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I'd been looking for an excuse to leave Kampala for a several weeks. After our guard stole my roommate's bankroll and the security company asked us to decide whether he should be fired or pistol-whipped -- we settled on the latter after both protesting and soliciting his input -- I'd been tasked with a story about health care that required me to loiter in a hospital where amputees dragged themselves down the halls from ward to ward. I was young and these slight horrors planted the seeds of anxiety: I was convinced that the waiters at the expatronized Ethiopian restaurant, who al-Shabab would murder a few years later, had become rude and that the screeners at the gates of parliament had taken an unhealthy interest in my press pass.
When my less-than-encouraging editor offered me the Murchison Falls story, I took it immediately. I'd never said no to him and it was finally convenient to say yes. I didn't want to be at home anymore. My half-built compound had been all but taken over by a group of construction workers, men who wore their muscles like wet suits and sweated accordingly.