Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Few Observations...

Now that I’m over halfway through my time in Uganda, I think it’s about time to blog! I haven’t had much internet access, but some people on the team bought 3G sim cards that allow us to connect to internet occasionally. 

This past week has been quite busy (I use words like “quite” now because over half of our team is from the UK). After a long 18 hours of flight time I made it to our hotel in Kampala at about midnight Uganda time. It was considered luxurious by all local standards...but I expect most Americans would complain if a Best Western had such rusty old showers. When we awoke I saw my first views of Uganda and it was gorgeous! Every window and door in the “guesthouse” was open to the perfect weather, and we could see mountains in the distance! Although the EMI East Africa office was just 10 minutes down the road, we didn’t have time to check out their office because we had to start the 2 hour drive to Jinja, the town where our project is. 

I don’t think I took my eyes away from the window the whole ride because the country was so...new. I don’t think that there is any way to explain it...There are just many layers of things going on. Here are a few observations:

  • Nearly every building is painted as an advertisement, the most common being Huggies. 
  • There is a strange juxtaposition between the people and their environment. Ugandans tend to keep themselves extremely clean, dress much nicer than Americans, and mysteriously maintain flawless pressed white pants at times when I am red with dirt from head to toe. They do not seem to maintain any of their buildings, however. Everything is falling apart or built from scraps.
  • They do not mind asking for things. When we stopped for some teammates to go into a shop, the car was instantly surrounded by people either just wanting to talk or ask if we had any food or drink for them to have. I even had a well-to-do Ugandan in the Amsterdam airport ask to borrow some of my water...which I obviously let him keep...
  • Ugandans are event-oriented rather than time-oriented like we are in America. Actually, they just don’t seem to consider time much at all. For example, church was listed to start at 9:00, so the YWAM director said to meet at his house at 10:15.
  • Their equivalent of fast food is stopping on the side of the road at a place where chicken is being cooked on a stick and at least a dozen people reaching their heads and hands inside of your open windows to sell you THEIR chicken on a stick. See picture below and squint because I took it from far away through the window.

This is as much of the chicken I ate, but a man asked if he could have the rest and he ate all of the meat, bones, and even gnawed at the wooden stick!

Our project is going really well. In addition to the initial school and site plan that I came here to work on, YWAM has added a “hospitality centre” to our scope of work. It is meant to be a hotel-like building for visitors to stay in during conferences or retreats on their base. It has been an interesting challenge working with the organization because they have dreams...but not a very specific vision. For example, they began by asking for 300 beds and soon after asked for 1000 beds...um...huge difference. But that is the architect’s job! To figure out what it is that the client actually wants and needs, because so many times they don’t actually know. Our aim is to provide them with enough versatility in their buildings that they can be used efficiently no matter the capacity. On Wednesday we will have the final presentation to the client, and finish what we can on Thursday!

Of course there is much more to write, but I assume most people have stopped reading by now so I’ll continue another time :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Halfway to Africa



How did I only get one hour of sleep between these two? Oh well, another 8+ hours on a plane so I'm bound to get more!