Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ugandlisht 2 - three great places to have a drink in kla

for the context
Lalibela - Kabalagala - directly above Fancy This lingerie shop, Lalibela is a little slice of Ethiopia tucked away in Kampala's rowdiest neighborhood. Hang out on their balcony - a church pew width overhang that gives you the perfect leverage to people watch and sip on a club. Background music shifts between Ethiopian beats and 90s movie soundtracks. Stick around for dinner too - no menu, but whatever they're serving promises to be delicious.

for the view
Hotel Diplomate - Muyenga - a dusty bit of the old Africa, complete with a stuffed lion chained to the staircase. the hotel feels pretty vacant, which only adds to the romance of the sunset over Kampala. Add a g&t and watch the jam build up on Ggaba road as the clouds and sky turns all shades of magic.

for the atmosphere
Emin Pasha - Nakasero - this hotel is simply gorgeous - the most well-sited and tastefully-designed piece of architecture I've seen in Kampala to date. Build into the hill-side in Nakasero, Emin Pasha has infinite options for seating experiences - on the patio, in the cozy bar, in the garden, next to the fire pit. Pick one and settle in with a glass of house red. Perfect opportunity to put on your best fancy lounge-y clothes and feel utterly luxurious.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ugandlisht 1 - what to do in gulu

A new feature! Each Wednesday I'll be adding a list to this blog, related to all the Uganda PR I tend to naturally do. Ugandlisht (a combo of the peculiar dialect of English spoken here + list) will pull together all things strange, interesting and useful about living and working in Uganda.

View of Owino Market from the balcony of Jojo's Palace

Ugandlisht 1: For some reason, you find yourself in Gulu. What to do?
  1. Stay at Jojo's Palace. Book with Denis at +256 (0) 782925004, single self-contained at ush 35,000, breakfast of hard-boiled egg, pineapple, banana, bread, jam, coffee and tea included.
  2. Bring mosquito repellant, take your anti-malarials, and sleep under the net. Gulu is not Kampala. They are vicious little suckers up there. A little Deet goes a long way.
  3. Say "acho maber" (good morning in Acholi) to Mama Lucy at One Mango Tree - enter Owino Market right across from Jojo's Palace, and you'll find One Mango Tree about a 30-second walk down, on the left. The tailors make lots of One Mango Tree designs to sell at a discount to locals, so stock up!
  4. Check out the rest of Owino, particularly the food section. You'll find stalls with some traditional products too - like metal ankle bells used for Acholi dance, and carved out gourds used for carrying water and food, as well the local clay bowls, which are a pretty shade of deep red.
  5. Get yourself some African shirts or dresses from the tailors in Owino. Pick out crazy African fabric (roller skates? chickens?) and play fashion designer. Eat lunch while you're there. A delicious plate of rice and beans is only ush 1,500, or try some malakwang, bo, cassava, or odii.
  6. Eat some paneer (the tikka masala is delicious) and naan at Obama Inn (ask any boda driver to find the place, right in town)
  7. Treat yourself to a massage at Bomah - ask for Judy (a delightful Kenyan therapist) and enjoy the rubdown and, even better, the after-massage scrub with a hot wash cloth - only ush 20,000. If you're feeling really adventurous, join the big men of Gulu for a steam bath and talk shop. And afterwards...
  8. Have a feast in their restaurant. Introduce yourself to Jacob, the manager, and bring your own avocado for the chef to slice and add to your greek salad. If cheese is there, the macaroni au gratin will satisfy your garlic craving and fill an empty belly. Steak with pepper sauce is pretty good too.
  9. Pick up some handicrafts at Wawoto Kacel - a little craft shop across from Pearl Afrique Hotel in town. Gorgeous natural jewelry, banana leaf cards, tie-and-dye and creative bark cloth products made by Comboni Samaritans - a coop supporting HIV+, widows, orphans and the disabled. Schedule a visit to Comboni with Godfrey, who works at Wawoto Kacel. It's about a 10-minute boda ride outside of town, but their operations are truly worth a visit.
  10. Stop by any of the many bicycle vendors in town. Talk them into letting you rent a bike for the day and take a ride around the outskirts of Gulu - head for the Cathedral to check out Gulu's architectural marvel and a nice big statue of Jesus.
  11. Take a late afternoon beer at Havana or Da Pub, or head there after hours to get a taste of the Gulu night scene.
  12. Have dessert. At Bomah, bring your own mango to add to the pancake and drizzle it with honey. Perfect washed down with spiced African tea. At Bambu, it's the Sweet Temptation. Indulgent; if you're lucky and they have all the ingredients in stock.
  13. Before you head out of town, stop by Country Bakery for provisions - chicken and veg samosas are excellent, as is the banana bread; and pick up a bag of vanilla yogurt (bite the corner, insert straw - instant smoothie) is great for a hot day in Gulu.
  14. If you're taking the bus back to K'la, try for the first Northern Tours bus (leaves around 6:45). It takes only 4 hours to reach the outskirts of K'la from there. Keep your luggage on the bus with you and when you get to Kawempe, tell the conductor to let you off and hop a boda. It will save you up to two hours of sitting in traffic and the hassle of the bus park.
Apwoyo (pronounced ah-pho-yo) means thanks, use it liberally, and in response to pretty much anything anyone says to you in Acholi. Have a great time!

Friday, May 15, 2009

entrepreneurial explosion

Turns out I'm an entrepreneur. One of the side effects of living and working in Uganda - opportunity abounds. One Mango Tree continues to grow - adding products and continually widening our customer base, delving into organic cotton and other craft - screen-printing, seed jewelry, etc.

I'm not sure if it's Uganda or it's my changed modus operandi - but all of the businesses I've dreamed of in the past somehow seem much more realistic.


The eco-B&B somewhere breathtakingly beautiful with a yoga deck.
The yoga studio cafe with a fair trade shop.
The smoothie/juice/coffee shop with wifi.

sipi river lodge at night photo credits joe shymanski

It's a compilation of all of the things that I love. I don't just want to do yoga - I want to design and market organic cotton yoga clothes. I want to organize retreat weekends bringing together Ugandan massage therapists and yoga teachers with beautiful spots like Sipi River Lodge and Rainforest Lodge. The colors, the smell, the taste, the sounds. Right now it all just keeps me energetic and inspired, but at some point I know I'm going to find a spot and put down some roots - build an experience for people to enjoy.


let's dry these suckers!

And then there's food processing. This week, while working in Gulu on a consulting assignment, I was talking with a colleague about how to dry fruits (merely out of curiosity - brought on by the mounds of mangoes to be found all over northern Uganda right now). After hearing how she dried fruits in Peace Corps in Benin, my mind went crazy over the idea of artisan-dried fruits to market and sell within East Africa and possibly abroad! One Mango Tree dried fruits!

Sometimes I wonder if I've totally lost it. Or found it?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

let's hang out at the cineplex

Garden City Mall in Kampala
courtesy of farm3's flickrstream

In the three years I've been traveling to Uganda, I've only ventured into the Garden City Cineplex once, to see Vantage Point with Steve last April. Being as that I'm a Butvin, movie-going runs deep in my blood. Trips home to Strongsville are not complete without at least one dinner-and-a-movie combo - not to mention the scores of flicks we watch out at the cottage on rainy summer days. I always forget how much I love the experience until I'm watching the previews. At which point I get so excited that I forget you also get to see a full-length feature film after the previews are done!

After a hot hot hot afternoon walking around the various tents at the Europe-Uganda Village on Saturday, we decided to see a matinee - Duplicity. Popcorn, spies, love and air conditioning - perfect.

So perfect, in fact, that today, after an extended brunch at Emin Pasha, we decided to hit up the Cineplex again - this time for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. We stopped at the new Nakumatt that opened up at Oasis Mall, spending a very American sum ($10) on a Snickers ice cream bar, gummy bears and one very small bag of peanut M&Ms. It felt just like home.

Two Hugh-filled hours later, we reconvened in the food court. Yes, the food court. This was the weekend of the American teenager. I'm full of gummy bears, paneer wrap and pop culture. Life is good.