Baha’i House of Worship

A smiling woman with short curly braids wearing a brightly patterned dress stood facing backwards towards the congregation, carefully directing the choir in the two pews in front of her. Women sat in the front row, while men sat in the back row singing the bass part. The melody sounded familiar, a variation on one of the hymns that I used to sing in school … Continue reading Baha’i House of Worship

Mengo view

Our bedroom window faces southwest across the Kampalan suburb of Mengo. It looks across rusted tin roofs and palms trees to the pylons on top of the Lubaga and Namirembe hills. Woods smoke and clotted humidity permanently cloud the air. Although we don’t open the curtains often, I retain a detailed and nuanced mental map of our neighbourhood assembled from the polyphonic soundscape that we … Continue reading Mengo view

My Ugandan office

I am sitting at my new desk in a small lightly painted office under the lee of palms and jackfruit trees from the compound next door. Two chickens are clucking around the open doorway in the bright sunshine. I share this office with Lorna and the office administrator. My brow is beaded with sweat; it must be about twenty-eight degrees. It hasn’t yet rained today. … Continue reading My Ugandan office

Arrival in Kampala

Long-term lists, short-term lists. Ticking items off lists. Contracts to be signed, contracts to be terminated. Fees paid repeatedly. Unexpected expenses. Unanticipated purchases. Phone calls, interviews. Calendars consulted and dates agreed upon. Vaccinations. Different categories of possessions packed and moved to storage and to various homes. Multiple goodbyes and send offs. Packing away lives, packing away possessions. It has come to this again. Why do … Continue reading Arrival in Kampala

Sightseeing during a military coup

For tourists looking to explore Egypt’s inspiring and mysterious past, we spent an awful lot of time thinking about its disheartening present while it was splurged in real-time across the world through on-the-ground news reports, twitter and all other manner of implausibly new-fangled communications media. On 3rd July 2013, about four weeks prior to our arrival in the country, the Egyptian military announced that President … Continue reading Sightseeing during a military coup

Wadi Halfa – Borderline Personality

‘Hundreds of miles of land border and we have to cross over this f*cking lake’, was the recurring obsessive thought I had for the 24 hours it took to get from Sudan into Egypt. Wadi Halfa, the world’s most inconvenient and needless ferry, has gained infamy amongst overland travellers in Africa and is a rite of passage for those travelling from Cape Town to Cairo. … Continue reading Wadi Halfa – Borderline Personality

How to drink beer in Sudan without getting lashed

Forty lashes. That is the penalty for getting caught with alcohol in Sudan under Sharia law. Forty of them. And I’m pretty sure that getting caught during Ramadan would not be considered as mitigating circumstances by the authorities. So booze was off the menu for the nine days we were in the country. Fortunately a shopkeeper in the desert town of Atbara helpfully pointed out … Continue reading How to drink beer in Sudan without getting lashed