Going Back to Uganda

May 29th, 2009

After a fairly long hiatus, I am going back to Uganda this summer from June 13 to June 30. I couldn’t do this last summer as I was working 9 to 5 at Akamai and had quite a few projects to work on. This summer I’m doing research at the MIT Media Lab with the Camera Culture group, which allows for a little more flexibility in my schedule (and I can be a night owl again!).

Anyway, I’ll be in Seattle next week, and I will update you on the progress of this year’s Computers for Uganda team.

I want to note that this is the first year the CFU team has been entirely self-sustainable, thanks to InterConnection Uganda. Rock on.

Inveneo and Mark Summer

July 18th, 2007

Here’s little story about how the smallest action can really develop into something amazing: Last spring I was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting to get a couple shots before the CFU 2006 visit when I spotted an article about a new highly energy efficient solar PC that this company Inveneo was developing. I remembered the CFU team’s constant lack of electrical power the year before. This was the solution! Excited, I got home, looked them up online, sent an email, then told Fredrik and John about my discovery.

The Inveneo PC
The Inveneo PC. 20 Watts, with an external battery that charges from a solar panel. The Inveneo website has a little more information.
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Why do I come back?

July 15th, 2007

Today Christina left for Tanzania. I hope she enjoyed her stay here and was able to take a lot of pictures. It was great having her here—I felt a little more motivated to get out there and take photos (the results of that trigger-happy day will be scattered throughout this post). Thanks, Christina, I hope you’re having fun in Tanzania!

Christina taking photos.

Last night she interviewed me, and I was struck by a particular question she asked.

So why do you keep coming back to Uganda?

This year is my third visit back, but I was so caught up in the technical work behind setting up InterConnection Uganda that I forgot for a bit why I was here. I had one train of thought: get this place up and running. But that was it…and I sometimes felt a little empty, like I was missing something. And I was.
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Goodbye Team!

July 9th, 2007

As always, the flight for the CFU team leaves early in the morning. Generally the team goes to a discotheque and dances all night before boarding the plane, but this year Janet wanted to take it easy…so the all-night party happened beforehand.

We left for Entebbe at around 4:30 in the morning and got to the airport entrance right before sunrise.

Ah, the madness
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Lunch with Mamma Janet…

July 8th, 2007

“Mamma Janet” is the name Ugandans have given to the First Lady, Janet Museveni, because she acts just like a mother for her country. She is a very powerful figure, but perhaps one of the most humble and caring people I’ve met.

Walking around the State House

Anyway, today, just following the awesome dinner/dance party and the Vice President’s, we’re heading to the State House where the First Lady has invited the CFU team for lunch (talk about your crazy weekends). She was so touched by their hard work, and was especially thankful to them for installing a lab in one of her chosen schools this year. So this was her goodbye party for them.
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Dinner and Drums with the Vice President

July 7th, 2007

The day started out pretty normal…I headed to InterConnection Uganda early in the morning and finished setting up the demo computers, then I did some work sorting out all the RAM we have managed to rummage up into the appropriate size and speed piles. Things were pretty calm today after the mad rush to get the place ready for the Grand Opening.

Christina was scheduled to arrive at 2:00pm in Entebbe, but John the Driver got a little mixed up on what the schedule was, so we didn’t leave until 1:50pm. Ooops. I hope she’ll be okay.

By the time we made it to the airport, the passengers were just leaving the airplane. It turns out that they had delayed the flight by an hour. Wow…what timing.

Then things got even nuttier.

John, Christina, and I hung around Entebbe until about 6 pm, waiting for the Computers for Uganda team to arrive. On the agenda today: Meeting with the Vice President of Uganda at his beach house in Entebbe.

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The Grand Opening!

July 6th, 2007

The setup

Today is the big day. We got to InterConnection Uganda under little sleep very early in the morning to make last minute preparations. Three ministers were going to be here today, including Johnorable. The guest of honor is the Minister of Education and Trade.
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Riding my first Boda-Boda

July 5th, 2007

Rudi left for Kenya today. Since he’s with the CFU team he had scheduled his vacation (a three day safari trip in maisa mara) ahead of time because this was the week that the students were going to take two days out of to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park. Unfortunately the original schedule was completely blown to bits due to the late arrival of the container. And unfortunately he is going to miss the grand opening tomorrow because of it. Don’t worry, Rudi…I’ll take a lot of photos!

In other news…I rode my first boda-boda today!

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Catching Up

July 3rd, 2007

We’re almost two days behind with all of the doctor visits, so today we played extreme catch-up. InterConnection’s Grand Opening is going to be on Friday, so this place has to be uber clean and organized by that time. We need to make a good first impression.

I set to work organizing all the internal components on the parts shelf, the keyboards, and mice. In the meantime, M.T.A.C., the management and technical educational institution that’s allowing us to use the warehouse space, came today for their share of computers (our barter for the warehouse).

At one point the power went out, and we attempted to get the generator hooked up.

Starting the Generator

…but we failed miserably.

Later, Fredrik, Rudi, and I had dinner with the Katahoire family at a very nice Indian resturant. Dr. Katahoire is the Chairman of the Ugandan Communications Commission. We discussed our plans for InterConnection Uganda and then about Fredrik’s idea of intergrating Microsoft SmartPhones with PCs to collect data from SMS messages sent from normal “dumb” phones. But we’ll talk more about that in time.

Going to…The Surgery.

July 2nd, 2007

Jackie has been quite sick all weekend, and she has become very sensitive to smells (with the burning trash pile nearby that certainly is not a good thing). She has been throwing up rather regularly for the past few days and hasn’t been keeping much water down, let alone any food. Her mother has been calling—she’s quite worried.

We took her to “The Surgery,” a medical center that is supposedly endorsed by the U.S. Embassy. Since Brenda was at work today at the South African Embassy, Fredrik had to drive us around in Kampala. I was actually quite impressed with his driving. When we had to make a major right turn (like a left turn for all of you who drive on the right side of the road) he just busted right through two lanes of cars. Oh yes, they backed off. They were probably thinking, uh oh, a Muzungu driving…better get out of the way!
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