Monday, September 24, 2007

all in a day's work

While in Nairobi, I received a ride back to the Kellers' house in a government car after meeting with a couple Africa University alumni working in government jobs. On the way we saw the Kenyan president's motorcade go by.

Today may have beat that.

Today I met one of Uganda's former presidents. It was all so lowkey, and I really didn't know much about him until I just googled him. He's quite an interesting cat. According to this article, he's "the only surviving ex-president of Uganda being looked after by the state under provisions of the 1995 Uganda Constitution." It did appear that he's being looked after by the state, as his visit to the office I was in had to do with financial matters. I never would have guessed that he's nearly 90 (87 years old).

This morning I was at the Ministry of Public Service here in Kampala, interviewing another of Africa University's alumni. The very jovial-faced Benon greeted me kindly. He was sharing an office with another alum, Andrew. The air about Kampala feels less tense and nervous than the Nairobi scene. Security problems aren't as severe here, and you can feel it. People here just feel more laid-back and friendly, more at ease than they do around Nairobi. And everyone in Kenya and elsewhere seems to know that downtown Nairobi is the territory of thugs, as everyone calls them. That at-ease personality carried over to the differences between my entrance to the government buildings in Nairobi and those in Kampala.

While Benon and I chatted--after he'd shown me pictures on his computer of Africa University and beautiful views I'll get to take in when I arrive there--Andrew eventually left the room. The office door was open to the open "hallway" above a courtyard that you can have in places where the climate is usually warm.

A woman stopped by at one point. Benon asked her to come back in a little while. Then I could see Benon acknowledge someone in the doorway behind me. A man. Eventually, the man stepped into the doorway and asked for Andrew. Benon explained that Andrew had stepped out. Eventually, it was decided that the man could wait inside the office. Then Benon introduced me, "Kami Rice this is His Excellency [or some word like that] the former president of the Republic of Uganda." Oh! I sure wasn't expecting that! I can't remember if we shook hands then or not. By then the former president, Godfrey Binaisa, was across the room from me.

He ended up explaining his business to Benon. Benon was going to take care of the problem. Somewhere in there we all chatted a bit. Then the former president left, shaking hands with me along the way. I debated whether it was appropriate to ask to have a picture taken with him or whether that would blow my "I'm cool" cover. Besides, I had no idea what kind of president he had been or what kind of man he was now, though in my few minutes with him he seemed nice and pleasant enough.

A little while later Andrew returned and Binaisa came back. Benon was looking for something for me about that time, so we all kind of chatted. I think it was Binaisa who asked who I thought would win the next presidency, Obama or Hillary. People in Africa are following our elections, by the way....a whole year before they happen. The pastors I talked with in Kenya asked me about Obama, too. Binaisa seems to think he doesn't quite have enough experience to be elected. He met Bill Clinton once and liked him.

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