Friday, December 31, 2010

Back in Uganda

My wife, son, and I arrived in Uganda last night exhausted from a long, delayed trip. Yes, snow on the U.S. East coast disrupts air travel nearly everywhere. We leave tomorrow to visit Betty and the six orphans (see Christmas story below) in Fort Portal. Then, it's off to wonderful Queen Elizabeth National Park for a couple of days of R and R. Our peace journalism schedule resumes in Tororo and Gulu the week of January 10th.

More random, seemingly unrelated thoughts from this part of the world

From the Parkville Luminary

TORORO, UGANDA—One of the journalists who attended my recent peace journalism seminar relayed a fascinating tale regarding two candidates for political office and their wacky wives. We’ll call them Candidate A, his wife Mrs. A, Candidate B, and Mrs. B. Candidate A is sick. Mrs. A believes that Mr. A’s illness has been caused by “bewitching” that was allegedly done by the wife of Candidate B. So, Mrs. A went to confront Mrs. B, and fisticuffs ensued. The upshot—Mrs. A told Mrs. B that if Mr. A dies, the bewitching will be to blame. As retribution for a dead husband, Mrs. A said that she would steal Mr. B from his wife. After relaying this murky tale, the storyteller then asked me, with a straight face, how I would cover such a story as a journalist. Bewildered, I gave some lame answer about trying to stick to the facts. How can you cover such a story and not sound like the “National Enquirer”?

American election cycles would definitely be enlivened by battling spouses, evil spells, and husband/wife-swapping. I’m thinking that this could be especially entertaining if it were to involve Sarah Palin, since it would set up a no-survivors smackdown between Todd Palin and Michelle Obama. The smart money’s on Michelle, by the way.

ON THE ROAD IN UGANDA—In 2010, we have made 20 car trips to all parts of Uganda, and have covered 4,993 miles. To put this in perspective, that’s more than the distance from Kansas City to London, England (4391 miles), and about the same as KC to Recife, Brazil (5034 miles). There are no rest stops anywhere, and answering the call of nature puts you in close contact with nature. Keep your eyes open for snakes.

Other than two horrible, cratered stretches between Kampala and Fort Portal and Kampala and Masaka, the roads haven’t been too bad. In fact, many have been worked on recently due to the fact that this is an election year and the ruling party wants to pave its path to victory with the claim that the roads have improved.

However, because they’re 99.5% two lane roads, and because Ugandans drive like bewitched demons, the roads are deadly dangerous. Not a week goes by without news of a grizzly, fiery smash up, often featuring packed mini vans and buses and involving multiple casualties. Passing on curves and hills is normal here, and near misses are as common as pimples on a teenager. As we ride along, always seconds away from oblivion, I employ an effective defense mechanism against this mayhem. I simply to stare off into the scenery, away from the road, fixing my gaze on a banana farm, some goats, or youngsters getting intro mischief. So far, this method has proven 100% effective in preventing injury, death, or accidental bowel release.

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