Africa has plenty of surprises and I have certainly been subject to a few of those over the past month. Overall it has been surprisingly easy to adjust to a completely different environment but there certainly were some challenges.
For the first couple weeks, power was out more than it was on. At one point power was out for 36 hours straight. You end up going to bed much earlier when you have hours of darkness to contend with. Candles only get you so far. A few restaurants have generators so that can be a good escape but many places charge more when the power is out for their “generator costs”. Power has been more consistent of late but it is very easy to get used to the power being on and then, of course, it shuts off.
Losing power for periods of time was somewhat expected but I did not plan to be without running water for two weeks. The pipe feeding our lot had lost pressure and therefore couldn’t push water into our tanks. Once we found that out, we knew it was going to be a long time before water came back. We all know how fast the government works in the US. Imagine how fast it works out here… Luckily we contacted out landlord who was able to get someone to come out and whatever he did worked. Water is back on but who knows for how long. It was nice showering in the rain, though it is difficult to predict when that is going to happen. Thankfully, rain usually comes in the evening just after work and I was able to “shower” outside a few nights and went to our neighbors who work for a few aid organizations the other nights. Still don’t have hot water but at least there is water.
Work has been very busy and very interesting. Nothing in Africa happens fast so when you like to get things done and use your time effectively that can be a problem. One of the first days in the office we had financial complaints where the women come in because either they weren’t paid correctly or they think they weren’t paid correctly. The meeting took almost two hours and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. The rest of the week I completely changed how we track and record transactions and now the meeting usually takes less than 20 min (praise the Lord).
People here have plenty of time on their hands so they all talk a lot and say the same thing over and over. If you don’t cut people off, meetings will consume you. Multiple times our local staff have come in and told me their life stories and I still have to ask, “so what do you want?” Some of it is that I am not accustomed to their way of speaking English but they have so much extra information in everything that they say.
The other big event of the past month was that we had to let one staff member go (didn’t renew his contract) and he in turn lawyered up and intended to sue us for the maximum penalty the law allows. Long story short I am now incredibly well versed in Ugandan Labor Law to the point that we did not I did not negotiate at all with his lawyer and he ended up accepting our original offer once he realized what he was dealing with. Huge learning experience but would rather not go through that again.
It is hot and humid but not overly so. It would not be bad at all except for the fact that you cannot escape it no matter where you go. I went for a run one Saturday midday and I after I took a shower I had to sit outside for another 45 min because I could not cool down and was still sweating. The rain is usually a nice break from the heat but it sure can rain. I was caught at the local market during one rainstorm and rivers were rushing through the entire place. The streets get incredibly muddy and it is easy to get stuck even if you know what you are doing.
It is a simple life out here. People work, eat, hang out for a little, and go to bed. There are things to do but the pace is much slower. But good.