Life in Uganda


Underpants Bandits

Below is an email I wrote to friends in Jinja.

Alternative Subject lines: Knicker Nabbers, Panty Pirates, Loincloth Larcenists, Skivvies Swindlers

Jinja Community,

On Saturday night, Candice and I came home late after dinner with friends. Not long after heading to bed, the rain went from a drizzle to a downpour. Due to other incidents at our home over the last few years, such rainfall prohibits peaceful sleep.

At one point, I noticed some flashlights flickering in the hallway and decided to step out and investigate. I saw a figure duck into the guest bedroom. With a quick injection of adrenaline, I flicked the hall light on and yelled, “Get out of my house, thief!” in the gruffest, loudest, manliest voice I could muster. (Candice later commented that it sounded more like a squeaky scream, but I’m writing this story, so I’ll write it as I remember it.)

The man emerged from the room and ran toward the sitting room. Much to my surprise, he was only wearing underwear. No shoes. No Shirt. Only a small brown, satiny cloth that barely covered the thief’s keister. Note to future thieves: if you intend to rob me, please have the decency to at least wear boxers.

I chased the near-naked heister into the living room where at least one other thief was making his escape as well. At this point, some of my mental faculties awakened and I realized that chasing men au naturel wasn’t what I wanted to be doing at 2AM. I also realized that I didn’t know who else could be in the house so I retreated to my bedroom and began searching room-by-room.

Two other men live on our compound, so I called both of them and they went out to wake up the nightwatchman who was sleeping in the back. The dogs are well-trained and tend to stick with the nightwatchman, which is exactly where they were during the entire caper. You might wonder why the nightwatchman was asleep in the back, and to such a curious mind, I wish to smile and gently pat you on the head. Such innocent spirits are so precious.

I drove the streets looking for any movement but the heavy rains impeded visibility. As I drove, I tried calling the LC1 but he never answered the phone. The LDU’s phone was off. I called the owner of the tracking dog, but he discouraged using the dog due to the rains. So I headed home to assess the damage: a 15″ MacBook Pro, two iPad 2’s, Nikon D7000 w/lenses, DVD player, cash, some bags, airtime, and a raincoat. (If you hear of anything for sale or have any tips for recovery, let me know!)

Everyone is safe and unhurt. I’ll clearly need therapy for PG-13 nudity. The other stuff we can replace or do without. It is obviously infuriating to have someone enter your home uninvited and to lose possessions, but this being our 7th situation like this, we have come to terms with such realities. I’m fairly certain this was a non-violent, petty theft sort of break in. There were small piles of stones where they cut the fence and where they entered the house, but my interpretation is that these were to be thrown in order to discourage the dogs from attacking.

I just wanted to make you all aware as this type of action often continues until people are caught.

In a move of compassion, I am starting a new NGO to help disadvantaged thieves in Uganda. If you wish to make a donation of boxers, shorts, trousers, shirts, shoes, etc., I’ll be happy to leave them in a bin on my porch where they can be regularly accessed by T.I.N. (thieves in need).

Bobby Garner
Executive Director
SUTUM – Sustainable Undergarments for the Thieves of Uganda Ministries
“No one should suffer the shame of silk briefs.”

PS – Yes, I realize that most of my subject lines indicate that the thieves were stealing undergarments rather than having the intended meaning of stealing stuff while wearing only undergarments. We were robbed less two nights ago. Cut me some slack, you critical snob.

A couple of things may need explanation: an LC1 is a local councilman (like an alderman but with a few more mediation duties) and an LDU is a local defense unit (these guys carry AK-47s around at night and look for trouble-makers).

UPDATE: The First Baptist Church of Dexter (the church where Candice grew up) and a few friends graciously provided us with replacements for all our technological losses! What a blessing to know that people care so much for us and desire to be part of our recovery. Their gift provided us with their presence and support. In fact, I type these words on the keyboard they provided. Thank you.


Jews in Uganda


Last summer, Hannah Nemer and Lindsay Rosenfeld were film interns for Kibo and Mana. Students at the University of North Carolina, Hannah and Lindsay have a scholarship that partners them with Silent Images. We were fortunate to have them participate in life here for 10 weeks. Check out their videos:

Hannah returned this summer to work with the Abayudaya, Jews in Eastern Uganda. She documented the effect of Idi Amin’s reign on Jews, Muslims, and Christians in that community. Here’s a fun video she made for the Abayudaya youth.

Chris & Kate Circumnavigate

My Harding roommate Katy and her husband Chris have given up the hustle and bustle of their New York City lifestyle. After 4 1/2 years away from home they decided to move back to Panama City, Florida where they met and became high school sweethearts.

While we were visiting New York last Fall they told us of their plan to take an around the world trip before settling down in Florida. Uganda was on the itinerary! Earlier this year, I began to make plans for their trip.

They spent a week visiting Murchison Falls Game Reserve, trekking chimps, and rhinos, but their first two and a half weeks were in Jinja with us. They visited 3 Kibo projects, attended church in the town and in the village, rafted the Nile and took some much needed down time.

The best part of their visit was evenings we spent together discussing their travels thus far, their life in New York, and their anticipation of living near family after being away for so long.

Chris and Katy have kept a blog chronicling their journey. Katy is an excellent writer. Read her reflections on Uganda Life and Uganda Work.

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The Value of People and their Story

In case the Monitor newspaper doesn’t deliver to your door, here’s a shot of today’s article on the mvule tree as a metaphor for the state of the Basoga people.

Uncle B & Aunt C

April 28, Amelia Jane Garner was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Bobby’s brother, Sam and our sister-in-law, Nicole are the proud parents.

Alex is Uncle “A” so we have the A, B, C’s covered.

29th at Wildwater

This year for my birthday we decided to get of of town and since we live in such a beautiful part of the world, we only had to travel an hour and a half on a dirt road to reach our lunchtime destination, Wildwater. Situated on an island in the River Nile, Wildwater is a peaceful relaxing getaway. All the paths on the island are built up on a wooden deck that leads from the guest rooms to the dining room. They have incredible food and customer service, but the river itself stole the show.

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Going to America

Trips abroad to places unknown have intrigued people since the beginning of travel. Visiting Uganda for the first time in May 2007, opened my heart, soul, and mind to a place I hoped to move to in the near future. Seeing photos, movies, and hearing stories is great, but nothing tops experiencing smells, colors, and culture for the first time.

Today my colleagues Abraham Mulongo and Ronald Bwana took off on a 7 week journey around the United States. They’ll be all over the south and midwest. Visits are also scheduled to Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon and Malibu, California where they’ll be speaking at the Pepperdine lectureships.
Both of their families accompanied them to Entebbe Airport for their departure. The group stopped at the zoo on the way to check out the animals.