Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Oh yeah, I'm here to do work, right? - December 15, 2003

Work here is going fine so far. I've still yet to have a proper meeting with my boss (she's the volunteer Chairperson, but is crazy busy with other stuff - she owns a store, she does consulting work, etc etc) so i don't want to start in on anything major yet until i talk with her. Right now, I've assigned myself the super-stimulating task of bringing their membership database into the 21st century, (ie out of notebooks and onto excel). Any project that i have in mind will involve targeting the membership obviously, and damned if I'm going to do that by paging through handwritten membership forms and receipts all the time. A rubber stamp that says 'paid' and shows the date would be a huge leap forward even!

The projects that I want to propose is to set up a mentorship program, and to set up a U**** co-op. Everything I've read about the organisation is that members most want networking and learning opportunities, and I also have concluded that all of the many many problems facing small- and micro-enterprises (which is about 90% of membership) in africa really all comes down to not having any economies of scale, either in purchasing or in export development. So mentorships and co-ops will maybe save the day?!?

My office is just me and one other person - Sophie, who is actually 28 and very nice, she has been super helpfull in showing me around town and pointing out, very tactfully, the cross-cultural mistakes I'm making, so that I don't go on offending people for the next five months! (For example: when someone gives you their business card, you need to take it with both hands, look at it carefully, admire it and discuss, rather than just shove it in your purse and move on!) U**** (ie me and sophie) gets lots of invites to various events, so i've been exposed to work things outside of the office, which is nice. Last Monday I went to the launch of a report on affirmative action in africa at the British Council, and on tuesday Sophie and I went to this awards dinner at a shmancy country club (lots of mzungus there) for women entrepreneurs, that featured the Queen of Buganda (the tribe, and region, that kampala is in), which is where i first tried Ugandan food.

Ugandan food is pretty crap, although they all seem quite proud of it. Their staple is matoke, which is mashed and steamed plantains, that they generally put this sauce over that is supposedly made from peanuts (or 'g-nuts' as they call them) but which doesn't taste like much of anything to me! Also, a lot of steamed root vegetables (cassava, and 'yam' which is different than what we call yam, its white and purple-y colored), and a lot of a fish called tilapia, which i actually quite like. They also eat a lot of french fries!! But in Kampala many restaurants are 'international', including many that offer the best of modern eating, which is hamburgers and fries, of course. So when you get sick of mashed bananas , all you have to do is go to Nando's, the local (and shiny clean, which is unusual) fried chicken/burgers/pizza/french fries/ice cream fast food place! (There's even a bunch of chinese restaurants, as well as thai and mexican even, and apparently some of the best Indian restaurants around, although I haven't been yet.) Also: 'street meat' here is grasshoppers (and I thought hot-dogs where sketchy!) I think we've found the one food I'm not willing to try!

Since i live on my own and work at a small place, meeting people is tougher than anticipated, but not impossible; admittedly i haven't made huge efforts yet. So, yesterday was my first time out-and-about meeting people. The people i met are actually the Right to Play volunteers that Toby (hi toby! you got the first personal mention in my new blog!)put me in touch with. I've also met a couple of other people in random places like matatus and award dinners, so things are moving along.

Oh, and you know what's weird? There's a PriceWaterhouseCoopers and a Maclaren McCann (the ad agency) office right near where i work - just to contrast with the grasshoppers!!