Friday, April 27, 2007

An Africa Day

An Africa Day being a day in which not much gets done when you prefer that things did get done.

Much like our mistake with Sarge’s gender, it turns out our cleaning person is not named Joan, as we’ve assumed for the past three weeks, but Joanne. (Conveniently I can still abbreviate as Jo.) Yesterday morning I brought her to N.’s to clean his place and P. was there picking N. up. P. had previously mentioned to N. that he knew of no Ugandan named Joan. When they met, P. and Jo. conversed a bit in Luganda and then P. turned to us and said, “Yes, it is Joanne.” N. immediately understood. I remained in the dark for a few more seconds until N. explained things and then I felt like a real asshole (an increasingly common occurrence, it seems). Fortunately Jo. seemed amused by the whole thing. She seems amused by many things I do. Like, after N. and P. left, she pointed to a large snail on N.’s deck and asked if she needed to remove it. I told her to leave it, not feeling that snail removal needed to be in her job description. She seemed to think I was playing a good joke on N. While not my original intention...

After these discoveries, I left Jo. at N.’s and went back to our apartment. I called the garbage collection place, called Bin-It, so we could start having garbage pick-up. Over the phone I arranged to have it picked up Mondays and Fridays, up to three bags each pick-up. Bin-It said they would send someone over with the contract and the bags we're supposed to use so pick-up could start the very next day. They said the person would arrive sometime around 10:00am.

At this point, I was quite proud of myself. I had been dreading calling Bin-It as I was bound to encounter communication problems, but things had gone smoothly, as far as I could tell.

By 11:30 there was still no sign of anyone from Bin-It, despite three phone calls to check up on them. Jo. needed gloves to do the dishes and I needed to run to the store to get them. I also told her I would bring her to Kisemente, an area in the opposite direction from where I expected to find the gloves, to get some lunch. I called Bin-It and they said they would now send someone after 2:30. I went to one store, but they didn't have gloves. On my way to the next store, the Bin-It guy called and said he was on his way to my house. Why don’t I find this surprising?

I found the gloves, and got in a check out line, which was quite long. None of the registers seemed to be working and, more importantly, no one seemed to be doing anything about it. We all waited. Another register opened and we all rushed to get in that one, no one paying any attention to who had been waiting longer and who deserved to be at the front. Those at the back of the original line were now in front.

The lady now first in line put her purchases through. The register broke. We waited. Eventually, another register opened.

I finally got back to the house around 12:30. At 1:00 I picked Jo. up at N.’s to take her to get some lunch. We opened the car doors and right then it started to rain. "The laundry," Jo. said. N.'s laundry was hanging up on the line out back. She left to bring it in. I sat in the car. And sat in the car. And sat in the car...

I'm back at the house by 2. K., who we got the kittens from, sent a text message asking if she can drop off their kitten, Koozi, at 4:15. I say yes, even though I needed to bring Jo. to the taxi station at 4 and J. was waiting at Kabira for me to pick him up around that time.

By 3:30 the garbage people still haven't come despite countless phone calls. I went back to N.’s to get Jo. to bring her to the station early. She did not seem to understand the urgency.
I asked her if she was ready to go. She said, “Almost.” She sat down to eat a snack.

I'm back at the house by 4:00. No garbage man, not even a phone call. Kim arrived at 4:25. The kittens did not like each other. I left anyway and went to Kabira where Jason had entered another meeting but it meant I could work out. Good news.

Fifteen minutes into my run, the treadmill suddenly stopped and told me there's an error. It won't start up again. I got on another, but it was lumpy. I got on another, also lumpy. I got on another. I started running. Another fifteen minutes and it suddenly stopped with another error message and it won’t start up again no matter how many times I hit it in frustration. I got on a whole different type of treadmill, but I had lost all momentum. I gave up. I stretched. I did my sit-ups. I called J. He was still not ready to leave. I drank water. I watched CNN on mute. I sat and listened to my iPod. I waited.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An Abundance of Beatrices

When we lived in New York, we wanted to get kittens but the apartments we lived in were never suitable for them (i.e. they were very small). But we did come up with names. Originally they were going to be Beatrice and Gus. Fast forward two years and we are in Uganda and there are two kittens up for grabs and we have the names all picked out except that in the meantime my brother has named his kid Gus. Beatrice was always a given.

Except that people actually use that name in Uganda. In Zanzibar we met a woman named Beatrice. The other day in the Ugandan newspaper I read about a woman named Beatrice. Just now, a woman named Beatrice rang me up in the store. Also, last night I was reading Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco and the narrator tells his girlfriend she’s his Beatrice. Being delinquent on my Dante I had to look up that Beatrice was Dante’s muse.

Before moving here I had never in my life met a Beatrice, aside from the fictional Ramona Quimby’s fictional sister.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

They Said It Would Take Four Hours

They painted the floors of the second unit of our apartment on Friday afternoon. They said it would take four hours to dry. It’s Wednesday and still not fully dry.

What would make them think that leaving the lights on all night will help facilitate the drying? All it does is attracts more bugs to get stuck in the paint.

The apartment manager paid a visit last night. It seems the painter messed up and used the wrong paint. They need to scrape everything clean and start over. It will only a day, maybe two.

Which means three, four, maybe six days.

Below, some of the bug wings we pulled off the wall. Not sure where all the bodies went.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


If anyone wants to leave a comment, it should be a lot easier now. I fixed the settings so you don't have to be a registered user anymore. And here I was thinking no one liked me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

My Day with Jo.

I remember when I was younger and my parents used to have someone come to the house once a week to clean. The night before (or morning of), my mother would always frantically start cleaning the house in preparation for the cleaning person to come. I always found this so amusing—and confused when my mother would ask me to pitch in—clean up for the cleaning person.

Today Jo. started working for us and now I finally understand more fully what the cleaning up for the cleaning person was all about. Since we just moved in on Friday and the second unit of our apartment still isn’t available for us to move into, the state of the apartment this morning was less than ideal for someone to come in and clean. Over the weekend, J and I cleaned the bathroom, the refrigerator, the windows, the windowsills, and picked all the dead bugs that got stuck in the drying paint off the walls. Still, Jo. came in this morning with her work cut out for her. I tried to pick up as much as possible, but to little effect.

I’m writing this entry sitting out on our deck in the shade (and feeling a little bit like a lazy asshole) as Joan works miracles inside. I just went in to check on her progress and told her the place looked great. She smiled and made a comment to the effect that the place was pretty disgusting. (Which made me feel more like a filthy, lazy asshole.) Apparently J and I did not make as much progress as we thought.

I have discovered that Jo. indeed speaks much better English than she let on at our first meeting. One thing we need to work on: she calls me “Madam H.” which makes me a little uncomfortable.

Limited Options

Saturday afternoon P. took us to Owino Market downtown. The market has everything and it is insane. The aisles are narrow and incredibly crowded (going on Saturday afternoon was maybe not the best idea). P. led us straight to the curtain guy. Again, fabric options were not good. Think 1980s floral patterns in teal and pink, super heavy fabrics, often shiny. We found a striped brown that wasn’t so bad for half the apartment and a striped light yellow for the other half. This was quite a production, though, because we had to check the measurements—somehow the guy ultimately had just the right sizes. It weirded me out a little bit.

Meanwhile we had an eye out for a blanket to fit our king-sized bed. So while P. worked with the curtain guy on the measurements, J and I sat across the aisle, very much in the way, while multiple people from the neighboring stalls brought blankets for us to inspect. We almost got this leopard-print blanket with a leopard’s face in the middle of it—it felt like the stereotypically correct option—but it was a little more expensive. Also, there was a lot of confusion over whether certain blankets were new or second-hand.

We finally settled on this lovely pattern, which sort of matches the curtains:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Couches, Slugs

We really, truly moved into our apartment on Friday. Well, half of it. Our apartment will eventually be two connected units. We’ve moved into one and the second will be ready yesterday, which means tomorrow, maybe.

Friday we went shopping. We bought a stove and television at a Costco-type place, though obviously not as awesome as Costco. But the real fun was buying the couch. This is what the couch place looks like from the outside:

We decided to go as cheap as possible since we don’t see this couch as a long-term investment. We had a choice of two styles and a couple different fabric patterns, all of them hideous. Not uncomfortable, though.

N. bought his couch before us from the same place, so he had told us that while negotiating, he thought he was just buying a couch. After they settled on a price, the guys started loading the pick-up with the couch AND two chairs. N. asked P. why they were giving him two chairs, as well. Apparently it’s a package deal. So we got a couch and two chairs for about $100.

Here they are loaded on the truck:

On the way to the apartment, we stopped at our old house to pick up our mattress. We didn’t think they’d be able to fit everything in one trip, but we were wrong:

Here’s the lovely pattern. The cats approve.

The new house has many slimy creatures. Worms crawl up the bathtub drain and Saturday morning we discovered this guy on our front deck:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bed, Bugs

We are moving tomorrow. Seriously. No, seriously. We’ve even moved a few things into the apartment. Like, our new bed frame. P. took us to a bed warehouse. There were about a dozen on this street, so I’m not sure how he chose one, but we trust him on things like this.

I will say this about Kampala: there is no shortage of labor.

Out on the “sidewalk,” P. started talking to the guy who seemed to be in charge. We entered the warehouse, which was stacked with beds of all sizes, and were immediately surrounded by about ten guys. Wherever we moved, we remained inside this circle of men, all wanting to help or just listen or maybe they were just curious, it was unclear. P. seemed to be negotiating with at least three of them, all of them speaking in Luganda. Another dozen guys continued to work in other parts of the shop. In the corner, about a dozen more women were cooking.

P. pointed out a frame on top of a tall stack and named their price, which we agreed to. Then the guys all climbed up and handed the bed down to the floor and out to the pick-up truck that would follow us to the apartment. Outside there was more negotiating. We paid extra to have posts added to the frame from which we can hang a mosquito net. Then the guy in charge seemed displeased with the money we handed him, like it wasn’t enough, even though it was exactly what we had agreed upon. He and P. and a few other guys got in a heated discussion. We had no idea what it was about. They could have been debating the latest soccer game for all we knew. We stood idly by, trying to look cheerful. It turned out they wanted us to pay for transport. Five of the guys followed us in the pick-up truck and put the bed together for us.

The apartment looks to be in pretty good shape, so much so that I believe A. when he tells us we can definitely move in tomorrow morning. From what I can see, they just have a lot of dead bugs to sweep up.

Tomorrow we move over the rest of our stuff, buy a stove and a couch, and then we will be officially moved in.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Zanzibar VI: Breezes

The Best Things About Breezes:
1. The Shower. Water pressure!
2. Rum punch

The Worst Thing About Breezes:
1. All of their other cocktails. Terrible.

Things We Got for Free at Breezes Because It was Our Honeymoon:
1. Bottle of (really, really bad) Prosecco
2. 20 % off my massage
3. A “sundowner,” which included glasses of wine and “bitings” delivered to our room one evening
4. “Bed Under the Stars.” Does this not sound amazing? Terrifying? All of the above? A note was left in our room notifying us this would occur on our last night. What could this be, we wondered? First, you need to understand that the room at Breezes had A/C. Second, you need to be reminded that it is absurdly hot in Zanzibar and humid. Now, when we came back from dinner and drinks Thursday evening, we discovered that the bed under the stars consisted of two twin beds pushed together out on our balcony, surrounded by a mosquito net. But since the mosquito net needs to be hung from something, the bed was actually set up underneath the balcony’s overhang, so if you’re in the bed, there are actually no stars to be seen. So this is as close as we got to using the ever-so-romantic bed under the stars:

(The pictures are blurry because the camera fogged up when we took it out of the air-conditioned room and into the rain-forest-like air outside.)

Thing I Learned While at Shooting Star

bush baby=monkey squirrel thing. noisy little suckers.

Worst Parents Ever

Turns out Sarge is a girl. At least now I can stop worrying about any incest happening before we take ‘em in to get ‘em fixed. (Actually, the vet makes house calls. Neutering on the kitchen table! Bet you can’t wait to see those pictures.)

I'm reminded of when I was in kindergarten and we went to Bermuda for vacation. My brother had a guinea pig named Bucky, who we sent to a friend's house for the week we would be away. Just as we were leaving for the airport we received a call, which I remember this way: "Bucky had babies!...and then she ate them." And then Bucky became Buckina.

Sargent is going to remain Sargent, for now.

Zanzibar V: Snorkeling

While pretty cool, snorkeling turned into a bit of a nightmare, for me anyway. We took a boat from a neighboring resort (after waking up around sunrise - above) with about a dozen other people on it out to the reef near Mnemba Island, a tiny little island about a 40-minute boat ride from the resort. There was very little cover from the sun; we were wearing wet suits for protection, but still it gets pretty darn hot. Most of the other people on the boat were scuba diving. Abdul was our snorkeling guide. He took us to two different spots on the reef with an hour break in the middle of sitting on the boat, eating fruit.

At the first spot everything was going swimmingly. Just as I thought I was about to be engulfed by a school of yellow and blue striped fish, I felt pricks of burning on my right wrist and my left elbow. I looked to my right and saw almost invisible strings tinged blue hanging down from the surface. I lifted my head and Abdul and J were both yelling. “Bluebottles!” I had no idea what the hell a bluebottle was, but guessed pretty quickly it was this stringy thing next to me and that it was not good. Panic. Abdul motioned us in another direction. I had only been lightly stung, but J had gotten hit on his ear and his cheek pretty good. I spent the rest of that swim in constant fear of running into more. As were getting out of the water, one of the guys who worked on the boat threw me one of those round, red life tubes to hang on to so I wouldn’t drift too far from the boat. I grabbed on: bluebottle. It got me right across my left hand. Holy cow does it sting.

We sat next to Abdul as the guys on the boat swabbed our wounds with vinegar. “It’s no killing,” Abdul said about the bluebottle. We felt greatly reassured. Abdul told us he got stung on the wrist but he felt it in his armpit. Weird, we said. Then J and I went and sat under the covering to get out of the sun. Soon enough I understood what Abdul was talking about. My armpit started to ache. It reminded me of when I had shingles on my back. Just a nice, dull ache in my left armpit that lasted about half an hour.

By the second dive we were feeling pretty alright again. In the second spot the waves were much rougher. I’m embarrassed to say that it made me seasick. I had to get out of the water. For the rest of the ride I was pretty much in misery: all I wanted to do was curl up back on my little daybed on our deck at Shooting Star. It seemed to take an eternity to get there.

However, I was greatly entertained by another woman on the boat with us. We saw some pretty amazing fish, but this woman was perhaps the most amazing. She seemed to me the happiest, more carefree woman I have ever been around. She had enormous boobs which were barely encased by her white string bikini. She wore her bikini bottom so low you could see the top of her butt crack. She had short blond hair and a huge smile—her teeth were crooked which made her only more attractive. She spoke English with a British accent by way of Russia. Her boyfriend was an old British dude with a pockmarked face who seemed incredibly charmed by everything his girlfriend said. They wore matching oversized Prada sunglasses. The girl asked the brash, large, loud, South African dive master to apply sunscreen to her back while her boyfriend watched from the other side of the boat. Every time the boat stopped, this woman jumped off the back for a swim, laughing the whole while. She had everyone on the boat mesmerized. I loved her.

Zanzibar IV: Shooting Star

I love Shooting Star. Since we were there for the beginning of the rainy season, the place was practically empty. We had a little bungalow to ourselves, which was pretty awesome. The daybeds out on the deck were incredibly comfortable:

We also had the beach bar all to ourselves.

The water (my first time in the Indian Ocean!) was super warm.

In the mornings they left coffee in a thermos on the ledge outside our door. We had picked up US Weekly and People in the Nairobi airport and saved them for the beach. All of this equals heaven.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Zanzibar III: Spice Tour

Victor, our driver from the Serena Inn, hooked us up with George, who has an air-conditioned taxi, to drive us across the island to the Shooting Star resort on the east coast. We asked him to stop on the way so we could take a short spice tour. George said he knew a guy.

Mr. Paulo met us on one of the government owned spice plantations where they grow cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, lemons and limes, lemongrass, bananas, coconuts, star fruit, jackfruit, jasmine, peppercorn, chilies, and these furry red things that women used to break open and smear across their lips in place of lipstick:

Mr. Paulo walked us around for an hour and we were followed by two boys, around 15-years-old, who wove presents out of banana leaves for us:

James climbed a tree for us:

So we could drink coconut juice and eat the pulp—we each felt very obligated to eat/drink the whole thing, even though we didn’t really want to. These were not the brown furry coconuts that have more of a milk in them. These had more of a coconut water, refreshing and all, but there was a lot of it.

Zanzibar II: Emerson & Green

We were told that dinner at Emerson & Green in Stone Town was not to be missed. Now that we have experienced it, I’m not sure I agree with that statement. It was one of the most bizarre and awkward meals I’ve ever eaten.

We made reservations and arrived at sunset. The “restaurant” is on the roof overlooking the city. Very beautiful. Guests are seated on pillows on the floor in a square around the edge of the roof in front of low tables. They squeeze in maybe 30 people, all of us staring across the square at each other. Dinner lasts for two and a half hours and by the end of it our legs had only fallen asleep, oh, a half dozen times.

There was a five course meal and the food was decent. Even more awkward than trying not to listen in on everyone’s conversations or even make eye contact with them, in between courses there were three musicians playing traditional Swahili music and—here’s the kicker—a woman comes out and dances.

The only thing to do was drink more wine. We chose the brand called “Goats Do Roam.” Too good of a name to pass up.

How do I do this dancer justice? I’m so sorry we didn’t bring our camera. She wore a white dress with a cloth belt twisted thickly around her waist. The belt seemed necessary to dance—perhaps to enhance the suggestive pelvic thrusts?—because when she finally lured one of the guests on to the dance floor at the end of the night, she made the person wear her belt. The dance was overtly sexual. There were really no other nuances to it. There were really only two moves: pelvic grinding or her ass in your face. She was out there all alone and her goal seemed to be to make extended eye contact with each of the guests as she thrust her groin at them. J and I kept our eyes on each other and ordered another bottle of wine. She was not getting to us.

But by far the best part about this woman was the look on her face. When she could no longer find anyone to make eye contact with her, she would stand in the middle of the room and get this orgasmic look on her face. She half closed her eyelids and wore this taunting little smile. Her teeth were slightly bucked and her look was so self-satisfied. Amazing. Amazingly awkward.

Five courses! She just kept coming back out for more. Lesson learned: Goats do roam. Dogs will hunt.

Zanzibar – I: Stone Town

But let me start from the beginning. We arrived in Zanzibar last Friday, a holiday in Uganda, as it was Good Friday. 80% of Zanzibar is Muslim, so the holiday was much quieter there. Our bags were held up in Nairobi during our layover. I think the plane we took from Nairobi to Zanzibar was too small to hold all the baggage. It was also small enough to make me feel a little ill. The flight goes right past Mt. Kilimanjaro, though, which is pretty darn cool.

Victor was the driver sent by the Serena Inn to pick us up at the airport. He helped us sort the forms to have our bags delivered to the hotel—we were quite certain we were never seeing that bag again, but luckily had packed extra clothes (including swimsuits) in our carry-on. Our room at the Serena was amazing, with a great balcony complete with hammock and wonderful views:

The Serena is in Stone Town, the major town in Zanzibar. Stone Town reminded us a lot of Venice, without the canals. The streets are narrow and curvy and too small for cars but you constantly have to dodge people coming through on mopeds and bicycles. People in Zanzibar are aggressive. Each store you pass, the storeowner is out front yelling for you to come inside. Kids will follow you trying to sell you art or jewelry. To all of these people you have to tell them no a dozen times before they will give up. It can be quite draining.

Saturday we left the hotel in the morning to walk around some more. We didn’t have a guide book or any real idea of what the “sites” were, we just wanted to wander and take it easy. We made it about 100 yards before a guy started walking in step with us. He started talking about some of the buildings we passed, asking us questions. We realized we either had to tell this guy very explicitly to bug off or we would be stuck with him until he did and at some point he would expect some money. So J asks how much he would charge to show us around for an hour.

“Hakuna matata.”

Disney did not make that up, which I still find surprising. I can’t seem to get over people actually using it.

Anyway, Ali showed us around for about two hours. He was an excellent and knowledgeable guide. He showed us this door:

Which was carved by a slave who carved only one other door, a bigger and more intricate one in the Old Fort, with his signature eagle, lion, and snake carved into the top. Then the slave was killed so he wouldn’t create any more doors that beautiful to compete with the two he had already done. The copper spikes in the door are to keep away the elephants, though of course there are none left on the island.

Ali also took us to the spice market:

Amazing looking produce and I saw my first breadfruit (called shelli shelli in Swahili). If someone could tell me which book I read about a boy stranded on a desert island who survived on breadfruit, I’d be very grateful.

By the end of the second hour I was feeling pretty hot and sweaty, and I looked down at my legs and noticed that my feet and ankles were covered in red bumps, which I decided was either a reaction to the pedicure I had that morning followed by a 2-hour sweaty trek through a pretty dirty city or I had been attacked by bugs. Whatever was going on, I was freaked out. (Turned out to be bugs, we think. Whatever it was, I'm fine.) We told Ali it was time for us to go back to the hotel.

“I’ll show you a shortcut,” Ali said and started leading us down a pretty deserted alley. At this point I was pretty sure that “I’ll show you a shortcut,” was code for “This is where my friends jump out and we steal all your money.” But it was really code for “You are a very distrustful American and should be ashamed of yourself.” It was a really good shortcut.


Karibu back to the blog. We are back from Zanzibar and the tannest I have ever seen us. Honestly we didn’t even spend that much time directly in the sun—it was just so hot—and we never wore anything less than 30 SPF. Plus, I now know about seven words in Swahili. (Jambo=hello; karibu=welcome; did you know people actually use the phrase hakuna matata in all seriousness? They do. Often.)

I have many stories to tell, which I will parcel out over the next week or so, but I’ll start with this: I saw my first non-zoo monkey. Let me set the scene for you: It’s the last day of our trip and George, our driver, is going 110 km/hr on barely-paved roads on which people, poultry, cattle, bicycles, small children, and slower cars are constantly getting in the way, causing George to swerve and slam on the breaks/speed up. I am certain we are going to die.

George has picked us up in a different car this day, one with tinted back windows so that when we go through the many police roadblocks, they will not see that he has tourists in the back seat and so will get away without paying them a bribe. Tourists in the car mean you palm the guy 500 – 1000 shillings. (Less than a dollar, but with four or five roadblocks each way crossing the island, these things can add up.) Incongruously to the death-defying driving and the tactics to evade the corrupt police, George’s car is filled with giant stuffed animals and his front dashboard is lined with fake flowers; a pokemon figure dangles from the rearview window.

Jozani Forest lies in the middle of Zanzibar and in the forest lives the Red Colobus monkey. I think this is one of the only places this particular monkey can be found, but I would not take my word on that one. Our first time crossing the island and going through the forest, we had no monkey sightings and, having just finished a spice tour (more on that later), we didn’t feel like paying for a monkey tour.

But on this, our last day, there are monkeys. Oh, there are monkeys! First, I see one dart across the road—luckily for this monkey there are speed bumps at this juncture, forcing George to slow down considerably. Then, George leans into the back seat and rolls down my window. Look, he points. And in the tree are three monkeys, just chilling. They look at us. They have little tufts of hair sticking up over their eyes. They are mostly white with dark tails, but they do have a red tint to them.

Then George is yelling at me—roll the window back up! Police block. We cruise on through—there will be no bribes paid by George on this day. And indeed, we make it to the airport in one piece—only to find our flight has been canceled.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Hiatus, 4/6 - 4/13

The honeymoon starts tomorrow. I hear it's snowing in Maine. It's not snowing where we're going. Two nights in Stone Town, five nights on the beaches on the eastern coast of the island. Our first real vacation in three years. We're insanely excited.

No computers, no email allowed. See you in a week.

The Interview

Yesterday we interviewed Jo. to come clean our and N’s apartments, part-time. Jo. is M.’s little sister, M. being the guy who lives in the house we’re in now and keeps it in tip-top shape.

Let’s just say there were some communication issues, what with her being more comfortable conversing in Lugandan as well as extremely shy, but eventually we came to an agreement – though it’s unclear whether Jo. is on the exact same page as we are.

This is how the interview started:
Me: So we need someone to come in three times a week and clean our apartments, do laundry, etc etc (I’m not sure what I said but I went on for a little while). Is this something you’re interested in?
Jo: blank stare
J: Are you available to come clean for us three afternoons a week?
Jo: blank stare
Me: (growing increasingly nervous and now using hand gestures and speaking as slowly as possible) Three days? To clean?
Jo: Just clean?
Us: Yes.
Jo: No laundry?
Us: Oh yes, laundry, too.
Jo: And ironing?
Us: A little.
We all stare at each other.
Us: Is this okay?
Jo. leans her head back, stares at the ceiling, and thinks about it. She looks back at us.
Jo: Yes, okay.
Us: So you can come Monday and Thursday to our apartment and Friday to N.’s?
Complete incomprehension. N., it should be known, was not there. We tried to explain that he would be living next door to us, once we moved into the apartments, which we hadn’t done yet, that the apartments were in Kololo, not where we were now, but she had no idea where Kololo was or who exactly this N. character might be…

It went on like this for quite some time. If only you could have seen the salary negotiations. J and I had no idea what was a normal price to pay someone for what amounted to a day and a half of work. We asked Joan how much she made at her last job, which was full time. It amounted to $10 per month. J and I looked at each other, a little horrified, and J told her we could do better than that.

The first figure we gave her she told us was too high. We told her wasn't.

(She’s very sweet, only 17. She asked if I was 17, which reminded me of this other Ugandan woman I met who told me I was too young to be married. This woman was married with a 2-year-old and was seven years younger than I am.)

Then we discovered that Jo. lives almost an hour outside the city and we had planned on paying transportation costs. Her transportation costs amounted to more than we were offering her in salary, which seemed a little ridiculous. We adjusted the schedule so she would only come two days a week, so we wouldn’t have to pay as much for transportation. Then Jo. suggested that she might be able to find a place to stay in the city to get the transport costs down, but since that wasn’t definite…

Complications! And by this point, J had taken a business call in the other room so I was doing this all by myself and J. (sorry, lots of J names in this story), who rents the house we’re staying in, was home and overheard some of the numbers I was throwing out so he texted me from the other room to tell me it was too high and I texted back to explain the transportation problem, at which point he came into the room to help me…

Let’s just say Jo. starts April 23 at 8:00 AM. I’m pretty sure.


I think I promised a picture of the potholes. This should give you at least an idea.

Test Drive

Guess who had her first driving excursion in Uganda today? That’s right. Me. And can I say I was really awesome? I can. I’m not ashamed to admit that with the whole driving on the left side of the road, the whole shifting gears with the left hand I was a tad nervous. Actually I was a lot nervous. But once I got behind the wheel, I remembered: I’m really good at this. Keep in mind that I got out of the car less than five minutes ago and am still a little high from my success. Oh, Africa, you are NOT winning today. You should have seen it! There were people waving from the side of the road! Cheering me on! And I’m sure it had nothing to do with me being a Muzungu. I’m certain it was because these people had never seen such a good driver in their lives.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


We picked up the car on Monday afternoon! So far I have left the driving to J. I would like to practice first and not in a traffic jam, thank you, of which there are many here. I'm going to have to take some pictures of the potholes here because they are not to be believed. Keeping your eyes on the road takes on a whole new meaning.

On the topic of photos, I promise there are more forthcoming...

...especially of white sandy beaches once we are back from our honeymoon in Zanzibar next week! We leave Friday. No computers, no email, nothing. Expect a one-week hiatus.

It has been promised that our apartment will definitely, definitely be ready by the time we get back. I'm taking bets.

Ooh, and this afternoon I am interviewing a woman to come to our apartment two afternoons a week (plus N.'s one afternoon a week) to clean and do our laundry. I never in my life expected to have "hired help."

Laundry is done in a bucket, by the way.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

So Disgusting, So Delicious

This is not the work of Photoshop, boys and girls, the cone is really blue! And there are Smarties (as some of you know, that's British for M&Ms) packed into the base of the cone.