Here I Am

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.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Here I Am”

  1. Mike Smith Says:

    Awesome post Dave. It’s great to hear how your daily life is changing. Can you post on some of the preferred ways we can communicate with you?

  2. Wes Says:

    David..very interesting to read! i’m sure you’ll leave a lasting impression there besides being mistaken for wayne rooney! ..keep up the hard work!

  3. Bill Harrison Says:

    Hang in there David – We too had no plumbing nor electricity where we grew up, but did grow up – maybe not as clean as our mother though we should of been, but did survive.
    I can only guess that you are home-sick, and also miss your life style, but knowing you, are also determined to follow through. We KNOW that you will make a difference.

  4. Debi Merry Says:

    Hi David! Saw your folks yesterday and asked for your blog address… Amazing to hear about all you are doing, and knowing something of the conditions and lack of infrastructure. Is there an email address where I can reach you? Or is this the best forum?

  5. Brian Rietze Says:

    “Don’t miss the Frisbee, the monkeys will take it”

    Funniest line ever!

    Keep the updates coming brother!

  6. Richard Says:

    Very nice to read some very specific happenings within your training environment. That is the most descriptive summary of the riots I’ve read thus far and I’m glad I did. I didn’t realize how huge it was! I hope you are acclimating well to your assigned location.

    Keep it up sir!

    -Matt’s friend Richard in D.C.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s