Wednesday, August 30, 2006

drama in the field

i was in the field the last 2 days (left 6:30am monday, back at 10pm tuesday, worked 29 hours in 2 days...exhausting) doing my regular supervisory visits of the field staff and program activities. MIHV works with a local drama troupe to stage drama shows educating community members on particular health messages. the jury (in my opinion) is still out on whether these drama shows produce results, but people do come en masse. sister and i went to a show yesterday staged in an extremely remote section of ssembabule district and 150-200 people showed up. even if i question the chosen method of message delivery, i have to admit all is not lost if we're talking to that many people.

me, sister, and the actors sat in the middle of a dusty field (ostensibly a soccer pitch with it's rickety goal posts) as the troupe drummed & danced calling in the village members. people streamed onto the field from all corners...out of the banana fields, from the roads, from their homes...and they just kept coming. maybe the mzungu was an additional attraction to the drumming? to my dismay, i was the guest of honor, so i was placed right in the middle of the crowd next to the village chairman. no blending into the background there.

ever been in a place where you knew with 100% confidence that there was no one within 50km that looked like you? that was me yesterday. the sole white person sitting among a sea of black. no wonder the little kids on the side of the road jump up & down, point, and yell with excitement "mzungu! how are you?" when we drive by.

ps. i just checked out the wikipedia definition of mzungu. uncannily similar to my statement above. huh. 101paige 101africa 101iph

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

english as a second language

english is the official language of uganda, but not really. english is only spoken between two ugandans when there is a native english speaker (read: ex-pat) close by, and the english that is spoken could be a foreign language as far as i can tell. first, it's british english. second, the accent's so strong, who knows what's going on sometimes.

good old colonialism really did a number on uganda. like most of colonial africa, they did not create "uganda, the nation" along ethnic lines. rather, the colonists created an arbritrary nation according to their conveniences. consequently, uganda encompasses many unrelated ethnic groups, and has borders that cut across many other related ethnic groups. end result: uganda is an ethnic mix with its divisions strongly marked linguistically.

they say in uganda that you can go 15 kilometers in any direction and you'll find a different language spoken than where you are now. as one bantu near fort portal said, "i am bantu and he is bantu. i can hear his language, but i cannot speak his language."

peace corps volunteers have it easy. they can't get far on their bicycles, so chances are they won't pass outside the 15 km radius. so, they get their 3 months of intensive language instruction and off they go. for those of us who travel more around the country (e.g. MIHV's programs are in 3 separate districts - 2 in the southwest, 1 in the far northwest), the language barrier is a bit more challenging. if you assume 2 languages per district, then at minimum i'll encounter 6 languages just in my work-related travel. it makes me feel as if learning a local language is least 5/6 of the people i encounter won't know what i'm saying. but, i'm so used to being able to communicate (i've done all of my 3rd world travel in latin america and speak spanish fluently), that i'm going to try anyway.

i've picked up some luganda words (thank you, how are you, okay, goodbye, sir, madam)...just enough to make people laugh with appreciation when i speak. funny thing is i still haven't figured out how to say hello. i guess hello is a complicated exchange of greetings based on time of day, how long it's been since you saw each other, your relationship, etc etc etc. huh? maybe i'll be in over my head, but what the hell. you only live in uganda once. so, i'm going to start taking 1-on-1 luganda lessons. i'll let you know when i figure out "hello." 101paige 101africa

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

who's who in global health

supposedly grad school is the place to network, find a job. i networked pretty well, yet somehow i made it through grad school without any idea of the big players on the international public health scene. sure, there was a guest lecturer in my "working in global health" course who had a lot of suggestions on how to find a job internationally, but he never actually said who there was to work for.

so, if you want to work in global health, here's some of the organizations to check out (beware, this is a community of acronyms). i guarantee you this list isn't exhaustive and i admit it reflects my current bias by being heavily weighted toward NGO/non-profit, but it is a place to start. if you don't mind religious affiliations, there's also
sorry, but i didn't take the time to list them by areas of interest (e.g. family planning/reproductive health (FP/RH), malaria, integrated management of childhood illness (IMCI), HIV/AIDS, nutrition, maternal & child health, environmental health), but you'll figure it out pretty quickly once you look at their websites.

fyi: if you want to do international health work without living overseas, it'll be challenging to find a job outside of new york or DC. i got lucky by finding MIHV in minneapolis. there's also a few in seattle and san francisco. 101paige 101iph

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taxes on foreign-earned income

one of the biggest benefits of international work is no u.s. taxes, or at least no taxes on the first $80,000 of income. it took me a while to figure it all out, but i think i've got it straight now. if you're interested in the nuts & bolts, read on.**

the best reference is "tax guide for u.s. citizens & resident aliens living abroad." it's long and written in legalese, but it's got all the fine print you'll need to make sure that you don't owe thousands of dollars in back-taxes when you return to the states.

to qualify for exclusions on your foreign-earned income, your tax home must be in a foreign country. according to the IRS, "your tax home is the general area of your main place of business, employment, or post of duty, regardless of where you maintain your family home." if you work abroad, your tax home is whatever country you live in, so your tax home is in a foreign country, and you qualify. but, wait. it's not that simple.

to exclude your foreign-earned income, you either have to satisfy the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test.

(1) bona fide residence test: you meet the bona fide residence test if you are a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year. this doesn't mean you just live in a country for a year's time. rather, you have to establish residence. i.e. you have a residence visa. this isn't me, and i imagine it's not most people working in international aid. so, on to test #2.

(2) physical presence test: you meet the physical presence test if you are physically present in a foreign country or countries 330 full days during a period of 12 consecutive months. the days do not have to be consecutive, nor do the 12 months have to start/end in january. the rules regulating how you count the 330 days, how you can overlap the 12 month intervals, etc are complicated, so definitely consult someone more qualified than me to make sure you don't get screwed.

i don't satisfy either test, yet, but i will eventually satisfy the physical presence test. staying out of the u.s. 330 days a year means that i will save thousands of dollars in taxes. yowza.

now that i know i can exclude my income, does that mean i keep paying taxes, then recover them when i file in april? no. if you can reasonably be expected to exclude wages earned abroad under either the foreign-earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion (doesn't pertain to me, so i don't know anything about this exclusion), then your employer does not need to withhould u.s. income tax from those wages. beware, though, your employer can't simply stop withholding taxes. to legally withhold taxes, you need to complete a form 673. don't give your completed form 673 to the IRS, give it directly to your employer. once your employer receives the form 673, they can stop withholding your federal taxes.

finally, even though you've qualified to exclude your foreign-earned income, you still have to file a tax return. just accompany your 1040 or 1040EZ with form 2555 or form 2555EZ, respectively.

re: state taxes. if you don't live in any state, you are not a resident of any state, so you don't owe state taxes to anyone. 101paige 101ht 101iph

**disclaimer: this is not legal advice. this is what i've learned first-hand, and by no means am i a tax attorney. if you use this information without doing your own research, you do so at your own risk.

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(thanks go to trish for reminding me that this topic is still interesting to those at home)

a week into living here, the caretaker knocked on our door asking us if we wanted a cleaning lady. we said no. we were aware it was standard practice for ex-pats to have servants, but we hadn't warmed to the idea ourselves. neither of us felt comfortable having a servant...servants are for the rich & hauty, white colonials. not for us. but, then we were asked again. and again. it felt like everyday someone was asking us if we'd hired househelp (the african term), yet. it quickly became that we felt more uncomfortable not hiring help. it was as if everyone was staring at the new couple in town, saying "who do they think they are not hiring help?"

employing househelp is almost an inescapable part of life in uganda, as evidenced by the steady stream of questioning upon our arrival here. domestic work, as a cook, housecleaner, gardener, nanny, is an essential part of the ugandan economy and one of the few areas of employment available to many ugandans. the payscale is not high according to western standards, but it's a living here. we pay less than $20/week for all the cooking and cleaning we need. $20 is less than a dinner for 2 at a restaurant in the states, and we ate out at least 1x a week at home. remove the dinner out a week on our end, add in a week's salary to support a family on their end, and we have a good deal.

after some weeks of procrastinating, we decided it was more beneficial to hire someone and be a good employer, than it was malevolent to have servants. so, we forayed into the househelp world by hiring margaret for a month. we had no clue where to start, but margaret's a go-getter, so she just took control and taught us how it's done. she cooked, she cleaned, she shopped, and, after her month was up, we were sold.

thankfully we found barbara and her sister, sarah, to replace margaret. barbara, our cook, came to us on a recommendation from seth & leila. sarah, our housecleaner, came to us on a recommendation from barbara. barbara comes 3x a week, sarah 2x a week. they're a-maz-ing.

we bought several cookbooks for barbara (pasta, the food & cooking of mexico, vegetarian gourmet, 50 great curries of india, cooking for 2). each monday we pick out the menu for that week from the various cookbooks, she goes shopping to buy whatever ingredients are needed, and we eat well for the rest of the week. everything is freshly homemade: pasta, tomato sauce, tortillas, bagels, passionfruit juice. samples of our meals...
  • tortelli with pumpkin stuffing
  • chicken fajitas
  • chicken & cashew nuts in black curry spices
this week she brought her own cookbook that has an entire section dedicated to breads. she told me to pick out whatever bread i wanted. i did. that night for dinner we had fresh baguettes with our homemade chicken noodle soup. yummy. :)

sarah does an impeccable job and makes our apartment spotless, which is especially impressive considering the red dust that covers everything here. the two of them together add a liveliness to the apartment that i'm really going to appreciate now that phil's gone. talking, laughing, radio-playing...activity.

trish had a great suggestion about getting barbara to teach me how to make some traditional african foods. i hadn't thought of that, but it's brilliant. slight problem is that there aren't too many ugandan foods that anybody would be excited about eating at home (e.g. steamed/boiled plantain banana mash, aka matooke). there are some tasty items, though, so not all is lost. plus, maybe she can teach me some luganda along the way. 101paige 101africa

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

a small operation

tonight i fly back to minneapolis to join sub zero for the fall ultimate season. so this morning was my last run with peter. about 15 minutes into our run, we were moving along a stretch of road that was full of parked trucks so there wasn't space along the shoulder. peter was on the road side of the trucks but i took the other side (next to the kampala equivalent of a garden center; basically a wide open lot full of plants, trees, etc. for sale) because it looked like the gravel along the shoulder continued next to a row of planted seedlings.

yeah. so. that gravel path and the row of planted seedlings was ringed by an ankle-high string of barbed wire. it either wasn't complete or i miraculously stepped over the first line because i made it in to the rectangle, but i sure didn't make it out. at least not upright.

the wire caught my ankle and i was instantly on the ground, but hey, at least with good lay-out form. arms up, land on your chest, all that. unfortunately my left palm found something sharp in the dusty bed of gravel because when i popped up there was a canyon staring back at me. i told peter, "this is bad." so we turned around and ran the 15 minutes home with him apologizing the whole time and me feeling bad that he felt bad.

as it turns out, people do stare at the white guy running down the side of the road when he's holding his hand up and there's blood everywhere.

after getting home, i spent the next half hour or so washing with surgical scrub from paige's brother and trying to dig out the dirt. we were thinking of closing the cut with 3M steristrips and just getting stitches when i got back to the US on sunday. but once we could better see how deep it was and how impossible it was to really clean it, we decided to see the professionals. our neighbor and friend astrid gave us a recommendation for the good clinic, so off we went.

we walked in, paige wrote my name and address on their sign-in sheet, and after putting down a 60,000 shilling deposit, the doctor called me in. if you've seen babe (the movie about the sheep pig) she (the doc) reminded me a lot of the farmers wife. jolly, roly poly, sweaty. the latter being less surprising after learning that she was here for two months on a rotation from sweden. not quite as hot up there. she and the cute finnish nurse were pleasantly all business and appear to have done a stellar job on my hand. so 9 stitches and 45 minutes after leaving home, we were out the door.
101phil 101africa
cost for stitches, antibiotics and pain killers was 70,000 shillings = $38 USD. last time i had stitches, four above my eye, the fairview urgent care bill (not including drugs) was over $400. and i was in and out the door in 2+ hours.

if you don't mind a little blood, paige's pics from the trip to the doctor are here.

afterward: now that it's been a couple hours, my wrist is starting to hurt. i definitely hit it in a place that's easy to break one of those little hand/wrist bones. i'm not that worried about it, but it leads in to a good suggestion from astrid that neither paige nor i had thought of. she said to get an x-ray here; it would cost 20,000 ($11 USD) and i could just bring the film home for my radiologist friend to look at. i don't have time because i leave for the airport in two hours, but a good idea that could save me a couple hundred dollars. so all in all a very stress-free first medical experience.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006


a few things that i've forgotten to relay over the course of my being here.

we flew club world on british air from chicago to heathrow on our way over here. it was ridiculous. and by ridiculous i mean it was amazing. yours for only 8K round trip.

the wireless mouse for my laptop works as a remote control. we don't have a tv, so we watch dvds on my flat screen monitor. we can sit on the bed with the screen on the dresser and do all the controls with the mouse.

there's a picture up in the first africa gallery, but if you like words more than pictures... my first time at sunday evening ultimate, i ran into a carleton classmate. seth roomed with one of my best friends on 3rd nourse and i was on 4th our freshman year. huge dose of small worlditis, though maybe not that random when you think about the probability that there is a carleton alum at just about every international ultimate pick up game. he and wife leila (carleton '95) and new son jibril (sp? hope that's close) were here for 2-3 years but moved back home shortly after we got here. leila worked for the IRC and seth was working on his PhD from yale.

check out my new gallery index page on post-it notes featured prominently in my catalog work at gear west, and here they are again. tell me if you like the look.

all the links on this post are brought to you by sethypooh who seems to post using nothing but links. 101phil



exercising has been a bit of an adventure here in kampala but it's actually been quite a bit more stress-free than i imagined. we have a pool, and although i am the world's worst swimmer, it didn't take long before i could put in a half hour of laps. and my knee thanks me for any non-impact activity that i can do. bicycling is absolutely not an option for me. i'm leery enough of wide-shouldered roads in the US. here it is a whole nother* level. pot holes, washed out shoulders that were still there this morning before the rain, bicycles with their crazy cargos, and the traffic...forgetaboutit. so running it is.

i was not excited about my first trip out, imagining the stares and the pointing. i despise being the center of attention.** so it was a pleasant surprise, and almost disarming, when the locals hardly paid me any mind at all. if i had been here longer before i started running i probably wouldn't have been so surprised. people are very laid back and have better things to do with their day than be surprised by the white guy running down the road.

i started off by running on the railroad tracks, since i was still terrified by the traffic and hadn't gotten used to it's being on the wrong side of the road. and i would probably still be going back and forth on the railroad tracks if it weren't for peter. peter was a regular taxi driver for us before we got our car. he told me that he was a boxer and that he went jogging a lot. i told him that i had just been running that morning and that we could go jogging together sometime. the next saturday, paige and i wondered what her phone was doing ringing at 7am. twice. it turns out it was peter looking to go for a jog, and we haven't missed a wknd morning since.

he kicks my ass. through the hypoxia, i have gotten to know a lot of the city, especially the hills. locals are happy to point out all the hills of kampala, and peter points them out to me by making me sprint up them. then we do exercises at the top. cool boxer exercises. i'm a lot more comfortable dealing with the unique hazards of the road, now, but i still maintain a healthy degree of vigilance because it wouldn't be fair to paige if i got pummeled by a speeding taxi.

i'm starting to get to know some of the boxers, and plan on doing some photo stories of their training and competition. the first few pics of them are up in today's new photo gallery. i'm having a hard time convincing them that i'm more interested in taking pictures of them than learning how to box. i'm almost as good a boxer as a swimmer.
101phil 101africa
*i think that this should be correct usage and should be included in real dictionaries. someone get on that. i have heard NPR employees say this, and that's all the proof i need.

**in situations were you're supposed to get attention, then i'm all for it. i'm all about participating in sports for the glory of success. but i prefer to be fairly anonomous about the rest of it. oh wait, i have a web site and a blog. damn.

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fort portal & kibale forest n.p.

phil & i just returned from a weekend trip to fort portal. fort portal's one of the centers of activity on the western border of uganda. from there you can get to several really good national parks (kibale forest, semliki), semliki wildlife reserve, bigodi wetland sanctuary, the crater lakes region, and the rwenzori mountains. the fort portal area is beautiful, and the drive alone from kampala to fort portal makes the trip worthwhile - the drive takes you through wetlands, bedrock outcroppings, open savannah, hills, canopies of trees.

it's a 4.5 hour drive west of kampala on 1 of the nicest roads i've seen yet in uganda. okay, so the first 30 km outside of kampala are pretty sketch (i.e. paved, but not really paved because the pavement is crumbling away yet people still drive on it like it's paved), but then once you hit mityana the roads are so civilized you'll have to blink twice to convince yourself that you're not in the states. paved, no potholes, wide enough shoulders, white lines, yellow dotted lines, barriers on the sharp turns. thank goodness, otherwise the drive to fort portal would be excruciatingly long considering it takes an hour to drive 40km on the normal poor-quality roads that are characteristic of "up-country" (aka "anywhere that is not kampala") uganda.

we decided to spend most of our time at kibale forest national park, which is 40km from fort portal. we'd read that kibale was the place to see primates and they weren't kidding. in 3 days we saw chimpanzees, olive baboons, black & white colubus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and (we think) red colubus monkeys. in other words, kibale forest national park = primate heaven.

we stayed at kanyanchu rest camp in kibale, which is home to the kanyanchu chimp troop. we set out at 8 o'clock in the morning with a ranger guide (elson) and 3 other visitors to track the troop through the forest. the guides know where the chimps slept the night before, so they usually have an idea where to start in the mornings to find them. the UWA (uganda wildlife authority) regulates how many people can be in the forest tracking the chimps at a time, so it was just the 6 of us plus a PhD researcher and her UWA escort that tracked this particular group on this morning. (there was another group of 6 somewhere on the other side of the forest, presumably.) it took only about 30 minutes of hiking before we heard the typical, well-known pant-hooting of the chimps. they are loud, no question about it. after another 5 minutes or so we saw our first chimp. he was sitting high in a fig tree eating his breakfast...he looked at us so patiently from his high perch. seeing the chimps in the morning meant that initially we got to see them eating in the trees, then eventually they all came down to the ground to rest and socialize. watching them come down from the trees and walk casually by was one of the highlights. another highlight was watching the process of 9 chimps walking in single file through the forest. we spent an hour following them, sitting and watching, and getting surprisingly close. wow.

the chimps at kanyanchu have been habituated to human contact meaning that researchers and UWA rangers have spent a lot of time getting the chimps comfortable around humans, not so that they can become in-the-wild zoo exhibits, but so they can be relaxed while there are researchers and tourists around them. the chimps at kibale and the gorillas at bwindi have done a lot for the tourist industry in uganda, thus a lot for ugandans, since tourism brings in dollars and dollars equate to development, education, health, you name it.

kanyanchu is a beautiful place to stay. our first night there we got lucky enough to stay in the treehouse. the treehouse overlooks "elephant wallow" where elephants come to water during the wet season. we didn't see any elephants, but we did see their footprints. think dinosaur, then you get an idea of how big these footprints were. even without the elephants, though, the wallow was a beautiful site from high in the treehouse. the treehouse was really secluded from the rest of the camp, but interestingly in africa the further you get away from people & civilization the louder it gets at night, not the quieter. the sun goes down and the insects, frogs, birds, animals start up.

our 2nd day in the fort portal area we went to the amabere caves. the caves are nice (nothing compared to some of the caves in the u.s., like kartchner caverns in arizona) with a refreshing waterfall, but even nicer was the hike we took with our guide, edward, around the crater lakes. it was a 2.5 hour hike up into the hills and gave us great views of everything around. i highly recommend doing the hike, then staying at the guesthouse on the premises. 2 people stay for 50,000/=, which includes 2-bedrooms, hot showever, sitting room, breakfast, and a wrap-around porch that overlooks the valleys and the rwenzoris in the distance. what a place!

fyi: phil just put together a photo gallery of our 2nd month in africa with a lot of photos from the fort portal/kibale forest n.p. trip. 101paige 101africa

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

conservation through public health

earlier this week, i met the founder and ceo of a very cool uganda-based NGO: conservation through public health. they work in bwindi impenetrable forest national park promoting conservation and public health by improving primary health care to people and animals in and around protected areas in africa (their mission). (and, their vision) to control disease transmission where wildlife, people and their animals meet while cultivating a winning attitude to wildlife conservation and public health in local communities. how cool is that? their programming is targeted toward the mountain gorilla population, as it intersects with the local community in bwindi. they welcome volunteers, so if anyone's interested... 101paige 101iph 101africa

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Friday, August 18, 2006

career advice from npr

if you look at the "career path" of my 20s, you might say that it's zig-zagged somewhat. people tend to look at me quizzically when i give them the run-down: history undergrad to litigation/communication consulting to law to pre-vet to public health grad school to hospital admin to global public health/development work. and, how exactly did you get from point a to point b? valid question. that's a story for another time, but for now i can say undoubtedly (and with some pride) that i have embraced the opportunity to explore my career options.

i listened to an npr podcast of all things considered today. it was an interview with robert sapolsky, a neuroscientist at stanford (and the author of a primate's memoir). he was talking about how it's human nature to fall into routine as you age, and how the older you get the less likely you are to try something new. for example, your life-long musical tastes are determined between ages 14-21; by the time you're 35 the music library of your life is for all intents and purposes set. more to topic, he said that those who stay in one profession for a long time and gain eminence in that profession are the least likely to explore new things. of course, it's not a bad thing to be eminent in your field - you're well respected, you're extremely knowledgeable about a particular subject however narrow or broad - but, you are less likely to get your belly button pierced after age 23 or try sushi for the first time after age 40ish. his suggestion: to stay open-minded and open to adventure, keep your professional life dynamic. i guess (unknowingly), i've taken his advice to heart.

i recently received an email from an old colleague who talked about viewing jobs as projects. some last for a year, some for 2, some for more. then, you find another project. i like that approach - it makes us all project managers, and validates my career trajectory thus far. i always considered her a valuable mentor when we worked together, so i was lucky to hear from her again after 5 years and receive some more straightforward advice.

my dad, another of my favorite professional mentors, always tells me to build on what i know. if there's a common link connecting your "projects," you'll create a collection of experiences and skills to draw on in any new environment. no question that's been true with me. i know it's not so obvious, but trust me - there's a common link. 101paige 101iph

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Again, another book not about Africa. A good one, though.

I've never read any Ian McEwan books before. A synopsis of his book First Love, Last Rites: "Taut, brooding, and densely atmospheric, these stories show us the ways in which murder can arise out of boredom, perversity can result from adolescent curiosity, and sheer evil might be the solution to unbearable loneliness." Yeah, I'm not going to read that. Atonement, on the other hand, was nothing like that.

Atonement is the story of a younger sister, an older sister, and a boy as told in three parts: the first set in pre-WWII England, the second set in northern France during the retreat of the British army to Dunkirk, the third set in London right before the 1940 bombing raids. The plot centers on a falsely accused crime and how that crime affected the lives of those involved. More broadly, though, it's about how people have the ability to shape their memories of events in an attempt to create more palatable outcomes and avoid the discomfort associated with what really happened, and how writing is a method for that attempt.

The last 2+ pages make the book and are a dead-on description of living with a past you cannot change. 101paige 101reviews

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

monkey-birds & more

they don’t eat plantains or bananas, but they sound like monkeys and they fly. so, what are they? they’re monkey-birds! or at least that’s what phil & i call them. no kidding – they're birds that sound like monkeys…one guidebook even says: “the eastern grey plantain-eater makes a chimplike hooting that featured in the soundtrack to tarzan movies.” okay, so they’re not actually monkey-birds, technically they’re eastern or western grey plantain-eaters. (i’m not sure if they’re eastern or western; according to the guide book they’re eastern, but according to google they’re western.) their monkey calls are common all over kampala, and today we finally saw a pair. they perched in the big tree across the way from our office/apartment and just hooted away. they’re not all that spectacular compared to the more flashy eastern african birds, although they do have a cool, blunt beak reminiscent of grosbeaks and a long banded tail, but so far they’re my faves. if for no other reason, they make me laugh. a lot.

on our hike in mbira forest reserve last weekend, we saw a trumpeter hornbill. he was huge and had a hornbill that was even huger. good thing we had our binoculars from jim & val. :)

i’ve never done any birding and am miserable at using binoculars, but that’s going to change. it has to when i’m living in uganda, one of the prime spots for birding in the world. if anyone has any suggestions on good birding books, let me know. (kk?) so far we've been scraping by with the bird section of a wildlife book. definitely inadequate.

despite our lack of quality birding books, however, i haven't had any difficulty identifying uganda’s two best-known birds: the marabou stork and the grey crested crane. this pair reminds me of the turkey and the bald eagle. the first is somewhat awkward and unsightly, the second majestic and striking. the first was almost our national bird, the second actually is. it’s the same with the marabou stork and the crested crane. i don’t know if the stork was ever considered for uganda’s national bird, but for how common and recognizable it is, it sure could’ve been. storks are everywhere…most likely perched on some high, precarious spot, despite their large, ungainly size. if not there, then they’re on the garbage heap rummaging for scraps. honestly, i have no idea why anyone ever wanted one of these guys delivering their babies – i can only assume (hope) that it was some other stork.

the crested cranes on the other hand are bea-u-ti-ful. and, not surprisingly, they are the ugandan national bird - you can see them prominently featured on the ugandan flag, the ugandan crest, and just about everything ugandan for that matter. rightfully so...truly, they're elegant. i saw a pair in a papyrus marsh on the drive to ssembabule when i was here in march. i want to see more, especially now that i have the binocs. supposedly a crested crane pair will “dance” together as they bob their heads, bow, toss sticks, and leap into the air, sometimes even enticing the rest of the 60+ flock of cranes to join in the dance. crazy birds. :) 101paige 101africa

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

must be doing something right...

today is the first time i've ever checked out the site statistics for picked a good day to start. yesterday i posted here about some site updates, and paige sent a mass email with her updated contact information. if you're reading this and didn't get that email, how did you ever stumble across this site? anyway, yesterday we had 6,800 page views. dear god. and it's cool to know that i'm not padding the statistics - our connection is too slow to do any surfing. i just view what's on my hard drive.

so thanks for checking in! as your reward i have updated the look of my photo albums and added three new galleries for you viewing pleasure. just go here or click photo galleries on the right. i've also added to my photo information page. i'm particularly proud of my new little icons.

for the photo galleries, i've taken some canned albums that live in the automate menu of photoshop cs and cs2. then i go into the directory and mess around with the code in golive to get the look i want. i like the current one. grey background, white borders, drop shadow, little icons at the bottom.

if the new stuff isn't up when you check, that's because our connection is so slow. it's 11:20pm here, 3:20pm central. i'll start the upload on the new content now and when i check in the morning it'll be mostly finished with some errors. our internet connection is a wireless connection from mtn, same company as our cell coverage. it's just an antenna that plugs into the usb, and gives us something like 1kbs. yeah. that 50k image? it's a minute. sunday morning is the best time for internetting here, no one is on the phone. afternoons? forget about it. the current plan is just a stop gap. i hope.

today i ran sprints at the soccer field just up the road at the business school. it's a nice field. i did the michelle akers workout that paige brought to syzygy from riot. it's a keeper.
12 x 20 yard :20 sec rest
10 x 40 yard :30 sec rest
8 x 60 yard :45 sec rest
5 x 80 yard 1:15 rest
3 x 100 yard 1:30 rest
we work harder. 101phil 101ultimate

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

news and updates

updates! there are a couple new photo sets up on andersonbowen. you can click photo or africa on the links at the right of the blog. paige took pictures at a printmaking workshop we attended with local artist fred mutebi. he spent a year in tennessee as a fulbright scholar and has an amazing portfolio. we're hoping to spend more time with him and of course buy some art. also up are select photos (with captions) from our first month here. and check out the quicktime movie of the drive home to kampala from the MIHV field site in ssembabule. if you're not patient enough to sit through four minutes at 1 frame per second, there's a speedy :39 sec version at 6 fps. you can always use the arrow keys on the keyboard to scroll through the photos at your own speed, too. quicktime pro is a pretty nifty little application, by the way.

i probably won't get a satellite radio until the next time i fly through amsterdam (!), so i've been getting my NPR fix with podcasts. i get a weekly 20min digest of marketplace, science comentary by robert krulwich, sports commentary by frank deford and the full hour of on the media. pretty sweet.

speaking of ipods, i'd be interested to find out what people use to rip dvds to an mpeg. thanks.

i don't mean to always write about food, but so it goes. i got on a granola kick before we moved to africa because we had three leftover bags of granola from our wedding sunday brunch. there's no granola in kampala so we've been making our own. here's my recipe for all you tree huggers out there:
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
(if we had real maple syrup, i'd probably put 3/4 cup of that in, too)
4 Tbl butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl grated ginger
put all that stuff together and heat it up or microwave it so you can stir it up and mix it. put the following in a big mixing bowl:
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup chopped cashews
3/4 cup chopped brazil nuts
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
(or 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds)
6 cups quaker oatmeal (not the minute kind)
in four or five stages, pour the liquid over all the dry stuff and stir it up real good. apparantly the secret to crispy granola is to fully coat the dry stuff. spread the mixture out on greased cookie sheets, and stick it in the oven at something like 300 degrees. you have to be fairly vigilant and take it out and stir it every 10 min or so to keep it from burning. we don't have a thermometer on our oven, but we go for like 40-50 min.

once it's done, stir in the dried fruit. don't cook the dried fruit, it'll turn to rock.
3/4 cup chopped dried pineapple
3/4 cup currants (dried like raisins)
yum. 101phil 101ht


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

no running water an hour in any direction, and i'm thinking about ultimate

hands down one of the hardest things to leave behind when moving to africa was coaching syzygy. here's a team that models everything i ever wanted in a team, a team that included me in its successes and its failures as one of its own. so, why did i choose to walk away from them? i guess i don't look at it as a choice, but as something i had to do. leaving syzygy had nothing to do with them and everything to do with my need to contribute to the “greater good,” to be involved with global public health, living and working abroad, and my need to have a worthy cause to finally get me to stop playing ultimate, if not for good, at least for a little while.

over the years, ultimate has come to define who i am. i play ultimate, i coach ultimate, i live ultimate. i am a part of the community and i love the community. but, i have not completed a fall club season in 4 years. each year i come back from a knee injury (read: surgery) to work my ass off, only to be met with another knee injury (read: surgery) before the season is over. this cycle of love & injury took its toll on me – i lay awake at night agonizing over the things i have yet to accomplish as a player wondering if i’ll be strong & confident & healthy enough to try again.

earlier i wrote about my first sunday pick-up game in kampala and talked about the pseudo-celebrity that comes with playing elite-level ultimate. i was excited to play ultimate in uganda because i could play exclusively for the fun of playing…no ego, no reputation, no nothing…just playing ultimate. but, suddenly here i was ½-way around the world being awarded some kind of credibility and authority that i hadn’t earned. initially, my ego was inflated, of course. then, i paused to react internally. wait a second, what happened to me just playing ultimate for the fun of it?

i wanted to play ultimate like syzygy plays ultimate. when the current syzygy kids talk about syzygy, they don’t talk about how good they are (which they are) or how much they know about the game (which they do) or how much they win (which they do a lot). they talk about how proud and lucky and happy they are to be a part of this team. a team that is more than a team…it’s a family. they play to be a part of that family.

so much of playing has become wrapped up in the ego of it for me. my need to play with the best, to be the best, to be a part of the elite-elite. but when i look back over my 10 years of playing, the most personally gratifying experiences have been those when i was intimately involved in the growth of a team, when i could contribute (physically, emotionally, strategically…however…) and be valued for those contributions. that’s why coaching was so rewarding – i was never judged on my ability to perform on the field; my ego had no place in the dynamic. ahhh, ego-free ultimate…how liberating!

when i first started playing pick-up here i thought that the games were organized by ex-pats. i was wrong and happily so. in fact, 6 years ago a couple of ugandan rugby players got together and started playing ultimate. maybe they learned about it from ex-pats? maybe there were other ultimate games/clubs going on in the city? i don’t know. i haven’t learned all of the history and dynamics, yet. what i do know is that this core group feels ownership of their game and their club. the core is a group of very, very cool guys. athletes. they understand what it means to be teammates, friends. to work hard to accomplish goals. jordan, a rwandan who lives in kampala, said he was originally skeptical of the game. he’d watched from the sidelines and didn’t really understand the whole allure. then he played…and he’s played every sunday for the last 5 years. he said it was addictive and he never wanted to stop playing. he talked about how his friends are all ultimate players. i think it’s a story that you’ll hear anywhere – the unifying effects of ultimate. there’s just something special about the game…maybe that’s why i’ve never been able to walk away…

since graduating from college i’ve lived in 3 different american cities and the source of my friendships in each have been the same – ultimate & work. moving to africa has been no different. i thought it would be, but as it turns out it’s exactly the same. i know a handful of people through work and 3x that many through ultimate. in my earlier post, i also mentioned wishing that an anthropologist would conduct an academic study of the ultimate community – the social structure, hierarchies, etc. i’m no anthropologist, but i’ve taken a stab at the study anyway. among my ultimate friends, 75% (not scientifically supported, but i’d bet i’m not too far off) are married/long-term committed to other ultimate players. i admit my sample’s probably skewed since most of my ultimate friends play seriously, which is to say during season we spend on average 12-15 hours a week practicing, strategizing, and thinking about ultimate. up that number if it’s a tournament weekend, or if you’re a coach/captain. it’s pretty hard to sustain a serious relationship with that much time away from home, family, kids (on top of work, of course), if your partner doesn’t also play. okay, so maybe this huge time and emotional commitment causes ultimate players to be drawn to ultimate players. but, i think it’s more than that. the common culture, competitiveness, camaraderie? what it is i don’t know, but i’m seeing its effects in africa as i listen to these ugandan guys talk about the game and the friends they’ve made playing and how they wouldn’t miss a sunday pick-up game in 5 years. 101paige 101ultimate 101africa

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