Thursday, January 3, 2008

Keep your fingers crossed for Kenya

I don't know if it has gotten a lot of news coverage in the US, but there is bit of a disturbance going on in Kenya at the moment and I wanted you all to be aware of it. But first let me say, I am absolutely fine, please don't worry about me.

In the last weeks of December Kenya held it's parliamentary and presidential elections. Evidently the presidential race was very close, but they announced that the current president had won reelection. However, there were questions of corruption and the opposition party has called for an investigation. That is all relatively okay. The problem is that since the announcement of the President's election to a second term there has been significant violence erupting around Kenya. It is hard to be sure of the facts, as different news papers and radio stations give different reports, but death tolls have been estimated at around 300 people, so far. Some of the deaths have been caused by supporters of the opposition party attacking supporters of the President's party. Some deaths have been caused by opposition supporters attacking people of the President's tribe, which is the dominant tribe in Kenya. On the other hand, some deaths have been caused by police shootings at, reportedly, peaceful protests. It is a sad way to begin the new year.

The recent events in Kenya are also effecting Uganda. For one, a number of Kenyans fleeing the violence have crossed the border into Uganda. Uganda, as a land locked country, also depends on Kenya as it's connection to the coast (a.k.a trade). Gas prices in Uganda have skyrocketted as a result of Kenya's conflict. Right now gasoline is upwards of 3 times it's normal price in Uganda!!! Taxi rides are ex-pen-sive.

It is hard to tell what will happen in Kenya, as the disturbance is so recent. But keep an eye on the headlines and send all your peaceful thoughts and goodwill towards East Africa. Let's hope for the best.....

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tis' the season

Happy holidays to all!!!! I sincerely hope every last one of you had a great Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever other love and good-tidings filled day you choose to celebrate. And, by the way, how is 2008 treating you so far? Let me back up a moment though. I feel all this holiday business really got moving with Thanksgiving, and that it has just been one long roller coaster of celebration since.

So Thanksgiving....I had a really, truly wonderful Thanksgiving. The celebration was the most multicultural celebration of a purely American holiday I have ever encountered. When we sat down to eat (a delicious feast cooked almost entirely by my friend Amy and myself, including--among other mouth watering treats-- turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and of course pumpkin pie) we had a group of 10 American PCVs, 4 Ugandans (my counterpart and his wife included), 2 Pakistanis, and 2 Japanese volunteers. It was an amazing way to celebrate Thanksgiving, as we shared a piece of American culture with a variety of people. Now, explaining to our diverse dinner party what we were celebrating on Thanksgiving was a bit of a challenge, due to the inconsistency between the mythos of Thanksgiving and the historical fact of the matter, but we did the best we could. The company and the food were both superb, although cooking a meal of traditional Thanksgiving fare was no small task. For instance, our Thanksgiving turkey was alive and well when we woke up on the morning of the blessed event, that is until Amy and myself....well, just take a look below.

Turkey (alive)

Turkey (not so alive)

Makeshift oven over hot coals


I'm not sure if it's weird or not, but being a part of the process from slaughtering to plucking to cleaning to cooking was oddly satisfying. I felt accomplished, powerful, self-sufficient, and well, just all-around good.

I also had really nice Christmas, which was spent at PCV Brad's house in the Eastern part of Uganda. Below are a few pictures of everyone enjoying Christmas dinner. (Just kidding, now the computer won't load them, but check back later....)

Finally, for New Year's 2008 I stayed at my house and had a good old fashioned American style BBQ. I grilled kebabs out on my lawn and drank a few beers. The kebabs, made with beef and pork and marinaded in 4 different sauces, were delicious and I think my neighbors enjoyed them as well. Although I must admit that I fell asleep before midnight--come on, I don't have any electricity--it was a really good start to a new year in my life in Uganda. Here's to 2008, and all it may hold in store... Oh, I also made a New Year's resolution. I intend to begin exercising OR studying Luganda (the language here) at least 5 days a week. Hopefully I'll turn out smarter or healthier, which would be an improvement either way. Happy New Year!!!!