The Right To Play

I wanted to provide some links to the blog of my amazing partner who is working with me on the Breakdance Uganda Project that I've already talked so much about to you all. Katie is still in Uganda working on multiple projects and as one of her projects she's been working with Abramz to get his Breakdance Uganda Project ready to receive our funds which I'm sure you'll all be donating to once we get everything set up for it, right?

Please check out a post Katie has written about watching Abramz's Breakdance classes, which I was unfortunately never able to attend. I truly am devastated that I wasn't able to see one.

Also, make sure to read this very moving post about spending a night in a Night Commuter Center, which I was able to visit while I was in Gulu, but didn't spend the night in. When I went the peace talks were still in progress and so there were fewer kids there then there are now. Since the peace talks are stalled the number of children night commuting has risen once again.

Katie truly is an inspiration and on the trip she was our Mama Katie! She has reminded me through her thoughtful and intelligent posts that, as some of the children told her, "As a child, it is my right to play." And it is, and we should never ever forget that.

You Know I'm Game

So I found this on one of my regular sports blogs that I check out, Deadspin, and why am I Not surprised that these nice and talented folks are Steelers Fans??

Go Steelers Nation!

Yeah, I'm soo game!

I've Been Wondering This

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

Literate Good Citizen

Book Snob


Fad Reader

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Sharing An Obsession

I've just realized that for some reason I've completely neglected in sharing one of my biggest obsessions with my blogging community as of yet. Most people who have known me for a while, know of this obsession that has been going on for at least ten years strong (if not longer) and have heard of my trips to as far as St. Louis in order to see this obsession in person. I've been an avid fan of Our Lady Peace for at least half of my life now since the release of their sophomore album, Clumsy. I was watching some YouTubes of Raine Maida's (the lead singer) solo project and thought I'd share a slew of OLP vid clips and music videos with you all so you can share in the obsession if you so choose. I've seen OLP live at least 11 times now (if I were at home I could check my OLP scrapbook to verify that number... and oh yes, I do have an OLP scrapbook) and can say without a doubt as an avid concert goer that they are the BEST band I've ever seen live, even better than the band Live, and they put on a pretty awesome show as well.


A classic OLP song from their album Clumsy.

Raine Maida's solo project, a more beat poetry type music then OLP's rock sound.

An interview with Raine and his wife Chantal for a glimpse into the rockin' couple's life. I'm not usually the type of person to follow the celebrities because frankly I don't care and our country's obsession with celebrities makes me ill, but I truly admire Raine Maida as a person from his music (he writes all of OLP's lyrics) and his activism with War Child Canada and so cannot resist being curious about his personal life. But please don't think I give a damn what he or his wife are wearing.

Thank you for allowing me to share my obsession. There's nothing obsessives like to do more then to try to infect others with their obsessions.


Eat It ESPN!

I can't help but to crack up at Cracked's spoof on ESPN's website. If you've ever visited the ESPN site, please check this out and enjoy that warm sensation in your pants that is your pee.

Darfur and Technology

I wanted to point your attention to the deteriorating conditions in Darfur, Sudan. Despite a promised cease-fire, Sudan has been attacking aid workers.
As Newsweek reported, at least four female aid workers have been beaten and sexually abused recently — raped in the case of two French women.

In addition, an aid worker in Sudan tells me that on Jan. 22 the police raided a party in the city of Nyala and arrested 22 employees of aid groups. Several were beaten and one woman was sexually abused but managed to fend off an attempted rape.

Broader security is also collapsing. On a road near Bulbul that used to be safe, gunmen stopped a public bus in the middle of the day and brutally beat the men and gang-raped the women for hours. In the face of all this, aid workers are jittery and some are pulling out.

Yet Europe is oblivious (the Davos conference here has great sessions on Africa but nothing on Darfur). President Bush has been better than most world leaders, but still pathetic: he mustered half a sentence in his State of the Union address. Perhaps this is because Mr. Bush regards the situation as tragic but hopeless, but in fact there is plenty he could do.

He could speak out forcefully about Darfur. He could bring victims to the White House for a photo op. He could help the U.N. send a force to protect Chad and the Central African Republic — while continuing to push for U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur itself. He could visit Darfur or Chad and invite European or Chinese officials to join him. He could invite African leaders to Washington for a summit meeting that would include discussion of Darfur. He could impose a no-fly zone. He could develop targeted sanctions against Sudanese leaders. He could begin forensic accounting to find assets of those leaders in Western countries. He could call on NATO and the Pentagon to prepare contingency plans in case the janjaweed start massacring the hundreds of thousands of Darfuris in camps.

And this weekend he could telephone a few African presidents to tell them what a catastrophe it would be if Africa chose Mr. Bashir as its leader.

- Nick Kristof (at Coalition for Darfur)

Thanks to Mick Hartley for keeping up on the situation. Read more on Mick's blog here and here.

On another note, here is a really great post on using technology with development projects.
Consider technologies like Wimax, an easy to deploy broadband wireless technology, that can cover large geographical areas – up to 50km – at fast speeds, up to 72mps. Wimax is perfect for peri-urban and more rural areas. It could help Government bring new services to the recovering North and facilitate trade. In June 2006, the roll-out of Uganda’s Wimax network began. Can Government, the donors and the private sector help finish the job and make a wired Northern Uganda a reality?

Think about new low-cost solutions like Motorola’s Motofone, a no frills cellphone designed just for the rural market. The unit is dust-proof, uses voice prompts to local languages, has extended battery life, and is affordable. Especially given the difficulty of travel and land-line communication, opening up a strong cell market in places like Northern Uganda would seem to make sense, lowering the costs of doing business, and helping provide security and reliability to potential investors. Can Uganda jump start this market?

Or, how about the highly anticipated $100 laptop that is already proposed for Emerging Markets like Brazil, Nigeria and Rwanda? Current plans call for the distribution up to 15 million of the devices in 2007, which feature full-color, a 500MHz processor, and wireless broadband capabilities. Will Government and the aid agencies help bring the tools of the wired world to Gulu?

- Andy's Global View
Thanks to Jack Fruity for bringing me to this really innovative and creative article about working in development in countries that currently have little access to technology.

Update: Please check out this great post on an extremely innovative solution to a large problem that have been plaguing Sudanese refugees. Thank you Elizabeth!

A Reminder And A Shout Out

I had mentioned way long ago that there was a group Flickr account for the Uganda trip, but I thought I'd re-mention it. I'll have to link it on my blog somewhere, I was thinking of making another badge, but that might just be too much so I might just throw another link there for the group account. The pictures on the group account will probably give you a better picture of the actual work/stuff we did there for the conference, such as pictures from the IDP camps and our speakers, etc. My pictures tended to be more social since for many of our trips only one person was allowed to take pictures. But please check it out, it gives a much more in depth view of our trip!

Also had to give a shout out to my dear friend Colin who helped lead the trip from Uganda. He's a unique person, to say the least. He's extraordinarily kind and ridiculously funny with a train of thought that is hard to follow sometimes. Really, I don't need to say anything else about him because you can get his dynamic personality from his blog so well, that you just need to go on over and check it out! He's a newbie blogger and I'm happy to give him a shout out and send you on over there. I promise, you will not lack for entertainment!

And just to prove that I really did know him before he became rich and famous from his blog, here is proof in form of a picture:


Uganda, Day 1: Arrival Into The Country

It was with no expectations and an unusual calm that I landed in Uganda. After an exhausting day of travel, I couldn't even wrap my brain around any thoughts of what Uganda was going to be like. I wasn't naive enough to buy into all the Africa stereotypes of wild animals running around all over the place, as if just being in Africa was a wild safari ride nor any of the other common stereotypes that people often have of Africa. Many people I know in the States were surprised that there were colleges in Uganda as if every country in Africa was still 100 years behind the world. One topic that quickly got brought up within our group was what people at home thought of Africa. One great example is when I was asked by a co-worker (I'll kindly refine from pointing out any more specifics of this co-worker that would reveal his identity) where I went and I responded that I went to Uganda, his face scrunched up in thought and he asked, without any shame, "Wait, is that like in South America or Africa or something?" Of course I responded politely that it was in Africa, but one of my favorite co-workers didn't stop himself from giving my ignorant co-worker a "are you retarded" look, finally bringing my ignorant co-worker to shame. It seems a common theme for people in America to think of Africa as one big country. Considering that I'm going to Europe soon, I've noticed the difference of telling people you're going to Europe versus going to Africa. When you tell people you're going to Europe, you immediately get the question as to what countries you'll be going to. I truly cannot remember one person asking me what country I was going to when I told people I was going to Africa. Perhaps that's a mixture of people knowing less about Africa then Europe, and also due to the fact that so many people travel to Europe and they want to see if you're going to where they've been, but I still feel that there is the perception prevalent in our country that does not distinguish between the countries in Africa. I can tell you for a fact that nearly everyone I spoke to had no idea where Uganda was in Africa.

Coming into Uganda knowing the perceptions and prejudices that many Westerners have entered African countries with, I was determined to have a completely open mind. With my first step off the plane, I was already in love with the country. Looking across the landscape of Uganda felt like I was breathing in beauty with my eyes. I was in awe of it all and also in awe of the fact that I was there, drinking it all in in person. A dream since high school finally realized. Perhaps I'd expected some life changing moment as soon as I stepped off of the plane, perhaps I expected rays of light to shoot from the sky to reveal some holy revelation to me, but I felt odd feeling so normal in Uganda. I still cared that my hair was flipping out weird with this odd kink where I slept on it on the plane. I was still conscious of making friends in the group and feeling my every fault and oddity like a sharp stone sticking into my side. I was still me even though I was in this different country, I didn't magically transform into something much more inspiring or amazing, all the images I had of myself being adventuress and selfless traveling across the world to give myself to others were evaporated. I was still frumpy little me, yes I wanted to help and give to others, but I also still cared about myself in the ways that normal people do. I still wanted to have fun and to have things for myself, to feel pretty and liked and to be accepted. Perhaps it was finally time to accept that I am not Mother Teresa as much as I wish I could be so selfless, and I as I think of this I think it's humorous to me that many athletes perhaps will idealize people like Michael Jordon and their talent, while I idealize Mother Teresa and her complete selflessness. I truly am a non-profit nerd.

Kampala is as bustling of a city as I've ever seen! I've been to New York, Chicago, San Francisco and those are busy cities, but Kampala is bustling! People are always on the move, and so many people too! Rushing around, cars, matatus, bodas all driving ridiculously close to each other, so close that you could pick each others' noses. Poor children follow you around with their hands outstretched saying "hello" and "sar" to any mzungu ("white person" in Swahili) who walks by and they just about break your heart as they wave at you, but you almost can't even look at them because then they'll follow you around for a couple of streets. Traveling through Kampala is exciting and bewildering all at once, and I know I've complained about the potholes in previous posts, but let me just tell you, the potholes are insane. I cannot believe the conditions of the roads in Uganda and am now more than happy to pay for taxes that go into our road maintenance! The fact that there are potholes the size of small cars that vehicles literally have to drive around is just ridiculous! Oh, and by the way, if you ever travel to Uganda, FYI, they pretty much ONLY take Visa. Yeah, I have no Visa credit cards to my name, only Master Card and American Express. And if you only have $20 dollar bills, they charge you $2-3 for ever $20 dollar bill just to convert it to shillings. Funny thing is that I had $50 and $100 dollar bills (which did not have a conversion fee) but I broke them just for the trip because I thought it wouldn't be a good idea to be carrying around big bills like that. So I had to rely on my fellow Americans who did have Visa cards to get money out for me and trade so I didn't have to pay the conversion fee.

We met the Kampala participants right away on our first day, after dropping our stuff off in our rooms. I'll never forget the nervousness of meeting all of them, worrying whether they'd like me or not, how we would get along, what we'd talk about. I was very conscious of their culture and hoped I didn't unintentionally insult anybody because of my ignorance on some cultural nuance. But immediately as the Ugandans came into the dining hall and introduced themselves to me I felt their warmth and friendship. As I got to know everyone's very differing personalities I also learned some of my favorite nuances about their culture. How people say "sorr-ah" for just about anything bad that may happen to you whether or not it's their fault, it's so sweet, thoughtful and genuine. How whenever someone begins speaking in a big group setting, such as asking a question of one of our speakers, he or she starts with "Thank you very much honorable minister" before even thinking of uttering their question. The endless politeness and thoughtfulness of the people I've met in Uganda is inspiring and warmed my heart immensely and coming back to America, especially to such a cold and uninviting city such as Cincinnati (I will tell you for a fact Minnesota held much friendlier people) has been a harsh harsh jolt to my heart.

My first day in Uganda was an exhausting and busy day that ended up feeling like at least two days rather than one. Near the end when we traveled as a group to the internet and I was able to chat on G-chat with my hubby I had realized that I'd been so busy that I hadn't been able to miss him yet, as funny as that sounds. Chatting with him made me feel that slight sting, but I was able to walk it off and breath in the dusty Uganda air and live in the moment, something I've struggled endlessly to do in America. Despite the very starchy, bland food, the rusty toilets without seats, the rock hard and squeaky beds, somehow I felt at home. I was rather shocked at how quickly I adjusted to the living conditions that I wasn't used to. I was surrounded by people who thought like I did and refused to live in the American suburban bubble and who chose to see the world's pain as their own pain. I was surrounded by a culture built on helping each other and full of warmth and love. I was more home than I'd ever been before because it was the home I'd always dreamed about. And from my very first day in Uganda, I knew it'd always be my second home, next to the one I was born into. The home that I'll always go back to and that has ingrained itself as a seed in my soul that will grow and grow until it is just as much apart of me as the home I was born in.


Very Grave Weddings

I really don't know what to say about this except... WTF?!?!?!?
A ring of gangsters who traded in the bodies of women they murdered, selling them as brides to keep dead bachelors happy in the afterlife, has been arrested in China.

The arrests have exposed a trade that places a higher value on women when they are dead than when they are alive.

Yang Dongyan, 35, was arrested on January 4 in Sha’anxi province as he played cards with his children. In his prison cell, Mr Yang showed little remorse for committing two murders. He told the Legal Daily: “I just wanted to make money. It’s a quick way to make money. I was arrested too soon otherwise I had planned to do this business a few more times.”

The article continues with more creepy professional murdering of brides-to-be stories, but really, that should be enough to creep the hell out of you. I feel like this is straight out of that old TV show that used to scare the shit out of me when I was a youngster, Tales From the Crypt.

Thanks to Mick Hartley for filling my dreams with hellish nightmares for the night.

Bombs For Books!

Bomb worries help book sales: After New Years Eve bomb blasts put Bangkok on edge, "Thailand's book market looks likely to grow by 10% this year, partly thanks to the new-found preference of many to stay at home rather than going out."
Thanks to The Millions for this link... really, I think it's a really positive campaign for books. I mean, whatever gets people reading, right? Right?!?!

Text Message: A Novel

As if I needed another reason to be annoyed by text messaging...

My Life As A Movie

Does anyone else sometimes imagine their life to music, like it is in the movies? Sometimes I'll be driving home or walking down a hallway and I'll hear slow motion music in my head and know that this is a moment and I'll walk with an extra swing in my hips and imagine my hair flowing as I walk because life is dramatic and beautiful and every moment is the most meaningful moment of your life. I definitely have theme music to my life and I often see life in extreme, artsy, movie-like terms. When I people watch I write their stories in my head almost automatically, and usually it's crappy over dramatic or dark stuff. I've realized through the years I've spent with my husband that this is not completely normal, or at least this isn't the lenses that everyone sees the world through. Perhaps you could call it the artsy lenses, the eyes that are able to make the world beautiful and meaningful in moments that others wouldn't even take any notice to. Maybe I'm just a drama queen, I know I've been accused of that before. Although these lenses sometimes distract or depress me, I love it. My life seems fuller just by the way I see it and that is also why I despise my job. Staring at a computer screen all day long testing a website really sucks that sort of thing out of you. Despite waiting for Then We Came to The End a novel about office life that might actually help me look at it creatively again, videos like this (thanks to my bro) always tug at the strings in your heart and also at the inner artist for those of us who like to view life as if it were a movie.


It's Not My Fault!

Okay, so I know I promised to start my Days in Uganda Series yesterday, but then my hubby sent me that article about the Chinese adoption and I felt too passionate about it not to post something on it right away. So I planned on posting my first "Day in" post today, and then I ate lunch with my hubby and forgot my purse in his car which has my journal in it.

I know, I'm sounding like a completely disorganized slacker here and I really do apologize and I promise that I will get at least one post up no later than this weekend! And it'll be a damn good post too, you'll see. Part of the problem is I really want to write well written, well thought out, well edited post on Uganda because I have so much to say and it's all so important to me that I keep putting it off to a time when I can really focus on it. As much as I'm able to blog at work, it's hard sometimes to really focus and concentrate, so I think I'll just need to suck it up and spend some time on it at home, as much as I hate hanging out on the computer at home since I sit in front of one all day long.

Further I must apologize for being such a reading slacker. I had expected to get like a ton of reading done on my trip to Uganda. I mean there's the full day of travel to and back from Uganda and then I had thought that the travel to and from Gulu could count as reading time, as well as the fact that I always read before I got to bed. Well, as it happened, not only was I in and out of sleep on the flights, but also international flights apparently have personal TVs for everyone (which I did not know) and so rather than making myself more motion sick by reading I opted to watch movies and TV shows instead! It was quite wonderful, I'm not going to lie to you. And the trip to Gulu, well try reading when you're being jostled and bumped around every other second by the horrendous roads. I have motion sickness already and reading always makes that worse, but with those roads I would have been puking out of the little matatu window! Also, since I devotedly journaled every night and had so much to journal about, reading before I went to sleep just didn't happen. Exhaustion usually made even journaling a huge task. So yes, I did finally finish Crime and Punishment, I know, it took an embarrassingly long time, though in my defense I often put it down to read other books for specific purpose (as in the other book was being made into a movie, for a book club, etc.), but I have not been able to start another book yet, partly out of just the exhaustion and jet lag I've had since coming home. There are so many books I want to read right now that I think my head will explode, but of course I couldn't resist starting with my dear friend's upcoming debut release, The Cleaner by Brett Battles! I've been very excited to read it and I think going from a psychological thriller in Crime and Punishment to a international thriller is a great transition! Plus, I'm sooo all into international traveling right now, so I'm really pumped to read it. After that, I've been dying to read a couple of books and I've just ordered some highly recommended books on Uganda and Africa that I really want to devour. Sometimes I just wish I could eat books and absorb them that way, I'd get so much more read then! The boredom and monotony of my job just leaves my brain so unstimulated at the end of the day that by the time I get home it's just complete putty and all I want to do is vege in front of the TV, especially since I have so many episodes of The Office, 24 and Six Feet Under to catch up on.

So under that paragraph of excuses, I do promise to get back on track with my reading and return to providing my book reviews. I didn't write a review for Crime and Punishment because I thought it was so well read and since I read it in pieces over such a long time, I didn't think I'd write a well rounded review, it'd probably have been heavily focused on the second half of the book! But if you just absolutely have to have a review just give me a ping in the comments and I'll relent. Overall I can say this, the book was intriguing, dark and just endlessly interesting. The characters were complicated and I felt like I was always learning something new about each character. At first it was a little difficult for me to get into the style of writing but once I did I really enjoyed it and moved through the book fairly easily when I got a chance to actually read it.

For funsies I thought I'd throw out a couple of links for y'all, just since you've been so patient to read through the drudgery of my excuses.

Books are finally cool!!! Well, sort of... do you guys remember when mint was the cool word for cool? Nobody seems to, but I totally do, and it was so mint.

I swear, I really did read Crime and Punishment, but if I were to lie about reading a book, that'd have been a good one... so what books have you lied about reading? Honestly, I really tried to think about it and I really can't remember lying about reading a book. The closest I think I've ever come is pretending to have heard of a book when in fact I haven't if someone acts like I so totally should have heard about it. Still pretty lame of me, no doubt.


The Hidden Genocide

I've wanted to adopt from China since I did a project on the One-Child Rule in China. I learned about the hidden genocide of baby girls that occurred as soon as the law was put into affect in 1979 and I have no doubt that the genocide continues. I read stories of baby girls being found in gutters and allies, often chewed on by wild dogs. Baby girls were drowned and suffocated and thrown out with that week's trash.

Recently, I've been baffled by the recent reports that there's such a high demand for Chinese babies that they're actually running out and have therefore constructed even stricter restrictions for International Adoption. I first heard of this talking to a friend (I honestly can't remember who, otherwise I'd send her this article) who said that they're running out of Chinese babies. I didn't believe her for a second because I was very aware of the situation in China and the fact that baby girls are still loathed to the Chinese who'd rather have a boy as their only child rather than a girl. But I was baffled at the news that the Chinese government has increased the restrictions on adoptions and are granting fewer babies to International applicants. It is distressing news to someone who cares deeply about the baby girls in China and also to a prospective adopter.

This New York Tims article (thanks for sending it my way, hubby!) touches on some of the possible reasons for China reining in foreign adoption:
The issue of abandoned and institutionalized children remains a taboo subject in China, a problem the government does not even acknowledge exists. The impulse to hide it seems to stem partly from embarrassment and partly from fear of revealing the grave human rights abuses the one-child policy has produced; surely, watching a parade of well-off foreigners cart off thousands of babies would make the Chinese authorities understandably uncomfortable.
If I know anything about Chinese culture it's that it is a very proud culture, so I can buy this reasoning. What I can't buy is that nobody's doing anything about a very obvious human rights violation. According the the Times:

According to a February 2005 report in The Weekend Standard, a Chinese business newspaper, demographers in China found a ratio of 117 boys per 100 girls under the age of 5 in the 2000 census. Thanks to China’s one-child policy, put into effect in 1979 in order to curb population growth, and a strong cultural preference for male children, this gender gap could result in as many as 60 million “missing” girls from the population by the end of the decade, enough to alarm even Chinese officials.

And what happened to these girls? According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (a term that takes on a whole new meaning when referring to China), there are about seven million abortions in China per year, 70 percent of which are estimated to be of females. That adds up to around five million per year, or 50 million by the end of the decade; so where are the other 10 million girls? If even 10 percent end up in orphanages... well, you do the math.

Just to give you an idea of the new stricter guidelines for international adopters:

Under the new Chinese adoption guidelines, the international adoption celebrity Angelina Jolie could not adopt from China (she’s not married, and alas, she and Brad have more than two divorces between them, which is a no-no); nor could the actress Meg Ryan (again, not married). Another person who is not eligible is yours truly. My husband is over 50, so I would have to trade him in, marry again, wait the required five years (another new rule) before beginning the adoption process, and by that time I would be sneaking up on 50 myself.

It is comforting to know that Madonna is still eligible, at least until she turns 50, gets fat (the new regulations call for a body mass index of less than 40), gets divorced or goes broke (anyone with a net worth of under $80,000 is excluded).

Yeah, a little crazy there. Also, no mental or physical illnesses and no disabled persons. So far, once I turn thirty, I'll still be eligible. But then the process right now takes between 16-24 months, nearly double what it used to take. You truly have to wonder if China's putting its image or the children first with these new guidelines. After all I know overweight and disabled people who'd make much better parents then some of those image obsessed people running around out there, so using that as a guideline seems extreme and unnecessary, if not prejudice. But history tells us that China has rarely put their baby girls first over anything, ever. And so one can only assume that the orphanages (which China Rarely lets foreigners visit, you need permission from the government to visit any orphanage in China) are still overcrowded with unwanted baby girls, perhaps not murdered by their parents, but slowly being murdered through malnutrition and disease by the China's pride.


Stalled Peace Talks

As my Uganda trip came to an end, so did the Juba Peace Talks as Joseph Kony decided that the Sudan government was too corrupt to hold the peace talks in Juba anymore. He has since demanded that the peace talks be moved, his suggestion, Kenya or South Africa.

After so much hope expressed by the people of Uganda, particularly in the North, this is disheartening and disappointing for all Ugandans and for the anyone who cares about the safety and well being of Northern Uganda. For me personally, I would be devastated to see war break out again in Northern Uganda where I've seen the faces of hope in person. I've never met people who have been through so much grief and trauma who can still smile, sing and rejoice in life as the Ugandans do. The spirit of Africa is a miracle for a country that's been so devastated so much over the years and are an inspiration to me.

I've tried to start a thoughtful blog on my trip to Uganda many times and have faltered. Where to begin with an issue 20 years in the making and with an experience too profound for words? I finally decided to approach it in an organized systematic way that hopefully will not seem so overwhelming to me. I journaled nearly everyday while in Uganda and I'll follow my journal and blog about the more interesting points that I journaled about. I'll start tomorrow with Day 1: Arrival into the country and continue with my Uganda Series until I've exhausted my journal pages and made you all so knowledgeable about Uganda you'll feel as if you've been there.

As I blog about Uganda, please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions on the subject. I'm deeply interested in an interactive discussion of all things Uganda. I've become quite obsessed, more so than before and anybody who knew me before probably already thought I was a nut about Uganda. Now that I've tasted the Pearl of Africa, my mouth yearns for the sweetness and my tongue flicks at the slightest whiff of anything Uganda.

For more up-to-date news on the Juba Peace talks please visit Uganda-CAN.

Also, a very provocative and controversial article, thanks to In An African Minute for the link. I'm curious to people's thoughts on this article.


It's Official

The rumors have turned into truth. Tomlin is the new Steelers' head coach with a four year $2.5 million a year deal in his pocket. Better yet, it's said that he's keeping LeBeau! I would have been crushed to lose Cowher and LeBeau in the same season! Russ Grimm will obviously leave the Steelers after being passed over for the head coaching spot and so the Steelers are now in search for a new Offensive Coordinator and an Offensive Line Coach. It's no secret that our Offense struggled last year so I'm actually pretty optimistic to get a new look and direction with our Offense. While a little inconsistent due to injuries this year, our Defense has been the team's rock for years now and so I'm happy to have another Defensive minded head coach to keep our rock steady and keep our team's identity in tack. Some interesting insights on Tomlin and his calm coaching style. For those unfamiliar with Tomlin (I wasn't since I'm a Vikes fan), here's some info and links to more on Tomlin. Also, some fans individual takes on Tomlin as our new head coach. In addition to our Special Teams Coach possibly leaving to join Wiz at Arizona (Puhhh-lease take him!) it looks like the Steelers are entertaining Barr again as our punter. After the sorry season Gardocki had (who cares if he has never had a punt blocked if the hang time is next to nothing?) I'm ready to see new blood in our punting game and in our special teams play in general.

I'm excited to see what will happen, I really liked Tomlin with the Vikings and so I'm pretty stoked to see what he'll do with my Steelers. Of course now I have to worry about who will replace Tomlin with the Vikes, our running D was the one bright spot on our team last year so now I'm a little less excited about the Vikings prospects without Tomlin.

Sigh, it's so hard loving two teams sometimes.

Check out Deadspin's take on Tomlin as Steelers head coach... always an entertaining read!


Living On The Wild Side!

And yeah, I was totally showing some leg too. I know, I'm totally out of control.

Taketh From One, Giveth To Another

So the reports are that Tomlin, the amazing Defensive coordinator that took the Vikings sorry Defense and turned it around literally in a year to have one of the best Run Defenses in the league, has been snatched from the Vikings to replace Cowher as the Steelers' new head coach.

Mixed feelings have arisen for me since I am of course a Vikings and a Steelers fan and the Steelers have taken one of the best Defensive Coordinators we've had in quite some time (our D has sucked for a while now, basically) and our team will definitely be hurt by this loss. However, I'm totally stoked at the thought of seeing Tomlin, whom I'd watched and followed closely this last season with the Vikes, take the reigns of my other fave team, the Steelers. I'm not surprised by the pick, I really didn't see the Steelers going Offensively with their coaching pick (hello, look at their last two coaches/last thirty plus years of coaching) and they like going for the young up-and-comer. He must have really impressed them, which is good enough for me and I really hope he does well. My only concern is that Tomlin is more of a Cover-2 guy which really doesn't fit our 3-4 Defense right now, and we definitely don't have the budget to reorg our defense with the type of guys that can do Cover-2 and 4-3 D, so I'm hoping he's willing to adjust his experience to the 3-4 D and I'm really hoping LeBeau will stick around to make that transition easier. Plus, I just really freaking love the 3-4 and would be totally pissed if he changed that!!!

Next year will be an exciting and interesting year, except that the Vikes' D will totally suck again. Sigh.



Heck Yeah!

FYI, Josh is the amazing individual who basically organized the whole Kimeeza II. You could say he's pretty awesome, but I wouldn't to his face, he might get a big head. :)

That's Josh on the left (obviously) whipping out his Zoolander pose. The beautiful lady on the right is the wonderful Katie Spencer who was our group Mama on the trip!

Damn, missing them both like crazy already! Though I may try to meet up with Josh in Paris when Hubby and I go on our European excursion if things work out! Can't wait!

At Last...

The long awaited toilet picture.

Yes, I have thighs of steel now.

By the way, that toilet does not flush. See that container in the bottom right corner? You are supposed to fill that with water to wash the waste down. FYI, most of the people did NOT do this. There's nothing like seeing and smelling other people's poo first thing in the morning.

Ugandan Clouds For Elizabeth

And you probably thought I forgot!!!

There are even birdies in the pic as well!


Panic Attacks and Deep Sleep

I had been told that I would probably receive a bigger culture shock coming home than I did going to Uganda, and they weren't lying! As soon as I stepped off the plane in Cincy into the familiar airport I had a mini panic attack and actually though, Crap, I'm back here! Then I felt like I was in an alternate universe as I watched people walk by clean and well dressed, children being picky about their food and crying for some object in the shop window. I was in shock at the stark contrasts of the life I'd just been immersed in and stunned that most of the people around me probably don't even know where Uganda is in Africa. I felt like an alien in my own country, looking around in an almost paranoid state and feeling isolated in my confusion at how one country can have so much and another so little.

It was nice to get home, but it was odd to feel like I was in a luxury spa in my own home. I did have the deepest sleep I've had in a while and pretty much slept offand on all day. It'll take me a while to get used to living like this again and it makes me feel insanely spoiled and more determined to share my privileges with others by devoting myself to helping. It is in this spirit that I've taken on the position of American Ambassador of the Uganda Breakdance Project. I plan on working with the founder, Abramz, and doing some amazing things with his project including increasing awareness and raising funds. This guy is truly amazing, up until now he has been paying for the project mostly by himself with very little help. There will be a ton more info coming, I promise! You'll be flooded with info and ways you can contribute to this project so I hope you get involved in the efforts to build peace in Uganda.

Just to give you a taste of what amazing things Abramz's project creates, please check this out:

And just in case you weren't sure how amazing Abramz truly is and wanted some more evidence, check out his music video with his brother (he's also a rapper)... yup, no drugs or bitches and hoes rapped about here!



Argh, after a Very long day of travel, in which first our flight was delayed so that we had to literally get special line jumping privelages just to make our connecting flight to JFK, our wonderful British Airways (which I'm Never flying again) lost all of our luggage. Grrr.

I'm tired, grumpy and hungry. I'm going to eat some good ol' American pizza now from Papa Johns and then probably get diarrhea from it since I've been on a diet of basically rice and beens for two weeks now. Oh well, it'll be worth it!

Tomorrow, onwards to Cincy!

By the way, the internet in America is freaking AMAZING! You'd better appreciate it!

And my dear angie, the culture shock has already started, I miss Uganda sooo much! What's funny is I thought I'd miss America like crazy and that after two weeks I'd be dying for home, but other than missing my hubby and family I really could have happily stayed on in Uganda and didn't miss America that much other than little things I could deal with. I already miss Uganda though and feel an ache in my heart that makes me just want to cry. So I know I have to go back! Watch out Uganda, you'll be getting a second dose of Mai very soon!!!

Thanks to everyone for your wonderful and supportive comments!


Craziness and Sadness

All I can say about the Nile River is that it is a completely different world. Imagine that Jurasic Park existed and you got to raft down the river through it. I know, lame comparisn, but that's what it was like for me. I felt like I was floating through paradise or another world. Not that we could bring our cameras, but it wouldn't have mattered. Pictures would never have done it justice. I was absolutely in awe and I got to see monkies (fianlly)! That was my one goal for the rest of the trip to see one monkey and I got see a bunch with baby monkies!! Rafting was fun, though the raft was split with newbies and extreme sportsmen (me having rafted before wanting to go extreme) and so we ended up taking all the easy rapids, which was a little disappointing. I think it would have been amazing to go all out rafting on the Nile! However, the view was more than worth it and it was so much fun hanging out with the group I went with. They were just great and so much fun.

I also got to watch an American football game!! The only guy on our trip, Kris, is a huge Patriots fan and I'm just a huge football fan in general so we went on a mission to find the game and watch it. In the process we found two other Pats fans, had to change bars twice, ALL of us got propositioned by hookers (and yes, by ALL of us I do mean me too and there weren't any male hookers either), and we got back to our dorm at 5am to find the door locked. After an outdoor bathroom break Kris and I then had to scale a concrete block wall with barbed wire wrapped around it! Luckily I've learned to carry my headlamp with me everywhere I go because the lighting around Uganda at night time is not reliable. You'd think that me being as clumsy as I am that climbing a wall covered in barbed wire would result in multiple injuries, but that's the irony of me. I didn't get hurt at all during rafting though my roomie, Lynn, busted her chin open with her paddle and another girl in our group slipped on some rocks climbing into the boat and got scraped up. I also came from my wall scaling experience with out a scratch. And yet I randomly ran into barbed wire here for no good reason the first week I was here, and I just tripped and stubbed my toe again last night for the fiftieth time.

This trip is definitely coming to a close and it's so sad. I feel like I'm just starting to get really close to everyone and now we have to leave. It's been a stressful last couple of days for the group including a odd shooting in Gulu the last night we were there (the rumor is a guy committed suicide) right in front of our hotel at the club we frequented. It was unnerving and scared some of the people. A mugging at night in Kampala of one of my fellow American participants in which she lost all her money and credit cards, luckily her passport was not with her. An eye swollen shut by a bug bite for another one of my friends and finally one of the girls getting malaria even though she was on anti-malaria pills. Everyone's okay and contrary to popular belief in America malaria is Not deadly unless a child or elderly person contracts it, it's kind of like influenza in America, it's just not pleasant to get it. It's just been stressful for everyone around here and the strain of the trip finally hit all in one day. Yes, other than the shooting all of that took place in one day, the day I went rafting and the same day my roomie busted her chin up rafting.

It's been a fantastic trip and I'm very impressed with the GYPA program and the manner in which it conducted the trip. It was perfect and well thought out, though often the schedule was very fluid and not set (which drives me nuts since I'm obsessed with planning ahead) I really think most of what we did was interesting, useful and valid. The greatest thing about this trip is the Action Statement we created and the different relationships that were created. I've really gotten into Abramz project and am goint to help him, but GYPA picked many different community leaders here in Uganda as their Ugandan participants and other American participants are hooking up with other projects here in Uganda through them! It's so great to meet people and find a common interest and passion and create a partnership. Already so many people have planned out their return here and I have a list of different ways I can return and can't wait to plan out which will work out for me. That is the allure and sweetness of Uganda, once you've gotten a taste it's in your blood and you have to return. The fact that I plan on coming back is one of the only thing keeping me from grabbing the ground and not letting anyone pull me away!

I have a full day of travel tomorrow (16 hours on the plane!) and will arrive back into Cincy early Wednesday morning. I'm excited to see my family and to eat some American food! Oh, and I get to watch the Championship games this weekend, only a world war could keep me from watching those games this weekend. I miss watching football so much! At least I didn't have to miss any of my teams' playoff games because neither of them made it.

Love y'all, see you in America!

P.S. I have a ton of awesome pictures that I'll upload once I get home, also the GYPA flickr site will have a ton more uploaded as the American participants get home.


Back Home... er, I mean Kampala.

We took the horrible, bumpy ride back to Kampala this morning... which feels like home.

Gotta go, but wanted everyone to know I got back safely to Kampala... tomorrow's white water rafting on the Nile!


Group Photo!

This is the Kampala GYPA group with the Youth Minister of Uganda. We were Extremely lucky to get many government officials speak to us while in Kampala... more details to come. Just thought I'd share the photo. I'm not in it because I'm taking it, so don't waste your time looking for my gorgeous face! :)


Boda Boda!

So I rode on one of those death traps I was telling you about! It was fun, though I'm not sure I'd ride one in Kampala where traffic goes a bit faster. Today we followed local NGOs around to see how they were run and what they were doing. We split up and I got to follow around Invisible Children whom I've followed and supported from America. It was great to see where my support has been going! Especially the bracelet project, I have subscription to the all the bracelets so I got to meet the wonderful people who were making them. It was really cool. Invisible Children have 2 month volunteer trips that I really want to go on now! I really like their organization and it's really young too, so I'd love to be a part of its growth. The Ugandan participants here in Gulu are so focused and intelligent. I feel that many of them have already been involved in the peace buliding process here in Northern Uganda and are planning and willing to do so much more. I'm very impressed the GYPA has gathered such wonderful and impressive Ugandan participants in both Gulu and Kampala. I'll cry like a baby when I have to leave and then cry like a baby again when I get to see my wonderful and supportive hubby again, then probably cry some more when I get to see my furkids.

We're in Gulu until Saturday morning and today it's been an exact week since we've been in Africa. I can't believe we've only been here for a week! i feel like I've been here for at least a month, it feels very comfortable and like a second home. I'm absolutely falling in love with Uganda and the people I've met here more and more every day. Though I do have to admit, I will have a love affair with my bathroom when I get home. That's the only thing that makes life in Africa a little bit tough for me, but I can take it, it's just not very pleasant at all.

I'm trying to upload some more pictures, we'll see if it works! And on Sunday we're going to Jinja to go white water rafting on the source of the Nile!! Hell yeah, how many people can say they went rafting on the freaking Nile? Yeah, that's what I thought. I'm pretty cool.

Again, I wanted to reitterate that I'll be providing more analytical blogs on what I'm actually discussing here with the Ugandan participants and discussing in more detail some of the activities we've partaken in and my feelings and thoughts on them. I just don't feel like I have adequate time to analyze and write something well written and thoughful right now since I'm always rushing on the computer to get all that I need to get done done on the slow slow computers here!

Much love to all in the US and I hope if nothing else I've sparked an interest and concern in you for Northern Uganda and the 20 year invisible war here.


I Spoke Too Soon...

So as happy I was about the toliet in Kampala, I only had to wait to arrive into Gulu to be tested... It's pretty much just a hole in the ground and so balance is key, of which I have none. I've already had a few attempts and am improving, but it's still quite a challenge to me, I'm not going to lie. I tried to upload the lovely picture, but Blogger's not working with me. I will for sure update it later. I know you're dying to see where my waste is going.

I got to Gulu okay, the trip took a little over five hours and was quite bumpy. Boy, will I sure love the roads when I get home! I was so incredibly sad to leave our Kampala Ugandan participants for this week that I can't imagine how I'll feel when I come home. I miss my hubby and family and pets to death, but I really don't want to leave... I'm already plotting my return. This place feels like a second home and I know that I'm meant to work here because I just love it so much. I want to bring everyone I know here!! It truly is an amazing place.

Anyways, attempting to upload some more pictures, but until then, Nkwagala! (I love you)


Dancing, Fame and Toliets

Let's start with the basics. This is my toilet. At first I was so happy it wasn't just a hole in the ground, as I was warned it might be. But then I wondered how I was going to poo, as anyone who knows me knows I'm not very coordinated. But I did find a toilet with a seat down the street from me, so problem adverted, I'm sure you're happy to know. There are more pictures of my room on my Flickr account.

I'm so sorry I've been slow to get up a good post, but the computers here have been ridiculously mind numbingly slow. I'm on a resort right now relaxing after a Very trying day yesterday and so it has nice (and expensive!) internet. However, I have to take advantage of it to upload all my photos so I can take more at Gulu since my disk is almost all full. We're leaving for Gulu tomorrow morning, so I definitely will not have internet access until Friday at the earliest (when we come back to Kampala).

I've decided that I'm going to die here in some completely random manner. Nope, not by malaria or boda bodas (the taxi motorcycles here that are extremely dangerous) but by tripping and falling and splitting my head open. I've tripped, bumped into things, cut my finger on my razor, cut my arm on barbed wire. I'm a mess. I'm quite known for it actually now amongst my group!

While I'm famous amongst my American group for my clumsiness, I'm actually quite famous to the Ugandan people. To the extent that I was interviewed!! Hehe, okay, so maybe famous is a stretch, and just so you know, the newspaper is government run and I definitely did not "demand" anything, but the quote is pretty accurate... other than the "Sir," I didn't say that and I'm not sure why it was added. I actually kind of panicked when he asked me that question because he was only supposed to be interviewing me about the Kimeeza and why I came and he kind of just sprung that on me. I was also interviewed (on camera, ugh) by a local news station that did that same thing, only they sprung a question about women and work on me. I truly felt like an idiot when answering because I was not at all prepared.

Anyways, more annoying photo uploading news, I was happily uploading when my camera ran out of batteries. Grrrr, at least I got some uploaded. Oh well. Luckily the group will be having a joint Flickr account and so I'll link to that and you can see a lot of the pictures I might now be able to take!

Beyond that, I'm getting used to the living conditions, surprisingly! I thought I'd be a lot more finicky than I am. I'm having so much fun and have absolutely fallen in love with many people here, including my roommate, Lynn, and especially one of the Ugandan leads of the trip, Colin and this AMAZING person, Abramz. You have to check out his Breakdance Project Page to see what a young (he's 24) person can do and what a difference one person can make. The people in general are amazing and I'll be posting many many posts following my trip about many different issues and thoughts that have presented themselves to me on this trip. I've learned a lot about the world and myself this trip.

Alright, since I can't upload any more pictures and it's expensive, mine as well go and get some sun!!

Much love to everyone in the states! I'm really enjoying every minute and they may have to drag me home...

P.S. I'm even more depressed to go home because of the news of Cowher retiring. I seriously almost cried, it's surely an end of an era...


Decent Internet... Almost

Went into Kampala to explore and finally have got decent internet... well almost, still can't download pictures! Grrrr, that's so frustrating, I'll have to do it this weekend when I have more time, etc. I only have 6 more minutes, but wanted to say wuzzzup. I'm just as clumsy as ever here, sliced my finger with a razor, hit my head about 15 times now, and have now cut my arm on barbed wire. I think my finger cut got infected so I have to take antibiotics now. Have a lot to tell you about, but it will have to wait for later. But in the meantime, check out these sites for updates and pictures too! Those are two links, so check them both out!


Lonnng First Day In The Pearl Of Africa

I have yet to have a full night's sleep since leaving home, but what an adventure it's been! Uganda is beautiful, of course, as are the people. It's amazing that I'm actually in Africa, I still can't completely believe it... though when I have to take a cold shower in the dark tonight (my first in two days!) I think reality might hit!! :)

I'm hurrying to get an entry in to let everyone know that I'm okay and got here safely. THANK YOU SOOO MUCH FOR ALL THE COMMENTS, KEEP THEM COMING, I LOVE THEM!!!! I wish I could respond to all of them individually, but as the internet's super slow here and I have limited time on it, it's just not possible right now.

More later, I promise, including pictures!!!!!!!


Travelling Hell

I'm in New York, leaving for Uganda tomorrow morning at the butt crack of dawn.

I hate travelling by myself. I suck at it. First my original flight was cancelled and good ol' Delta decided to let me know BY EMAIL. No phone call. They rebooked me on a flight that would have arrived too late for me to make my flight to Uganda, so luckily on NEW YEAR'S EVE I happened to not be partying it up and checked my email. Then hubby and I sat on the phone with Delta on hold for about an hour before having to acquire an earlier flight to New York today, meaning less time with my hubby. So, being Miss Prepared, I go to the airport super early and not only have to wait one hour anyways, but my flight's delayed another hour. Get on the plane, arrive at the gi-normous JFK airport (at least to me) and get lost on my way to the baggage claim, get to it finally and wait for about an hour for my bag before realizing that it was pulled off and put to the side cuz it took me so darn long to get there, get my heavy ass bag and wander around lost some more sweating and in profuse amounts of pain, finally find the air train, get on the wrong one, finally get the right one, call my hotel for a shuttle, wait an hour, realize shuttle's not coming for me, call again, wait some more, finally get on the shuttle, get to hotel.


More later, right now I'm going to rest my sore back and try to quiet the butterflies that are dancing in my stomach right now...

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