Footnotes from the British Underground

This blog began as venue for my stories as I traveled in Africa. 18 months later, I return to it as I travel to study as a Marshall Scholar in the United Kingdom. My hope is that this blog can be a conduit for you - my family, friends and secret/strange admirers - to track my movements, see a photo or two and get a glimpse of my days in the UK. Apologies once again to Dostoevsky for the blog's name...

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Location: Bradford, United Kingdom

After graduating from Notre Dame, I'm off to England for graduate study. I'll be studying for a M.A. in International Politics and Security Studies. When not studying, I'm continuing to coordinate Uganda-CAN's efforts to end the 20-year war in northern Uganda!

6.2.05

Muli mutya? - First days in Kampala

How to capture the many images, sounds, smells and scenes of my first week in Kampala, Uganda? There are far too many limits to the capacity of language to describe human experience. Yet, certain words and phrases stand out: big birds, dirt roads, stifling heat, smiles, colorful clothing, traffic, investment banking buildings, slums, black faces, green, spiders, waterfalls, hills, boda-bodas, taxis, markets, music, dancing, mosques, churches, cathedrals and so much more. These first days in Kampala have been overwhelming, and yet so full. The people here are beautiful and amazingly friendly. There is a tendency in the West to see Africans as simpletons, but I have found the complete opposite: a rich, complex, thoughtful culture. Yet, so much remains a mystery to me. I anxiously await the unfolding mystery that is Uganda - discoveries that lie ahead in my journey over the coming months.

I am here studying with the School for International Training, a study abroad program for university students that believes in creating cross-cultural competencies and global citizenship. Thus, we are immersed in a developing country to experience the culture, the people, the politics and the economics. This particular program in Uganda focuses on development studies: political, economic and social development with a particular focus on participatory, grassroots approaches. We will be taking classes on the language, development theory and practice at Makerere University here in Kampala, followed by a practicum of six weeks where we will intern with an organization and write a research report on some element of development theory/practice. It is an intense program, but quite thoughtful.

Our first days have been packed with classes on the language, the city, social etiquette and the culture. Yesterday, we traveled to Jinja, an industrial city to the north of Kampala, that is home to the source of the Nile. It was a moving and awe-inspiring experience to sit at the source of the Nile, a river that runs through the heart of Uganda, Sudan and Egypt, flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. I am left struck by the awesomeness of our world, of nature and of humanity. When you think about it, it is so beautifully complex and diverse. Of course, such wonder is tempered by a sense of horror at how we abuse, kill, exploit and rape one another amidst such awesomeness.

And that is what I hope to explore in the coming days and months - the tension between the awesomeness and the horror. I will write more in the days ahead as I walk many more miles here in East Africa. Cheers to all of you around the world.

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