March 5, 2012
Yes, I have failed at keeping up my Peace Corps blog, however, there is now a new blog regarding my post-Peace Corps transitions and community and cultivation seeking efforts at http://fromthedeskofcultivation.wordpress.com. It will be an important part of my processing and I hope to keep it more up-do-date than this one.
January 28, 2010
Well, here I am, 6 months into my 27 month service in Uganda. We had a two week training a few weeks ago and when I was traveling to the first week, which was language training, I thought to myself wow, this seems normal. And that normalcy hopefully will make the next 21 months flyby. Being away from home during the holidays was hard, but it also made me appreciate the people I have surrounded myself with out here. Three of us, Colin, John, and myself, made the journey to Kampala to join our Country Director, Ted, for Christmas at his house, which is ironically next to the North Korean Embassy. We had a good time, there were some more folks from Peace Corps there, USAID, and the US Embassy. We thought about inviting our friends from next door over, but we were not sure if the DMZ was a universal principle separating North Korea from the rest of the free world or just a really explosive piece of real estate. I digress, yesterday I taught my first Business Management class at the hotel school, the subject was “What do managers do and how they do it”. Which involved my stating the main tasks of a manager, (setting objectives, organizing, motivating…) and attempting to explain the X and Y theories of Management, which resulted in my going to my fallback example of Theory X is like Idi Amin and Theory Y is like democracy…I think they got the point in the end. Tomorrow is my first Customer Care class (and payday…which means Holyfield tickets, the fight was rescheduled to Feb. 20th), which we will examine customer care basics and the needs of the customer, I keep telling myself that these kids have the opportunity to run the current hospitality industry so much better if they can just grasp onto simple concepts that can be translated into different situations, so we are sticking to the most needed yet simple basics. Yesterday I also approached our LC1 (Local Council 1, his name is Adolf) who is like the mayor, which we have and owns a bar I have been known to go to with Matt from time to time to play country music, but has more power…somehow. Anyway, I approached him in attempted to get to our member of parliament, (background: every member of parliament has a constituency fund that he/she is supposed to invest back into their communities and I had the idea to ask for some money to setup a whiteboard and other things in my classroom with. The tax from the hospitality industry is one of the few taxes that the government can actually keep track of and it would be in their best interest to invest in the education of the future of that industry.) here is how the conversation played out:
Me: Adolf, I need to talk to Frank
Adolf: The big boss man?
Me: Yea, you know him?
Adolf: Yea, but he rarely comes out to these parts
Me: Are you telling me he never comes to his district?
Adolf: Maybe, but I will let you ask him that question
Me: I would rather not, so can you organize a meeting?
Adolf: A meeting about what?
Adolf: We are going to have to have a meeting to talk about that
Me: Wait, we are going to have to have a meeting to talk about a meeting why I’m going to ask Frank for money?
Me:………can that be right now?
Adolf: No, Arsenal is playing soon…
Me: …how about after?
Adolf: Manchester is playing…
Me: …how about tomorrow before any football games are being played?
Adolf: As long as I don’t have any other meetings
Me: (under my breath) as long as I don’t have meetings with myself about meetings that I need to have with other people…Ok, Fine…and promptly went to the mayor’s bar.
I think it sounded better in the moment, but I hope some of my frustration was transferred. Adolf is really a great guy, but my inability to see the value of football games over petty business gets in our way sometimes.
Anyway, about my other projects, one of my groups who wanted me to help them find an IGA (Income Generating Activity) has come really far in their basket weaving, one of the other groups has won awards for their baskets and they make good money off of their sales, and this group wanted to copy them. But, they are of a different tribe, which is good because they weave differently, but making them see that as an advantage has been a three month process. Now, they are making almost export quality baskets in their native weave that look really good and KAFRED has two different styles of baskets that we are exporting. The peanut butter group is organizing themselves to try and show me they can increase production if we succeed in finding a market in the capital A group that had been planting eucalyptus tree seedlings (which use up a lot of water) has successfully planted half of their garden with vegetables which are coming along really well, I have transplanted 6 of their green pepper seedlings in my USPS box garden by my shower at site. I just need to now show them that the revenue they can make selling the vegetables will match or exceed what they were making from selling eucalyptus seedlings and they are helping improve the local diet. I’m now on the Grants Committee, we meet once a month to approve Peace Corps grants and assist grant receivers and applicants on their projects. One area that I want to explore more of is the concept of Peace Corps Loans. My country director and I believe in the power of the discipline to pay back in the business context. If our job is to develop people, why do we just give them money when we can be teaching them business concepts along the way? Thus, a larger and more time-consuming project has come to light, can Peace Corps Loans actually work? I have no idea where this can go, I think it can replace up to 50% of the money we give away in grants and increase host country nationals capacity and business knowledge. If anybody has thoughts on it, let me know. I think it could be Grameen Bankish in ways but it would have to be completely different because the PCV and the community would be responsible for the loan, and there would have to be some loan forgiveness built into it. I wish we could take a Freakonomics approach to it to prove that the amount of aid and free money given to the developing world actually works less efficiently than small loans, notice the emphasis on SMALL, we are not the IMF or the World Bank, and if you subscribe to the Confessions of an Economic Hit Man belief, we are not out to buy UN votes or put countries into copious debt so they are reliant on us…although…never mind. I think I have said enough in this post, I hope you guys are doing well and enjoying the start of the new year wherever you might be.
December 7, 2009
Hello all, I apologize for lack of updating my blog, but a recent Christmas party phone call from some of the most important people in my life has prompted me to work on an update. I have just come home from a week long trip across Uganda to Jinja. En-route to Jinja I stopped in Kampala to play in a Ultimate Frisbee charity tournament. I did not know what I was getting myself into, as it seemed like our little Peace Corps Uganda team that could was always playing against the Ugandan National Track Team…oh wait we did. But needless to say we went 0 – 6, but we were the best looking 0 – 6 team out there…and the only one that did not have to come back for the playoffs, but we got a sweet shirt out of the deal. That was on Sunday and on Monday the motley crew of Matt, Steve, and myself headed off to Jinja, the source of the mighty Nile. Tuesday brought meetings with a dried fruit exporter, Fruits of the Nile, in our attempt to find an exporter if Matt and I decided to dry fruit with our organizations. I also had the opportunity to swim around in the Nile…I hope that doesn’t lead to me needing to see Peace Corps Medical for some water born disease. Jinja has the old colonial feel that one could expect, old houses just shells speaking of their former grandeur, and modern cafes pointing towards the new tourist trap it has become…we all are indeed suckers in the end. Thanksgiving was great, I spent it with some missionary families in Fort Portal on my way out of town and had the one dish Thanksgiving was created for…stuffing…I was a happy man. Time is flying by as I looked at the calendar and saw that it has been more than 4 months since I have landed in Uganda. Speaking to friends and family at home makes me miss being there, but things are not too bad out here. Yes I do miss the fire in the living room by the Christmas tree with my Dad playing the piano, but it seems for now I have traded that for the rains of Africa (yes that was a Toto reference for those playing at home) and glowing of my lantern. The hardest day of being here will be on the 12th, when one of my best friends gets married. Ryan has been there through everything and is about to embark on the journey of his life. I had the chance to talk to him before his bachelor party, and that was worth every Ugandan Shilling, but could not replace me being there for him. But life goes on and so does trying to find the balance between living in community and gaining life experiences. Happy Holidays and Marry Christmas to those at home, and no Danielle, I do not miss Coast playing Christmas music around the clock. To look forward to: World Cup insanity, after the draw and the US playing the British on June 12 Ugandans don’t know who to root for, and coming up on January 16th, Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, yes that Evander Holyfield, is fighting in Kampala, I’m trying to get tickets.
October 22, 2009
Hello all, I have now been at site for a full week and the reality of my next two years is starting to set in. I live in a three room, very spacious compound within the grounds of my organization. My stove is set-up and meals have already been successfully cooked and coffee fantastically brewed. I walk pretty much everywhere, my longest commute being around 5 miles one way. KAFRED is a great organization which has its hands in many operations. They run the Bigodi Wetlands a.k.a. my swamp, which generates income for locals, they run women’s groups, make peanut butter, honey, and even run a science center. My first task is to take a look at their peanut butter operation and see if we can’t add some value to it and grow its market. There is a worker from the North Carolina Zoo who is an RPCV from the Philippines so she helps keeps me sane and lets me use her generator and internet until I can set something of my own up. I’m in a great situation both with my organization and living arrangement. Fort Portal is about an hour away by taxi, assuming that there are no flat tires along the way, I already have experienced that delay…twice in one trip. A fellow PCV Matt is only about 7 miles south of where I reside, so sanity is a taxi ride away. One problem that I am facing is that the locals seem to react in awe when I speak the local language, and don’t seem to hear anything I say because they are too busy talking to their friends about how the white dude can speak their language. Also, there is a mix of languages out here, they also speak Ruckiga (spelling?) which is kind of like Runyorro but thrown in a blender and shortened, which doesn’t lend itself to easy recognition. Kibale National Park is in my backyard and two days ago, Tuesday, we went to the Chimp Nest Lodge which had an amazing view of the Park and had the opportunity to tour their tree house room which is often visited by chimpanzees looking for the fruit that is grown in the surrounding trees. I went on a walk around my swamp on Monday and saw many of the local birds, including the Great Blue Turaco and more, I promise I’ll have the names down sometime in the next two years, and a few different primate species, the Black and White Colobus, the Red Colobus, and the stars of the next story, the baboons. As we were walking we came across a farm and my counterpart, Bernard, said that the baboons were staging a heist…yes he said a heist. As I rolled my eyes we kept walking and then it seemed that the entire herd of cattle was protesting something. I retraced my steps and saw about 50 baboons running across the field, where the herd was grazing, with cassava clutched in hand and mouth which they stole from the farm. Little did I know or realize that the baboons were headed straight for our path, as they came into the forest a few baboons stopped in the trees around us and feasted on their cache of cassava, and a few proceeded to walk towards me and my Cannon Digital Rebel. I was able to get some great shots and I will attempt to upload them when I have some acceptable bandwidth. I hope everybody is well and I now have my P.O. Box:
David Harrison, PCV
P.O. Box 733
Fort Portal, Uganda
Because there is some question towards the legitimacy of the customs and post office process, to insure the safety of the goods being delivered feel free to put Brother or Reverend David Harrison or write bible verses on the side of the box and when you declare what is in the box, if there is anything of any value, take a little liberty to write things like candy, magazines, books that might not be as interesting as Ipod or DVDs. Just some tips to insure a safe quasi-realizable means of delivery. Some people have asked if they were to send a care package what would I request, and have made the following list as a start, but feel free to as your own since of uniqueness:
- Letters (I would love to hear from you guys)
- Magazines (Economist, New Yorker, Time, National Geographic, Newsweek, Sport Illustrated etc…)
- Candy (Milky Way, Snickers, you get the picture)
- Snack Stuff (Corn nuts, sunflower seeds bbq ranch, Pringles, nuf said)
- CDs (New stuff comes out all the time, or mixes you personally make)
- DVDs (See above)
- Books (Mike, Chad, Zack, Stephen, ya’ll know what I read, tell the people or feel free to email me)
- MISC (If none of the above appeals to you feel free to ask)
Thanks guys and I hope you are all doing well,
October 16, 2009
Swearing-In Speech: October 15
Introduction: On behalf of all Peace Corps Uganda Trainees, I would like to thank you for coming to the swearing in ceremony today. Mr. Ambassador, Ted, Gary, Jolie, Shifra, Shirley, training staff, Peace Corps staff, honored guests from the US Embassy, Ugandan Government, and local communities, without the support you have all given us – we would not be here today to swear-in as Volunteers.
To PCVs: On October 14, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy spoke to a group of students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor during a campaign speech. Kennedy challenged them to live and work in developing countries around the world. Dedicating themselves to the cause of peace and development – and we know the rest of the story. The Peace Corps was designed to encourage mutual understanding between Americans and other cultures of the world. Establishing that mutual understanding will be our true task and the largest challenge of our two-year service to Peace Corps Uganda.
In school, business, and onward – there are always those for whom life is more a party than a journey. They think the destination – wherever they are at the time – is more important than how they got there. Thus – they live for the moment. The rest of us – for whom the journey IS important – make daily decisions about how we conduct ourselves. We know that how we WALK is as important as our DESTINATION. Indeed – how we walk DETERMINES our destination.
Whether you believe in a divine Creator or not – you are here for a reason – you are on your journey. My journey has brought me to Peace Corps Uganda, and my reason for being in here is yet to be determined. There are those of us for whom our time in Uganda will be the foundation of a larger vision – for others this is another step in their life of public service, and for some – their service will be a capstone to a life dedicated to helping others. I challenge you – for the next two years – to not only find your reason for being here, but also to find the next step in your journey. You have all heard that these next two years will be the toughest job you will ever love. There may be many brick walls in our way. But, as the late Carnegie Melon Professor, Randy Pausch said “the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want progress badly enough. Our innate American resiliency will prove to be an asset during these challenging times and our unique since of humor will help us enjoy the good times.
We have spent the last 10 weeks learning about Ugandan culture, history and learning several languages. Through that processes, we learned about each other. That knowledge, those skills, and these relationships are what will help keep us buoyant and will make the next two years of our lives successful. We will accomplish great things in partnership with our host organizations and communities. Each of us will also grow and change in ways we could not have anticipated. Through our hardships and successes, we will learn more about ourselves and about the people we want to become.
Africa, for most of America, has always been a place of adventure and intrigue – we come to see the splendor of its landscape, to marvel at the sunsets on the Serengeti, to seek a glimpse of its wild animals in their natural habitat, to appreciate and understand its history and culture. But history shows us that every explorer, missionary, and even mercenary, eventually comes to realize that those who come to get a get a handle on Africa soon discover – that Africa has got a hold of them – just ask Dr. Livingston. That which makes Africa so powerful is not a mountain, river, animal, or natural resource – but the African people – the heart of Africa is not in a lake or a forest – it is in the people.
We have all come to Uganda from our homes across the United States of America. Not to tell you what to do, but to ASK you what you want us to accomplish together. We will strive to become part of your communities, to share our knowledge, labor, and hearts for the next two years. Our goal is to help you achieve your goals — to become a stronger, united people — by helping where we can. We believe it is in the successful doing of “small things” that allow great deeds to be performed.
Our work in Uganda will be more than the sum of our activities and projects. It will be the reflection of our American values and ideals, civic pride, strong work ethic, and commitment to service that will define our small footprint in the history of this proud country. We understand that with solid relationships we can meet more than the physical needs of a community. The quality of our relationships within our communities is what will dictate success or failure in our time with Peace Corps. We are willing to work hard at laying the foundation for those relationships. We know that at the end of our service, we will have received more from Uganda than we can ever give to her, and for that we are grateful.
One of the words we don’t talk enough about is service. Our time in Uganda is referred to as our service. When we go home we will say we that we served in Uganda. Why do we call it service? A leader whom I respect greatly spoke to the progression of service as: Make the conscious decision to serve THE PERSON. Serve THE PERSON and with time they will trust you. Keep on serving THE PERSON and with more time, they will not only trust you but they will also respect you. Earn THE PERSON ‘S trust and build a relationship. Then, you will find that you were the one who gained a friend…So go and change the world together.
I have two quotes I would like to share with you this afternoon: The first is from Dr. Albert Schweitzer, he said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you – who will be really happy – are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
And the second is from William Penn: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” My fellow Peace Corps Volunteers – Today is not our last day together, but tomorrow is the first day of doing what we came here to do.
– Thank You
September 23, 2009
During training we have been developing our QP and here is the text to my project which I delivered on Tuesday.
Qualifying Project: Uganda Hotel and Restaurant Association
Introduction: Uganda is full of thousands of towns with millions of residents who work hard to provide for themselves and their families. A portion of those hard working residents own and operate hotels and restaurants, and they facilitate a majority of Uganda’s 632 million US Dollar Tourism Industry, which exposes over 800,000 visitors a year to Uganda’s natural beauty and unique experiences. With the demographics of Uganda shifting and major markets yet to be tapped into, the potential growth and revenue that awaits Uganda’s hotel and restaurant industry presents a need for organization and sustainability. The hotel and restaurant industries are the cornerstones of the communities in which they operate, from employing youth to purchasing locally grown produce, communities thrive when hotels and restaurants succeed.
Preferred Future Vision: The Future Vision of the Uganda Hotel and Restaurant Association is to create a network for hotel and restaurant professionals where they are empowered to work together to address current and future issues, create advocacy and awareness for the hotel and restaurant industries, and educate our members and communities in sustainable tourism. UHRA will promote dining out, encourage hotel and restaurant careers, publicize the industry’s commitment to food safety, and highlight the restaurant industry’s impact on the economy and local communities. Mission Statement: We exist to help our members — the cornerstone of their communities — to build customer loyalty, rewarding careers, and sustainable financial success through providing educational and networking opportunities, teaching sustainable tourism, and involving the local communities
Project Design: The goals for the association are: 1. Create networking opportunities for members 2. Offer support and programs for members to grow their businesses 3. To create national goals and representation for the hotel and restaurant industries 4. Educate and encourage members and communities about sustainable tourism 5. For the association to become sustainable both financially independent, with strategic industry partners, and to be 100% Ugandan run within 2 years of founding
The objectives for the association are: 1. To conduct monthly regional networking and educational meetings for our members 2. To create councils around industry issues to debate positions and create solutions 3. Conduct industry research and provide regionalized trend reports for our members 4. Create community based education through educational sessions regarding sustainable tourism of community assets and attractions. 5. Create programs to serve the industry (i.e. International Worker Programs, Youth Councils, Youth At Risk….etc)
Action Plan: The first chapter of the association will be started in Fort Portal compromising of local hotel and restaurant owners and operators. The association will seek to partner with companies who wish to further their industry, increase visibility among their potential customers, and assist and invest in the sustainability of tourism in Uganda. Potential companies include: SAB Miller, Nile Breweries, Star Coffee, and Kinyara Sugar. Their relationship would be key to providing and sponsoring the monthly educational meetings. During the meetings new members will be recruited, educational sessions will be taught, and members will be provided with resources. Members will vote for an executive committee which will coordinate meetings, educational sessions, programming, membership, advocacy, awareness, and sustainable tourism strategy. Members would be charged a annual membership fee to offset costs and to provide a base of funding. Within three years of founding, an expansion program including Jinja and Kampala will be constructed and carried out. The program will have the intention of uniting Uganda’s hotel and restaurant industry towards having one vision. That vision will be leading the industries into a new era of prosperity, prominence, and participation, enhancing the lives of everybody we serve.
Action: The association will be started with involving key members of the local community and getting the endorsement of the LC1.After creating a foundation of members who have formed boards, started community education, and moved industry positions forward, the association will then start to conduct research of market and trend development to help our members make strategic decisions to improve their financial position.
Monitoring: An internal board will be formed to assess the leadership and programming to make sure that both adhere to the mission statement and are working with the hotel and restaurant industry to move forward will all interests being represented. A partnership with the International Hotel and Restaurant Association will also be an external monitoring tool as they will act as a development consulting and monitoring partner for the UHRA.
Reporting Procedures: There will be monthly leadership and council meetings to both create programming and to evaluate the effectiveness of the association. Monthly reports will also be submitted to the International Hotel and Restaurant Association for review and evaluation.
End Thoughts: The hotel and restaurant industries in Uganda are as, if not more prone to failure as in the United States. The restaurant closure rate in the US is over 50% within the first year of operation where hotels are around 20%, and those numbers jump considerably higher over the next few years of operation. But in the US the main reason for closing is not that people are not making any money. If operators are not making a specific percentage or meeting quotas, they feel that they can make more money elsewhere. Or if they have cash flow issues they can just declare chapter 11 bankruptcy. In Uganda, the definition of “making money” and success are completely different. If they aren’t making money that means that their family might not eat that night, or school fees don’t get paid. This is why there needs to be resources available to the everyday Ugandan operating a hotel or restaurant. Teaching simple bookkeeping skills, financial planning, and forecasting can turn a bleak operating future into a successful venture. Both industries are dependent upon the natural resources in Uganda. Their continued success, their sustainability, is dependent on the quality of how those resources are preserved and maintained. If those who are dependent are educated in sustainable tourism and the role they play, then less degradation to the environment will occur and their businesses will continue to provide a sustainable income. I feel an association such as the UHRA can make a difference not only in the lives of their members but of every stakeholder in the communities in which they operate.
September 15, 2009
(Written on September 11)
I apologize for the time gap between my entries, but I now have some time to type out some of the recent events that have taken place during training and here in Uganda. The reason I am currently sitting out on the terrace of the country house where our training takes place is because I spent the night here, and for the first time, slept for more than 4 hours straight since I arrived in country. But, the reason that I am not in language training or some rural development seminar is that yesterday there were riots that broke out in Kampala. And at about 5:00pm last night they came through Wakiso. I was waiting for the Peace Corps Land Cruiser to take me to work on a project and that is when I saw the motorcade of P.C. staff come into town, which is never a good thing. They were telling all volunteers and trainees to return to their sites and homestays because the riots were about 9km away, just in the next town. As fate would have it, right then I took the shotgun in the Land Cruiser with Emanuel driving and we went on a search and rescue for trainees, aka going to all the restaurants and bars and telling them to go home. Little did we know that this would turn into a 2 ½ hour transport endeavor and going through the middle of the riots a handful of times. Streets were on fire, broken glass barricades blocked traffic, gun shots echoed throughout the night, and there were thousands of people lining the streets. There were soldiers at the police station and they were beating rioters with their clubs and butts of their bolt-action rifles. The concentration of energy that was held up in the bystanders was enough to strike a nervous cord, let alone seeing Vice-President’s motorcade speed by with soldiers with automatic rifles lining the top of his escort Land Rovers. With the streets of Wakiso ablaze, black smoke melting into the sunset created a mercury stained sky. I looked over at Emanuel as he was negotiating a pot hole infested side road to get around one of the fire blockades that cut off traffic on Hoima Road, and asked him why this was happening. He started with saying that it was because the Buganda Kingdom wanted to be treated as a greater kingdom than all the rest of Uganda. (I have since asked some of the other training staff and have had conflicting stories but here I what I can put together, I hope it makes sense) In the late 1800s the Buganda Kingdom aligned themselves with the British colonists and invited the national governance system to Uganda. While inviting the system no other kingdom has clashed with the national central administration more than the Buganda Kingdom. On Saturday the King of Buganda, Kabaka, is making a trip to the Banyala Kingdom. Now, the Banyala Kingdom has their own king but they are part of the Buganda Kingdom. In the 1960’s all the kingdoms were abolished, but in the 1993 President Yoweri Museveni reinstated the kingdoms. Since then, the standoff has revolved around Buganda’s demand for respect and land policy. The land policy issue is rooted in the fact that 9000 square miles have been lived on by residents of the Buganda Kingdom and the government will not recognize them as owners of that land. The constitution states that if people live on the land for 12 years they are entitled to stay and work on that land. Here is where it gets fun, some of the land was part of a gift from the British in the Buganda Agreement of 1900 and the kingdoms which the land was given away from, now want the land back. So there are three parties who are contending for the land, the Buganda Kingdom, the residents who work on the land, and the kingdoms which the land was given away from in 1900. The President has told the King of Buganda to talk the King of Banyala to ask if he can visit his kingdom. The King of Buganda and all of his people feel insulted that they now have to “bow so low” as to request a visit within their kingdom. The last time this happened the current King of Buganda’s father had to escape the country and never came back. So, as far as I can tell, the riots are happening because the rest of Uganda does not want to treat the Buganda Kingdom any differently than any other kingdom and at the same time the people of Buganda are insulted. I was watching the news this morning and a Member of Parliament from Buganda was being interviewed about the situation and she mentioned that the Buganda Kingdom, if not treated with respect and with the reverence they deserve, that they have the capability of overthrowing the current regime. Which came as a complete shock to me, she said they had the weapons and the money to influence a change. As I sit at my desk I can still see smoke rising from the town and believe that I can still hear automatic gunfire. One feeling that I am still trying to decompress is that feeling of energy that presented itself when I saw the thousands of youth lining the streets in Wakiso last night. They want something, they want to fight for something, they want to use a velocity that they have not been afforded due to their situation. Uganda needs a hero, Uganda wants an ideal to latch onto, the country wants to be unified. I believe that as long as there are egos of kingdoms still playing a mid-evil game, internal diplomacy will have a hard time moving forward. Imagine if New York wanted to be treated with more respect because, after all, they had the first capital, and they were willing to fight for it because they feel entitled. Now, imagine if you were a New Yorker living in another state and people new that you were from New York, you would not be in a safe position right now.
To catch you up on last week, we went to Masindi for our language emersion week. We stayed with a PCV at her site. We traveled daily to the market and attempted to bargain in Rotorro, which I think gave us an even worse price. We met with the LC1, who is the head of the Leadership Committee for the town, it is a volunteer position and acts like a small claims court judge. On Friday we went to the Kinyara Sugar Plantation for a little R and R. As we drove up to the porte-cochere I then realized that we were going to the executive club. Kinyara is an Indian company where the executives get treated very well. And by very well I mean that they have their own country club, lap pool, restaurant, bar (with ice), ping-pong table and all the flush toilets and warm water showers their hearts can desire. After hitting the sticks with Willy (and loosing 4 balls to the swamp) we had lunch with the rest of the group and some other PCVs we lived the rough Peace Corps Trainee life of swimming and enjoying a warm shower.
The gunfire has increased over the past hour, and I have been told that it is about 5km away. There is more rioting in Kampala and it has shut-down parts of the city. It started yesterday at the Bota-Bota (motorcycle taxies) park and worked its way to the old taxi-park. Four years ago Uganda had the busiest taxi-park in all of Eastern Africa, so they built a new taxi-park, they now have the two busiest taxi-parks in all of East Africa. Both are on the cusp of insanity, but somehow there is organization. We have been told to not leave our homestays and sites for the day, which I think I have the best situation at the country house (as it is almost tea time) and I have my room to retreat back to for my afternoon nap. How did I get this job?
I have started to work on my Qualifying Project, and because printing is so expensive out here, 500 shillings a page, which is 25 cents, but the page comes out looking like a bad photocopy, off center with random black streaks, so I bough Matt a beverage to write out my proposal for me. Don’t judge me, I didn’t want to invest the time and energy in writing a page of legible status that the Country Director will be reading. On to the project, I have been to many restaurants in the country and have been mauling over the idea of a Uganda Hotel and Restaurant Association. And that is what has become my QP, with the vision of: Creating a network for hotel and restaurant professional where they are empowered to work together to address current issues, create advocacy, and awareness for the hotel and restaurant industry, and educate members and communities in sustainable tourism. The large names in the H and R industry out here are Nile Breweries, which is owned by SABMiller, Kinyara Sugar, and there is a Sheraton in Kampala. The hypothetical idea would be to partner with them to have monthly meetings and educational sessions. The idea is less than 24 hours old so there is more to come.
Yesterday I was also nominated by the group to be the Ambassador if we ever got in trouble in Uganda, I’m not sure how that works but I rolled with it. We also did presentations on corruption and how it takes place in the NGO world in Uganda, with the aids of case studies written by the PC staff we also had to define corruption,
August 23, 2009
Here I am, in Uganda at my home-stay family’s farm. The rain has started to fall and the dry, thirsty ground gladly accepts one of the first downpours of the “rainy season”. I’m writing this lantern-side on my laptop to be uploaded at a time to be named later. We have just completed our first week of training. Cultural adaptation is hard, but the language courses are harder. Myself and the other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) are starting to develop relationships with each other that will help get us through the next 27 months of our lives and for some, even further. While the thought of home is always present, I have started to find my niche in the enigma that is Ugandan culture. I now have a pet name, Arooli, which means thunder and lightning, apparently they have found me to be a bit forward and energetic towards training. Next week holds what will prove to be our toughest challenge yet, we have our language simulations where we act out situations for evaluation. Also, on Monday, the Economic Development crew will be heading downtown to do some market analysis and trend evaluation, looks to be a fun time interacting with the local business owners. As for the adaptation to the demands of training and the adjustment towards the culture, there is a lot of stress and mental/physical demand. But, one of the bright lights is that there are a few of us who enjoy our coffee, so at tea time I break out the REI French Press and go to town on one of the three rotating blends that we have obtained during our travels thus far. There is also a small jazz scene in Uganda led by a saxophonist named Isaiah Katumwa, I’m still in search of his latest cd, Another Step.
Uganda is a developing country with lots of potential. The people are approachable and have been welcoming so far. There is a project that is currently helping develop every district, which there are 50 some odd districts that make up Uganda. That project is to have every district and some villages I believe, to construct a main market place with paved roads in and out of the downtown area. It is designed to help increase trading by making the market more accessible and to help lateral movement of goods from district to district.
Some of my adventures so far have consisted of a tour of Kampala, dodging in and out of boda boda’s (motor-bikes that are used as taxies), large van taxies, and pedestrians (think real-life frogger), learning how to make fresh passion fruit juice, and mastering doing laundry by hand (the house girls still laugh at me).
On Sunday we went to an Anglican church service in the neighboring village. There English service was well attended, about 90 by my rough estimation, and was quite lively. Some PCVs went to Kampala with their host families to a rather large Catholic church that had “thousands” of people at it, I might be checking that out next week.
On Sunday afternoon I went over to another PCVs host families house. The father’s name was Festo and he is a Chef for a large construction company in Kampala. He was refreshed to meet somebody else who enjoyed spices and the culinary side of things. He also was a landscaper on the side, so needless to say that his backyard is the best in the village.
Things that I never in a million years would find myself saying:
Don’t miss the Frisbee, the monkeys will take it
Hey Josh, can you pass the matoke?
Who packs clothes in a guitar case?
So, you are telling me that I add this to my cup of hot water and I get coffee?
It kind of tasted like butterscotch and ketchup
Watch out for the wasp nest in the living room
These Nigerian films really aren’t that bad
Oh…its not supposed to have a door
I hit my head on the door of the latrine
Sorry I’m late, my bike fell apart on the way to class
Umm anybody seen a tall mazungu (Foreigner/White Man) with a large beard?
No no, its really fine, I don’t need another liver on my plate
Is the Jesus Cares Restaurant open on Sundays?
So, today is now Monday and I have yet to have a chance to upload my blog so I will relay today’s Economic Development field trip. The day started with me walking down the street and being called Wayne Rooney (plays for Manchester United) by some locals, which means it will be a good day. The assignment that Matt and I received was to do a market and trend analysis of the Rolex makers in town. Let me introduce you to what a Rolex in Uganda is. You first start with your chibati, which is, for all intensive purposes a tortilla but with green peppers and onions cooked into it. Then take two eggs, dice up a pearl onion, tomato, cabbage, combine with a pinch of salt, then place the batter onto the charcoal heated frying surface, cook until brown and roll up with the chibati into a burrito like design and there you have it, a Ugandan Rolex. All we need is some hot sauce and we have quite possibly the most amazing to go food in existence. I need to find some bacon to add to it then we can bring it over to the States. Matt and I concluded at the end of the day that we had the best project, because we had to “sample” the product to be able to come up with an accurate idea of the quality, I was channeling my inner Anthony Bourdaine. I felt bad for the guys who got the photocopying assignment.
Tuesday came and went with its deafening thunder and paralyzing rain falling down on the tin roof of my compound. It also brought with it more verbs and our first language simulation. I wanted to take the time to answer some questions you might have regarding our daily life here in Uganda.
What do you eat? Well tonight I had beans, rice, pashoti (don’t ask) Irish potatoes, cabbage, and water
How do you get around? On my Dunlop Outback Mountain Bike, which for the record is on its second broken right peddle, which makes the whole exerted force/receivable surface ratio not favorable considering that I now am down to the screw.
What are the bathroom facilities like? Guess and you are probably right, I did shower with a bucket tonight and yes…there is a whole in the ground
What do you like about Uganda? The pineapple (sorry Matt, but better that what you brought back from Hawaii), fresh passion fruit juice (no preservatives added), and the aforementioned Rolex from street vendors. Oh, and you cant forget the sun rises that greet me on my bike ride to training in the morning.
What do you do at training? That is a great question, thanks for asking. We always start at 8:00am with language either for 2 or 4 hours, with a tea/coffee break at 10. Then it is into either cultural or economic development training till 5.
What are you listening to right now? How to dismantle an atomic bomb by U2
Do you have electricity? Yes one outlet with a 12 plug powerstrip attached to it.
Do you have running water? Ha, that is relative. We do have running water but it has to be boiled for me to be able to drink it.
What do you do besides your training? Another great question, well there is the Choice Guest House which has great views of the city where we gather every Thursday evening for a refreshing beverage, then there is the constant rotation of movies and tv shows at other trainees homestays, oh yea, we also study and spend time with our homestay families and learn about Ugandan culture.
It is Thursday night and I’m preparing for a lecture that I’ll be giving on marketing and then a second lecture on small business accounting, As you can imagine the concept of marketing out here is less than refined. Cell phone companies paint bright color schemes on buildings and banks sponsor the local news updates, and there you have it, marketing. I’m trying to close the gap between the textbook concepts of the 4 P’s, differentiation, BCG grids, and the whole concept of market position and relating it to a given target market. Things are different out here, having a sign in front of your shop might be your marketing, but how do you convince the thousands of people that walk by your shop daily that you have a better product/service at a better price than they guy they go to and have gone to for x number of years? We know everybody/household makes financial decisions that are based upon a need, or in terms of poverty, the decisions are based upon choices that have already been made regarding who will benefit from the acquisition of a given product. An example of that choice might be who gets to eat today, or do we buy firewood to cook with or milk for the baby if the mother has HIV. We have to strip this concept of “marketing” down and not use buzz words that generalize and render a useless or unproductive result. And that is where I am currently, as I listen to the Gypsy Kings and stress to keep my eyes open, the light from the lantern and the computer screen are constantly playing tug-a-war with my pupils.
July 31, 2009
This is combination of advice, wisdom, verses, and quotes I have compiled over the last 6 months. They will greet me every morning in Uganda as they will be at my bedside guiding me and helping me develop an understanding of where I am and where my focus should be.
We find fulfillment in doing
Africans find fulfillment in being
Therefore, be patient to a point where you can learn from them
Listen first and a lot and ask specific questions showing that you want to learn
Don’t try and give them the answers, set-up guide rails to help lead them to the answer
You are there to contribute, not to fix
Become the best watcher
Love to listen
The most basic need is human contact
Know what questions to ask – evaluate the situation
The leader values have to be the follower values
Human beings are to be understood, not to be mastered
Appreciate frame of reference
Have some idea of where you are, have some idea of where you want to be
How do others perceive you?
Be light hearted, don’t take things to seriously as long as the job is getting done well
Be a good listener, genuinely care about the people around you
Success seems to be connected with action. Successful men keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.
Its not hard to make a decision when you know what your values are.
Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.
“On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions… who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died.”
Adlai E. Stevenson
We often judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions
Impress from a distance, impact up close
“but he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. it’s quite simple: do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.” – Micah 6:8
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Hebrews 10:35-39
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:8-18
Where there is no vision, the people perish – Proverbs 29: 18
See to it then that the light within you is not darkness – Luke 11:35
My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to always be ready, no matter when it may overtake me. If men truly lived like this, then all men could live equally brave.
Gen. Stonewall Jackson
Pride is a personal commitment. It is an attitude which separates excellence from mediocrity – William Blake
The confident still learn where the arrogant know all
It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races – Mark Twain
From Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic,” Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
“There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live – I have no use for the sour-faced man – and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do.”
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go!”
The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I’ll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your self about all the no’s you’ve said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.
No is for wimps. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.
… What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who’s up and who’s down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a load of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.
I say yes, and Wayne Coyne says yes, and if that makes us the enemy, then good, good, good. We are evil people because we want to live and do things. We are on the wrong side because we should be home, calculating which move would be the least damaging to our downtown reputations. But I say yes because I am curious. I want to see things. I say yes when my high school friend tells me to come out because he’s hanging with Puffy. A real story, that. I say yes when Hollywood says they’ll give me enough money to publish a hundred different books, or send twenty kids through college. Saying no is so boring.
And if anyone wants to hurt me for that, or dismiss me for that, for saying yes, I say Oh do it, do it you, finally, finally, finally.
July 29, 2009
Hospitality student gives Peace Corps a chance
By DINA BERTA (July 27, 2009)
David Harrison of La Verne, Calif., starts his new job next month after graduating in June from the Collins School of Hospitality at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Harrison, however, won’t be heading to a resort or running a restaurant. He’s traveling to Uganda for a 27-month tour with the Peace Corps. Given the challenging employment market, hospitality graduates such as Harrison are having to consider very different alternatives to traditional restaurant or hotel management positions. Harrison will work with a Uganda agency focused on community health and economic development. But he believes his hospitality education has prepared him well for the assignment.
Why did you apply for a job with the Peace Corps? A couple of my professors convinced me it’s OK not to immediately become a corporate trainee right out of college. Also, a management job I had lined up at the Hyatt fell through during spring break. It was like the door slammed shut. Anyway, I eventually want to work for an international nonprofit, and they all want you to have international experience.
What are you going to be doing in Uganda? I’ll be advising the CHED—community health and economic development—on ways to increase revenue and sustainability of companies.
How do you think your hospitality education will help you in the new job? The degree in hospitality management is all about managing expectations, whether you’re at the front desk of a hotel or a line cook in the kitchen. There are expectations you are trying to meet for the people you are connecting with. You’re also managing people—guests and staff. It’s a very people-focused education.
How do you hope to manage Ugandans’ expectations? [At Cal Poly Pomona] we had a leadership class that was about how to unify. How do you unify your staff with your visions, values and beliefs and how do you make sure they are aligned with the organization. In Uganda, I’ll have to learn their culture, beliefs and value to work with them and find a unified vision.