Respite from Research

16 March 2009

Prior to embarking on my field research, a colleague advised me to pick a day every week and do nothing.  “You’re on all the time,” she said, “whether you want to be or not.”  I rarely take an enitre day off, though I have been known to rent movies on Sunday afternoons or go out to a bar on occasion.  I live by what I believe to be a more pragmatic method of balancing work and play: when I need a break, I take one.  No matter how you slice it, fieldwork is tiring, and I do feel a certain vigilance toward mundane details that wouldn’t otherwise make it onto the radar.

Needless to say, when it came time for my wife Jenn to visit Uganda, the specter of respite from research never looked more attractive (literally).  While nothing can force a complete shutdown of ethnographic tendencies to observe and analyze, having a loved one around certainly makes those habits more entertaining.  This break from routine also gave me the opportunity to see some things I would not have sought out on my own in Uganda, to get a more comprehensive view of the country.  It also brought us into contact with a community of tourists and other bazungu (white people) who reminded both of us how obnoxious we must appear to locals at times.

Jenn arrived in Entebbe late in the evening on Sunday, March 1.  We decided to stay in Entebbe for a couple of days and check out the scenery there.  It turned out to be a great idea, as Jenn had time to relax after a long flight and we made our way to see some pretty cool wildlife there.  Among the highlights, we went to Ngamba island to see a chimp preserve.  Here’s the alpha male, whose minions are beating the path before him:


We also saw a really beautiful symbol of Uganda up close: the crested crane.


The cranes were kind of the last stop on our tour of the Entebbe Wildlife Education Center (something the rest of the world simply calls a zoo).  So we took a break from walking for Jenn’s first of many stops on the Uganda Beer Tour!


These were just a few of the highlights of a fun couple of days in Entebbe, where Jenn also got her first taste of local food and food transport logistics:


One of our first stops in Kampala was the Department of Music, Dance, and Drama at Makerere University.  Continuing a special project to build a reading room collection there, Jenn helped out by bringing a suitcase worth of books with her.  She was able to bring some really nice materials, including the new Garland World Music Handbooks.  She photographed Dr. Sylvia Nannyonga-Tamusuza here, where we’re pictured with Dale Olsen’s contribution to that Handbook series.


Once again, we enjoyed the good fortune of safe arrival for all of the materials, which will now be catalogued, stamped, and shelved with the rest of MDDs growing collection.  The reading room is starting to run short of space already (a great problem to have), but Dr. Sylvia tells us that the university seems interested in backing a new building project for MDD.  Hopefully that would include more library and research space.

After the MDD stop, we checked out Kasubi Tombs and the Uganda Museum.  Both are kind of off the beaten path for tourists, but they’re interesting stops along the way.  There are always musicians at the museum.  Here’s one of me playing with a lady who’s fiddling on an endingidi (single-string tube fiddle).


At week’s end, we joined my host family in Ntinda for some traditional fare so they could meet Jenn for the first time.  We all had a lot of fun, and they even made a cake for the occasion.  They also made a real Ugandan specialty: Luwombo.  It’s really nice, tender cooked meat inside a banana-leaf package with good sauce.  Yum!  Here’s Mama Magoba opening up her home cookin’ for my mukyala (wife):


The next day, we went to see some more family at Kawuku.  It was time to meet the bajjajja (grandparents).  We had a nice visit, though unfortunately we excluded Jenn by default since they speak exclusively Luganda.  Nevertheless, it was fun for her to try out her new greeting skills in the local language.  Here we are with Jjajja Mukyala (Grandma):


We spent some time shopping in Kampala, but the next week we had to make sure to visit Busoga.  We tried to visit a field colleague with whom I’ve done a lot of work, but it turned out he was busy, so we ended up in Jinja.  We’d planned to see some things there anyway…we ended up going to the essential Jinja attractions, namely Bujagali Falls and the Source of the Nile.  Here we are at the Source, on a break from a really nice boat ride:


While in Jinja, we stopped by mwanyinaze (my sister) Gloriah’s place of work.  It’s a really nice place called Children’s AIDS Fund, where she does noble work with HIV/AIDS patients.  We got a chance to check it out and then go out for some nice muchomo (roasted meat) that evening.  Here’s Jenn with Gloriah at her workplace, which incidentally is not far from the Source of the Nile:


We spent some quality quiet time by the banks of the Nile at a place called Gately Inn.  We had enjoyed the same company’s hospitality in Entebbe, so we tried to check out the Jinja version, and we were not disappointed.  That close to the Source, Jenn’s next stop on the Uganda Beer Tour had to be the True Reward from the Source: Nile Special.  You’ve earned it, Jenn.  You’ve earned it.


It was back to Kampala then, for a couple of days of R&R before Jenn had to go back.  That’s exactly what we did: sat by the pool at the hotel, finished up some shopping, and ate at some yummy restaurants in Kampala.  One of the last things we saw before she left was the Independence Monument.  I pass by it all the time, as it’s right in the middle of town, but I rarely stop to take notice of what a beautiful sculpture it is.


So with that, it was goodbye Fair Kampala for Jenn and back to work for me.  More about the recent research developments to come…



Filed under uganda

2 responses to “Respite from Research

  1. Sally

    Pete, you should try to write down/collect some of these food recipes you’re eating! Would be neat to have.

  2. Pingback: Muchomo | Peter Hoesing

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