Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unintentionally on Set of a Ugandan Music Video

A couple weekends ago, Mom and I went to go hang out at the Entebbe Botanical Garden. We found a wonderful spot right next to the Lake to hang out, play cards, and relax. Not many people around. A breath of fresh air.

All of a sudden, a big ol’ SUV came charging down the hill toward to the Lake, and parked within a couple feet of the shore. We just assumed that they were going to wash their vehicle. It was pretty dirty, and we had seen quite a few people doing that already. Well – turns out we were wrong!

4 people piled out of the vehicle, and there was a flurry of activity as they pulled out changes of clothes, video camera and tripod, and light reflectors. No way – they were going to make a video. Turns out it was a music video. Not sure who the music artist was, but we got to watch most of it. It started with them turning on a cd player in the car, and playing the music for the video over the car’s speakers. Then the musician – a young Ugandan man sits on the front of the vehicle, lip-syncing and gyrating to the music. With this little flutter hand move that had mom and I cracking up.

Then – a beyond full figured woman in a tight blue mini-dress got in on the action. It was like a low grade model shoot on the vehicle hood, and then this love story between the two actors. We couldn’t stop laughing. After about 6 repeats of the song, mom and I were getting pretty sick of the music, so it was time to take off.

Still haven’t found out who the artist was, but hoping to see it on TV soon so we can see how it actually went.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Adventures at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC)

Just for a little preamble – UWEC is an animal orphanage for rescue animals (from accidents, capitivity, etc…) overlooking Lake Victoria – extremely well put together, great enclosures for the animals, and a lot of free ranging monkeys and birds and such.

So – our adventure began on the set of a Harry Potter film – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. For those of you who are familiar with the books or film, you will definitely remember the acromantulas that hang out in the Hogwarts Forest and that capture Ron and Harry. Well – we were extras on that set today, but the spiders were real! They were huge, and we were surrounded! Massive spiders, webs creating a canopy over our heads, completely filled with spiders that are inches large – almost as large as our hands! And you look around, and you notice, that besides the path immediately in front and behind you, there are webs on every other side of you as well. Packed chock full of spiders. At one point Mom pointed out the spiders above us, we both screamed and started running. And neither of us are afraid of spiders! It was a little too creepy! (now, we’re a little afraid to go to sleep!)

Then – we ran into the ant equivalent of the Pan-African highway. Hundreds of thousands of ants marching on a specific path. And there were guard ants that were huge, about 3 times the size of the other ants, and their pinchers were massive! When we got a little too close, they came out in formation and almost started chasing us. We jumped (like we were doing the long jump in track!) over the highway and continued on into the spider infested woods.

Then there were the chimpanzees! We got to watch 11 chimps playing/fighting and more. They were lounging on hoses hung from the trees, swinging from tires hung from ropes, clapping their hands, picking through each others fur, fighting over jack fruit, and banging branches against the ground. All while making the most amazing sounds.

Last but not least, mom and I got to star in our own little zoo exhibition. We were walking to our dormitory just at dusk, and there was a Ugandan mom and her small daughter in front of us. The little girl stopped, in awe of a mama and baby vervet monkey hanging out on the roof. She was so excited. Then she turned and saw mom and I – two mzungus walking behind her. She wore the same expression of awe on her face, like she had just seen the most amazing animal at the zoo! While we walked away, mom said – ‘you know, she was just as excited to see us as she was to see those monkeys!’ We started to laugh, and soon we couldn’t stop. We both had to bend over as we almost peed our pants, it was so funny!

So – that was our little adventure at UWEC! Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

Matatus, Boda Bodas, Piki Pikis and TukTuks

Just wanted to share with you some of the transport stuff from here…

The main form of transportation here in Uganda is the shared taxi. This is basically a small Nissan van with four rows of seats shoved into the back licensed to carry 14 passenger – 3 per row, plus 2 in the front. This is in addition to the driver, and the conductor, who collects the money. It really isn’t too bad, especially when you compare it to matatus, which are the equivalent in Kenya. There, they shove at least 4 people per row, and if they can get away with it, 2 or 3 people will be standing and leaning over the other passengers – plus two or three in front. This basically means that there will be over 20 people in this little van at one time. Clown car if I’ve ever seen one.

Then – there are the boda bodas (or piki pikis in Kenya). These are small motorcycles, that have a padded seat on the back, and foot pegs below for passengers. Usually they carry one passenger, sometimes two. Occasionally 3 or 4. These are not strong bikes either. Small CC, bad brakes, bad suspension. But – they are amazing sometimes. They can take you through the mud, after its been pouring, huge puddles – and you don’t get anything on you! Amazing!

Last but not least are the tuktuks! Non-existent in Uganda, but in Kenya they are omnipresent. They are a little three wheeled taxi that putts around looking for fares. They are so cute. I can’t believe I am calling a form of transportation cute, but they truly are. They look like little metal bugs rolling around on the road.

Lost in Translation

As I was walking up the road to our office from lunch the other day, I was walking past a little cinema. The awesome part about this little cinema (which is basically a box room with a small TV, where people can watch movies for a small fee) is that they play all kinds of movies from all over the world, that are all dubbed in Luganda, the local language. But – how it works, is that they play the movie in its original language for about 5-10 seconds, then they pause it while they translate what just happened into Luganda.

Imagine watching a movie like that. And all of them are like that. There is even a national station on TV that plays really horrible American shows… these ones – unlike the movies are played continuously, and translated/dubbed over in Luganda. The bad part though, is that they don’t get rid of the English and just play the Luganda. Both are played at the same time. Imagine!

Perpetually Underdressed!

Have you ever thought that Americans are slobs? I really never thought so. I thought that we dress fairly comfortably and casually. Well – I have started to notice that compared to other countries, we are slobs! Well, not slobs, but I definitely feel underdressed most of the time!

Here, even though the clothes may be mended numerous times, the men are always wearing slacks, dress shoes and button-up shirts. Many are wearing suit coats. And these aren’t just the business men. These are the carpenters, the hawkers, the guys working at the shop down the street, and the guys we work with at RWEYOWA. On a daily basis. And the women – if we were seen wearing the clothes they wear on a daily basis, you would think we were on our way to a wedding! I rarely see women in pants, and almost never in jeans. They are almost always in dresses, and very nice fancy ones at that. And high-heeled shoes. Which I will never understand in any culture! I love walking down the road after a heavy rain, and it is complete mud! Red mud! Gooshy and slippery and it splatters everywhere. And walking down the road toward you, or sitting on the back of a motorcycle, is a woman dressed in bleach-white skirt and dressy shirt and high-heeled silver shoes. How in the world does she keep it clean? I think this is one of those mysteries that I will never, ever solve!

Monday, March 29, 2010

L's and R's

L’s and r’s here are basically interchangeable. It cracks me up. It is hard when listening to a word to distinguish how it would be spelled just by how it is pronounced. A word that you swear would be spelled with an L, has an R, and vice versa. But not every word. To most people, I am Arena. Even though I am careful to enunciate the L!

Just below the office, there is a dry cleaner. Which I think is just a laundry place, and not actually a dry cleaner. However, on one side of their sign, it says ‘dry cleaner’ and on the other side, ‘dly cleaner’. Hmmmm… Maybe they are just appeasing both sides of the argument?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

No Medium Play!

To borrow a phrase from Christina – there is no medium play here – in anything! Things can go from fine to catastrophic in a moment – and often do. There is either nothing, or excessive amounts.

Just to illustrate, here are some examples from my daily life.

Water – we either do not have any (as in, it gets turned off, and doesn’t come back for a few hours, or 5 days) or it explodes out of the faucet. You turn on the water, even just a tiny bit, and the water explodes with such force, that your pants get soaked. You flush the toilet, and when the tank is refilling, it sounds like someone is trying to fill it with a firehose, and there is the backsplash that you have to take into account as well.

Sun – I am used to getting sun-burnt. Always have, always will. But I am also used to the fact that when I get sun-burnt once, it turns into somewhat of a tan, and I really don’t get fried after that. I may get a little pink. But not fried. Here – I get fried, over and over and over again. I actually have tan arms. They have good color – for me! And today – we walked home from a town called Ndejje – about an hour. I got fried – on top of my tan. No medium play!

And lastly – rain. We have gone about 10 days without rain. But, when the rains started again, it is like this massive downpour. It lasts 5-10 minutes. Up to an hour tops, but it is the hardest rain – the most intense drops for that time. There isn’t a medium play – no sprinkles, no drizzle – either downpour or nothing!

There are so many more examples here, but those are a few that I have noticed on a daily basis to illustrate. So many more to share…