Through Shoes

I’ve done some reading here in Uganda. I consumed what novels I brought, Good Omens and The Lies of Locke Lamora, within a month. Left with my roommates’ books, I have demolished them with equal fervor. They are enlightening, and sometimes difficult to read.

Canada in Africa by Yves Engler and Farewell Kabul by Christina Lamb were both excellent. However, they expose decisions, motives, and people that aren’t pleasant to read about. The first tears apart the last 300 years of Canada’s international aid and exploitation. The second, which I completed last week, describes in excruciating detail the 2001 – 2014 war in Afghanistan.

Both books draw a lot of parallels to the development world that I am currently a part of. Engler references every failure, corruption, and questionable motive in Canada’s foreign affairs. Lamb notes development aid that went in to Afghanistan – especially aid which should have been but was not given. Fantastic treatises on greed, hubris, and poor decisions, I recommend both books because they are filled with history people may not know about and mistakes best not repeated. I also recommend they be read while in a positive state of mind.

It’s very easy to be wrapped up in others’ bullshit, feel powerless against the malicious, greedy, and outright stupid decisions people make every day. That’s why I’m glad I chose to bring my Converse All-Stars to Uganda.

Insubstantial, boasting no stories of ethical production or foreign development, and virtually useless against Uganda’s fine red dust, oceans of rain, and uniquely sticky, fabric-penetrating mud, they make it easy to feel the ground through their thin soles. Walking through Jinja town’s ancient broken sidewalks or around Mpumudde’s barely-paved roads, I register every pebble, undulation, and crack. I can contact the ground through the not-really protective layer of rubber and canvas.

Connecting to the ground is as good as being told “there is nothing you can do about other people’s dumb decisions. Saddle up and keep doing great work”. The bullshit fades away. I don’t feel weighed down by the malicious, greedy, and stupid. Of course, insubstantial shoes are no help when hiking, but that’s a story for next week.

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