Kampala on Less than Two Dollars per Day

The view from my place in Bunga

Since I began working in Kampala, I have had to consider my personal budget and make a few changes. Before I was hired at the bar, my boss informed me that he’d be paying me a “Ugandan salary,” normal for a workaday Ugandan, but a significantly lower rate than I’d grown used to. The work I am doing is in no way intellectual or particularly tasking, so my salary is 200,000 Uganda shillings (about $80) per month. Included in this would be a place to stay, a free beer and free meals each day from the restaurant. I took the job, figuring I could survive handsomely with the situation, and maybe even save a small sum. Continue reading

East Africa’s Perception of Quality

Preparing the equipment for the tour I’m helping to manage was something I decided to take particular responsibility over. The other tasks, like finding corporate sponsorship or wooing venues into hosting the band involve too much persuasion and infuriating negotiation for my liking. Finding sound equipment, on the other hand… how hard can it be? Continue reading

Tilapia Culture and my Service Industry Baptism

The Tilapia

“I really don’t like that one,” She said, looking sour and pointing at me. She was an old Dutch hack talking quietly to a friend I’d just made named Rodriguez, a Burundian fellow I’d been practicing my French with for the past two hours. At least Rodriquez didn’t feel the same way she did. How could he? He’d just bought me a beer. It was my first night, a Thursday, at my new job, and I was learning the basics of bartending from my colleagues, a Welshman and a pair of Rastafarians. The lack of live music or other attractants kept the crowd small, so it became a good training night. Continue reading

Speke and Me, Explorers We

John Speke’s drawing of the Nile’s source back when. The falls no longer exist for damming.

It was fitting that the book I brought along on my cycling adventure around Lake Victoria was a 1912 edition of John Speke’s memoir of his own two-and-a-half year expedition in search of the source of the River Nile. During lonely sick days or lazy afternoons, I lost myself in his detailed account of trudging through swamps, leading mutinous men, and struggling to appease a series of chiefs and kings along the way. To read about a specific place along the lake’s enormous fringe which was opened up to the Europeans by Speke in the 1860s, and then to pass through the very same place on a bicycle gave my whole adventure context. Hell, it makes my ordeal look like a trip to the grocery store to buy cake mix.

I had fairly smooth roads, for one thing, and wheels to boot. Continue reading

The Home Stretch through Uganda

My first Ugandan lunch for nearly a month

Miles beyond Busia, over the border from Kenya and back into Uganda, they still say “Jambo!” in greeting. They still say “Asante Sana” in thanks, and they still count currency in Kiswahili. This makes it tough to shift gears back into the Lugandan language after having been in Kiswahili mode for so long.

But most things are Ugandan again. Plantains are steamed and mashed into matoke, the belly-filling staple food available at any roadside restaurant. The plantations where those fruits come from line the gently rising and falling roadways, and the white minivans with a blue checkered stripe zoom past my rattling bicycle at great speed, taking commuters to the next towns. Continue reading

On Fund Raising

The system works!

I hate asking people for things, normally. I’d rather sleep out in the cold than knock on a stranger’s door, unless I was seriously concerned about my survival. My diet, when I’m in a financial bind, consists of what’s both cheapest and most nutritionally wholesome: fruit, seeds, nuts. And the very last thing I’d ever ask anyone for is money; I feel I ought to be able to earn what I need. Maybe I’m proud, maybe I’m stubborn, but I only wish to sustain myself in contentedness.

Recently I’ve had to change this mentality somewhat. Working with this community-based organization, PMK Save the Future Generation – Uganda, I’ve learned that one must ask for help in order to receive it. By trying to raise money for my circumnavigation of Lake Victoria, and the subsequent funding of a new community banking program for the organization, I’ve achieved a new level of humility by sending emails to friends, companies, organizations, and family asking for contributions. Continue reading

Sharing Knowledge at St. John’s Secondary School

One of these things is not like the other. Left to right: Missi the Headmaster, the bewildered author, some fancypants Ministry of Education guy, and Wilber the Director attending the changing-of-the-Prefects ceremony.

One of the more valuable connections I’ve made since I’ve been in Uganda has been that of my good friend Wilber. I trundled into his office at a small secondary school in Kazo one day on a visit with my hosts. Wilber sat behind his desk, smiling and confident, and introduced himself as the director of this establishment, St. John’s Secondary School.
“You are welcome, please come by anytime.” Continue reading