Thursday, November 23, 2006

Uganda Railway Corporation

Glancing over a tourist map/brochure today in Kampala, I read about the Kampala Railway Station: This unique and beautiful building has seen millions of people and thousands of adventurers pass through its gates since 1931, when the first train, "Lunatic Line," arrived in Kampala. Unfortunately, the railway passenger service is no more, and the station is a sombre memory of better times. The "Iron Snake" still plays a role as Uganda's link to the sea, as most of the bulk cargo still moves this way to and from Mombasa.

Since I was sitting not far from the station at the time, I wandered over, took a couple photos of the facade, then took a couple of an old passenger carriage through the fence, at which point a passing police officer or two explained that I couldn't do that without proper permission, as out-of-service carriages were Critical Transportation Infrastructure™– of course.

So after deleting the photos from my digital camera while they watched (skeptical that I was actually doing it, of course!) I headed off to the Railway Police office to get permission. (Yeah. You don't want to get bureaucratic on me. I thrive on this.) I met the Division Police Commander, a wonderful fellow named Paul, who was delighted that I was wearing an environmental t-shirt, since he'd done his BSc in environmental science before studying police work and law. After a long chat about the environmental, railway, and cargo differences between Uganda, the U.S. and Hawaii (during which he deduced that I posed no threat to the railway), we went over to the office, met the equally nice public relations lady, and were taken to the office of the Chief Executive to get permission from the top.

The Chief Executive was a shade paler than I, much to my surprise, and said that of course I could take photos as long as I stayed off the tracks - in a tone indicating that it was ludicrous I should even need to ask. I didn't talk to him much, but with information from the others and some help from Google, figured out that I really 
should have, since the URC was just privatized about 3 weeks ago, and said Chief Executive is Robert E. Mortensen, distinguished alumnus of Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, who retired a decade ago after a 30-year career in Philadelphia at Conrail!

Yes, it's a small world. :) Anyway, Paul and I had a good time wandering around while I took a few pictures, and we parted ways on good terms.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I photographed an event for Reuters today... in a sense. :)

Every couple years, the Reuters Foundation - the charitable arm of the huge media service - teams up with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to honor the best articles in the environmental media. Prizes are given out to the best articles from each of six regions (Europe/Middle East, Francophone Africa, Anglophone Africa, Asia, Oceania/North America/Caribbean, and Latin America), and a global winner is also selected from among the regional winners.

This year's ceremony happened today, as a press event at the conference I'm attending. The primary photographer on my team was busy going off to the airport to photograph Kofi Annan, so I wandered over to take pictures of the ceremony, with a friend and colleague who used to work for IUCN.

Upon arriving, I was approached by a nice lady from the Foundation, who asked whether I was the official photographer, and explained that all of Reuters' local photographers had also gone off at the airport to photograph Kofi Annan. Oh, the irony. One of the largest - if not 
the largest - media organizations in the world has an event, and can't even scrounge up a photographer!

So I took a bunch of photos, some of which wound up on 
the day's page on our conference coverage. And they were all happy, and I gave them all my card so they can email me about getting copies of the photos and stuff.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Continuing to nibble my way through the animal kingdom

Team dinner in Nairobi was at the Safari Park hotel's Nyama Choma Lounge. "Nyama Choma" is Swahili for "roast meat," and there was plenty of it. They started off with a soup (which I skipped) and a rather salty salad, then progressed from familiar to exotic meats - sausage (I skipped it), chicken, beef, pork, goat, spare ribs, more chicken, crocodile, camel. And cheesecake for dessert. I was a little disappointed that they never brought over any lamb, since it was on the list, or ostrich, since they hinted that they had some.

In America, most people use goats for milk and grass/rubbish disposal, but in the Caribbean and Africa they're commonly eaten. Goat tastes somewhat like lamb, not bad, really.

Crocodile wasn't very appealing. It doesn't have much flavor, and is pretty chewy. I only ate a little bit.

Camel is pretty chewy, but flavor-wise, it's not really that far from donkey, so although some of my teammates had a hard time with it, I enjoyed it.

There was a show, too, with dancers and acrobats and all that.

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