Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gorilla Tracking

Sorry for the hiatus!  I've been traveling around western Uganda with my mom for the past week and a half.  One of the highlights of our trip was definitely Mountain Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest.  There are about 700 mountain gorillas remaining in the world, all of whom live in Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC.  More than half of them currently live in Uganda.

We visited the Rushegura family, consisting of 19 gorillas including a 4-week old baby!

The silver back/alpha male of the Rushegura family

Monday, May 2, 2011

Besigye Attacked and Arrested

Last Thursday, opposition leader Kizza Besigye was brutally attacked by police officers who broke the windows of his car and sprayed him in the face with tear gas from close range.  He is now in Nairobi receiving treatment and luckily has regained some of his sight.  The attacks angered many Ugandans, leading to protests on Friday.  Museveni's (president since 1986) military police responded violently with a great deal of tear gas as well as live ammo.  Several protesters were killed and more than a hundred were injured.  Besigye continues to encourage the peaceful walk-to-work movement.


Kampala’s public transportation around the city center and to suburbs is based around taxis or vans called mutatus.  Mutatu lines run to and from taxi parks right at the center of town.  If you are outside the center and want to get to another neighborhood you can board any mutatu which will invariably be going to the center, then, in one of several large taxi parks like the one pictured above, you must find the spot from which mutatus to your destination depart.  Most mutatu rides cost 1000 shillings (less than fifty cents US) although prices have recently risen, infuriating many Ugandans and leading to protests.

 Mutatus are meant to hold 15 passengers, but drivers will pack in many more whenever possible.  I’ve heard of drivers fitting as many as 25 passengers into a single mutatu!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Layover in Istanbul

This is a bit late, but per request of my mother, here are some pictures from my layover.  I flew Turkish airlines to get to Uganda and had a nine hour layover in Istanbul.  Rather than wander around the airport for this time as I've done a few times before (eleven miserably boring hours in the Frankfurt airport), I chose to hit some of the city's touristy spots.  Pictures below:

The Blue Mosque: It was closed, but gorgeous from the outside!

I had a lovely walk along the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul's old city.

I had time to walk around in Istanbul's famous Hagia Sophia, a basilica/mosque/museum that was built in the 6th century AD.  It is known for its beautiful painted and architectural details, particularly for its decadent mosaics depicting Christian themes despite the church's conversion into a mosque in 1453.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ugandan Cuisine

I've had a few opportunities to try traditional Ugandan cuisine so far.  There are a lot of starches involved: Matoke, a mash made of boiled green bananas, cassava, and sweet potatoes.  Then a sauce, either with meat or peas.  In all honesty, it isn't my favorite cuisine, a bit heavy and bland for my taste.  Luckily, you can find just about any type of food here in Kampala from Ethiopian to Italian (lots of pizza) to Indian to Mexican; they even have Sushi!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ugandan Scaffolding

This is crazy, right?!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Downtown Kampala

This weekend I went downtown twice: once to buy a cell phone and once to see Kampala's central market called Owino.  I'd heard that this is where all of the good produce in Kampala can be found.  From there, it is purhased by small vendors/market owners and then sold in other areas past-prime and at a higher price.

I was also a bit curious about the protests going on around the country, some of which are happening downtown, over a rise in the cost of living--namely the cost of mutatus (public transportation vans) have gone up by about 200 shillings, the equivalent of 7 or 8 cents US.  This rise in price profoundly impacts Ugandans who commute into the city for work.  As a result, citizens are walking to work in protest.

This part is a bit confusing to me, but since these protests were initiated by presidential candidate Kizza Besigye (lost the last three years of elections to Museveni, who has been president since 1986), the Museveni administration has made all protesting illegal.  Not sure how walking to work can be illegal, but apparently the police are trying put a stop to it.  On Thursday, Besigye was arrested and was "accidentally" shot in the hand by the police as he was brought into custody.  This has enraged members of Besigye's opposition party and led to further protests.  Rumor has it that a policeman was gruesomely killed by a mob of protestors over the weekend.  There have also been protests at Makerere University in downtown Kampala after Universty officials made a movement to double tuition fees.

I didn't find evidence of any protests while walking around downtown, but I did find the area to be chaotic.  Taxis and motorcycles called boda bodas seem to come at you from every angle, and streetside vendors shout Mzungu (meaning white person) at you as you pass by.  I definitely enjoyed my visit to Owino market.  Downtown Kampala certainly carries the excitement of a developing country, still a bit rough around the edges, but overflowing with enterprise and life!  Pictures below...