Field notes from Uganda

It’s a sad statement that I can finish a week of field work in Uganda and have blogged my experience exactly zero times.

This is precisely the problem with field experiments, and why I need to phase out, or at least scale down. They can become intellectually vacuous and administratively burdensome.

That overstates the point; I’ll probably never cease testing ideas and new programs in the field. I learn a great deal. But I feel finished with whirlwind tours of fascinating places, never leaving the NGO  board room, merely organizing the activities of the staff who actually go to the field.

It was not so several years ago, when I could throw myself into weeks or months of time in villages, talking to leaders, mothers, rebels, children.

Now that I’ve decided to turn, I’ll just have to decide which direction.

Meanwhile, the trip was not without highlights:

  • Staying at the Catechist training center–Gulu’s best kept and most tranquil secret–where the fathers offer fantastic conversation and (best of all) fast wireless.
  • The little signs of growing wealth: The boda boda drivers now have change, and fuel; the crumbling cars are fewer; the fields look a little fuller; mobiles are ubiquitous.
  • Meeting little Christopher, a 4-month old namesake.
  • Seeing Andrew Mwenda recite from memory a chapter from The Story of Philosophy, while driving in Kampala traffic
  • Running among the fields and farms outside Gulu–something I could never have securely done just a few years ago.

One of the nicest things about working in Uganda for a long time is that the expatriate friends leave and the Ugandan ones stay, and become closer. I loved the ex-pats, but that was part of the problem. That which is comfortable can also be insular.