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June 29, 2006

New Guests

People here have started referring to my house as "Carl's Guest House" and this week I have two new guests. Katie and Nick are both Kiva interns who have come for a few months to visit Kiva's partners in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

I volunteered to pick them up at the airport and was able to go and spend a few days in Kampala before meeting the 5:45 am! plane. Luckily my alarm worked and we got there in time for their arrival. They had been travelling for two days, from chicago to london to Uganda with just an 8 hour layover in London. Of course arriving in Entebbe is just the start, we then had a 6 1/2 hour bus ride to Soroti. Katie is the first person I have ever seen who was able to sleep on the bus. We had the worst bus of the lot and hit every pothole and bump but still she slept!

And as has become our custom we had a huge feast at Moses's house that evening.


You can read all about Katie & Nicks adventures at: http://kivareports.blogspot.com/

June 23, 2006

Now we're cooking

A few more days work and I have a patio and the beginnings of my grill


The grill is coming along pretty good, it's pretty large and will accomodate quite a bit. I'm thinking it wouldn't be too hard to build a spit...and there are plenty of goats around....mmmmmmm


Its a little different than I pictured, and what I asked them to build. One theme that seems to run along everything I do here is that I ask for something to be done, agree on a price, then the workers go off and do whatever they want without any regard to what I asked for, usually at twice the price.

I originally imagined the pit as kind of a round fireplace where people can sit all around it. I think this will work welll though as the breeze is pretty steady in one direction, away from the hut.

I'm still thinking that a 4th of July party may be in order to christen then grill, I need to run to Kampala to pick up some guests arriving from the U.S. next week so maybe I can find marshmallows and hamburger & hot dog buns there. I'm still not sure I can get hot dogs here, and I don't think I want to bring them on a 5 hour bus ride back from Kampala, but I think there may be sausages around.

June 21, 2006

A little more progress

We're getting there...I came back to find my hut is nearing completion, the roof is about half done and they need to install a door and finish my veranda and firepit.

I tried to find a hammock in Kampala but couldn't find one, I think I may have to look harder next time as now I'd hate to have a hut but no way to take a nap!

latest pictures:



June 20, 2006

Mini Vacation

I've been in Uganda for about 2 1/2 months now and I finally snapped, I couldn't take one more meal of Ugandan food. I needed something American like Burritos or Pad Thai. So I packed my bags for a long weekend in Kampala.

Since arriving in Uganda, I have pretty much stayed in Soroti which is fairly isolated. Its a very nice town that is very safe and has extremely friendly people but sometimes I miss living in a city where you have options about places to go and food to eat.

The bus ride to Kampala is a very easy 5 hours (give or take a few hours). In order to avoid travelling in the mid day sun I planned on taking the 6:00am bus and had arranged a taxi to pick me up and drop me off at the bus station in town. Of course, the taxi arrives about 5 minutes after 6:00 so I get there and sit on the 7:00 bus for close to an hour before it pulls out. The 5 hour ride goes smoothly until we hit the Kampala outskirts at which point the traffic stops and it takes me an hour or so to go the last few miles.

I head out to one of our partner sites (Life in Africa) who were helping me arrange a guesthouse, they are a little ways out in the suburbs so instead I decide to stay at a hotel in the city center (especially since it was the same price!).

here is the view from my window:


I hung out most of the day at a local coffee house, had some ice cream and went to a movie, now that's a vacation! Friday I went out for Ethiopian food, that was nice and spicy and Saturday hit the beach.

We went down to Entebbe to one of the really nice hotels in town and they had a large beach area set up with tables and you can just hang out eating and drinking in the cool breeze.


it was very nice though I'm not sure the water is clean enough for swimming (though that didn't stop people).


Sunday was all about Pizza! We found a nice pizzaria and I enjoyed every slice! mmmmmm....pizza.

Monday was spent at Life In Africa sitting in on some meetings where they were discussing how they use the Kiva Website and ways to improve their processes. Then it was off for Thai food. The pad thai was terrible, but the curries and satays were very tasty as well as the mango and sticky rice desert.

I left a little early and went to Game, a large department store where I was able to finally get my French Press! Now I can have real coffee at home.

And now back in Soroti and ready for more Matoke and Ugali.

June 14, 2006

Construction update

The house is slowly coming together. Its kind of round and kind of level.

A few more days work


and another day or two (all the days tend to blur together here) ... now the roofing begins


I'm off to Kampala to play in the big city for the weekend, hopefully the roof will be on by the time I get back.

back Tuesday....

June 10, 2006

My thatched roof cottage

I always thought it would be nice to have a thatched roof cottage, I just thought it would be in Ireland rather than Uganda.

I've got a pretty big yard and I've now started construction on building a round hut in which I hope to be able to waste away the hot afternoons while snoozing in a hammock. It's more of a screened in porch as the walls will only come up about 3 1/2 feet then the pillars will go up to 7 feet and the windows will be screened in. It'll have a nice thatched roof on top.

The best part will be that I'm having them build large veranda on it which will have a fire pit where I can hang out in the evening and grill up some chicken. Hopefully the firepit will be a little ways away from the grass roof!

Oh and I'm wiring ethernet and power from the house as well so I can hang out with my laptop as I don't think the wireless will reach (If I ever get a wireless router working!).

Here's what it looks like after 3 days of construction. It should be done in a week or so.


They will cover the bricks with a layer of cement before paintiing it as well as laying cement for the floor and veranda.

The funny thing about building this in the yard is that it is somewhat like popping the hood of your car in your driveway, every guy in the neighborhood stops by to talk shop. Of course just like with the car, I have no idea what they are talking about and just nod along pretending I'm a real man who knows about things like construction ("Yeah. 220... 221, whatever it takes.").

My big idea is to christen the building with a big 4th of July party with hamburgers and hotdogs and toasted marshmallows. My only problem is I don't think you can get hamburgers, hotdogs or marshmallows around here. Maybe we'll just stick with beer and chicken.

And as long as I've got the workers here, I'm starting to think that I need a wood fired brick oven for baking bread and pizza!

June 7, 2006


One of my goals for this trip was to visit Zanzibar, for no other reason than that it was close and it would be a shame to get that close on not go.

It was also nice to get away by myself for a mini-vacation. I took one of the fast ferries over and it took about an hour and a half. As we were leaving we passed by one of the other terminals, in contrast there was almost no one in our terminal and pretty much the only people on the boat were tourists. I don't actually know where these boats were heading, hopefully not zanzibar:


We arrived and I was met by the brother-in-law of one of the partners we were dealing with. We had arranged for a driver so I could go out to see some of the island. But first I did a quick walking tour of Stone Town which is the old (and interesting) part of Zanzibar. It was ruled by the sultans for a long time and had some old palaces and forts you could tour.


The streets are very narrow and windy and lined with tourist shops and painters studios, the painters churn out hundreds of painting that all look exactly the same.


I always like visiting the markets whenever I go somewhere and Zanzibar had a good one, with an unbelievable variety of fruits.


Then it was off to see the monkeys, we went out to one of the national parks and had a guide take us through the forest until we came accross a group of Red Colobus Monkeys:


Afterwards I was able to shake the brother-in-law and did a bunch of walking around on my own. About every 5 feet you get someone coming up trying to sell you some trinkets or a painting. I've come to understand that "special deal for you, my friend" means "please pay way to much for this bracelet made in malaysia". I got lost a few times and finally paid a guy a couple bucks to get me back to my hotel. The next day...surprise, he found me and wanted to take me on a tour. Since I wanted to see the slave market and sultan's palace I gave him a few dollars and off we went, here's him showing me the quarters where the slaves were held before going in to the yard for auction, he looks way to happy for what he was showing me:


Finally it was time to go, as I had arrived by sea, I left by air and took the 10 minute flight back to Dar es Salaam.

The next day we finished up our business and it was time for the long bus ride home, with an overnight stop in Nairobi where I spent the day trying and failing to find someplace that sells a french press coffee maker. I was just getting used to drinking fresh brewed coffee again and was dreading coming back to Nescafe, sadly none was to be found and I thought too late that I should have offered to buy one from the hotel.

and now...I'm back in Soroti.

June 5, 2006

The long trip

After finishing up some work with WEEC we did a quick tour of Nairobi, unfortunately it was arranged for us which meant a trip to the zoo with frequent trips to markets where the driver hopes we will buy something so he can get a kickback.

The first visit was fun however, we went to a giraffe center where we got to feed the giraffes.


We then went to an animal "orphanage" that is part of the Nairobi Park System. It is really just a bad zoo (I have a hard time believing that orphaned crocodiles are a big problem). There's something very wrong about going to Africa and looking at monkeys in a cage. We did get to pet some cheetahs however! They seem like they had just given up and didn't even flich when we came by. It would be very sad if wasn't so cool to be able to pet a cheetah.

Nice Cheetah

After the zoo we went to the "Maasai Market" which is just a little park downtown where people sell trinkets that they all bought from the same wholesaler. I was hoping to buy some batiks to hang on my wall back home but as much as I hate shopping, I hate bargaining more, not a good combination for this kind of market. After picking out a few I liked and decided that they were worth about $10, but being a sucker I figured I would pay up to $20. The first price I got was $300. At first I did the conversion wrong in my head and I thought it was $30 so I thought I was off to a good bargaining point, then I did the conversion on my cell phone and saw that it was really $300, I was so pissed off at that, that I just refused to even negotiate and ended up not buying anything. If they hadn't gotten greedy, they could have had a sale and a nice profit.

Nairobi overall was a pleasant surprise in that the downtown area was clean and modern, not at all what I was expecting. As you head out of to the outskirts you get more of the crowded chaos you expect from an african city,


From Nairobi, I headed to Dar es Salaam. I took what should have been a 13 hour bus trip, it was not to be however. I paid $40 to go on the comfy 1st class bus with air conditioning and a bathroom. Of course when I show up, there sits a rickety old 3rd class bus. We head off and about the time we hit Arusha, Tanzania, which is them main jumping off point for people going to Mt Kilamanjaro, the bus breaks down. They then procede to fix it and we go about 100 yards and it breaks down again, this goes on and on until we finally reach the bus station in town where we sit for 3 hours while they work on the bus.

Finally we hit the road and we are enjoying the nice smooth Tanzanian roads, the sun goes down and we are now traveling in the dark. In Tanzania you are not supposed to drive buses after dark so we have to stop about every half hour to pay off the police to let us pass. Then in the middle of nowhere we stop. We've run out of fuel. The story I'm told, as I don't inderstand a word of Swahili, is that the driver had worked out a deal with the gas station to only put 100 liters of fuel in instead of 150. He then pocketed the rest of the money in the hopes that there was enough fuel in the reserve tank to get us to the destination. They are now trying to flag down passing trucks to try to buy enough fuel to get us to the next town. They finally get some and we then drive very slowly and get to the station. We arrive in Dar es Salaam a little after 1:00am.

Dar es Salaam is what I was expecting Nairobi to be, cowded, dirty, chaotic and lots of fun. It is a fairly integrated city with lots of Indian and Arab people living there. It also feels like a relatively safe city.

We made our stay in a small hotel and as typical of the entire trip, I payed double what Moses paid for the hotel. I get the "foreigner' price. When I asked the manager why they have two prices all he could say was that was the way it was set up when he got there. I've pretty much just come to expect to pay double what everyone else pays for just about everything. It does start to wear on your nerves after awhile though.

We did have a couple nice evening coffee runs to The Hotel Sea Cliff in the evenings where you can hang out by the ocean and relax.

Next stop: Zanzibar

June 4, 2006

Home at last

After a final overnight bus ride from Nairobi in which the bus only broke down once, I am home at last.

The initial bus ride was uneventful though the Kenyan road need some serious work. The bus weaves between potholes and most of the roads are painfully bumpy. It was very nice getting to Nairobi because it is nice and cool there. The temperature felt very similar to what I was used to back in California. It was amusing to see everyone huddled in their winter coats and blankets as we arrived. Everyone was talking about how cold it was when it was probably a nice 65 degrees.

Our first order of business was working with Women Economic Empowerment Consort (WEEC) and we spent a few days training them on the Kiva website.

The highlight of the entire trip was heading out with them to visit some of the women who have received loans through Kiva. We travelled about an hour outside of Nairobi to an area that they call Maasai Land as this particular group were Maasai women. As I think Jon put it...We travelled on the paved road until the paved road ended, then we travelled on the dirt road until the dirt road ended, then we walked along a path until the path ended, then we just kept walking through the bush. There was only a faint glipse of a house or two in the distance otherwise the place was empty except for the occasional wildebeast.

Finally we spotted a lady carrying with a very big knife, luckily she was the person we were looking for.


This area was hit extremely hard by the drought last year and is just now beginning to come back to life. Almost all the cattle died and the women have used the Kiva funds to buy new cattle to try to rebuild their herds. For this woman, all but three of her cows died and I believed she used the Kiva money to buy 6 new cows.

We then headed off to find the other two recipients who live near each other (and by that I mean within several kilometers). It took awhile but we eventually found them.



They were very nice and invited us to see their homes. Each had a traditional mud house called a manyatta and also a house next to it made of currogated steel.

Here is what the manyatta looks like:


and inside the steel house:


We went out in search of their cattle and along the way the ground was littered with the bones of the cattle that died last year.


All in all, it was a very interesting day and it was nice to meet some of the people who are benefiting from the loans we are providing.

Lots more pictures here.

Jon & Cale have a video of our trip here

Next stop...Tanzania and the bus ride that wouldn't end.