28 mind-blowing facts about Uganda!

I volunteered in Uganda a while ago for 6 weeks. It’s one of my favorite countries, and I’m well overdue for a trip back there. If you’ve never been there before, consider adding it to your travel (and/or bucket) list.

one.african.girl

kampala city Evening view of Kampala city (credits: Joel Nsadha Isababi)

Uganda is commonly referred to as the Pearl of Africa which is not far from the truth considering her natural resources combined with a very hospitable population. Here are some crazy facts about her;

  1. Caesarian sections were being performed in Uganda way before 1879 when R.W. Felkin observed his first successful operation by indigenous healers in Kahura. (reference: Notes on Labour in Central Africa” published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, volume 20, April 1884, pages 922-930.)
  1. There are about 880 mountain gorrillas in the whole world and half of them are found in Uganda.
  1. Ranked as the world’s most entrepreneurial country with a rate of 28.1%. This means that 28.1% of Uganda’s population own or co-own a business that has paid salaries for more than 3 months but less than 42.
  1. Lakes and rivers cover 26% of Uganda which is 91,136…

View original post 704 more words

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up.

(This is the 04.19.2013 challenge.  Whatever… better late than never.)

For more about how the Weekly Photo Challenge started, take a look at this link. For more about this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, click here.

Strata.
Strata.
Underground.
Underground.

04.17.2013 Upswing circus theatre performance.

Silks.
Silks.

Happy Thanksgiving. (Thank you.)

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/139845086950338560

(My apologies for falling off with posting. Things have been really busy at work this month and likely won’t slow down unless/until I go home for Xmas.)

Last year, Thanksgiving was easy. My friend A & his wife R had an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner at their house. R cooks so damn good that I took pictures of her food & e-mailed them home, and a few people back home were jealous! 🙂 It was nice to be around expatriates who understood how important it is to keep a few American traditions. Unfortunately for me, A & R moved back to the States earlier this year, so I’m missing R’s delicious cooking and – of course – A & R’s warm & genuine presence.

In spite of wishing that I was home for it today (if possible, I may go home for Thanksgiving next year just to have R’s food), I’m thankful for 1 thing in particular. It’s something that I’ve meant to write about since the beginning of the month, but I didn’t have time until now (for just a few minutes). I’m thankful for you. Yes, you.

When I began this blog 13 months ago, I began it to document my experiences – the good, the bad & the ugly – of living in another country, mostly for my nephews’ (and my 2 godsons) benefits. I want them to read this one day and see that just like their aunt (and godmother), they can see different parts of the world without anyone or anything holding them back. I want them to branch outside of their neighborhoods, states & countries to discover a world outside of themselves. In small part, I also started this blog because a few of my Twitter followers – those few whom I know in real life – expressed interest in reading about my experiences here. But I never thought that anyone else would read this blog. That’s a bit of my own issues speaking, but it’s true – I thought to myself, “No one is gonna read this shit. My life is not that exciting.”

But you’ve proven me wrong. As of today, I have over 20 followers who receive my updates in some form or another. I know that more popular travel and/or expatriate bloggers (hell, bloggers in general) have way more followers than that, but for someone who wasn’t expecting anyone (other than those whom I mentioned) to pay any attention to my ramblings & musings, this means a lot to me. So this post is well overdue:

On this Thanksgiving Day 2011, I’m thankful for you. I thank you for reading me, even if it’s every once in a while. I hope that I bring something to your days when you read this, whether it’s a laugh, a sigh, food for thought or inspiration to see the world. I’m honored to have you as my reader, and I hope that you stick around.

Enjoy today, and please gorge yourselves for me. Bless.

Happy Thanksgiving. (Thank you.)

Just another day on the IRT.

(This post title is from a movie that I’ve heard of but never saw before, Just Another Girl On The IRT.)

Growing up in New York City, I’m quite familiar with traveling on an intricate public transportation system. Its rapid transit system is one of the oldest & the largest in the world, carrying millions of passengers daily. And a few of those passengers are quite colorful. For instance, a pole dancer graced riders with a performance (YouTube video) earlier this year. There are also musicians playing everything from African drums to mariachi instruments to steel pan drums and everything in between. There are dancers doing everything from break-dancing to acrobatics, self-proclaimed prophets & preachers proclaiming that the end is quite near, and even sub-human pieces of shit jerking off in front of and/or on people people who masturbate and/or expose themselves to innocent passengers.

In less-developed nations, some people ride with live animals on certain modes of transportation. Transportation in these countries is already tricky because of overcrowding with people sometimes sitting on top of each other, so if you add a few chickens to the mix, public transportation is one hell of a ride in these countries too.

Coming from a major city, and having been to a few different countries ranging from extremely wealthy with efficient modes of transportation to less-developed with a van that comes on time if you’re lucky, I’ve seen & experienced a range of interesting rides. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see some ridiculous shit interesting stuff on public transportation over here. Here are a few examples:

– A man got on the bus with his pit-bull. It wasn’t a service dog; it was just a man with no disabilities bringing his pet pit-bull on the bus with no objections from the bus driver. He was nonchalant about it and (thankfully) had it on a leash, but I wasn’t too happy about them sitting across from me. It was a crowded bus so I couldn’t move elsewhere. 😐

– A man got on the bus and began drinking alcohol & smoking marijuana; a few passengers moved away, including me, and I reported him to the bus driver and he got off 2 stops later. That’s right – I snitch.

– One man in a nearby neighborhood is notorious for getting on a certain bus or buses drunk, first thing in the morning, during daily rush hour. Luckily, I’ve only been graced with his presence once. He likes talking about Babylon & Jamaica, and he loves cursing in front of young children on the way to school.

Babylon drunk.
This 'diamond in the drunk' said that he'd fight everyone in Babylon... during morning rush hour no less.

– Yet another man got on the bus with his young daughter… and drank a big can of beer.

Drinking beer on the bus with his kid: totally appropriate.

Drinking alcohol on public transportation has been banned in a few places in England, but clearly some people don’t care.

– A man was being verbally aggressive on a bus one weekend as I was heading to my friends’ house. The bus driver refused to move from the bus stop until or unless the man got off of the bus, which is understandable because there are plenty of signs that explicitly state that any form of abuse against public transportation workers is not tolerated. I got annoyed along with a few other people, told the man I had somewhere to be at a certain time, and to either pay the fare & leave the driver alone or get off of the bus because he was inconveniencing everyone. After extra uproar from other passengers, he finally got off. (Jerk.)

– The singing bus driver during morning rush hour. He was hysterical. He sang old-time gospel songs with an operatic voice. I was on his bus twice. At the end of the route, the passengers gave him a round of applause. I laughed my ass off. (I don’t even speak in the morning, so he had to be hilarious for me to laugh that early.)

– The children. Ahhhh yes, the wonderful cherubs. The screaming babies & crying toddlers in their gargantuan carriages [better known as pram(s)], and temper-tantrum-throwing children are an absolute delight during morning & evening rush hour.

Twirling kid.
This cherub twirled around the pole on a crowded bus while whining loudly. His mother sat next to me, oh joy.
Another darling little cherub, standing on the seat with Mother Dear's permission (sitting next to her).
Temper tantrum.
This cherub threw himself on the floor, and Mother Dear had to drag him off of the bus.

– A former expatriate & friend of mine, who was studying here but has now repatriated, got into a physical fight with a drunk woman on the bus. The drunken dame heard her accent, asked her where she was from and upon hearing the answer, began name calling & cursing. In spite of this, my friend was calm and tried staying away from Dame Drunk-A-Lot. Dame Drunk-A-Lot kept it up, along with purposely stepping on her foot 3 times… and after the 3rd time, my friend slapped her in the face.

What are your colorful stories in your part of the world? If you’re an expatriate, what are some differences that you’ve noticed between public transportation in your home country and your current country? Do you have public transportation stories and if so, are they more colorful in your home country or your current country, or are the stories just as colorful in different countries?

Life savers.
Life savers.

Bonfire Night.

Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night) is an annual celebration observed on the night of November 5th involving fireworks displays and, of course, bonfires involving Guy Fawkes effigies (and sometimes Pope effigies) throughout cities & towns in the United Kingdom (and some other countries). (Food is a major bonus.) Guy Fawkes attempted to overthrow King James I on November 5, 1605 in what’s now known as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He & his co-conspirators got caught & executed and the king’s subjects, only knowing that an uprising almost happened (they didn’t know the who/what/where/when/why behind the attempted uprising), celebrated their king being saved by having celebratory bonfires.

I bought myself some bangers & crumpets to eat in solidarity. 😉 There have also been fireworks going off throughout the week in my area, as well as other areas through which I travel. When this occurred last year, I didn’t know much about the celebrations and thought that the fireworks were gunshots. (I grew up in a rough neighborhood so I can’t always tell the difference between the two.) Now that I’m settled in here, I not only know what the noises are, I’ve also taken on a few British customs – Bonfire Night being one of them. One of my co-workers also gave me some history about it because a few months ago, there were rumors that a certain council wasn’t going to celebrate this year (those rumors were later confirmed to be false), and since I only knew the basics about the celebrations she was kind enough to send me some information about the full history.

‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!’

A children’s song for Bonfire Night

Toffee apple bangers.
Toffee apple bangers.
Local fireworks.
Local fireworks.

Wanna learn more about this festive celebration and its history? Take a look at the links below.

Guy Fawkes http://www.guyfawkes.me.uk/

Bonfire Night http://www.bonfirenight.net/

Guy Fawkes Night (Wikipedia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes_Night

Bonfire Night recipes (BBC Good Food) http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/content/recipes/occasions/bonfire-night/

Gunpowder Plot of 1605 http://www.gunpowder-plot.org/

What if the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded? (The Telegraph) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8870255/What-if-Guy-Fawkess-Gunpowder-Plot-had-succeeded-in-1605.html

Guy Fawkes mask inspires Occupy protests worldwide (CNN) http://articles.cnn.com/2011-11-04/world/world_europe_guy-fawkes-mask_1_mask-protests-wikileaks-founder-julian-assange?_s=PM:EUROPE

Guy Fawkes Day: Remembering the straw man, bonfires, and treacle toffee http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/10799095-guy-fawkes-day-remembering-the-straw-man-bonfires-and-treacle-toffee

Going through the motions.

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/132200410055323649

It’s been a while – well, a little less than a month – since my last post. My stepfather surprised me with a visit for 5 days about 2 weeks ago and we had a wonderful time. He’s wonderful and, despite him no longer being married to my mother, still considers me his daughter & vice versa. It was a necessary (albeit short) break, a breath of fresh air, in this thing called my life.

But since he left – hell, even before that – I’ve been a bit out of it. I’d rather not go into too much detail, but some of it is why I’ve not written in a while. Along with the typical “No one is reading this shit anyway” thoughts:

– I may not go home for Xmas, partly because who really gives a damn & partly because of finances

– I’m tired of living paycheck to paycheck; I thought that I could leave the overworking 2-jobs-to-make-ends-meet life behind but I may have to return to it

– I still don’t know what to do with my life even though my goal is self-employment

– The list of those whom I consider family has greatly shrunken

– The list of those whom I consider friends has greatly shrunken

– Health

And more. But I don’t complain much because people have their own lives and either don’t want to or can’t hear it, and I only 50% blame them for that. But after reading another blogger’s post today, I decided that maybe I should let out a bit of it for the world to see… oh wait no one reads this shit myself.

I’m going through the motions. I survive. I live. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad. But I’ll be back to blogging sooner than later… hopefully. Although he doesn’t know it, thanks to the blog author for sparking this post.

Don’t go there.

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/123850422887776256

As you should know by now, I want to see the world. It’s not so much about the number of passport stamps that I get (although it’s a small perk) as it is about the vast & various landscapes that I get to see, the foods that I get to eat & drink, the cultures that I get to experience, and the potential connections that occur as a result. But as an avid reader, especially on the internet, I read & observe the good and bad news about people, places and things.

After recently reading about some disturbing news in France, in addition to other news from the country, I’m very ambivalent about going there. And I don’t think that I’d ever continue my expatriate life there either.

I feel the same about South Africa: it’s a country that I’ve always wanted to visit, but I’m quite ambivalent about visiting there also after hearing about the rape culture (especially used to fuel homophobia) and its president’s dismissal of his own rape charges & beliefs about HIV/AIDS. Those are just 2 of many reasons why I also don’t think that I’d ever continue my expatriate life there either.

I also have a few concerns about Russia, which experienced/is experiencing racial violence by neo-Nazi & ultra-nationalist groups. And had I known about Australia’s racist history before visiting there, I don’t think that I’d spend my money (going) there. I’ve considered continuing my expatriate life there also, but I’m not sure if that’s in my best interests as a person of color, along with knowing what I know about the country’s history now (White Australia policy; Aborigine assimilation – Wikipedia edition; etc.).

You might be saying to yourself, “But you’re from the United States. You shouldn’t skip visiting a country, especially because of where you’re from.” You might be correct. But I didn’t ask to be born, and I didn’t have a choice about where I was born. I made the choice to leave the United States for good over a year ago, for many reasons, and I can also choose not to visit or live in certain countries for some of the same reasons why I left the United States. Then again, the United Kingdom doesn’t have the most pristine history either…

So what about you? Are there countries that you’re ambivalent about living in or visiting for ethical or moral reasons? Are there countries that you outright refuse to live in or visit for ethical reasons? Or will you live/visit wherever you want, ethical or moral issues be damned? Please discuss.

No country for old (wo)men.
No country for old (wo)men.

Not your typical tour.

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/122009770768084993

I receive lots of travel e-newsletters & have many blogs in my reader. They inspire me to travel the world (or at least imagine doing it), help me refrain from moving back home, and give me ideas about things to do in my neck of the woods. One of the e-newsletters that I receive is Time Out, a great resource worldwide for things to do in some major cities across the planet. Prior to the riots, I received my usual Time Out e-newsletter and a free walking tour caught my eye. A few words stuck out:

Alternative.

Walking.

Free.

Those words, to me, meant that this was a different way to see the area – not your typical (double-decker) bus tour with a bunch of annoying loud American (or insert other country here) tourists and a tour guide holding a megaphone while reciting the typical boring basic (insert any city here) facts. Most importantly, this is free. In a world where the rich get richer and the rest of us get poorer every day, anything free is a godsend. And finally, I like learning about places on an intimate level. I appreciate the good, bad & ugly about places: history, culture, architecture, art, future urban planning, and quirky facts that most others aren’t interested in and/or won’t know.

So I looked at the website listed in the e-newsletter and contacted the person (or people) who run the tours. After a few snafus that were out of my control, I finally got a chance to take the tour. Luckily for me (and you), the tour occurs year-round.

I’m glad to say that I enjoyed myself and wrote a TripAdvisor review about it. Check it out in the link above, as well as a few of the many pictures that I took during the tour below.

Tour guide.
Tour guide.

Shadows.
Shadows.

Bangladesh's national bird.
Bangladesh's national bird.
Jimi.
Jimi.

Local man, aged 90 something.
Local man, aged 90 something.

Burden.
Burden.

If you want a down-to-earth, unpretentious, interesting & (maybe) fun way to explore just one area of this large metropolis, take this tour and my word for it. Enjoy.

The Alternative London Tour
http://www.alternativeldn.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/alternativelondon
https://twitter.com/#!/alternativeldn