Every scientist needs to relax and my favourite way is by playing online games. Grand Theft Auto 5, Starcraft 2 and lots of others. I play not only video games but also gamble a little - poker or casino it depends on my mood. I usually play at All Slots Casino because they have the best slots games and I love slots. As for poker - well Pokerstars are the best but I also like 888Poker

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


It’s been just over a week since we left Jinja with supplies for the fence and without Karla. We planned to leave the port with our pilot, Geoffrey, around 2PM with our supplies. True to the continent’s form, we didn’t leave until around 6:30. Because of astronomical alignments, we were soon under the starry night sky of Lake Victoria, carrying the elemental components of what we hope will be a community-changing garden. Walking the path back to SHIM after unloading the cargo felt more strenuous than ever, but also carried a feeling of accomplishment. The fence represents our greatest contribution to the island this time around and will be a feat in itself.

Yet, as we now approach the latter stage of erecting the fence, Sam and I have been wondering more and more what will happen to the earth inside of it. In fact, I’ve come to see it as more of a gamble on our part; we’ve spent an incredible amount of money for the supplies and invested days of work and travel only to create the possibility of gardening. While a necessary step in the process, a fence does nothing to see that the school or community will really seize the opportunity that it will provide. And after living here for three weeks, I could see our target group tilling a corner to plant some cassava, maize and potatoes and leaving the rest idle. Maintaining and investing in a growing space is quite far from the current priorities of most people, even though they may support the idea with fervor. However, what we know to be absolutely true is that is within the best interest of the school, the kids, and the community to open themselves to the idea of a fruitful and busy garden and we will do our utmost to guide them there. The most basic of the tasks in that line is talking to the Headmaster about starting to budget for the garden. To date, the school has only been able to contribute sand and stone for concrete and ten hoes. After school administration agrees to find $300 to cover costs of tools, seedlings and some labor during planting season, we are hopeful that their priorities will then overlap with the success of the garden. Long term, the garden will be saving the school money and ideally generating some revenue, here and there, but the seven months until then will likely render that a lost point for now. It’s been proven time and again that projects comprised of unmatched mzungu money are riskier and we hope to drive home in our remaining time here that we will cover startup costs, but the remaining costs and its imperative success are the responsibility of the school.

On the subject of startup costs, it’s time to introduce our secret weapon… Robert Bagyata. If I had to capture him in one sentence, I would tell you that he is a man who has learned the art of making his dreams public and real. He came for a day this past Saturday to craft the ideal direction for the school’s garden space. While, Sam and I have been hopeful that half of the area might be tilled this summer and maybe progressively more in the following years, Robert drew up a plan that filled every square foot with purpose. Suddenly the massive termite mound that we’ve been shying from and cursing will just have to be removed… to make way for the passion fruit trellis of course. A few small trees that we’ve been discouraging people from harming will also come down; stepping aside for papaya trees, banana plants and moringa. He’s a very likeable, but more importantly, a smart guy. He brings the expertise that no one at the school, and maybe one person on the island could challenge. We had drafted several goals for the garden and ways to attach people to it, only to find that Robert had listed the same and more. He works within the goal of making the garden a community asset.

Next to a fence, we find him to be the best investment we can make in regards to the project. Anyway, we’ve begun hanging the chain link. Things are well and if they keep going this way we will have a lot to feel good about. I suppose I can try to talk about something other than this project now.

I’m learning a lot about people, both good and bad things. Most of what pulls at my curiosity are the intergenerational interactions I see daily. The whole of the island is based upon patriarchal respect, by his wife and children. Seeing this enforced is awkward and painful for me, especially when it so often seems that only the most minor infringements are the ones penalized. Whereas parenting groups and psychologists in the US are busy debating the merits of spanking children, it’s been common to see kids boxed around the head while being verbally debased. Just studying that exchange between youth and authority helps to explain so much of the other negative social interactions that we see and hear about here. Rape, animal abuse, and environmental exhaustion all seem acceptable when you look at them from the eyes of someone who struggled to survive a childhood of socially endorsed abuse. So many people we encounter here have come to understand the value of a human, of themselves, as a far too lowly a being.

The ultimate stimulus for my digression here, which Sam likely also covered on his blog, was the seven strokes of a cane that we saw. Class was interrupted to gather all students and faculty, some 150 people, to watch their classmate who was found with a stolen book, some love letters (contraband), and as having taunted a teacher, be caned. First was his own mother, who took the liberty of striking her son twice, once extra, as he lay in the dirt. Next were four teachers, one of which felt the rump of the 15 year old, while smiling, to ensure his stroke fell well. And the headmaster brought the seventh. The highest authority at the school, again smiling, reiterated the crimes of the boy, before asking him to tell everyone that he wished to be hit again. The boy did, but not loud enough to stop his headmaster from asking him to stand up and tell his classmates that he wished to be hit again. Most troubling for me was how unsympathetic and spectator-like the rest of the students were. It was all normal. The school day resumed.

I questioned how the people that I was getting to know and work with here (after crossing the globe) could have so little respect for a human. The basic feeling from that moment was a sharp division between what we are trying to do here and what they deserve. But, after thinking for a couple of days, I can conclude two things: I am thankful to my parents for not spanking me and that that episode is why we are here. It expresses how far behind this place is on the development curve. Pre-karla leaving, we had been joking about Lingira being the worst-case scenario for a group doing development work and that if anyone can find a way to fix it, they could fix any place. Ultimately, eradication of things like abuse will come from being more connected to first the mainland, and second, the world. But, even things like the garden can be a small step towards improving that. We just need to start getting people to care for something, one person at a time, if necessary. To make this a home when it hasn’t been. Make them care for their home, their family, and their future.

[By the way Sam and I are competing to see who can draft the longer blog, if you couldn’t tell]

We have a group of ten people visiting SHIM for the afternoon, as well as the Smith’s and Julius back for the day. It’s a grand juxtaposition compared to the four or five of us who’ve been here for the last week and half. The largely vacant building has left us time to get to know each other well. Sam and I have been each other’s only confidants for a good two weeks and have concluded that if we made it through all of the frustrations of trying to work here without schism, that the fall with EDGE will be smooth as fresh black top that we’re totally going to be biking on.

Oryagi, primarily SHIM’s boatman, has functioned well as a lubricator of conversation and action. He’s got a habit of showing up at pinch points in our project to see it through, but more importantly, he’s ensured that I have one solid laugh everyday. He might be quiet for 90% of the day, quietly doing his or anybody’s work, but his laugh and smile erupt at some point, over nothing, much to our pleasure. Last night as Sam and I tried to connect to home with watching Lord of the Rings, we had trouble hearing as he did the most remarkable thing I’ve witnessed yet. He laughed and joked over the Bible, of all things, for a good half hour, belly laughs. I’ve seen many people love that book, but never anyone enjoy it so much as he did. Sam and I had no idea what he went on about, but laughed along anyhow.

I’ve stopped enjoying the inevitable presence of dirt in my diet, under my nails, and in my bed. I think I can speak for Sam in saying that we wholly accepted our bad hygiene. When we do bathe, it’s all undone by 11AM the next day. If we do scrub our hands clean, they’re only minutes from more grime. It was always a lost battle. But, I can start to feel that first shower at home. When I really wash out my cuts, clean behind my ears, and finish by donning a smart shirt. This country has saturated me and my body. Though the dirt will leave easily, the life I’ve lived here will only leech out slowly, I expect.

We’ve got a lot of exciting things happening here and can’t wait to check them off before our fast-approaching return.

Be merry and do good work.


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