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 Website  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 😉 ), 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 🙂

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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Trip to Masaka

29 Jan

One of my team members invited us for a weekend to his mum’s farm near Masaka.

We had an awesome time and a great introduction to the Baganda Culture. Thank you Matthew!!!

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Another crazy trip! Christmas in Germany

22 Dec

Christmas in Germany starts usually latest in October, when the first sweets are being sold in the shops. Also latest in November it is sooo cold, that obviously you start looking for candles, woolen hats and hot tea.

Now for me this time round it was a bit different. I have hot tea every morning for breakfast (not only but also to prepare for the cold shower), candles at least two nights per week since July (no, the power cuts have not decreased). And it took until early December for me to eat the first Christmas sweets at a friend’s place (who had Swiss friends visiting him).

In the house we planned a christmas party for the 18th December. The interns prepared Food and songs from Australia, Brazil, China, Taiwan, France, Denmark and the Netherlands. Guacamole, Heineken and barbecue for Christmas 
Of course we had to “Wichtel”. We exchanged gifts and it was a pretty awesome afternoon and would have been a really great evening, but Jimmy and I had to run of early to catch out bus to Nairobi.

It was my first bus ride during the day to Nairobi, so I finally saw the River Nile near Jinja. The bus broke down (did you really expect something else?), so we had 5 extra hours until Nairobi not only to sleep but also to talk about 2010 and the work and make plans for the holidays.

During the day I passed Upendo Rescue Center, the school looked great! They had cemented the ground around the entrance, which was usually so muddy. I was also happy to hear about the food contributions from local companies. The now new class-8 students told me about their plans of going to secondary school and maybe even university! A big dream for them, regarding the school fees that secondary schools charge.

I spent the evening at the university with AIESECers from Kenya and we shared about what had happened in the last weeks and months. The mood was relaxed and holidays in the air!

Then 20 minutes before I left to the airport we heard the ugly news: In the City Center 4 unknown had thrown grenades at a Kampala Coach bus that was leaving Nairobi towards Kampala. 1 dead, over 20 sincerely injured.
Al-Shabab does really not support Museveni’s opinion and Uganda’s involvement in Somalia and takes the upcoming elections to spread horror and unsecurity through more terrorism.

I arrived at the airport at midnight, checked in at 4am and the plane took off at 8am. Completely sleep-deprived I am now able to sleep 2 hours intervals on any floor of this world (check out my stories from Tanzania 😉

In Istanbul the screen at the transit desk read “Frankfurt – cancelled”. But Turkish Airlines had a really nice Plan B and booked all 3 Frankfurt flights of that day into one plane. We were only 1 bus full geting on a plane for over 300 passengers. There was one black guy, he had a strange accent, somehow I put him o be a Nigerian. When I searched  my place, I realized, that my seat was right next to him. I smiled (within) and sat down without much talking.

When the Steward came to ask for his boarding pass (and noone else on he flight had to show his again) I was really annoyed and mentioned to my neighbour that for white people there still seem to be different rules. He laughed and we started talking. Imagine, how I starred at him when he mentioned he left Entebbe in the morning. A freaking Ugandan, had studied at Makerere, was on his first flight ever to Europe and sat next to ME. It was just a funny coincidence and we chatted for the next two hours. At least we got two plates of chicken, when he asked the Stewardess for it. For black people there are other rules 😉

So here I am in Frankfurt at the airport. My parents are somewhere to pick me up. Christmas I am coming!

7 months in Uganda

20 Dec

I have stayed in Uganda for 7 months now. Yes, my stay had many breaks; I went to Rwanda, India, Tunisia, Kenya in between, but the main point here is: I should be able to answer the question: “How is Uganda?”

First of all: Uganda is different from Kenya.
The food, the culture, the people, the economy, the language, the history. This is a different country.

Did anyone think, that Poland and Germany are the same?

It seems obvious but strikes me still all the time and makes it hard for me to figure out many things.

Secondly: Uganda is Jungle.
The most beautiful time of the day is the evening, when misty clouds come up between the hills of Kampala, the birds go silent and the crickets start their noise and the palm trees stand out majestically above the daily traffic chaos.

This country is fertile! Bananas grow everywhere, Jackfruit trees. Grasshoppers make noise in my bedroom the whole night. The amount of spiders in the house easily exceeds the amount of liters of water we use per month. Without ever planting anything in our garden we were able to harvest 2 water melons and at least 50 tomatoes.

This is the time when Uganda feels closer to Congo than to Kenya.

Thirdly: Ugandans have a rich culture
No. Not true. Not only one. Uganda has over 50 different tribes, and for me it is still impossible to distinguish them. But for example the Baganda have a rich culture and traditions. Even if I can not visit the famous tombs (they were destroyed in a fire early this year), I can still observe the king, the clothes and the relations between genders and generations. It is visible in daily life and influences also the behavior of the youth.

Girls relate mainly amongst each other and boys with boys. Friendship between girls is an important good. Dating is another big riddle to me, because Ugandan men are used to buying their girls everything and contributing 80% of the conversation. Girls are left in awe and can’t help but fall in love with a man who can provide for a family. As long as she can cook, listen and is pretty, she is wife material. The family is someone’s most important stakeholder. This can even lead to employers having to watch the employees being late or taking off during important work periods because of (elsewhere as basic regarded) family incidents.

Ugandans are more reserved. They don’t exactly openly speak critically, jump on new opportunities or take up responsibilities.
They are happy if somebody is interested in their culture but they don’t force it on you. Yes, they always greet strangers. But I hereby officially refuse to accept that Ugandans are more hospitable that Kenyans, if at all I suggest that it is a different kind of hospitability. There is no way I can live in Kenya for 7 months but not be invited to a family function by my friends. My Luganda is still sooo basic, even though I have asked for lessons often.

Ugandans are more traditional, less westernized. So much in Theory. They passionately hate homosexuality and as much as Christians and Muslims seem rivals in building mosques/churches and attracting believers to the right god, they both believe that life without god is doomed to fail.
One thing I do not understand in this context are the nearly naked (mostly fat) women on the front pages of the newspapers that are displayed everywhere on the street (with wanna-be moral key messages like “so and so was seen with whores”, “police cant fight it. pole dancing now a key activity in Kampalas night clubs“). Well-dressed Ugandan young men who pray several hours every Sunday stand at the newspaper stands and “read” the cover page for several minutes, shake their heads politically correct before hurrying on.

Ugandans love their music. And I agree; their music is awesome! A bit slower, Caribbean somehow, with humorous messages. Ugandan young men can actually go out and dance by themselves for hours. For me after living in Nairobi for long, this was a great relief, as I don’t always enjoy the in Kenya usual one-on-one penetration and constant running away from boys. For many of our interns it was still a big shock, because one on one dancing is much more intense here than even I know it. This is a public place, so I cannot repeat the explanation I got once when I told a guy to keep his crotch near his own behind.

Lastly and mos importantly: Uganda is a great place to live
The economic potential is there, the East African market is growing, there are many Opportunities to start businesses or contribute to the expansion of infrastructures.
Low rents, relatively cheap food and transport costs, now also cheaper internet and phone costs. Kampala is a very safe environment; we have lovely neighbors and extremely pleasant weather.
The ubiquitous dust is the downside but at least I wont have to blame myself for smoking in case I die of lung cancer.

Musevenis biggest errors… a good read

9 Dec

Read this blog post of a Ugandan friend, a great youth leader and as much critical as inspiring personality…

Chinese in Africa

9 Dec

One million Chinese live in Africa today. They do business, they create employment. With Locals and more over each other. Companies want to tap into the growing chinese community in East Africa…. Insurance Policies, Bank Accounts, let us be the first to work with them. New Roads! New Cars! Money circulating in dried up economies!

The flipside?

Today Spiegel.de writes about how Chinese Enterprises abuse Africas (in this case Zambias) resources and inhabitants.

Yes, the relationship between Chinese and African countries is tense. Increasing investment in infrastructure is welcomed by many Kenyans. More Chinese than White faces in Kampalas city center are expected soon. Mainly internationals  welcome the Chinese Cuisine.  Chinese are very likely to be stopped by Police and have to produce their passport showing their immigration status. White people not so much.

Since the beginning of the year AIESEC has brought around 30 Chinese students to volunteer in Uganda for 6-8 weeks. They have all left the country again. They gained their own picture of what Africa can give to the world and what it needs. Not only have they not mistreated locals, but also have they contributed financially to the economy by touring the country and to the education of different communities. We are working on creating more such opportunities.

For the Embassies it is hard to distinguish the dozens of Visa applicants, so yesterday 4 Chinese AIESECers were denied Visa for Uganda in Beijing. Work in Progress!

Campaign time

16 Nov

Every morning when I go and by buns for breakfast, I see his face on the door of the kiosk.

Last Sunday when I entered the university to go to our office, the Security Officer at the gate was wearing a yellow tshirt telling me to vote for him.

When the Presidential Campaigns opened on Monday and all candidates were introduced in Bweyogerere, he was on the opposite side of town. Everybody knew, he is running anyways.

On the same day the security staff at the gate of the (public!) university was not wearing uniforms but yellow tshirts “Vote for Museveni!”

During the Karaoke night, his song is played and the crowd shouts, “yes, Sebo” (Yes, Sir) when he asks if we want another rap.

Now even spiegel.de writes about him.

M7 pakalast!