reality TV comes to Kabale

What do you get when you mix eight British multi-millionaires, three weeks in Uganda and a mission to improve the living standards of an African village?

Disaster, mostly. And also a new reality television show sponsored by World Vision, a non-profit known mostly for its child sponsorship program.

Ugandan bloggers have reacted strongly to the show, calling it "preposterous" and "another naïve thing from the West." World Vision's official line is that the show "explor[es] the complexities of development work and the causes of poverty," which sounds very noble, but I'm going to side with the blogren.

Let's recap: eight millionaires with no real knowledge of Uganda. $240,000. Three weeks. Granted, they have a "mentor" and a handy-dandy World Vision quick guide to sustainable development, but I have a hard time believing they're going to accomplish something in three weeks that countless other professional aid agencies have failed to do in decades.

Even more than that, Millionaires' Mission seems to trivialize the problems in Uganda, turning an entire village into an experiment. What role do the Ugandans have in this? So far, they've been filmed waving machetes at their supposed benefactors. Way to propagate Conrad-era stereotypes.

Tumwijuke argues that Millionaires' Mission showcases the "humiliation of Ugandans" and criticizes the show for being just another excuse to watch rich westerners run around Africa. I think she's absolutely right.

I couldn't resist: World Vision tells viewers to "Forget the jargon and get a quick guide to some of the key development themes.... sustainability, aid, trade, participation...." In other words, "jargon, jargon, jargon, jargon...."

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GVO: Uganda: Bloggers respond to massive flooding

My next piece is up at Global Voices Online:
The top thing on many Ugandan bloggers' minds in the past two weeks has been the massive flooding across sub-Saharan Africa. The floods hit particularly hard in northern and eastern Uganda, where 250 people have died and up to 150,000 have been displaced.

Read more»

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breakdance project uganda rocks the blogosphere

It's time for another gushy post about Breakdance Project Uganda. Two posts, in fact, and neither of them mine:
Breakdance Project Uganda by Stevi Wara
"Biting my lip in concentration, my legs are awkwardly trying to mirror the movements of my new break dance teacher in front of me. Dancing with local Ugandans on my left and right I don't feel pressure, but motivation to land this next trick."

Abramz Tekya: Rapping, Dancing for Change by El Oso
"After a steady stream of phone-tag, Abramz and I finally found each other at Antonio’s - the closest thing I’ve seen to a local restaurant chain in East Africa. Sporting a hoodie, t-shirt, and baggie pants, I couldn’t help but feel immediately comfortable. It felt much more like talking to an old friend from Southern California than meeting a complete stranger in the middle of Uganda."

In other awesomeness, the project is headed to Arua with MS Uganda. From Abramz:
We're going to collaborate with MS Uganda ( A danish organization) & IATM (International Anti-corruption Theatre Movement) to do a community sensitization program about democracy & human rights.

We're going to do a forum theatre play about democray which we'll be a fusion of drama & breakdance (Bboying,popping & a bit of locking).
Then we'll have discussions with the community.

After the sensitization program, 'Breakdance Project Uganda' we'll do free of charge breakdance workshop which will be open to all the community people.

And finally, because Breakdance Project Uganda makes me want to jump up and down like a little (breakdancing-ly talented) kid, a video from their latest visit to Naguru Remand Home:


i read banned books

Mark your calendars and head to Aristoc: September 29 through October 6 is Banned Books Week:

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.

If shelling out 80,000 shillings on the newest Harry Potter (one of the most popular controversial books) isn't on your agenda, check out Google's Explore Banned Books to see which 42 of the top 100 novels of the 20th century have been challenged.

If anyone knows where I can find a list of books banned in Uganda (other than, say, in Buturo's head), leave a comment.

keeping up with the blogren

I wanted to bring your attention to a few bloggers who just crossed (or re-crossed) my radar screen:

I am a gay blogger, blogging from Uganda, and willing to talk knowledgeably about my sexuality, my lover, and my personal life in Uganda. Strange. Very strange.
GayUganda covers issues concerning sexual minorities in Uganda and Africa. Check out the sidebar for news about the Ugandan GLBTI community.

Building the Nation
i am jose acadio buendia. or pip in sons & lovers. prince kung in the last empress. xuma in mine boy. ekwueme in the concubine. i am.
Degstar switched from Blogger to Wordpress in March, and I missed it. His most recent post is a letter to fellow blogger Dennis Matanda.

Daniel Kalinaki
Just an ordinary bloke.
Not sure how I missed this one. Daniel writes about media and communications in Uganda. Check out his post on bloggers versus mainstream media.

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my inner dorothy

Lawrence KS Brick
Originally uploaded by lleugh
Last night, around 7:30 PM, I set foot in Kansas for the first time in 381 days (I checked). I like flying across the United States — I watch the cities break into checkerboard farmland and the greengoldbrown of the fields reminds me that even though I'm not a farmgirl, I'm definitely a Midwesterner.

Today was a lavish Lawrence-based binge: biking through my parents' neighborhood, walking downtown, having lunch with an old friend at a new restaurant, being a rock star with my little brother.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, "I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." Still, sometimes it's just nice to be home.


o happy day

One: people are using The Kampalan to announce actual events! Vision realized.

Two: the actual event announced happens to be this month's Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour, which 27th Comrade has taken upon his shoulders. Details:
What you are reading is my first post to The Kampalan. It is the first of a number. I am the acting organiser for the Uganda Bloggers' Happy Hour. And because I am letting my own blog hibernate (on top of it not being the best venue for what I'll be doing here), I am going to be putting any/all communiqués concerning the UBHH over here.
So ... dress up for the 27th of September, 2007, for on that fateful day, yet another Happy Hour shall touch the ground at Mateo's Bar. The usual time (starting 6:30pm, to when the last blogger leaves).

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culture shock

Yesterday a man stopped me outside the subway.

"Miss, how much money do you spend on your hair every month?" he asked me.

I stopped and thought about it. "Why?"

"Well, I'm doing a salon promotion, and I bet you we can save you at least $10 per month on hair cuts and more."

"The last time I got my hair cut was in April," I told him. "Of 2006. And it cost me $5."

I watched his reaction for a second, just because his speechlessness was so amusing. And then I got on my train.


modes of transportation

When I was three years old, I had this long-sleeved shirt covered in pictures of planes, trains, boats and automobiles. I called it my "modes of transportation" shirt (did I mention I spent a lot of my free time at that age practicing the differences between adverbs and adjectives and count and non-count nouns? Guess whose mom was an English teacher?). I loved that shirt, and in honor of it, I've started a new label on Jackfruity.

The modes of transportation category currently includes such Jackfruity favorites as:
I doubt this category will receive too many more Uganda-focused entries. However, almost as if it could sense I was leaving, the country decided to give me a parting shot.

About thirty minutes in to my flight from Entebbe to Dubai, the Ethiopian woman next to me tugged on my sleeve. She didn't speak any English (and my Amharic consists largely of words like injera and kitfo), which made understanding her concerned expression as she pointed to the ceiling somewhat difficult.

I tried to reassure her, assuming she was jittery about the flight, but as I reached my hand up to mimic a safe landing, something dripped on it.

I looked up. There, on the crack between two overhead bins, was a leak. Now I was worried. Together, my Ethiopian Buddy and I rang for a flight attendant. By the time he reached us, the dripping had gotten so bad, and was accompanied by so peculiar a smell, that EB had wrapped a shawl around her head and was considerably more disgruntled than frightened.

"There seems to be something dripping on her head," I told the flight attendant. "Is the plane leaking?"

The flight attendant scoffed, as if to say, "How dare you suggest that the airplanes of this reputable airline are anything less than superb?" What he actually said was, "The woman behind you has a pineapple in her carry-on."

"Could we perhaps take her bag out of the overhead bin?" I asked. "She's getting...dripped on."

EB nodded and pulled her shawl more tightly around her head.

"Why don't we move you to another seat?" he suggested, drawing EB away by her elbow and leaving me with the pineapple juice.

And that was it. He never came back, the woman behind me was utterly unperturbed when I asked her to take the bag down ("It will hurt my feet," was the explanation for her refusal), and I got to spend the next seven hours next to a growing puddle of pineapple juice.

Today I flew from New York to DC. We hit turbulence right as the woman next to me was about to take a sip of water, and she ended up spilling some of it on her tray table. The flight attendant came and wiped it up for her.

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GVO: Ugandan bloggers reminisce

My latest piece is up at Global Voices Online:

Growing up in Uganda

For the blogren, this has been the week to remember their childhoods. Their posts — touching, witty, inspiring — give insight into the diversity of Ugandan youth.

Read more »

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so long, and thanks for all the matooke

Since I last wrote, I finished work, slept in a geodome, climbed a volcano, wore a tie to a goat race (where I met Andrew Mwenda) and left Uganda. Yikes.

I haven't been home (by which I mean lovable Lawrence, KS, home of indie scenesters and dozens of locally owned coffee shops and more banks per capita than anywhere else in the United States*) yet because I'm hanging out with old friends on the East Coast. So far my culture shock has consisted of my amazement at drinkable tap water and skinny jeans.

Right now I'm sitting in the Edwin Ginn Library pretending to be a student at the Fletcher School. Fletcher is currently heading the list of graduate programs I'm considering, making this particular moment simultaneously exciting (I could be here in a year!) and terrifying (I could not be here in a year!).

The future for me consists of grad school applications, making espresso for thirsty, caffeine-addicted grocery shoppers, and traveling around the country catching up with people I haven't seen for a year. I'll be blogging, but it remains to be seen how much of Jackfruity will be dedicated to Uganda and how much will expand to include other parts of East Africa, general comments on technology and development, and the occasional cupcake recipe. I also hope to start a new blog focused on the former Soviet Union. (I've gotten as far as the name and the template, but content-wise, I'm a little short right now.)

I'll be paying close attention to what happens to Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour at the end of this month — I hope someone else will make it near and dear to their heart and keep UBHH alive, but the dearth of Ugandan participants last month (27th Comrade being the lone exception) makes me doubtful.

The plan is to return to Uganda within a year, mostly to say hi to friends and chill out in the equatorial sunshine, but for now: so long, and thanks for all the matooke.

*So widely rumored to be true that I didn't bother looking for a source.

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