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Uganda Blog

This blog is dedicated to my internship in the Summer of 2012 in Uganda at the National Archives.  

Pictures and Videos

posted Aug 27, 2012, 7:10 AM by jj pionke

I have finally been able to upload my pictures to Flickr and you can find them HERE.  Flickr informs me that there are 334 photos that I uploaded.

I also uploaded some videos to Youtube!  All the clips are short, no more than 2-3 minutes or so.  Here is a DRIVING MOVIE of the truck bouncing a bit on the dirt road.  There are also baboons in that clip!  Here is a clip of GIRAFFES WALKING and here is a different clip of a HIPPO ENTERING THE WATER.  All of these movies were taken at Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda while I was on safari.


Leaving Uganda

posted Aug 18, 2012, 7:00 AM by jj pionke

I spent my last day in Uganda sleeping in, trying to finish up a few things on the computer, and packing.  Around dinnertime, I walked over to the Gately and bought a few items for people back home and then I walked over to Anna's and had some guacamole and pita chips and said goodbye to folks.  Luckily, one of the guys there with a car offered to give me a lift home and then to the airport.  We went to my place, I set him up with an ashtray, the remote control, and went ahead and finished packing and then took a shower.  I had just sat down to check my flight when the power went out so we just chatted for awhile and then the power came back on after about 30 minutes.  Checked my flight and online it said that my flight was leaving in a little over an hour, which was not the time listed on my itinerary.  There was a mad scramble as I through everything else together and we rushed for the truck.  Off we went, flying through Entebbe.  David talked us through the checkpoint before the airport, he helped me haul my luggage upstairs, and then hug and then I dashed through the second security checkpoint only to find out that no, my itinerary was correct, 2 hours to go until take off.  I checked my luggage - 19.7 kilograms!  23 kilograms is 50 pounds so I was nicely underweight thankfully.  Then more security and immigration and then waiting.  Since I had the time, I picked up the day's newspaper and read the continuing coverage about the marathon gold medal athlete.  Ironically, I would be arriving in Belgium the day he was getting back to Uganda.

My flight originated in Kigali so only about half the plane got off.  I helped a missionary couple and a few others find their seats (no English and illiterate for the most part) and we chatted while we waited for the plane to load with people, luggage, and food.  The woman missionary asked where my husband was (I've been wearing a ring on my left ring finger the whole trip - it's come in handy).  I responded that he was in Chicago.  She was rather amazed that I would leave him to go traveling around the world.  My response left her gasping for breath from laughter, "Why?  He's an adult.  He knows how to cook and clean.  I ain't his mother."

Once we were up in the air, they served a meal (keep in mind that this meal was now around midnight).  I was at the back of the plane and just as the drink cart was coming up to me we hit some very impressive turbulence.  Let me put it this way, the turbulence was so impressive that the pilot turned off air circulation and the flight attendant with the drink cart braced himself between two seats after locking the wheels on the cart.  I grabbed the precariously swaying cart and held onto as well as braced it with my knee so the contents on the top wouldn't go flying.  We hit another pocket 15 minutes later that had me chugging my water so it didn't go flying everywhere.  After that, it was rather smooth flying. 

Pretty much the flight went to sleep and I did my best to doze.  Just as dawn was breaking over Belgium, we came in for a landing.  Customs and immigration were a breeze and I immediately made my way to the train station where I booked a ticket to the gare-midi.  I was tired, but I wasn't where I needed to be yet.

The rest of this tale is continued in my regular blog.  Click on the link on the left to go there!

Some thoughts on Uganda

posted Aug 18, 2012, 6:44 AM by jj pionke

How the heck do you describe a place like Uganda?  It's a complicated place. 


Outside of the cities, people live in concrete or brick buildings sometimes.  Not everyone though.  There are many villages where the principal housing is mud huts with thatch for a roof.

The Lake Victoria Hotel is a bastion of old colonialism, complete with pool, waiter service, and overpriced food.

The dust gets into everything.  The white parts of my gym shoes are now a reddish brown.  Even my tan colored hat is now a reddish brown from the dust.

Security is everywhere.

While I've been here, Hillary and Bill Clinton have come.  Not at the same time.  Both times the security around here reached unimaginable proportions.

Ebola is in Kabaale District.  There has also been a case in Kampala (a health worker from Kabaale District).  Kampala is only one hour away by car.

The weather has been absolutely perfect and my arms have been the tannest they have been since I lived in Japan (though not quite that dark).

When I get back to the US, I am taking a break from peanuts and peanut butter for at least a solid month.

Everyone speaks English....whether or not they understand it, even when you slow down, is a whole different issue.

Lizards are everywhere. They are good as they eat the lake flies that are everywhere.  There's a small one no longer than my pinky that adopted the apt and I have called it Ralph.

The country bursts with produce - the avocados, mangos, pineapples, etc so large and juicy and good that it's like no food on Earth.

You have to take Uganda on its' own terms.  You'd go crazy is you do otherwise.

Cell phones are everywhere and so are internet USB modems.   Very few people have landlines.

It always smells like burning - sometimes it is burning trash and sometimes it is plant materials but smoke is present wherever there are humans.

You don't realize how quiet places like America are until you live in Uganda with chickens, goats, cows, pigs, large birds, and people all making a racket at O'God o'clock.

You will never take a washer and a dryer for your clothes for granted ever again.

You'll never take water drunk straight from the tap for granted ever again either.

Boda Bodas are everywhere and cheap.  They are also just as likely to give you a heart attack.  Let's just say that road rules are more of a suggestion than a rule.

Bargaining is acceptable everywhere including for taxis, rent, produce, etc.

Do not walk alone at dark, especially as a woman, even in supposedly safe areas.  A friend was mugged on her way home.  She was fine and the thief really didn't get much of anything, but still, something to be aware of.

Safari is worth every single penny.

The stars have never seemed so bright, even in Entebbe.

A gin and tonic is quite refreshing and you know, a little extra malaria prevention goes a long way.

Children (and some adults) will joyously greet you with Muzungu!

Uganda is a good place for introspection and not just because the power goes out or that there isn't a whole lot to do or see if you are in the cities.

Chicken on a stick and Sunsets

posted Aug 10, 2012, 11:00 AM by jj pionke

First, a picture of the sunset from the top floor of my building.  Did I not tell you that there are beautiful sunsets here?

Sunset in Entebbe, Uganda

Also, since today was basically the last day that the rest of the team is together, we walked, with a visiting researcher from Johns Hopkins, into town to the BBQ area and I had the best chicken on a stick I've ever had in my life.  Sincerely.  It was better than the chicken on a stick that I had in Japan.  The meat was so juicy and so well spiced.  So good.  Two helpings was 6000 shillings or a little over $2USD.  No pics, I felt a little conspicuous whipping out my camera. 

There were quite a few things that I wish I had taken pictures of like women walking with stuff balanced on their heads, women in gomesi (traditional dress, very common outside of the city, not so much in the city), more food items, etc.

The Roommate leaves tomorrow morning very early, the other team member has errands to run on Monday, and then is off to visit family in western Uganda, which just leaves me - last man standing.  I got plenty to do so no worries.

More posts to come including the wrap up post of what I learned in Uganda.

T-Minus 6 days but who is counting?

posted Aug 7, 2012, 10:53 PM by jj pionke

Tuesday of next week I take off for Europe and then for home 5 days after that.  My last post was about things that I am not going to miss, but there are things I will.  I will definitely miss the greenery.  There is so much green everywhere.  There's a lot of green at home and there was a lot in Singapore as well whereas Thailand and Malaysia were both very much devoid of greenery.  There isn't a lot grass or such per se in the city but there are trees of all kinds and when you get out of the city, there are all sorts of grasses and shrubs.  It's a gorgeous country in terms of plant and animal life.  I'm going to miss the people that I work with.  They've been great and it's been an amazing experience working with them.  I'm also going to miss Anna's, a local cafe/restaurant/internet/shop/what have you.  It's in a great location, there's always a breeze, and the food is good.  As much as the constant noise from the local kids drives me up a wall, I am going to miss seeing them.  The littlest ones always wave at me and cry out muzungu so joyously that it is hard not crack a smile.  I'm also going to miss the giant avocados and mangos as well as the finger bananas.  So good!

(Not gonna) miss

posted Aug 6, 2012, 10:25 PM by jj pionke

I've posted about sound before.  Let me go on record and say I am not going to miss the sounds of goats, chickens, birds, kids, music, or even people at o'god o'clock.  For the love of all that is holy, sleep in a little everyone!

The reporter got off ok I think.  We had some problems with the taxi and I believe she might have been the last person on the plane but I am pretty sure she got on it.  Good to know these protocols before I have to get on a plane myself next week.  I miss her already.  It was a lovely visit and we had a lot of fun.

Work in the archive proceeds a pace.  I'm at the trying to tie up loose ends point.  It's been fun in the archive for the most part.  I am going to miss it too.

Last Week in Uganda

posted Aug 6, 2012, 4:46 AM by jj pionke

Today, the Reporter left to return to the US.  It was a lovely visit.  We had a lot of fun doing two safaris, people watching, eating, talking, drinking, and just chilling out.  Not a bad way to spend two weeks, let me tell you.  I definitely have a much finer appreciation of a good gin and tonic.

So begins my last full week in Uganda.  I leave next week for Europe, 5 days there, then home.  It's been a pretty wild 85 days, but more on that later.

This week I will be trying to finish up all the loose ends in the archives - various reports, catalogs, meetings, and so forth.  I started the process on Friday by nabbing the two laptops that the archive's owns and giving them a good thorough scrubbing down.  I also did the same for the tower in the main office.  I made up a maintenance document for the best computer person there so that they know what to do and when in order to keep the computers virus free or as near to it as we can.

In short, it's going to be a busy week with trying to get everything done which is good!  I can't believe it's my last full week!

Sunday with more Safari Pictures

posted Aug 5, 2012, 12:04 AM by jj pionke

Why yes, have some more safari pictures because how often does one actually go on safari?  I'll move on to other things after this, I promise.  What can I say, I am compensating because I can't post to Flickr on this slower than molasses internet.

Anyway, a picture of cattle actually.  These were in Mburro, though they weren't supposed to be.  I had to take a picture of cattle because they look nothing like the cattle back home.  They are Egyptian cattle and the horns are hollow with blood vessels running through them which act as basically a coolant system.


And here we have a picture of a Waterbuck.  These were also at Murchison but we never really got a good picture of them.  I do have pictures of females which have no horns but I'll save those for the Flickr.  Obviously, this guy was in the middle of the road.


Saturday Means More Safari Pictures

posted Aug 3, 2012, 11:53 PM by jj pionke

There are certainly plenty of things that I miss from home.  I miss real cheese (everything is called gouda here but I wouldn't call it gouda), a washer and dryer, drinking water from the tap, not being stared at, and being able to understand everyone.  These are common things to miss and it's culture shock.  It's all pretty normal, but if I never left the country I wouldn't see things like this:


Those are Topi.  Or I wouldn't see these animals which are Impala


On the Equator

posted Aug 2, 2012, 10:18 PM by jj pionke

Uganda is indeed an equatorial country.  I've pretty much been hopping the equator on and off all Summer but this was the first time I was able to stop at an equator marker.  Here I am with the Reporter and David.

Reporter, David, and I on the equator

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