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Aiding Violence or Peace?

Evan got peed on by a dog

UGANDA | Tuesday, 31 July 2012 | Views [646]

We know it has been a while, but we have been hard at work on our latest videos and have covered a lot of territory since! There have been two new videos uploaded since our last blog post:
1- ATV's Meet Ugandan Village (More on this below):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7ZX1SrbFWE&feature=plcp
2- Dam Relief: A movement dedicated to promoting the positive aspects about Uganda instead of images of starving children, war, etc. Jinja Uganda has packed comedy venues and some of the best whitewater rafting in the world- Why don't we ever see those images in the US? Check out this video to hear what the founders have to say and to hear one of Uganda's professional comedians crack a few jokes!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FP9Quq0B1NQ&feature=plcp

Wednesday July 11:
As mentioned in our last blog, the Nile River in Jinja, Uganda, has recently installed a new dam- Bujagali Dam. Developers claim it will bring more electricity to Uganda, currently one of the world's most expensive countries to buy electricity.  But we had heard some people living near the dam were upset that it was being built, so we thought we'd check it out.  Phew! It was a hike. We walked about 2 hours through small villages to get to the massive dam, and we managed to get just close enough to get some quality pictures and video footage. Along the way we heard distant rumbling, and before we knew it, three ATVs (all terrain vehicles) were screaming past us, doing tricks and kicking up a massive amount of dust. We were surprised to hear them coming, since we were about two hours away from the nearest road, and the only other means of transportation around were bicycles and the occasional motorbike. We were shocked by seeing this, considering we felt intrusive even walking through the area. It's a new kind of tourism activity offered in Jinja- It's called "Off the Beaten Path," where alternative Westerners who want to interact with "villagers" can do so, while having the adrenaline rush of trying something new (ATV-riding).

After approaching the dam from several different angles and arguing over whether or not the guard (holding an AK-47) could see us as we not-so-sneakily crept around the bushes on the bank of the Nile, we decided to go back to Jinja town. As we were walking back, we heard the familiar rumble of ATV engines. The village was so quiet that we could hear them from quite a distance. And this time, we were ready with our cameras to capture the action.  We were able to film the tourists speeding through people's lawns. The person on the third ATV ran over a bush, looked back, and decided to continue, probably thinking that no one had seen or would really care.

This event raised several serious questions for both of us. We know that tourism is a significant source of revenue for Uganda, especially Jinja Town. However, we have both seen a darker side to tourism. Is riding an ATV through a Ugandan village really the best way to view the scenery? Interact with people? Experience a culture? We have since been questioning the benefits and side effects of tourism. We decided that our footage of the ATV running over the bushes from our walk around Bujagali Dam would make for an interesting 30 second video about the importance of thinking before, during, and after you travel. We recognize both the positive and negative effects of tourism, and wanted to share the experience we had with everyone else via a short commercial-like video.

On our walk back we spoke with several fishermen who had strong opinions about the dam. By this point we were still planning on making a video which focused on the dam and how it had brought both peace and conflict to the region. These fishermen shared with us their frustrations at how the dam's construction negatively affected their fishing business, cracked the foundations of their homes (with the TNT explosions), and the minimal compensation that they received from the government. Their perspectives were interesting, but the next day we met up with Max, one of the founders of "A Dam Relief," who told us he was being sponsored to make that exact video during this summer (On the social impact of the dam). We decided to leave it to Max, the professional film maker, scrap our video and look for new material.

Today was perhaps the most traumatic day of the trip for Evan. Flashback: When we woke up this morning, Cal looked out the video and was ecstatic because she thought it was cloudy outside. When Evan looked out the window, he thought it was sunny. Rather than argue, Cal wore her sleeveless shirt so that she could "get her bronze on," and Evan left for the hike to the dam wearing his long sleeve shirt over a sleeveless shirt (since he refuses to wear sun block). After about an hour, Evan gave Cal his long sleeve shirt so that she would not get burned. By the end of the day, Evan's sunburn looked as if he had red skin and a white sleeveless shirt on. Cal was not burned at all. What a guy, eh!

Thursday July 12:
Today we met Max, Ruby, and Tom in a restaurant in Jinja Town. Max is the guy who started the Dam Relief movement. Originally "Dam Relief" was supposed to be the title of a  video, a sequel actually, to Max's previous video, "A Dam Shame," which focused on the rapids which were destroyed by the construction of Bujagali Dam (It has a lot of really great white water shots- It you're interested check it out on his YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_GVIMsYdQI ) Dam Relief has since grown larger as a movement encouraging positivity and entertainment, instead of negativity and pity donations, as a means for development in Uganda. Check out the video we made to learn more about Dam Relief!

Friday July 13:
After meeting Max, Tom, and Ruby in a place called Flavors yesterday and talking past  the 11am deadline to order breakfast, we decided to return before 11am so that we could order off their fantastic menu. We bolted down the street and arrived just in time to order french toast and pancakes- yummy! We did not know what to do with the rest of the day since we had decided not to make a video about the dam and instead to focus on A Dam Relief, and our interview with Max and Tom wasn't until tomorrow. We walked around town looking for a wooden pick for Evan's increasingly large Afro of curly locks. You would think those would be easy to find in Uganda, but they weren't. We decided to hit up a restaurant called The Keep that evening for "Live Acoustic Music." We walked there to check it out and make sure the music was still happening and were saddened to find out that the music night had been changed to a "Traditional Dancing night." Neither of us were too intrigued by the "cultural" experience of learning a "traditional" dance (what does that even mean?) with a room full of mzungus (white foreigners).  We went to the market where Cal bought a nice skirt for a dollar and watched a movie instead.    

Saturday July 14:
Cal first came to Jinja, Uganda a year ago to raft on the Nile's white water. And for the last year she has been dreaming about a hooded red shirt which she saw in the Nile River Explorer's campsite gift shop. We tried to get her one at the shop, but they were sold out. So Cal was upset for several days. She tried asking every worker at the gift shop, in case they had one hiding, but they were not able to find any remaining shirts anywhere on the premises. But, as anyone who knows Cal will tell you, she never gave up. Cal ended up asking everyone who worked for Nile River Explorers where she could find that shirt. They told her that they could mail her one when they get them in stock, but that could take a long time and triple the cost of the twenty dollar shirt with mailing expenses. As her hope slowly began to fade, a woman behind the counter removed her glasses and peered over her computer screen. "You mean the red shirts with a map of the river on the back?" Cal said, "Yes." The woman then explained that she might still have some at home, since she wears them occasionally to conferences and official events. Cal's hope and zest for life quickly returned. Cal even offered to pay the woman any amount  she wanted for the shirt. Cal could hardly sleep all night and checked back at the front desk every hour starting at 8 in the morning. By 10 in the morning, the shirt was waiting at the front desk.  Cal was able to pick it up for only 20 bucks. Hurrah!  [Note: As of today, Tuesday July 31, Cal is still wearing the hooded red shirt. It hasn't been washed since]
We spent the rest of the day interviewing Max and Tom at Max's house, and trying to get the free trial of Final Cut Pro to download so that we could work with Max's high resolution footage.

Sunday July 15:
Probably the most frustrating day of our trip so far. We returned to Max's house to find out that the free trial of final cut pro had failed to download sometime during the night. So, we decided to head for Kampala and figure  out the video there. But then we had a last minute meeting with someone at Nalubale, another rafting company, who was able to help us with our video software. So we decided to ditch our travel plans and spend another night in Kampala. How fast our plans change on this trip! However, we soon learned about a free shuttle from Jinja to Kampala, so we decided again to head to Kampala. We can't pass up a free ride! And even though the hour and a half ride would put us in Kampala at dark, something we try to avoid, the shuttle could take us directly to the hostel. Sweet! 5 and a half hours later we arrived at the Red Chili Hideaway. What a ride-- We had several long stops while we waited for rafters to return from their trip or for the driver to do his shopping while Cal and I huddled in the back of the shuttle. But, at least we had a reservation (our first of the trip) at the hostel. We strolled up to the reception and were looking forward to having a nice meal after not eating most of the day. But, alas, following the theme of the day (frustration), the person behind the counter had to re-draw all of the vertical lines in the official "Visitors Book" before we were allowed to sign in to the hostel (Name, email, nationality, etc.). This task probably took 15 minutes, although it felt like an eternity. After finally getting into our room we had a significantly over priced burger and chicken (can you sense the frustration?).

Monday July 16:
We decided that the Red Chili Hideaway was not the place for us. Evan stayed here in 2009 but it was the off season, so the crowds weren't around. We moved to Backpackers, another hostel, after visiting Garden City. Garden City is a massive Western style mall with a fantastic bookstore and a movie theater. We decided to see the movie Hunger Games. But, the security guard at the movie theater told us that we must put all of our luggage in the "security room," where they would watch over it for us. Cal was comfortable with this arrangement, but Evan never wants to let his pack out of his sight (literally), so we had to find a new solution if we wanted to see the movie. While we brainstormed how we could smuggle our valuables (which also happen to be perfect video recording equipment, not the theater management's favorite items to allow into the theater), into the theater, we decided to eat at the "Oriental Thai" restaurant that we had read about on the massive billboard outside the mall. We checked out the food court- no luck. Cal scoped out the billboard again and thought the restaurant might be on the other side of the mall- again, no luck. All we could find was a chinese joint in the food court which tried to convince us that they are "Oriental Thai," even though we could see that their name was "The Wok." Oh, bother. At this point Chinese was close enough to Thai that we didn't really care.

We ended up taking Evan's computer in Cal's "purse," previously her laundry bag, and saw the Hunger Games in an otherwise empty theater. Hurrah! Great film- Definitely recommended. We both now understand why everyone has gone so gaga over the books. After the movie we headed with all of our luggage to Backpackers, the other hostel on the other side of Kampala. It's only an hour and a half walk, but felt like 15 miles- Cal's pack has somehow accumulated various items since the beginning of the trip, so her "lightweight" backpack is no longer exactly lightweight. To say the least it was a painful evening for the both of us, but we arrived safely at our hostel.

Tuesday July 17:
Worked on Dam Relief movie for the whole day.

Wednesday July 18:
Worked more on the Dam Relief movie. We also made some friends who are here as electrical engineering students. It made us think about a different type of international effort- In this case, our new friends have a unique skill (engineering) that allows them to tangibly benefit the communities they work with/in. They have been studying a unique way to install electricity units in rural communities. Sure, there are the typical critiques of this type of international efforts such as 1- Why take this employment away from the locals? Although they're coming in and providing free assistance, it takes employment opportunities away from local engineers who could have been paid to do that type of work. 2- What happens when the engineers are gone? In fact, the engineers themselves told us that one of the communities (without an electrical unit) near a town that had an electrical unit, destroyed the town's electrical unit because they were upset that they didn't have one. And because no one in the town knows the specifics of how to fix the electrical unit (we sure as heck wouldn't know how), it's currently waiting for them to come back and fix it- Which is why they're here. So, something to think about.

Another different type of international effort we encountered this day was a large group of high school students from the UK. They are in Uganda for one month on their "World Challenge" tour. Our first impression was based on their black tee shirts which read, "It's a Jungle Out There!" on the back, with a picture of a lizard. Hmmm. Cal approached the leader of the group and simply mentioned that if she were Ugandan, she might feel upset about how they were representing Uganda. "It's a Jungle Out There?" The leader did not seem to understand her point. Cal was able to hear about their itinerary, which included hiking Mount Elgon and building a school for a week. Of course we had mixed feelings about both of those tasks, as it is highly unlikely that these teenage boys can build a school better than the local (and likely unemployed) construction workers can. Is spending thousands of dollars to fly unexperienced high schoolers from the UK to Uganda the most responsible way to use resources? What does it say about Uganda and Ugandans, and what kind of message does this initiative send them? Additionally, their itinerary confirmed that they are actually not going to any jungle in Uganda. So their tagline, "It's a Jungle Out There" is directly referring to Uganda, the country itself, as a jungle.

Thursday July 19: Worked more on our Dam Relief movie. We got Chinese food at a place called The Great Wall… amazing Lo Mein (highly recommended).  

Friday July 20:
We spent today walking around the city. We visited Nakumat to pick up some things for Griffin, Evan's friend in the Peace Corps who we were going to meet in Masaka. Cal bought cool pants (for $1!) in a Green Store, basically a Ugandan thrift shop which had everything on sale for 50 percent off (read: really cheap). We stocked up on movies, our new obsession. Evan got super hungry after all of our walking, but nothing we could order would satisfy his hunger. We ended up spending more than we should have on food today in a sad attempt to satisfy our stomachs on expensive hostel food.

Saturday July 21:
Ah, Saturday. A peaceful morning with the birds chirping…and about 30 American kids singing "We Are the Champions" at 6 in the morning. Really? We definitely needed to get out of Kampala. We traveled to Masaka, where we met Griffin, Evan's friend who is in the Peace Corps, and her friend Erin. We ate dinner at a venue in Masaka where at the same time about 100 Ugandans were participating in a talent show which featured a food eating contest, a Michael Jackson impersonation dance off (with plenty of crotch grabbing),  and a lip singing contest. Eventually we hitched a ride back to Kalisizo, where Griffin lives, to spend the night.

Sunday July 22:
Today we got a full tour around Kalisizo by Griffin, Erin, and John's (all three of them are in the Peace Corps around Kalisizo). For dinner we made "Industrial Guac," basically a massive pot of guacamole. Yummy!

Monday July 23:
Spent the day looking for something that we could make a video on in or around Kalisizo. Although we both thought that the Peace Corps would be a fascinating video for everyone to see, Griffin explained to us that, because the Peace Corps is an American governmental organization, they could not speak to us on film. There are several angles to the Peace Corps program which most American citizens may not think about. But due to the circumstances, a video was not possible. Alas, we were stuck looking for something else.

Tuesday July 24 and Wedensday July 25:
Tuesday and Wednesday were jam packed with checking out Kalisizo and the surrounding area to see if we could find a unique angle for our next video. We visited organizations such as the Rakai Health Initiative and Building Bricks, but in the end we could not find a unique angle for our project. In the evenings we made sure to watch plenty of True Blood with Griffin, and Cal is now thoroughly addicted to the show.

Thursday July 26:
Left Kalisizo for Kalangala, a small town on Buggala Island. Buggala Island is the largest island in the Sesse Islands, located in the North Western part of Lake Victoria. We had originally planned on visiting Banda Island, where Evan spent some time working in 2009. However, one of the Peace Corps volunteers informed us that a Kenyan billionaire who owned the island died last year. After visiting an internet cafe in town we were able to confirm that this Kenyan billionaire was Dom, the man who Evan worked for in 2009. How unfortunate, considering he was our contact in this area.

Every trip has its set backs, and we were not going to let Dom's death deter us from visiting the Sesse Islands, which may still be a unique angle for our project. The islands, especially the smaller ones, are difficult to get to, and thus probably do not see as much international intervention or aid as the mainland- thus, they are important for our project. It took several hours via motorycle, matatu, and Toyota Corolla to reach Kalangala Town (literally, like 15 hours for a 40 km trip), where we had made a reservation at the Sesse Island Beach Hotel. The name might sound fancy, and that's because it is. As Cal likes to say, the Beach Hotel has the highest quality to price ratio of any place we have stayed this trip. Normally we would stay in their dorm rooms, which we had reserved, and which are a few minutes walk from the beach (And $6 each). But, for whatever reason, (perhaps because we arrived at night), the management decided to give us a beach cottage with three beds for the same price as the dorm! Sweet!

Friday July 27-Sunday July 29:
The weekend was an extremely relaxing beach side experience- and we spent time working on project logistics and planning. Our logic? It's not every day that you get a beach side cottage (with a warm shower) for 12 bucks a night, so we might as well milk it until they kick us out!  For comparison sake, these rooms usually go for about 50 dollars a night, but we have heard that people can negotiate down to 30 dollars a night. Even camping at the popular backpackers camp just down the beach was more expensive than what we are paying here! 

OK, and now what you've all been waiting for: When and how did Evan get peed on by a dog? The beach we were staying at had a family of beach dogs who for whatever reason (We may have fed them sweet and sour chicken one night) loved us. One day we walked all the way into town (a good 1/2 hour walk) and the mom dog followed us the whole way, walked door to door with us in town, waiting patiently outside each door for us, and would stick up for us when other dogs or people would come by. We found this very endearing and kind of felt like we had pets.  One day, however, we were walking along the beach to get breakfast, of course being followed by our dog family, when the dogs stopped dead in their tracks. We looked up, and saw a Great Dane- the size of a horse- glaring at us and the dogs. Apparently we had walked into his territory. The puppy of our dog family ran straight up to the Great Dane (maybe 1/10 his size) and started barking like crazy trying to defend us. The dad and mom dog joined in, all showing their teeth now and growling. "Uh Oh," we thought. However the Great Dane could not be bothered, and instead of engaging in a dog fight, walked nonchalantly over to us, lifted his leg, and peed all over Evan's leg. He was showing our dog family who we really belonged to.

Anyways, because we were on an island, the only internet in town was on someone's personal computer that they charged out for 15 minutes at a time. We decided to head back to Kampala, the capital, to work on our budget and other logistics, considering we are leaving to go home in only 12 days!  

We are hoping to produce one final video in our remaining weeks here- So stay tuned!
Thanks for keeping up with us!

Cal and Evan

Tags: projects for peace

 

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