Friday, July 18, 2008

Welcome to the Funhouse

Early Friday evening, and I'm sitting in front of the computer at home with a box of Danish Butter cookies and a glass of Amarula on ice wondering why my "Move to Africa Diet Plan" isn't working as well as I'd expected and reflecting on the week gone by.

As we all know, there are difficult days (and weeks and months) in every job, and the "helping professions" are no exception. I think, rather than review the past week in this post, I will instead describe more about what I find interesting in my life here. Nothing serious...just some skewed perceptions and obtuse observations.

First, rather than allow you to believe any longer that I'm roughing it in the bush somewhere, I must tell you that my apartment here in Kampala is nice even by western standards. Yes, there are ants in the kitchen (but no cockroaches the size of shoes, my Louisiana friends...) and the stove must be lit by matches, but that's about as rustic as it gets. Oh, and there are the monkeys, of course. By the way, the monkeys that live in our compound are not the cute Curious George kind that wear little red caps, but are mean-ass monkeys who try to swoop down and grab little kittens. Just last week as I was sitting by the pool (another very nice thing about this apartment), I looked up just in time to see a monkey as big as a Collie sitting right next to my chair staring at Moses the kitten with malevolent yellow eyes and a very bad attitude. I grabbed Moses (who was clueless, naturally) and rushed to safety. Apparently monkeys like to catch small animals, break their necks and... well, never mind. Let's get back to the description of my home here.

I moved to one of the buildings closer to the back of Salama Springs so that the noise from the street is reduced significantly. I'm still able to hear the trucks with loudspeakers that drive slowly by announcing public events and there is a pentecostal church next door as well as a sports bar, so it's no sound-proof booth here in Apt. #21 but I am able sleep quite often.

The first time I heard the preacher at the pentecostal church was late one Friday afternoon after a long week. I swore it was Forrest Whittaker's portrayal of Idi Amin threatening his staff, but then I made out the words Hallelujah and Hey Zeus and realized it was a prayer meeting. No reason for alarm. The sports bar clientele are fairly well-behaved most of the time until Uganda beats Niger in a game ... or it's Saturday night. Not bad neighbors, these; just not easily ignored. Makes Logan Street in downtown Denver seem like Green Acres at times.

The apartments have adequate, if somewhat eccentric, furnishings but they're comfortable and clean and everything I need right now. There is a lamp in the living room that I find a little disturbing but I'm adjusting. It consists of a tall pole with a flat disc the size of a plate at the top pointing straight ahead. I feel as if I'm either going to be ruthlessly interrogated or professionally photographed. Also in the living room is a vertical mirror, maybe 4 feet long, in the shape of a very narrow, elongated oval situated in a black tubular base. Something the Jetson's might have purchased. In any case, I found it absolutely hideous until I noticed that, in the spirit of the best funhouse mirrors, it takes off at least 20 pounds and 6 inches from whatever image it reflects. I've grown quite fond of it over time.

There are also, among all the endearing eccentricities, huge, beautiful flowering trees and arbors of red and pink blooming vines surrounding the pool. Palm trees sway in soft breezes and it is never too hot or too cold. Now, there are the occasional enormous flying insects straight out of " The Land Before Time," but they seem to be on a busy schedule and harmless enough. Not like those damn monkeys.