Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mysterious Apple Gold Diggers

Before I part ways with Uganda tomorrow, I thought it'd be nice to give you an idea of the more popular songs that have been floating around the dance centers, the buses, and on television.  Note that these are all very popular, regardless of content and in which decade they were filmed.


-| Mysterious Girl |-

-| Apple |-

-| Gold Digger |-


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy Meal

Lacking Creativity!  Again!

Ugandan and American Thanksgiving meals, all in the same weekend!

-| Ugandan Thanksgiving: Ginger soda, pizza, vinegared cabbage and tomatoes, potatoes, plantains, burgers, and chicken! |-

-| 'Twas also Father Felix's farewell dinner... |-

-| No American Thanksgiving is complete without the Obamas or turkey-shaped rolls. |-

-| Pumpkin, rolls, stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey, corn, chapatti chips/guacamole, mashed potatoes, and green beans. |-

-| Normal white wine [deliciously dry] and Ugandan pineapple wine [you can really taste the acetone!] |-

-| Pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and pumpkin cake. |-


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Afoyo Matec

In Acholi: Thank you so much.

Nothing creative today, just a list of what I'm thankful for.  You know, because it's that holiday.

[1]  Framilends. Family and Friends, because they're not really separate.  This one is obvious, at least in my book.  Really, everyone, thanks a ton for always keeping in touch, however much you can.  It makes this trip a lot less lonely, which it often does become.  I know the fellowship folks highly stress limiting the amount of time on facebook/email/skype/gchat, but the few times I do get in touch with you, it really does make you feel not so far away.

[2]  Eccentricity.  According to one professor who lives next to me, I have plenty of it.  Most likely, it got me where I am, which isn't really in a terrible place.  Additionally, children tend to love it, more likely laugh at it, and everyone just has a good time.

[3]  Electricity.  We don't get a lot of it here, and when we do, there's a small part of me that that prays to the power gods for granting us a few hours of non-candle, computer-charging, and vision-able shower time.  As I'm typing this, I have about half an hour left of battery, so the pressure's on to finish and publish this before I'm submerged in the dark vacuum of communication that is Uganda.

[4]  Pineapple.  It's incredible here.  Certainly puts American fruits to shame.

[5]  G-Nut Paste.  Essentially homemade peanut butter with sesame seeds.  Also incredible, and also puts American peanut butter to shame.

[6]  Music.  Keeps a part of America trucking along with me, but I'm also collecting a small pool of songs from the countries in which I'm staying.  Ergo, amazing life playlist is slowly but surely being constructed.

[7]  Anti-Diarrhea Pills and Non-Squat Toilets...  Self explanatory.

[8]  Sending Mail.  I LOVE THIS.  Whether it's snail, e, or messages on facebook, writing makes [and I'm repeating myself at this point] this trip a lot less lonely, and time is really killed faster.  I'm also having a crazy fun time attempting to send postcards, which I imagine to be kind of like shooting a shotgun at a flock of geese and doves and hoping the bullets make it to only the doves.  Not that I'm shooting you.  Maybe with love.  Which brings me to

[9]  Receiving Mail.  I don't want to compare, but this care package [also probably breaking the 'limit communication' rules of the fellowship, but hey, I'm sure it must happen all the time] came in yesterday.  Postcards, homemade brownies/fudge [I could never tell the difference between the two], a traditional Madeiran stock pouch [what? safety belt?], CHRISTMAS TINSEL, and FLOSS.  Ah, my hygiene has yet to be compromised on this trip.  Regardless, even if you don't send me an awesome spring-loaded cardboard box full of things I love, a simple email just telling me about what I'm missing in your life right now is enough.  I might be traveling, but I certainly don't want to be kept out of the loop while I'm away.

-| It's not that I now love Cassie more than you, but... |-

[10]  Travel.  I know this one's super obvious and also not very creative, but this has to be the craziest thing  I've done [so far] in my life.  And I'm loving every minute of it.  I'm changing in [what I think is] all the best ways possible, and I'm learning a TON about the world, myself, strangers, and how much people at home will always mean to me.

[11]  Water.  Whether its cold, hot, drinking, or flushing.  Travel to a third world country and you'll realize how much you need this fantastic fantastic liquid running through you.  Not that I didn't before.

[12]  Humility.  I guess I didn't really know what this was like until I started break dancing, and a flock of small Ugandan ten year-olds laughed at me just moving my feet.  Sure, there's that pang of frustration and wanting to stop immediately, but you learn to deal with it, ignore it, roll with it, not care about it, or even prove them wrong.  I'm a firm believer that knowing how to be super embarrassed is good for the soul, the mind, and the ego.

[13]  Hellos.  You'll never know how much a stranger will help you out, or will end up playing an incredibly important role until you greet them.  I've met photographers, doctors, firemen, nurses, surrogate families, teachers, friends, mentors, and incredible advice-givers because we decided to greet each other.  Try it sometime.  You'll be surprised how far it takes you.

[14]  Goodbyes.  You'll never know how much someone means to you until you say these, and realize how much you don't want to leave them.

UPDATE | [15]  Haircuts.  From nuns.  Losing the heat helmet, especially on the equator, is more than enough reason to celebrate by hopping on the next boda into town, feel the wind on your scalp, and be slightly jealous that the local hair style is shaved.

UPDATE | [16]  Insistent Surrogate Mothers.  Especially when they're really pushy to clean your backpack covered in dirt from India and Uganda.  Although the sentimentality is washed away, you can't help but appreciate that it's because of the maternal need for cleanliness that's keeping your bag looking like it's just been bought from the store.

UPDATE | [17]  Vision.  Oh, and I get to see things like the one below on a regular basis.  Of course the camera doesn't capture it perfectly, so imagine it to be 10,000x more awesome.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

They Call Me Stacy

-| Advice |-

"You know," Charles said, "we pray for you go back home safely.  But we also pray for you to finish your studies, get a very good job, find a wife and have beautiful children.  Your Mama Beatrice and I would be so happy to have grandchildren.  And for Mary Kay to meet her nieces and nephews.  You have a very big journey ahead of you, but as long as you never forget your name and your family, you can never go wrong."

The advice floated in front of Our Hero, flattered at the blessings of strangers he knew for only a couple of months.  But... His name?

-| Multiple IDs |-

Long before his travels, Our Hero had been called by many names:  Magno, Mango, Magneto, Jorgon, Joshaaay, Joshie, Jorsh, Magnus, J-mags, Shmangs, Shmags, Shmagno, Jagno, Shua, Shazaam, and Todd.  Although the more popular ones were variations of the one with which he was born, he had become accustomed to responding to most names using any combination of the "j" "sh" "m" and "g" sounds.  At least, that was how things had rolled in America.

Since traveling, he had collected a fair number of nicknames, coming from social status or even personal jokes. For instance, in India, he had been called Sir by the children at Samarthanam [students are to call all adults Sir or Miss], Joshua Guda by his bharathanatyam teacher [from wearing a towel similar to the sweating working class, guda so prevalent in HSR Layout], and even This Focka by his host [in the most loving way, of course, because of all the shenanigans he had managed to survive].  In Uganda, the Catholic priests had called him Josh, Josh, Josh [head shaking, disbelieving more shenanigans], the cultural dance leader called him omera [brother], the shopkeeper and her husband called him My Son, and her baby daughter - Mary Kay - called him Ankah! [uncle].

-| The Sisters |-

A pair of nuns had once asked Our Hero the meaning of his given name.

Great Lion-Hearted Messenger of God
Magno | Leon | Joshua

"That's one hell of a name to live up to.  Good luck." they muttered.

-| Acholi Culture |-

All Acholi people have two names: the Christian name [the first name] and the Acholi name [the surname, however it is not inherited from the father or mother, but given at birth].  When someone [a foreigner] is taken into an Acholi family, it is the mother and father's duty to give this family member an Acholi name.  Interestingly, if one is given an Acholi name and that person happens to live with someone older of the same Acholi name, it is the younger person's duty to buy a chicken as a gift of respect for the elder.

-| Surrogate Parents |-

"Joshua," Charles said, "your Mama and I have decided on a name for you.  Now, you must know that you are surrounded by so much love.  When you first arrived in her shop, your Mama lovingly invited you to our house.  And you lovingly accepted.  We've gotten to know you, and we pray so much for your safe travels during your studies, and for your safe return home to your real parents.  Mary Kay now sees you as an uncle.  You are loved in this family, and we know that you are loved back home.  You are capable of so much love."

His left eyebrow twitched.  Previous attempts at relationships in high school and college did not support that claim, but Our Hero decided not to mention that.

"So we have decided to name you with the Acholi word for love." Charles continued, and Beatrice's eyebrows furrowed in a way that suggested she was about to cry.  "Loving.  Full of love.  Being loved.  Surrounded by love.  All about love.  You, Joshua, are all about love."

Our Hero nodded at this, and upon hearing his Acholi name, proceeded to hug his Acholi parents, his little sister/niece, and finished his bottle of Coca Cola.  It was funny - he had expected a name that meant of the other land or first born or one who travels, something that he believed would be fitting for this year.  This name, however, was not the first one that would've come to mind.  If you had asked Our Hero before his travels, he would not have used this name to describe himself.  Time away from America had convinced him otherwise.

Our Hero left later that night [after watching The Jungle Book with Mary Kay], knowing this last week in Uganda would be painful, just as much as it was in India.  But he knew Charles was right - armed with the knowledge of his name and prayers of his family, everything was going to be fine.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Last Monday Night

Ma·ru·a [mah-roo-ah] : noun, Ugandan alcoholic beverage from brewed from millet, grains, and yeast.  Mixed with hot water in a clay pot and swallowed through a long wooden straw and a metal filter, marua 'sessions' are commonly had for social gatherings, philosophical rants, discussions about cultural superstitions, and explanations for how to harvest sim sim [sesame] seeds.  Also known as la·coi [lah-choi].

Most experienced drinkers claim that first-time drinkers will not enjoy the taste or appearance or its effects on the stomach.  However, a small population of considerably thin and blue-shirted Filipino drinkers will say that if a wine were to be made of coffee beans instead of grapes, marua would be the final product, that it looks just like finely blended mate, and that no toilet-related problems will follow the initial drinking experience.

Some first time drinkers are observed to be overly excited about partaking in marua that the 'thumbs up' sign is frequently flashed to onlookers.  Luckily, surrogate older brothers [as pictured below] will keep these first timers grounded and acting within a sensible range of reason for the occasion.

At the end of the day, marua comes highly recommended not for its alcoholic content [one will arguably get more of a buzz from one bottle of Nile beer] but for the overall atmosphere it creates, especially that with strangers.  Take proper hesitiation, though, as locals are more than likely to go on rants about why watching cats have sex, having a tree branch break in front of you, and hitting your right leg on paths that go to the left is considered bad luck.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Network in 9 Hours!

An easy to follow step-by-step 'How To' tutorial for one of the most important skills necessary in life!  In nine hours and nine steps, you too can leave a third world country with an impressively thick stack of business cards [that aren't your own]!


Step 1:  Attend the 'Etiquette Dinner' offered at your college, hosted by the college president's wife [does that make her the First Lady of the college?] to learn proper dinner and social event manners and factoids, including how to butter your dinner roll, how to gather soup with your spoon, what to do if you need to use the bathroom, in what order to use the utensils, and what a sauce spoon looks like.

Step 2:  Graduate, avoid the real world by traveling it, and realize that you'll never use what you learned at the Etiquette Dinner, or that anyone will notice you eating ice cream with a soup spoon.

Step 3:  Live in a Catechist's Training Center in Gulu, Uganda, and have a deep and lengthy conversation with nuns who live next door about how you don't know what you're going to do with your life, how you're struggling choosing between passion and profession, and how you so desperately don't want to be the old man who's unhappy with his job and looks back and wonders about 'what could have been.'

Step 4:  Attend break dance classes as usual, and meet an Australian photographer, his wife an American manager, his friend a Kenyan traveler, and the Kenyan's friend a Ugandan clothes designer who are in Gulu to photograph women disfigured by the LRA dressed in high fashion [all to show that "they are still beautiful"].

Step 5:  Accept their offer of going back to their hotel for drinks, and ride on the back of a truck next to their their camera equipment and spare tire.  Partake in an hour or so of Waragi [fermented sugar cane juice, or the Ugandan equivalent of gin] and have a merry time explaining why you're traveling.  Take pictures, meet more of their traveling friends [one of whom was supposed to go to NYU for musical theater but instead chose UCSB for Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology], and excuse yourself to attend a farewell dinner party for a Spanish woman - a music therapist - you met through the cultural talent center, also of which you had been taking dance classes.

Step 6:  Before leaving, offer your business card [really just a torn piece of notebook paper with your name and email address on it; explain it's avant garde] to keep in touch, connect through facebook, and update each other on travels.  Expect to receive a business card in return, or at least their avant garde contact information.

Step 7:  Eat ensaladilla rossa [Russian salad] and guacamole with chapati chips and some kind of eggplant quiche dish with a hearty glass [or mug] of Ugandan wine.

Step 8:  Converse with incredibly good looking Spanish speakers [one of whom worked for NBC, and also covered a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the New Year's Ball Drop in Times Square] and a delightfully dry-humored British woman - no, not you, Cassie - who graduated from Harvard ["With the big shiny 'H' under my belt and a British accent, I know I can hold my own in a conversation and at least have the audience's attention."] and is currently trying to empower youth through building a tennis court and an ice cream shop for a nearby high school.  Extra points if she knows someone who graduated from your college and knows how to spell it.

Step 9:  Repeat Step 6.  Particularly with the British woman, who may offer you a place to stay in Kampala before going back to Entebbe Airport in two weeks.

Update | Optional:  Get chased at high speed by a rabid dog on the back of a boda boda at midnight.


And there you have it, the nine steps of networking!  Good luck, young one!  Make me proud and get those business cards.  Remember, practice makes perfect, but since these fleeting encounters and brief meetings happen once in a lifetime, don't mess up too much.  That might cost you a possible connection to someone else in another country, a place to stay, or maybe even a lover...  

Note[s]:  Results may vary.  Actually, results are most likely to vary, especially if you're not filled with wanderlust, willing to go to a stranger's home, desperate to speak with English speakers, or just "so darn cute".  Additionally, just because you network and come home with a heaping stack of business cards does not mean you'll have a job, either right away or in the future.  That requires much  more work and attention I have yet to acquire.  Oh, and Step 1 and Step 2 may actually take more than 9 hours, but I felt as if they were crucial to learning proper networking skills.

[A Reference for the Rest of Us]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reckless, Restless

This was a well known fact:

He did not take risks.

Contrary to the rather portentously precarious year he had decided to embark on, the Boy considered himself a particularly conservative [...] person when it came to gambling.  When Lady Luck would make a pass at him while wearing considerably provocative dress, he would return to whatever nonsensical task he was tending to, most likely reading novels or peeling fruit or worrying about the future.

He needed information: price, price per unit, advantages, disadvantages, emotional stability, long-term benefits, short-term benefits, relationship status, color options, mortality rate, coolness factor, and the amount of time he spent weighing all these factors into making a decision.

Buy the Cheerios or the generic Honey Os?

Buy this awesome smoking jacket from Salvation Army?

Ride the Giant Drop, or just watch from the funnel cake stand?

The blue or the yellow shorts?

Box 1, 2, or 3?

Watch The Ring or Saw?

Keep talking with the roomies at dinner or go back and read articles?

Date you?

Every choice was calculated, planned, and executed, all results lying somewhere on the "mediocre" to "incredibly painful" to "blindingly awesome" spectrum.  Unfortunately, with the gathering of information came extremely long periods of decision-making, and restless frustration with both himself and the world for making things complicated.

With his time in Uganda swiftly coming to a close - two weeks left? - the Boy encountered a new decision: Where to next?

The dancers from Country X had never responded to his emails.  A relatively rude woman from Country Y had accused him of 'failing to answer our questions pertaining to [his] stay with our company' [not true], claimed that he 'barraged [her] staff with emails' [also not true], and promised that upon his response, 'we will further discuss your interaction with the company' [ESPECIALLY NOT TRUE].  The artistic director of Country Z - the Boy had so desperately wanted to go here sometime in his life - had offered him a place to stay for a reasonable price.

As a German woman [a neighbor at the CTC] once told the Boy:  "Isn't the choice obvious?  There are signs pointing you in the direction you should take.  What's convincing you otherwise?"

Money, simply.  Travel to [and, probably, stay in] Country X and Y was painfully cheaper than Country Z.  Considering the European countries he would travel to afterwards, it would be wise and safe to save money now.

"I don't know," the German woman said, "If money is the only reason that's keeping you from going...  I'd say that's a pretty sad reason."

The Boy made his choice [no, not out of peer pressure].  This year was about change, about stretch, about doing things he had never done before.  So what if he was reckless this early in the game?  There'd be plenty of time to fix that later.

But for now, he was fine being so Restlessly Reckless.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just In Case

Mama Beatrice and Bridget have been ever so gracious to keep teaching me Acholi; as a matter of fact, they've even written down some phrases outside of our 'classes' [almost every morning, I go to Beatrice's shop near the CTC to drink her sodas, play with her daughter, and attempt to converse in Acholi, and most afternoons after break dance, I walk part of the way home with Bridget].  Here are a few they thought were important for me to know.

As per usual, I've taken the liberty of writing it phonetically.

ee ah-choh-lee mon pee-khee yeh nee-gooh beh-ree kom.
In Acholi, women are not allowed to sit in chairs.

ah-mee-roh deh khaow
I am looking for a woman [to marry].

ahn at-yieh oh-teh-ka
I am a hero.

chwee-nyah och-wher pee lohk mah eeh wah-koh nee
I was pissed at what you said.

wehk gooh-leh-ghee
Let them beg.

yeh-yah tyieh kah lee-veen-ee
The boat is sinking.

looh-tee-noh mah-ro moo-nee
Children love whites.

[White Unmarried Hero]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


In a recent Ugandan newspaper [the Daily Monitor], an article entitled, "The Reasons You May Be Living a Single Life" was published.  In celebration of no particular reasons, I now share with you snippets of this article that apparently tell me a lot about myself.

-| Singlehood. |-
What are the errors that keep single people from attaining the relationships they feel they should have?

"Singlehood can be a pretty turbulent time for many individuals as they wonder why they are not hitched like everyone around them seems to be.  They run around groping in the dark trying to find the perfect mate and live happily ever after.  Many women prance around the idea of the Knight in Shining Armour riding on a horse and sweeping them off their feet to a magnificent castle..."

"In this search for love, many single people make mistakes along the way some of which can be have dire consequences.  Let's explore some of this issues and the effect they can have on your search for love."

"Expecting your partner to change. ... People are set in their ways of doing things and some of these behaviours form their personality making it almost impossible for them to change.  It therefore is important to ask yourself what aspects of your potential mate you are not willing to live with and which ones you cannot."

"Peer influence.  ... realising that most of their friends have gotten married, some women embark on a mission to find a partner with whom they too can start a family.  In this quest for love, they stoop too low and will compromise on some of the important factors necessary to  make a worthy partner.  They could neglect important aspects such as religion or trust and end up dating or possibly marrying someone only to realize later on they made a terrible mistake."

"Engaging in sex too early.  It is not advisable to get physical with a person you have just started dating...  Some people will simply take advantage of you and walk away after sleeping with you...  a couple that gets intimate too soon are more likely not to take the relationship seriously since they have already consummated their love.  Their relationship may end up becoming simply for sexual convenience...  by withholding from engaging in sex, you sieve out the genuine potential mate from the countless others who may simply be only interested in sex."

"Being too choosy.  ...Some people have very long lists of qualities that their dream mate should have and end up waiting in vain for someone who has all those qualities...  be liberal and understand that there is no person who is perfect so it's unwise to hold dearly onto such lists.  'If you are looking for 10 qualities and your potential suitor has six or seven then you could give them a chance.'...  You should try to get to know them and see what they have to offer.  You might be surprised to discover that they would make a good match for you.  Otherwise you may end up single for life if you religiously wait for someone who has all the endless qualities you so desire."

'Singlehood is a natural aspect of life and should be taken in that respect.  You should take your time as you search for a mate and not be pressured by unrealistic attitudes and beliefs."

-| Qualities to Look for in a Partner |-

"God fearing.  Spirituality is very important in any relationship because it can be the last point of reference when everything else in the relationship has failed."

"Trustworthiness.  A person that you can trust will keep you sane since you will not have be worried about what they are doing when you are not around.  Trust is crucial for any relationship."

"Financial prospects.  Money is key for any relationship since it determines the level of comfort that the couple will enjoy.  Ability and desire to work is much more important than tangible cash in hand."

"Chemistry.  Being attracted to you mate draws you close to them and is mainly the first thing that draws a couple together.  It is much easier to love someone you are attracted to than someone you're not."

-| Apologise to your woman |-

" 'I am sorry, I will make it up to you' translates into 'I cherish you.I don't want to do anything that makes you unhappy' It also says ' I am sorry I wasn't sensitive, I will make it up to you by being more sensitive . in the future'. Do you know how poweful the words 'I am sorry' are? They can melt the wall around a woman's hear, they can build back trust that was lost."

-| My Final Thought |-

Let's be honest: there are many.

Instead, try counting the grammatical errors - nothing was changed from the actual article.

[Single & Questionably Ready to Mingle]

Monday, November 7, 2011

Last Friday Night

The Boy no longer divided his week into Weekdays and Weekends.  After all, when his "research schedule" revolves around going along with whatever happens to happen, everyday turns into a Weekend.

Or do they just become more interesting Weekdays?

Although a part of him missed the TGIF attitude so prevalent in the States [and the more specific "work hard Sunday-Thursday afternoon, play hard Thursday-Saturday night" attitude at his alma mater], he and his liver were glad to make a drastic change in party attitude.  Instead of running around campus between themed social events [i.e., 'The Anything But Clothes Party'], mixed beverages [i.e., 'Jungle Juice' made of who-knows-what-as-long-as-it-tasted-good-and-got-the-job-done], and protein/fat/carbohydrate rich end-of-the-night snacks [i.e., chili cheese dogs and M&M brownies], the Boy had now fallen in love with a[n arguably] more adult weekend routine.

After traditional dance, Morris - Luo Talent Center leader, choreographer, and overall Beast - would take the Boy to a nearby bar to have Nile beer [which came in only 500 ml bottles], play billiards [the Boy had always won because his opponent scratched on the 8 ball], watch The Lion King [waitress' choice], listen to Mariah Carey [barkeeper's choice], and enjoy the conversations of [mostly inebriated] middle aged Ugandans, all in one night.

If this was what life was like after college, what it was like to grow up, what it was like to be a sophisticated adult...  The Boy knew he'd never look back and long for his college weekends again.

[Mature Weekender?]

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Attempts At Being Artsy II

Uganda Edition!

-| Not Just a River |-

-| Of Wrath |-

-| The Narf |-

-| "It Was Perfect" |-

-| Got Served |-

-| "How High Does the Sycamore Grow?" |-

-| Off With His |-

-| With Envy |-

-| Budding |-

-| Octopus in the Neighborhood?! |-

-| Defying |-

-| Hazare |-

-| Fool Me Twice |-

-| Let the Right One In |-

-| What Your Mama Gave |-

-| Rosemary's |-