Saturday, December 23, 2006

happy hanaqwanimas!

we will make up for a lack of posts and pictures soon; we're off to rwanda for a few days. the presumptive highlight of the trip will be tracking mountain gorillas in the parc national des volcans. we'll have photos and posts before the new year. so until then, merry christmas and many happy holiday wishes! phil & paige.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

tourney in february

the group i coach on sundays forms the kampala ultimate frisbee club (KUFC). last wednesday a small organizing committee met to begin planning a tournament in kampala. goal is to have 5-6 teams from uganda plus the nairobi team. any others willing to make the trip?

i have a lot of experience in ultimate, but this is my first time in the tournament director role, so i'm learning as i go. i'm big into delegation because (1) i don't know the standards for african ultimate tournaments as well as my ugandan counterparts, and (2) there's no way i could do all the organizing myself. i'm hoping that delegation is the first right step of many i take as a tournament director. so far, the tasks i've delegated: sponsorship, liaison officer (a.k.a. visiting team host), advertisement, tourney set-up (including fields mgmt), jerseys, format, registration, treasurer, medical, food, saturday night party, team recruitment, score/timekeepers, prizes. did i miss anything?

if you have any lessons learned, suggestions, advice, please share via comments. i've been using the upa's ultimate organizer's resource manual, but it's targeted toward leagues not tournaments. question: how do you set a reasonable tourney team entry fee? what do you do with players who show up day-of without a team?

details of the tournament...
dates: feb 10-11, 2006
location: international school uganda (entebbe road, kampala)
contact: kampala (dot) ultimate (at) gmail

we're looking for a good name for the tournament. any suggestions?

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an american christmas in kampala

the u.s. ambassador - steven a browning - hosted his annual christmas open house for american citizens on friday night (dec 15th). we went with no expectations except to not know anyone. i should've known better. not more than 10 yeards into the gate and i'd already seen a large handful of people i work with plus those that overlap into our ultimate community. kampala is a very small world and i'm struggling with the nonexistant division between my work life and personal life, but that's a topic for another time. back to the ambassador's christmas party...

security was present but not strict. entry required a u.s. passport or embassy badge, but if you made the metal detector beep no one stopped you. somewhat refreshing considering the suffocating flavor of international u.s. security these days. despite all the people, food, and drinks being in the expansive yard, we made a beeline for the house wanting to see how the ambassador and his family lived. we walked into the house and we could've easily been walking into any upperclass home in america...just like that and we were no longer in africa. we decided we'd wander thru the house until someone stopped us. nobody did, so we kept wandering. some observations of note: (1) the ambassador is texan, as evidenced by his "have a merry texan christmas!" tree ornament, (2) the candlesticks in the china cabinet aren't real silver, (3) the christmas cookie spread rivaled any i've seen.

it's a week before christmas and friday night was the first and only time it's felt like christmas to me. we ate christmas cookies, there was an american style christmas tree, santa claus made a visit, and we sang christmas carols. subtract out those couple hours of christmassy socializing, and i'd say it was still the middle of july. living on the equator means there are no seasons to track the passage of time - to me we've been here for a summer and the christmas season is still months away. the air needs to cool, the leaves need to change colors and drop, the snow needs to come before it's christmas. i thought i would really miss christmas living here, but it's hard to when there's none of the traditional signs of christmas, like snow. what's christmas without snow? if it's christmas, i should be knitting by the fire at the cabin chatting with my mom and sister watching the snow fall outside getting ready for our annual anderson family christmas hockey game on the lake. it's not christmas when i can walk outside my door to sunny skies, 75 degree weather, and sit by our pool sunbathing and reading a book. not that that isn't nice (because it is), it's just that it's not christmas.

ugandans say that christmas is a big holiday here and i believe them. uganda is a heavily christian country, so a big christmas is logical. what's interesting to me is the influence of westernized christmas chintz on uganda's holiday season. the street peddlers on kampala road sell fake christmas trees with garlands, retail store employees dress up in red velvet santa costumes, music kiosks play metallic-sounding versions of traditional christmas carols. christmas is coming earlier and earlier in the u.s., for sure by thanksgiving time. i was surprised to see the same in kampala. the first christmas retail influx i remember seeing here was the end of october. october?! i was hoping to see some unique ugandan christmas traditions, but so far i've seen more of the same from home and the stuff i have seen doesn't fit at all - christmas tree ornaments with fake snow in uganda? doesn't make sense.

christmas is a big holiday for my family and, although it's been easy leading up to the holiday, i know it's going to be hard to be away from them on the actual day. good thing that my brother tait and sister-in-law estela are coming to visit us in a week. plan is to go to rwanda to see the gorillas. if you can't be at home, the next best thing is to be with the gorillas on christmas day.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

two albums for your approval

we have edited & compiled all our wedding photos from seven+ photographers into one comprehensive chronological album. hard to do when everyone's camera is set to a different time! here are two links for it, one lightbox style album and one grey-background photoshop album. do you like one style better than the other? let us know. note that while the lightbox album has all 252 thumbnails on one page, the grey album has three pages of 84 thumbs. arrows to scroll. pages are a little big, sorry dial-uppers. (are there any of you?)

it's been six+ months since the wedding and it was a lot of fun to revisit all these images. in two years, we can print out the top 24 and actually put together our real albums waiting for us back in storage!

enjoy. :)

lightbox http://andersonbowen.com/june3
grey album http://andersonbowen.com/galleries/june3/index.htm

ps. there are more pictures arranged by photographer on our andersonbowen.com wedding page.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

an apple a day

phil and i have been sick for the better part of the last month - phlegmy coughs, sinus congestion, fevers. major respiratory breakdown, really. phil was feverish when he first came home from the states, then my hacking, choking coughs took center stage for a while, then phil regained the sicky limelight with his chest-rattling cough. all of that to say it's been a month of ill health in the anderson bowen household.

neither one of us is much of a drug-taker (except for the ubiquitous ibu during ultimate season) living by the i'm-young-and-healthy-i'll-get-better-soon philosophy. our philosophy suffered this time around...being sick for a month isn't normal. so, last week i instigated and got us to the surgery. you'll remember the surgery from phil's 9-stitch hand injury in august. positive experience then, so we assumed positive experience now. oh boy, were we wrong.

dr. stockley, a brit, is the main figurehead of the surgery. everyone knows him in kampala, an easily recognized face at the local pub and a regular contributer to "the eye," kampala's monthly chamber of commerce-esque publication. we went to see him in all good faith in a time of need expecting greatness, or at least competency, and walked away thoroughly disappointed and, at least for me, disgusted. four words: rude, arrogant, unconcerned, uninformed.

the first 3 expats i complained to following our doc stock visit said, "let me guess, bilharzia?" bilharzia must be his communicable disease of choice these days. you get bilharzia (aka schistosomiasis) thru contact with contaminated freshwater. we know this. that's why we don't swim in freshwater in uganda. phil got sick in the states before coming home. there isn't bilharzia in the u.s. yet, doc stock ordered a full blood test to diagnose bilharzia and discharged phil saying "if it's not bilharzia, then it's just something you're going to have to get over with time." huh? you told him that his airways are so constricted that he has the lung capacity of a 55-year-old, but that doesn't matter because he has bilharzia? i don't think so.

after talking around town some, i learned that general consensus is "don't go to an expat doc if you're sick." no level of scrutiny is directed their way because it's assumed they're good - they're european or american or whatever, they must be good. right? wrong. the longer they're here the more time they have to slip, to stagnate. besides, expat patients will continue to come to their clinics regardless of quality of care simply because they're an expat provider. following our visit to the surgery, i could not have been more convinced by these theories. (of course, none of this applies to providers on short rotations in the country. they maintain the high-level of professionalism and technical know-how required for successful practice anywhere. case in point, the swedish doc that stitched up phil's hand.)

phil suffered a few more days, before i decided enough is enough and got us to the international hospital kampala (an "international" hospital primarily staffed by ugandans) with a specialist recommendation from a friend.
1st reaction: they have specialists!
2nd reaction: wow, nice facilities. helipad included.
3rd reaction: IHK is where it's at for kampala healthcare. no more the surgery for us.

we didn't wait more than 10 minutes to see dr. olok, a ugandan ENT specialist on staff. he did all the things dr. stockley didn't - asked questions, listened to answers, examined thoroughly, diagnosed, prescribed drugs, cared, established doctor-patient rapport. i was impressed. final diagnosis: sinus infection, chest/lung infection, not bilharzia. we walked away drugs in hand, $40.55 poorer to cover the consultation/meds x2, and (finally...hopefully) on our roads to recovery.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

lunch for two = 85 cents

there's two levels for cost of living in uganda, the expat cost and the ugandan cost. if you're an expat living the expat lifestyle, it ain't cheap. kampala has it all - movie theater, haute cuisine ethnic-specialty restaurants, clubs, pubs, shops, technology - and it can all be yours if you're willing to pay the (hefty) price. an illustrative short list:
dinner for two at the local sushi restaurant = $60
ikea poang chair = $335 (retail $79 in the u.s.)
parmesan cheese = $8.90 for 200 g
box of muesli = $6.65
petrol = $1.32 per liter = $4.99 per gallon
2-bdrm apt = $750-$2500

these prices are unfathomable when compared to the outrageously low cost of living for a local ugandan whose day-to-day expenses could include:
matatu ride into town = $0.25
newspaper = $0.55
500 ml coca cola = $0.45
fresh avocado = $0.05
branch of bananas (not just a bunch, but the whole "fist") = $6
of course, you have to look at these prices with a grain of salt that is an excruciatingly high unemployment rate coupled with an average daily wage of approximately $3.50. also to consider is that this "grain of salt" effectively prices 95% of ugandans out of the expat market.

if you put an expat salary with the ugandan cost of living, you can seriously live cheap. phil and i live somewhere in between. we can't survive on matooke every meal (a typical ugandan will eat 1 kilo of matooke/bananas a day) and admittedly enjoy our semi-regular cappuccinos. we're not willing to spend $6.65 on subpar muesli, though, and make our own granola as an alternative. when we splurge on sushi for a friend's birthday, we counterbalance with lunch for two from the local restaurant next door for $0.85. rice and beans and chapati for 85 cents. you can't beat that.

as international staff, my employer pays for most everything: flight to/from, rent, utilities, car, phone. no major monthly expenses, 85 cent lunches, and we'd be doing unbelievably well on saving for a down payment on a house when we moved back to the states if it weren't for all our travels and tourism, which ain't cheap either. for example...
round-trip ticket u.s. to uganda = $1950 (we bought two)
permits to track gorillas in rwanda = $375 per person (we just bought two)
but, when your best friend gets married and your sister has her first baby, how can you not fly home? and, when you live in uganda, the pearl of africa of all places, how can you not travel?

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

fun with the blog

i just switched the blog over the the new blogger beta platform to take advantage of a few cool new features, most notably labels and the drop-down archives. as it turns out, since i publish to an ftp (so the blog appears at andersonbowen.com and not blogspot.com and so i can add some features like the lightbox photo viewer) neither labels nor the archives function the same as if i were to publish to the blogspot server. and now the archives aren't even publishing to the correct url at all.

so. i've got most of it working, but know that the blog will be under construction somewhat over the next few days as i get things figured out.

stoked about labels, though. way better than our earlier patchwork system. and lightbox works, so we're 90% there, i think.

and i'll keep plugging this: don't forget to check out my (almost) photo a day page!

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

the pantomime

an annual christmas tradition in kampala is the pantomime (the "panto"). it's a play, musical, theatrical experience staged 6 times over 5 days in early december. as the stagebill for this year's pantomime says: "for those of you new to panto, it represents an integral part of british culture, requiring certain very specific elements. the hero (the principal boy) must be played by a woman; the leading older woman's part must be played by a husky man (the dame); there must be at least one animal (in this production we have two - a dog and a gorilla); and the audience must participate at every opportunity. yes, this chaos has been carefully designed. it is also traditional for pantomimes to be based on well-known children's stories."

we went with open minds and a sense of humor, as recommeneded, to this year's panto, "tintin goes bananas - what's happened to all the matooke?" the panto is traditionally directed toward the kids both in the cast and in the audience, but no matter. we were sucked into the atmosphere like everyone else; booing and hissing when provoked, cheering when urged. imo snowy stole the show, and big hits of the production were cleverly rewritten lyrics to popularly recognized disney/broadway songs. my favorite was a kampala-centric version of "part of your world" from the little mermaid. no chance that i'll remember any of the lyrics except the one that replaced "what would i give if i could live out of these waters" with "what would i give if i could live in bugolobi." bugolobi's got it going on and the rest of kampala knows it. the 24/7 electricity doesn't hurt our public image, of course.
101paige 101africa
the panto was staged at the national theater, which supports a good theatrical scene in kampala. the kampala amateur dramatics society produces most of the shows (most recently fiddler on the roof) and attracts quality talent. for example, the musical director orchestrated a tony award-winning broadway musical before coming to kampala and being the one responsible for the good music and clever lyrics in the panto. kampala's like that. the year-round predictibly good weather, high quality of life, and active social/cultural scene attract good people.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

murchison day 3

since we couldn't bring our car across the river and hiring a ride on the other side was cost prohibitive, we decided to do the next best thing and take a walking safari instead of driving. a little boat brought us the couple hundred yards across the river where we met up with dennis and set out in to the bush. we have yet to meet a ugandan wildlife guide who doesn't really know their stuff, and dennis was no exception. we learned a lot about flora and fauna alike and added some new birds and beasts to our checklist. most of our walk was along the banks and bluffs of the nile, and dennis was really careful about checking for water buffalo or hippo that might surprise us. it was the first time that i realized that we were not in the safety of a zoo. apparantly hippos kill more people than any other animal in the world. and water buffalo are no picnic. it was great to get such a personal view of the area and the wildlife, made all the more clear once we were on a boat with 10 other people which felt a little more like a canned tour.

back to the camp for lunch and cokes and shade to sit out the mid-day heat until our boat launch began at 2.

the trip upriver to the falls was very cool. tons of animals and birds. dozens of schools of dozens of hippos, red-throated flycatchers and kingfishers by the dozens, water buffalo, huge crocs, water buck...and elephants! africa for real. there was wildlife galore and this was during the wet season when animals don't have to come down to the banks of the nile to get a drink. a highlight was seeing a water buffalo walking up the path that we had been on with dennis only three hours before. yikes. the boat stopped about a km from the falls but you still get a pretty good idea of the magnitude. besides, The Plan was to camp at the top of the falls that evening, so we'd have a closer look soon enough. on our way back a not so minor squall blew in and we had to run aground and wait out the wind. cold and soaked but fun nonetheless.

another new bird on the drive to the campsite at the top of the falls. a pair of abyssinian hornbill. huge prehistoric-looking walking along the road.
101phil 101africa
the falls in person are amazing. the nile is a huge river and not slow-flowing and meandering. and at murchison falls, the entire thing shoots through a gap that a decent college long-jumper could clear. after catching the sunset, we set up camp right on rivers edge above the falls by a pool with three or four hippos. how did they get there? how do they leave? it's class 4+ rapids above and the falls below. it was a little hard to sleep that night wondering what hippo vs tent would be like. i don't know if i buy the adage that they're more scared of us than we are of them.

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