Saturday, August 29, 2009

In the market for a new lifestyle

Oh give me a break. I'm not gaunt by any stretch of the imagination. I was making a weird pose in that picture and it was taken at an angle.

There's a girl from school who lives a block away from Alex (in Notting Hill!!) who is moving back to the States on the 12th. I went to view her studio room last night and...I fell in love. The problem is, it's £50-£100 more per month than the somewhat arbitrary maximum rent I had set for myself. But I really don't know what I can and can't afford. I have the money now. I have no idea how much money I'll have in the future. It's definitely cheaper than I've been paying this past year. It's a wonderful room on the fourth or fifth floor (lots of stairs=good exercise!) with an adorable, very London-y view and all bills are included in the rent (except internet). It's fully furnished and in a location I want (close to Alex and Carina). I'm going to keep looking for cheaper places, but even looking is such a hassle. Then you have to call people, sift through all the ads which are posted by letting agents (who charge you to find you a room, usually not the one you wanted in the first place), and arrange for viewings. And there's the whole flatsharing issue again. Do I want to live with a bunch of strangers? And most of the ads that are posted now are available now, not in two and half weeks when I'm moving out of my current place.

Ugh, I don't know. I'll keep looking. It's good to have options.

The same girl used to work for the store Alex and I are applying to, so she lent us clothes from the store for the interview next week! She's so nice! It might be a bit of a problem if I get hired there. I don't have an appropriate wardrobe for working there, so I'd have to buy a bunch of new clothes, which is kind of dumb. Spending a bunch of money to get a job in order to earn money? Oh well, at least I'll look gorgeous!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wasting away

I seem to have misplaced quite a bit of weight. Has anyone seen it? I'd like at least some of it back. My favorite jeans of ALL TIME are now too big. I can take them off without unbuttoning or unzipping them. Scary!

But seriously, how did I lose weight? I certainly wasn't trying. I ate massive amounts in Africa. It's probably worms. There was an extremely suspicious piece of watermelon that I ate at Murchison Falls. Add the fact that I've been feeling lightheaded for a couple days and I'm convinced worms are the culprits (I don't actually know a thing about the symptoms of worms because I REFUSED to study the helminth lectures during revision for finals). Or perhaps I'm just dying. On the plus side, I look fantastic! My butt is positively miniscule.

I drew a new picture last night which I want to scan (school scanner=why I'm paying the big bucks to go here), but Kate is using the computer with the scanner. I'd feel bad asking her to interrupt processing all her data and creating complex graphs so I can scan a silly picture. It'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Oh my goodness, it feels soooooooooo good to be back in London! I've been on cloud nine for the past two days. Even the stress/annoyance of having to work on my research project write-up isn't getting me down. Oh, and I got my final exam grades: I did decently well! I was confident that I had passed, but I was worried that I might have received the lowest passing grade (a 2). But I got the equivalent of a B or B- (hard to say because this school uses a weird system).

I met up with Holly and Alex a couple hours after arriving and it was so wonderful to see them. I walked to Carluccio's from school to meet them, and I couldn't help smiling as I walked. I never smile while walking! Ever! (People might think I'm a crazy person, and I wouldn't want that.) I really really love these girls. Alex managed to get scabies while in Africa (HAHAHAHAHA!) and when I touched her arm, a scab came off. It makes me laugh to think about it. So funny and disgusting, I love it.

The room that I got at the residence hall is so much better than my old room! I mean, the room itself is more or less exactly the same, but it's on the 1st floor (the 2nd floor in America) and it gets much more light than my old room. Not that my old room was dark, but it was on the ground floor and the other buildings in the courtyard I looked out onto were much closer than in my new room. I can leave my window opened or leave my computer in view of the window without worrying about anyone breaking in (not that break-ins are common, just that I'm paranoid). And the bathroom tiles are prettier in this room. My last one had horrible floor tiles that always looked filthy no matter how hard you scrubbed them. Holly and I washed them with bleach and they still looked filthy. The one draw-back is that there is no full-length mirror in this room. This becomes a real issue in a country where you can't use hair dryers in the bathroom. Did you know that about England? You will never find an English person using a hair dryer or straighteners in their bathroom. It's unheard of. They don't believe in having outlets in bathrooms, except low voltage ones for electric razors. Silly English people.

Carina arrived today and she and Alex and I had lunch together (burritos from Benito's Hat, mmmmm.) It's good to have the old gang back together. I feel like it's been ages, but it really hasn't been that long. Well, I guess it has. I haven't been apart from these guys for more than three weeks since the day I met them.

Now to get back to the project. My supervisor said I need to change the names of the villages my data is based on, but I don't know how to do that. Alex gave me a couple cute Swahili names, but I feel like I should use the local language, which I don't speak. In Swahili, they name towns after the people who live in them, like "the people who like giraffes" or "the people who fish." If I knew how to construct names like that in Luganda, that would be cool, but I don't. Poo.

Here are pictures of Murchison Falls National Park. I'm quite proud of a couple of them, like these ones:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

African skirts!

Ooh, I'm excited! I'm getting skirts made in African prints! Woohoo!

I've been kicking myself for not buying material and commissioning something and now it's too late because I'm leaving TODAY! Roya bought material a couple weeks ago (while I was bored to death at the wedding) and a workmate put her in touch with a tailor. Today, all her skirts and tops arrived and I was super jealous! Roya goes to my school and is staying in Uganda until Sunday, so she said she'd have the tailor make me a skirt. I went to the local market at lunch and found some material, and Roya and I just did measurements, so hopefully it won't turn out too big or too tight! Roya bought more material, too, and since we both have more than we need, we're gonna get skirts made in each other's material. And Roya is going to pay for mine since I'm selling her my extra Malarone tablets, which cost a pretty penny. (When I bought them, I thought I was staying here for 8 weeks, so they gave me 9 weeks of pills. But I'm only here for 7 weeks, so I only need 8 weeks worth of pills. Roya, on the other hand, was planning to leave a week ago but had to extend her stay, so she doesn't have enough pills).

Anyhoo, I'm super excited! I hope the skirts turn out well. I'm getting one longish one (to just below my knee) and one short one. When I wrap the material around my waist, they both look really good with my leggings. Can't wait to see the finished product!

Also, have I mentioned that I CAN NOT WAIT TO GET BACK TO LONDON???? I've been fantasizing about being back there for days now. I'm really excited to see all my wonderful, wonderful friends again! Yay! Also, there's a wallet that I really want to buy from Fossil in Covent Garden to replace my Fossil wallet that got stolen (I miss you, Green Wallet with an Embroidered Pineapple. You know I was never going to replace you until the day you disintegrated in my hands...or got stolen by some crummy jerk who will never appreciate you the way I did.)

P.S. Murchison Falls was AMAZING!!! Well worth the $310 that I borrowed from Bryony. I will post pictures when I get back to London and have open access to the internet. But here's a preview:


Friday, August 14, 2009

How old are you now?

The Ugandans sing a second verse to the Happy Birthday song, which goes:

How old are you now?
How old are you now?
How old are you now-wow?
How old are you now?

Where they picked this up from and WHY are mysteries to me.

Murchison is tomorrow, and apparently, we won't be able to get from here to Kampala in the morning in time to catch the tour bus, so we have to go to Kampala tonight and spend the night there. Ugh. I'd so rather sleep in my nice, big, comfy, mosquito-net protected bed here than some shabby backpackers hostel dorm in the loud, busy, polluted capital city. Oh well. I have been spoiled here.

I mean, he's a nice guy, but he's kinda annoying.

Inspired by the "Paint" colors, which all seemed to be named after fruits (hence the eggplant below.)

I've been going through crafting withdrawals for the past few days. I keep looking at various different crafting websites. I can't wait to get back to London and start creating things. I might even start buying Marie Claire Idees, even though it costs an arm and a leg. Maybe it's cheaper in England cuz it doesn't have to travel as far.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You think you're so different from all them other berries?

I've been very productive today, as you can see. In addition to creating this masterpiece, I also printed up some maps. All in a day's work, folks. All in a day's work.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ugandan wedding

Today at lunch, when I asked for chicken, I was given something that did not fit in with my Western notion of chicken. It was the shape of a pelvic bone, but was meat, not bone. My Tanzanian housemate informed that it was a sort of vestigial stomach, used for collecting the sand that chickens swallow as they peck the ground for food. Of course, it is the most prized part of the chicken and is traditionally reserved for the head of household, which meant I had to eat it. I tried to be adventurous, but my overactive imagination wouldn't let me eat it without feeling a bit queasy. Really, it was like a mix between sausage and chicken. Psychologically, it should have bothered me far less than sausage or hotdogs should, but the brain isn't always logical, is it? In the end, I ate about half.

I went to a wedding on Saturday. I had been warned that they were dull, but had no idea just how much sitting and waiting there would be. We sat in the church and they played the wedding march and the bride and groom and wedding party all came out from the front of the church and stood on the stage for a few minutes, then left. At this time, we all played a sort of Chinese fire drill wherein some of the congregation left, others came flooding in, and the rest of us moved seats. It wasn't until several minutes later that I realized we had been watching the tail end of a different wedding. Whoops!

The service was pretty standard, though in Luganda, and the many many photographers are allowed to stand wherever they want to take pictures, so the bride and groom constantly had at least four cameras in their faces, while other cameramen blinded the audience with high-powered lights as they videotaped us sitting and watching. I would not want to be the one to sit through reshowings of those videos.

The service ended around 1pm, and we stood around for a while in the church garden, waiting for Bryony's coworker to organize unknown stuff. Then we headed to the reception hall where we sat and waited (while cheesy romantic and religious country western songs played)...for four hours. Roya was in the city as well, shopping for African prints and other things, and if we'd known we were going to be doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for FOUR FRIGGIN' HOURS, we would have joined her. The bride and groom didn't show up until after 5pm, and then we sat through hours of speeches in Luganda. This is life in Africa: you wait. Wait for sun, wait for rain, wait for the meeting to start, wait for your ship to come in. There was a gift line, in which everyone lines up to present their gifts to the bride and groom. There were over 800 guests at the wedding. You do the math. Anyway, when Bryony and I (the only white people there) got up to the front of the line, the emcee, who had until then been speaking Luganda, stopped me and started quizzing me in English. "Where are you from? Oh, Seattle, WA? My wife lives there. What brings you to Uganda? Research? So you are doing research on married people?" In front of 800 guests. Apparently, he then went on to talk about us for a while in Luganda, though we were totally oblivious.

It did not get more interesting from there. We left before the dancing commenced, as it was late and we had to get back to Entebbe. I feel that it was a cultural experience and I'm glad I experienced it, but through the whole thing I would have given the world to be back in the house watching movies on my laptop. Whatever. You can't say I didn't try.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Source of the Nile

The one and only source of the Nile River

The Nile (well, not quite, but it will be someday)

You think I passed that sign? Heck yes, I did!

Candle jar

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Uganda Part III

Gecko friends

My bed, tidy as usual (with mosquito net pulled back)

Meenkeys at work

Not blocked after all?

Hm, this is odd. Blogger is not being blocked. Facebook is being blocked, Picasa is being blocked, but not Blogger. Maybe it never was blocked and I just assumed it was because the network wouldn't let me access other blogs.

Anyhoo, things are going well here. After five weeks, I'm finally starting to settle in. I really didn't think I'd suffer so much culture shock here. I thought I'd been well-prepared for what Africa would be like. I never realized how attached to comfort I am. Not that I'm uncomfortable. The house I live in is very comfortable. It's hard to describe. Every time I go somewhere, I scour the landscape for "nice," Western-style houses or restaurants or hotels, and it makes me feel uncomfortable when I don't find them. It's odd, I know. But I've been feeling really homesick for both Seattle and London.

A few weekends ago, we housemates went to Jinja, home to the source of the Nile River. It was nice in Jinja, but being there made me appreciate Entebbe more. I couldn't wait to get back. We went to see the source of the Nile, then went to the agricultural festival being held that weekend. It was like an Africa version of the Puyallup Fair, but we were there at night so there were no animals in sight. It was insanely crowded and, true to Ugandan form, everything looked temporary, haphazard, and dilapidated. We climbed the steps of a particularly rickety, circular structure which turned out to be a motorcycle daredevil show. We stood on the top of a big wooden cone as a 60-year-old Indian man rode a motorcycle around the cone. I was terrified he was going to die, and due to the shakiness of the whole structure, I feared we would go down with him. It was a very terrifying and thrilling 2 minutes of my life, all for the equivalent of 25 cents!

Everyone else went whitewater rafting on the Nile, but I a) was too chicken, and b) wanted to save my money for other things, like touring a national park full of exciting African animals. Instead, I met up with a contact of my step-grandpa's. He is a Ugandan man who started an organization, called African Orphan Education Trust (AOET), building schools for kids who couldn't afford school fees, especially children affected by HIV/AIDS. They also built an orphan village which recruits families to take on 3 or 4 orphans, and in exchange, they get to live in a very nice house. They have also helped supply and train a local hospital with state-of-the-art machinery, helped by Assist International. He showed me one of their schools and an orphan village, and I was impressed with his attention to details, like making sure that the schools were wheelchair accessible and that the preschool had an extra classroom and bathroom for kids with special needs. Sadly, donor funds have been cut back significantly in the current economic environment.

Last weekend, I headed into Kampala to meet up with Aleisha, an acquaintance from home. She has been in Uganda since January and will be here for a full year, teaching science in a non-profit school. She introduced me to her two Ugandan "sisters," and we had fun shopping and visiting her school.

And now I'm down to just under two weeks here. We housemates are going to go to Murchison Falls National Park for my last weekend here. I'm really excited, but I'm nervous because we get back the day before I fly back to London. I'll have about 24 hours back in Entebbe to wrap things up.

I've been hard on myself about the last year, about not seeing as much of the UK as I had planned/wanted. But the other day I was sitting in the sun looking at photos on my iPod, and there was amazing trip after amazing trip. I've been so blessed and I've seen so much, and I've done it all with wonderful people that I adore. Amsterdam, Dublin, Hamburg, Lyon, Toulouse, Paris, Switzerland, Edinburgh, Glasgow. And London London London. So many wonderful memories. I can't wait to get back and see my friends. I miss them to pieces!