for noel

20 07 2007

The door squeaks a little and my shoes make that noise that they always do on ceramic as I stride towards the elevator.  The lobby is always a little warmer than my apartment.  I exhale as I hit the down arrow on the wall and wait as the lift travels to the fourteenth floor from the lobby.  The elevator dings as the doors open.  I hit ‘G’ and watch myself in the mirror as I travel down.  I stare at the ceiling at the narrow mirror there and wonder again if there are cameras in the elevators.  I can’t see them.

The red button on the wall unlocks the door and the wall of humidity hits me as I walk outside.  Sand covers the walk in places, drifting from the near desert to the developed streets.  My car has a film of dust, sand whipped by the wind, drifting across the open expanse of wilderness, tamed only by groups of migrant workers.  The sand floats over the small desert bushes, the labor camps where the bodies are together like green beans in a can, and then over the edge of civilization.  It flies slowly, in a cloud like locusts.  It comes to rest on my car, parked along the side street.

The lights flash as I hit unlock.  The dash tells me it’s 44 C and I quickly start the car and the A/C washes over me like a flood.  I cut into the street, heading for the round about.

The three radio stations in English bore me.  I listen instead for flowery descriptions of Dubai.


14 07 2007

So Dubai?  It’s a pretty great place.

The round-abouts are kind of tricky.  I think I’m starting to figure them out.  The trucks stay in the right lane and you just drive fast and try to dodge all the crazy people.

Bollywood is big here like Hollywood.  And everything has Arabic subtitles.

The beef comes from Australia and New Zealand.  The fruit comes from everywhere.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are cool.  Israel is not.

You can’t buy pornography and it’s proxied off the internet.  Pork can only be bought in the little “Non-Muslim” only section of the international grocery stores.  Alcohol is only sold at licensed bars attached to hotels.

Taxi drivers drive like maniacs.

Everyone speaks English.  They just don’t do it well.  And everyone speaks some other language: Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, Spanish, French, Italian, you name it.

I have power and air conditioning 24/7.  I hope that never changes.

The heat isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  You’re not going to be hanging outside though.

The Persian Gulf is beautiful.

We’re 859 miles from Baghdad.

the ceiling fan

21 06 2007

I have this irrational fear that when I take my shirt off in my room, my arms are going to hit the ceiling fan.  If I stand on my flat feet and extend my hands up as far as I can reach, I’m still a couple inches short.  Yet every single time I take off my shirt, I have a little worry that I’ll hit the fan.

I’m less than a week away from Dubai.  My suitcases are mostly packed.  They’re old suitcases, not new lightweight ones.  One is leather, at least it looks like leather.  The other is a Samsonite case, probably from some time in the seventies.  I thought about buying new luggage.  I just couldn’t justify the cost for the one trip.  I assume I can always buy it later if I need it.

I’ve found that I enjoy sending postcards more than I like receiving them.  I’ve also found that I like giving gifts more than I like receiving them.  It’s odd, because I still like getting postcards and gifts.  But I find that I have a little bit of joy when I give them.

Sometimes I forget that “i’m a fan of postcards” is here.  I see the link to my Dashboard every day and I think about how I’d like to write something.  But the moment quickly passes.  I wish I could write like C.S. Lewis or Andy Rooney.  Perhaps a blend of the two.

the collect for purity

22 04 2007

Sometimes someone else can write it much better than I can:

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy hold Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

gmail is down

27 03 2007

I never realized quite how dependent I was on Gmail.  It’s been down since sometime this morning for me and although Google promises it will be fixed soon, there’s like a million things I need in my inbox right now.  Since I can’t do anything about that, I thought I’d write a post about it.

cultural confusion

13 03 2007

A Ugandan man near Boston told police that it was acceptable for a Ugandan man to beat a woman who did not obey him.  Not in the USA, pal.  I ran into quite a few cases of domestic abuse in Uganda and although this man has to be in the United States for him to be punished, it did make The Monitor in Uganda.  Hopefully, this will embarrass some of Uganda’s men and will cause them to see that they cannot continue to beat their wives and girlfriends.

Halliburton is moving to Dubai!  Hillary Clinton is all up in arms about this as are several other members of Congress.  I’m not sure how they think they can control where a company has its headquarters, but doggone if they aren’t going to make a stink about it.  Hillary wants to know if that means they are going to stop paying US taxes.  Of course, Hillary, let’s play the concerned patriot on this one.  Halliburton is moving because they see what is coming:  the new market for energy is Asia and the Middle East.  One thing that I can appreciate about this is that it draws more attention to Dubai and if Halliburton is moving there, they’re going to need some sweet offices and those offices need air conditioners.

continued decline

12 03 2007

The New Vision has nothing about the crisis facing the dictatorial “democracy”, just one lone letter to the editor about it.  Where is Els de Temmerman, the new editor-in-chief?  Surely this Belgian journalist must have more fire in her belly than this!

As I was thinking the other day about how Uganda could easily turn into East Africa’s Zimbabwe, I discovered this article written by Vahid Oloro in the Sunday’s Kenya Times entitled “Is Uganda becoming East Africa’s Zimbabwe?”:

It looked like an episode from a Hollywood blockbuster. Men in police uniform assaulting and brutalizing civilians. In the course of an action-packed scene a defence lawyer was attacked and injured and when it all fell silent, court property had been vandalized. The closing action was however, the re-arrest of treason suspects who had been released on bail. The day was Thursday, March 1 and the scene was Uganda’s High Court in Kampala. The reaction was swift and its effects disastrous.

“All judicial business for all the courts in Uganda is suspended with effect from March 5, 2007,” Uganda’s Deputy Chief Justice, Ms. Laetitia Kikonyogo, declared on March 2.

The declaration set in motion the first strike by Uganda’s judiciary since independence. The strike, reports say, led to a spiral and disastrous effect, including filling up of police cells rendering it impossible for police to arrest more suspects.

“The repeated violation of the sanctity of the court premises, disobedience of court orders with impunity and the constant threats and attacks on the safety and independence of the Judiciary and judicial officers,” were the reasons Ms. Kikonyogo gave for the downing of tools.

The pictures of this ugly episode were beamed across the globe.

The question that occupied the minds of most Kenyans and East Africans in general, as they watched this brutal episode roll through their television screens, was; “Is Uganda turning out East Africa’s Zimbabwe?” The seeds are perfect, analysts fear. March 1 could be a nursery bed of hard times for Uganda, and President Yoweri Museveni could have embarked on an unbridled trek to the hallowed status of Harare’s uncle Bob.

That dark Thursday, as it should be referred to, and the subsequent events including the Monday, March 5, riots in which a child died after police lobbed a teargas canister into a commuter van, the one-week judicial strike that was called off on Friday, the lawyers strike scheduled to start tomorrow, and Makerere University’s student boycott of lecturers, could be the first stitches for a relentless national campaign of civil disobedience.

The government reaction had an unmistakable message: Any dissent will be met with an open and brutal force. Civil unrest is foreign to Uganda, a country cowed into submission by a traumatic history of dictatorship. Indeed, many Ugandans used to be left agape with awe as they watched pictures of daring Kenyans battling police in quest for democracy and freedom.

This year however, has been exceptional for Uganda. Seeds of civil rebellion seem to have been planted and Ugandans are more daring than ever before. Since January police have had to use teargas a record seven times against a growing campaign of defiance and an increasingly bold opposition.

But what could send a chill up the spine of any observer is the silence and sometimes on-the-fence cavalier reaction by government. This reaction, observers say, could mean that last week’s government modus operandi has a long lifespan ahead.

There is a divided opinion as to whether Ugandans can sustain a civil unrest in the face of brutal government response. But what all agree is that March 1 marked a political turning point in Uganda.

The Foreign Card

However, what could strengthen Ugandans is that President Museveni, despite his outer display of power and determination, is a broken man.

The making of Museveni as a statesman and visionary is largely accredited to the white-dressing Western powers and media gave him.

Internally many believe that Museveni’s achievements have been over-rated. His economic turnaround is seen as an edifice built on sand and riddled with scandals of blatant robbery of national coffers and a trail of human rights abuses.

And his success in returning peace to Uganda has also been a lyric designed in foreign capitals. Peace in Uganda has largely been a central Uganda affair. In the north, east (where an estimated 2 million internally displaced people have lived in squalid camps for 21 years) and parts of western Uganda; this celebrated peace has been a mirage.

In general, a large potion of the Ugandan society questions this celebrated success story. Reports of diminishing life expectancy figures and growing poverty are incomprehensible when Uganda has enjoyed an unbroken GDP growth of over 5 per cent.

It is also incomprehensible that within this glamour of growth 50% of Uganda’s budget was donor funded.

The internationally marketed greatest success story of Mr. Museveni’s 21-year rule, however, has been the successful battle in halting the rapid spread of HIV/Aids.

While this is true and laudable, the ghastly revelations in 2005 of a monstrous theft of money from the Global Fund meant for the battle against HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, by top officials, has broken that shineglass too.

The stroke that broke the back of Museveni’s international support however, came in 2005 when he engineered a plot to scrap presidential term limits from the constitution to give him a chance to stand again at the expiry of his two-term limit.

In the background of this, Museveni’s international rating is suffering a nosedive and events such as March 1 will help plummet it further.

In my opinion, civil disobedience is only going to continue.  There are too many in Uganda who are educated now and who can see that the government is mistreating its people.  It is scary to consider, but if Museveni will not relent, there may be no other option.