Thursday, June 25, 2009

taking stock

stopping to smell the flowers - these flowers were in ruhengeri

I'm halfway done with my layover at Schipol, en route to DC and Ohio for some R&R. It seems a good time to take stock of what's transpired since the last time I was in this airport.

Here are some of the highlights:

I finally started teaching yoga, and I love it. I started a weekly class at the US Embassy.

I met Alison, fellow Clevelander and yogini (and incredible friend), and starting August 1, she'll be the full-time sales rep for One Mango Tree in the US.

I traveled. A lot - I spent a week in Rwanda with Julie, a few days in Jo'burg and then assisted Hitesh with a case study on an eco-lodge for his forthcoming book, took another Nile cruise in Murchison, spent a weekend in Sipi Falls, spent a weekend in Mabira Forest, and logged a dozen or so trips to Gulu.

I moved out of the Cronin's lovely Kololo guest house, and into a flat in Muyenga with my friend Whitney.

I bought a Pajero.

I rented a compound for One Mango Tree, forging a partnership with Greater Good to increase our production and begin to make exclusive products for their brands (starting with organic cotton apparel for Global Girlfriend).

I started working with interns - bringing Josh and Hilary on board to do some awesome stuff for One Mango Tree - Josh is delving into operations, and Hilary is a fashion designer. The One Mango Tree family continues to grow...

I completed a two-month consultancy with Chemonics, working on a bid for a new project in northern Uganda, and became an expert on local government capacity building and labor-intensive infrastructure projects. I think I met every government official in Gulu, Amuru and Kitgum.

Oh, and I quit AIR. But you knew that already.


And those are just the tangible outcomes of the first four months in Uganda. In the wee hours of the long nights in Gulu I learned some big huge lessons about forgiveness and moving on.

I cannot wait to see what's next, following this little breather at my family's cabin. It's been an absolutely incredible first half of 2009.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ugandlisht 6 - traveling. traveling.

This week I'm traveling back to the US on holiday, so I figured I'd give some pointers related to traveling in and out of Uganda.

1. Visa.
Unless you are coming to Uganda long-term for work, I'd suggest getting a travel visa at the airport - it's $50 and a lot easier than dealing with the back-and-forth of sending out your passport and photos to the Ugandan Embassy in DC.

2. Money.
MasterCard really is not accepted in Uganda, so try not to bring it. If you must, I've heard Crane Bank works. Other ATMs are strictly VISA. With that said, Uganda is still a cash economy. With the exception of fancy-schmancy hotels, credit cards are not accepted. Best bet is to bring USD to get your travel visa and then hit up the Barclay's ATM right outside international arrivals at the airport to take out some cash. If you bring USD, make sure they are 2000 or later date - there's no one in Uganda that will buy 1996-series bills. And bring $50 and $100 denominations, otherwise you get jacked on the exchange rate. The forex at Grand Imperial Hotel in town is the best place to exchange, but all major banks (Barclay's being my personal favorite) will buy your USD.

3. Special Hire.
That's what we call taxis in Uganda. If you say "taxi," Ugandans will think you're referring to matatus, which are the little minibuses that serve as public transit in the country. There are tons of drivers waiting for fares at the airport. The airport fare is typically 60,000 (about $30) to get anywhere in Kampala. Entebbe is about an hour from Kampala.

4. Duty-Free.
If you're en route to your travel destination via an EU airport, forget about all the duty-free liquids at the Entebbe Airport. They'll confiscate them at the EU airport and you'll have to buy your booze all over again. Stupid rule, but it's a rule.

5. Caffeine and wireless.
Good African Coffee opened up a shop inside the airport (finally! something besides Crane Cafeteria!), so now getting to the airport the suggested 3 hours before your flight is not nearly as painful. They have awesome espresso drinks and muffins, and Uganda Telecom hotspot, so surf away while you wait to board. As a side note, EBB is really stepping it up a notch. I can't believe the continual improvements at the airport - every trip it gets better.

6. Time.
Give yourself at least 1.5 hours to get from downtown Kampala to the airport. You never know what kind of jam you're going to run into getting through town or on Entebbe Road.

7. Airlines.
I always fly KLM, because I love Schipol Airport. I used to fly Emirates, but the 10-hour layover at Dubai Airport was NOT worth the comfy cabin, air freshener and good food. There's just something about the Dutch that make that Uganda-America or America-Uganda transition just right. And they have plentiful wireless, delicious coffee, and typically play jazz Muzak, so it makes me really nostalgic for America. Haven't tried Brussels Air yet, but they and British Airways also fly from the US to Uganda. And apparently you can now do a direct DC-Addis and then Addis-EBB on Ethiopian Airways. I'm sticking with KLM and my World Perks.

I'm ready for a holiday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

ugandlisht 5 - getting pretty

This should probably be a list, but I'm so excited about the salon I went to this week that I'm dedicating this post only to Sunel Lourenco Hair & Beauty in Bugolobi. Prior to visiting Sunel, I lived under the impression that to live in Uganda meant to deal with my grown out roots and flat hair. Not so.

Sunel's salon is in a converted garage - looks boring from the outside...

totally beautiful inside (that's Sunel, working on some caramel-colored highlights)

Sunel (pronounced sue-kneel), originally from South Africa, has lived in Uganda for the past five years. Her jewel of a salon is a converted garage. The style is simple and modern. Sunel did a combo of highlights and lowlights on me - full-head color - for 150,000 ush ($75). In my long history of hair agony, that's a steal. And she did an amazing job. Ladies haircuts are 35,000 ($17). Angel assised Sunel with my hair, and gave me the most incredible shampoo/massage...

She gets all of her products imported from Italy - including ammonia-free hair dyes. After getting a lesson from Sunel on how Uganda is damaging my hair (sun, heavily chlorinated tap water), I stocked up on real shampoo, conditioner and a hair mask. Those are a bit expensive ($20 for each and $25 for the mask), but a massive difference. I put the remnants of my Palmolive stuff under the sink.

And Sunel's place has plenty of salon-ness. You know - the chit chat, flipping through glossy South African fashion mags, drinking coffee.

Plot 12 Hanlon Road, Bugolobi, Kampala
Make an appointment! +256 (0) 782 571 816

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

resurfacing...and roads

Ugandlisht was supposed to keep me on track with updating this blog, but it failed miserably. A few nights ago, while hiding under the mosquito net in my room at Bomah, I started making Ugandlishts. A few hours later, when I was ready to call up friends to get a vote on "best pizza in kampala," I looked at my phone - it was past 1 am. I decided to give Ugandlishts and myself a rest.

I started a consultancy on 1 May, and it's kept me pretty occupied. We're working on a proposal for a new USAID project in Northern Uganda. It will bring a big investment in local government capacity-building - by implementing lots of infrastructure projects using the procurement process in place at the district level. That means lots of community roads in the north - using labor-intensive construction methods. Aside from general development (and the very obvious fact that NU needs lots of road improvements), roads mean a lot for economic development. In NU, it's the difference between farming for subsistence and farming for livelihood - the road connects to market. In the case of this project, it's also infusing much needed cash into the economy through the provision of jobs for unskilled laborers within returning communities. Community roads are pretty easy to construct, they just need oversight and lots of willing and able labor.

So, since the beginning of May, I've been immersed in the world of - gasp - planning. It's been a truly engaging project, and I'm loving how much it gets me up to Gulu. I'm currently logging my fourth trip since the consultancy began. It also pushed back my return to the US for visiting the family (sorry mom and dad), which means I won't be on the road til June 24. Roads, roads, roads. On the road again...tomorrow morning, back to Kampala.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

ugandlisht 4 - work + caffeine

coffee in sipi falls - image courtesy of joe shymanski

Every day of my life is "work from home," and the only down side is that it can feel pretty anti-social after a while. Here's where I head when I need to caffeinate and get some work done.

**Cafe Pap - Parliament Avenue - Infocom Hotspot, outlets lining the padded both seats in the inside along the walls, excellent coffee (single capp is my favorite) - they also have a really great juicer. If you don't need a plug in, it's great to sit out on the patio. I've been a fan of Pap for some time - some will say the prices are too high (and they are), but it still draws a sort of fascinating crowd of Ugandan professionals mixed in with expats in hemp wear.

**1,000 cups - Buganda Road - no wifi here - across the street from the Buganda Road craft market and has it's own plentiful craft shop. Better for meetings than all day hang out, and no food here, but the coffee selection is incredible and delicious and the outdoor chairs are comfy if you can snag one. You can also get a french press and buy whole/ground coffee beans grown in Uganda.

**Javas - Bombo Road in City Oil - Infocom Hotspot - the classiest truck stop coffee shop I've ever seen. Close to Mak U, and has excellent and cheap coffee and food. I get the mocha here. Air conditioning inside, and a cute patio (though if you stay too long, it gets pretty dusty from bombo road).

**Good African Coffee - Lugogo shopping center Jinja Road - UTL hotspot - fantastic coffee drinks and a nice menu (great pastries too!). Only down side is that the plug-ins are upstairs and the ambience isn't as nice up there. Outdoor seating available too - great if you have to run other errands - Lugogo has Shoprite, Game, Banana Boat, Silverback pharmacy, MTN, and ATMs galore.

and when in Gulu...

**Cafe Larem - just opened! between Jojo's Palace and Acholi Ber Inn, this cafe is operated by American couple Justin and Rita Garson, who just opened up two weeks ago - fantastic addition to Gulu. Hookups for internet, simple mahogany furniture, soothing colors and just flat out nice people - Cafe Larem is soon to outgrow its current shoe box space. Justin and Rita really know what they are doing. Excellent coffee (including espresso-based beverages and iced coffee!), cookies, and brownies. Other snacks and some One Mango Tree products coming soon.

Friday, June 05, 2009

on shifting

St. Stephen's Church - providing all-day Sunday gospel - right behind my house

Universal alignment has been the theme of 2009 - particularly in my living situation. When I decided to move to Uganda, the Cronins offered up their guest house in Kololo rent-free. I lived there for my first four months. When the Cronins told me they'd hired a live-in nanny and needed the space back, at first I was really nervous. But then a few days later I met Whitney, who works with Grameen Foundation. We met at a yoga class, and later that afternoon while chatting at the pool she told me she needed a roommate starting June 1.

So it goes.

the living room - I had some sofas made at a shop on ggaba road

After only two trips in his little gray sedan, Medi and I moved (Ugandans call it "shifting") all of my worldly belongings to the new place and I started settling in. I can't even begin to describe how happy I am to live in Muyenga. I've dreamt for three years about making a home in Uganda, and it's finally real.

my bedroom - with blanket from khana khazana

I am within walking distance to Helle's yoga classes, Ciao Ciao gelato and the Italian supermarket, Fuego Cocktails (with it's fantastic drinks and fire pit), and the raucous bars and shops of Kabalagala (including Lalibela, my favorite Ethiopian joint). In the mornings I make some French press and sit on the balcony watching the kids from the neighboring school go through their exercise classes.

Grace, our housekeeper, is quite possibly the sweetest woman I've ever met. I've been giving her money each week to pick up fresh fruits and veggies at Nakasero market (she likes to go early to get the best prices as the farmers arrive at the market). This morning I looked in the fridge and found she'd made fresh watermelon-pineapple juice.

In short, I feel like I won the lottery, and I hope friends and family will take up the offer and come visit.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

ugandlisht 3 - sweet cravings in kla

When you're fiending for sugar in Kampala - here's the low down on where to satisfy your sweet tooth needs.
  1. gelato - ciao ciao's and cafe roma gelato in tank hill
  2. banana split - crocodile cafe in kisementi
  3. mango sticky rice - krua thai in kololo
  4. sweet plantains - mama ashanti's bombo road
  5. chocolate cake - i love new york kitchen garden city
  6. corn pudding - lotus mexicana nakasero
  7. chocolate mousse - la patisserie ggaba road
  8. snickers ice cream bar - nakumatt oasis mall
  9. banana milk shake - kabira country club bukoto
  10. baklava - lebanese store in basement of garden city