Tag Archives: Lake Victoria

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight

As my second day in Kampala draws to a close, I find myself having difficulty processing everything that I have experienced in such a short period of time. I have driven from one end of town to the other and seen extreme wealth and destitute poverty a mere few kilometers apart from one another. I have seen a seemingly never ending stream of people out and about along the Ugandan capitol’s jam-packed roads traveling in a mismatched assortment of taxis, motorcycles, and by foot. I attended mass at the sight where Uganda’s famed martyrs were condemned to death. I even ate fish eyes along the banks of Africa’s largest lake. Yet, the thing that has stood out to me the most about Kampala is something so insignificantly small that many people might not pay it any mind at all.

Since arriving in Kampala, I couldn’t help but notice the wide assortment of signs and advertisements that cover almost every free inch of the capitol city’s buildings. As a person from the western world, these signs and painted advertisements are absolutely ridiculous. Daycare centers with pictures of Mickey Mouse and other recognizable characters seem to dot just about every street corner. The names of these daycares alone would ward off potential customers in the United States. Here in Uganda, however, people don’t seem to bat an eye. Bars and restaurants with signs featuring the logos of prominent beverage companies can be seen on just about every street corner not occupied by some sketchy looking early childhood education or daycare center. Each one seeming to rotate between having a sign featuring the logo of Pepsi, Coca-Cola, or Bell beer. These types of signs are just the strangest thing for me. There is no way that any restaurant in the United States would prominently display the logo of a beverage company on their storefront signage. Yet again, Ugandans don’t seem to bat an eye about something I find strange.

Perhaps the best sign that I have seen since coming to Kampala two short days ago can be found on a restaurant about a 3 minute drive from the hotel where we are staying. The sign reads, “I Feel Like Chicken Tonight.” When I first saw the sign, I busted out laughing. What kind of restaurant calls itself something as ridiculous sounding as this? After I had gotten over the initial laughing fit caused by the name of the restaurant, I realized that a restaurant name such as this is really fitting in a place like Uganda.

When organized chaos reigns supreme in a place like Kampala, ordinary citizens and businesses alike must do something to stand out or risk being swept away by the sea of never ending chaotic activity in Uganda’s capital city. In this sense, a restaurant with a name like, “I feel like Chicken Tonight” symbolizes the very spirit of a Ugandan’s daily struggle to stand out amongst the organized chaos that otherwise dominates society in the pearl of Africa.

Out of their comfort zones

There’s a moment in Backpack Journalism that’s a bit of a tipping point, when the students who have been thrown together on this adventure, traveled long distances start emerging from their comfort zones. In two of the journeys, we have fish to thank.

In Backpack Journalism Alaska, Hannah Mullally took up the challenge of learning how to gut a whole salmon, and soon she was teaching others how to use the Yup’ik traditional knife. That salmon tasted so good. After that, students stepped up to take on roles in filming and interviewing, trekking on the tundra, trying new foods and making the most of the experience.

Two women gutting a fish
Hannah Mullally, left, helps Erin Kurvers gut a salmon during Backpack Journalism Alaska  2014 in Bethel, Alaska.


This time, the fish story involved a wonderful Lake Victoria lunch: french fries and whole tilapia, freshly caught and fried. It was Liz Rudigier who led the march out of the comfort zone as she tried the eyeball of one of the fish. (“Gooey and a little crunchy.”) Soon, Natalie Lynam, Jacob Tilstra, Zach Brittain and John O’Keefe had  a go. It’s a good sign.

(I stayed firmly inside my comfort zone on that one.)

We take up the hard work of filming interviews, learning about refugees and the work of the Jesuit Refugee Service on Monday.

Long live the queen

The success of many Pharaoh relied on the strength of the Nile River, but little realized their fate was determined further upstream. The source was also the search for fame among many explorers and has etched John Henning Speke into history.

Though it had been known to locals and first officially documented by Arabs, the British explorer Speke is credited with the discovery of Lake Victoria in 1858, considered the source of the longest river in the world (Brittanica Online Edition).

Source of the White Nile at Lake Victoria

Bearing the name of the 19th century monarch, the lake stands second only to Superior in freshwater surface size and can boast outliving our species according to worldlakes.org.

Myself in the front of the boat overlooking Lake Victoria. Holding 2,750 cubic kilometers of water, or about 605 million gallons, Victoria is the largest freshwater tropical lake (Brittanica Online, picture taken by Joe Garnett).

While the lake has had its own history of natural problems, including running dry, its main concerns today are manmade. The area around the lake is densely populated by human development, which dumps much of its waste into the lake.

BBC News mentions political turmoil surrounding the damming of the lake for hydroelectric power. Current notoriety of the lake centers on discussions for a new water usage agreement meant to replace the colonial era agreement that governs the individual use by each country.




When I look around this country, it’s difficult for me to feel like I’m on any sort of vacation.

We went to the source of the Nile yesterday, among other touristy things. Yet as we drive from Entebbe to Lira today, you can definitely see the signs of poverty: over population, an abundance of slums, people sitting in mud.

I like to think of myself as a problem-solver, and one of the things I’ve come to realize lately is that the largest amount of people a problem affects, the more complex solving it becomes. From what I know, poverty is an immensely complex issue, and is a problem that is by no means easy to solve. Which makes me wonder if this trip, the work we do, the work anyone does, is really worth it.

Despite all the work that’s been done in this continent and in other parts of the world, there’s still intense poverty in the world. There’s still people like Kony, like Assad, like Kim Jong-Un, and countless others.

Is there really any point to doing good work? Is there really any point to goodness?

Let’s Play Chicken

I hope I never have to drive in Ugandan traffic.  These past to days have been interesting driving around the city. I feel like the entire population is playing one giant game of chicken.  There are pedestrians, bicycles, motor bikes, cars and buses, all sharing the road. No ts to get out of each other’s ways. Today we drove from  Kampala to Lake Victoria.  It was an hour and a half drive. Parts of the road were barely big enough for two cars to drive by. We pass by cars so closely you could easily reach out and tough them. In the city, cars merge leaving no space between them.  Each time when we go to stop my hands clench because of the small time and space left.  In the round-abouts people force there way into unimaginably small spaces. The other thing that is slightly terrifying is the fact that traffic drives on the left side of the road. I have become accustom to seeing cars stream past me on the right. But when left hand turns are made it makes me hold my breath. I feel myself pushing down my right foot in attempts to use an imaginary brak There is no opportunity for you to be a passive driver. You must be assertive and push your way in.  As a passenger it is best to try not to pay attention to where you are going or, if worse comes to worse, just hold your breath and prey.

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I told myself I would attempt to somewhat organize the structure/subject matters of these blog posts, but it’s really not going to happen so I apologize for my lack of order. Then again, it reflects the chaotic nature of my first two days here in Uganda. I’ve spent probably a solid three hours with my face right next to the open window of our home away from the hotel, also known as our bus, which has left a lovely layer of dirt on my face and hundreds of lasting images in my mind.

One of hundreds of motorbikes that passed by the windows of our bus.

Traffic in Kampala should not even be described as traffic. It’s more like drive where you want, when you want, as fast as you want, because you can. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone through round-a-bouts amidst tons of motorbikes inches away from both sides of the bus. Meanwhile, you drive on the left side of the road here which constantly gives me these split-second moments where I panic and convince myself we’re about to die in a head-on collision. Slightly dramatic and unpleasant, so let’s move on.

We went to a market to shop for gifts and I discovered two main things. First of all, if you ever find yourself in foreign markets with me never, I repeat, never count on me to do the bartering. I had barely figured out the exchange rate of currency therefore I had zero idea of how much money I should be paying for anything let alone demand a lower price. My inability to assert myself aside, I did manage to make some friends in the process. A woman asked what “Creighton” on my T-shirt meant and when I told her it was a school she immediately gave me a giant hug. It was a warm embrace, but at the same time a harsh slap in my face for not appreciating my education as much as I should. I also bonded with my buddy Dennis, a charismatic painter who told me even though I was American he still thought I was “one cool cat.” Thanks Dennis, right back at you.

The boat which took us across Lake Victoria to the Source of the Nile.

Today we ventured down to the Source of the Nile which was stunningly serene, if that’s even possible (I’ll post a picture eventually). We climbed into a rather shaky wooden boat, where if one person would have shifted their weight too much in one direction, there could have been a short documentary produced about the backpack journalism crew swimming through Lake Victoria. There was a moment when we pulled into shore from the boat, and a Ugandan man was filming us on his phone as we arrived. At first I thought “This is odd,” then I looked down at the camera strapped to my own neck. The shoe was officially on the other foot, or I guess in this case the eyes were on the other side of the lens.

As Long as You Love Me” and “Last Christmas” played at the first restaurant we ate dinner at. Backstreet Boys and Christmas music, two things I generally associate with Africa. It was a nice reminder of home (and who doesn’t love boy bands and out of season Christmas music?), but at the same time an interesting display of just how far the United States influence travels.

Those are just a view tidbits of all the images that have crossed my path in these past two days and I’m sure it’s only the beginning. Tomorrow is going to be another long day on our trusty bus, but every day is a new adventure here and I can’t really complain about that.

Keep on keepin’ on,


p.s. Yes, this does indeed happen every morning as the sun comes up. Just kidding. Or am I? I guess you all need to take a trip down here to find out!

“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” -Roald Dahl

Give way

The most terrifying things I’ve experienced in Uganda are transportation and the 12 of us getting into a hand-made oat on Lake Victoria with some incredibly expensive camera equipment.

Our mode of transportation for this trip is the obvious choice – a big, blue, rickety bus with big windows and Fred as our driver and Herbert as our guide. The windows are perfect for being able to take pictures. We were able to see everything. this also means that every Ugandan can see us as we pass by.

But everything about riding in this bus is slightly frightening in the sense that Ugandan roads aren’t the best (although most are paved so that’s a plus). Everything is backwards. They drive on the left. And they don’t have any stop signs or traffic lights in general. There are times when vehicles are literally only inches apart. It’s absolutely insane. I swear every time we cross the street John is telling us to look right THEN left so we don’t get hit. It’s weird to be re-learning how to cross the street. It makes me feel like I’m back in kindergarten. Maybe I should hold someone’s hand next time.

But, the transportation doesn’t even compare to when the 12 of us got on a boat at Lake Victoria today to go see the source of the Nile. And because we’re practicing with our cameras and getting pictures today, we decided to bring all our cameras on the boat with us. It sounded like it would be a perfectly fine idea until we pulled away from the shore and the boat sank to a level that made everyone uneasy. But we were lucky enough to get some really great shots from it.

The boat we rode on Lake Victoria