Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Land of Barefoot Bowling

Last Friday, I joined several colleagues for a fine Italian meal at a cushy outdoor restaurant. Last night, I bowled an unimpressive 91, and this morning, I pseudo-cycled up France's Alpe d'Huez at a spin class led by a zealous Canadian triathlete. It could easily be just another weekend in Seattle...except that our table's check came out to 289,000 shillings, the bowling alley lacked rental shoes, so we bowled barefoot, and the spin class...well, it was a spin class, I guess. Now it hurts to walk up stairs.

In other words, I've arrived. And while Uganda's capitol, Kampala, is surely swankier than my digs up north will be, it's clear that this will be quite a different kind of mission from my previous two in (Congo and South Sudan). The signs of relative stability and wealth are everywhere: in the clothing donation bin at a local supermarket, in the fact that no one has yet called me out for being white, in the way the motorbikes power, rather than coast, down the hills.

To be sure, the country's northern regions, where I'm heading tomorrow, have experienced a lot more hardship in recent years than has Kampala. For almost two decades, a frightening rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army terrorized much of the north, raping women, pillaging villages and kidnapping youths to assert their power and reinforce their troops. Most of the population sought protection in overcrowded internal displacement camps. The Ugandan army finally pushed the LRA out of the country in 2005, and while the militia's raids continue today in several neighboring countries, most of the survivors in northern Uganda have had a chance to return to their land and try to recover their lives.

I'll be based in Lira, a large district capitol with restaurants, a swimming pool and other amenities. It's an important regional center, and a logical place for a base of operations, but a far cry from the isolated rural areas where our organization actually implements programs. I will be getting out into the field as often as possible, to supervise and guide the staff who will conduct the surveys for my evaluation, but with poor road conditions and still-rigid security restrictions (no overnighting in the field allowed!), both of which will limit field time, this is destined to be a largely "comfortable" post.

So tomorrow will bring a scenic drive northwards, across the rapids of the upper Nile, past a national park with intact trees and begging baboons. It's a far cry from Congo, and although I feel slightly guilty for the luxury, I may as well enjoy it.


  1. The Lord's Resistance Army...there was something about them in the news recently. Isn't that the group that Obama just sent a hundred-odd troops to combat?

  2. Yep. For those of you who missed the news, here's a summary:

  3. And in case you missed it, Rush Limbaugh recently demonstrated his keen understanding of African politics to the world:


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