Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Si Se Puede

I have mentioned several times that my learning curve here is so steep that I often feel I'm in danger of falling over backwards. But the learning curve is not my greatest danger.

While the most exciting activity I used to engage in was paying bills before my paycheck cleared, now during even the simplest car ride in downtown Kampala, I feel I am cheating death at every turn. People ask when I will start driving here and my only answer is a somewhat hysterical laugh. There are no words to describe the traffic "pattern" in Kampala. That's because there is, in fact, no pattern whatsoever. No lines, no rules, not even a hint of a system.. Try to imagine very aggressive grains of rice being poured into a funnel, or a herd of cattle stampeding toward a mountain pass, or children exiting a primary school for the Christmas holidays. Now add multiple car horns, tons of exhaust, four-foot potholes and ridges in the roads, a million motorcycles and bicycles transporting passengers and produce and the occasional lazy-boy recliner, thousands of pedestrians carrying large things on their heads, and no sidewalks. That's what I'm talking about.... The amazing thing is that it seems to work for most everyone except myself and a few other white-knuckled transplants.

Now for the good news. It was another incredibly busy, productive week at BeadforLife. The last Friday of the month there are two sales; one in the morning and a special sale in the afternoon for the women who have built homes in the BeadforLife village. There is more information and pictures (a couple pictures can be found by scrolling to the end of this blog) of the village at but very briefly, the village is being built on 18 acres of land purchased by BeadforLife near Mukono and all the beaders are eligible to puchase and build homes there from money they save while in the program. It is a truly beautiful place. There are seventy homes there now with room for maybe sixty more. To build a home, there is a down payment of about $500 and the average cost of one of the homes is $2,500. Each home has a garden ("with a garden, we will never starve..") and there is a meeting house, central pumps for water, latrines, and a soccer field. Imagine the way it must feel to move from a mud hut in a slum to a clean, well-built house on beautiful land in the country that you have paid for with money you've earned making lovely beads. And there's more. While tribal tensions are common in Africa, this village has families from many different tribes living in one community and making it work. They have named their new home "Friendship Village."

Now for a completely different train of thought... Besides family and friends, I think the thing I miss the most right now is being involved in the Democratic Primary for president. I had worked hard on the Obama campaign before making the decision to move here and even had a shot at being a delegate at the convention in Denver . So when I heard about a meeting of the Democrats Abroad Uganda, I decided to check it out. It was a great meeting, but of the six people attending (one man from Spain, two Ugandan men and two Irishmen) I was the only American eligible to vote in the election in Uganda. So guess who was made the National Chairperson of Democrats Abroad Uganda? Yes, I'm afraid so. And may I add that my first task as National Chairperson of DAU will be to find a new national chairperson. Still, talking politics with people from all over the world is an eye-opening experience and one of the best ways I can think to spend a Thursday evening. How else would I have learned (from one of the Ugandan gentlemen) that Barack Obama will be the "first African U.S. president"? And where else would I have had the chance to throw back a beer with the Deputy Speaker of the Irish House of Parliament?
Interesting times.

Until next time, my friends...