Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 bookshelf

a great little used bookshop in Melville, a neighborhood in Jo'burg, RSA

I'm starting a new side bar list for 2010 reading, so here's a comprehensive list of the books I read (mostly devoured) in 2009. The books are in the order I read them (backwards) - the most recent book first, all the way to the beginning of 2009.

As I was going through the list to hyperlink the titles, I realized that I felt emotion and memory for each entry on the list - I could actually imagine how I felt and where I was when I read the bulk of the book. My most productive reading place this year was my friend Katie's place in Beaver Creek, Colorado, where I hid out for a couple of weeks in the snow - maybe it was the giant bath tub or the fireplace - I read A LOT. Otherwise, my favorite place to read is on a couch, with one leg thrown up over the back of the couch. I do a lot of that at Danny's house - usually around 3:30 pm when my mood inevitably crashes.

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder - from the author that wrote Mountains Beyond Mountains - this book is about a Burundian man who makes his way to NYC during the war in Burundi (after a horrific journey through ravaged Burundi and Rwanda), ends up at Columbia, and returns to Burundi to build a clinic - which has become Village Health Works. Incredible and inspiring read.
Location: the couch in Danny's living room, recovering from a cold picked up in the Ohio winter

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - read this first and then watched on my flight back to the US. Eric Bana continues to be one of the most beautiful men on earth. And it was a great book.
Location: KLM flight across the Atlantic on my way home for Christmas

Half the Sky by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn - excellent and inspiring book about the plight of women around the world. Incredible - everyone working on women's issues should read this to feel refreshed. I sent it as a Christmas gift to my wholesale distributor - Stacey Edgar, of Global Girlfriend.
Location: Danny's couch

Buddhism Without Beliefs
by Stephen Batchelor
Location: in bed, all over throughout the year

The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman - hungover and in my underwear, this seemed perfect for a Sunday afternoon - a bit outdated today, but Friedman's crystal clear explanations for globalization and globalution are addicting. I'm loving the education on stocks, bonds and the electronic herd.
Location: poolside

Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss - my mountain-climbing companion Kapner left this with me and I reluctantly picked it up - it was beautiful. A man loses the last 24 years of his memory - a haunting look at memory, love, forgetting...
Location: Mihingo Lodge at Lake Mburo

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali - fantastic first choice for the Kampalan Ladies #1 Book Club. An honest look at what it's like being a woman in the Muslim world. Unbelievably brave book. Read most of it with malaria.
Location: on my malarial sick bed

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin - a No. 1 Ladies Detective knock-off, this novel was a welcome respite from anything serious - quick and quaint tale of daily life of a Tanzanian cake-baker in Rwanda.
Location: night time by lantern in Gulu

The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman - I loved this book, even with it's ridiculous length and redundancy. I was really late on the bandwagon, but now I know so much more about Bangalore, the internet, China...fascinating. Read this in Zanzibar, of all places. I really know how to pick em.
Location: Z Hotel, Zanzibar, recovering from climbing Kilimanjaro

Surrender or Starve
by Robert Kaplan - picked this up off the bookshelf in my house for the Kilimanjaro trip - about the politics of famine in the Horn of Africa in the 1980s. Turns out it was Jackfruity's old copy, which made me think of her Bissell vs. Kaplan posts back in the day.
Location: slopes of Kilimanjaro

Cheap by Ellen Ruppel - excellent book about the high costs of discount culture in the West - pretty relevant to my current existence.
Location: my apartment - a rare place to hang out

Body Surfing
by Anita Shreve - and thank you, Anita, for depressing the shit out of me. I got hooked on Shreve back when I was an even more emotional high school student. I hope it says something positive that I can no longer stomach the drama.
Location: poolside at Danny's house

Life of Pi by Yann Martel - really enjoyed this, but was thoroughly confused by the island that eats you.
Location: at my parent's cottage on Johnson's Island - laying on the couch on the patio, but somehow conjures memories of rhubarb at the Marblehead farmers market

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - re-read this on a Wednesday afternoon. Means more to me every time I pick it up, and I'm feeling very at one with the soul of the universe...just about to turn myself into the wind.
Location: Danny's couch

A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan - how the writer built his own "place" - a little shack in which he writes, read, and thinks. A heavenly piece of literature.
Location: in bed at my apartment

The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton - checking in with Socrates, Seneca, etc. to feel better about the random annoyances of daily life.
Location: on the little couch in the Cronin guest house

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse - I picked this up in South Africa at a little used book shop.
Location: on the little couch in the Cronin guest house

The Native Commissioner by Shaun Johnson - picked this up at the Apartheid Museum in Jo'burg, and wow. Tells the story of a white South African man working under the Apartheid regime and trying to detach from his horrific work - resulting in depression and, ultimately, suicide.
Location: on the couch at Mosetlha Bush Camp in South Africa - while Hitesh was snapping away taking photos

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan - as beautiful and depressing as Atonement. McEwan seems to be a bit obsessed with how small decisions totally change our lives.
Location: in Melville/Jo'burb, at the Ginnegaap Guest House

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Location: On the porch of Virunga Lodge, Rwanda, with that looming volcano in the distance

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (not finished, gave it to Julie) - an exploration of sweetness [apple], beauty [tulip], intoxication [marijuana] and control [potato] - so nerdy it hurts (and I'm actually reading it - the apple part was all johnny appleseed...)
Location: Rwanda

Creating a World Without Poverty by Muhammed Yunus - treatise on "social business" and lots and lots of talk about the various Grameen businesses.
Location: on the couch at the Cronin's gu
est house

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - excellent book, scary parallel reference to red satin pajamas.
Location: New York and DC, before heading to Uganda

On Love by Alain de Botton - read this for the second time, with fresh eyes.
Location: Los Angeles, during downtime at the LA Gift Show

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn - "talking" gorilla unveils the dangerous story we as humans have been selling ourselves - the bogus idea that the world belongs to man. Man belongs to the world.
Location: Katie's place in Beaver Creek, Colorado

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell - Why didn't the Getty realize that the kouros was a fake? "...mostly it's because the Getty desperately wanted the statue to be real."
Location: Katie's place in Beaver Creek, Colorado (most of it read at a little gelato shop while Katie was skiing)

In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan - I heart MP and the pages 147-201 of this book. In short, the cover says it all: "Eat Food. Not too much of it. Mostly plants." Thank you, MP, for your continuing common sensical brilliance.
Location: Katie's place in Beaver Creek, Colorado - mostly read in bed

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith
Location: Katie's place in Beaver Creek, Colorado

The Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell - LOVED this book and trying to figure out how to tip One Mango Tree
Location: Katie's place in Beaver Creek, Colorado

Untethered Soul by Michael Singer - eliminating the annoying chatter in your head, letting go of your stuff, tao - excellent and simple advice for a better way of living
Location: Started in the Bahamas, on the beach at the Sivananda Ashram, finished in Beaver Creek, Colorado

The Other by Ryzcard Kapuscinski - a collection of lectures on the concept of "the other" as told through Kapuscinski's journeys. Always thrilled for "new" stuff from Kapuscinski, and this one is pretty bold and thought-provoking - an honest look at being a white westerner working in a non-white, non-western context.
Location: Katie's place in Beaver Creek, Colorado

Friday, December 18, 2009

yawning chasms of change

For weeks prior to leaving for my two-week US Christmas vacation, I was waxing poetic about snow, Starbucks coffee, and shopping malls. The months since my last visit were enough to wash away any cynicism I'd had about Midwestern American life. Plus, it's Christmas. It's home.

Since I got home, I've been in a bit of a fuzzy and emotion-less observation mode. After a whirlwind 24-hour DC visit and trunk shows at a fair trade shop in Cleveland, the snowy white fairy dust settled out.

I forgot that winter in Cleveland means this:
It gets sort of light outside, the sky stays gray and ominous and from 8 am to 6 pm it looks like it's 6 pm. Perpetually on the cusp of dusk.

And Christmas:
Even in a dying county facing brutal job loss, the Strongsville Mall is packed to the gills. In this little suburb of just over 40,000 people, the roads are brimming with cars and the all paths seem to point to the mall. Nothing seems to have changed.

Except, it seems, for me. Everything seems a bit shellacked. Even the Starbucks Grande Mocha that was my lifeblood for so long looks bigger and architecturally weird (was there ALWAYS that much whipped cream on my coffee??). Driving my mom's Matrix feels like a kid's toy after the rumble and roar of my diesel Pajero. Driving is too easy. The country of origin labels on every piece of clothing seem larger than life. In my first 24 hours back home, I managed to have a quick spree at Victoria's Secret (helloooo people - they figured out how to increase your bust by TWO cup sizes!) and GAP (a perennial addiction that's harder to break than Starbucks). But since then I've been a bit shell-shocked.

Much of this is superficial. I doubt I would have had the same reaction had I spent two weeks in DC. But the chasm between the life I live in Uganda, and the life I knew in Cleveland - the life I left more than ten years ago - is gaping. So I imagine it's a bit like visiting the Grand Canyon. Looking down and wondering at the majestic fissure - wondering how it got there. What it means.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

dreams of sewing machines - taking stock

I'm back at Schiphol Airport again. This time I found the Starbucks, in Lounge 1. I had to go through customs to acquire this grande mocha.

It really hasn't been that long since I was last here - it was summer then, on my quick layover back to Entebbe. One thing is certain - I always feel very far away when I'm here. It's cold and dark. It's almost 8 am and the sky is still inky black.

So, in my usual habit of reflection at Schiphol, here's the list.

  1. I climbed Kilimanjaro.
  2. I made a second visit to Zanzibar and got a henna tattoo on my butt.
  3. I survived malaria.
After surviving malaria, I succumbed to workaholic syndrome - putting aside everything else in my life to focus 110% of my energy on One Mango Tree.

dreams of sewing machines...

Personal merged with professional, and my emotions suddenly linked up with the ebb and flow of doing business in Africa. In short, over the past few months I thought I was losing it. Coming out on this end, surrounded by the sterile organization of Schiphol, I can now say that I've "learned lessons" and "overcome challenges." Starting a business in Uganda is no easy task - trying to make it sustainable is even more difficult.

  1. moved into our new workshop
  2. hired a cook/cleaning woman, compound manager and armed guard service - fired compound manager for pimping and hired a new compound manager, suspended new compound manager for stealing airtime... and so it goes
  3. started up the One Mango Tree Guest House, and quickly discovered that being a landlord is a full-time job in and of itself
  4. hosted Stacey Edgar, founder of Global Girlfriend, who visited our new workshop and gave me a schooling in all the things I didn't know - she more or less lit my ass on fire
  5. worked with Hilary Dell, our first design intern, to design 5 pieces of apparel for Global Girlfriend - a cami, scoop neck tee, tee dress, cardigan and wrap dress - production on 7,500 pcs. starts in December
  6. started working with Gihan da Silva - a Sri Lankan living in Uganda who knows everything - about apparel production, textiles, used cars, rally car racing, government bureaucracy, how to talk to Acholi women to make sure they show up for work, etc. He is my saving grace and my best friend in Uganda, and he's now working with One Mango Tree
  7. found a Ugandan lawyer and went through the annoying process of registering as a national NGO in Uganda, which took months and cost $1,000 and about a dozen trips to the lawyer's office, only for him to send me home to collect additional documents. Our complete certificate sat on the NGO Board Director's desk for weeks just waiting for her to show up and sign it, but it is now complete
  8. went through a similar lengthy process to acquire a TIN number (like the EIN in the US)
  9. faced slightly less run around and acquired an export certificate
  10. build a relationship with a mostly reliable shipper, dropping our costs from over $12/kg to about $4/kg (thanks Gihan)
  11. learned how to fill out oodles of customs paperwork - commercial invoice, packing lists, GSP Form A, and continued my education on AGOA policy (handbags don't qualify), Category 9 exemption and HTS codes
  12. learned how to procure packing materials - carton boxes, poly bags, sticker labels - the things you don't really think about until you get an order for 4,600 pieces
  13. completed a 4,600 pc. order for Global Girlfriend - definitely our biggest accomplishment this year - through this production we brought all of our tailors up in their skill levels and perfected quality control. The change this created in our capacity was incredible, and we had to bring on three new tailors to get it done - the end result was 133 cartons of One Mango Tree products shipped to Seattle
  14. received a grant from International Organization for Migration (IOM) to take on referrals from their partners (ex-combatants, vulnerable women) for training and employment, training program starts this month, wrote a case study for their Labor Market Analysis
  15. found a textile designer and worked with volunteers Anna and Zach Thompson to design four of our own fabrics for 2010 - all organic and absolutely beautiful - allowing us to cut ties with the Chinese wax print knock-off market we relied on in the past
  16. signed off wholesale distribution in North America to Global Girlfriend
  17. brought on Alison Farley to be our independent sales rep through Global Girlfriend
  18. received another order for 3,000 pcs from Global Girlfriend
  19. made our first projections and income statement
  20. somehow squeezed in production for Christmas and gave the website a face lift, with help from new intern Amy Karr on photography and editing
  21. since June, our staff went from 6 to 25
And finally, at 8:20 am, the darkness is lifting outside. Welcome North.

Monday, December 07, 2009

beautiful one mango tree video

Our friends at International Organization for Migration (IOM), with whom we partner on community reintegration, put together this gorgeous video of our tailors working in our new workshop. Check it out and pass it around!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

the badge of honour

In the early days, I was religious about Malarone. I filled my prescriptions before trips, and popped each pill feeling pretty good about the fact that I was being so responsible. That was until a) my health insurance coverage ended, and b) I actually moved to Uganda. It seems that no one who actually lives here long-term really takes the stuff. When I got here in February, I started myself on Mefloquine. After weeks of waking up bathed in sweat and immersed in fear from my freakish dreams, I called it quits. I'd started having nightmares that were turning happy memories into scary, non-sensical, apocalyptic scenes. I figured malaria would be better than that.

So, it's no wonder that eventually, my time would run out, as it did earlier this month. I was as busy as ever, looking forward to a packed week of One Mango Tree tasks, when I woke up Monday morning with the vague feeling that something was off. Very off. You know it's pretty far off when I wind up at The Surgery. The faint pink line showed I was prego with parasites, so the doc loaded me up with killer medicines and sent me home to misery.

What's malaria like? cold I must wrap myself in lots of blankets...then so hot I can't stop drinking water and feel delirious (104 degrees hot), then bathing in sweat. 20 mins of feeling exhausted and sort of okay, and then all over again. Then hips aching and aching - then lower back, then add in a pounding headache. 3 liters of water every day - my skin never looked or felt better, but those little parasites kicked my ass for the better part of a full week.

People kept joking that I was earning the African badge of honour, and I promptly replied that the badge was stupid. In hindsight, I realize I now share one more thing with Kapuscinski, and am happy to brag that I, for one gross week in early October, was his sister in African illness suffering.

Monday, September 28, 2009

thanks katie

that fierce embrace

It doesn't interest me if there is one God
Or many gods
I want to know if you belong - or feel abandoned;
If you know despair
Or can see it in others.
I want to know
If you are prepared to live in the world
With its harsh need to change you;
If you can look back with firm eyes
Saying "this is where I stand."
I want to know if you know how to melt
Into that fierce heat of living
Falling toward the center of your longing.
I want to know if you are willing
To live day by day
With the consequence of love
And the bitter unwanted passion
Of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

~David Whyte

Monday, September 14, 2009

zanzibar return

When you can't walk, you lay on the beach, or next to the pool. After finishing the Kili climb, Dan and I headed to Zanzibar. We further tortured ourselves by stumbling around for a day photographing Stone Town (which really does beg to be photographed) and then heading up to Nungwi for the beaches and the stylish W-ness of the Z Hotel.

on the streets of stone town

feeling a little better on the infinity pool edge at Z

another zbar starfish photo

storms rolling in and out like the tides

Sunday, September 13, 2009

day #6: a long way down

descending views

Ever since I slipped and fell down the escalator that slushy February day at the Ballston metro stop years ago, I've been a mess going down hills. Physically, downhill hikes have always been traumatic - I remember how much my knees killed me coming down from the lemon and olive groves of Cinque Terre years ago. Climbing Old Rag in VA - the downhill fire road made me crazy. The Ballston incident made it mental - in my mind I'm always slipping, falling and dying. Coming off Kili was infinitely harder than going up it - for one big stupid reason - I stubbed my toe over and over again and couldn't stop beating myself up for it.

Each time I could hear my mom "rub it rub it rub it" in my ear - like back when it was the coffee table or the sofa. This time I kicked a huge rock somewhere below Horombo in the moorland. I must have been looking at the clouds. I knew immediately that my left big toe nail was done for. And then I proceeded to do it 4 more times. Poor Dan tried to console me; I was inconsolable. It was more anger than pain by the time we made it back.

We finally crossed through the triangular gate back into reality, and rode back to Moshi to our hotel. I tried to walk up the stairs. I've never been so immobile in my life. I could barely lift my feet. The way up the mountain I felt [mostly] like an athlete. The way down I felt like an 85 year old woman. The receptionist at the hotel laughed at me. A lot.

Even as I write, I'm still suffering - now it's my vanity, as I look down at 9 perfectly pedicured purplish-magenta toes and one giant glaring absent toe nail on my left big toe "so gross!" But really I would trade that toe nail over and over again for the feeling of standing on Kilimanjaro - anywhere on Kilimanjaro, breathing oh-so-little oxygen and feeling oh-so-very alive.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

day #5: summit and descent

Months earlier, at Patagucci in Georgetown, I told the sales guy what I'd be doing and the usual temps on the mountain between the hours of 12 am and sunrise (usually about 15 degrees below Celsius). He introduced me to base layers, mid layers, down vests and shells... and I borrowed a pair of ski gloves and went merrily on my way, thankful that each layer can be used separately even in Uganda (rainy season actually brings on some chilly nights here). Several hundred dollars later, I was "well-equipped" for the summit.

We headed off in the darkness, starting the immediate steep ascent up the scree, joining the twinkly zig zag of headlamps in the darkness. My headlamp illuminated the frozen scree on the earth below me. The only sound was that of snot blowing freely from my frozen nose and James and Danforth softly singing "Jambo, jambo bwana." My hands quickly froze, even in the ski gloves with the hand warmers. I started to wonder if I'd be too cold to make it up. We'd only been moving for 2 hours. We stopped; Dan felt drunk and I was so cold. James rubbed my hands and fed me frozen chocolate goji berries. I wiped my boogers on his towel. I couldn't feel my face.

We kept moving and I kept looking up and down the mountain, confusing the headlamps for stars. I felt distended in space, hanging onto this mountain that didn't want me there at all, moving ever so slowly up the scree one slow and pathetic shuffle at a time.

Finally James whipped out his bright yellow Helly Hansen down jacket and insisted that I put it on. I came back to life.

Just as the scree turned to a scramble over boulders, a thin red line appeared on the horizon. The boulders took on an eerie-Mars-like shimmer. We clambered over the top rim. Gilman's Point. We celebrated; our first glimpse of a glacier, the wide sky putting on a show as the horizon changed from a deep red to orange to yellow to blue. Six hours in, we'd made it to the rim - now it was a ridge climb - 2 more hours around the crater to Uhuru, the highest peak.

gilman's point, giant yellow coat saved my life, glacier in the background

I pushed on, reminded of cross country races in high school. Saving it all for the end. In truth, I had very little left to give. When we got to Stella Point the ice fields were in full view. Tears started flowing uncontrollably down my face. My chest heaved. Ice on the roof of Africa. I took my last few steps to Uhuru and looked around. A couple right behind me collapsed in tears and kisses at the bottom of the sign post. I simply sighed, over and over.

the snow on the roof of africa

I sat down, the morning sun burning my cold cheeks; my nose hurting from the altitude and the cold. I looked at the glacier, the clouds, the earth. All I could think of was my brother, and how much I wished he was there to experience this summit with me.

And just then, we turned around and started our descent.

I surfed down the scree, churning up the rocky dust in my wake; eating the dust of those descending before me. Dust, relief and joy filled my eyes, my nose, my mouth. The scree wall that took us 6 hours to ascend - I came back down in 1.5. And then across the saddle again, just as windy, arriving once again at Horombo, where a couple of days before I'd clutched the doorstep and puked up my hope.

I slept, a boiled Kili Sigg of water at my feet, a smile on my face.

Friday, September 11, 2009

day #4: moor. desert. endurance. kibo.

the saddle - on what? satan's horse?

Fact #4: When uncomfortable in an environment, I do everything I can to get out of the situation as fast as possible, particularly if I see an end in site.

Exhibit A) High school cross country meets - I only gave it my all when I could see the finish and then I burned a path to get the race over with ASAP.

Exhibit B) Biking up hills - I love it I love it I love it. Especially at the top.

Exhibit C) Day 4 Kili - the saddle - wind burn, dust, cold, hungry. Get me out of here!

Discomfort makes me the fastest-moving person out there.

Day 4 started out beautifully - a clear morning, a walk through the moorland. Altitude sickness for me had all but vanished. The giant lobelias showing off the mountain's curves, their lively green hats and shaggy old brown sweaters sucking water from the parched earth. We got to the top of Mawenzi Ridge and took in the sweeping views - moorland behind us, alpine desert ahead. I thought it looked so flat and beautiful.

looking back at mawenzi's jagged peaks

...and looking forward towards the alpine desert and the steep slopes of kibo

Immediately upon descending into that valley, I felt like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments - the part where he's wandering around in the rocky wasteland somewhere in Bible world, wondering why he's been cursed to struggle. It certainly was biblical - the scenery, my suffering...

And so I put my nose down and burned a path to Kibo, stopping at the rocks just before the hut to binge on the little bagged lunch in my pack. Sheltering from the wind in front of a rock and hunched over the bones of what was once a piece of fried chicken.

Just the mindset I needed to climb a mountain. We trekked the final bit to Kibo Hut, where we shared a room with about 8 other people. I tucked myself into a top bunk and listened to the wind whistling outside. One of the girls was puking over and over and over; her guide trying to tell her she should still attempt the summit. I turned towards the wall and drifted off, awakened by Peter and dinner. I know we had soup, because we always had soup - but for the life of me I cannot recall anything else.

Midnight loomed. We asked James why we had to summit at midnight. He assured us that if he tried to take us during the day, we'd never make it up the scree wall.

day #3: adjustment

Fact #3: During our climb, I took great pleasure in doing little more than either:

a) hiking for a long time,
b) eating, or
c) spending every other minute tucked into my sleeping bag, resting.

Our guides didn't have to tell me twice to rest. So, on our day to acclimate at Horombo, post-vomit, I ate porridge, I tested my blood oxygen level, and then I rested. I didn't read. I didn't chat. I didn't sleep. I rested.

the horombo dining hall, with mawenzi's teeth bucking over the horizon

The guys roused me in the afternoon post-lunch to go for a hike to acclimate - from our current altitude of 3720m to Mawenzi Ridge just past Zebra Rocks at 4200m. I said okay, wandering through the moonscape amongst the giant lobelias and little piles of rocks that marked the trail, trying to be a good sport, but burping the whole way. Tripping on rocks.

water-colored zebra rocks

We got back and I tooled around Horombo, listening to the Swahili porter chatter, watching the comings and goings of all the local guys that make it possible for us crazy mzungus to climb. Dan and I had a staff of 9 guys - guiding us, carrying our crap, carrying our food, cooking our food.

porter village

We ate another dinner, I slurped my soup and ate lots of toast. Peter cleaned up our table and used the red-and-black cover as a scarf. We thanked him for our meal. He never had a clue what we were saying. Oddly enough, I went to sleep on day 3 and woke up on day 4 completely renewed. A million bucks. Not the last time my body would surprise me.

day #2: vomitus altitudinus

Fact #2: If you have to puke - as in you really cannot avoid it - clinging to the stone stoop in front of your hut on Kilimanjaro and being utterly distracted from your agony by the sheer beauty of the starry sky - that's the best way to do it.

Despite the frigid air, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was in Gulu. I had that all-too-familiar taste in my mouth that usually is brought on by bad water or tainted local food during so many past trips to Northern Uganda. I lay under the eave in my bed at Horombo, feeling really bad for myself and figuring "well, that's it. I tried my best, but the altitude will take my life, so tomorrow I have to go back down. Shucks."


When I woke in the morning to Peter's broken English "water for wash. breakfast red," I'd already assumed my Kili trip was over. I washed my face. Brushed my teeth. Popped some Diamox anyway. Devoured my oats porridge with honey and sugar. My slightly burnt toast with plastic-y orange jam. Still I felt like shit.

Day 2 had been a great day. We'd emerged from Mandaru in the morning feeling strong - Dan with a slight headache and me with the start of blisters - but otherwise in solid form. Not long into the hike we passed from forest into heather, and finally got our first glimpse of her.

the elusive peak reveals herself

We ascended above the clouds. Spaces grew wide open and majestic. Plants got smaller, clinging to the earth. I mistook the happy shining sun for a welcome friend. The radiation intensified and burned my hands and neck. We saw scores of people descending post-summit. Big smiles and trekking poles flying, burning a path down the mountain. Optimistic/Foreboding.

We got to Horombo in the afternoon, and it was still warm in the sun, so I perched myself on a rock outside of our hut, intermittently reading Rebekah Heacock's old copy of Surrender or Starve (really? did I REALLY read about famine and politics in the Horn while climbing Kili?) and watching two buzzards dance high overhead, their wings brushing each other. My mountain mind found it to be romantic.

So I listened to my entire Sigur Ros collection. I inhaled and exhaled with the clouds; expanding, contracting. The sun set. I was awestruck.

As the sun set I reluctantly came down from my rock, brushing the lichen from the seat of my lululemon yoga-turned-mountain pants. Maybe that's the trick with mountain sickness. It purges all that beauty; clears the way for the realist. And so I woke up wretching.

photographic interlude

Some photos from our crater walk on day 1.

impatiens kilimanjarico

some creepy guys dressed up in russian monkey suits or
black and white colobus monkeys

day #1: the quiet caboose

Fact #1: Mount Kilimanjaro shut me up.

From the second we stepped through that magical triangular gate into the green, the words stopping coming. Dan, on the other hand, found that the mountain gave him plenty more subtext for witty banter. As he and James (chatty guide #1) marched ahead lying to each other about all their girlfriends, Danford (stoic guide #2) and I hung back, silent. The quiet caboose.

I have 100 girlfriends! No, my belly is bigger!

Everything, everywhere: green. Moss, lichen, vines, leaves, trunks. In the absence of sound you could hear the chlorophyll pumping. Pole pole slowed my feet, but it slowed my brain too. All I could register was the throbbing green, my thumping heart, and my chilled skin. And blue monkeys.

who, me?

We stopped to eat the packed lunches we were carrying in our packs. Already starved from the 1.5 hours of fresh air and movement, I did a quick inventory:

2 Marie glucose biscuits
1 very fried piece of chicken
1 sandwich with white bread and something like tuna
1 triangular-shaped carton of pineapple juice
1 nugget of cake
1 teeny tiny itsy bitsy banana
1 hard-boiled egg - anemic white yolk

The moss thickened around the tree trunks and hung from the branches overhead, and we kept marching up, boots slipping on damp rocks until we arrived at Mandaru Huts. Dismal, gray, cold. Just like the two Slovak dudes in snow pants with a satphone who refused to share a hut with us. Jerks.

We drank a metal cup of Milo and hot [powdered] milk and set off for a quick walk with James up to the crater. We stopped for a full ten minutes, slack-jawed at our first view of Mawenzi, flanked by grasses, Kili's peak shrouded in clouds over it's right shoulder.

on our walk to the crater

On a passing recommendation from some South Africans we ran into in Moshi, we asked Peter to fill up our aluminium flasks with hot water to put in the bottom of our sleeping bags. I thought we would spend the night sleeping on a mat in a tent, so a nice little A-frame hut with a hot water bottle at my toes after a day of really slow walking in a pretty forest. Piece of cake!

how kili came to be.

mawenzi ridge at dawn

Last December, as I was saying goodbye to DC, I spent an evening hanging out with my friend Dan. He played Jose Gonzalez on his Martin and we talked about respective futures - mine filled with Africa, his filled with international arbitration. We were equally excited about our diverging paths, and as I ducked out into a mist-filled dusk, I said good night with "Kili 2010!"

Nine months later, thanks to the economic downturn and my tendency to say "sure, why not?," Dan was scheduling a nice long holiday and suggested we take the Kili trip early. "Sure, why not?" I didn't have anything else solid on the calendar in September.

As the summer passed, August 28 came at me like a slow motion, un-dodge-able bullet. With my name on it. I rushed to get everything in line with One Mango Tree so that I could piss off on yet another holiday (one which I was quite sure I did not really deserve). To climb a mountain, at that. I went to yoga a few days before climbing - that constituted my training.

With the summit now in the rear view mirror and attention turning to riots in Kampala and the annoying pain in my left toe nail that reminds me it's going to fall off, it's somehow hard to believe I was ever on those beautiful slopes. So I figured I'd write about it, before the details become even more fleeting.

Monday, August 24, 2009

jaia ganesha

hindu temple, kampala

A day after getting back to Uganda, I went downtown to the fabric market with Sejal. During our downtown trip, Sejal spotted the birthday-cake spires of the Hindu temple, and begged for a visit. Sejal's own religion is Jainism, but she was eager to check out the temple, making comparisons with her Jain temple at home in Fort Lauderdale. I'd always been curious, my brush with Hinduism rooted in my yoga practice - and mostly in music and the strange connection I've felt with Ganesh since Justin brought back a little statue from his trip to Bali last year.

We slipped off our shoes and walked around the temple, admiring the ornate carvings and statues inside, and the lingering scent of incense. I asked about a shop (surprise, surprise), seeking a bigger Ganesh statue to add to my apartment. The priest directed us across the street to a building that faces Nakasero Market - the doors were shut tight, but there was a banner proclaiming "Hindu Religious Items."

In the weeks since that first trip, I swung by every time I emerged from the fabric market (during my daily vendor payment trips), and the doors were always shut - until last week, when I saw them flung open with all sorts of crazy Indian stuff pouring out. I ran up the steps, breathless, and came back cradling a big white Ganesh statue, with a lotus unfurling behind his head, and a very lopsided face (thanks to a poorly made plaster cast). The priest begged me to let him paint it, but one glance at the garish green and orange versions on the shelf behind him and I tucked a wad of shillings into his hands, thanked him profusely, and said I preferred the dusty white version.

Lucky for me, I brought Ganesh home just in time for Ganesh Utsav - the 11-day festival celebrating the deity's birth - it began yesterday. The priest offered to come to my house every day for pooja...but again I politely declined. I'm nowhere near a real Hindu anyway. I'm not even sure why the little Ganesh from Bali needed a big, pale twin... but yesterday, at the start of the festival, I lit some Nag Champa and put a bowl of flowers out in his honor. He's the Hindu God of Wisdom, after all, and who can't use a little more of that?

16 again

my new ride - the pajero - at the OMT compound in Gulu

"I'll drive! I'll drive!"
"You want me to come pick you up?"

After selling the Focus and committing to bike commuting last August, I never dreamed I'd own another vehicle, let alone fall in love with driving... a {gasp} diesel SUV. Sorry Earth, but I wouldn't do much good if I ended up another victim of the boda boda fate.

In June I bought a Pajero from my roommate's friend, assuming I could trust in a mzungu's car care enough. I was so busy before leaving that I didn't bother to have a mechanic check it out. I came back from my US holiday in July and a day later hopped in my new Pajero to drive up to Gulu - and shredded a tire on the way which point I quickly realized that all four tires needed to be replaced. A few weeks and thousands of additional dollars in repairs later, I have a pretty reliable, rugged, diesel SUV that gets me everywhere I need to go.

And as for the driving-on-the-left (cake), traffic jams (not so bad), and obstacles (goat! chicken! woman with bananas on her head! man with a bicycle! twenty boda bodas riding my bumper! pothole!)... it's nothing. I learned by osmosis from all the other crazy drivers in this town. I hopped in the car and immediately became a part of the "flow" - if you can call it that.

The only time you find me on a boda boda these days is to go downtown to Nakivubo Mews to buy fabric/sponge/etc. It's too insane to get out of there - in one jaunt with Medi I ended up stuck on a street full of matatus for 1.5 hours. That's the point on the curve where risking your life on a boda boda actually sounds better than wasting another minute sucking matatu fumes and wondering if you'll ever get home.

All longish-term people in Uganda - I URGE you to get a vehicle. Just have a mechanic look at it before you buy it!

rainy season: my work

I've said it before - living and working in Uganda sometimes feels a bit bipolar. A self-fulfilling prophecy, the bipolarity reached extreme magnitudes this month.

Crest. Trough. Crest. Trough.

the pink palace - right before move-in

Perhaps the biggest crest of all was the opening of the new One Mango Tree workshop in Gulu. In one swoop we closed Unyama and Bobi locations and brought all the women together under one roof - Plot 9 Obiia Road, Gulu. The pink palace. One Mango Tree has an address, and it has a giant mango tree right outside the front gate. A compound manager, a guard, a cook, a guest house. All under the [invaluable] direction of Josh Engel and Hilary Dell - the One Mango Tree summer interns. With that huge move came big changes, and change is not always easy here. The personal and professional relationship with Lucy stretched and strained, as I sought to understand the reasons behind her choices; her decision to step aside as One Mango Tree achieves what she had dreamed. The smiles, laughs and gratitude of the other sixteen tailors shadowed by the confusion behind Lucy's refusal to take on a key role; the unhappiness that seems to grow proportionately with her successes.

Lucy in her shop, photo by Stephanie Makosky

But there are the other sixteen women, arriving early each day, picking soursop fruit from the tree out front, eagerly sweeping the production floor and settling in for a good day's work. The happy delivery of posho and cabbage cooked up by Mili while the morning hours pass. There is Prisca - eagerly taking on a management role at the workshop, commanding the ship with grace and ease. Crest.

Mili, dishing out posho and cabbage

Another crest was the visit from Stacey Edgar - the founder of Global Girlfriend. She arrived at an intense period of change for One Mango Tree; and provided a guiding voice for all of the difficult things I so needed to hear. We agreed on five apparel pieces to add to Global Girlfriend's best-selling organic cotton knit collection. We received our biggest order to date (this single order topping ALL of our orders combined from 2008), but it sent me packing to Kampala, a quick descent to the trough - to get the legal and financial pieces of One Mango Tree situated. NGO registration (constitution, bylaws, work plan, budget, LAWYERS...), export certificates, commercial invoices and GSPs...the export promotion board...a frantic (and still failing) search on how to take advantage of AGOA's duty-free policy on exports for our handbags. One million ush withdrawal limits at the ATMs, with 30 million ush due to the tailors and vendors. Daily trips to the ATM, hourly calls from vendors wanting their payments. Reserving a van to deliver materials and realizing it will take a lorry, not a van, to get all of the materials to Gulu. Realizing this after 500,000 ush is already sunk into the van rental.

Back and forth, up and down.

Cresting again - today I signed a contract with International Organization for Migration (IOM). We're receiving an in-kind grant through their USAID funding - 16 sewing machines and lots of fabric and liner to take on 10 referrals and provide them with work within the next six months.

I laugh, I cry, I scream, I slam my phone down after the fifth Sunday morning call from Joel the sponge guy asking for money ("Joel! we agreed on a payment schedule", "yes, madam but you know these African guys"). My chest gets all tight, I become convinced that I'm crazy, and then I chill out and breathe and start again.

rainy season: the weather

This morning, as I peered out the window at the now-familiar black clouds bunching in the distance, I realized that in all my trips to Uganda, I've never really experienced rainy season.

Each morning seems the same - clear and blue and even slightly hot, an otherwise beautiful dawn that now seems suspect and deceptive. I dress in my typical daily outfit - some random short-sleeved shirt, jeans and flops. And I hop into my Pajero and head to whatever meeting/coffee/internet/errand I have topping the list, turning on Fat Boy and Melanie for the Sanyu FM morning show.

I'm getting the point where I'm having a hard time remembering when the sky hasn't churned; the clouds materializing from sunshine, the heat magically evaporating, as if a vacuum is sucking the warmth from the air and turning it into gushing, weighty rivers pouring from the darkened and apocalyptic sky. It eventually fades to a light-ish gray, the green leaves freshly rinsed and the red earth churned into a sucking lurchy mess.

This week, as I drove from lunch near the US Embassy down to Lap Textiles, the rains began as I passed through the industrial area - which suddenly seemed totally abandoned - except for my lone SUV. To the right of the road I could see a sewer line exploding into the air, shooting waves of murky black water at least seven feet into the air, and then flooding the street, rushing across with a force that I imagine will sweep me away.

And then, as sudden as they came on, the rains will retreat, and a new day will dawn with another sunny, false optimism - as if no one suspects what's in store during the horrific afternoon lunch hour.

on ohio

Almost two months have passed since taking stock. Another cold trip in the big steel belly of KLM, a few weeks in Ohio with my family, a week in DC with friends, and back to Uganda again.

If I was writing while I was home, I would have told you all about Strongsville, the suburb where I grew up. I would have told you that I started each morning with a short drive to Starbucks, and how from there I proceeded to go to the mall. There wasn't much else to do. I would have shared my frustration at the bland emptiness of strip malls. The vaguely depressing feeling that sets in during the too-bright summer afternoon hours when there's nothing to do.

But then I would have told you about the evening spent with markers at a Little League game, dodging rain drops and drawing tattoos on Ella, my three-year-old god daughter (rainbows, ladybugs, a family of crabs, I LOVE USA, an American flag). Her first attempts at AcroYoga, and the warmth you feel when a little kid you love but rarely see starts to feel comfortable around you again. Voluntary hugs and kisses when you go home.

I would have told you about IngenuityFest, where my heart pounded viciously as I strutted down the runway in a super short yellow dress and a wide straw hat for the Revive Fair Trade Fashion Show. I would have told you my parents were near tears at the event and talked about it for weeks afterward.

I did get to see a different sort of Cleveland - the east side is still pretty vibrant, and with a wrong turn on the GPS, one day I ended up in a neighborhood that used to be home to the industrialists that once made Cleveland a beautiful city. I would have described the leafy and winding, yet broad streets; the houses reminiscent of English tudors.

I certainly would have told you about the day I took my dad to songwriter night at The Winchester in Lakewood. The small front room with little candles on the tables. The musicians pouring in to listen and cheer each other on. I couldn't possibly have described the look on my dad's face as his mind raced imagining himself up on the stage.

I took a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Armed with my iPod and a playlist mostly in sanskrit, I walked around a new exhibit - Streams and Mountains Without End: Asian Art and the Legacy of Sherman Lee at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Outside the museum, I felt a world away from Strongsville. I would have described how taken aback I was at the shimmering silver surfaces of what had to be a Frank Gehry building.

On the weekends we took the drive out to the cottage, where I lazed away the afternoons with Life of Pi (I certainly would have posted on the weirdness of that book!) and annoyed my brother with my cooking and excitement over peaches and berries at the farmers market. I would have written about the cocky joy in Henry's gait when he ran on the beach, ears cocked and paws prancing, stopping to pee on every sand castle. How good it felt to snuggle up with his salty paws. I would have written about the ice cream at Dairy Dock, the sunsets that turned the bay into a pool of liquid gold, and the joy of riding my Surly through the quarry to have coffee in Marblehead.

All this I would have written, but instead chose not to write at all, until this rainy Monday in Kampala, a month after my return; the intermittent weeks shedding a golden light of nostalgia on the memory, like photographs with the edges worn - a bit more loved for their distance from the present moment.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

taking stock

stopping to smell the flowers - these flowers were in ruhengeri

I'm halfway done with my layover at Schipol, en route to DC and Ohio for some R&R. It seems a good time to take stock of what's transpired since the last time I was in this airport.

Here are some of the highlights:

I finally started teaching yoga, and I love it. I started a weekly class at the US Embassy.

I met Alison, fellow Clevelander and yogini (and incredible friend), and starting August 1, she'll be the full-time sales rep for One Mango Tree in the US.

I traveled. A lot - I spent a week in Rwanda with Julie, a few days in Jo'burg and then assisted Hitesh with a case study on an eco-lodge for his forthcoming book, took another Nile cruise in Murchison, spent a weekend in Sipi Falls, spent a weekend in Mabira Forest, and logged a dozen or so trips to Gulu.

I moved out of the Cronin's lovely Kololo guest house, and into a flat in Muyenga with my friend Whitney.

I bought a Pajero.

I rented a compound for One Mango Tree, forging a partnership with Greater Good to increase our production and begin to make exclusive products for their brands (starting with organic cotton apparel for Global Girlfriend).

I started working with interns - bringing Josh and Hilary on board to do some awesome stuff for One Mango Tree - Josh is delving into operations, and Hilary is a fashion designer. The One Mango Tree family continues to grow...

I completed a two-month consultancy with Chemonics, working on a bid for a new project in northern Uganda, and became an expert on local government capacity building and labor-intensive infrastructure projects. I think I met every government official in Gulu, Amuru and Kitgum.

Oh, and I quit AIR. But you knew that already.


And those are just the tangible outcomes of the first four months in Uganda. In the wee hours of the long nights in Gulu I learned some big huge lessons about forgiveness and moving on.

I cannot wait to see what's next, following this little breather at my family's cabin. It's been an absolutely incredible first half of 2009.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ugandlisht 6 - traveling. traveling.

This week I'm traveling back to the US on holiday, so I figured I'd give some pointers related to traveling in and out of Uganda.

1. Visa.
Unless you are coming to Uganda long-term for work, I'd suggest getting a travel visa at the airport - it's $50 and a lot easier than dealing with the back-and-forth of sending out your passport and photos to the Ugandan Embassy in DC.

2. Money.
MasterCard really is not accepted in Uganda, so try not to bring it. If you must, I've heard Crane Bank works. Other ATMs are strictly VISA. With that said, Uganda is still a cash economy. With the exception of fancy-schmancy hotels, credit cards are not accepted. Best bet is to bring USD to get your travel visa and then hit up the Barclay's ATM right outside international arrivals at the airport to take out some cash. If you bring USD, make sure they are 2000 or later date - there's no one in Uganda that will buy 1996-series bills. And bring $50 and $100 denominations, otherwise you get jacked on the exchange rate. The forex at Grand Imperial Hotel in town is the best place to exchange, but all major banks (Barclay's being my personal favorite) will buy your USD.

3. Special Hire.
That's what we call taxis in Uganda. If you say "taxi," Ugandans will think you're referring to matatus, which are the little minibuses that serve as public transit in the country. There are tons of drivers waiting for fares at the airport. The airport fare is typically 60,000 (about $30) to get anywhere in Kampala. Entebbe is about an hour from Kampala.

4. Duty-Free.
If you're en route to your travel destination via an EU airport, forget about all the duty-free liquids at the Entebbe Airport. They'll confiscate them at the EU airport and you'll have to buy your booze all over again. Stupid rule, but it's a rule.

5. Caffeine and wireless.
Good African Coffee opened up a shop inside the airport (finally! something besides Crane Cafeteria!), so now getting to the airport the suggested 3 hours before your flight is not nearly as painful. They have awesome espresso drinks and muffins, and Uganda Telecom hotspot, so surf away while you wait to board. As a side note, EBB is really stepping it up a notch. I can't believe the continual improvements at the airport - every trip it gets better.

6. Time.
Give yourself at least 1.5 hours to get from downtown Kampala to the airport. You never know what kind of jam you're going to run into getting through town or on Entebbe Road.

7. Airlines.
I always fly KLM, because I love Schipol Airport. I used to fly Emirates, but the 10-hour layover at Dubai Airport was NOT worth the comfy cabin, air freshener and good food. There's just something about the Dutch that make that Uganda-America or America-Uganda transition just right. And they have plentiful wireless, delicious coffee, and typically play jazz Muzak, so it makes me really nostalgic for America. Haven't tried Brussels Air yet, but they and British Airways also fly from the US to Uganda. And apparently you can now do a direct DC-Addis and then Addis-EBB on Ethiopian Airways. I'm sticking with KLM and my World Perks.

I'm ready for a holiday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

ugandlisht 5 - getting pretty

This should probably be a list, but I'm so excited about the salon I went to this week that I'm dedicating this post only to Sunel Lourenco Hair & Beauty in Bugolobi. Prior to visiting Sunel, I lived under the impression that to live in Uganda meant to deal with my grown out roots and flat hair. Not so.

Sunel's salon is in a converted garage - looks boring from the outside...

totally beautiful inside (that's Sunel, working on some caramel-colored highlights)

Sunel (pronounced sue-kneel), originally from South Africa, has lived in Uganda for the past five years. Her jewel of a salon is a converted garage. The style is simple and modern. Sunel did a combo of highlights and lowlights on me - full-head color - for 150,000 ush ($75). In my long history of hair agony, that's a steal. And she did an amazing job. Ladies haircuts are 35,000 ($17). Angel assised Sunel with my hair, and gave me the most incredible shampoo/massage...

She gets all of her products imported from Italy - including ammonia-free hair dyes. After getting a lesson from Sunel on how Uganda is damaging my hair (sun, heavily chlorinated tap water), I stocked up on real shampoo, conditioner and a hair mask. Those are a bit expensive ($20 for each and $25 for the mask), but a massive difference. I put the remnants of my Palmolive stuff under the sink.

And Sunel's place has plenty of salon-ness. You know - the chit chat, flipping through glossy South African fashion mags, drinking coffee.

Plot 12 Hanlon Road, Bugolobi, Kampala
Make an appointment! +256 (0) 782 571 816

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

resurfacing...and roads

Ugandlisht was supposed to keep me on track with updating this blog, but it failed miserably. A few nights ago, while hiding under the mosquito net in my room at Bomah, I started making Ugandlishts. A few hours later, when I was ready to call up friends to get a vote on "best pizza in kampala," I looked at my phone - it was past 1 am. I decided to give Ugandlishts and myself a rest.

I started a consultancy on 1 May, and it's kept me pretty occupied. We're working on a proposal for a new USAID project in Northern Uganda. It will bring a big investment in local government capacity-building - by implementing lots of infrastructure projects using the procurement process in place at the district level. That means lots of community roads in the north - using labor-intensive construction methods. Aside from general development (and the very obvious fact that NU needs lots of road improvements), roads mean a lot for economic development. In NU, it's the difference between farming for subsistence and farming for livelihood - the road connects to market. In the case of this project, it's also infusing much needed cash into the economy through the provision of jobs for unskilled laborers within returning communities. Community roads are pretty easy to construct, they just need oversight and lots of willing and able labor.

So, since the beginning of May, I've been immersed in the world of - gasp - planning. It's been a truly engaging project, and I'm loving how much it gets me up to Gulu. I'm currently logging my fourth trip since the consultancy began. It also pushed back my return to the US for visiting the family (sorry mom and dad), which means I won't be on the road til June 24. Roads, roads, roads. On the road again...tomorrow morning, back to Kampala.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

ugandlisht 4 - work + caffeine

coffee in sipi falls - image courtesy of joe shymanski

Every day of my life is "work from home," and the only down side is that it can feel pretty anti-social after a while. Here's where I head when I need to caffeinate and get some work done.

**Cafe Pap - Parliament Avenue - Infocom Hotspot, outlets lining the padded both seats in the inside along the walls, excellent coffee (single capp is my favorite) - they also have a really great juicer. If you don't need a plug in, it's great to sit out on the patio. I've been a fan of Pap for some time - some will say the prices are too high (and they are), but it still draws a sort of fascinating crowd of Ugandan professionals mixed in with expats in hemp wear.

**1,000 cups - Buganda Road - no wifi here - across the street from the Buganda Road craft market and has it's own plentiful craft shop. Better for meetings than all day hang out, and no food here, but the coffee selection is incredible and delicious and the outdoor chairs are comfy if you can snag one. You can also get a french press and buy whole/ground coffee beans grown in Uganda.

**Javas - Bombo Road in City Oil - Infocom Hotspot - the classiest truck stop coffee shop I've ever seen. Close to Mak U, and has excellent and cheap coffee and food. I get the mocha here. Air conditioning inside, and a cute patio (though if you stay too long, it gets pretty dusty from bombo road).

**Good African Coffee - Lugogo shopping center Jinja Road - UTL hotspot - fantastic coffee drinks and a nice menu (great pastries too!). Only down side is that the plug-ins are upstairs and the ambience isn't as nice up there. Outdoor seating available too - great if you have to run other errands - Lugogo has Shoprite, Game, Banana Boat, Silverback pharmacy, MTN, and ATMs galore.

and when in Gulu...

**Cafe Larem - just opened! between Jojo's Palace and Acholi Ber Inn, this cafe is operated by American couple Justin and Rita Garson, who just opened up two weeks ago - fantastic addition to Gulu. Hookups for internet, simple mahogany furniture, soothing colors and just flat out nice people - Cafe Larem is soon to outgrow its current shoe box space. Justin and Rita really know what they are doing. Excellent coffee (including espresso-based beverages and iced coffee!), cookies, and brownies. Other snacks and some One Mango Tree products coming soon.