A-Z: Things I like

A – Africa (the continent I love)

B – Basset Hounds (there is no greater breed)

C – Christmas (everything about Christmas makes me happy)

D – Dexter (easily one of my top 5 favorite TV shows)

E – Eating (not gonna lie, I like to eat)

F – Funnel Cakes (is there any sweet treat that’s better?)

G – Geocaching (my favorite hobby)

H – Harry Potter (probably the greatest book series ever)

I – In ‘n Out Burger (mmmmm)

J – Jenny (my wife, she’s awesome)

K – King (Stephen King to be exact, his books frighten me)

L – Los Angeles Dodgers (my favorite baseball team)

M – Monster Energy Drinks (they keep me awake when I need to be awake)

N – Newcastle United (my favorite soccer team)

O – Outback Steakhouse (yes it’s a chain, but it’s one of my favorite restaurants)

P – Podcasts (so many great podcasts, so many great topics)

Q – Queen (some of the best guitar solo’s ever)

R – Rain (I love rain, I just wish California got more of it)

S – Survivor (recently got hooked on this show, now I’m watching every season!)

T – Traveling (I love seeing new places and old places)

U – Uganda (the place I truly consider home)

V – Vanilla Latte (iced or hot, I’ll drink them)

W – Words With Friends (play me! username: adamansel)

X – X-Files (Mulder & Scully, need I say more?)

Y – Yahoo News Ticker (this is where I keep up with the world)

Z – Zoo’s (Santa Barbara and San Diego have great ones)

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What A Day May Bring (Part 2)

Kato

That afternoon his boss called him into his office. William was surprised because after two years of working here it was the first time that he had ever been asked to go into that office. It was turning out to be a good day after all – his boss wanted to give him a raise in pay, not much, but every shilling helped. They were impressed with William, he kept his temper, never shouted back at customers, was very patient, just the kind of person they wanted working there. So after a handshake and a slap on the back, he was back at his phone answering calls. He tried to be as helpful as he could, because he wanted the people at the other end of the line to have as good a day as he was having.

During his short break at four he called his wife and passed along the good news and told her that he would pick up some bananas and a pineapple on his way home, just as a small way to celebrate. He greeted his daughter as well, since she was in P2, she came home from school early in the afternoon, but starting next year she wouldn’t come home until the evening. She made him proud, at the end of the last school year she finished 3rd in her entire class. I am a blessed man, he thought to himself.

 

Wasswa

The old taxi park in the center ofKampalawas by far the craziest and busiest place in the entire city. Kassim waited. There were two more taxis in front of him that had to fill up before he could start collecting passengers. The conductor had run off to use the bathroom so Kassim sat in the semi-hot late afternoon sunshine. People sold everything here in the taxi park. Food, drinks, clothes, radios, car parts, anything you wanted really. A boy selling newspapers came by and Kassim took one to look at, of course he wasn’t going to buy it, he couldn’t even read that well, but at least it gave him something to do while he waited.

He finished and handed the paper back, the first taxi drove off so he started up the engine and drove forward one space.

 

Kato

Finally,six o’clock. He could begin the long ride back home. William cleaned up his little work area, and picked up his bag. He signed out and went outside. Traffic was backed up, but he knew he could get through it pretty quick on his bicycle. He rode downKampala Road, turned right onEntebbe, and made his way through the mess at Clock Tower. The evening was the most beautiful part of the day. The temperature was just right and he rode along at a quick speed, without even sweating. He stopped in Kabalagala and bought a pineapple and some bananas and put them on the basket at the front of his bike. He rode on through Kansanga and down the hill onto a long straight patch of road that led towards Ggaba.

Wasswa

Kassim drove through Kansanga with a full load. He was going to get to Ggaba in a few minutes and then make another four trips before calling it a day. They had just finished working on theGgaba Road– new pavement, no potholes, so he could make good time here after he was through Kansanga. He drove on, increasing his speed, because time is money.

 

Kato

The wind blew around him, refreshing him, this was a great day.

He didn’t see the pothole until it was too late to swerve. The water men had dug up the side of the road to fix a leaking pipe and hadn’t leveled the ground off again. His front tire hit the hole and threw his bike to the right. He couldn’t do anything about it, he was falling. He braced himself for the impact.

 

Wasswa

There was nothing he could do about it. The man on the bicycle fell just in front of him. Kassim hit the brakes, but there was a loud thump as the front left tire hit the man and another as the back one did as well. Kassim quickly pulled off the road, shouted at the passengers to stay in the taxi and ran back towards the man lying in the road.

There was a pool of blood around the man’s still body, he was already dead. The passengers didn’t listen and came and gathered around Kassim and this dead man. Other cars continued on their way paying little attention to what had happened. This sort of thing occurred quite often around here.

They had learned to ignore it.

What A Day May Bring (Part 1)

This is a story I wrote back in 2005 while living in Uganda. Death is a common part of life there and I wanted to write a story that would accurately capture that. It’s kind of long so I broke it up into 2 parts for the blog. This is Part 1.

When you woke up this morning you probably had a lot of things on your mind – what am I going to wear today? I think I should eat lunch at a restaurant or I never eat at restaurants anymore. Do I really have to go to work? Dear heavens, I have nothing at all to do today. Thoughts like that, but honestly, have you ever just woken up and thought – will today be the day that I die? Most likely, you rarely do, if ever. But maybe you should, maybe you should look at the bigger picture and realize that we really don’t have much control over our lives or when they will stop. Which they eventually will do. You can guard yourself from certain things: stay away from the alcohol, stay away from smokers, never fly, but what happens when you can’t control the situation: a drunk driver, bad weather, someone else’s foolishness. Let’s face the truth – death comes to us all, in one way or another. Maybe we should wake up and consider that today may be the last day that we’ll ever see. Would that change the way we think, or live, or act. Because we really don’t know what a day may bring.

Kato

The day was sunny, just like most of the days around here. A deep blue sky and a few scattered white clouds were all the eye could see if one cared to glance upwards.

William Kato certainly didn’t care.

He was late for work and that was all that was on his mind. Work was hard to come by here and losing his job would just be about the worst thing that could happen. He quickly pulled on a pair of brown trousers and buttoned up his white shirt with the red stripes and rolled the sleeves up to his elbows. A cup of tea that was too hot and burnt his tongue, teeth brushed, shoes and socks on, and then a quick good-bye to his wife Joy and his daughterLydiaand he was out the door.

It was a forty-five minute bicycle ride from his place in Ggaba to his workplace in centralKampalaand that was making good time.

The scenery blurred by as William peddled his old bike towards town, he quickly glanced down at his watch, he was making good time, maybe he would actually make it to work on time. Taxis passed by closer than he would have liked but to be fast he had to ride on the pavement and not in the bare soil. Banana trees passed as did the few minutes he had before he would be late and at one minute before seven William Kato pulled up in front of his office sweating and out of breath, but on time.

Of course when running late, or having fun time seems to fly, but when sitting in an office taking calls from annoyed customers the hands on the clock seem like they are moving backwards, but eventually it reached nine-thirty and William was released for a coffee break, or tea, whichever you enjoy more. He had his tea with two spoons of sugar and walked outside.

Kampalawas crazy, like always. People shouting, others were arguing, cars honking at one another because none of them were patient enough to actually wait their turn to go. Music blaring from shops around the corner, beggars on the street corners harassing people for their money and occasionally getting something. Women with blankets spread out on the sidewalk selling sweets, the daily papers, and other trinkets. A few white tourists and aid workers walking about in disarray because they had no idea where they were or how to get to where they were going. The usual.

William enjoyed his fifteen minute break, he always did. The office was too quiet, too controlled, too regular. Getting out on the streets for a few minutes always helped to relax him and put a smile on his face.

But then time was up and it was back to the grind until lunch.

Wasswa

Kassim Wasswa was a taxi driver. A Ugandan taxi driver. A minibus with seats for fourteen, seat belts for five, and usually carried twenty people. He didn’t own the matatu, which they are called here, another wealthier man did. Kassim’s job was to drive it fromKampalato Ggaba and back over and over again, taking as many passengers as possible in the day. The first twenty-five thousand shillings went directly to his boss, anything after that he split between himself and the conductor.

It was a nice day, the sun was shining like usual; he had already made three trips this morning since he started at six. But now it was mid-morning and traffic was heavy as everyone rushed into town for work. Kassim had a full taxi and was stuck in traffic at the Clock Tower roundabout. Bicycles and motorbikes squeezed between the bigger vehicles as they honked and pushed their way towards clearer roads. Pedestrians weaved their way across the road going to different destinations. Kassim was a patient man, he sat in this traffic everyday – twice, once in the morning and then again in the evening. Each day was the same, drive, drive, drive. He needed the money to support the small room he stayed in and to buy his cigarettes. That’s why he put up with this. He smiled, honked his horn, shouted a few choice words out the window and pushed his way a little further into the traffic.

Kato

William checked his watch again, nearly one – lunch time. The morning was dragging on. You wouldn’t believe how many people call to complain about electricity. “My power was off last night until eleven.” “My home hasn’t had electricity for two days now!” William was used to people shouting at him, but he didn’t mind because he couldn’t do anything about it. He wasn’t in charge of the electricity board he only passed along the complaints. So people could say anything they wanted to him, in any language, and it didn’t stick with him. When he went home at night, and was with his wife and child, he was happy and could forget all about work until the next morning.

Lunch. What should he eat for lunch? He checked in his pocket and pulled out two thousand shillings, enough for a small meal that would hold him over until the evening when he would enjoy rice, beans, chapati, and meat with his family. That thought brought a smile to his face as he picked up the phone to listen to another shouting customer.

Wasswa

Kassim shut off the engine of the matatu. He was parked off the side of the road at the turn around point in Ggaba village. It was lunch time so the children were all out of school buying small snacks for their stomachs. He walked down to the market and bought a mango and a small plastic bag full of water. A quick lunch and then on the go again. The more he drove, the more money he made, no time for wasting on eating. He bit into his mango as he walked back up the hill to the taxi. There was already a group of people waiting for him to drive them to town. He shouted for the conductor who came and slid open the side door and the passengers filed in. Kassim went over to the motorbike drivers and greeted them, then went back to the taxi and got in. He finished his mango and threw the seed out the window, then he drank the water from the plastic bag and threw it out the window as well. He knocked on the roof, the conductor shut the door and they were on their way back toKampala.

Yaws on my arm

I had recently returned from working in Sudan where it seemed like exotic diseases were waiting around every corner, yet I had been spared, I was back in Uganda completely whole and healthy. Or so I thought.

About a week before I was leaving to head back to the states these bumps arose on the outside of my right arm around the elbow. Over time these bumps grew and hardened, turned black, scabbed, itched like crazy, eventually fell off and left scarring where they had been. They never came back and didn’t really cause any discomfort other than itching. I was just glad they were gone because I didn’t want to get quarantined on my arrival back in the US for being contagious with some strange disease. Well I thought, it was Africa, things like that happened, no big deal, but I always wondered what exactly it was….

Flash forward 6 years and I was in Darwin, California with a group of friends on our way to Death Valley. Darwin was a creepy town but there was a sign pointing off into the hills with a UFO on it and said “Yaw’s Gate ahead”. That piqued our interest so we all began searching the internet for anything referring to Yaw’s Gate. We couldn’t find anything about a gate, but the term “Yaw” turned out to be very interesting.

There’s a disease that occurs in some tropical areas that causes bumps that grow and harden, then turn black, scab over, itch like crazy, and eventually fall off and leave scarring where they had been. It’s called Yaws.

So it took a few years, an adventure to a ghost town in the Californian desert, following the trail of a mysterious UFO gate, and Google to finally figure out that I had Yaws on my arm. That’s pretty cool.

I’ve included a link below to an article about Yaws, but only look if you don’t get squeamish:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaws

3 poems about fishermen

Fishermen

They’re out there again

On their lonely perch

Keeping a vigilant watch on the water

While waves gently lap the shore

And the sun begins to set

A bite

A tug

And dinner is brought in

The evening air is still warm

Although the day started cold

And as the boat is filled

With the scent of the catch

Another day is finished

Now that I’m here

I can smell the breeze and feel the soil under my feet

It’s the warmth of the air just before sunset

The way every day seems perfect

It just seems right

People bathing in the lake

While children cry nearby

And fishermen haul in their nets

A lone man sits looking into solitude

Wishing he had a boat, a net

And a few shillings in his pocket

Untitled #2

I can hear the fishermen out on Lake Victoria

Their laughter sends ripples across the water

Have they caught anything but conversation?

spoiled

In the not too distant past I dreamt about the days when the power wouldn’t go off every day, when I could go to In ‘n Out, and when I could buy Pepsi in a plastic bottle. Now I long for those days of the past. Living here in southern California and more generally in the United States I have become spoiled.

Life in Uganda is lived day by day, minute by minute. Survival is a reality not just a given. Death is ever present, especially if you’re riding a boda boda through downtown Kampala. Here in California I’ve become a softie, getting what I want when I want, I don’t think about death and I imagine I’ll live forever. Quite the contrast.

It’s funny how the little things were so nice in Uganda. One day where the electricity didn’t go off was a miracle, having a day where it was on longer than it was off was a blessing. I loved drinking Pepsi and Coke out of glass bottles, but once in a while I just wanted one that was in a plastic container with a resealable lid so I could just toss it around. But, I had to take a 12 hour bus ride to Nairobi, Kenya just to get one of those. Another big difference is transportation. My wife and I have 2 vehicles that we can hop in and go to where we need to go fairly quickly (even though the Los Angeles traffic is starting to infect us), but in Uganda I either had to walk, take a boda boda, or a taxi and it could take up to an hour just to get into Kampala.

I’m not a rich man, but I can basically get what I want when I want it even if I don’t need it. I’m not relying on the donations of kind people to help me get food. If I’m hungry I find something to eat, I don’t have to spend a day with that growling, longing for food rumbling in my stomach. When I want to take a shower I just turn on the hot water. Even in an equatorial country like Uganda a hot shower is nice, but those were a rarity.

I don’t say all these things to put down the US, it’s more about me personally. I’ve allowed myself to slip, to become dependant on myself rather than trusting God to get me through a day. I’ve gotten comfortable having all these luxuries (which I enjoy) instead of finding joy in the little things. I’ve gotten fat off the land instead of just having my daily bread. I’ve realized that for me, it takes so much more discipline and faith to live here in the States because I get blinded and lulled into a comforable existence. I miss the days of truly living in faith that God would provide each single day everything that I needed. The awesome thing was that God always did provide. Now I try to provide. I would love to go back to Uganda and live, but for now I’m here and I really want to try to shed some of these comforts, shed some of this self-sufficiency and cling to the feet of Jesus. I want him to be the one I put my faith in, not myself, not my job, not my money, not my Pepsi in a plastic bottle.