Sunday, November 23, 2014

Four weddings, London and Boulder...

Three months of silence, and for that I apologize, but there are good reasons. As for the reasons, I'll leave those for a later post (but -- here's a teaser -- a hint can be found below) or in person, over a good beer.

Andrea and Ian with me officiating at their wedding on Oct. 25.
I began writing this to chronicle three weddings -- on three successive Saturdays: the first on Saturday, Oct. 25, of our wonderful son, Ian, to the equally wonderful Andrea Garcia aboard a big boat on San Francisco Bay (with the rehearsal dinner at my favorite SF eatery, The Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant, where we hooked up with good friends Jerry and Valerie Rollison from Montana, Bill and Mary Garrison from North Carolina and, of course, Ian's sister, Jennifer, and grandson Adam); the second on the following Saturday at ("Yippee!") Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City with an Africa connection (former student Jack Weinstein and his lovely bride had just returned from two years in Swaziland), and the third shortly after our return to Uganda of two wonderful journalists who work at the Daily Monitor.

But this posting will concentrate on another wedding almost 43 years ago. A warning to anyone living in London: We've decided to spend our 43rd wedding anniversary in London. We'd like to see all we know there, as well as getting tips on what to see (and avoid). We arrive Dec. 10 and leave Dec. 16.

The latest chapter in this story began in September when Joyce and I unexpectedly (and somewhat stealthily) left Kampala for Lawrence (for reasons I will detail at some point when I've ultimately left this part of the world, but the issues were and are serious, which are underscored by this comment from the leadership of the Nation Media Group's operations in Tanzania at a meeting in Nairobi: When they found out who I was, the leader of the group said, "Oh, you're the guy ruffling feathers!" He was being euphemistic.)

After sneaking out of Uganda, I returned a week later, leaving Joyce in Lawrence to tend to things at home in Kansas. That resulted in something Joyce and I decided will never happen again: being separated. The three-plus weeks until my return in mid-October was the longest separation from each other in our almost 43 years of marriage. It was tougher than either of us had imagined. Chats, every day without fail, on Skype helped, but it simply wasn't good enough. We decided we depend -- and love -- each other too much to endure that long a time apart ever again. Perhaps, just perhaps, it was the distance (8,000 miles), the time difference (8 hours at the time), her being comfortably at home and me in a hotel (nice, but...) in a land far away with tumultuous, often disruptive, demands at work, and our ages (being in a routine at this point of our lives), but nevertheless we came to a decision: never again.

Gratefully, the separation came to an end on Oct. 17, when, on that Friday (shortly after midnight), I boarded British Air (a wholly unpleasant flying experience, BTW, the worse so far from Africa) for the flight home to reunite with Joyce.

I arrived late afternoon the same day (thanks to the 8-hour differential at the time). We drove home, ordered Tad's Pizza (supreme, of course; Ugandan pizza is OK, but not great), immediately drank some good IPA (which is absent in Uganda, as noted in earlier posts), and got some well-needed sleep (because I don't sleep on airplanes, unlike Joyce who's snoring before takeoff: "Ahh, a 12-hour nap.").

The next day, we ran some errands and greeted a few folks, including Brenna Hawley, whose wedding to Dennis I'll be officiating in March, before packing to catch the just-before-midnight departure from downtown Lawrence for the two-day relaxing ride (in a sleeper Roomette) on Amtrak to LA and, ultimately, San Jose for the big event the following Saturday: Ian and Andrea's wedding.

After a week of (for the most part) taking it easy, wedding day came -- with some hitches. When San Francisco played it's way into the unlikely pairing with the Kansas City Royals for the World Series, it caused a bit of a problem. Ian and Andrea had booked their wedding on a rather large boat/ship that would cruise San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately, the dock from which it was to depart was immediately next to the stadium where Game Four of the World Series was to be played. Booked months earlier, Ian and Andrea had no idea that the World Series would be playing that night. In fact, had the National League won the All-Star Game instead of the American League, the game that night would have been played in Kansas City, not San Francisco. (C'mon National can't win even though you make their pitcher go to bat.)

So, two things: The point of departure had to be switched to across the Bay to Alameda, and we had to hire a bus to transport all the good folks who'd already committed to staying at hotels in downtown S.F.

Despite the World Series, the wedding went well (with excellent officiating, if I do say so myself, but endorsed by the wedding photog who said it was the best ever though he likely says that to everyone), and the cruise of the Bay was great, too, though we knew SF was winning because we were on the bay right outside the stadium where we could hear the cheers of delight as SF swamped KC that night.

The happy couple (Joyce and I) left the next day, another wonderful two-night trip by Amtrak (luxury bus to Santa Barbara, train from there to LA, then a larger bedroom suite on Amtrak for the trip back to Lawrence). Ian and Andrea left shortly thereafter for an 8-day cruise in the Caribbean.

So, what's this got to do with London? Well, Joyce and I were looking for a place to go for either our anniversary or Christmas, and we just sort of settled on London -- with a push from a Monitor board member and good friend who'll be there then.

So, London it is. And the journey there that began almost 43 years ago had, as with most relationships, it's ups and its downs, but for us mostly ups -- even joy -- with every twist and turn, including the challenging one we're experiencing now.

As for Uganda, still ruffling feathers, so not sure how long folks will endure that. But we will persist.

One thing's for certain. Feather or no feathers, ruffled or not, whether filled with ups or downs, Joyce and I won't be 8,000, 800 or even 80 miles apart for that long again.

P.S.: The folks at the University of Colorado host something called Conference on World Affairs each year, something they've been doing since 1948. The list of folks who've been invited and attended, over the years is, well, impressive. Eleanor Roosevelt, Molly Ivins, Norman Cousins, Roger Ebert, Joe Biden. The list goes on. Can't quite figure why -- other than good friend and former colleague Jeff Browne who teaches there laying it on thick about me -- but they've invited me to participate. So, Joyce (of course) and I will be in Boulder on April 6 for the week interacting with a bunch of folks a lot smarter than I. But it should be fun. And, yes, I'll bring my golf clubs, Jeff, who, perhaps, put my name forward because he needed someone to beat at golf, something he always does.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Catchin' up...

It's been more than a month since my last post, so here are some short takes on what's been happening (and, perhaps, reasons for the delay) -- everything from the (promised) news about the "Bate's Motel" to boda-boda drivers, celebrations and, the best news, a good beer. (And forgive wordiness, etc. -- I am doing this quickly to get it done.)

Bate's Motel: "He has a gun," I said, calmly, in an effort to soothe fears.

Context is everything, and for our guest on our trip upcountry it was anything but.

"I can't sleep alone," was the immediate retort.

I had said what I said to allay any fears about the really reasonably-priced hotel we were forced into because of our later-than-expected arrival to the motel, found after a long search (in both time and distance), following our visit to Murchison Falls National Park. Along the way, we had picked up a park guide, a genial fellow named Jim, who then tagged along with us to the hotel (looking for a free night's stay).

He was the one with the gun. (Well, he is an Ugandan wildlife officer, and a lot of people here carry guns.)

Despite my assurances that having someone in uniform with a gun outside your motel room was a comforting sight, it was no consolation to our guest, who had images of the Bate's Motel and, instead of a knife in the shower, it would be a wildlife official who had "hitchhiked" onto our party who would sneak in and "pow, pow" -- that's all folks!

We all awoke the next morning, safe and sound -- with Jim and his gun still in tow.

Mzee 1, boda-boda driver 0: Score one for the old guy, me, the "mzee," a term of reverence reserved for old guys in East Africa.

Joyce and I were stuck in traffic in downtown Kampala when the driver of a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) swept by in front of us and clipped our front bumper, tearing it (the cover) pretty much completely off.

He didn't stop (not unusual), but it pissed me off. Even my "I hate anything violent" wife (to the point she won't watch violent movies) yelled: "Get him" as I took off in our Rav4, weaving through traffic, including the wrong way (right side) of the packed street. After about 100 meters, the fleeing boda-boda got blocked by a jam, so I screeched to a halt about 20 meters short, jumped out, ran up to the driver, a tall man in his early 30s, grabbed him by his jacket and yanked him off. (His passenger jumped off and fled the scene.)

All this attracted a crowd, which thankfully was on my side. I yelled, "I want the police," and several of the bystanders pointed to a police shack a short way up the street.

With a firm hold on his jacket, I dragged the offender to the police, with a couple of folks in the crowd rolling his boda-boda behind us.

I kept telling the guy: "You should have stopped, and I wouldn't have been mad" (something I kept telling him during the entire adventure).

Of course, he didn't stop because he likely didn't have insurance and no ability to pay.

While we chatted with the police, a young man came up with a few tools and some screws. He began putting the bumper cover (which had come completely off during my chase) back into its proper place.

About an hour later, the job was done, as was the gathering of information, during which the traffic cop asked me a bunch of questions, including my age.

"71," I replied.

"Uh, how old?" he asked.


He gave me a quizzical, startled and surprised look.

"Well, he just pissed me off," I said.

He seemed then to accept that, though his look did not change.

I gave the guy who repaired our bumper 20,000 shillings (about $7.50), scolded the boda-boda driver once more and, after about an hour from initial impact until bumper repaired, went merrily on our way.

The next morning, when I told Alex Asiimwe, the managing director of our operation, about it, he said: "Don't do that!"

I was lucky the crowd was on my side, he said.

"But," I replied, "he pissed me off."

He had the same look as the cop.

Weddings: We went to our first Ugandan wedding (Muslim) last Saturday, and we're going to another (Christian) today.

Today's, I'm sure, will be wonderful (for one of my favorite folks at the Monitor, a young, talented reporter with young, talented copy editor -- called sub-editor here).

Last Saturday was a five-hour affair, but worth every minute. A beautiful bride, two beautiful children and a great groom. Oh, and great food and great conversation with new friendships made.

The bride was Aidah Nalubega, officially my administrative assistant, but in reality my "boss." She is smart, beautiful and dedicated -- and, perhaps, the most important person to any successes I might enjoy here. She is helpful at every turn (and, if I have my way, she'll be playing even more important newsroom roles soon).

Our visitors in June (Sarah and Chris and Lauren) know Aidah, so they can confirm.

I tell folks that I always cry at weddings, and this was no exception. I did when she first came out in her beautiful gown (not white, but in beautiful African colors), just one of three beautiful gowns she wore during the ceremony. And, again, when I was asked to speak to the large crowd about what Aidah meant to me (and to Joyce).

Joyce and I, who were seated up front with family, were honored and privileged to have been invited.

She and her husband, "W," have been together for 12 years and have two beautiful children. We wish them many, many more years of happiness.

That day will be with us forever.

Now, in a bit, Joyce and I have to get ready for today's wedding, and tomorrow we've been invited to a birthday party for one of our young newsroom editors.

Moments like these make this often-trying adventure all worthwhile.

Beer: I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- the beer in Uganda is boring. Just Pilsners, lagers and stout. Nothing with distinct flavor or bite. Just "Budweiser" to me (and you all know that I NEVER drink "Bud").

Well, the beer gods must have taken notice: A micro-brewery has opened! And just down the hill from us! (Yippee!!!)

As of now, only two beers with four planned. One on tap now is a Pilsner (better than the ones mass-produced here, but still...); the other is an amber ale that is WONDERFUL! Has a smoky aftertaste, much like a Scotch ale. Not an IPA, but (if they can get the proper hops), the owners have promised to try to make some.

I am happy. Found the place last Sunday, and we've already been there three times (and we'll be there again on Sunday).

We talked about getting growlers (so I can bring some to the apartment so I can sip it while looking at the Kampala skyline from our aerie). They said they had plans for that, but were having trouble getting them. I said that I am going to bring one back with me from the States in October. They said, "Good!"

So all is well (better) here in Uganda.

Oh, Yasigi is the goddess of beer in Mali!


Promise: And, finally, a promise to be more diligent in posting to this blog. Though (and Sarah and Chris and Lauren likely understand), I am working hard, and the challenges here are much more profound, at every level, than I had anticipated. So, be patient, but feel free to goad (a la Jonathan Kealing).

And, again, cheers...time to head to the wedding and, perhaps, that good amber ale after the festivities.

P.S.: Oh, had to get new tires for the Rav4. The brand is called Achilles. Hmmm, not very comforting, from my point of view, if you think "heel."

P.P.S.: I will post pictures of wedding, likely tomorrow. Gotta run to another wedding.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A pack of pachyderms and ... (the Bate's Motel!?!)

What do you do when you are surrounded by 60 or more elephants?

You simply stand in awe...and snap as many photos as possible even though darkness is grabbing a quick hold.

What do you do when a bull elephant blocks the road?

You wait, of course!

He was busy eating, and our repeated revving of the engine and whistles and barks had little effect, other than prompting an occasional perturbed glance our way.

So, we waited.

We came across this fellow during our twilight drive through Murchison Falls
National Park in northwest Uganda as we were trying to leave the park just as
the sun was about to leave us for the day. But we had to wait until he decided
we could proceed. About 15 minutes later, we came across an even more
amazing experience: a herd of about 60 elephants, who didn't seem to mind
that we were driving in the midst of their evening meal among the trees
as darkness set in.

Ahh, Uganda!

In the three weeks since our return from our visit to the States, life has been a bit of a whirlwind. The elephant encounters came during part of what made it a whirlwind: the visit of two former students and the husband of one.

But the whirlwind, work aside, really began at the end of the first week back when we said good-bye to good friend Prof. Jim Kelly of Indiana University, who headed up a group of IU students on an study-abroad experience in Uganda, and 11 of his study-abroad students, who spent almost a month at the Daily Monitor. They were here because, when they couldn't go to Kenya (because of a ban on student travel because of terror threats), Jim asked me if I could accommodate some of his group.

"I'll take 'em all," I replied.

So the group came to Uganda, interning at the Daily Monitor working with some of our folks on a series of stories on HIV/AIDs. The first series kicks off tomorrow, Sunday, July 6.
The IU contingent. That's IU Prof. Jim Kelly at the far right.
And that's the view from our pool.

Just before they left, Joyce and I hosted a party at our place. The night before the Saturday gathering, we invited Scott DeLisi, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda, and his wife, Leija, to walk the "two doors" up the hill to our place, and they said, "Sure!" We thought they'd drop by for a few minutes, but wound up staying for the entire three hours at the poolside BBQ (of grilled marinated chicken and goat, which, BTW, was marvelous -- the food, the fact Scott and Leija stayed and enjoyed themselves, and the IU folks -- who surprised me with a special gift: a plaid bow-tie, in IU colors, of course. Quite fetching, I must say.)

That night, shortly after the BBQ, we headed to the airport for some more special guests, two former students, Sarah (nee Hill) Green and Lauren Beatty and Sarah's husband, Chris. More about their visit in the next blog except to say they got a good sampling of Uganda, including a bit of "Uganda's revenge" (you figure it out) and that bull elephant in the road and Nile Specials (a beer) on a boat on the Nile. How appropriate.

At Murchison Falls with our Kansas visitors and friends,
Edridge and Kabs (Kabagambe Swamadu, our driver
and good friend). With them, from left, Sarah Green, me,
Joyce, Lauren Beatty and Chris Green. The falls are hidden by
Joyce's hat. And, yes, if you come, bring a good hat.
Sarah, Chris and Malcolm have Tilley hats, which all
three recommend.

More on them in the next installment, though the next part of the whirlwind began after dropping 'em off at the airport for the 30-hour trip home: some reality about living in East Africa. I got hit -- hard -- by an intestinal bacterial infection that had me heading home early most days and missing one day completely.

I knew I was sick when two young staffers, each independent of the other, came into my office to say: "You're looking older. Are you OK?"

And those who know me know I'm really in distress by this: I haven't had a beer since the dinner before that Monday night ride to the airport to put our Kansas friends on the plane home.

But all is better now, thanks to "cipro" (ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic) that seems to be helping. But no beer (or our usual Sunday martinis). Maybe on Monday. Stay tuned.

But if you've ever had a hankering to visit, check in with Sarah and Chris, and Lauren. We're sure they'll have lots of advice -- mostly good and encouraging, I think. Just don't ask Lauren about "another beautiful day in Uganda" -- at least after travelling five hours on a dirt road, a couple of bumpy twilight hours looking for wildlife, no food since breakfast, and thinking she was going to have to spend the night in the "Bate's Motel" with a serial killer named James.

But, for that part of the whirlwind, you'll  have to wait until the next installment.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Excited to be back...

Joyce and I are back in Uganda after some "R&R" in Lawrence and Boston.

We had a great time at home -- hectic but relaxing traveling 8,000 miles, then shuttling between Boston-Lawrence-Boston. And it was fun to see Jennifer, Adam and Chris in Boston, and many friends in Lawrence (especially golf with Pam!). And getting former student, soon-to-be-grad-student Travis Robinett settled into the house on Holiday Drive.

But it's great to be back here, too.

Jet lag wasn't too bad, and we both picked up colds on the way back to the U.S., but mostly back to normal here -- including work. The Monitor is facing many of the same challenges that news operations are facing in the U.S., but the potential, in my view, is much greater here. Stay tuned.

And we have excitement today on two fronts: hosting a BBQ today and the arrival of three special visitors who'll be staying with us this next week.

Today, we're hosting 11 Indiana University students for a BBQ at our place (by the pool, of course). We'll have chicken and goat (and beer and wine). And Scott and Leija DeLisi are planning to stop by to say "hi" (and eat, too, we assume). Scott is the U.S. ambassador who lives just two "doors" down the hill, an easy walk up to us, then down back home, from us.

The IU students, under the guidance of Prof. Jim Kelly, worked with our Monitor colleagues on two special reports on HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Their work should start appearing as soon as next week. All reports indicate that the project will be first-rate.

As for Prof. Jim, he led many sessions for our photo staff. This is how successful it was. The photo chief came to me and said: "He's the best professor I've ever known." I replied: "Cool! But what about me?" "He's the best professor I've ever known," he repeated -- with a big grin.

Oh, well.

And the other big news is that we are picking up three folks from the airport tonight at 9:45 p.m.

Two former students -- Sarah, nee Hill, Green and Lauren Beatty -- along with Sarah's husband, Chris. We are so excited (and honored because, right after I had accepted the job in December, they quickly announced that they were coming for a visit!!! OK, who's next?)

Many plans, which I will post in this spot, including white-water rafting on the Nile in nearby Jinja, a visit upcountry to two game preserves (elephants, lions, hippos, crocs and more!), a visit to our driver-friend's home village (where we were given the rooster), and lots more!

We will be posting photos and updates.

Gotta run. Heading out to buy beer and ice and etc. for today's party...and our Kansas contingent.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

10 things we miss about home...

I began this blog a couple of weeks ago (trying to keep my promise of posting at least once each week, usually on Saturdays, and I'm doing it now, in part, because of the welcomed and needed kick in the butt from Jonathan Kealing). However, events had gobbled up both time and energy. So, below, is what I'd planned. But, first, an update (and reason for the delay):

We've been busy, and not because of this government ministry or that summoning me to complain about something we'd published. And the internet at our place has been spotty, then out of service for the past few days.

Ah, but the update:

Beginning Sunday week ago through Tuesday, we made an upcountry trip to check in with four of our bureaus to the west: Masaka, Mbarara, Fort Portal and Hoima (when our correspondent came to Fort Portal). Great trip, beautiful scenery, and wonderfully illuminating about what we can do (better) and to better tap the potential, both of the talent in those bureaus and the potential audience as well. Here are some highlights (beyond the journalism and the pleasant exchanges with all those we met, as well as our travelling companions -- Justus Katungi, who is our circulation director; Aidah Nalubega, officially the newsroom's (and my) administrative assistance whom I call "the boss" because nothing would get done without her expert help and advice; Henry Mukasa, a brilliant young editor in Kampala who oversees and inspires all our upcountry coverage, and, of course, my driver and our good and valued friend Swamadu Kabagambe ("Kabs," prounounced "Kuhbs], who drove much of the way (though I did some driving, too), and provided one special highlight that involves a rooster, so keep reading. In Musaka, I got to hold a newborn, so, beyond just meeting the good journalists there, I was happy. In Mbarara (prounounced mmm-bah-RAH-rah), we had spirited discussions. And in Fort Portal, more spirited discussion about journalism, and, that night, we stayed at one of the nicest motels ever.

Oh, and elephants. On the way to Fort Portal. which carried us through mountains into the valley below, we slipped by (not in) Queen Elizabeth National Park where, thanks to the sharp eye of Kabs, we saw a big tusked bull elephant and his harem moving slowly through the grasslands. We literally hopped atop our Rav4 for a better look and better photos. Exciting!

The biggest highlight was to come the Tuesday after meeting the news staff at Fort Portal. Kabs took us to his family's village not too far from Fort Portal. We were greeted by his grandmother and a small gathering of 40 or so relatives that soon grew to 80, mostly children. They danced, we danced, we chatted, we hugged, we danced some more, we hugged, and danced even more. We were thrilled, and Kabs told us they were thrilled, too (and the first muzungus [white people] she ever encountered in her 70-plus years). And, then, we were presented with a royal parting gift: a live rooster. It would have been terribly impolite to refuse!

So, Kabs, Joyce, Malcolm and the rooster settled into our four-seater Rav4 for the six-hour trip back to Kampala.

The rooster was a great traveler. I was not. I, city boy that I am, kept asking about my back-of-the-Rav4 companion: "When are we going dump the rooster."

Again, that would have been impolite. So Rudy the Rooster (we had to name him) and Malcolm, both in the back, and Kabs and Joyce, both in the front, made the trip all the way home.

I texted Alykhan Alibhai, whose family owns The Seventeen where we live, if we could keep the rooster. His reply: "You have a second bedroom."

Deeming that impractical, we left Rudy with Kabs, who took it home to his mother who raises chickens.

As for work, I had my first board meeting, and all went well. I got a ringing endorsement for what we're doing here. But, as with many media operations, times are tough here, and we're facing budget cuts. But the journalism is on the upswing, and because I'm sharing all we do with our readers, it's spurred discussion among all of Uganda interested in journalism.

Given the quality and enthusiasm of most of the folks here at the Monitor, I am now firmly convinced that I will accomplish the two things I've set out to accomplish: become the most respected media operation in Africa, and leave an Ugandan in my spot when I leave.

And, now, for what I'd intended to write about before Rudy entered the picture. P.S.: Photos to come!

Here are 10 things (and there are more) that we miss about home and will look forward to enjoying when back in Lawrence soon (arriving on June 1; heading back on June 9). In no particular order, except the last is first:

#1: Cheerios

OK, I've eaten Cheerios literally my entire life (and I'm thankful they were invented shortly before I was born). I eat 'em for breakfast, and I eat 'em for snacks. We did find some here. They appeared on the shelves shortly after we got here, but they seem to have disappeared from the shelves, and haven't been restocked. (C'mon, Uganda!). But, sadly, they were Multi-grain Cheerios and Honey-flavored Cheerios (also multi-grain), neither of which really count, and they're made by Nestle (with an agreement with General Mills) in England. England? Well, I guess, given the name, that shouldn't be surprising. But I NEED my good ol', regular, American-made, all-whole-grain-oats Cheerios. We're bringing back a suit-case filled with boxes of 'em. ("Excuse me, sir," the Ugandan customs official says. "Uh, why do you have 20 boxes of Cheerios. There will be an import fee, of course, of $500!" "Cheap enough," I reply, which tells you how important this is.

#2: Pizza

Our first meal in Lawrence will be a full-packed, everything-on-it pizza from Tad's, which is not far from our house. The pizza here ain't bad, especially at Mediterraneo (just down the hill from us), but they just don't have any good -- GOOD -- pepperoni. And, even though I often have pizzas at home without pepperoni, when you can't get it...

#3 Shrimp (prawns, here)

The stores don't have any (that are good) -- all pre-cooked, and they taste like sawdust. We are told you can get fresh shrimp (prawns) here, but we haven't found 'em. We had some good ones at the Chinese restaurant, so guess I'll have to steal some! At home in Kansas (which, Ugandans should note, is farther away from salt water than Uganda is), we get uncooked shrimp that don't taste like sawdust all the time. And we usually have it as a meal at least three times a week -- a little olive oil, a healthy (which means a lot) dose of garlic, a little lemon juice and some parsley (along with some grits or rice) and, voila!, the perfect meal. Yes, we will be cooking that for the 2nd night at home (and the third and, perhaps, the fourth, and....)

#4: Good beer

Oh, please, my kingdom for an IPA. As I've noted in earlier blogs, just Pilsners and lagers (and some stout) here, but I want a beer with a bite. The Brits invented IPA, and the first things Brits do whenever they invade, colonize and settle anywhere, they find a river and build a danged brewery. So, why no IPA? So, straight to Ray's Liquors for a sampling of IPAs. Then, the next day: Free State Brewery for some Ad Astra (and any the food folks there might have on "special"). Joyce and I had breakfast on Sunday with Scott DiLisi and his wife, Leija -- just the four of us. (He's the U.S. ambassador; they live two "doors" down the hill from us.) He's offered -- and I hope no one from the State Department is reading this -- to bring back any dearly missed "food stuff" (like Cheerios) in the diplomatic pouch. (I suspect he was kidding.) But when I suggested IPA, he said, "Can' liquids." So much for diplomatic relations!)

#5: English muffins

That brings us back to Scott and Leija. We told her of our yen for English muffins, and you can't find 'em here. (No English muffins. C'mon, England! What kind of colonizers are you. And, if you can bring in ersatz Cheerios, why no IPA and English muffins?) We want 'em for our usual Saturday morning breakfast of egg, cheese and bacon on an English muffin. Leija said that their cook makes them. Next thing we know, we get a text saying she'd leave some with the guard at her gate. We jogged down (not back up) to fetch 'em. They're great! (Thanks Scott and Leija; diplomatic relations restored!)

#6: Roads without potholes

Kampala is the pothole capital of the world. At least of the parts of the world I've seen. Now, it does make driving exciting -- sort of like the slalom in the Olympics -- but with all the skiers on the course at the same time -- bunches of skiers zig-zagging all over the place. Here, cars, trucks, boda-boda (motorcycle taxis) and mini-buses, all avoiding the same potholes and often competing for space. Like I said, exciting! And the reason Joyce is so reluctant to drive.

#7: CBS Sunday Morning.

The best TV magazine show invented. Plus, the host wears a bow-tie! Need I say more?

#8: The Sunday edition of The New York Times.

Serendipity each week, stumbling on articles you'd have otherwise not read. And, of course, the Sunday crossword.

#9: My Miata.

Thanks to Bill and Rita, who housesat and Miata-sat. Thankful, but also jealous that they got to drive her and I couldn't. They even sent a photo of 'em in it. Now that was cruel!

#10: Friends and family.

What's to say except: We miss you all.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

10 things we'll miss...

Here are some things we'll definitely miss about Uganda when we ultimately leave (and, yes, I said I was "blue" in my last blog, but we truly do love it here, aren't really looking to leave, and expect to be here for quite a while longer).

In no particular order, except the last should be first:

Things we'll miss #1: Cobbler (shoe-repair) shops.

They've virtually disappeared in most places in the States. We had my loafers, that I love, re-heeled -- and for a lot less than what it would cost to replace. And my L.L. Bean oxfords are there now to be resoled and re-heeled. Why get rid of a great pair of shoes just in need of a little repair? There's one place in Lawrence, KS, where you can do that, but it's getting more difficult, it seems.

Things we'll miss #2: Cricket.

Yep, cricket. (We're watching the Indian Premier League on TV as I write this). It's actually exciting, and in many ways more exciting than baseball -- which we love, but which does have long moments of relative inaction. Not with cricket. Using a baseball analogy, there's really only one inning, with one team at bat, and the other pitching (bowling). When that team finishes it's turn, they switch. Then the game is over. Scores of 170 and more (for each team) are common. In the 20-over version, which is the most popular, that means 120 balls (six "pitches" per over) for each team. You get runs by running between the two wickets (three upright sticks topped by another horizontal stick). You get four runs automatically if you hit the ball to any part of the boundary -- what appears to be about a foot-high vinyl-covered foam barrier encircling the field (though just a rope in the club games we've watched). It rings the perimeter of the 60-meter by 80-meter oval. And you can bat the ball in any direction (the full 360 degrees), so you need fielders in front and behind -- on all sides of -- the batsman. And the bowler (pitcher) takes a running start and usually bounces the ball, with spins to affect the flight after the bounce, for the batsman to hit with his bat. It's flat, by the way, which allows him to direct the ball in just about any direction, including behind. You get six runs if you hit one over the boundary. (We call 'em "home runs," even here, but not sure what they're called here except "sixes.") We are even surprised ourselves that we like it so much. And I've been promised that there's an amateur club in Kampala that's going to let me play! Stay tuned. P.S.: U.S. baseballers are wussies. Most cricket fielders don't wear gloves. Bare hands, baby!

Things we'll miss #3: Samosas.

The veggie- or meat-filled fried triangles are sold everywhere. They cost from about 1,500 to 2,000 Ugandan shillings (about 60 to 75 cents each) in the stores, but at our canteen at the Daily Monitor, I can get two for about 1,500 shillings. I usually have two for lunch. Tasty!

Things we'll miss #4: Our '97 Toyota two-door, short-chassis, right-hand-drive Rav4. We love it so much we're thinking of shipping it back to the U.S. when we go home for good. And, once this gig does end, we're thinking seriously of driving it, likely over two months or so, from Kampala to Cape Town, South Africa -- Kampala to Nairobi, Kenya, to Moshi, Tanzania (Mt. Kilimanjaro), to Dar es Salaam (and a boat trip to Zanzibar), then up to Mbeya on the Zambian border (Andy Moor and I hitch-hiked there in '69 for a story), then on to Lusaka, Zambia, then to Harare, Zimbabwe (and Victoria Falls along the way), then to Johannesburg, South Africa, then (by way of Durban, then along the coast to Port Elizabeth and Plettenberg Bay, a beautiful spot where I spent a delightful night getting drunk on cognac) Cape Town. The Rav4, if still healthy and hearty, will take a ship to a port in the U.S. for us to drive it to Lawrence, Kansas; for us, it's the Blue Train back to Johannesburg, where we'll catch our flight home. Well, that's the plan. Stay tuned.

Things we'll miss #5: The view.

The view from our apartment -- a fourth-floor (luxury) walk-up (81 steps) -- is, well, spectacular. I really do get up every morning and say: "Another beautiful day in Uganda." Drives Joyce batty (not the view, but my saying "Another beautiful day in Uganda").

Things we'll miss #6: The weather.

It truly is beautiful here every day. About 85 each afternoon, and we wake up to about 65 each morning. We do not have air conditioning, and we don't need it. And, right now, it's the rainy season (we love rain), though about ready to end. The storms here are spectacular (and we have a great view). We do have to get up, at times, at 3 a.m. to close windows and the sliding glass doors that are left wide open. And we've had to mop up a bunch of water that has been blown in when we were a bit tardy in waking up to the thunder-and-lightning shows. But, who cares. It's wonderful!!!

Things we'll miss #7: Watermelon juice.

We have it ALL THE TIME. It's refreshing. And, last night, we even had a watermelon martini! We've already decided that watermelon martinis -- not our usual regular ones -- will be our new Sunday night ritual (on many Sunday nights) when we return.

Things we'll miss #8: Roundabouts.

Main intersections here are usually wide, multi-laned roundabouts. And, once you learn how to use 'em, it's a much more sane (and safe) way to move traffic. In the U.S., they make 'em too small (listen up, Lawrence, Kansas) and people don't know how to use 'em correctly.

Things we'll miss #9: The adventure, challenge and opportunity of living in another country and culture.

Yea, we miss things (like hot dogs, beer other than Pilsner and lagers, really good pizza, and our favorite TV shows and, of course, family and friends -- oh, and my Miata). But the challenge of adapting to a new culture and country is exciting, the job is rewarding (and challenging), the anticipation of adventure -- exploring all the great national parks here -- and the opportunity to grow because of it, is priceless. We will definitely be better for it, as well as appreciating even more than we did how great it is to be who we are.

Things we'll miss #10: The people.

Seriously, we've already forged lasting -- lifelong -- friendships with at least a dozen good folks in just our 10 weeks here. We've always said this about our travels: It's not the places you see, but the people you meet. And that has been delightfully confirmed by the friends we've made -- at all stations in life -- here in Uganda. The people are wonderful, and we feel blessed because of them.

That, dear friends, is what keeps us going and makes this adventure so rewarding.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lovin' -- and hating -- the 'blues'

I love jazz, and I love the blues. Right now, I've got the blues, but it ain't the kind that are fun.

I've been in this blue mood the past few days.

One, it's because that I'm having to miss Gabriella Souza's wedding. I am supposed to be there -- feel I should be there -- this weekend to fulfill a promise I made quite a bit ago: to officiate at her wedding. And anyone who knows me knows this: I try to make those weddings special, and I only do it for those who are special.

I wrote the wedding, but I've had to pass it along to another to recite it, dammit. And it hurts, because Gaby (and John David because he loves her so much) are truly important to me. Not being there is poking a little hole in my heart that will take time to heal.

There's more.

My Mom is at a wonderful place -- Sunshine Christian Homes in Holiday, Florida -- but I feel that I should be closer to take care of things when things need to be taken care of. When she lived near us (and when my dad was alive and living near, too), I saw her (them) virtually every day, and Mom was always bright and happy while we were there. And our visits were not just for a few minutes or so, but usually a couple of hours at a time.

No more. Because we're in Africa, we had to move her to another facility, that one in Florida. I was thinking, that just once in my life and his, my brother would step up and take responsibility, as he had promised he would. Now, I find that, as usual and as I should have expected, he has not to the extent that I expected. Apparently, he rarely sees her, and then to sign papers or such. No quality time, though we hear that Mom gets upset when he comes and that she is happy and engaging at other times. So, perhaps, it's best.

Now, in my own defense, we would have had to move her someplace because she couldn't afford where she was, she needed more help than we could provide, and there was virtually nothing in our area of Kansas that could provide that kind of care at what we could afford.


And I've got the blues not just because of all this, but because I feel guilty. I keep thinking I'm being selfish, and I can't seem to shake it.

I am in Africa right now for one reason: It's something I've always wanted.

Yea, I am here because I was asked, I am here because I've always loved Africa, I am here because I love journalism, and I am here because I care about changing journalism at the Daily Monitor -- and for all of Uganda, if possible. I am sincere in that.

But we're also here only because I want to be here. And that seems selfish.

Joyce is here and puts on a good face about loving it here, too, and bless her for that. But she's here because I'm here, because I want to be here. Not because she wants to be here.

And we're 8,000-plus miles away.

Eight-thousand miles away from Gaby, 8,000 miles away from our kids, 8,000 miles away from our friends, and 8,000 miles away from my Mom.

Seems selfish to me.

But we shall survive, and we will stay to complete what I've set out to complete.

And we will find a way to enjoy it, to make the most of it, but we'll have to keep fighting through the blues to do it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Of fathers two...

This is tough to write.

My older brother, Kenneth, I've just found out, has been put in the hospital. That's not what makes this tough to write, mainly because my brother's ills -- medical, emotional and otherwise -- are virtually all self-inflicted.

My brother and I have never really been close. He is about five years older than I, and he left home when I was 12 or 13.

But in those years we were together, sharing a bedroom, we fought often. Not at my initiation, but his. Because he was older and bigger, I always suffered the worst of it. He preyed on me. He seemed to take great pleasure in pounding my kidneys, avoiding the face, so as to leave little evidence. The fights were so numerous that a neighbor, who often had to come to my rescue and break us apart, told my mother, "I can't keep doing this." Thankfully, that neighbor did.

And, yes, once, he threw a bayonet at me. Deliberately. I was quick to avoid, and it stuck firmly, with a thud, into our bedroom door instead of me.

Not many people know of this. I doubt if he recalls given his current state.

When my brother finally left home when I was 12 or 13, I was more relieved than happy. But I was happy, too.

This is where fathers come in.

I've had two.

I didn't know Father #1 much or for long. He left us when I was a toddler. So, I didn't really know him, and I don't think he ever really knew me -- or even tried, for that matter. For a time, I recall us living with his mother, the beloved "Grandma Gibson," before Mom met and ultimately married Father #2. We settled in Norfolk, Va., and, for the following years, my brother and I (Kenneth more than I) would visit Father #1 (and his new wife and family) during the summers for some weeks.

During one such visit -- and I think my last -- my brother, Kenneth, scolded me when, talking on the phone to Father #2, I said, "Love you Dad." Kenneth chimed in, saying, "He's not your dad."

And that, I think is the key. Kenneth was always resentful of Father #2 (and, perhaps, our mother for not sticking with Father #1), even though Father #2 didn't even know our mother during the ultimate breakup.

But Kenneth was always trying to reconnect with Father #1, ignoring, aggressively, Father #2.

It wasn't until Kenneth was in his mid-50s that he ultimately came to the same conclusion that I had come, at age 12 or so, regarding Father #1. Kenneth had sold his house in New Hampshire to start a financial consulting business (that went bankrupt, which is telling in itself) to be near Father #1, who'd retired to South Florida. Father #1, for reasons unknown, didn't show much interest, Kenneth ultimately and reluctantly admitted to me.

The ultimate insult -- to him, not to me -- likely came when Father #1 eventually died. In the obituary, it listed two children -- from the second marriage, not the first, meaning no mention of Kenneth Wayne Gibson and Malcolm Douglas Gibson, his first-born children.

My dear wife, Joyce, was livid. I was not. Father #1 was never a father to me -- and he had many chances to reconnect had he wanted: my induction or discharge from the Army, my marriage, my graduation from university (twice), the birth of my children (his grandchildren, by the way), my many career moves and promotions, or the 50 or so intervening birthdays. All were apparently ignored.

Being a father is what Father #2 did. He was there for happy moments, and hurt. He was honest, and true, and caring, and funny, and helpful (as Kenneth should well know, with Father #2 bailing him out more times than I can count with never a sincere thank you). And loving, always.

Once, when I was visiting Father #2 in the hospital, the doctor walked in, looked at the two of us, and said, "That's gotta be your son. You two look just alike."

"Sorry," I said, "he's my step-dad, but thanks."

He likely thought "Yeah, right! Bet they [meaning Mom and Father #2] were fooling around," not knowing that my Mom didn't even know Father #2 when I was born!

But I didn't care. I was proud, proud to be just like him.

Had Kenneth put a little bit of effort into Father #2 instead of Father #1, perhaps he would have been better, too, would have had a better life, would have had more of his many children be as thankful as I was when the doctor made his observation.

I just wish Kenneth Gibson would finally understand that. Perhaps all those self-inflicted wounds -- the reasons for five marriages, at least four of them failed, and all the financial and family disconnects -- would somehow heal or, at least, be less hurtful, to him and to others.

Then, perhaps, I could forgive him. Forgive him for the beatings, and forgive him for ignoring those he should not have ignored.
* * *

P.S.: Shortly before the man I proudly call my Dad -- Father #2, Tommy Aurednick -- died in November 2012, he apologized, saying he wished he (and my mother, who always blamed and continues to blame herself for Kenneth's shortcomings) had done more to stop the beatings. No apologies necessary, Pops. Both you and Mom made up for it a thousand times over by simply encouraging me to be all I could be and loving me in all that I did. And for setting an example of fathering that I still try to follow every day.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good food and good journalism...

Food is a lot like journalism, from my perspective, or is it journalism's a lot like food? It's either good or bad. Not much, if any, falls in between.

Edridge, Kabs and Joyce preparing
our Ugandan feast.
Today, as we noted on Facebook, Kabs (Swamadu Kabagambe), my driver during the week (though I often drive him on weekends because he's become our good and trusted friend), and his neighbor-friend Edridge, came to our aerie (The Seventeen atop Kololo on Hill Lane) to teach us to cook "Ugandan."

They both are delightful, and we revel in their company and conversation.

As I write this, we haven't yet tasted the fare (though we expect it to be wonderful and likely will taste it before the end of this blog). Oh, and shopping here is filled with more excitement than at home. The grocery markets here don't really have a great selection -- and I think it's because the place to get the best (and the least expensive) fruits and vegetables is at the open markets, and the one in the center of the city is not far from us.The market area, about the size of half a football field, is cram-packed with vendors and a wide variety of produce, from fresh avocado to ripe watermelon, from banana to okra and a variety of yams.

As for prepared food, we've found our favorite burger (and maybe the best-ever anywhere) at the Crocodile Cafe (though we're told there's an even better place), and the best fish and chips ANYWHERE (and you know both Joyce and I are snobs when it comes to our fish and chips) at the Cafesserie. Both are just down the hill from us.

So, we've found a great selection of good food.

Joyce at the market! Beats the heck out
of Hy-Vee and Dillon's (sorry, guys!)
As for the journalism, I continue to be struck by what even some experienced people take as acceptable, and today I am confronted with another step in what is now likely to be a long journey to acceptable and then to excellent. Though, I must note enthusiastically, we have many in our news operation who do produce excellent journalism and others who are working hard to get there. That's the encouraging part; today's example was the discouraging part.

It involves a story assessing the sitting president's popularity in some areas of the country versus that of the prime minister, who is being promoted by some within the party. Both are members of the National Resistance Movement, the party in power for the past 28 years.

It's an incredibly sensitive issue.

Reporters went out and talked to politically-engaged folks to gauge the feelings of those of the two principals. The issue with the coverage is two-fold: the first was the accompanying chart, that presented evidence that one was decidedly more popular in some districts than the other.

The problem is that the sample is so small and ill-defined, only being supported by phrases such as "a section of voters" or "a big number of residents."

I am requiring that we be precise and exact in all we do, down to our word choice. And I'm also insisting that we be transparent in all we do, and that would be to tell exactly -- giving the exact numbers -- of whom we surveyed to come to such definitive results.

It has consequences beyond just falling short of our goals. It might not be accurate. It's only a guess. And we shouldn't guess in journalism.

The other consequence is that, on this day, a Saturday, when Joyce and I are trying to learn to cook good Ugandan food with our new-found friends, I, instead, have to answer a summons, along with Managing Director Alex Asiimwe, from the Minister of Information at 5 p.m. to explain why that story was published as it was.

As I said, food and journalism is either good or bad -- not much, if anything, in between.

I'm always honest in my assessments, to which my former colleagues and, certainly, my former students can attest. So you can guess (which is OK in this case because you'll be correct) what I'm going to be telling the Minister of Education.

Anyone got an Alka-Seltzer? And it's not needed because of the food.

We're having that now, and it's great!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Friends in faraway places, my beautiful Ugandan 'mum,' and Jo-Jo

The best thing about traveling is not the places you see, but the people you meet.

In our short time in Uganda, we have found and formed many friendships here -- from the  "royal" to the "regular"-- and, while some are "casual," many will last a lifetime.

And that's what's making this adventure -- all our adventures -- so special.

We've already got our waiter "friends" at three restaurants here. Each time we show up, we get or ask for Francis at the Mediterraneo, or Emmanual (Crocodile Cafe), or Ruth (at the Cafesserie at the Acacia Mall and who may be the most beautiful young woman in Uganda) and, at the same spot, Nikki, who, like us, is a "muzungu" (person of American or European descent) from South Africa. And, of course, there's my "mum," Mary, a cashier, at the Nakumatt market just down the hill. When we go in, we always say "hi" to my Ugandan "mum." she replies with a "Hullo my son" and then we share a hug. Even when she's not there, the other checkers will give us a "hullo" and say "Sorry, Malcolm, your mum's not here today."

With my "mum," Mary, at the Nakumatt.

We found my "mum" because, when standing in line at the Nakumatt shortly after we arrived here, Joyce was looking for me and said: "Malcolm?" The cashier looked around and said: "Malcolm? That's my son's name." (He's a beautiful 2-year-old by the way, and you can't tell us apart, except I'm a lot older!)

And then there's Marsha, whom I mentioned in my previous post. We spent a delightful evening recently at a great restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria with her and her husband, and plan to have "Ugandan fare" at their place next. They and we are already making plans for a visit to us when we return to the U.S. (So there, Red Pepper!) Marsha is strong, honest, open, opinionated, decisive, well-read and full of energy, all attributes I admire. But she's also fair and funny and beautiful. And a great wife and mother, despite the challenges she faces as a high-level manager in a tough professional environment.

We treasure those friendships, as we do the dozen or more folks we've grown close to in our first seven weeks in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. (We tell everyone here that they don't appreciate that every day is always just "another beautiful day in Uganda.")

And there's David, who's worked at the Monitor since its beginning more than 20 years ago, I'm told, and rose from the lowest of entry-level spots to be, essentially, in charge of "everything" involving the building and how it works. Literally, he is one of the nicest persons, if not the nicest person, I've ever met. He's the one, when I complained in my first days here that I hated my office on the 3rd floor because it was too far from the newsroom, which occupies the two floors below, he had it moved by the Monday -- along with the offices of the two managing editors and the news editor so we'd all be closer. That was no easy feat. Though you have to be careful with David. (Is there a word for "too efficient."): If I even whisper that something needs to be done, it's done without saying another word. Once, I complained about the ME's keeping their doors closed. "I'm going to have those damned doors taken off their offices -- and mine, too," I groused. David was ready to spring into action until I said: "No, no, I'm just kidding." However, the next day, he had installed door stops to ensure the doors were kept propped open. We're going for a lunch soon, just him and me, and not just to thank him, but to build on our already close friendship. We shake hands four or five times each day, and even give each other a hug when greeting. I'm proud and happy to have David in my professional and personal life.

And, of course, there's the indispensable Kabs, my driver (though it is I who drives him, which seems only fitting, when we go places on weekends). He comes from a long line of police officers, and his dad is a police inspector. This weekend, he and his next door neighbor, whom we encouraged him to engage in conversation because she was so pretty and nice, are coming to our place this Saturday to teach us to cook Ugandan-style.

Joyce and Malcolm with Stella and 2-month-old Jo-Jo.
Joyce and I would trust our lives with Kabs (and, likely, often do). He is smart, funny, gracious and kind, and he has allowed us into his life, which we appreciate more than words can express. We see his mom and dad, sisters and cousins, his beautiful daughter, and his mom's chickens regularly at the police barracks, where his family lives. (In fact, we went there today, and then went for a visit with another of the Monitor's drivers, Stella, who is on maternity leave. Great day: I got to hold the baby!)

And there are many more I could mention, including Alex Asiimwe, the managing director (who's essentially my boss, in some ways, though he has no say on content, and I report directly to Nairobi, though I rarely hear from them, which is good).  We have developed an open and honest professional relationship. We talk. Often. And while he'd like all that I've discussed about the news operation "fixed" yesterday, he also understands the difficulty in all that. We discuss it virtually daily, and we don't always agree -- except on one important factor: where we hope to end up with what we both are doing.

Beyond our work, he and I (and Joyce: "I really like Alex," she says) are developing a warm and lasting friendship. As with Marsha, he, too, is planning to come with his family to visit us in the U.S. once (or, perhaps, even before) my contract ends. Just yesterday, Alex and Abigail, his 6-year-old daughter, came for a visit, and stayed longer than planned because of the good time we had over juice and cupcakes, along with my promise to teach her to swim (along with her dad, who said he didn't know how, though that may because I gave him a choice: "Skydiving or swimming or golf? Pick two." Well, as you can guess, we won't be skydiving).

I can't leave without mentioning Lubega Henry (who has been mentioned briefly in an earlier blog). For now, he drives Joyce in our car when she needs to go out and, soon, she will be detailing the saga of just trying to get him a driver's license in her blog. His training is in broadcast, as a "talent," meaning news presenter and interviewer or disc jockey. And he's got the voice (and if TV beckons, the looks). But, alas, in the four years since graduating, no job opportunities, so he was doing "manual labor," for little or, at times because of dishonest folks, nothing.

The driving job has fixed that, for now. And, soon, he'll be getting a two-month internship at one of our radio stations.

He's a nice young man, so nice that we just might adopt him. Not really, but we enjoy having him around even when he's not driving.

There are many more, and they'll likely find their way into this blog (and Joyce's) at some point. Stay tuned.

But Joyce and I take the concept of friendship seriously. Some friendships are fleeting, but others are forever.

We've found both here.

As said, it's what makes this and all our travels so special. We wish the same for you.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Read all about it!

I have officially arrived in Uganda -- I made the gossip rag (but, unfortunately, it had nothing to do with me being caught with Susan Sarandon in a love nest, dammit!).

When I came into the office on early Wednesday morning, I did my usual: I read our paper and scanned the many others from that day, when "wham!" -- my photo -- an old photo, swiped from the internet, of me in a bow tie, of course -- came staring back at me!

It was in a daily (one of at least five here) called the Red Pepper, which occasionally breaks something, but most often is way off the mark because, well, they (I'm using the British form for collective nouns now, guys) just make up stuff. They published a story about good friend Marsha Walusimbi, who was the HR director here, saying that I had fired her!

Read all about it! (Click on image above).

Not only can I NOT fire the HR director, because she was not in the newsroom and didn't report to me, Joyce and I are mad (as in devastated) at her leaving. Marsha is our closest and best friend! She's smart, wonderful and engaging. We love her, and both Joyce and I were crushed that she was leaving.

And, even more, despite what the story alleges, I didn't bring my "panga" from Kansas to pop that "big balloon" -- and, dammit, wasted the whole damned day running around the newsroom looking for that danged balloon.

Kidding aside, it was hurtful to Marsha, who'd just moved into her new job across town. Hitting on me was OK; I can defend myself because I have a newspaper to do that. She doesn't; she was defenseless. And the Red Pepper folks are heartless and cruel (and I'll bet some even profess to be good Christians. Ha!)

In what is a rare event, I'm told, a correction (of sorts, because it, too, was filled with error and sloppy editing) was published two days later after our managing director (assisted by our attorneys, I think) wrote the folks at the Red Pepper to demand the correction. (Click on image below.)

Welcome to Uganda gossip journalism, Malcolm.

(However, I'm a bit miffed. The Red Pepper report only credited me with a panga, a relatively short machete-like weapon. In describing the U.S. ambassador [with whom Joyce and I visited them for drinks just two doors down from us on Kololo Hill Lane recently -- see Joyce's blog for a photo], he was credited with having a more potent "pistol." Guess the Red Pepper's been peeking in windows.)

Stupidity and inane silliness aside, which is what fills most of the Red Pepper, we continue to face the challenges of improving the journalism in our own newsroom. There's a lot of good being done (and by good people who care about doing it), but still too much falls woefully short. The commissioner who heads up the revenue division for the country took us to task over a story this week, and rightfully so, for the most part. It's biggest lack was the needed focus and background to put it in the proper perspective.

I am going to reiterate this week that we will be an active and aggressive watchdog, but many folks think that means being an attack dog. No, it means we'll watch carefully, do the stories that need to be done, present the facts, and do stories that are accurate, fair and in the proper perspective. Oh, and by treating people with respect and fairness, even when you don't like them or disagree. That's called professionalism.

At every turn I find two things, one encouraging and the other not: A lot of good people who want this paper to reach our stated goal of the most-respected media operation in Africa, and others who are too entrenched in how things have been done. They need to change, or the Red Pepper's first story about my panga, big or small, but potent, might come to be true -- out of necessity. But not yet. Stay tuned.

I have sped up the timetable to get this fixed because I'm getting tired, after these seven weeks, of getting a finger wagged at the news operation (which means me) by the managing director, Alex Asiimwe, for whom I have great respect (and sympathy, given the task facing us, exacerbated by a tough economic environment). We need to fix this now.

That said, because of all those skilled, talented and dedicated folks at the Monitor who desire the same as Alex and me, I remain optimistic, energized and determined.

We will make this work.

As for the Red Pepper, I'm hoping they'll promote me to a bazooka!

P.S.: As for the RP saying I don't have the authority to fire anyone. Wrong again, RP!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Winter and summer -- at the same time!

This is just a short posting to upload the photo of us at the Equator. (I didn't want to include it with the earlier posting, given the topic.)

 Joyce is in the southern hemisphere, where it's officially summer; I'm in the northern hemisphere, where it's winter.

That was yesterday. Today, we're both enjoying the wintry climes of Kampala: "Another beautiful day in Uganda."

Sports alert! Cricket is a cool sport. Seriously. We love it.

We took in a cricket match today -- a short one with only seven "overs," so it lasted only about an hour or so, with the score a relative blow-out of 77 to 36 for the garnet-and-gold team over the "blues." (Not sure of their real names).

We were cheering for the "blues" -- well, because garnet and gold are the colors of Florida State, one of the chief antagonists of my alma mater, The University of Florida. Go Gators! (Sorry you didn't make it to the NCAA men's basketball championship game).

There's always next year, for both the Florida Gators and the Kansas Jayhawks. Rock Chalk!

Now, we're getting ready to go out for some Indian food with the son of the owners of The Seventeen, where we're staying. And, because he was raised in Dallas, he likes college sports and the NFL -- but, sadly, he's a Dallas Cowboys fan (but, I guess, nobody's perfect).

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A solemn day...and a reminder

Life is good, then it gets up and slaps a ton of reality right in the face with a message for us all: life is precious, so savor every moment and hold close the ones we love.

Joyce and I set out today to find the Equator, about 70 kilometers south of Kampala. We had planned a fun day, just enjoying the countryside and enjoying some shopping.

I'll start with the trip home. That's when, in the road ahead, we came upon a boda-boda (a motorcycle taxi also often used to carry goods stacked high) lying crumpled, its cargo scattered wide with broken glass serving as more evidence of disaster. Then, we noticed the body of a young man in his 20s, still as stone, beside the wreck, with a pool of blood ringing his head. No life to be seen and, at that point, no assistance from police or ambulance, just a few bystanders.

It was the trip to the Equator, though, that is seared in our memory. Forever.

About a third into our trip from our comfortable perch high atop Kampala, we came across a large crowd on the side of the road, the site of an obvious accident because the road was mostly blocked by vehicles. To our horror, we came upon it just as two white-uniformed traffic police officers were lifting, with little reverence or regard, in our view, the body of a lifeless young girl, about 7, wearing a white flowered dress, into the back of a pickup truck.

Our hearts, and the happiness that started the day, crumbled in that instant.

We could not stop, and not because the police were moving us past the huge tractor-trailer that lay on its side in the ditch a few yards ahead, but because we wanted to flee as fast as possible from that sadness, from that image, though knowing it will never leave us. We stayed silent, not able, not willing, to express our sorrow and dismay.

We drove on, finally reaching the Equator, obviously a much more subdued and meaningless event than first planned because of what we'd encountered.

We took a photo of Joyce in the southern hemisphere and me in the northern, but there was not much joy in doing so. We sat for a bit, again mostly in silence, at a nearby cafe, sipping an orange Fanta, for Malcolm, and, for Joyce, bitter lemon-flavored Krest. We wandered through the small roadside shops, more out of courtesy than desire, just buying a few little odds and ends for family and friends, and an oil painting from the AidChildren Project, devoted to providing assistance to orphaned children with AIDS.

Perhaps, we were drawn there, or even lured in some mystical way, in part because of what we'd seen. And that painting will always be a reminder, each time we gaze upon it, of that little girl in the white-flowered dress.

She will be in our thoughts and our hearts forever.

And may she be a reminder to us all.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Licking giraffes (or giraffes licking)!

Oh, as for the headline, the giraffe was licking, not me licking the giraffe. Word order is important.

As proof, here's the photo from two weekends ago during our visit to the wildlife preserve in Entebbe. I fed the giraffe a variety of vegetables (they are vegetarian).

Great fun here. Y'all visit.

On that note, Lauren Beatty, a former student, posted on Facebook that she is making preparations -- got a typhoid shot -- to come here for a visit in June along with, according to the plan, former student Sarah Green and her husband, even though she's still "mad" at me for allowing her to use our '79 MGB to ride away from her wedding, but wound up having to push the damned thing in her wedding dress along a Hutchinson, Kansas, highway. (Hey, welcome to the world of owning a British car, which is why I now own a Miata!)

When they come, we're already planning for the safari -- with Joyce as the guide.

American accents, a bit of Swahili and a NAKED prime minister...

Life here continues to be interesting and exciting:

On Monday, Joyce and I spent a lovely, relaxing evening with U.S. Ambassador Scott DeLisi and his wife, Leija, at their home, which is just two "doors" down the road from us on Kololo Hill Lane (we walked there).

And, on Friday morning, I had a visit to my office from "a representative" of the IGP (Inspector General Police, Uganda's top police chief, one of those responsible for shutting down the Monitor last spring). I was informed, by that pleasant young man, that the IGP was quite upset with the Monitor's coverage, especially with this week's political shenanigans (which I liken to "Housewives of Beverly Hills" -- fun to watch, but what does it really mean?). It involves some "secret" tape recording of political "doings" that included alleged payoffs to political operatives. The IGP says the tape, made available to us by the Ugandan prime minister's wife, a political rival, was stolen from police. Not sure yet what the fallout, if any, will be. Stay tuned.

Two ends of the spectrum in one week. Well, that's life (and journalism, which is most exciting) in Uganda. (BTW, just like the good ol' days in the U.S. -- we have at least five dailies here in Kampala, including one, the Red Pepper, that runs headlines such as "Prime Minister NAKED!", which referred to a political tug-of-war between the PM and the Ugandan president. Fun! My goal, BTW, is to make our paper, the Daily Monitor, the most-respected of the bunch, and we're on our way to do just that! So, no "NAKED" headlines for us.)

The visit with Scott and Leija was a comfortable couple of hours with two very engaging folks along with two other engaging folks, Bill and Theresa Ristow, both journalists. Bill, formerly of the Seattle Times (where a few KU alums are seated), is consulting with our chief rival, the government-owned daily, the "New Vision," which, for the most part, is a pretty good paper, considering, and a formidable competitor given its resources. However, it covers issues such as "stolen tape recordings" much differently (or at all).

It was a terrific evening on Scott and Leija's patio overlooking the city with Lake Victoria visible in the distance. Great company and great conversation. And a little bit like being back home with just U.S. accents filling the air.

Coincidentally, the U.S. Embassy had a "town hall" meeting for all the U.S. ex-pats in Uganda. That, too, was fun (and informative, including tips on how to be sensitive to the "bad guys" -- terrorists --"who are out there" and who would like to do harm to Uganda, especially to "muzungus" -- Europeans and Americans -- here). We do remain "aware," especially at a snazzy new mall that just opened just down the hill from us, but also we have felt wonderfully comfortable here in Kampala, meaning we don't walk around being "tense." Aware, but relaxed, is our mantra.

A note on Scott: He spoke at the U.S. Embassy's "town hall" meeting this week, both an opening speech, that appeared to be extemporaneous (without notes) and, after which, he answered questions. He's one of the best public speakers (smooth and glib and very relaxed) I've ever listened to. Everyone I've talked to who knows him says he's a top-notch guy. However, I'll bet Leija has a lot to do with that: She just makes everyone feel comfortable whenever she's around, just seeming to bring everything down to ground level and relaxed, even at that "official" gathering on the beautiful grounds (U.S. soil, by the way) of the embassy. She even gives us hugs when we see her, and that has made us feel better than she can possibly know. So, thanks to Scott and Leija for making us feel at home, as well as part of the Ugandan community.

As for the IGP's rep, Ambrose (first name only and "I don't carry a business card"), we actually had a pleasant chat (though I'm not sure I've convinced him of anything; we'll see). But, because he's from Kenya, I did get to practice my Swahili a bit. (I hope it impressed him! My photo with Nelson Mandela did, I think.)

So, here it is Saturday morning, just "another beautiful day in Uganda" -- with a terrific sunrise after a terrific and powerful rainstorm in the middle of the night (that we loved, even though it stirred us awake). Today, it's off to do some routine stuff (with me driving), along with searching for the spot where you can straddle the Equator (is that upper case or lower; I don't have my AP Stylebook available) with one foot in the northern hemisphere, and the other in the southern hemisphere -- winter in one, summer in the other.

And tomorrow, off to another cricket match -- we've become fans! And I now know what "overs" is, but still trying to figure out exactly when they occur and under what circumstances!

Hugs to all.

Oh, there's a photo of the six of us from the visit to the Scott and Leija's place on Monday that was taken with Bill and Theresa's camera. (We forgot ours because we were in a bit of a tizzy because, right before we left to meet them, I had cut myself shaving!). I've asked 'em to send the photo along, and I'll share it here when it arrives.

Kwa heri. ("Good luck," a form of "good-bye" in Swahili).

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Another beautiful day in Uganda"

The title of this entry is something I literally say every day when I get up and see the sun rising above a nearby hill from our perch atop the highest of the seven hills in Uganda. Seriously, every day is beautiful -- from a weather perspective, but from our experiences here, too.

Joyce and I have settled nicely into Uganda. Work is going well: a lot to do to bring the level of journalism up to where it should be, but a lot of dedicated folks here helping me get it there (and some not-so-dedicated folks who will be dedicated soon, or...).

And I know I've made promises in the past about keeping this blog updated, but now it will happen. Every Saturday morning, I will get up and post updates here. Joyce, too, has started a blog -- "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" -- that can be found at Check it out for updates, too. She is addressing more of the everyday-life events, particularly in her life in Uganda, while I'll be looking at issues from my perspective. In many ways, it's much different (and more difficult) for her. I have a job to go to every day, and one that challenges me every day. She does not, but she will be volunteering at a school just down the hill from where we live (at The Seventeen atop Kololo -- and, if interested, you can search for it on Google to get an idea of where we live by putting in the name and Kampala). That should make it better for her, though she, too, will tell you that she's enjoying this adventure.

We've done a bit exploring; more to come on that. We do have a car we like, which gives us mobility. But for work and longer excursions, I have a driver (who fetches me every morning, takes me places in the day [or night], when necessary, and deposits me at home each evening). We've hired a driver for Joyce, though we're hoping to get him off those duties and into a job at the radio station in our building because that's what he's trained for. He's a great young man (Lubega Henry) who has Kansas ties: I found him through MacKenzie Jones who works in African Studies at KU. She and her husband were in Kampala during the unrest last election time, and Henry was very protective of them. "I'd trust my life with him," MacKenzie says. Henry is a terrific young man whom we now count among the good friends we've already made here.

That's all for now. Getting ready to head out to pick up my driver from work and his daughter to have a "day on the town" together, and instead of him driving me (us), I'll be chauffeuring him and his daughter (and Joyce) to some special spots and eating places. Kabs (the driver) is a great young man to whom we would trust our lives.

The people of Uganda, by the way (and as you can likely tell) are among the nicest -- if not the nicest -- we've run into anywhere in our world travels. Truly, already, we've made a score of friends, from every level of society, during our now five weeks here. We're lovin' it.

And on Monday, the U.S. ambassador, whose residence is just two doors down from us on Kololo Hill Drive, is having Joyce and me over "for drinks." I'll let you know how that goes.

Please comment if you can (because we like to hear from folks back home) or ask any questions you might have about what's going on here. I promise to address all, and I promise (one I'll keep this time) to update this at least once each week.

Oh, and y'all come. We've got room, and every day you wake up you'll be saying what I say: "Another beautiful day in Uganda."

P.S.: I've changed the title of this blog from "Going Over Sixty" to "Going Over Seventy." Guess why! And the photo is of us last weekend at the wildlife preserve in Entebbe, about 25 miles from us. (We're the ones in the foreground, not the ones wearing stripes!) 'Twas wonderful. And I also found Honey-flavored Cheerios at a store along the way, so life is good.