure to keep the mechanic from repairing things under the table and pocketing the money. the cashier goes on a search for scrap paper to calculate that i get 10 shillings back from my 50 shilling note, and i'm ready for the next step: taking the tire to the other end of camp, to find the man who operates the air hose. he, naturally, is drunk in the bar at 11:00am and, with some effort, explains that he would be happy to fill the tire, but his brother has the key to the shed in which the hose is kept, and he is on leave this week. bad luck. i express profound regret at the apparent need for me to now live in the lodge's gas station for the next week, and the man, seeing his cue, says maybe, just maybe, he could find another key, buy why don't i sell him my watch at the good american price? we settle for his receiving a button that says "Hollywood Bowl," and, satisfied, he turns his prodigious energies toward filling my tire, completing the task in a mere half hour. the man with the pressure gauge to determine whether the tire is filled properly is found easily, and quickly does the job, making me feel as if there might be some hope. the tire is underfilled, however. fed up, i decide to go with that, rather than track down Bwana Airhose again, he no doubt back at the bar trying to flog his Hollywood Bowl button for a drink.

-in A Primate's Memoir by Robert M. Sapolsky 101paige 101africa

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

electricity doesn't come from a light switch

the electricity here is only on every other day. it goes roughly from 6pm to 6pm. andrea, the italian who installed our inverter, has been here for 11 years and says that it is getting worse. initially it was only off for 3 hours a day. the current (ha!) format of day on/day off started abruptly in recent years when kenya went through a drought. apparently, all of lake victoria’s water comes in from kenya and exits via the nile in uganda, among others. anyway, the drought caused a nine meter drop in water level and occurred concurrently (ha!) with a proposed dam construction for power for uganda. so. not so much of the electricity.

back to the inverter. to have electricity on the off days you can either get a generator or an inverter. generators make noise and diesel fumes and diesel is $4.20 a gallon. you have to start the generator and turn it off manually. you know how when you read in bed and have to get up to walk the 5 feet to switch off the light switch on the wall? if that doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because you have a bedside lamp next to you for the specific purpose of not doing the above. imagine finishing reading and then having to get up to go outside behind the apartment to shut off the power. yeah. no.

an inverter is a box about the size of a coca cola fridge pack that is connected to the main power supply (with a serious on/off switch in between – the kind you would flip in the natural to get all the stadium lights to come on). the inverter is connected to six batteries each the size of three car batteries and each weighing 70 kilograms. you can get more batteries if you want and if you have the money. we got six to power the fridge and the lights but left the two water heaters out of the loop. so when the power is on the inverter draws power to charge the batteries. when the power goes off, the inverter sends all those watts, amps and volts right back out and other than a little flicker at the changeover, we never know the difference. it takes about 6 hours to charge the batteries in full, and other than the melting extension cord incident when we didn’t know the fuse was blown, we’ve never run out of power. 101phil 101africa

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Monday, July 24, 2006

a decade of birthdays

today's my 28th birthday.

i made a list of where i've been on my birthdays over the last 10 years...check it out...

19th birthday: brooks range, arctic national wildlife refuge, alaska
20th: paris
21st: dominican republic
22nd: waterworld, boise, ID
23rd: 6 flags great america, chicagoland, IL
24th: san francisco, 1/2 way thru 3-month all-north-america roadtrip with JWY
25th: fox lake, MN
26th: minnesota zoo
27th: san francisco zoo
28th: kampala, uganda

for a while there phil & i were on a waterpark/amusement park kick, then we switched over to the zoos. now, we're in africa.

i anticipate that 28's going to be a pretty good year. 101paige


the landcruiser

we finally got our new car!! it's a 1990 2-door manual diesel toyota landcruiser. it's pretty cute. it's a great combination of being a tough 4x4 africa car, yet small enough to make sense driving in the city.

we drove it home from the sunday pick-up game last night. no major mishaps, but considering you're driving on the wrong side of the ride, learning a new clutch, avoiding potholes the size of canyons...all at night with no street lights and not all the cars with all their headlights/taillights, it was a small miracle that we made it home okay. whew.

it's going to be really nice having a car after a month in the country without one. (soon it'll have a MIHV logo sticker on the door...or maybe a custom-made MIHV tire cover for the spare on the back?) 101paige 101africa

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site/blog progress update

there is worthwhile stuff to report every day (plenty!), but i've been spending most of my time putting together the web site and getting the blog up and running. once the foundation of the site is complete and i have time to type, you can look for daily updates. well, daily is optimistic but we're still in the early stages of life in africa and every experience is new, so it makes for good blogging.
check out my catalog of personal belongings now and expect to see more photo galleries from the last 2-3 years as i work on cataloging my images. we'll have plenty of info and photos from the wedding and we'll trick out the about us and africa pages with lots of stuff as well.
thanks for checking in and thanks for being patient for news from us. (although at the time of this writing i think only 4-5 people know this site exists :) we'll get the word out shortly. 101phil

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

i found candy!

there’s lots of chocolate here and i like chocolate fine, but i’m more into fruit candies. lemonheads. starbursts. mentos. sprees. sweetarts. mike and ikes. skittles. i make my own mix of jelly bellys at the mall. pineapple, tangerine, pink grapefruit, coconut, pina colada, lime, and margarita. if you need ideas for a care package…

there are no fruit candies in Uganda. but yesterday i found some! fruitella. they come in strawberry, orange and grape. and really pretty good. come individually wrapped in a roll about the size and shape of starbursts.

on a related note, i’ve found really good cashews at the payless across the street and they’re pretty cheap. also, pop is super cheap. everything in returnable glass bottles, and about 45 cents for a half litre of coke. perfect. 101phil 101africa

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Friday, July 21, 2006

dial 1-800-collect, Uganda-style

The digital world took Africa by storm. 10 years ago no one in Africa had a phone if they lived outside the city and made less than $10,000/year, which is pretty much 95% of the people in Africa. Enter digital technology. People don't have running water or electricity, but they have cell phones. Cellular technology let governments off the hook - now they didn't need to invest the loads of money necessary to build landline infrastructure (telephone poles, wires, etc). Instead, get a few satellites and towers around and everyone can enjoy the telecommunication revolution. Crazy thing is that for most Africans a cell phone is their first phone ever. Contrast that to the US. I remember when the first person got a cell phone at happened my senior year, 2000. She stuck out like a sore thumb - people thought she was a total poser. Who was she, all Miss Snotty Rich Girl walking around campus with a cell phone? 6 years changes a lot - I don't know too many Americans who are my contemporaries (late 20s) who own landlines, and all the Africans I know (even those who make $100/month) have cell phones.

So, anyway...

Buying a cell phone in Uganda is very different than in the US. In the US, we are locked into the plans offered by cellular companies and the phones that they attach to those plans. We buy the plan, then the phone comes with it. In Uganda, you can buy any phone anywhere. Then, you buy a SIM card, which gives you the phone number. A SIM card in Uganda is 7,000/= (approx $4), in Tanzania you can get a SIM card for $1. Then, you buy an airtime card and load minutes onto your phone. Basically, you put the pieces of the cell phone – physical handset, phone number (SIM card), and airtime – together yourself.

You can buy airtime cards virtually anywhere in the city...stores, petrol stations, street-side kiosks. They come in increments of 5,000/=, 10,000/=, 20,000/=, and 40,000/=. Maybe they go higher than that, but I haven't seen it yet. It's 1,000/= per minute to call Uganda to the States. Inter-Uganda calls are closer to...maybe 200/= per minute? You only pay airtime to call out from your phone. To receive calls it's free. And to send SMS (text) messages it's virtually nothing. So people spend all their time SMSing each other. I don't mind that trend actually 'cos then when you need information from someone, but don't want to talk to them or waste minutes going through the little niceties (Hi. How are you? I was wondering...) or whatever, you can just text them. Also, since it's cheap to SMS and free to receive calls, people without minutes on their phone text you asking you to call them. No money on their part and they still get to talk to you. It's Uganda's version of "dial 1-800-collect." 101paige 101africa 101ht

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

happy birthday, mom!

it's my mom's birthday today, so this is a shout out to her. i've always thought i was special 'cos my mom's birthday is july 20 and my birthday is july 24, which made me a late birthday present for her 28 years ago. she and i have celebrated our birthdays together for i'm kind of sad to not be with her today...but, mom, i hope you know that i'm not that far away. half way around the world suddenly becomes a lot smaller when you can just pick up the cell phone and call. 101paige


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

photo printing

we brought a portable printer with us to Africa. canon pixma ip90. it’s the size of a small but thick laptop and has a couple of sweet features.

one, like i said, it’s small. it easily fits into my little computer backpack with the laptop and a bunch of other flat stuff.

two, it prints fantastic photos, which was my necessary feature. i like the canon photo paper plus semi gloss. not such a fan of the gloss. the plus paper is $5 for 50 4x6 sheets which is a ton cheaper than the pro paper and looks just fine to me. and i’m picky.

three, and this is the kicker, we got the battery for the printer so it works when the power is off or we can bring it to the field where there is no electricity and take and print photos for the villagers. i can also connect my camera straight to the printer which I would never do here at home, but i probably don’t want to bring my laptop to the field and I can still take and print photos immediately.

the bureaucracy here loves to have a passport-sized photo with every form you fill out. there are a lot of forms to fill out here. so the printer has already paid off in the time saved from going to the photo shop to get a passport photo taken. 101phil 101africa

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Monday, July 17, 2006

my first flavor of African bureaucracy

For my first 2 weeks in Kampala I have spent almost all of my working-time figuring out the logistics associated with starting a HQ office in Uganda’s capital. MIHV has been working in the field in Uganda for about 15 years, yet we’ve never had a formal HQ office in Kampala. One of my main tasks is to be MIHV’s official representative in the capital. I’m talking about establishing an office from the ground up – buying the office furniture & supplies, installing a reliable source of electricity, buying a car, buying a cell phone, renting a postal box so mail can be delivered, opening a bank account. All of this seems mundane and straightforward, but throw these tasks into the context of Africa and suddenly everything changes. 2 ½ weeks of solid work later and I’m still trying to accomplish some of these tasks. The reasons? Multiple.

First, there’s Africa time. Everything takes just a little bit longer – okay, sometimes even hours or days longer. Maybe it’s the lack of computers, electricity, money. Maybe it’s the slower pace of life and laid back attitude toward time. Whatever it is, always bring a book. That’s my first lesson learned. I already knew it, but now I know it even better.

Second, there’s the bureaucracy. No one ever telling you everything you need the first time you ask. Too many handwritten ledgers. Money paid here, there, who knows for what. Sit and wait. Talk to another man that’s on a power-kick because he’s in a government position stamping some random document that somehow lends credibility and validity to a meaningless piece of paper. Sit and wait. Repeat process. Again.

Case in point #1: it took 4 trips to the bank before I finally had a list of all necessary documents needed to open a bank account.

Case in point #2: my adventures navigating the government system. Last Friday, I spent the afternoon at Uganda’s Company Registrar’s Office trying to “certify” some MIHV business documents. I had already been there the day before and was crossing my fingers that this time I had everything I needed. I got to the registrar, he directed me to a bank downtown where I paid 45,000/= (about $25) to the Uganda Revenue Authority, got a receipt, returned to the registrar, he told me to come back in 3 ½ hours and maybe he’d be able to finish up the process. So far, I have spent the day before plus 3 hours trying to get a man to stamp some pieces of paper. I told him I was fine just sitting and waiting until he felt he had the time to address my concerns. Our conversation…

What do you have to do to certify these documents? You just stamp them and sign your name, correct?

(grunts) Yes.

Are you sure you can’t do that now while I sit here and wait?

Do you see all of these papers that I have to deal with? (points to a haphazardly stacked, disorganized pile of papers, reports, files)

That’s fine…I’ll wait. (I continue sitting directly in front of his desk watching him work)

(Gruffly removes reports from the top of the stack and randomly opens pages to stamp. Stamp, stamp, stamp. Sign, sign, sign. No rhyme or reason. Every once in a while shouts someone’s name to retrieve more reports for him to stamp.)

30 minutes later...after some conversation about his home village, his family, and MIHV’s field sites…

I can take care of your documents now. (Flips through the pages of the documents, stamps wherever he feels necessary, scribbles a signature, hands me the “certified” papers.)

Thank you.

Case in point #3: Phil & I went to Entebbe airport to get our lost luggage, spent 4 hours in an empty airport trying to jump through all the necessary hoops to get to the other side of security (go over here, go over there, stand in line, patiently wait while an “official” man meticulously catalogs names in a handwritten ledger, receive a random laminated visitors pass, then go through security the wrong way anyway to get to baggage claim), and still walked away with 1 less bag than we checked at MSP.

The most amazing thing about it all, though, is I’m learning to be patient. Anyone who knows me well knows that “patient” is definitely not part of my demeanor. I don’t know…they say that Africa can change a person…maybe it’s already working on me. 101africa 101paige

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Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

(Ok, so not all of the books I’m reading are about Africa…)

If you’re looking for the same formulaic plot as The Da Vinci Code, look no further than Angels & Demons. The back cover of the book claims: “discover the world of The Da Vinci Code with the book that started it all.” More accurately it should read: “discover the world of Dan Brown as he writes the same book over and over again.”

Sure Angels & Demons is entertaining to read, but the number of plot twists is sickening and Dan Brown’s ability to leave you hanging at the end of his 1-page chapters is excruciatingly annoying. I’d rather feel compelled to continue reading because I’m actually intrigued by how the plot is unfolding, rather than feel forced to continue by an author who seems incapable of ­­­­writing more than 2 pages of text before jumping to the next plot twist and entirely capable of compartmentalizing his novel into a multitude of short, vacuous chapters (hello…page 62 is already chapter 20). And the number of flashbacks – argh! There were at least 3 characters – Langdon, Maximillian Kohler, Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca, Vittoria Vetra – who had some pivotal experience around age 10-12 that continued to influence them in adulthood and who had to flashback to said experience at some point in the Angels & Demons narrative. It definitely got old.

Angles & Demons introduces Robert Langdon as the crime-solving, world-religion-saving Harvard symbologist. I wasn’t really taken by Langdon or the uncanny number of times he survived near-death experiences. Sure, his ability to solve puzzles is admirable, but being a puzzle-solver will only get a man so far. Plus, his relationship with Vittoria Vetra seemed somewhat canned.

The good friend who recommended Angels & Demons to me said that, according to her sister who is a professional art curator, it is more artistically and historically accurate than The Da Vinci Code. Not knowing anything about art history, I’ll have to give it that. In my opinion, if you’ve read one Dan Brown novel, you’ve read them all. Pick whichever one strikes you as the most interesting, read it, and then be done with Dan Brown. 101paige 101reviews

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

it's ok to eat regular food

it’s interesting moving somewhere as opposed to vacationing there. other than three months in bend, oregon i’ve never lived outside of minnesota. i’ve traveled plenty, though, and for the most part i’m very conscious of trying to get the most of the local scene – trying to not take the easy route of going to the places that cater to tourists or americans, more specifically. so when i got here i was immediately in the mode of doing as the ugandans do.

there’s a huge market across the street and as well as all the fresh fruit, vegetables and meat sold there, the vendors set up their fires and make food for lunch and dinner. they cook meat and fish, rice and beans, and ever-present matooke, a starchy mash of green bananas steamed under a mat of banana plant leaves. it has the consistency of sweet potatos and tastes kind of neutral heavy. i wanted to go to the market every day and eat a big meal for next to nothing. one for the cost savings and two because of how uneasy i felt when i would walk into an italian or indian restaurant and see all the other white people. i always feel like a sell-out when i eat typically western foods while i’m in a foreign country.

the problem was that i didn’t like the ugandan food. so this was going to be a long couple years. but then i had a bit of an epiphany brought on by the neighborhood that we lived in mpls. there’s a restaurant called tariq on stevens and franklin and the little parking lot is always filled with taxis and the tables are always filled with somali immigrants. same with the ethiopian restaurants. same with the taquerias in the mexican neighborhoods. same with all the ethnic grocery stores… i never thought twice about that at the time. of course they hang out in those restaurants and grocery stores, that’s what they grew up with, that’s who they are. i never looked at them askance and thought that these nationals couldn’t hack American food and had to retreat to what was comfortable. you pick good ethnic restaurants based on the ethnicity of the clientele. but you never walk in there looking at the family from saigon thinking “what are you doing in a vietnamese restaurant? shouldn’t you be at perkins?”

i’m clearly not in the same shoes as the mexican and eastern african immigrants in mpls, but i do live in a foreign country so i guess it seems reasonable that it’s ok to go the amazing restaurants close by that serve food that i’m more comfortable with. but i’m still thinking that i need a shirt that says “i’m not selling out, i live here.” 101phil 101africa

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

how to make phone call

when paige was here in march, i was in sweden and norway. i needed a phone there, and when i was setting up international calling on our account, i noticed that our phones’ GSM frequencies weren’t available in east africa. paige’s phone didn’t work here or in tanzania, so that in fact turned out to be true.

when we moved here, it didn’t occur to me to try out our phones, so it wasn’t until after paige had bought a local phone that i decided to turn on my phone to give it a try. actually, i think i was just turning it on to check somebody’s contact info that i had stored and saw that i had full bars of coverage and thought to try making a call. pressed the speed dial key for mom’s studio, and sure enough the phone rang. cool. mom not in today, driving around lake superior.

i knew the phone was locked to cingular but i decided to try a local sim card in it just in case… no go. i tried placing a call and got the “phone restricted” message on the screen. so now it was time to figure out how to unlock the phone. the only reason i knew that cell phones are locked in the first place was because on eBay the auctions make a big deal out of a phone being unlocked. A+++++!!!!! Motorola Razr **UNLOCKED** (not Anna Kournikova, Manolo Blahnik, ipod) anyway, that kind of thing. so after what should have been about a minute and a half of google time but was actually 45 minutes internet café time, i found a site where you enter your phone’s 15-digit IMEI# and it spits out a code to type in that removes all its restrictions.
the site gives you seven lines of codes. apparently you’re best off using the 7th one. i used the first one the first time but i could only receive calls and could neither send nor receive texts. then used the 7th and all was good.
press the # key
press the * key three times to get p
press the * key four times for w
press the * key two times for +
then you enter the code they give you followed by + and the number of the line of code you used (in our case number 7)
press the # key
paige’s unlock code looked like this #pw+106514321302201+7#
press send.

so now we’re both using our phones from home and we’ll keep the extra phone to give to friends who come to visit. (so come visit) 101phil 101ht 101africa

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Monday, July 03, 2006

ultimate Uganda

When Phil & I told people we were moving to Africa, invariably their first reaction was: there isn’t much Ultimate in Uganda, huh? A reaction only topped in frequency by people saying to Phil: not too much snow for skiing in Uganda, huh? Well, yesterday I played Ultimate in Uganda. So, still no snow, but there is Ultimate.

For those who are interested, there’s a pick-up game every Sunday night 5-7pm on the rugby pitch behind the Game at Lugogo Mall. The pitch is tucked back behind all of the soccer fields. People show up around 5 to start throwing and the game usually gets started around 5:45 or 6 with people trickling in all the way until 7. Don’t worry about footwear – cleats, running shoes, and barefoot all qualify. Even though we had the space to set up a regulation size field, we played on a field that was probably 50 yards x 30 yards with 10 yard endzones. I guess it’s a Ugandan Ultimate tradition to play with 10 yard endzones regardless of field size or space.

Last night we had 21 people playing. Can you believe it? 21 people…we don’t even get that many players to organized summer practices for some club teams in the States. I went expecting all ex-pats, but was happy to see that more than half of those playing were actually Ugandans: 1 teenage girl (so cool!), 1 player from the Ugandan national rugby team, 2 12-year-old boys, 3 former basketball players, plus a couple of obvious athletes who’ve found their way to the game some way or another. Throws were good, field organization somewhat chaotic, and athletic ability pretty high. The dump and the force aren’t really known strategies, but it isn’t an amoeba offense. By the end of the game I’d felt like I’d played Ultimate and felt good about it.

I went to the game somewhat sheepishly because when I spoke to Queenie (the guy who organizes the games) on the phone he mentioned that I shouldn’t worry about skill level or how much I’d played because the game was welcome to all levels of experience. I was afraid of showing up to the game as that all-too-well-known pompous college/club player that acts as the know-it-all at Tuesday pick-up and tries to show everyone “how it’s really done.” So, I tried to find something non-Ultimate-y to wear…do I not own any athletic clothes that don’t shout Ultimate? In the end I settled on my Flo (Edmonton/Calgary…Kier help me out here…women’s team) jersey – it doesn’t actually say Ultimate or frisbee or team or anything on it, so I thought it was a safe bet. Not totally safe, as it turned out.

There were 2 ex-pat college players at the game, one plays at Davidson and the other at University College London. They were entertaining and obviously in the beginning stages of their Ultimate obsessions talking about the most competitive games they’d ever watched – Columbus college nationals and Paganello finals, respectively – and all the cool tournaments they’d played in. You know that habit of 1-upping each other that newly introduced Ultimate players have? Yep, it was like that.

Anyway, I was standing on the sidelines with the Davidson kid and he said it looked like I’d been playing for a while. Following is our conversation, as best I can remember it…

Your husband plays, too?
Yes, but he’s at home tonight recuperating from the last couple of days.
Who does he play for?
That’s…a…­nationals team. (mouth agape)
Do you play for a club team too?
I played for Riot last season.
Seattle Riot? (mouth even further agape)
Have I seen you on UltiVillage? (uttered in a whisper of amazement)
Maybe, I don’t know.
Where’d your husband go to college?
(speechless) Where’d you go to college?
(eyes wide) Wow.

The psuedo-celebrity that happens in the ultimate community has always been funny to me. We play in this really small community and your "status" is based on what team you play for, where you went to college, the tournaments you've won. I'd love for some anthropology scholar to do research on the ultimate community...investigate the social structure, hierarchies, status levels, mating circles... 101paige 101ultimate

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