Greetings again, family and friends, from the Pearl of Africa. J I sincerely appreciate all of the overwhelming support I got through comments and messages on my last blog post. I hope this post is as well received and thank each and everyone of you following me on this amazing journey. It is crazy to believe, as I post this, that this is my last Sunday in Africa (on this trip at least) and that in 7 short days I will be returning to the United States to resume my daily life. I refuse to allow this trip to be just a story I tell my friends about, and feel compelled and inspired to continue my work with this great nation and great continent. I have many great ideas and plans already buzzing around my head for future involvement with both this nation and in specific this terrific organization, TASAAGA.
A quick note before I begin to describe this week’s adventures, blessings, and struggles. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Bruhan had charged me with the task of completing a training manual for the organization to use to teach the women. Since I am only here for three weeks of internship, he asked that I complete this task this week, and therefore, I remained in Entebbe this week to utilize the internet cafes around town to complete this project. I will explain further in depth exactly what I did and what I observed while working, but I wanted to be clear that my week was more administrative work and less field work unlike last week.
After waking up at 6:30 am, I showered, dressed, and immediately began packing for my week in Sitabaale. Bruhan informed me that we would leave at 7:30 am, so I made sure to be ready by 7:15. I left my bag in the room and headed out to the living room where Bruhan and his family were watching some television. I joined them and awaited breakfast and our eventual departure. Bruhan asked me how the manual was coming and I explained that I had just begun and would be able to probably finish by the end of the week. He explained that until the manual was finished the GROWW project was momentarily at a halt, and therefore the manual should be my top priority. I agreed and we determined the best thing for me was if I remained in the city so I would have access to internet if I needed to do research.
I ate a chapati and drank my tea, and then unpacked my bag that I had packed just an hour ago. I repacked just the essentials: my laptop, the charger, and earbuds so I could listen to music while I worked. Then I began my walk towards Entebbetown and the Cyberlink Café. On the previous Saturday, Bruhan showed me how to get to the café in town which features the strongest and fastest internet connection. The walk is essentially a straight walk down the main road until I reach the top of the hill in town. Although I have no facts to back my hypothesis up, I would guess that the walk is about 1 and a half to 2 miles each way considering it takes me between 30-45 minutes to get there and to get back. The majority of the pictures featured throughout this post are buildings or landmarks I see along the way.
I finally reached my destination, walked into the café, and walked straight to the back where they allow patrons to use their own laptops. Simplicity on their side, the back room features a desk with two chairs, an extension chord to plug into, and two network Ethernet cables. I quickly unpacked my bag and plugged the Ethernet cable in, when one of the employees informed me there was no power in the café and the computers and internet were being powered by a generator. Understanding that power goes out almost everyday in Uganda, I shook my head and continued to assemble my laptop. She then informed me that this meant that there was no power to the outlet I normally plug into, and I would need to either utilize my battery or find another café. Optimistic that the power would come back on in a couple minutes as it normally does at the Entebbe House, I agreed to use the 45% battery-life of my laptop until the power resumed.
I originally planned the manual to be divided into 4 sections: Basic Business Skills, Management and Entrepreneurship, Economics, and Basic Accounting Principles. I had completed the Economics section since I had notes from both of my Economics classes saved on my laptop. Therefore, I began to work on the Basic Business section and after 2 hours, my laptop was clinging to life at 5% with no hope of the power being restored anytime soon. Desperate to continue, I walked back down the hill to another internet café Bruhan had pointed out to me.
I set up shop there and began working again. After two hours there, my laptop had reached 98% and suddenly the entire café went dark. This café, cheaper and of a lower quality, had no back-up generator and therefore when the power went out, so did the internet. I packed my bag back up, paid the employee (2000 USH for two hours…about 35 cents an hour) and struggled back up the hill in the broiling heat to the original café. The power had still not returned there; however, with the generator, I was able to use their internet for an additional two hours to finish the entire first section. I paid the employee (3,000 USH for two hours…about 50 cents per hour) and slowly walked back to the Entebbe house to relax until the next day.
Feeling as though I relived Monday, I will save you the time and explain essentially the same thing happened. The first café had no power, and I eventually had to return to the second café to charge up. The second café, while slightly closer to the house, has incredibly slow internet which I would compare to that of the dial-up speeds we used to experience in the early 2000’s. So, as soon as my laptop charged up, I returned to the first café. It was there in the afternoon that I realized the entire 20 pages of the manual I had already composed were too complicated and would be above that of what most the women would need to know. Determined to design this class as something the women would both enjoy and take a lot away from, I scrapped the original idea and turned to a more interactive and useful course of training. My new idea would focus on a simplified version of the Business Plan and would force the women to learn all of the important concepts through hands on learning while also aiding them in writing a plan for their business, something most if not all of them broke into business lacking.
Excited that I found something I believe will help the women, I wrote the entire first section in the remaining two hours at the café. Understanding the urgency of finishing this manual, I saved some websites on my computer so I could continue working offline when I returned to the house. Instead of walking the entire way home, I was picked up by a Boda Boda about halfway and rode the remainder of the way home. Having never been on any type of motorbike or motorcycle before this trip, I am attempting to maximize my Boda Boda experience while here.
Bruhan had returned home from Sitabaale and I showed him what I had finished on the manual. He liked the idea and urged me to continue in this direction. He explained it would not be too complicated for the women and when it was translated to Luganda, the women would understand it perfectly well. We ate dinner and relaxed until I was startled by a creature the size of a baby mouse running across the floor. Acquainted with Lizards, Spiders, Caterpillars, Mosquitos, and even Wasps, I was not prepared to face the large insect crawling towards me. I instantly sucked my feet up onto the chair and fearfully inquired what this creature was. Bruhan launched into action explaining this large cockroach was the only other thing besides caterpillars that he feared. He swiftly grabbed a magazine, threw it on the large bug, and squashed it. Relieved that it was dead, we all returned to normalcy until not even 2 hours later a second cockroach came crawling along the exact same path. Yuck.
Wednesday and Thursday
I have lumped these days together as they were similar. I woke up. Ate Chapati. Drank tea. Walked to the café. Worked on the manual. Walked home. And relaxed until bed. Thursday night, my hard work paid off and I finished the manual and the accompanying participants training guide. The overall finished product is one that I am proud of. The women will not only learn important skills like goal setting, planning, organizing, company ownership, price setting, market analytics, and mission and vision setting, they will also complete in their time in the program, their very own “Business Plan” custom tailored to their business. I hope this will help the women to set a clear path for their future and keep them on track to achieving their hopes and dreams for their businesses.
Bruhan, having travelled to the Refugee Camp for the remainder of the week, and Mama Africa, having left to visit her sister, left Maureen, Maggie and I to survive on our own for a bit. Interested in what school life was like here, I asked Maureen and Maggie many questions about high school, college, and the struggles they face. Maureen, having finished Senior 6, the top level of High School, desperately expressed her desire to attend college. However, with school fees for college being high relative to the average income, and no government assistance or loans, she is unable to do so at the time. Maggie, still finishing the Senior Level, hopes to go to the university to become a nurse. Making education opportunities more accessible and affordable for these girls and many young scholars like them is one of the projects I plan to look into when I get back to the states.
With the manual finished, I decided to sleep in a bit and take an adventure to the Entebbe Craft Village to do some souvenir shopping. After an hour of looking around one of the shops, I left with gifts for some of the family members I hoped to find some for and a promise to the women that I would come back tomorrow to finish shopping. The craft village, comprised of multiple shops, features entrepreneurs who travel all over to buy crafts from women in remote villages and then resell them to tourists looking for the perfect souvenirs. The biggest challenge with the craft shops is that none of the items have prices and all of the prices are hence negotiable. After a while, negotiating every price gets exhausting so I limited myself to just one hour of shopping on Friday. I then proceeded right up the street to the Café to Facetime back home with Anna (my Twin) and Megan (my Girlfriend).
I returned to the Entebbe house and later in the evening we walked back towards Entebbetown where I got some “chips” (a.k.a. Fries J ) to remind me of home. Then for dinner (around 9 pm) Maureen and Maggie made Uganda Porridge which I am quite fond of. I asked Maureen to teach me how to make if before I leave so that I can make it when I get home.
I woke up late again, and returned to the craft village to continue shopping. After over two hours of exhaustion, I finally found gifts for everyone on my shopping list and quite a few souvenirs for myself. Many of the shop owners began getting aggressive and overly pushy with their selling tactics so I quickly left the village and headed back to the café to again Facetime Anna and Meg. Then, I slowly walked back to the house to find Mama Africa and Baby Africa had returned from their trip. I joined them in the living room and watched some Asian show called “Gu Family Book” with them for a couple episodes. We had Irish potatoes for dinner which is essentially regular white potatoes with some tasty broth. One of my favorite dishes here in Uganda.
Overall, I have had a great time this week just working on the training manual. While I truly enjoy field work, I am a Man of practicality and know that my dream job will involve more office work then field work. As long as I know that what I am doing is going to help someone and I feel as though I am making a difference, I know I will be happy doing whatever I end up doing. The frequent power outages here have made me truly appreciate the American Infrastructure and I will not take electricity for granted anymore. I can truly say to each and everyone of you that this trip has already proven to be the hardest thing I have faced in my life, but most certainly one of the most rewarding. I am already making plans to return to Uganda and hope that God will make that dream of mine come true. I look forward to my last week of this trip and know that when I get back to the states I will have much more to write.
Patrick Maxwell., a.k.a. Mzungu.