Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
- Friendly people
- Awesome weather and amazing, lush scenery
- Boda boda rides!
- Tea time + dubbed over Spanish soap operas = supreme happiness
- Coming home to your host family and being tackled by your host brothers/sisters
- Fresh fruit and vegetables - avocados, mangos, bananas, pineapples, passionfruits...
- Organic/nonprocessed food in general
- Street food! Chapati, rolex, samosas, pancakes...
- Sodas. A Stoney (spicy ginger ale) a day makes a happy Mallory.
- Awesome FSD interns
- Being so close to the Nile makes for great scenery and tourism opportunities!
- Our favorite hostel, Backpackers, has an awesome crowd of 20-somethings from the U.S. or the U.K. on weekends.
- Beer. Big beers. Good beers. My favorite is the Nile Special.
- Blue Band. It's this margarine spread from Unilever and it's sooooo good.
- Ugandan friends calling you to update them on where they are and what they're doing.
- Obama-fever. There are Obama tote bags, hair salons, belt buckles...
- National football matches! Vuvuzelas, anyone?
- Copies of your favorite movies and TV shows before they're even in the stores in the US....
- The Ugandan ice cream truck
- Chickens, goats, and cows running all over the place. I think I just really like farm animals...
- The markets in Bugembe and Jinja. So lively and so much good food.
- The touristy shops selling traditional crafts. It's all I can do to keep from buying them all!
- Ugandan fabrics. I bought a purse in Kampala that's made out of traditional Ugandan fabric, and it's my favorite thing.
In the past few days, I've started to see a lot of differences in how much energy I consume versus how much my Ugandan counterparts consumer. In another idea from Tom Friedman’s book, he talks about how people around the world aspire to live the “American lifestyle.” The expansion of the global middle class is a testament to that. The issue is, Americans use more energy per person than any other country on the globe.
As an American in a country with an energy shortage, I’ve grown acutely aware of how much electricity I use. I have to charge my laptop, my iPhone if I want to listen to music and call my parents, my lantern, my Ugandan phone, my camera, etc etc etc. I can’t think about how my host family’s electricity bill is going to go up because of me.
I’ve also realized how much stuff I have. My host mother told me that I had the most bags out of any intern she had ever seen. Did I really need to take my iPad with me? Did I really need to take all these clothes? It’s become my new goal to reduce my bags from three down to two, so hopefully I won’t struggle on my way home!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
- Always account for twice as many guests as you plan for (my host parents invited 200 and 400 came)
- Invitation is generally by word of mouth - because you expect your friends to come, they do not need an invitation. (The workplace and far away relatives generally receive invitations.)
- The wedding party dances anytime the travel somewhere
- We had a lunch break between the wedding and reception
- The bride and bridegroom were constantly surrounded by photographers. Turns out they didn't hire all of them, some just heard and showed up. At the reception they came with multiple copies of their prints to sell right then and there to the guests!
- It is super convenient to be married in Jinja, because then you get to have your reception on the Nile!
- Cake is reserved for important people - I was not one of those - It is a way to show recognition to family members and employers and good friends who attend your wedding, and then it gets passed backwards from their to the other excess guests.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
“How do you find this place?” “It’s good. Bulunji.”My friend Lillian, a University student from Central Uganda, has been the only one to follow up with, "Why do you only have positive things to say?" Lillian, Mallory and I met at the source of the Nile, she is in Jinja completing her student teaching for her education degree. It is a very reasonable question, and Jinja is not exactly paradise, but her question made me laugh all the same. The experiences of being in a new place seem to have had more positives than negatives, we will see if this changes with the more time I spend here.
(Mallory, Lillian, and I in the middle of the Nile River)
A positive experience has been how nice people are. Ugandans rave that they are the nicest in Eastern Africa, and my colleagues assure me that they, the Busoga who live in this Jinja district, are the kindest tribe, the others are stubborn. And generally, people have always been very pleasant and friendly to me. It may have something to do with the customary greeting of "You are most welcome." That just makes a person feel good!
To be fair to Lillian’s question - I dislike the trash removal system here. Of the Ugandans I have interacted with, I have realized that I generate more trash than they do. Our family trash can is a small bucket emptied just a couple times a week. Much of what is thrown out is paper product or compost waste and so burning seems to be the removal method of choice. Dumpsters are found with smoke pouring out and trash spilling over. Once or twice I have seen a man with a shovel gather the trash back into the dumpster, but never have I seen it emptied. Through some curiosity and investigation, I learned that there is a city garbage removal, which takes the dumpsters away, empties them and then returns them. Those near the marketplace are emptied maybe every other day. You can see in the image to the right some mid day trash burning outside my office in Mafubira.
Now I don't want to leave you on such a negative note, so getting back to the discussion of the Busoga and tribes, those cultural ties are very strong. Heading to Mafubira I always pass the hill the tribe king is building a house on. One of my favorite questions to be asked is, do different tribes in America speak different languages? It reminds me of the differences between ourselves, where people do not always know their heritage, and this youthful country which became independent in the 60s. Could you imagine if each US state spoke at least one local language?
Thursday was the International Day of the African Child, a holiday celebrated since 1991, to honor those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 as well as raise awareness for the need for improvement of the education available to African children. Events rose up around Africa, and around Jinja, UNICEF, Red Cross, and my host mom's organization Children of Grace were among those to hold special awareness events. Check out this article for more information!
In Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 1976, roughly ten thousand black school children marched in a crowd longer than half a mile, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds were shot and and thousands more were injured or killed in the following protests. My host brother Francis really enjoys high school, and we have spent a lot of time talking about his school and how important it is to him. He wants to go to University to study English or Literature.
It is always fun to see kids running around and playing. It is not so common to be in the streets around the compound where I live, but in the villages and in town they are everywhere. Some sport school uniforms, others casual outfits you would see around any typical American town. Young children wear an oversize t shirt and mismatched shoes, and some don’t have shoes at all. It seems shoes are not a huge priority for children who outgrow them quickly. But it is something more than that. Not wearing shoes is part of their culture. Upon arrival at work, some of my colleagues take their shoes off for the day.
Children growing up in Uganda can get away with so much! A friend here described it a little differently, claiming the children are unruly. While visiting a village in Mafubira, a litter of children were playing outside with a large sheet of plastic. Once they realized this muzungu was watching them it became a performance of rolling under, wrapping up in, and tearing this large plastic while yelling out “Muzungu bye bye!” I waved and smiled and fist pounded each in turn and we all exploded into a fit of giggles.I hope any parents who read about this experience are taken aback by the children burying their faces in plastic. Growing up in Uganda emphasizes different cultural lessons to be learned. They play with what they have, and if it turns out to be dangerous, well they soon learn that. Obviously all these children survived their plastic sheet experience, and have probably picked it up again today. This particular experience reminded me of a TED talk I saw recently, children in America grow up extraordinarily protected. This is not a severe problem, but it is just a difference I have noticed from my short time on the other side of the world.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
It’s interesting the contrast of my life in the U.S. and life here. I think the biggest challenge is accepting that I have to be dependent on other people. Back home, I would get up on my own time, fix my own breakfast, follow my own schedule, eat dinner on my own time, and spend my evening as I saw fit. I could also complete my schoolwork and my part-time job all by myself for the most part.
Coming here, I had to slowly realize that the success of my project and my time here was dependent on other people. I couldn’t move around the community without my coworkers. I couldn’t organize a training without my managers. If I didn’t get anything done during the day, it was because my coworkers couldn’t help me. At home, if I want a snack, I can’t get it myself because everything is cooked by hand. I can’t make myself breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
As a person, I don’t like to be dependent on other people. So probably the hardest part was giving people my clothes to wash, being served at home, and having other people fetch buckets of water for me.
But it's a good learning exercise: not only in being not so self-sufficient and hardcore independent, but also realizing that a project can't succeed just by my own effort. I've learned valuable lessons about getting other people to be motivated and personally part of a project.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
All the interns in our program have to create a workplan to address a problem in their organization and community. When I first got to my SACCO, I began my needs assessment/asset mapping of the organization, during which I would identify the problem that my work plan would address.
What I found is that my SACCO can't make loans sometimes because it has very little working capital; and the members have very little savings culture. They not only distrust the SACCO, but they also think that a person has to be rich to save effectively. Lack of working capital is really harming the SACCO, and forcing them to take out a loan from another lending organization to stay afloat. Most of the time, the loan repayment to that organization exceeds their operational costs - and my "little bank" hasn't made a profit the entire year.
Sorry for the business-y blog post: more fun later on!
Monday, June 6, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Two days in to work and I already get my first holiday? I hope everyone had a joyous Martyrs Day on Friday.
Leading up to this luxurious three day weekend I began a needs assessment at ORUDE, burying myself in reading material in order to understand the organisation's mission and prior projects. ORUDE has recognized that they would like me to help with some needs in Mafubira. Mafubira is a community which is home to ORUDE's (are you ready for this) MARUSACCO, their most developed SUSALECO. MARUSACCO consists of five VSLG, further divided into FABAs. The SACCOS ORUDE starts and supports work to empower women in rural areas who don't have access to loans from MFI's because of their high risk potential. ORUDE's current Strategic Plan of ERUSCA lays the guidelines of where they want MARUSACCO to be in three years, entering independence from ORUDE, and upon my visit to the community tomorrow I will continue developing a SWOT to see where I can contribute!
My training feels scattered, from stats classes to folkloric studies of what creates a community, to three long days of community development training. I am straining to compound my knowledge in able to create a sustainable impact. My work plan should be set by Wednesday, and I am feeling the immensity of what profound changes can result if I work hard and smart.
I have found the limits and bounds of my project, in my eleven (now ten) week departure and a $200 grant. I want to push those limits, and I just feel tomorrow can't arrive soon enough so I can meet these groups so I can start thinking big (and realistically) for a SMART goal.
To avoid a total muzungu move, I have not taken as many pictures as I would have liked to be able to share, but I do hope to describe in great detail what I have seen and experienced with my host family and throughout this lovely little town, but all these acronyms have worn me out. So that is a blog for another day.
MARUSACCO - Mafubira Rural Saving and Credit Co-operative (Limited)
SUSALECO - Sub-county Savings and Lending Co-operative
SACCO - Savings and Credit Cooperative
VSLG - Villiage Saving and Lending Groups
FABA - Farming as a Business Advocates
MFI - Micro finance Institute
ERUSCA - Enhancing Rural Women's Savings and Credit Access
SWOT - Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats
SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely
Friday, June 3, 2011
Or perhaps all three? During our week in Uganda, Laura and I have gotten introduced to traditional Ugandan food. In summary: carbs, carbs, carbs!
I always find that one of the best ways to experience another culture and become immersed in it is to try and take risks with the traditional food. Food is such a definer of an individual culture – it reflects the climate, geography, resources, values, even the religion of a community.
In Uganda, meals consist of a starchy, carbohydrate base – either rice, matoke (mashed and boiled plantains), posho (fluffy, tasteless rice extract), cassava, Irish potatoes, or sweet potatoes. Then added on is protein – which is either beans or meat. And of course there is no lack in abundance of fruit. I have had freshly picked pineapple, avocado, mango, and even passion fruit.
I start my day around 7:30, and by that time all my family members have left for work or school, except the babysitter Agnes and Precious, the two year old baby.
After a breakfast of pineapple and bread, I walk fifteen minutes down the road into Bugembe town to my work. People greet me along the way with calls of "Muzungu!" Muzungu has been a familiar sound to me - it means a white person.
I work in my tiny SACCO until 5:00. Right now, I am in the middle of defining my project. As it stands, I will be working on a savings mobilization project for the organization. After work, I walk back home, and relax with my host sisters in front of the television. Since I have muzungu hair, the main activity in the evening has been braiding it. I feel so pampered!
This weekend, I'm going to Kampala (the capital) overnight to see the Uganda soccer team take on Guinea-Bissau for a chance to qualify for the African Cup!