A Travellerspoint blog

Define "Ordinary"

The days are beginning to blend together now and I find that several days will pass with nothing really out of the ordinary happening. But then again, maybe my definition of ordinary is just changing; at one time I probably would have considered the power being disconnected because of an unpaid bill a pretty big deal but when it happened to me a couple of days ago, I just kind of shrugged and figured the issue would sort itself out eventually. You see it wasn't that I didn't pay my electric bill, but rather that the bill was never delivered (they bring it to your door because most people don't have a mailing address). In fact, our entire six-unit complex failed to receive their bills because on both occasions when the utility company attempted to deliver the bills, no one answered at the gate and the delivery person "feared" to enter the compound without authorization. (As a side note, the use of the word "fear" in lieu of "being afraid" of something takes some getting used to.) Well, I came home the other day to find the entire complex up in arms; there was no power (which really isn't that uncommon but I suppose a black-out is one thing, a disconnection rather quite a different one) and the bills we were to have received were rumoured to be in the millions of shillings range PER UNIT!! So we're talking thousands of dollars. Obviously, something had gone very wrong; as I still haven't received a bill, I don't think the issue has been completely resolved but at least power has been restored and I've heard from my neighbours that the landlord is looking into it.

Dignitaries from Malawi stopped by the BeadforLife office yesterday and spent the morning touring the office and observing the bead sale which was taking place at the time. They were the Minster of Social Development and Persons with Disabilities and her small entourage. Although I wasn't privy to the purpose behind their visit, I noticed they seemed impressed by the programs being offered by BFL and by the jewelry being sold by the Ugandan woman.

Kara and I continue to pursue the idea of starting up a resource centre in our area, but it has been a slow process so far. We hope to meet with a broker next week sometime to look at options for a small, but functional office space. The other option is to build something suitable. Kara has been volunteering at a local one-room school started by a retired Ugandan teacher named Florence who lives in our area. The students are children who normally wouldn't be able to attend school and the school is a one-room shack on a rented parcel of land. We are wondering if there isn't some way we can partner with Florence, maybe by raising funds to build a proper school which could double as our resource centre. I suppose the reason it is taking us awhile to get things moving is because we really don't want to rush into something until we know we are headed in the right direction. There are so many options for helping and some probably much more sustainable over the long-term than others.

I feel that after a bit of a lull in my blogging, I should have something more profound to say, maybe a few sage words about the state of the world and our place in it. I think it is this sense of ordinariness I've alluded to that is to blame. How quickly we humans learn to accept the status quo and comfortably live within it!

Posted by BriteLite 10:12 Comments (0)

Just for Amy

Mara's best friend, Amy, celebrated her 11th birthday on October 3rd. Mara made a video which we tried to email but it didn't go through so I've posted it here for her to view and I guess a few others will see it as well!

Posted by BriteLite 09:44 Comments (1)

2010 Lake Victoria Triathlon

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Yesterday marked the 5th annual Lake Victoria Triathlon and I had the privilege of participating. It was a superbly organized event complete with timing chips, post-race refreshments and awards ceremony. The venue, The Entebbe Sailing Club, is a beautiful spot; set on the shores of Lake Victoria, it has mzungu written all over it, a quality which can be appreciated when one is about to enter waters which may or may not be infested with crocs and balharzia.

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While waiting in line to collect my race package at 6 am, I met a fellow Canadian name Jillian Baker. Sharing both homeland and last name, we formed a bond immediately and the friend she had brought along for support was happy to help me out as well. It was really great to have the two of them to hang out with!

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The race itself was a challenging course. Not having trained for several months, my body seemed to revolt against the sudden onslaught of hills and distance that I was subjecting it to. The swim, normally my weakest discipline, was actually the easiest portion of the race to complete. The water was calm, clear and warm and, in general, the other competitors seemed closer to my speed than those who compete back home. The mass start was a little chaotic; immediately, I knew I was in good company when half the competitors started breaststroking right off the start, but all those whip kicks can wreak havoc on the group with everyone bunched so close together. I came out of the water a little tired but feeling good.

Then came the bike...I've never competed in an off-road event and the extra weight of the mountain bike (combined with the fact that the easiest seven gears were out of commission) took its toll.

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Other recreational hazards included speed bumps, potholes, congested traffic, smoke and exhaust in the air, and even a pitch-black stretch through a tunnel. It was a scenic ride through the Botanical Gardens and around the Entebbe Airport but on more than one occasion I found myself desperately wondering, "When is this torture going to end?" Near the end, there was a brutal hill and I actually passed one rider. He came back to pass me on the downhill stretch which followed but as he did he hollered, "Come on, let's kick it!" The extra motivation was a great morale booster.

Coming off the bike, the race announcer said I was the second individual woman through. I was pumped! But the ride had tested the limits of my strength and endurance, and I literally stumbled my way through the transition area. It took me a few kilometres to find my running legs and I could feel pain in my right knee, a nagging injury I've been struggling with for awhile now. I pushed on, trying to ignore the aches and pains and telling myself I just needed to keep up the pace and I would have a spot on the podium. Then came the moment of my undoing...a fork in the road with no race marshals in site. It was an out-and-back route and I knew the way I had come, but the markings on the road were a little confusing so I wondered if the last few metres to the finish line were slightly different than the start. I was running on fumes at that point, probably not thinking clearly and just desperate to cross the finish line - I knew it was less than a km away. I made the mistake of asking a couple of guys who looked like they might know what was going on. I asked "Do I go straight or turn?". They replied "Straight!" with such confidence that I figured they must know what they were talking about. Despite the fact, that my intuition told me otherwise, I went straight and after awhile realized I had made a terrible mistake. I was heading away from, not toward the finish line! When I found myself back on the run route, got my bearings and began to process the distance I had to make up, I wanted to cry. I knew the detour would bump me from my second place standing. There wasn't much to do but keep going, and eventually I did cross the finish line but it was a bittersweet moment.

Here I am pictured receiving an award for my third place finish (there were only five competitors in my division so it sounds better than it was). Ahh well, I finished the race, made some new friends, and enjoyed some much-needed alone-time in the process. Wouldn't trade the experience for anything!

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Race photos taken by the organizers should soon be posted on the activate Uganda site http://www.triathlon.activate-uganda.com/Downloads.php

Posted by BriteLite 23:12 Archived in Uganda Comments (5)

Fines and Football

My entries have been a little shy on content lately, so it's probably time I sat down and spent a little time writing. There definitely is no shortage of material to draw from. If I think for a moment, there are any number of issues to discuss, from deep and perplexing to light and humourous.

I'll just fire off a few things that have come up recently.

Well, first of all, I was surprised to learn that, until I showed her, my house help didn't know how to use a vegetable peeler, nor did she recognize the ground beef I was making into hamburgers or even the rolled oats I was adding to the mixture. Strange how things that seem so commonplace to me are completely foreign to the majority of the population here.

I've been a bit of a lawbreaker this last week. First, unbeknownst to me, I parked illegally downtown and wound up getting a "parking ticket" which is essentially a big lock (they call it a boot) fastened around one of your tires and which is only unlocked when you pay the fine of 20,000 shillings (ten bucks, which is a small fortune around these parts). I asked for a receipt to be sure I wasn't just putting money into the pocket of the by-law enforcement officer, only to be told that I would have to go to the traffic violation office in Nakasero somewhere (a different part of town) and, of course, I would have to take public transit (with all four kids, I might add) because that lock only comes off your tire once the fine is paid. So, yes, the officer grinned slyly, I was welcome to spend the rest of my day hunting down a receipt for my payment or I could just hand over 20,000. I thought about my options for all of about ten seconds. At that point, I really could have cared less who was getting the money. I was frazzled, having spent the afternoon running from one government office to another trying to sort out my visa, so I gave the guy the money and watched as the boot was removed. As I drove off, I shook my head at the futility of my attempts to "do the right thing" in an inherently corrupt system.

The very next day, while trying to get myself unlost in an unfamiliar part of town, I made an illegal U-turn and found myself face-to-face with a very unimpressed traffic cop. He tore a strip off me, telling me how stupid I was for pulling a stunt like that, and especially with children in the car. I started to defend myself but then remembered some words of wisdom I received from a fellow ex-pat...the best response in situations like these is not to justify your actions but to be profusely apologetic. So that's exactly the approach I used and I was surprised when it actually worked. I admitted that I was in the wrong and that I deserved to be fined. At that, the traffic cop softened a little. He never did check my registration papers or ask me for my license; he let me off with a warning and even gave me directions. Guess it was my lucky day!

In sports, I finally got the opportunity to play Thursday night football which I've been trying to do for some time now. It's organized by Refuge and Hope which is a mission organization that works with refugees and it's played on a real field with a regulation size ball. No goats and level ground even!! I began to feel a little intimidated when I realized that I was surrounded by Sudanese, Somolian, Ethiopian and Congolese players, all men and all apparently very serious about their football. When we started talking positions I casually mentioned something about playing forward. They just looked at me like I was from another planet. "You know Arsenal?" they asked. With the accent I didn't catch it the first time but then I realized they were talking about the football team and the numbers they were shouting out weren't player numbers but positions. Apparently, I'm supposed to know what number every position is?! Not a chance which meant I was pretty much lost the entire time (the fact that there were four Mohammads and two Abduls didn't help much), but I did run hard and afterward a couple of men congratulated me on my courage to come out and play. I'm not sure if that was meant to be a pat on the back or a subtle hint that I was in way over my head, but I do plan to play again, so they're just going to have to get used to having me around!

Posted by BriteLite 11:40 Archived in Uganda Comments (2)

Another Birthday

Exciting news! Graham has lost another tooth!

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Also, today we celebrated Mara's birthday with face painting and birthday cake.

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Posted by BriteLite 04:10 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

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