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!

Rwanda in 4 days?

2 Nov

Our East African Pioneers Conference (which I organized last year in Kenya) this year took place in Rwanda. Kigali is “only a busride” away from Kampala and so I am just on the way back from amazing four days in Rwanda.

How was it?

Hilly. That is one thing that everybody says about Rwanda. And it is true. The city is a connection of different villages and on hills and in valleys. Rich Areas in one valley, on the other side a totally different view on a new type of city. A slum-ish settlement on the other hill, just 5 minutes later we pass a shopping mall with a Nakumatt.

Confusing. Being french colonized Rwandans drive on the right side of the road. Of course half of the busses and matatus are from left-side-countries, so the confusion (in my head) is high. The traffic is much more organized than in Kampala or Kenya. Still the boda-bodas create chaos, at least twice per day when crossing a road we were nearly knocked.

The food really didnt go well with my stomach. Although we were served similarly as in Uganda (Matoke, Rice and Pasta, covered with beans or ground nut sauce with meat), I developed a crampy stomach ache over the last days and I am not the only who is still fighting with a bloated tumbo.

International. From the first view there are many whites around. Rwanda is working on becoming an IT hub in East and Central Africa an the Rwanda Development Board is coordinating the knowledge transfer and facilitates business settlement.

The language chaos is amazing and just with combined efforts of Ugandans, Kenyans and me we were able to find our way through. As much as few people on the street speak English, Kiswahili was understood by many more. I had planned to practise my French but either something was wrong with my accent or with their ears.

Somehow we felt like in Nairobi, when the main language in the taxi was Swahili. If the driver could have just sat on the right side 🙂

Friendly. I felt very very welcome. Firstly being a german citizen, I did not pay visa fees, which is a first amongst the 6 African countries I visited. Not only did the alumni and members of AIESEC welcome us with open arms and big words but also in the neighborhood where we stayed for the last night the neighbours, shop dealers and kids greeted us without great expectations (In Uganda we often hear: “Buy me sweets”).

The conference was great, proud to say we had 70 Kenyan delegates, 20 Ugandan and 30 Tanzanians. AIESEC in Rwanda, being a young country, had 15 of their members attending but also 10 memers to organize the whole event. We had an adorable Chair, a former MCP of Cameroon, who also worked in AIESEC International for one year. Now he works as consultant and lives with his french wife and two kids in Rwanda.

Rwanda in 4 days?

A great first glance into a country, no chance of understanding a lot of the complex past or the current political situation. But definitely a great experience and I am sure that I will take the next invitation and spend a week.