Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Ugandan American Back in America?

As of today, I successfully navigated a 24-hour journey across the world back home to America! Stepping out into the airport at Washington, I have to admit that I got a bit of a culture shock. Everything in America is so shiny, expensive, and new looking. It's strange to see shops with clean floors and neatly organized shelving. Everyone is in a hurry and the customer service is a bit lacking here. And no one stopped to chat with me when I was sitting down for lunch! Also, I forgot that I didn't have to use bottled water to brush my teeth after I got off the plane...

When I was getting ready to leave, it occurred to me that I don't know how to be an American anymore. I DO know how to be an American in Uganda - I know how much a coaster to Jinja costs, I know how to get to Kampala and Iganga, I know how to hail a taxi and barter with a market woman. But right now, I can't really think about all the things I have to do now that I'm back home. Is my routine the same or has it changed? What are my friends and family going to be like? What will food taste like compared to what it tasted like before?

I guess I became a Ugandan-American when I was living in Jinja: and now I have to learn how to be a Ugandan-American back home in America.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day in the Life of an FSD Intern

Sleep - one of my favorite things as you now know - is often interrupted by an overeager rooster or a dog fight here or there, or an extraordinary amount of birds. Putting that aside I am usually up, mosquito net neatly tucked away and getting breakfast around 8:00 am. Recently it has been tea g-nut spread and bread or fried eggs, or crazy weird and dense but awesome fried pancakes.

Nine weeks has been plenty of time to develop a routine. My workday officially starts at 8:30, but let’s gets real; this is Africa. Twice I have shown up and been the only one until after 9! So around 8:25/8:30 I start to mosey up the road to ORUDE.

Internet access, lots of space, and a free and filling lunch buffet. ORUDE is pretty awesome. I've been spending a lot of that time researching community development, branding strategies and team building activities.

After lunch things get a little exciting. I hop on a matatu to Nakabango Stage right by my Sacco. It is a quaint space with electricity, but no Internet. Adjusting our program to be a training of trainers has simplified work so much. I began traveling the 40 minutes to Marusacco only twice a week and meeting our brand managers there – cutting our transport costs in half! Otherwise I spend my time running errands, making copies, picking supplies and ordering our Marusacco polo shirts (which hopefully will be completed today!!), or attending the occasional FSD workshop.

Matatu home and the day’s work is done! It would not be unusual to see the other interns from Jinja and myself on the patio of Mayfair hotel after work stopping in for something to drink, or at space cafĂ© using some free wifi, or at a new favorite – Moti Mahal Indian Restaurant! Recently I found a great gym across town, but if I can’t make it out there I usually get enough exercise doing curls with baby Solomon. I don’t know anyone who likes to be upside down as much as that guy!

Tea time around seven starts to close my day and I will sit around with my family and talk about our days, or we enjoy some TV programs – when electricity allows. Dinner is served by ten – ten thirty at the latest. A brief rocking of baby Solomon and I crash – especially since I started walking everywhere, stupid rising petrol prices.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Which Came First the Hen or the Egg?

Inspired and conflicting conversations can be so interesting, yet often leave me at the end of a group discussion feeling like we all still walk away with our own opinions and without any enlightenment or consensus. Saturday FSD hosted a Micro Enterprise Financing in Uganda talk with presentations from GESI interns from Northwestern University and a paper presentation by a Mr. Fred Muwaya, a professor from Busoga University.

The group discussion that followed consisted mostly of remarks, concerns and comments from Busoga University students with a few FSD intern comments here and there with a question, clarification, or observation. My favorite clarification was the GESI intern who claimed that Uganda should not look to America's saving culture as an example, considering how America does not have a culture for saving... To which, our moderator commented, "So they aren't better than us... " I thought it was so hilarious.

Anyways, the conversation topic focused around closing the gap between microfinance institutions and the micro enterprises they offer services too. Enter the circular philosophical question; which comes first savings or financing? The hen or the egg? Several people claimed the financing comes first, in order to receive capital to begin saving regularly.

I disagree. From my experiences, (and according to many banks and MFI policies) members need to achieve a certain level of savings before taking out loans. At Marusacco, members can take loans up to three times that of their savings. In addition for providing the MFI with capital to access loans at a better rate, I think it trains members in long term business planning strategies. They need to learn how to assess risks and set goals for future growth. But I also do not claim that that is the only or right answer.

Cultural changes take time, and need to be decided by the people of said cultural community. Similarly, I do not think that asking short term American interns how we can address these challenges is very efficient or sustainable. Someone needs to lead the change - and a sustainable change for Uganda will come from Ugandans who accept responsibility, refuse corruption, and welcome the challenges and costs in pursuit of long term prosperity.

So wait why am I here again? Well, that is a philosophical train of jumbled thoughts for another blog.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Most Ugandan Day Ever


Yesterday, I went with my host mom to a traditional Ugandan engagement ceremony, called an "Introduction." The ceremony basically consists of the groom being presented to the bride's family, and then the groom presents gifts to the family. Common gifts are sugar, cows, goats, and hens, and other household items like a sofa and chairs. And everyone wears traditional Ugandan dress - called gomazi for women. And yes - I had to wear one!

It was very interesting watching the traditional ceremony, but a little boring because the speakers for each family only talked in Lusoga. The maternal aunties - which are the most important because they introduce the groom to the bride's family - all dance out in a colorful line with a bride. Then, the head maternal auntie dances around the guest tent to try and find the groom. Then she pulls him out by his hand and dances him around the ceremony to "show him off."
(The maternal aunties gather around the bride - center, in green - before the groom is found)

After that, the gifts are presented to the family. I had to dance in a line with the other guests with a basket of bread and butter on my head and present it in front of the family. Then the bride and group undergo the engagement ceremony, which is officiated by a pastor. The wedding rings are placed on the couple's middle finger instead of the ring finger. Afterwards, there's a gigantic clamor for food!

I actually got called out at the introduction and had to stand up and wave on a number of occasions. This was probably due to the fact I was the only white person at the ceremony! Afterwards, my mom told me we were going to go use the bathroom. "Oh, okay, where is it?" "That grove of banana trees." Have you ever tried to go to the bathroom in a gomazi?

Afterwards, we were driving home in the middle of the night, when our car broke down in a swamp. My mom hailed an open bed truck that was transporting crates of empty soda back to Bugembe (our town). So we clambered up in the truck (picture three women in long, formal gomazi dress) and sat on the crates and rode the entire way back to town this way.

Why do I say it was the most Ugandan day ever? It was filled with tradition (the introduction, gomazi) and randomness (peeing in a banana grove?). I feel like this is a good picture of life in Uganda - it's one that requires respect, flexibility, and a sense of humor!

I leave for America in less than a week, so I will try to post one more blog before I leave! This week, I'll be very busy getting my visa extended, buying souvenirs, and wrapping up my project.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Reader's Choice!

Every day in Uganda is a lesson learned, and I love sharing those experiences with you all on this blog! With three weeks remaining in my program it is really crunch time at work and I may make less frequent appearances here. I don't want to neglect all of you who have been following Mallory's and my own adventures, so I am wanting to know what you still want to know about Uganda. So much has happened, not everything has been translated into this blog, so if there are any topics or places you would like me to delve into please comment!!

Good News Bad News Time

Which do you want first?

Okay lets go with the bad - we will rip it off quick like a band-aid.

My grant was not funded. Whoops.

On to the good news!

Not receiving my grant has not totally offset my program. Surprised? So was I. That also makes me think that those FSD funds are probably going to be used for a program that needs it more. To be clear I said my program is not totally offset, but we are of course trying to scale back. As we speak (well as I type...) my supervisor is going over my budget to see where we can scale back and if they can contribute any more to our seminar funds.

The bulk of my grant was to fund a half day seminar in August, aiming to educate and empower all 250 plus members in their ownership and responsibilities as a part of Marusacco. This also is an avenue to debut Marusacco's new brand image and showcase our pilot program branded Village Savings and Lending Groups (VSLGs). Adjusting our program through trial and error, our training of trainers approach has saved us a lot in transportation and training materials. Revisiting our initial budget was laughable and we created a new to-do list including all the remaining expenses for the last three weeks of my program.

Remaining is to create advertisements for our market in two weeks, and plan for our empowerment seminar. Hopefully we can mobilize some funds for a tent, food, and transportation costs - but if not, well the show must go on.

Also these marketing and schedule details will need to come together quickly as next week I may be taking a quick trip across a border, which conveniently coincides with my expiring visa... Shout out to the incompetent immigration officer who gave me a shorter visa than I paid for, well done Nyabo.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things Not To Do On A Safari


Laura and I, along with some other interns in our group, went on a safari last weekend to beautiful Murchison Falls, in the west of the country. The trip was amazing, and we saw
giraffes, hippos, elephants, lions, water buffalo, warthogs, baboons...just to name a few. We traveled with a very patient guide, Faruk. Oddly enough, our trip was most memorable because it was peppered with hilarious accidents and oddities. Which is why I assembled a checklist of things not to do on a safari.

(Rothschild Giraffes)

1. Do not go out on a safari without a rope. On our second day, we set out across the savanna on a game drive. Some considerate person had parked in the middle of the road, so Faruk tried to maneuver around it. We wound up sinking in a muddy ditch, and couldn't get out. We waited around until another truck came by, and had to make a rope out of seatbelts because no one seemed to have the real thing. We then were pulled out of the ditch by our trusty seatbelt rope, and wound up bending the grill on our safari van in the process.

2. Do not take a picture of an upset momma baboon. We were walking back to the safari lodge and encountered a couple of momma baboons getting into a fight on the road. One of them came over to our side of the road with her baby. We thought it would be a really good idea to take a picture of her. She then looked at us, set her baby down, and charged at us. We screamed and ran down the hill like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off. Almost having our faces ripped off by baboons = memorable, to say the least.

3. Do not spend the greater part of an hour chasing down a handicapped lion. Because you will feel incredibly guilty. On our first game drive, Faruk got wind that a lion was spotted somewhere off in the delta, near the Nile River. He asked if we wanted to speed to catch up to it, and we all excitedly said yes. After close to an hour of dashing across the savanna, we found our lion. Except that our lion has three legs. He had gotten one of them caught in a snare trap, and the rangers had to amputate it. Three convoys of tourists were circled around this poor guy, snapping pictures, and all he was doing was sitting there with his three legs looking at us as if to say, "Well, I'm obviously not going anywhere." Handicapped lion charities, anyone?

(His name is Stumpy)

Along with some other incidents - which included the cab roof almost killing us, backing into a tree, and having to kill a 3-inch sized monster cockroach with my suitcase - the safari was definitely a memorable experience! But poor Faruk: he said that in all his 15 years of doing safaris, this was the worst luck he's ever had. Hopefully he won't have another trip of muzungus with bad karma for another 15 years!

Friday, July 15, 2011

On To The Next One...

Ironically, the day that I was going to publish this post, my friend Jim had e-mailed me. He told me to "not be a typical business student" and enjoy my time in Uganda. "Try not to think about a new project so soon," he said.

Interestingly, I have been thinking about new projects - a lot of them! Again, I guess that's the curse of being a business student. You can't help looking around, and noticing challenges and issues that can be solved. Here's one of them I've seen:

Problem: Lack of safe, reliable family planning methods.

I had a long discussion the other day with my host mom about different ways women can practice birth control. She said it was a big problem here because a lot of births are unplanned. You have an uneducated woman and a husband who dominates the household – so of course you’re going to have a lot of unplanned kids.

(Photo of my community, Bugembe)

My host mom said that birth control is available, but there are really complicated side effects. Birth control pills have been known to give people cancer, and there are anti-fertility injections but those also have insane side effects.

I told my host mom that it sounded like all that they needed was access to safe, high quality birth control drugs and she agreed with me. If a company that operated as a social enterprise could come in and offer the same high-quality drugs we have in the U.S. at a lower price, then that would fill a huge market gap and a societal gap.

It would concurrently solve problems in population control, women’s empowerment, and poverty alleviation. And it would satisfy a market gap because of the demand for these products; there’s nothing close in effectiveness here.

Challenges: buying the drugs and being able to sell them at lower prices while still maintaining high profit margins. The business must be sustainable and to do that it has to churn out revenue. Additionally, shipping the drugs halfway across the world? Yipes.

I hope Jim won't be too mad at me about my inability to sit still for too long. Feedback is appreciated - or a cloning device so I can do all these things!

Muzungus Must Taste Delicious

The other day, I was playing with my little brother and sister, Barbara and Precious. Barbara is 5 years old and Precious (he's a boy) is 2 and a half. Since I feel like a lazy bum around my house - someone has to help me fetch water, cook meals for me, brings me tea, and even had to help me open my own door - my contribution to the household is playing with the younger kids.

I was chasing the two around, pretending to try to eat Precious's feet and hands. He loves this, and always shrieks and runs away. I guess he wanted to do it to me too, because he chased me, making biting noises. I thought it was cute until he ran up to me and - HOM - took a big chunk out of my thigh.
(Me with Barbara, 5 yrs old)

This is kind of a random story, but I think it just demonstrates how hilarious and awesome it is to live with a host family. My mom always asks me all kinds of questions about what life is like in America, and it was especially funny when I told her a story of when I got my bellybutton pierced and didn't tell my parents. "You mean you didn't get kicked out of the house??!?" My other sister, Bridget, makes beaded bracelets and rings for me.

They will definitely be on my list of things I will miss in Uganda!

Riding Through The Streets of Jinja

video

I took this video on the back of a motorcycle boda boda taxi while driving down the main street of Jinja. Hopefully it's a good look into what we see everyday when we ride from place to place!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

Yesterday I was convinced that patience is the quality that most influences my work in Uganda. My first test of patience was not really my own – but our matatu driver. Traveling from the airport so long ago in May I looked out on the Kampala rush hour traffic and was amazed – and sort of frightened. Jonan explained that all it took to drive in the city was patience – which I did not recognize as one van cut in front of another and people weaved their way across the street. One man walking was “was not so patient” and was pushed into our van from the back by a boda boda.

Nearly seven weeks later I have been slapped by a big bowl of patience. Unfortunately for me, that bowl was empty and it has taken much strength this week to gather my patience. Plans made a month ago came back with he said she said’s and no financial support. Without going into detail, I was frustrated. Finally, I grabbed a colleague to sit down with me and a list of challenges that had arisen and the next logistical steps for our program and got down to business. I have not approached my colleagues with every problem, wanting to accomplish work by myself. That was not a good idea. The answer to poor communication is never less communication.

In the afternoon, I made my way to Marusacco for our second brand manager trainings. How they changed my day! We had a wonderful training despite one manager not showing up. These women have been very accepting of their trainings and as becoming a part of Marusaccos brand. (Thank goodness for free professional and academic resources online volunteering credible and valuable training materials!) Also their dedication was seen in their carefully developed slogans:

Alinyikira – Unity is Strength to fight ignorance

Mukamamwesigwa – Women Empowerment to Fight Poverty

Mwino Abenakyo – Patience Leads to Victory

These slogans will be represented on Marusacco polo shirts, each with the new Marusacco logo on the front and divided by group by the colors and slogans on the back. As I post this blog, I am waiting patiently for the program manager to return so we can order these shirts and keep planning for our August seminar! With the invitations being delivered and my renewed attitude –nothing can bring me down today!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Newsworthy Weekend

Saturday, South Sudan seceded and became the 54th country in Africa. That was a time of celebration – the end of a civil war in a nation divided by ethnicity. Many people were happy for peace. I asked many Ugandans what they thought of this event, most agreed it would be better for them to be united, but everyone declared how good it will be for them to have peace. Peace is a quality understood severely by Ugandans, still cleaning up from their own civil war. What if the US civil war had ended with the division of our nation? How much different would our lives be if we considered the challenges between two races reason to separate? Another intern claims they are sliding into feudalism, and some say that is what Africa needs. I don't think I really agree with them; but I am optimistic and hopeful South Sudan's oil riches may lead to peace, greater equality and economic benefits for the undeveloped south.

As the live feed from Juba faded, stories of Remembering 7/11 flooded the news. Last July, during the world cup games, Uganda was hit by twin bombing terrorist attacks in Kampala. The news has recommended citizens be cautious of another attack. We have made it half way through the day, so far so good. Other Ugandans remark about how the news seemed to forgot until last month about the attacks and added security installed last July and August suddenly reappeared. Sound familiar? They are not per say living in fear of another attack, some are almost indifferent, feeling “that we are all at God’s mercy.” Although I must say – the taxi strike restricting traffic in Kampala today is rather convenient for keeping people in today.

And so, the world keeps turning.

Babies and Fish Heads

Never did I anticipate a microfinance internship to involve so many babies! For starters, there is my 11 month old host brother, Baby Solomon, who I mentioned on this blog some time ago. He is the most precious baby brother EVER! I love spending my evenings after work at home teaching him and my host mom American nursery rhymes and helping him walk. He loves music and is the first baby I know who learned to dance before walking.

(Baby Solomon drumming on my suitcase - and being precious!)

Then babies started showing up at the office. During my first week at ORUDE a woman came in. Still waiting to meet everyone from the office I would greet whoever came in with enthusiasm – trying to pick up subtle cues if I should know who they are. This woman was walking a little strange and when I asked how she was she said she was fine, and she just gave birth. “… Pardon?” “Yes I had a baby; it is out in the truck.” “…”

Turns out by “just gave birth” the office secretary meant 4 days ago – much more reasonable. Our accountant is about ready to give birth to her first child, and my supervisor, Olivia, keeps telling me about how ground up fish healed her son of the measles. Mubiru is the only exception, a rebel of sorts. He knows who he wants to marry, but first he wants to wait about five years and become an accountant. He endures much criticism for his plans because he will be almost thirty.
Even Mubiru though “fears” for me when I laugh and explain that I am not yet engaged and do not want children for several years. Shaking their heads they notice I haven’t eaten much lunch. “Do you fear children and fish?” (This has become the second most common lunch topic) “Only when it stares back at me” “Bet the head is the sweetest part!!!!” Well Olivia, I reply we can agree to disagree on that one.

(My supervisor Olivia, enjoying her fishy lunch)

But I enjoy these conversations so much and the friendships I’ve developed with my coworkers – they are such interesting people, and they always get a kick out of giving me fish heads for whatever reason.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Breathing a Sigh of Relief - The Last Savings Training


Yesterday was the final training in savings culture for my project. Along with some savings basics, like setting financial goals and budgeting, we also included a crash course in basic entrepreneural skills. Fred, a business lecturer from Busoga University, barked out concepts at our audience of mostly women. He even gave an example of a business being like a child - "If you take things from your business, it will be lame! What do you want with a lame child! You are embaressed of it! You even pray to God to take it away from you! Soon you will give birth to a child called business, and you must take care of it!"

You can't say he doesn't know how to get through to people! I'm relieved that the trainings are finally over - all the work that goes into visiting groups to mobilize, promoting the training, setting it up, and seeing that it all goes off without a hitch remind me of all the reasons why I'll never be an event planner. A couple of times throughout the day, my bubble burst - I had been up since 6 am, no one was listening to me, the venue hadn't cleaned out our presentation space, etc, etc, etc.

(Recording participants' box numbers)

At the end of the day, I was more than relieved to hand out the boxes to our members (about 40!) and declare the project all most done. The chairman and patron of our SACCO, George, must have sensed my tension because afterwards he brought me to a cool new nightclub in Bugembe and bought me a soda. He said, "Relaxing is so important! Sometimes you just work work work with no relief! You're lucky my leg is broken - otherwise we could go out dancing!"

The great thing about Uganda - when you're ready to throw in the towel and quit, there are always people there to bring you back up again. I can't believe I have only 3 weeks left!

Laura (Rolla) - The Sleepy Intern

As you can see from below, Laura and I have decided to blog about each other! About the title - Laura often gets called “Rolla” by Ugandans who can’t really get their L’s straight. It’s become her defacto nickname amongst the snarky FSD bunch.

Laura and I have to see each other at LEAST every week or else something is seriously wrong. We laugh about all the weird things that have happened with our host families, rant about frustrating things happening with our projects, and reminisce about "total muzungu moves" (typical things that white tourists do in Uganda).

Laura has an amazing ability to get along with everyone. She is clear-headed and open minded: from her Folklore minor to her desire to become a globe-trotter. She's made many Ugandan friends, and is always the one organizing get-togethers and trips. She's my adventure partner-in-crime! Before we came to Uganda, we would used to get together and grab dinner or coffee. We made our "Uganda Bucket List" full of all the adventures we wanted to have while we were over here. So far, we're pretty well along: the only thing that's left is touring the Nile Brewery and going on safari - and we'll do all of those next week!

Despite bumps in the road in with her work plan, she has been able to be amazingly calm and focused on her goal of successfully implementing her project. Even when she chipped her tooth during white water rafting, she took it in stride (something that would definitely have sent me off the wall!).

And of course - she's the sleepy intern! She's always the one down for chilling and taking a nap. It's been great during hectic days and nights here in Uganda - sometimes you just need a nap! Some of our conversations go like this: "I'm hungry." "I'm tired." "We should probably get out of here then." But make no mistake: Rolla is one of the most positive, cheery people on our snarky intern team!

It's crazy to thing that if I had never come to Uganda, I never would have met Laura. It's amazing to be friends/blogging buddies with someone so adventurous, passionate, and kind!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mallory - The Hungry Intern

Mallory and I have incredibly enjoyed blogging about our adventures! In the middle of yet another crazy situation we will look at each other and say - this is one for the blog. As we have gotten to know each other better and blogged like crazy we decided to blog about each other.

So here it is: Mallory is, in a word, awesome. In several words she is a hardworking intern who genuinely cares for her community, she really likes it when work gets done, and she is always hungry. Always.

(The IU Kelley interns at Sipi Falls Midterm Retreat!)

Our conversations usually start about work, then stories about our families, misadventures, planning more adventures, and then we decide to get some food as we cycle through again. We are in the same year at IU, but had not met prior to receiving our internship. Mallory contacted me and I was so excited to know I would have a travel buddy and blog buddy!

She is down for all things adventure and microfinance. In addition to her fly by the seat of her pants trip to Kampala, she trusted me for some reason (which probably won’t happen again) to find our way to the source of the Nile. Although that didn't work, we had a great time and made some friends. Mallory definitely has her head on straight and minor bumps in the road don't faze her. Unless of course that bump is a lack of or delay in food. "We should go find some Chipatti." Yes always hungry and anything will do - you did read she ate crickets didn't you?

Some of her favorite Ugandan foods are Matoke and and all the sauces, especially fish but not at all beans. Street food of Chipatti, samosas, rolex, gnuts, fruits and all things organic, like mangoes bananas, avacadoes are often mentioned. But she must have her Stoney, a ginger soda (which I agree is awesome!). Actually most of these foods made her top 20-some best things about Uganda list!

We are still cracking down on our bucket list – Safari next weekend! – but her time is in high demand with her increasingly successful savings trainings! We enjoy getting together after work and meeting up with other interns. FSD has put together and incredible, diverse, and snarky team of interns ("We need the visa to get there because we are American citizens" "Oh, we ARE American citizens then?"... ) and I look forward to meeting her again this weekend at an Indian restaurant for dinner of course!

A Healthy Dose of Competition

I apologize for my blog absence - but getting through this midterm week of my internship has been insane!

I submitted my grant proposal to FSD earlier this week and we held our first brand managers training. Hopefully in the next week I will hear back about the grant so we can start planning for the expansion of our Pilot Brand Development Program through a seminar in August. I wish I had three more months to spend here to really educate these women on the importance of upholding a professional brand image, even in their small businesses. My strategy in all this is a training of trainers. It is best this way, as it becomes more and more likely that I will be leaving Uganda before the program is complete. Our goal is to shower information on newly elected brand managers and then allow the integration of training into their respective savings groups at a more appropriate pace. Luckily/thankfully/every other emotion of relief, after our training the brand managers responded that they are confident in their abilities to educate fellow members on branding.

We are also working to clarify what levels of the Sacco we are branding. Marusacco’s brand is our main focus – attempting to increase their marketing capacity to new members and communities, while empowering members to repay their loans because we mean business!

ORUDE is also working to empower their seven Saccos to function independently, which is burdened majorly by not following policies and low loan recovery. They decided these Saccos are growing beyond ORUDE, and invited the District Commercial Officer (DCO) to their Quarterly Manager Meeting yesterday. I was pleased to settle into a corner of the room to take minutes behind 28 managers, treasurers, and chairpersons.

The DCO spoke about ownership and responsibility throughout his report on three recent audits of ORUDE Saccos. It was definitely interesting, inspiring, and shocking. He repeatedly called for ORUDE to sack one of the secretary managers throughout the 6 hour event. Later I found out I had been sitting by that manager the entire time. I asked my colleagues about it and they just laughed. I still don’t understand if that was appropriate, embarrassing, or just to inspire competition – but they heartily agreed about the manager’s incompetence.

I was proud that Marusacco (my Sacco in Mafubira!) was constantly referenced as an example of good banking practices. Most of all though I think it was eye opening to see how to inspire healthy competition. I have wanted to avoid offending members, but that was exactly the purpose of the Quarterly Meeting. They were publicly compared in a way that removed their individual advantages of claiming that ORUDE was hiding something, or that they are being treated differently.

Inspired, we have taken a more aggressive approach to mobilize members. I am so curious to see how the women of Mafubira respond to their now public group loan repayment rates. Maybe that will inspire the group returning only 8% to pay up.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Escape to Sipi Falls

This weekend, the FSD interns escaped from Jinja to Sipi Falls, a locale in the west of the country near the Kenyan border. Sipi is on the slopes of Mount Elgon, which is one of the tallest mountains in East Africa. The falls are a series of waterfalls that cascade down the side of Mt. Elgon into the valley below.

On Saturday morning, we woke up and climbed up the side of the mountain through groves of coffee and fields of corn. We reached the first waterfall, which dropped from the edge of the mountain and almost turned entirely to mist before it hammered down on the rocks below. Getting close to the fall meant being soaked from head to toe from all the mist.

After a quick dip in an ice-cold stream, we climbed down the side of the mountain to another fall, and were able to go into a cave right below the waterfall. The climb down the side of the mountain was ended up in me sliding on my butt down the side of the muddy slope!

The hike was a great way to escape, and see another side of Uganda. I love mountains, and Jinja and Kampala are very flat. I hadn't realized how long it had been since I had seen mountains and valleys.

It was refreshing to escape from the demands of our work and have a change of scenery from Jinja, and it was hard to leave the amazing views. This week, it's back to work as I prepare for my second training on savings culture!