Are you as fast as Muhammad Ali?

Graduation at Restore International school

“I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.”
-Muhammad Ali
We can’t all be as fast as Muhammad Ali, so help out, buy a lantern and light success!


Success at school in northern Uganda, requires students to study long hours in the evening and at night. Restore Leadership Academy is set far from the main town center and outside the city power grid. This means they run a generator for a few hours each night to power lights, allowing students to study. If they want to continue studying late at night or early in the morning they need another source of light. Solar lanterns are a great solution for this problem.

Another group raised funds and purchased solar lanters that are being shipped to Gulu.  Unfortunately there aren’t quite enough lanters for each student.  That’s where we come in…

What We Need

Each lantern costs 25,000 Ugandan shillings (approx. $10 USD) and we need 108. The money will go directly to the Restore Leadership Academy to purchase lanterns locally. Buying locally will eliminate shipping fees, as well as support local businesses.

Even $5 will go a long way, $20, $50 or $100 will go even further.  I have given us 60 days to raise the $1100.  I think we can do this.  In fact I think we will get it done before our deadline. Donate Now.

The Impact

Solar lanterns are a natural and common solution to unreliable power sources.  A major academic hurdle for students is the amount of time they need to spend reading and studying.  In Uganda it gets dark at 7pm. A solar lantern would allow students to deepen their understanding and comprehension by continuing their studies into the night.

This increased time studying will directly increase their test scores, giving them more options when they finish secondary school.

Other Ways You Can Help

Learn more about the school and other ways you can help at

Pass on this link to your friends and family. Any extra funds collected will go to the school to help finish the new primary school building, dig wells onsite and provide other necessary items.


Buy a lantern and light success!


Ugandan breast feedingSo yesterday I saw an article that amused me, annoyed me, infuriated me and just intrigued me.  So if you haven’t heard new legislation in Uganda has proposed a ban on indecent wear as part of new legislation meant to fight pronography and protect women.

“Any attire which exposes intimate parts of the human body, especially areas that are of erotic function, are outlawed. Anything above the knee is outlawed. If a woman wears a miniskirt, we will arrest her.” Simon Lukodo, the Ethics and integrity minster in Uganda.

In Uganda according to this man is anything above the knee and that women who wear provocative clothing are provoking attack.  Men on the other hand would not be banned from wearing shorts because, as Lukodo explained, “Men are normally not the object of attraction; they are the ones who are provoked. They can go bare-chested on the beach, but would you allow your daughter to go bare-chested?”

This legislation has been met with disdain from Ugandan’s and international observers, who recalled when Idi Amin banned mini skirts, and a contend that the legislation is just another distraction from the real problems in Uganda.

Natabaalo Grace Natabaalo We have mini-hospitals that can’t cater 4 our needs, mini-roads with potholes, mini-funds for educ. Y focus on miniskirt? #savetheminiskirtAbout one week ago via TweetDeckFavoriteRetweetReply

More tweets from those supporting and opposing the legislation can be seen here.

I am going to leave the the obvious blame the victim mentality and governement distraction aside for other commentators, and recount for you my experience in Uganda with women and dress.

On this particular case I ask what is provocative?   In America, for the most part, we have deicded that breast feeding(like in the picture I am using for this post) in public is too much nudity, while women can wear skirts that hardly cover anything.  Western Feminists would give Ugandan’s a standing ovation for the breast feeding culture.  There is no place (not even church) where a women won’t pull her breast out of her shirt to feed her child. Moreover she won’t even cover herself with a “modesty” cloth.  Now this initially made me uncomfortable, just not being used to it happening.  One friend commented, that as she was riding a bus a woman boarded, having clearly just finished breast feeding, her breast was still outside of her shirt, while she held her child in one arm and a bags in the other. As she came down the narrow aisle to find a seat, she turned, slapping my friend on the check with her breast.  In this moment, as my friend realized that she was not bothered, she knew that she had truly acculturated to Ugandan culture.  Would this new proposal also outlaw women breast feeding in public?

Today, in Ugandan news article, Simon Lukodo says that the legislation is not about the miniskirt though the legislation is still incredibly unclear and broad, to question whether it really is still about the miniskirt.

Memories and a tick

Sankofa Avocado SmoothieRecently an experience from my childhood has vividly returned to my memory.

It’s this…

I am a child, perhaps 8-9 sitting in my grandmothers living room as the adults are talking. One woman, a journalist and childhood friend of my mom and aunt, is speaking about a trip to the middle east.  She is talking about riding a military personel carrier plane and having a large tick removed from her scalp.

I don’t remember really anything else that she spoke about or even who she was, until I spoke with my aunt and realized it was Cathy Scott. She is is an American true crime writer and investigative journalist, born and raised in San Diego.  Childhood friend to both my aunt and mom.

What is interesting about this memory is that she represents to me one of two important figures that have helped shape my sense of self.  She represents the adventurer, the woman with dust from far away lands, carrying stories of people and lands into my grandmothers living room and my heart.  She represented part of the woman I wanted to become.

When I asked Cathy about the memory, it turns out the story fits even more.

It was Somalia and Saudi Arabia I had gone to during Operation Restore Hope in the midst of the turf and civil wars within the country. The tick was awful! In Baidoa, a nurse in a make-shift hospital put some purple stuff on it, trying to get it to back out. It left quite a hole in my scalp, as I recall (I’d almost forgotten about that)! And I got bitten up by mosquitos too, which was sobering, because they carry diseases (as do ticks, as you probably know).

The armored personal transport flight was surreal, sitting with 1st Marines arriving in country via the gutted-out cabin with Humvees loaded in the back. My gear was actually sitting on the seat of a Humvee.

I didn’t consciously carry this memory with me, it sat somewhere in the recesses of my mind and reemerged while I was sortting through the profound experience of traveling to Uganda and of this entire year of change.

I am still sorting out what it all means, and trying to awaken my mind to the intricacies of the experience in a way that can prove helpful to myself and others.  It feels like I have writers bloc, and the best way to get through writers bloc is to start with what you can write about until you arrive at what you need to write about.  At least I hope so.

On coming home

Kampala Rd, GuluSo its been a little over 48 hours since I landed back in D.C.  and now that my body is adjusting to the time I am preparing for the reverse culture shock that I can see has already begun.

Reverse culture shock is the same as culture shock, in that the disorientation, overwhelming feelings, and longing for the familiar becomes just as pronounced when you return home from a long trip, as when you first arrived in the country you were visiting or living. There are lots of manuals and advice about how to cope with reverse culture shock, including this article on Forbes called “Home sweet Home? Dealing with reverse Culture shock”.

While I had barely slept for 2 days,when I woke up on the plane as we were landing in D.C. all my experiences in Uganda and Tanzania felt like a dream.  This feeling has only become more pronounced as the days continue.  The fact that East Africa is half a world away has only increased the feeling that perhaps it was just a dream.  However, the reality of my own changed perspective, in addition to the slight tan that I acquired, makes the two and half months very real.

The realization of reverse culture shock has been with very minor occurrences.  Brushing my teeth with the water coming from the tap, let alone drinking water straight from the tap.

That D.C. is actually a quiet city has been a surprising realization.  I didn’t think this when I first arrived in D.C. in September, but now having been in city’s big and small, bombarded by the sounds of countless motorcycles, honking horns, people yelling(trying to get you to ride their bike, or board their taxi/bus), the bump and crash as big trucks bounce through the huge potholes, and the trucks blaring music to sell tickets to a party, or club or whatever.   These sounds make D.C. seem like a quiet country village.

Being able to eat any food I find anywhere in the city and not worry about cleanliness. I know this may not be entirely true, but knowing the systems and checks we have work in keeping food safe, is reassuring.

Walking anywhere at anytime, not feeling stifled by the admonishing of locals about the safety of the city. I had my haircut yesterday and my stylist said her friend was robbed at machete point in Tanzania while walking with a large group of friends.  I’m very lucky and glad I didn’t experience this, but I knew it was a very real possibility, and not just because I was white, and would stand out, but because they think I have money. That this happens to the locals in Uganda and Tanzania was why I never walked alone at night, in fact I rarely went out at night.  I think I went out maybe 6 times.  I am going to talk more about this feeling of vulnerability in a future post.

I have also been aware of just how much food we have available, and are able to keep at home in our refrigerators with our constant and reliable power supply.

As I transition back I will continue writing about both my reintegration and the experiences of being in Uganda.