Saturday, December 22, 2007

From Paris II

Because my mom is awesome and sent creative and amazing gifts across the Atlantic, Christmas has come to our hotel room. This is a grow-a-tree, a weird and sprightly little thing - the packaging says it isn't toxic, but the crystals that grew on the paper leaves when I added water are a little disconcerting. I've decided it's best not to touch them, pretty as they may look.

This morning we checked out Sainte Chapelle, built from 1242-1248 and still absolutely beautiful:

From there we went to the Centre Georges Pompidou, the modern art museum. From the top floor (where there was a Giacometti exhibit underway) there are some amazing views:

After lunch and a wander through the Latin Quarter, we ended up once again in Luxembourg Gardens before heading back to the hotel for a rest up before dinner:

Friday, December 21, 2007

From Paris

We arrived in Paris yesterday afternoon after a few delays. Passing through Brussels a small snowstorm held us up, but Paris itself is clear and cold and beautiful.

We are staying at the Hotel du Pantheon, so when we walk outside this is what we see:

Pretty amazing.

Our cold weather clothes arrive today with my in-laws. All layered up in Luxembourg Gardens yesterday at sunset:

(Having spent most of my blogging career uploading photos from Uganda, I had no idea how fast and wonderful blogging could be from a first world country. Possibly expect more photos from Paris over the next few days...)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hiatus, Dec 19-26

Because J and I are the most spoiled people ever, we'll be in Paris for the next week. Lots of pictures and rubbing your noses in it when I get back.

For those of you who celebrate it, have a great Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

And You Thought CHOGM was Over

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport just announced to Parliament, “CHOGM roads just temporary.” Awesome. I hope they start construction again soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Safe and Sound in Kampala

Western Uganda has been fighting the Ebola virus since August. Rumor has it the severity of the issue was kept quiet until after CHOGM-no need to worry the Queen or make Uganda look bad, etc-but who knows what really happened. In any case, I've been assuring concerned friends and relatives all is well in Kampala, at least, and I am safe from not just Ebola, but also the plague (also in the west) and yellow fever (in the north).

The American embassy in Kampala just emailed this out to all registered U.S. citizens here. I'm not sure if it makes me more scared or more reassured. (Note that before this I wasn't really concerned at all.)

Ebola - Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I get Ebola while riding on public transportation?

People can only be exposed to Ebola virus from direct contact with the blood and/or excretions and secretions of an infected person. The virus is often spread through families and friends because they come in close contact with such body fluids when caring for infected persons or during washing the body of the deceased for burial.

It is highly unlikely that you would contract Ebola from riding on public transportation unless the person next to you was visibly ill, with profuse bleeding or sweating. You are far more likely to contract respiratory illnesses such as tuberculosis or influenza when riding public transportation than contracting Ebola.

If Ebola were easily contractible from public transport, the number of infected cases would be much higher than it currently is.

2. Will the government or the airlines restrict my ability to travel outside Uganda?

As of this time, there are no travel restrictions imposed by the GOU or any of the national or international airlines. There is no rapid test for Ebola and a certificate of wellness only indicates someone does not have a fever at the time they were seen by the healthcare provider. Likewise, the U.S. Government has placed no ban on travel, either into or out of the United States.

3. Has Ebola been confirmed in any district outside of Bundibugyo?

Not as of this time. The CDC has set up a testing center to test blood samples within Uganda. The only samples that have come back positive for Ebola are in the Bundibugyo district, although additional suspected cases are being identified and tested on a daily basis. To date, there has been one Ebola case in Kampala, although the individual was infected in Bundibugyo District and when he experienced symptoms he immediately checked himself into the isolation ward at Mulago Hospital.

4. I've heard this is a new strain of Ebola. How does the CDC know it's checking for the right illness in its testing?

In November, the CDC identified this new strain of Ebola, which at this time appears to be less lethal than previous strains, with a lower mortality rate among infected persons. The testing lab set up at Uganda Virus Research Institute is set up to identify any strain of Ebola.

5. How can I avoid getting ill with Ebola?

One of the most important preventive practices is careful and frequent hand washing. Cleaning your hands often, using soap and water (or waterless alcohol-based hand rubs when soap is not available), removes potentially infectious materials from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission.

Avoid contact with dead animals, especially primates.

Do not eat "bush meat" (wild animals, including primates, sold for consumption as food in local markets).

If you are required to personally care for an ill person with an unknown illness or suspected Ebola, use barrier techniques. These precautions include wearing protective gowns, gloves, and masks, in addition to eye protection to limit your exposure to blood and body secretions. Transport the person immediately to a health-care provider, limiting your contact with others. Notify the health-care facility you are transporting someone potentially infected with Ebola.

Sterilization and proper disposal of needles and equipment, appropriate handling and disposal of bedding, and proper disposal of patient excretions are also important to prevent the spread of infection.

The Golden Compass

Went to see the Golden Compass last night. We tried to go last weekend and when I got the text message for the movie times it said the Golden Compass was playing Saturday at 7:00PM. We showed up, but no such luck. The Golden Compass didn’t start playing at the theater until last Wednesday.

I enjoyed the movie a lot, but I admit I let myself be charmed by it. J was not so sold. As we talked about it, I let all of its faults seep through. A lot of liberties were taken to fit the book into a 2-hour movie, which didn’t bother me because I remembered the story well enough from reading the book a couple of years ago. Lyra is well-cast and I thought the actress did a good job with the part. Is it possible Nicole Kidman isn’t actually human? She absolutely glowed in this movie and it seems more likely she comes from another planet. Seriously, light emanates out of her. It’s amazing. Daniel Craig: disappointingly little screen time.

But here’s my real problem with the movie. One of the things that makes the book the Golden Compass so amazing is the introduction of daemons, that every person has an animal incarnation following them around, representative of their true being. It’s impossible not to imagine what your own might be. The relationship a person has with her daemon is the closest relationship a person will ever have. Your daemon is not just your best friend, it knows you more intimately and loves you more unconditionally than is possible for any other person or thing to know and love you.

In the movie, Lyra’s daemon takes the form of an annoying sidekick. It didn’t change shapes enough. The sense of relationship was so lacking, that when the danger arose of them being separated from one another, it didn’t really bother me. Daemons are as complex as their owners, but the movie over-simplifies their characters. Mrs. Coulter’s monkey is not beautiful but menacing (like Mrs. Coulter), she’s just a bully of a monkey, plain mean.

I like to think my daemon would be a doe. J says mine would be a bush baby, but hopefully he was joking.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I'm writing this from Kabira's super secret, Internet, members-only, lounge room where a group is currently filming some sort of movie. Every once in a while they yell, "Silence! Sitting Room Scene, take 6," (or whatever) and I attempt to type very, very quietly. Otherwise no one seems to mind my presence.

Edit: I should mention the actress in the scene was wearing only a short, silk robe. I thought I had stumbled onto the set of an Ugandan adult film, but all she did was talk on the phone (and not dirtily either).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


A few thoughts now that I've been back for a little over a week and have had time to digest some of the recent changes in Kampala:

1. Joan, our housekeeper, has malaria (again). Guess who's getting a mosquito net for Christmas!

2. Kabira's wireless has been down since before I left. Don't they realize they're losing business? And they're sneaky jerks, to boot. I've been a member since March and only yesterday did I discover there's a fancy lounge room for members, which also has wireless Internet. I would exactly call it lightning speed Internet, but it's doing the trick. Why did no one tell me this after months of me complaining about the Internet while flashing my membership card around? Okay, I exaggerate, but still. What's with the big secret?

3. The police force around Kampala are wearing fancy new uniforms. Guess what color they are? White! I can't imagine what the dry cleaning bills look like. Who chooses a white uniform in the dustiest place on Earth?

Everything else is pretty much the same.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mystery Date

Audrey, Meet Raymond; Raymond, This Is Audrey...

How fun to have Mystery Date to return to. I like Audrey because she doesn't beat around the bush. Also, when asked "What makes you happy?" she answered, "Comedy by Amarula family," where most people just say, "Comedy." Her specificity makes it a real answer.

I arrived before him and when he appeared I thought he was a receptionist. His face was familiar and he, too, knew my grandmother with whom I stay.

We come from the same area called Kitebi on Rubaga Road. I did not like him and that made me bored and uncomfortable. What I only enjoyed were the drinks and the food. They were really nice.

What exactly didn’t you like about him?
I had asked for a light-skinned, tall and medium-sized guy, which he wasn’t. I had also wanted an educated guy with a good job and a car. I wanted a man I would be comfortable with in public. So when he asked me where I was working I refused to tell him.

Assuming he asked to take you out again, would you accept?
No. I can’t. I do not even want to see him again and that is why I gave him a wrong cellphone number when he asked for it.

What if he came to your grandmother’s house since he knows it?
I told him point blank that I didn’t want to see him again since we knew each other. Although I don’t have a boyfriend, when he asked me whether I had one, I said ‘Yes’ just to keep him off.

Now Raymond is not really a receptionist; he's a videographer. What makes him happy? "Cracking jokes." It was never meant to be for Raymond and Audrey, but you have to give him credit for his perseverance.

When I arrived, I found her already seated and she welcomed me. I greeted her and she was happy to see me. Everything went on well but the problem was that she wasn’t lively at all. She seemed to be fearing me because I was the one asking questions all the time.

What was your impression of her?
She was beautiful and looked presentable except that she was quiet. It seems she is shy.

Are you going to make a serious move?
That is actually what I want. In fact I love her.

What about if she rejects you?
It is OK. I will just try and if it fails, I will try another one.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Apologies for the overlong silence. I am now back in Uganda after spending three weeks up and down the East Coast—Portland, Cape Cod, Boston, Cape Cod, Sugarloaf, Portland. It feels good to unpack the suitcase(s).

Uganda has a smell. It hits you the second you step off the plane. It’s warm and earthy, and intoxicating to return to. Every time I arrive in Uganda and smell it, I’m reminded of my first arrival—when I was uncertain but excited, tired but relieved—and in remembering those feelings, I experience a different kind of relief: a certain pride at how far I’ve come in not feeling so uncertain anymore and the comfort of returning to the place we've made our home. Knowing the smell is fleeting and I would all too soon grow used to it again, I tried to enjoy it this time as long as I could, taking deep breaths as we waited in line for our visas (due to both the front and back doors of the plane being open for disembarking, we were the very last people off the plane and hence the last people in the visa line), as we searched the fancy (for Uganda) new luggage belt for our suitcases (packed with granola bars and three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs), and as we scanned the crowd outside the airport and discovered P.’s smiling and familiar face. It waned the closer we drew to Kampala, overpowered by wafts of cooking meat and smoke as we made our way along Entebbe Road, and had all but disappeared as we unlocked the gate to our apartment. But by then I hardly noticed—N. came over to hear about our trip and afterwards we put in an episode of Entourage Season 3 and ate a box of our imported macaroni and cheese and were awash in contentment.