October 20, 2010

Don’t Ask The Question If You Don’t Want To Know The Answer

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:04 pm by Ian

It is the last yacht club Wet Wednesday, and there is a two-man band on the edge of a postage-stamp-sized dance floor. The singer/keyboardist is trying to attract dancers, but is so far unsuccessful. Then:

“Let’s take it back to the sixties,” he announces, and begins to play Hang on Sloopy

A cluster of fifty-something women walk out to the dance floor and start to strut their stuff. They have good rhythm. And pantsuits.

The singer picks it up a notch, adding some riffs from Twist

“Twist it!” he shouts. “How low can you go?”

Not very, it turns out.

October 18, 2010

Uganda – Day 13 – Fort Portal and Kampala

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 9:03 pm by Ian

We got back from the Rwenzori hike and drove north to Fort Portal, to the Mountains of the Moon hotel. Dominic had been able to get us his rate (much cheaper than the normal one), but that meant he had to pay for it, but we didn’t have enough schillings to pay him back, so there was a little song and dance about that. We checked in and immediately spent the next hour showering. It was fantastic.

I found a book in our room about Uganda, and the various business opportunities within, that was fascinating because it was so directly focused on selling the country to foreign investors. It was half fluff-pieces about the burgeoning prosperity that was Ugandan business, and half advertisements that seemed to be more about the company’s stock price than about their actual products.

We went to dinner, and it was one of the best dinners we had in the country. We started with an avocado and tomato salad that ended up being a giant whole avocado, sliced with fresh tomatoes and dressing. It cost about $1.40. There were some very young stray cats that came mewling around our table. I named them Jacob and Esau and we gave them some food until Esau decided that we weren’t being attentive enough and bit Kristi in the leg. No good dead. So we chased them away.

In the morning, I went to shower again, and the water stayed cold. I called the front desk and they said they could send someone around with a bucket of hot water. I said I’d rather just have a shower, and would that work? They said they’d send housekeeping. A few minutes later, housekeeping arrived with a steaming bucket. She said that the hot water was solar, and there wouldn’t be any until the sun had a chance to heat up the water in the tanks. So, be warned: take showers in the evening in Uganda. She left the bucket and we went to breakfast. When we came back, we realized that she had carried a heavy bucket all that way and we felt bad, so we poured some of it down the drain so it’d look like we used it.

Dominic was waiting for us at the entrance, and when we got in the car, he let the brake out and we coasted down the driveway for a bit before he popped the engine into gear, complaining about a guy who had sold him bad battery fluid. “This,” I said to Kristi, “is what’s known as foreshadowing.”

But it was all ok. We made it back to Kampala and met up with Leanne and Emma, went to a small art gallery, did some shopping, and then had Ethiopian food before driving to the airport in time for our evening flight. And a short 32 hours later, we touched down in Santa Barbara.

We drove directly to a sushi restaurant.

October 12, 2010

L’esprit d’escalier

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:22 pm by Ian

“Hi, I’m calling to talk to you about political candidate, have you heard of him?”

“Yes. Can you please put me on your do not call list.”

“Sure. Can we count on your vote?”

“That depends on how many annoying telephone calls I get from his opponent.”

October 4, 2010

Uganda – Days 8-12 – Rwenzori

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 10:29 pm by Ian

The first day was the hardest day’s hike I’ve ever done. And I carried nothing but a water bottle.

We had a guide and five porters from the local community. Two of the porters carried our packs. The other three carried the food and supplies we’d all need for five days, and met us at the first day’s camp site.

We started in Kilembe, at an altitude of about 1800 meters, and stopped at over 3100 meters six or seven miles later. That’s a net gain of 1300+ meters, or about 0.8 miles of elevation, and it wasn’t all straight up. Twice before lunch I got a bit light-headed and had to stop walking for a few minutes, but I think I was just overdoing it. Once I hit my stride, I could hike all day. One foot in front of the other, slowly.

We passed through savannah, jungle, bamboo, and up into heather, each distinct ecosystems. The heather zone up above 3000 meters looks like an alien world designed by Dr. Seuss. On the third day, we hiked up to our highest point, just under 4000 meters. On the way, we passed through a swamp with huge clumps of grasses rising out of it. The only non-plant life was spiders. The way to get through is to hop from one clump of grass to another, avoiding the muck below. It was like being inside a video game jumping puzzle.

It was incredibly muddy. Large portions of the hike were spent finding a tenuous route along the edge of the trail without sinking your foot in up to the ankle. Going down was interesting. I decided on the second day that the best thing to do was just to plant your heel and ride it down. Sometimes you stopped a few inches later, sometimes it took you a few feet. Only ended up on my ass once. One of the camps was so muddy that there were logs strewn all around to walk on.

The days were comfortably cool. Great hiking weather. The nights were cold. I was amazed at the porters and guide who seemed to wear so much less clothing than us, have so much poorer bedding, and not seem cold. We cowered around the camp fire long before the sun went down. On the fourth night, I slept in all of my clothes except the rain gear, inside my sleeping bag inside the tent, and I felt ok.

The landscape and plants were like something out of another world.

We had a few great discussions with our porters and guides, ranging from sex to politics to sex to economics, education, and environmental policy, right back to sex. They knew AIDS was a problem, but seemed unwilling to take any kind of personal responsibility for it. They believed that condoms would give you cancer (which we tried to disabuse them of), and the men were absolutely convinced that women were to blame. Their argument was that since some women (prostitutes) could and did sleep with hundreds of men a year, they spread it around. Pointing out that the men who slept with those prostitutes shared equal responsibility fell on deaf ears. It was both encouraging that they were willing to engage us on these issues, and heartbreaking that they seem so unable to help themselves.

We hiked with our pants tucked into our socks. Because of the ants. Some places, the ants were thick on the ground, a stream of them so wide that there was nothing to do but run through them as fast as you could, then flail frantically at your clothes to brush them off. I wasn’t willing to stand still enough to take a picture of a large swarm, but imagine this, thirty feet wide.

Our guide was named Rogers. Kristi’s porter was Jessica, and mine was Eliak. Jessica had a great laugh, and we heard it often; I think the others were flirting with her a lot. Eliak was a student of biology. He carried a notebook and spent time sketching and making notes about the local plants and animimals we saw. The other three porters were Vincent, Moses, and Posco. They were coffee farmers.

Here’s a picture with everyone but Kristi. From the top, left to right: The guy who we were trying to get to take the picture of us, Vincent, Posco, Moses. Front row, Rogers, Eliak, Jessica, Me. Here’s the one with Kristi, although we lost Eliak.