Bye, Uganda! Tulabagane :-)

16 Jun

My year in Uganda is over… wow, time flies!!!

A great experience in a challenging environment.

Uganda was so beautiful! I just love the green hills, the mist in the valleys, the palm trees and the rain forest atmosphere in the mornings and evenings. Getting used to the food was possible, though not really simple. I lost around 5 kgs in Uganda, I guess due to the heat, the hills and the somehow irregular dinners. Kampala also frustrated me a lot. Kampala can also be dusty and loud. There are things that “don’t work”, people who can’t agree to common sense, wrong directions I was given. Traffic is crazy, but Boda Bodas were a good way out.

The Work was amazing. Quite flexible working hours, working with ambitious individuals, networking with NGOs and corporates. I was able to achieve at least 70% of what I had set out to do. Managing a National Office for an organization is not as easy as thought. I was juggling member motivation, available financial resources, company relations, press, the Board and many more. It was not always easy, but I believe to have left most processes in a better state than when I started. It is about constant improvement ๐Ÿ™‚

I made really great friends and we had an intense time together. Eva, my great friend was pregnant and gave birth. Together with the boys Ivan, Matthew and Jimmy we ran the house, crazy madness. The pressure of working on the National Team was too much for some, others just couldn’t get enough of work. The ki-boy and his cup, his girlfriend and his food. The malaria cases that were treated by Chinese doctors. 6 Brazilians in the house, 10 Chinese, 4 Germans, exhausting diversity! Our house warming party on Canada Day. The bomb blast in July. Water shortage in August. Crazy East African days with old friends who we last met in Zanzibar. Nights where we hosted at least 40 people in 21 beds. The elections in February. Interns who kissed at least 4 of the boys on the team. Black and Yellow. The memories will last!

Now I am going to Kenya, for a 2-month engagement! Let’s see how re-integration there will go.

I will definitely come back to Uganda. For a visit or for a job. Tulabagane!

And these are some pictures of my team in the last week ๐Ÿ™‚

A worthwile read!

28 May

I just finished reading an excellent book . It took me two weeks to finish it, but if I had not been as busy with work, it would probably have been 2 days! I would like to recommend it for everybody to read it.

Muhammad Yunus, born a Bangladeshi, by profession a teacher and a change maker by passion write this book somehow as his autobiography, somehow as a manual to give a chance to the poorest.

So you will wonder… Manuela in Africa… a Teacher from Bangladesh?

Just read this book and you will realize, that it has many answer regarding poverty, it challenges the way you think about poverty and development. It has a lot of wisdom about families, the human nature and the power of having money or not having it.

Check out

Making solar a business

24 May

He wants to ensure people in rural Uganda get access to Electricity. He is not running an NGO, he is a businessman!

Social Entrepreneurship is the new buzzword. Doing what NGOs and international Development Aid have not done in decades, using a more innovative and sustainable approach. It means applying business perspective on challenges. Social Entrepreneurship is not only creating buzz, it works! It employs people around the world and solves societal problems!

Read what Abu, one of AIESEC in Uganda’s great alumni, has to say about his business, Village Energy!

Riots in Kampala

29 Apr

In several countries in East Africa the increase of food prices leaves people disappointed, poor, hungry. Riots are errupting in several cities, including Kampala.

The situation in Kampala is even more challenging than in Nairobi, because of the political climate. Just recently the long-serving president was re-elected. Military and Police are on the road to prevent post-election chaos. Unsuccessfully, it seems! Do Helicopters, heavy military vehicles and sirenes make us feel safer?

On the Monitor Websiteย  you can get live updates of the Situation in Uganda. Arrests of politicians from the non-leading party are increasing, even one person is reported death (watch the video).

In our office and our close living environment, we have not been affected. But we chose our movements much more carefully this week than we did before January. Teargas and Rubber munition are not our favorites!

People ask me how to prepare for Africa

22 Apr

When I say Africa Stay, I dont mean your 2-week Safari. I dont mean an Expatriate, who is coming to work on a Western Salary. This article is meant for young people, who prepare for a 2-12 month stay in Africa (preferably Uganda ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), for volunteering or internship purpose. People who want to get involved with local people and experience Africa outside 5-star hotels and tour cars.

What to pack in my suitcase….

Sure, the main question is: What should I bring from home and what can I buy when I am there? Most capital cities have huge supermarkets with all that can be bought in Europe. Should I bring…

…Shampoo, Contact Lense Liquid, Sunscreen? – You get those but they are quite expensive. (For ladies: Just bring the Tampons, they can be hard to find)

…Washing powder, Soap, Body Lotion, Toilet Paper? – Is this a serious question?? This is Africa, not the moon.

…Mosquito net, water purifying tablets? – Definitely you should use them, but you can buy those items cheaper here than in most Western countries

… my towel, sleeping bag, bedsheets? – That one really depends on your personality. The degree of homesickness and fear of insects varies between individuals. If it will make you feel more safe, clean or comfortable, bring it. But just know that Africa is much cleaner, than you might expect!

… my laptop, my expensive phone and camera? – Depends on where you are going. There are very safe countries. Just know one thing: YOU ARE WHITE! You will stick out and attract attention (of good and bad people). If you wave around your phone and camera all the time, you might “lose” them. A laptop will most definitely be helpful for your work and also leisure time (watch movies, write a jounal, write your blog and email offline and then take the files to an internet cafe on a flash disc). If you dont want to use your iPhone, you can always by a cheap, internet enabled phone for around

… travellers cheques? – I have really not seen travellers cheques anywhere here. Just bring Euro OR Dollar (depending where you come from) and your credit card / Maestro card. ATMs are everywhere in larger cities!

A last word about the size of your suitcase: Bring just as much luggage as you can handle yourself. 40 kg might just be a bit to much. There are very many clothes markets in Africa, cheap and nice second hand dresses, jeans and tops. Aquire shoes that fit the local roads and fashion cheaply just in a few hours.

You will have the best experience in Africa, when you come with the mindset of getting to know the local lifestyle.

What preventive health measures should I take?

This is my personal experience and does not replace your own judgement or consultation of a doctor.

Of course you will be advised by your doctor to carry 5 kg of medication and take malaria prophylaxis through out your stay. The truth is that in capital cities all medication is available – probably cheaper than at home. What you should do is take the necessary vaccinations, check your guidebook to see what is advised. Yellow fever, Tetanus/Diphteria, Measles, Polio, Hepatitis A and B should be included in the list of vaccinations you take (if you never have).

Personally I have not taken Malaria Prophylaxis in the last 2 years and have NOT contracted Malaria. I sleep under a mosquito net and wear long trousers in the evenings. In case I get a temperature, I immediately go for a malaria test (2-5 Euros).

Also check your health insurerer’s policies whether they will cover you for a long-term stay abroad.

What can I read to prepare better?

You could prepare historic knowledge, learn some basic language skills. Look up music on YouTube and watch clips of top local comedians. I also think hearing experiences of other travellers will help you to integrate better. Look out for blogs of other internationals, but dont overprepare or overanalyse. Every persons view is different. I promise you that you will still make your own mistakes, get a serious culture shock and step on peoples feet (culturally I mean). It is good to read about intercultural competence and some of the theory behind cultures (Hofstede)

On historic and social knowledge: There are many books written by Africans, which I would probably prefer to those written by foreigners. Also national newspapers can be read online or news clips watched on youtube. Get a feel of what moves people in the country you are going to!

Enjoy yourself. Enjoy Africa. Your time is limited anyways!

A trip to Ugandas South!

1 Apr

I went on a Trip to Mbarara, a town in the south of Uganda.

The 4-hour ride was great, the landscape is just beautiful, dozens of different shades of green ๐Ÿ™‚

Uganda pre election fever

11 Feb

Today it is exactly one week to National Elections in Uganda!

After Kenya. After Ivory Coast. After Egypt. After Tunisia.

So what is happening in Kampala right now? There will be at least 4 rounds of elections in the next weeks, for President, Parliament, Mayor and Local Governments. What a marathon! Campaigns, Speeches, Lots of posters. Also visible is that there is no content in the campaigns. The current president is proudly presenting numbers of his achievements and the opposition tries to show how useless he was over the last 10+ years. Most Ugandans are not impressed by the candidates () or the way they communicate their messages (“Uganda is ready for Federalism”). In fact some people are saying lets stick with the current President, at least he is rich already and will steal less than a new president who has to first grab some money for his whole family and pay back his supporters.

Tension regarding Post-Election Violence? Security was largely scaled up in the city. Hundreds of Military representatives with Guns. ID and bag checks at every building you wish to enter. Do I expect Post Election Violence? No. Firstly the situation is completely different than it was in Kenya or in Ivory Coast. Power seems to stay with the incumbent president. Plus secondly: Who would start rioting with the amount of guns that were waved in our faces daily in the last weeks? I think the only disorganization currently is caused by the military, not by the opposition or the people themselves.

Let us hope for peaceful elections. To hope for a more prosperous Uganda in next 5 years would clearly be asked to much of the politicians. We will have to do that ourselves!

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