Saturday, October 15, 2005

Slacking, sort of

It's been a while since I've posted my Epic One Hundredth Post. But don't get me wrong, it's not from a lack of things to write about. It's more as a result of having so much to say, but not being sure how to say it or even if its appropriate to say.

I know, you're expecting something incredibly salacious now. (I'm probably going to disappoint you, then.)

I'm at a new 'job' now. 'Job' gets the 'quotes' because I'm actually volunteering my time, working in exchange for a travel allowance so I can get to and from my new office without incurring any expense. The 'job' is at the local Ogilvy office. I can't believe I'm volunteering in Africa for an advertising agency, when there's orphanages and HIV/AIDS projects and literacy groups etc who need help. In sum: I'm soulless. But you all knew that about people who work in advertising, didn't you?) I've always thought I'd like to move into the advertising side of things, but jobs are a difficult thing to experiment with under normal circumstances.

But it just so happened that a few weeks ago I went out for drinks, had a chat with the bar owner (who is also a friend of mine), and discovered that during the day he co-runs Ogilvy. I told him I was just hanging out till I left Kampala, and asked if they needed any help, and bang, the next morning I had a full-time advertising internship-type-thingy. (I don't like using the word internship - it sounds too much like I'm doing really junior-level work, or that I'm about 7 years behind where I should be. But I'm working in an office for free, so I don't know what else to say. Eventually though, I'm going to want to list this on my resume, so if anyone can think of a better term, please let me know.)

And so: now on to the reason I was just 'hanging around' Kampala, rather than working at my former job as a marketing consultant for the manufacturer. That's the thing that I wasn't sure how to mention, or if I should mention it at all. And while I'm still not sure, I've decided to discuss it here anyways.

(For the sake of clarity, let's call my former employer Windows Inc., and my boss Mr. Rabid.)

During the third week of August, I ceased to be working for Windows. As you may recall, Windows was significantly behind in paying me. Mr Rabid decided that he didn't want to pay me that money, and so cut the contract short. He then engaged in some completely fraudulent accounting, designed to indicate that they did not owe me the outstanding balance of my invoices. According to my friend the HR Manager, Rabid has done this type of thing before, with great success. Most Ugandans don't know what their rights are, and would be too intimidated to fight even if they did. So, Rabid repeatedly does this, and he wins, and he likes it. Except that I do know what my rights are, and I'm not intimidated by the idea of fighting for them. So I've hired a lawyer and I'm suing Windows Inc. It's been a very upsetting experience. For one thing, I worked hard and went to work everyday for three months, and I'm perhaps never going to be compensated for that. Also, it's just stressful to feel like a victim, and to be engaged in a lawsuit. I've not enjoyed this, and it has really cast a pall on the last couple months.

That being said, I'm really enjoying my time at Ogilvy. It's a much more positive environment - the people are friendly, the work is interesting, and people seem generally interested in having their co-workers or their staff succeed. After the negative environment at Windows, it's a real breath of fresh air.

And while this new 'job' has made me so much more positive about my last while in Uganda, it's also made me start to feel sort of upset about my imminent departure. For the last few months at Windows, I was really feeling anxious to leave - to leave the company, and to leave the country. Now, despite the fact that most of my friends have left Uganda over the last couple of months, I'm feeling happy again and I'm feeling prematurely sad about my departure. I may not have as many friends here as I used to, but the ones that are left are people that I really appreciate and enjoy having in my life. It's hot and sunny here all the time, I have a lot of disposable income in this economy, the lifestyle here is very social and relaxed. I'm going to be very sad to be leaving here in a few weeks, and I'm having trouble seeing anything other than Cold, Unemployment, and Suburban / Parental Living in my post-November 10th future.

Ugh, I didn't mean for this to end on such a depressing note. I'm having fun and I'm sad to leave, which means that this is really the best time to go. For so long, I didn't consider life in Uganda to be 'real life'. Now that I'm leaving it though, I've realized that it really was (is) - real jobs, real friends, real life. And after two years, that's hard to leave.