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).