Friday, August 31, 2007

Things We Ate on the Street: Tanzania

So far, Tanzania is the hands-down King of Things We Ate on the Street. There was the corn….boiled and barbecued, we tried it all! The sugar cane---they one-upped our earlier Egyptian delight by adding ginger and honey to the juice in Zanzibar. Divine! But it was also quite good just straight from the cane---and we soon had sticky hands and faces just like all the little kids.

The Mecca of street food was Zanzibar, where the night bazaar in Stone Town’s Forodani Gardens offered everything from land (Zanzibar pizzas with egg, cheese, and tomato or chocolate and banana) and sea (octopus, calamari, snapper, kingfish, snapper). Every conceivable type of meat was grilled to order, and fresh sliced pineapple was on offer as you walked home.

But what we really should have called this one is ‘Things you can eat from the bus window,’ because that’s where we ended up doing a lot of our grocery shopping. The minute our bus (and there were many long-distance bus trips) slowed down even slightly, the vendors would spill out onto the pavement offering loads of treats balanced on their heads or extended out on sticks. Fancy an egg? Some cashews? A new pair of shoes? A stool? A new cell phone? Hair pick? Wallet? Passport cover? Salad tongs? The selection was tremendous. Although we tended to stick to the bananas, nuts, and biscuits.

Another highlight of Tanzanian street food was the local homebrew. On our trek through the Usambara mountains, we finally figured out why we only see women and children on the street. It’s because all the men were holed up in the local tavern swilling boha, the sugar cane fermented local beer, and it’s more potent and stronger liquor cousin. We happily swilled the former, but steered clear of the latter, as we’d read stories of batches going awry, resulting in multiple deaths.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tanzania: Ticket to Ride; on board with She Devil

This was hands-down the most memorable bus ride we’ve had to date. Like many public buses, this one had ‘Praise the Lord’ flamboyantly painted across the front windshield. And while that probably wouldn’t fly on a Greyhound bus at home, here religious affirmations are fairly frequent in public and even government-run institutions. And as if on cue, the minute we took our seats, the top-volume gospel music started. The next nine hours consisted of the most comfortable bus we’ve been on (clean! free soda and candy!) with a rather aggressive religious campaign. Following the music, a three-part Nigerian movie series She Devil was popped into the on-board VCR. Handily, we had time to watch all three segments in their entirety and get the catchy repeating soundtrack (she devil, she will destroy your life, she wants to take your love) caught in our heads for the next two weeks. The film revolved around a woman whose body was invaded by Satan at an early age, and now she gallivanted around stealing other people’s husbands. The six-hour saga ended when a priest was able to exorcize the demon in a dramatic hand-laying ceremony complete with flashing eyes, speaking in tongues, and frantic writhing, but this was not before the entire bus (men, women and children) got to witness graphic sex scenes between the She Devil and her victims. All of this played at top-volume while we trundled through the lush and gorgeous landscape of the foothills of the Usambara mountains, past hills swathed in green, fields, and rural villages. She Devil, she will destroy your bus ride. (We tried to find the movie poster to link here, but alas, it doesn´t seem to be quite the international hit that we´d hoped.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tanzania: Where the Wild Things Were (Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater)

Curled up in our sleeping bags after watching the sun set behind some Acacia trees, we watched an almost full moon rise while listening to the plaintive laugh of distant hyenas. It was truly like stepping into a dream as we explored Lake Myanara, the Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater.

Admittedly, it took us a moment to recalibrate our Disneyland-like expectations. We had envisioned that the minute we crossed into a game park, we’d be rubbing shoulders with curious giraffes, while leopards circled the car in a friendly fashion, and hippos lumbered out of the water to cross our path. But, um, it’s not quite like that. Instead, there is a lot of driving around on bumpy, dusty roads. But when you do come across animals, it’s a beautiful sight indeed.

Although at times it seemed that we only saw sleepy animals. Lions dozing in the sun, hyenas napping under a tree, hippos snoozing in the water. All gorgeous animals that were a pleasure to observe; but there’s something about going on safari that brings out our thirsty side. After a few hours of bumping around in a 4x4, we started to long for bloodshed. In the Ngorongoro Crater, we rose before the sun to drive into the crater at first light under the glow of a full moon. We wanted to see a Hollywood A-list safari kill with lions chasing down a buffalo, but instead we got the B-grade billing of hyenas and jackals eating a three-day-old wildebeest carcass. But cool nonetheless really. Plus, we loved watching the hyena’s lumpy loping run and hear their cries. And we got to see our own mini migration (since we missed the big one in the Masa Mara), as zebras and wildebeests crowded toward the water’s edge. At one point we sat in the sun for two hours as we watched a standoff between five lionesses and a herd of buffalo. At one point, the lionesses all sprang to their feet, crouched down, and slinked off in a strategic fashion approaching the edge of the herd. I don’t think anyone in our car breathed for a good ten minutes, while we eagerly awaited what might happen. But the wily buffalo caught wind of the attack and drove the lionesses back in force with a snarl and an aggressive nod of their heads (which remind us of English barrister’s wigs, to be honest). Crisis (and photo opportunities) averted.

Driving past Masai bomas, we watched the lanky warriors wrapped in their distinctive red blankets, carrying spears or clubs, and small boys herding cattle. The Masai are a fascinating group not only for their traditional culture and customs, but also for the societal niche they are trying to create for themselves. Traditionally nomadic herdsmen and warriors, they have lost most of their land due to population growth and

encroachment throughout the country. Once feared for their unparalleled combat skills, these days most warriors are more likely to earn their keep performing traditional dances for tourists or by demanding money for their photographed image. The women, meanwhile, craft beautiful jewelry and have a reputation for shrewd salesmanship. There are still some Masai who keep the traditional way of life. Particularly those living in land set aside by the government, such as the Ngorongoro Reserve. In these parts, young boys continue to go through a rite of passage to reach hood (where they must live by themselves for a month, surviving off the bush), and polygamy, child brides, and a semi-nomadic lifestyle are still the norm. We found ourselves discussing the plight of the Masai quite a bit. On the one hand, they are an elegant and fascinating people, and we couldn’t help but feel saddened by the demise of this rich culture. On the other hand, we can’t ask for people not to progress or change simply for our cultural tourism benefit, and often the ‘cultural preservation’ tourism feels cheesy and exploitive---sort of like a human zoo where you’re constantly asked to buy things. The other argument is the plight of their children. If they are allowed to keep their traditional ways, then this means that the children miss out on education and are relegated to a life of shepherding. But to force the children into schools means abandoning their nomadic ways and losing someone to tend their stock, per tradition. It’s an intriguing dilemma, and not an easy one to balance.

On the animal side of things, one of our favorite moments was getting a tad lost on a side route in the Serengeti and encountering a herd of over 50 elephants of all ages and sizes. There was no one else around, and when we turned off the engine all we could hear was the quiet whoosh of their feet in the grass and the wind by their ears. Absolutely magical. Until they got rather close. And Marco, our guide, got rather nervous. And the enormous bull elephant, sort of faux-charged our car, which he could have easily flipped over with a sneeze. So Eric bravely and gallantly rolled up the window (of our open topped safari vehicle!), and we extricated ourselves as gracefully as we could.

And while it wasn’t funny when the elephants got too close to us in the Serengeti, we found it incredibly comical when they ran after an Italian tourist in our Ngorongoro Crater campsite. We were in the public campground above the crater, when a couple of curious elephants wandered into our site. We loved watching them, as did all the other camera-toting campers. Including some idiot brazen enough to try and capture the perfect shot even after the elephant trumpeted at him. Since he ignored her warning, she saw fit to run after him, and he was soon sent scrambling, camera a-flappin’ and designer eyewear fogging up. How we wish we had caught that on video. Evidently he wanted the perfect shot. Although I think more snapshots were taken by the snickering campers who watched the whole transaction. In actuality the elephants were fairly habituated to the campers, as they frequently came to the campground for easy access to the water tank that they would dip their drunks into. Indeed, Eric saw zebras at the spigot earlier in the day. Not exactly Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and undoubtedly they were dipping their trunks into the same water that we were drinking, but memorable nonetheless.

Like others, we were eager to see the Big Five---the most dangerous and photogenic beasts of the wild---the elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo. The leopard and the rhino tend to be the most elusive, and thus the drivers work in tandem, radioing back and forth when they spot something ‘interesting.’ As a result, sometimes it can feel like you’re following cars, not animals. And when one of the most sought-after animals is spotted, virtually every tourist-laden 4x4 in the park is parked below it with binoculars at the ready. On our last day we saw the long-awaited leopard surveying the land from a rocky perch. She was a vision of feline majesty. And her prowess was only slightly marred by the line-up of 17 some-odd safari trucks with gawkers craning their necks. Including us, of course.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tanzania: Thirty Five down

I'm officially smack dab in my mid-thirties, and I must say that this was one of the more memorable birthdays I've ever had. Not only that, it was a two cake birthday---doesn't get much better than that!

Back in Arusha, we were hobbling around with thighs that burned, knees that ached, and toes that pained. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally catch up on our blog and let people know we were still alive and kicking. Or perhaps a bit too sore to kick, but alive and shuffling. Finding an internet connection where pages loaded more quickly than every 10 minutes was quite a challenge. So on my birthday, we settled in at the Patisserie, a French bakery run by an Indian family that serves African food and baked goods. Perfect. I enjoyed a cup of coffee (yeah, yeah, so maybe I'm drinking it again sometimes) and a slice of apple cake that seemed to be unrelated to both apples and cake. But it was tasty.

We had made plans to catch up with our Kilimanjaro guide, Nico, before he headed off to lead another trip. We had mentioned wanting to meet his wife and 5-month old son, Frances, and he asked if we would would like to come to his house. We were thrilled, of course, to have the opportunity to be welcomed into someone's home and to feel like friends instead of simply passing travelers.

The whole experience was fabulous and funny. We crammed onto a dala-dala (a shared mini-bus taxi that we wish existed in San Francisco), squeezing in among 20 other people, to head to the outskirts of town. We then walked to Nico's apartment that shares a common pathway with several other neighbors. We sat on his couch with his brother and watched Mr. Nice videos and drank beer until the power went out, a fairly common occurence (the power outtage, but probably Mr. Nice videos, too!) . So Nico whipped out a photo album of his wedding. It was so fun to see the differences and similarities between our ceremonies. The largest being that Eric's family didn't have to bring 2 cows, 2 bull goats, and 1 sheep to my family before sealing the deal.

Eric had sweetly ordered a birthday cake that he brought to share, and Nico asked if he could invite the neighbors to join, as this was common courtesy. The more the merrier! At this point, Nico's lovely wife Adele came out with baby Frances---so fat and cute and smiley and good. Oh, but it made me miss little Ellie Adams, and we showed Nico's family pictures of Ellie to share. Nico later explained that Adele was nervous about having muzungu over, as she doesn't speak English and doesn't know very many foreigners. We felt very honored to be included. And after we'd been there awhile, everyone was laughing and smiling.

When all the neighbors piled in (all women and children), I was treated to a Happy Birthday chorus in both English and Swahili. Eric and I laughed later at how funny it was to be feted by people who had never met me, nor who could speak the same language as us. But somehow it was delightfully fun. I cut the cake and passed it around on the toothpicks provided. I didn't realize it was common custom to actually feed the cake to each person, so I frightened the first poor little girl by offering her a piece that was nearly as big as her head. Luckily, Nico intervened and all was well. All in all, it was a fabulously warm and touching experience that I felt incredibly lucky to have.

We ended the night going out to dinner and catching a live band at the cultural center. We were too sore to actually dance, but we grooved in our seats as best we could. So far, thelathini na tano (thirty-five) is just fine by me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tanzania: the snows of Kilimanjaro

Our journey to the snows of Kilimanjaro began on a bus, as most of our greatest adventures seem to. We had trouble getting tickets out of Kampala, because all the school kids were returning to Nairobi, so we had to fork over for 'Royal' seats on the more expensive bus. So plush! With French Toast! All was splendid until Kathleen noticed a cockroach making the rounds---her worst enemy. The next 12 hours were a bit more tense than necessary. Ha! Switching buses in Nairobi, we were dethroned to smaller seats, more bumps, and an increased cockroach count, as we headed out of Kenya into Tanzania. But the glorious panorama of tea fields, donkeys, nandi trees, and roadside markets more than made up for it. Arriving in Arusha, we were met by our Mount Kilimanjaro guide, and we prepared for an attempt to watch the sun rise at 19,340 feet.

Once again, we found ourselves the only two participants. We thought there would be other climbers, but it appeared that we'd be flying solo. Well, solo except for a guide, an assistant guide, a cook, and seven porters. We were mortified by the huge number of support staff! Never before have we camped where we didn't carry our own stuff and cook our own food, so it was a bit embarrassing and awkward to have so many people attending to us. And we had even gone the relatively cheap route! We felt a tad better, however, when we met a group of four that had FORTY porters and guides traveling with them. Seems ludicrous, but evidently this is how it's done. You're required to have a guide with you and the minimum standard is three porters per camper and guide. We tried to pitch in where we could so that it didn't feel so strange, and in the end, we fell in love with our crew and gleaned as much Swahili slang from them as we could. By the end of the week, we were throwing out mambo vipi (what's up?), bomba buya (it's great!) and poa kichisi kama ndizi (crazy cool like a banana) like locals. Well, sort of.

We had chosen the 7-day Lemosho route, as we wanted to have enough time to enjoy the scenery AND hopefully acclimatize enough to give ourselves a shot at reaching the top. The first three days were a glorious introduction to the beauty of the Kilimanjaro area. We sauntered our way slowly through rainforest, past the skunk-colored (but happily not odored) colobus monkeys, and into the hills with gorgeous views of Mount Meru. The hiking was easy, the food was great, and we were starting to get used to having our tent set up for us (the shame!). We slept at 9,000, 11,500, and 13,000 feet respectively each night, and we were feeling great. The afternoon of Day Three, a thick rainy fog settled in, so our afternoon acclimatization hike was cancelled, and we just napped and read in our tent while listening to the raindrops. We kept trying to convince ourselves that we weren't being lazy, we were simply working hard at adjusting to the altitude. Ha! Up to this point, the most difficult part of the trip was overcoming the cucumber soup-induced flatulence that one of us (no names!) suffered from to a disturbing degree.

Day Four started out under clear skies, but when we reached the Lava Towers (15,000 feet!) for lunch, the mist and rain rolled in and hunkered down for a companiable stay. A tent was set up while we warmed up, told giraffe riddles, learned to tell time in Swahili, had them try on our famous Elly Karl hats, and shared tea with two German medical students who put us to shame by reaching the Lava Towers in just two days. They spoke great Swahili and were working at a hospital in Arusha, making us feel like fat, spoiled, consuming Americans. Alas, at least we knew a couple of good jokes to share. The rain wasn't going anywhere, so we suited up and descended to our next campsite (Barranco, 13,o00 feet). We crawled into our sleeping bags and read what was left of the Harper's Kathleen brought after Eric had stuffed half of it into his shoes to try and dry them. She's hiding her journal from him, though, frostbite or no!

On Day Five things began to feel a little ill-fated. We awoke to a small earthquake, continued rain, and the news that our great guide, Deo, was sick (chest cold) and was going to have to descend. But we were going to continue with our assistant guide, Nico (who we also adored!), so we donned our wet gear and began climbing the Barranco Wall, quickly warmed by our efforts. But when we got up and over the ridge and continued climbing, the rain turned from rain to sleet to snow. Fitting, considering our camp was called Barafu, which means snow in Swahili. Hours of hiking in wet gear to our camp at 15,200 feet left us shivering and miserable, with Kathleen close to tears. But we were doing fantastically compared to many of the porters.

Indeed, what we witnessed that day makes it hard for us to recommend climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without some reservations. For the most part, porters are completely without adequate clothing and footwear. While our team was pretty well outfitted, we saw many others hiking in jeans, converse, and thin cotton sweatshirts with no jackets. In the snow. At altitude. Horrible.

While we were climbing the last 1,000 feet to our camp, we passed a porter standing motionless on the trail in a daze. He had a huge load he was carrying, no jacket or gloves, and it was clear that the initial stages of hypothermia and maybe altitude sickness were setting in. It made us want to cry. Our cook took him by the hand and literally dragged him up the mountain to the ranger's hut to get warm. We later learned that three porters died on the mountain that day from hypothermia. It is ridiculous and unconscionable that lives are being claimed so that people can simply climb a big mountain, and it left a sour taste in our mouths that evening. We had read that you should avoid the cheapest companies, because they don't take care of their porters at all, but even some of our crew didn't have adequate rain gear. Our guide explained that they own it, but they don't always bring it, because they don't want the extra weight. While it's true that the weather was unseasonably bad, we think that companies should require (and check!) that their crew has adequate clothing and adjust the weight requirements accordingly. We would have happily paid more money to ensure everyone's health and safety.

We were to leave for the summit of the mountain at midnight and then continue to another camp in the afternoon. But because our crew was completely out of dry clothing, one guide was sick and at the gate, we decided that we would descend entirely out of the park the following day. So we wrapped ourselves up in sleeping bags (which were a tad wet) and our summit jackets to try and catch a few hours of sleep before we made the attempt.

At midnight, we awoke to snow on the tent and ground but clear skies and stars. Beautiful. We downed some tea and suited up in down jackets and mittens, fleece, and set off with our trekking poles. It was pole pole (slowly, slowly) in the thin air. Eric strode up the mountain without a single symptom of altitude sickness. Kathleen, meanwhile, staggered a bit, threw up at 17,500 feet, and managed to walk as slow as humanly possible. But after five hours, we made it to Stella Point, on the ridge of the peak. We celebrated with Red Bull and candy (funny!) and then continued climbing to see the sun rise on Uhuru Peak over the 'roof of Africa' as they call it. It was an insanely beautiful panorama of glaciers, the vivid red of the sun, and Mount Meru rising above a sea of clouds. We toasted at the top with faux champagne, pringles and chocolate bars. Whooopppeee!

It took us two hours to descend what to took us six hours to climb, and it probably would have been shorter, but the snow made it a bit slippery. Upon returning to our camp, we were greeted by our awesome team and a surprise birthday cake for Kathleen. So sweet! High-altitude celebrations seem to be a Dodge birthday theme (Mt. Whitney for 30, Kilimanjaro for 35), but fear not, Everest is not in the cards for 40.

Once the party was over, the vacation ended. Gone were the days of pole pole and lavish snacks every two hours. Now it was twende sasa (let's go NOW!) for another 6 grueling hours of 12,000 feet of descent. Let's just say you didn't want to be there when we got back to Arusha and Eric took the first shower and accidentally used all the hot water. We resolved the matter with a Kilimanjaro beer, however. Poa kichisi kama ndizi!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Eric's haircuts around the world: Uganda

This is the first part in a multipart series where Eric will share his impressions of various barber shops around the world. The first foray into the world of international hair salons was in the town of Jinja in Uganda.

It was getting close to four weeks since my last hair cut/shave. We ventured into a men-only barber shop run by an Indian man. There were a few of his friends also in the little shop and they were all watching a cricket match between England and India while also listening to songs on their cell phones.

The cut went well. The surprising twist was the use of a straight razor blade to trim my neck and around the ears. I felt a little nervous having an open razor blade scraping my skin, but it went well. I felt confident enough to also invite him to trim my new beard. Simple enough but a new experience for me. I highly recommend the professional beard trim and cleaning. The best part, and what needs to be introduced to the States, was the head and face massage that followed. He did some elaborate hand thumping on my head, stretched my skin, rubbed lotion on it, and applied some after shave. Overall, I would give it an 8 out of 10. It's the best yet, but it's also the first and only thus far. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Things we ate on the street: Uganda

Bujagali Chapati Company, how we love you. Your simple roadside shanty lit by kerosence, where day and night you fill our bellys with freshly fried dough stuffed with egg and cheese (lunch), avocado and tomato (dinner), and bananas and honey (breakfast). The best 50-cent meal we've ever consumed. Thank you. Thank you.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Uganda: Rapids and paint fumes

Rafting the Nile River was an experience to be reckoned with: thirty kilometers and twelve rapids, four of which were Class Five. Mamma mia! The raft flipped completely over three times, and the whole thing seemed to be set to a testosterone pumping soundtrack of battle cries, war whoops, thundering beats and swirling water with rapids named things like the g spot, total madness, and the bad place. Holy cow, it was fun! Kathleen admits that twice she was under water a bit longer than she felt entirely comfortable with. She had to remind herself to relax and that she would float up, what with all the life jackets and helmets and such. But still, it felt like an awfully long time for the water color to lighten up as she neared the surface. The whole thing was an exhilerating ride over mammoth waves, swells, and bumps at the source of the Nile River. And the stories became more and more exaggerated over beers and bbq. By the time we get home, we'll undoubtedly be claiming to have done it blindfolded, naked, and without a guide.

The next day we helped paint a schoolroom with Soft Power, an organization that has done some amazing work in Uganda building schools for orphaned children (a sadly common plight due to AIDS and other disease), setting up a medical clinic, and developing advanced education opportunities. While we have nothing but great things to say about the progress of the organization, we did get a taste of some of the roadblocks of volunteering.

There were far too many people assembled for the work they needed done. In fact, we had wanted to volunteer for three days, but they only had work for us for one. And we met several other people who had the time and energy to pitch in, but there simply wasn't the infrastructure in place to make use of their time. Unfortunately this left some volunteers feeling frustrated. Two schoolteachers that were doing our painting project with us had organized their volunteer time months in advance....only to find that we finished the project within a few hours with lots of idle time to sit around. Not exactly what they flew to Uganda for...and they had had a similar experience during their volunteer stint in Kampala. Indeed, we have met lots of people eager to share their time and energy, but a bit stalled by the opportunities that exist. Not that this is unique to Uganda....coordinating volunteers anywhere in the world can be a lesson in patience and tolerance. And we applaud the organizations that try, and we have a huge amount of respect for everyone involved.

What is really striking about our time in Africa thus far is how virtually everyone we meet is involved in some sort of interesting and socially redeeming it UNICEF in Kampala, aiding a hospital or health clinic, studying HIV in women, or building schools. We have really been inspired and encouraged by other travelers we have met.

And while we understood some of the volunteers annoyance at being underutilized, we had such a fun time playing with the kids, that we didn't mind. They even let Eric join their hack (soccer ball) circle while Kathleen answered endless questions about her name, her dad's name, her mom's name, her sister's name, etc., etc. The kids were dumbfounded that she only had one sister. Families of eight or more are the norm in Uganda(and a complicated problem of financial responsibilty, poverty, and education). At the school for orphans and the desperately poor, kids tumble from every corner to grab your hand. They all want to be picked up and held, a heartbreaking reality that they don't get to experience often enough. We could have held them forever.

The digital revolution also is a big hit with the kids. They love having their picture taken and then seeing it afterward. The moment you whip out your camera, everyone's clamoring over each other to get in the shot, elbowing our their friends and hamming it up. Very fun! See if you can find the muzungu in the shot in front of the African mural...

After our project, we returned to our Nileside backpackers dorm, where Jack Johnson has oficially joined the ranks of Bob Marley as the official voice of the chilled-out bohemian traveler set. Rock on.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Uganda: hippos in the moonlight

Uganda is all about bananas, bananas, animals, and bananas. That, and the amazing things that women can carry on their heads (potato sacks, water jugs, umbrellas,'s incredible!) Equally impressive is what what people carry on their bikes (loads and loads of bananas, charcoal, firewood, their entire family, etc.). All the children run after you yelling 'muzungu!' They are heart-breakingly darling. And sometimes they follow it up with demands for money, sweets, pens or water. You can hardly blame them, when you see how little people survive on.

We've had an amazing time exploring the National Parks of Uganda. What a jawdroppingly beautiful country. With such friendly and warm and gregarious people. We would love to return. In Queen Elizabeth National Park, we saw tree-climbing lions, elephants (they weren't climbing trees), buffaloes, and chimpanzees (who really do jump up and down and hoot and holler---just like in cartoons!). Our favorites, however, were the hungry hungry hippos. They look so fat and friendly and cute, even though they kill more people in Africa than any other animal. Kule told us that sometimes locals are stumbling home drunk and walk into them, and that's why the death count is fairly high. Man! We had one right outside our hotel room one night during a thunder storm: every time the sky was illuminated by a crack of lightning, we could see the hippo munching grass on the hotel lawn. Classic. Luckily we weren't drunk, and we stayed put behind our window.

A few beers did, however, help Eric hold his own in pool games across Uganda. Eric and Kule made a formidable duo and swept many a table.....which are found in the oddest of outdoor roadside places. Kathleen played it safe by playing the dutiful and supportive wife. We feared that they would have had to burn the table if a lady muzungu wanted to enter. No need to cause an international incident just yet. Plus, Kathleen's really really bad at pool, beer or no.

Animal factoid: warthogs are cuter than cute, and they walk with a real swagger to their step.

Cultural factoid: pay phones in Uganda consist of a regular push-button phone on a stand with someone there ready to dial for you. They list the rates for all the various cell phone companies and local and international calls. It's pretty cool to see business folks standing talking on them.

Kathleen read The Last King of Scotland while traveling through Uganda, which put a surreal spin on the experience. It's hard to believe the Idi Amin years were so recent. And even more incredible to see how open and trusting Ugandans are despite the horrors that have wracked their country. We had hoped to be able to pick up a few words of the local language, but as there are over 50 local languages, this proved to be a tad outside our reach. Ugandans by and large don't speak Swahili---particularly since Amin had wanted to make Swahili the official unifying language and anything Amin wanted is now considered an incredibly bad idea. So we were spoiled by using English all the time. But this seems to be the norm for Ugandans traveling in their own country as well.

We were sorry to leave Kule, as we liked him so much, so we asked someone to take our picture together. It appears that digital cameras were new to him, but it just might be our favorite shot to date!