“Somebody get the Raid!!!!!” yelled Rachel (my fellow QES Scholar and FRA intern). After consulting a few maps, I have determined that Uganda is, in fact, in a tropical area. And it turns out that bugs and people alike enjoy the warm weather that the tropics bring. The fun part is when it is difficult to tell the difference between insects and humans due to the formers’ sheer size. In this instance, Rachel ran into a cockroach the size of Gimli Manitoba in her bathroom. I decided to name him Usain after Mr. Bolt due to his superb running abilities. Unfortunately Usain did not take his performance enhancing drugs today, thus allowing Rachel to catch him without breaking a sweat. Shelby (my fellow QES Scholar) also helped by wiping out Usain’s sense of direction with the scream she let out. As for the real Mr. Bolt, well I’m sure he remembered to take his “speed pills”, but we won’t be ‘Raiding’ him any time soon. In the last couple of days my fellow Scholars and I have also taken down a brigade of ants (they are still on the floor by our mini-fridge, RIP) and had a close call with a Gecko that I’ve aptly named Gieco who still lives under Rachel’s toilet. Needless to say that since moving into our slice of paradise overlooking Mengo – a community in Western Kampala – our unofficial mantra has been “In Raid We Trust”. We live by the Raid; we die by the Raid. Crap, we are almost out of Raid.
When I am not ‘Raiding’ insects in my apartment I am ‘raiding’ documents related to the working that I am doing with FRA. Ha, see what I did there? Wow I need a life. Okay, FRA. The past few days have been quite enlightening. Rachel and I were given the week to learn as much as we could about food security policy in Uganda; and learn we did! Our days in the FRA Secretariat are spent reading policy briefs, strategic plans, statutes, the entire Ugandan constitution (okay, that one was my idea), booklets, leaflets, anything with the suffix “lits”, academic papers, and much more.
Although I have only scratched the surface of Ugandan agricultural policy, I have nonetheless noticed a few trends. My most prominent observation is that there is already a lot going on in every policy area you can think of. A common perception of developing states such as Uganda is that the state’s government does not have the capacity to implement progressive and well-founded laws and policies. Under this perception, the role of ‘developer’ is shifted the developing state to other so called ‘developed states. The idea that a state is incapable of developing on its own terms and at its own pace is problematic for 5 reasons: (1) it is paternalistic; (2) colonialism, remember?; (3) neocolonialism, let’s not make the same mistake twice; (4) the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia created the sovereign state (kind of) – i.e., one country cannot mess with the way another country does stuff provided that the latter country is taking reasonable measures to provide its citizens with a safe environment; (5) it assumes and perpetuates false cultural hierarchies. I could go on forever, but I will spare you as I am sure you want to hear about how one gets around in Kampala. The short answer: very slowly. The long answer…
Please kindly skip this paragraph if you are (or think you might be) any of the following:
- my Mom;
- my Grandparent;
- a mom to anyone/anything;
- you think you might be a mom or;
- work for an insurance company
It is amazing what one experiences while riding a boda boda – the feel of the heat escaping your body as you take what could be your last breath, the smell of you crapping your pants, the sight of head-on traffic coming at you a little too quickly, the sound of the pearly white gates up stairs opening for you at any moment, and the taste of your lunch defying gravity as the driver weaves in and out of traffic jams. Okay, I am being a little bit dramatic.
For those of you that have not had the pleasure of traveling a la boda, a boda boda is a tribrid (yes, I made up that word) between a motorcycle, a dirt bike, and a taxi. Given the fact that Kampala is the most congested city in the known universe – NASA has spent trillions on trying to find a rival, but have remained unsuccessful as string theory can only unveil so many dimensions, all of which have better traffic than Kampala – travel by boda presents a fairly quick and inexpensive way to get around the city.
Okay Mom, Grandparents, possible moms, and insurance company employees, you can tune back in. Although boda boda travel is a bit dicey, my fellow QES Scholars and I have taken prudent care to purchase helmets with face visors, only hire boda drivers that have a relationship with our respective NGOs, use our local contacts to ensure that those drivers go slowly and safely, and pray.
A few observations before I sign off:
My co-workers have got to be the nicest people on the planet. They are all young, knowledgeable, and approachable. I cannot wait to work with them for the next few months.
Children are the same everywhere in the world. There was a boy who looked to be about 7 or 8 at the pool today with a cast around his hand. When I asked him what happened, he looked up with the most mischievous face imaginable and answered: “I’m sick”. His older brother then yelled from across the room: “He was in a fight!”. Busted.
It is hard to describe, but I never feel quite ‘whole’ when I am away from my family. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it has always been. I guess I am human after all. Fortunately, I’ve started to feel a little bit better about my adventure since my last post. Although homesickness is still present, the routine of going to work, going to swim practice, and then coming home helps keep me intellectually stimulated and more comfortable with my surroundings. That is not to say that my homesickness is gone by any stretch of the imagination; rather, I feel that I have a purpose in Kampala now and that helps a lot. I do not feel ‘whole’ without my friends and family; however, learning how to deal with feeling a bit empty can go a long way both in terms of personal development and perhaps weight loss. A silver lining?
Over and out,