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Oct 12:
a galaxy far far away
Oct 13:
any road, any load
Oct 15:
machetes & machineguns
Oct 16:
gentle giants up close
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gorilla bonus tracks
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roadside market
Uganda; Oct 17, 2004

local zero

On our hike to see the gorillas on the second day, we hike through a small village called Chumbugushu. They are having a town meeting, or a “Local 0” meeting, as our guide explains. From the smallest village up to parliament, each Ugandan has a voice. The small villages (or neighborhoods in a larger town) are the ground level, called Local 0. One representative from each Local 0 represents the community at the corresponding Local 1 meeting (encompassing a larger land area and larger number of people – e.g., all the villages in a certain area or a larger town). Similarly, a representative from each Local 1 goes to the corresponding Local 2 meetings, all the way up to Local 5, and then to parliament.

Chumbugushu village Local 0 meeting

Our guide and trackers express differing views on how well the system was working. Some say that it is good because everybody gets a say, but others said that it is still quite corrupt and that the system really doen't work very well yet, but that they have hopes of it continuing to improve.

We ask what some of the biggest issues are for this Local 0 – what are they likely discussing at this meeting? Our guide tells us that the biggest issue is a new road, and that schooling for the children is also important. At present, the road leading to this village is horrible. It is only a partial dirt road that is difficult even for a 4-wheel drive vehicle, and the rest of the narrow road has to be negotiated on foot . This means that erecting new buildings is very slow and difficult, since all the materials have to be carried in by hand. Our guide says that it might be years before they get their road, if ever, since they are at the end of the line instead of on the way to some other villages.

On the way back from the gorillas, we are surprised to discover that they are still having the meeting (more than 3 hours later). And everybody is still there; men, women, and children – the whole village – about 30 people, all dressed in what we would learn later are their finest clothes. We are told that these meetings commonly last all day long, rain or shine (and today has been both since it had rained hard for a while on our way back from the gorillas).

We want to take a picture but feel awkward about imposing, so we ask our tracker if it would be okay. Fortunately, we are last in the hiking line (except for the armed rear guard), so the rest of the party has already passed through the meeting and out of sight around the next curve in the trail. After a brief conversation between the tracker and some of the elders, our tracker tells us it is okay to take their photo. We also decide it is a polite time for us to make a small contribution.

We ask for the Local 0 representative. A man raises his hand, and a murmur of surprise passes through the meeting – it appears that simply knowing the term “Local 0” was a good start. We approach him, thank him for allowing us to take a picture of the meeting and hand him 10,000 schillings (about US$6), telling him that this is a small contribution for their road, and that we hope they can build it soon. He smiles and looks somewhat surprised as our tracker repeats what we said in Becheega (the local language, the spelling of this may be incorrect). At this point, the attitude of the entire village changes from tolerant to friendly. It is a small amount of money to us, but seems to make a big difference to them. As we leave the village, we think about how much we take for granted in life.

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