Tag Archives: fire

Nob View Hotel, Kampala (Current Location)

Overwhelmed with First Impressions:

Africa has a distinct smell. Our professors had told us about it before we came, but as we all know, it is one thing to hear about something and another to experience it. It is the smell of burning wood, mixed with some steam, like you had just put out a fire with a bucket of water. However, the intensity of sensation here is a lot less than if you were standing right by a smoldering fire pit, and a lot more homogenous; the smell is everywhere you go. The airport standing in line for a visa, inside your bus (the unwelcome but familiar scent of diesel fumes makes its way into the fun here), or in the restaurant (it seems like all of the windows are open on every building here).

We converted our money today: about 3,700 Ugandan Shillings for every dollar. I am trying to fight this inclination, but it makes you feel prideful to walk out of the bank with 185,000 shillings in your pocket. It also makes you feel vulnerable at times, especially in crowds.

Generally, things here seem to be very affordable. We went to a nice restaurant for lunch today (it was a modern-type place, with a menu that looked better than one you might find in America. Items included burgers, burritos, curries, or pasta). I could have gotten a meal-sized appetizer for somewhere around $4 equiv. The bottled water is less than a dollar (thank goodness, I can brush my teeth tonight). I was naive enough to think the gas was about a dollar a gallon, until someone pointed out that the prices-advertised probably correlated to liters of fuel. I just ran the calculation and diesel here would be around $3.80 per gallon. There are a lot of motorcycles, and many vehicles that drive by spew smoke. There are dirt roads that branch off of the main paved road – this makes for a lot of red-tinted buildings. I don’t know. This is a town atmosphere that I didn’t anticipate to notice; I certainly didn’t anticipate it to affect me. But that it did. It made everything seem much more under kept, and delicate versus buildings back home. Like the Earth was trying to swallow them up, and no-one had neither the time, money, or will to do anything about it. It made me sad. (Note: we drove by the president’s house in Entebbe this morning, the equivalent of our White House. It was spotless)

The main road was a nice road. I heard some of them were made by the Chinese in order for them to get access to minerals and oil. I’m not sure if the one we were on was “foreign” (ironic, since it cuts through the heart of the country), but it was nice. Mom and Dad: the paved section had fewer potholes than Colorado Springs! No joke.

The weather here is also what they told us it would be like. It must have been about 70-75 today, even in the sun. It feels a lot cooler than Nebraska did when we left. I should have made some bets with people before I came; everyone back home thought it was going to be sweltering.

Sleeping like Kings and Queens:

The last thing to note: sleeping under a mosquito net makes you feel like Egyptian royalty. They look like those fancy veils that would fall all around the bed, bringing the prince or princess into an ominous blurriness. Perhaps as I role play tonight, I’ll realize just how more ominous the situation would be without a net – a reality for too many Africans.

As a mosquito tries to eat me as I sit in the lobby, I’ll say goodnight! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Painting a picture of the border life

The morning began again at El Comedor. We got a lot of B-roll of the inside before breakfast started. Then I got some really great shots of migrants faces and actions while one of the sisters was talking. Every time I go in El Comedor I learn so much. Although language can be a barrier, just a simple smile can go a long way. I would say gracias and smile and the migrants would beam and some even said that I have very good pronunciation!

Nogales, Sonora
Nogales, Sonora

I saw my friend who, described in a blog from earlier, left his children in order to get a better job in America. He said he is going to wait a while before he crosses but he plans on doing it for his little girls. His face lite up when he saw my face and greeted me with a, “hello brother.”

We also met up with a Jesuit from the Kino Border Initiative. His name was Father Peter and we talked a lot just by ourselves. He is truly an amazing guy who has seen a lot in his sixty plus years. He loves giving me hard time and whenever a Hispanic would be standing there he would talk to him or her and start speaking in Spanish and pointing and laughing at me. He has made me want to learn Spanish just so I can understand him and that’s exactly why he was doing it. His story is very similar when it comes to foreign language. He grew up not liking Spanish and not getting it in an academic setting. When he was about 30 he was immersed in the culture and learned it that way. I never enjoyed Spanish classes growing up but being down here makes me want to learn the language from the people.

As we were interviewing our fourth person of the day in El Comedor I talked to Ivan, a Jesuit at Kino, about all these beautiful crosses I had been seeing migrants painting. He told me stories behind some of them and said that they are for sell and that the migrants who painted them get 80% of the profit. The other 20% goes towards buying more wood and materials. The one featured below is going to an art gallery to be put on display. I really wish I could have bought it.

Painting by migrant in Nogales, Sonora
Painting by migrant in Nogales, Sonora

Everyone but four of us went out to lunch in Nogales, Sonora. We who remained got ready for an interview of a migrant who just tried crossing the border. It was a very moving story. He got beaten up by Mexican authorities, then American Border Patrol, and when he was brought back to Mexico he was threatened by the cartel.

I went out on my own to shoot some B-roll of where the cars drive to get to the U.S. It was no more than 100 yards from El Comedor but it seemed like miles. When I was shooting I noticed a few Mexicans walking around in my area. Then the bridge I was by had five or six cartel members under it and they were very curious about what I was doing. By the end of my shoot here was around 20 cartel members within 50 yards of me wandering all around. They would look at my screen to see what I was filming. I kept my cool and even said hola and smiled and they smiled back and conversed a little. I was a little scared but not enough to make it seem like I was rattled or afraid.

My partner Goose and I had a great day together. While an interview was going on in the women’s shelter we went outside and shot a lot of B-roll in the area. Then we went to the downtown port in Nogales, Sonora with Father Peter. We got B-roll of the port and the cattle shoot. I ventured off on my own for a while to where the train tracks go into the United States. I wanted to get pictures and video of when the last rail car goes through and the U.S. Border Patrol closes the gates. It was a great shot but something that struck me so wrong was how it was a Union Pacific train that said, “Building America” on the side. A train that likely traveled thousands of miles through Mexico says that they are building America.

Lastly Goose and I made sixteen hamburgers and 5 hot dogs for dinner. We cooked them over a charcoal fire but with that much meat you are bound to get a lot of juice to fall and start a giant flame. We ran and got everything off the fire and spread the coals out even more. At this point the burgers where black on both sides and bright red in the middle. We then put them back on when the flames died down and put cheese on them to hide our mistakes a bit. No one complained and they actually tasted pretty good! It was a great end to another good day.


As I look through the pictures from my trip, I am reminded of the smoke that permeated the air from all the burning waste. This sight was especially noticeable in Kampala, where from afar the city seemed as if it was smoldering.

Smog above the city of Kampala.

Now these pictures of a city up in smoke are not just of Kampala, but also of my neighborhood in Colorado Springs. From what it seems like, the entire state of Colorado appears to have caught aflame.

When high winds and atmospheric pressure combined to spread the fire outside of Waldo Canyon and towards the outskirts of the part of the city in which I live, I received a barrage of pictures documenting the flames coming over the foothills.

Fires burning on the front range of Colorado Springs. Picture provided by Adam Pink.

Unfortunately, some neighborhoods were destroyed. An elderly couple was burned inside their house. I personally know some families who lost their home. On another occasion I know a family whose home is the only one left standing on their block.

In no way to I intend to trivialize the situation in Colorado Springs by quoting the Joker in the Dark Night when he says, “Everything burns.” Science would say everything does burn, one just needs to find the right temperature.

However, no matter how bad the conditions became (the fire was so hot it melted glass, lower grade glass melts at 900 degrees F, other grades melt around 3000 degrees) the fire could not incinerate the efforts of all the responders who fought to extinguish the fire.

I saw a comic in which Batman, Superman, and a firefighter were all standing side by side and the caption read something along the lines of ‘who is your favorite superhero?’ There was a checkmark under the firefighter.

Comic provided by reuters.com

As I watched a fire in a barrel shrivel the paper waste from my Grandpa’s farm outside of Yankton, South Dakota, I am reminded of those whose efforts are directed at putting out the fire around my home. I want to thank all those who fought and continue to fight the fires that have burned areas of the Midwest and all across America. Your dedication, determination, and courage are examples of who real heroes are and what the entire human race can be. Though it is not even close to enough, I offer my appreciation and prayers for all that you have done and continue to do. Thank you.