Hey everyone, how are you? It’s seventy-two degrees in Kampala, very humid, about to have a wicked thunderstorm, if iGoogle’s weather application is accurate. I am doing okay, relieved to have a computer after all the ones in my section and Features were in use yesterday. Spent the whole day reporting since I didn’t have any space to write. Not a bad thing, except I spent the whole day chasing a source that I was never able to get, this pediatrician I was trying to get an interview with for a children’s health story.
Apartment-hunting is a failure so far . Wish there was a Craig’s list for Kampala, so I wouldn’t have to rely solely on sketchy brokers. But shhh, that’s something I’ve been developing on the side as part of my media venture. The places I’ve found so far have either been overpriced or don’t have toilets inside the house, and I want to get a good place since living in a not-great place for the past 3 months, far away from work, has been exhausting. Having to spend 3 hours a day trying to get to your job (waiting in traffic jam), or not leaving work until 9 pm (avoiding Kampala’s treacherous jam), left me so drained.
This week has been all about the homesickness. There is something about a nasty cold and a severe bacterial infection that makes you wish you were back at your Mom’s studio in Long Island. Worse, Father’s Day was last weekend, and I felt awful about not being able to spend it with my Dad. My parents are basically the greatest people on Earth. The kindest, most selfless, most loving individuals. Creative, intellectual, compassionate, you name it. I miss them so much. I never used to be like this when I was back in NY, I was never the kid to come running home on the weekends during college or grad school, but being a reporter in Kampala has been so challenging that I find myself missing my family horribly.
What’s new in Uganda…
-Museveni gave a State of the Union address about a week and a half ago. Uganda’s economy is growing at a robust 7%, lower than expected because of the global recession, but much better than other anemic economies around the world. Who benefits from the 7% is a complicated story, but it’s great than Uganda has been somewhat insulated from the economic crisis. The president declared war on corruption, causing some tittering among parliamentarians, as well as inspiring arguments between the current regime and opposition parties over who is more corrupt… you already know my thoughts about corruption in Uganda (such a complex and frustrating issue)… it’s similar to how I feel about corruption everywhere, but the root causes vary from country to country. In Uganda, it’s rooted in the country’s relatively young political and economic institutions, colonial history, weak economy, and to be more specific, terrible pay of police officers (think $60 USD a month after taxes) and health workers.
-Political parties have begun planning for the 2011 elections. I feel ambivalent about politics in Uganda, largely because it’s so disappointing. When I first came to Uganda, I was so frustrated and unhappy with the president, but after being here for awhile, I don’t feel impressed in any way with the opposition parties either. Still frustrated and unhappy with the president, but the opposition parties have not really captured my confidence either. Part of me feels that if they took power, they would be just as eager to “eat” as the current power.
-People are still talking about the ’09-’010 budget that was released this month. No new taxes, a boost to the agricultural sector and public school sanitation (badly needed, especially for teen girls who often have to stay home during menstruation because their schools lack basic latrines, or ‘outhouses’), a seemingly unrealistic ban on used computers and plastic bags. The Independent did an interesting analysis of Museveni’s ‘election-year budget.’ Props to Uganda’s first female finance minister by the way, who launched the budget this year.
-Jeff Jarvis clued me into this last year during a class on entrepeneurial journalism where I developed the media venture I’ve been working on in Kampala, in addition to writing: mobile money, or using your cell phone as a bank. This has really been taking off, which I am excited about. In a country where many people can’t afford basic bank charges or have never had a checking account, people are using text messages to safely send money to relatives in different parts of the country.
I am going to northern Uganda tomorrow (yay), to Lira. This is the itinerary for Thursday and Friday, I can’t wait…