Sunday, 25 October 2015

My First Week in the Office... and it Smelled like Bacon?

Okay, so I feel as though the title of this post may have been a bit misleading… my week didn’t actually smell like bacon, nor does my place of employment. However, on my walk to work early on Friday morning, for whatever reason, part of the route had a most welcomed sent of smoked strips of pig fat. What? That’s essentially what bacon is! Mmmmm… bacon.

Anyway, I have trekked my way to work everyday, and back for the most part, walking uphill, both ways, in about 20-25°C temperatures. On the way there isn’t as bad, because it’s broken into two hill climbs, while on the way home, the downward part is far easier than the straight hike up what feels like a never ending mountain. On day one, I had to stop three times, just to make it to the top. By Thursday, I had managed to go the whole way. I’m not really willing to celebrate this feat as of yet, because I haven’t had to climb said hill since.

This week was pretty quiet, which is quite different from what I’m used to work life being. Part of this is because it’s month end, and my co-workers have been working hard to complete all of those end-of-month tasks. Another part of it is that they want to ease me in slowly, which is sweet – but I’m definitely more of a hit-the-ground-running sort of gal. So, it’s a process - and one that I need to recognize as the pitfalls of starting any new job - but the week coming I feel should be a bit more productive, and I'm looking forward to what's ahead. Also, the group that's stuck with me for the next 6 months seem pretty great, so I can only imagine the trouble we'll get into!

That being said, I’ve attended two pretty important events. On Tuesday, I accompanied Gonzaga, the Program Manager, to a round-table discussion on Women’s Land Rights, hosted by the Uganda Land Alliance in partnership with the International Land Coalition. Upon arrival, I felt really intimidated to be in attendance for such a dialogue. But as the discussions began, I became fascinated by how little women were actually apart of it. Not only because there was only one woman who actually added to the conversation (another woman spoke, but just credited the government on the ‘good work’ they were doing), but also the discussion didn’t even begin to touch on the topic at hand. Instead it became a free-for-all government bash. However, I did find it interesting the questions that were asked, such as changing mindsets, capacity building, and government accountability. These are all really good things, but had nothing to do with creating policy to improve gender justice in relation to land use and rights…

Friday was spent at the 5th Annual Indigenous Food Fair hosted by PELUM (Participatory Ecological Land Use Management). Here I spent the day trying out some of the local foods and listening to speakers from NGOs, academia, and government talking about the importance of soil health, promoting local foods instead of importing from the West, and the need to engage youth. It was during these discussions that I quickly became aware that I was the token* white person, as frequently, whenever the Muzungo was mentioned, everyone looked at me, or I was pointed at when one speaker referred to me as the white lady from the West over there who reaps benefits from the taxes she pays her government, but we do not from our own… Awkward. Of course, it wasn’t that bad – I actually had quite a chuckle over this.

Aside from these discussions, there was an exhibition outdoors, which showcased several small-scale farmers from across the country. Here I learned about some of the struggles afflicting farmers in relation to marketing, production, and climate change. I was also able to see a variety of different foods I hadn’t seen or heard of. By far the ‘oddest’ to me was a bucket, which I thought was filled with fried onions with flies buzzing around in it. But nope! It turns out that it was just a bucket of winged white ants that are consumed with the belief that it will give the person eating them energy and strength. There was some difficulty in translating my attempt to understand how they are served, but either way, I was not able to sample this delicacy. There was also a table of different types of beans in various shapes, sizes and colours, and several varieties of yams, such as my new favourite, purple speckled! I wished I had brought my camera to this event, but have found a similar display of the beans, at least.
(Photo Credit: PELUM)
So, while at some points of the week it may have felt slow – such as when the power went out on Thursday, and I convinced the team that it would be ‘the most fun they’d ever have’ helping me organize the very disorganized bookshelf, which in doing so we found a copy of Mama Mia the film… – the two big events I was invited to attend allowed me to gain further insight into the challenges of food production in Uganda. As I come to learn a bit more, I’d like to tackle this in some detail, but for now, I think it’s too soon for me to be able to make a rounded argument/discussion-y thing.

-the Orange Canadian

*Well, not even the token white person, just more so the white person!

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