Tag Archives: Uganda

Invasion of the Coffee Snatchers


I realized it has been far too long since I have shared one of Murphy’s attacks on me.  And we must remedy that right away.  I have already shared with you the story of the flood.  So it seems appropriate that we move on to the next plague of biblical proportions.  The pestilence.

I was living in Orlando at the time—in the same apartment where the flood occurred, and later a fire happened.  But that’s another story.  If you’ve ever lived in Florida you know that dealing with bugs takes on a whole new level of challenge in that warm state.  It’s the place where I first learned about storing your sugar in the freezer so that you wouldn’t wake up to find a spoonful of ants instead of sugar in your morning coffee.

It began gradually—the invasion of the ants.  There were the normal five or six you might find who had snuck in under the door frames.  But soon I was noticing a lot more ants than normal.  They were coming in through the side of my front door—apparently there was a large enough opening around the door for the disgusting creatures to scuttle through.  And from there they made a beeline to my kitchen.

If you’ve ever watched ants travel you’ve probably marveled at the way they move in a single file line like a small army bent on taking over our world.  Soon I was watching this tiny army march from my front door, across the wall, into the kitchen, along the counters, and into my cupboards.  There were thousands of them—disgusting, tiny, black beasts.  They were everywhere—in my sink, in the pantry, even inside the dishes.

I tried contacting the apartment office and requesting pest control.  They came out, sprayed, and left behind an army of unphased ants.  I kept calling the maintenance line.  The ants kept multiplying.

And then one morning it happened.  I poured water in the coffee pot, put in a filter and coffee, and switched it on.  As the inside heated up, suddenly ants started climbing out of the machine!  Hundreds of them!  Marching in that infuriating single file line out of my coffee pot!  I freaked out, to say the least.  And I hadn’t even had my morning cup of coffee!

I called the apartment office and received the same standard “We’ll send the pest control guy out next week.”  Clearly they didn’t understand the severity of the situation.  I tried to explain that someone needed to come out immediately.  They said “We’ll see what we can do.”  When I got home that night, it was clear “what they could do” was nothing.  The next morning I grabbed a garbage bag, put the coffee pot in it, and tied it up.  Then I went to the office,  walked in, and set the trash bag on the manager’s desk.  When I untied it, the army of ants began swarming out all over the place.  Now it was her turn to freak out.  “Put that back!!  Get that out of here!!” she began screaming.  I think I made my point.

The next day pest control came out and did some intensive work at my apartment.  Most of the ants died that day, never to be seen again.  I thought I was rid of them until several weeks later I opened the cupboard to make some tea.  I took out my stash of special Ugandan tea and discovered where the little monsters had been hiding.  Apparently they have a taste for Ugandan tea.


Across Continents


I drive down your crowded streets
20 people in a taxi meant for 14
bright pink stucco
painted to complement
a cell phone logo
in between:
corrugated tin shacks,
dried mud huts,
small brick sheds—
different places you call home
rubbish fills your three foot gutters
I watch people grill bananas
over gas stoves on the street
prepared bananas piled high
on a bed of peels
right there on the concrete
I walk through a maze of shades and shapes
but all of them unique from me
and they call out “muzungo”
like a magic charm or a witches curse
I’m not sure which
like they somehow believe
that I hold all the
I think such naiveté
must surpass my own
in this complex puzzle
I sit in the sun
watch a young girl twirl and bounce
to the steady rhythm of the blaring bass,
glance over and catch my brother and his wife
sweetly loving each other
across continents, cultures and colors
and think
I may never understand this place
but there is a beauty here
waiting to be appreciated


If I’m Invisible to You


The following is a poem I wrote a while ago.  It is dedicated to the children who inspired the Invisible Children movement, for more information check out http://www.invisiblechildren.com.

the soft thud of your footfalls haunt my dreams
i hear your calloused heals hit the dusty paths of beaten down earth
i watch as your thin body balances a small plastic bag in one hand
[contents: one tattered strip of cloth; translation: blanket]
while gently resting your other arm on my shoulder
[you do not notice i am there]
i smell the pungent odor of sweat mingled with sewage as we
walk on
we must be nearing the town
as we draw closer a smiles rises across your beautiful, sorrow- scarred face
in your eyes i watch the moonlight dance as you begin to stretch
your clenched body
soon i hear the litany of drumbeats calling out to us
and then i hear you laugh—
God, what a beautiful sound
laugh, as you lift your arm off my shoulder and run toward the glowing fire
[i rush forward after you]
i watch as you join thousands of faces—
all smiling
[trying to disguise the fear and sorrow i see still lurking there]
i watch as you dance in the street—
rhythmically beating your hips to the bass line that blares from some dollar-store radio
[checking my pockets, i wonder why i don’t have anything to offer you.  i sat down to eat with you only once today]
slowly the sun fades away into complete darkness
[and i push forward, put my arm around your shoulders]
and we begin to hurry towards the small basement nearby
[the size of my one bedroom apartment]
already our friends have arrived
121 of us
[i try to picture all of you in my apartment—sleeping on counter  tops and bookshelves]
you are expert clowns fitting children in a tiny car
i watch as you carefully unpack your plastic bag,
climb atop a pillar,
stretch out your blanket,
and close your eyes
[you don’t see me, but]
i stand by and listen till your breathing slows to sleep.
lean down and kiss your head goodnight.
and i stand by
whispering prayers
. . . God, i know you care for this child . . .
and i stand by
praying that i may ward off the demons that haunt you
and i stand
i stand.

they tell me that you are invisible.
that because your family bore you into another place, far away,
because you’re poor,
because you’re African,
that you are invisible.
and i know they’re right.
but i want to know why that’s true.
i want to know if i’m invisible too
if when i stand
with my dimes instead of dollars
my prayers instead of peace
if i’m invisible to you.

tomorrow we will repeat this pilgrimage.
you will haunt my dreams as we travel that long, dusty road
if i am invisible to you, i want you to know
you are not invisible to me.