Showing posts from October, 2008

crY when the cutting edge bleeds

There are stories I am afraid to tell.

I wish I could tell you it's been all sweetness and light, working to try to empower African communities. I wish I could tell you that I achieved all - or at least part of - what I set out to accomplish. I wish I could tell you that I clearly see the lessons in whatever these trials and ordealswere supposed to teach me.

Were I able to find nuggets of wisdom in the wreckage, I would want to share them in a way that inspires others to do better, to be smarter, to achieve more. I fear sometimes, that I might never find them.

And yet, there is the painful process of sifting through the mess of memories that my mind's eye is compelled to try and do. I lie awake nights imagining where to begin, and how to combine the memories of magical experiences with an acceptance of how things changed... of how my understanding of what I was up against changed... of how I changed. Writing is a tool that can help me with the sorting through. But I fear somet…

a sincere ThAnK YoU to the Blogging Buddha!

Yowza! I'm blushing...

This blog has won a prize!

pArtY @ christinaswwworld has won first prize in the Blogging Buddha's Small Blog Big Heart blog contest! The winners were decided upon mainly by these criteria: innovativeness, age of the blog (new blogs are given more points than more established ones), presence and absence of ads and affiliate programs, the usefulness of the blog, regularity of posting, etc.

I've been following the Blogging Buddha's ethical online money making tips over the past couple of weeks. If you are learning to blog, it's quite an interesting read.

It's an honor to be recognized. Thanks so much Buddha!

dAncE! Street art from Zanzibar

The day after we came back from Lake Bunyonyi last week, the kids flew off to play on the beach with their dad in Zanzibar. Lucky dogs - Zanzibar is another place that I'd call one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. The people there live very basic, relaxed lives, but they are not poor like in other parts of Africa. The swahili culture and food are just lovely, and the beaches are to die for. I'm sure the kids are having a great time.

I bought the painting above years ago, somewhere on the street in Stonetown (Zanzibar's capital). It hangs on our living room wall, and seems to be smiling at me today. I'm happy dancing with them because the boys are coming home tonight. Yippee!

I was recently asked about selling African artwork online. I must admit I've been out of that loop for a while. If anyone knows of any online marketplaces for art, I'd be really happy to know about them! I wonder how much my silly dancers from Zanzibar would fetch.


AdvEntURe @ Amasiko Community Based Eco-Camp, Southwestern Uganda

View from the Amasiko peninsula, Lake Bunyonyi (Uganda)

Uganda's Lake Bunyonyi has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Sprawling through valleys created by southwestern Uganda's very old volcanic mountains, it's said to be Africa's deepest lake. Mountains caught in the middle become islands, large and small. I've been told there are over 100 of them, mostly family owned and terraced to grow crops which are ferried by canoe to a small dockside market near the main road to Kabale, South Western Uganda's largest town.

My family has a decade of gorgeous memories from weekends spent at Lake Bunyonyi. It was the ladies in these mountains who originally inspired what would become the Life in Africa logo, almost 10 years ago, and there is an energy there that calls us back every 2-3 years. We've stayed at many places on the lake. This past weekend, we visited the future site of a wonderful community based eco-tourism project that our old family fr…

a pArtY welcome to new voices in the blogosphere

It's Blog Action Day today - bloggers around the world are asked to post about poverty. I tend to write about poverty quite a bit anyway, so instead of trying to synthesize all of my thoughts on the subject into one post, I've been working on something a bit different today.... I've pulled some new voices from my world into the dialogue.

I'd like you to meet the ourwwworld team - a small global group of new bloggers in your sphere, who are learning together how to blog sustainably and hopefully raise funds for Life in Africa. After a month of practice blogging about the google trends, they've now each got a new look (me too, did you notice?!), and have started posting some great new and original content to their blogs.

I encouraged the ourwwworld team to post for Blog Action Day, and here's what they had to say:

Awakening, by Grace Ayaa (East Africa)
"...When I look at Africa, most of its land is fertile and very good for any kind of agriculture , but there a…

a ToASt to my good friends @

Life in Africa community members at WE Center Kampala pose after receiving their Kiva loans (May 2006)

As I wrote in an earlier post, working online from Africa has brought me into contact with amazing people who are developing new systems and ideas that offer hope for better times ahead.

The folks I've had the pleasure of working with at are an amazing group of really dynamic people who are doing just that. Since I first met them in early 2006, they've made incredible strides in achieving their team's far-reaching vision for building a grassroots driven credit system for the world's poor.

Just think for a minute about how cool that is. At the same time as "extending credit to the poor" is being blamed in some circles for bank failures in the USA, my friends at Kiva have successfully created a whole new "system outside the system" for delivering credit to the poor in countries around the world. It occurs to me we ought to start paying close…

Happy 46th Independence Day Uganda!

The little white guy at yesterday's preschool gala is my Benjamin. He's 4 and loads of fun.

Today (October 9) we all got to take a day off to celebrate 46 years of Uganda's independence from British protectorate rule. Uganda was never actually any nation's colony, but the colonial powers put Britain in charge. The Brits pulled out 46 years ago today, but later helped Idi Amin get to power. That always kinda made me go hmmm.

This morning the president (who they say paid parliamentarians about $3,000 each to change the constitution so that he can stay in power for life) made a speech about how Uganda will be fine even though the rest of the world is falling apart. In the afternoon, we went to a barbecue with Ugandan friends... and talked about the rest of the world falling apart. I held a captive audience when someone asked me to try and explain how America's housing crisis came to be. They were stunned at the whole subprime mortgage story.

Keep in mind, Uganda is ve…

LeArNiNg about blog building communities (MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog, Entrecard)

Community members at Life in Africa's webbed empowerment center in Gulu (Northern Uganda) see their own pictures online for the first time, using a locally built solar powered computer (2006).

While it sometimes feels like I've spent far too much of the past 10 years online, it's only now that I've actually tried to start a blog. So here I am a newbie once again. Luckily, I am not alone. One of the things I've always loved about the online wwworld is the strong sense of community that you can find out there, if you just know where to look. Over the past week I've been exploring a number of communities for bloggers. I'm excited about what I see.

I am accustomed to online communities where you become a member, log in and participate at that community website. Blog building communities, where people are helping each other to learn about and improve their blogging techniques, seem to be a little bit different. With nifty little web 2.0 tools called "widgets&…

fAsHioN: creative cultural content for a cool cause

Zarina was my housekeeper for 8 years here in Uganda.

She's a widowed mother of 3 who was very down on her luck when I met her. In the early days of Life in Africa I wrote many stories about Zarina, and the things I was learning about Uganda through the lens of her life. She also became involved with various Life in Africa activities over the years, especially whenever I was in the mood to experiment. She was one of the first borrowers in the two loan programs I developed. In 2005 I made her a "star" in a mini fashion show online.

I created Zarina's fashion show as an example of how we can think about combining popular cultural content (like African fashion) with promoting a cause (like donating used football clothes to The Kids League). What eventually became the Life in Africa fashion4football campaign included a community fashion event, an online fashion show that featured many Kids League parents, and the delivery of over 40 bales of used playclothes and soccer u…

ThiNkiNg: life after Africa

...out into the great global unknown.

Lots of friends have written to ask what's next on my horizon. Many have assumed I'll be headed back to the US. No, that's actually not the current plan.

As long as the boys are young (my youngest is 4) our decision on where to live will be shaped primarily by the desire to maintain my childrens' relationship with their dad. He and I have lived separately for many years now. We currently live in separate countries, but have managed to keep up a frequency of contact that keeps him as a very strong presence in the kids' lives. He's a really good dad, so I feel it as a responsibility to the kids to take his location and travel connections into account. He's Dutch, not American.

He and I share an interest in possibly living in Asia someday, and the kids are onboard for that as well. Two months ago, I had thought I might try making something work in Thailand (where I spent 6 weeks earlier this year) as a next place to live for …