A River Blue

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Notes from the Road: An African Journal

August 22nd, 2006 - #1

I really donít know
where to start
the most amazing day of life
We started in kampala
And I saw
a culture
so different and
so inspiring
I really have
no point of reference
for what
i've experienced
A total alien
I saw a beauty
and richness
set against such
a profound poverty
It really set
I know about the world
on its head
In the day
we started out
driving five hours
to lira in
broke down old as dirt
With cloth seats and engine that ran
on the hot side of things (once we broke down on the side of the road
and poured three bottles of water into the engine
which happened to be under my seat) Our driver was African who spoke no English But drove like a demon
down underdeveloped streets Veering off the road
regularly to avoid oncoming traffic Without slowing down a bit I had to let go
and put faith
that we were being
looked after
by blind magic
At one point we
were stopped
by the military
And a dude
followed me with a machete
back to my place
in the van (after I took a
I tried to pretend
not to be
but I was terrified
most of the time
There were moments
I had
to convince
myself not to lose
my mind
A culture so different
and so rife with need
challenges anyone to stand


Our goal
was to go
further and further
north in Uganda
And as we went
I saw more and more
poverty and need
But the joy
and hope
from which these
more and more
Our drive
was five hours
down crazy roads
I kept falling
in and out
of sleep
At one point
I woke and we
were stopped
I was
in the passenger
seat and when
I opened
my eyes
I saw twenty
or thirty
African woman
with big trays
of green oranges
All of them
with many oranges
to sell them
I woke up
opened my eyes
had no idea
what to do
Just grabbed
my camera and started
taking pictures
They laughed
and smiled at me
Their joy
and humor of life
is what I saw over and over again Coupled with
profound need
Itís really hard
to put your head around And even harder
to write about
our destination
and the closer
we got
The starker
more insane
the conditions
Tiny huts
made out of clay
and straw
Hundreds of them in clusters
My brain
kept melting
down from system
Too much
new information
to really fully accept It was really like nothing else
so I am reaching
Right before
we arrived at alebdong
we stopped in lira
and ate fried fish and
chips at a place called the white house
I poured tons of chili sauce all over it and sweated like a pig in the hot heat The rest of the road to alebdong was straight up dirt and bumps
and holes and
again our fearless
driver did nothing of slowing down to deal We picked up george at the white house
a government official
welcoming us and
our mission
He was dressed sharp
in a black suit
jacket which stood
in contrast to our
As we drove
towards the camp
he told us nightmare stories of child soldiers Which so many kids at the camps were New ones escape and arrive daily He said because they are kids they are cold and they will kill
you for no
reason and laugh
I started freaking
out so I just tuned him out Listened to lou reed coney island baby on my ipod Wanna play football for the coach

At alebdong
George took us
to meet his father
in a tiny room
where we were
And before
we left the room
Hundreds and hundreds
of children
came to the entrance
and sang a glorius welcoming song I panicked
cause I couldnít
get field recorder
going in time
and the event and
song were amazing
But then
we were led to a giant
circle where a few seats were set up
for us
Surrounded by hundreds
and hundreds of kids
At this point
I was recording the sounds
Then for the next hour and change
Different groups
of kids
with different choir conductors
performed for us
series of songs
and dramatic pieces
which expressed their pain and
their need
One song was asking
for assistance
and care
This was by far
the greatest musical experience
of my life
And I was recording it all
with a great stereo mic
into a nice machine
It was a beautiful
and one
I will never