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So here I am in Uganda

11/08/2013 @ 7:02am

So here I am in Uganda.

That’s another sentence I never saw myself writing, but I lead a complicated life and sometimes end up in places that I never intended to go.

I belong to an organization called the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, a group that thinks I’m a journalist. They don’t appear to realize that I usually just make up stuff every week, and I’d appreciate it if those of you who know better would just keep your mouths shut.

Anyway, this group annually sponsors a tour of a different African country through a development organization called Agriterra, and this year they chose Uganda.

The fact that I’d never been to Uganda seemed like a good enough reason to send in an application, which they surprisingly accepted.

It’s a long way from Minnesota to Uganda. I was on the road, or in the air, for about 36 hours before I kicked my shoes off in the hotel room in Kampala. I left home on a muddy Halloween Eve and arrived early Sunday morning. The new pup saw me off, which meant I went through five airports on three continents with muddy footprints up and down my back and a little dog drool dried on my arm.

My route went Minneapolis-to-Newark-to-Brussels-to-Kigali-to-Kampala. Somewhere along the way, I misplaced my hat and shorted myself about 30 hours of sleep. I’m sure there are people who can sleep sitting up in an aluminum tube with 300 or 400 strangers. I am not that guy.

It felt really odd to be on the road again. I’ve been traveling enough the past year or so that some people I work with think I’m in the CIA. You know how you can tell that isn’t true? Because I’m lost all the time.

Think about it. James Bond or some other secret agent lands in Istanbul or Amsterdam and the first thing he does is steal a fancy car, then leads the police on a chase through the streets and back alleys. It always ends with the cops crashing into each other and watching helplessly as the spy disappears down a cobblestone street.

I couldn’t do that. First, if some cop hollered, “Stop!” at me, I’d stop and hold out my hands for handcuffs. Second, I don’t know how to hotwire anything more complicated than a ’66 Chevy, and, finally, I’d have to stop and ask directions about every third block. Since I don’t speak any language other than Minnesota English, I wouldn’t understand anything that was said to me. The police would arrest me while some shopkeeper was drawing me a road map on a chunk of papaya.

I’ve always been under the impression that when someone went off to spy school, they learned unarmed combat and code breaking, but instead they must just study road maps of Addis Ababa and Albuquerque.

When I got to the airport in Uganda, there was someone holding a sign with the name of my group on it. I went to him, he handed me over to someone else, and we headed off down a dark road in an elderly Range Rover with the steering wheel on the right side. I was hopelessly lost in the first hundred yards – the guy could have been taking me to Finland and I wouldn’t have had a clue.

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