AIESEC eXchange — Uganda 2014

This week I had receive two requests to share my experience in Uganda as an AIESECer. So, to make available to everyone I decided to make this my very first post here.

First of all, let me explain how I found the AIESEC… I was in my second year studying computer science and I was pretty bored and not exited about my academic stuff. That was when a friend gave me a invitation to a headhunting to join:

the biggest student run organization recognized by ONU

After that I spent almost two years working in Talent Management. An amazing experience that inspired me so much and make me feel like doing an GCDP Exchange would be the right way to finish my experience.

Matching time

When I started looking for possible places to go my will always was Africa, specially Ghana. Then I selected somes places I would go and started my applications. But the local commitees in Ghana were taking too long to answer my e-mails and Ugandan ICX VP called Jove was quickly answering all my questions, that was when I decided to go to Uganda.

The process was quite simple. I fast interview and done. I would go to a place called Mpigi (no idea where it is) that barely has eletricity to work in schools. Great!

So , the first thing I did after knew the name the town that I would call home for 2 months was take a look on google earth. Did not work, of course! So lets google it…the first results was something similar to link below.

After leaving

One day after I left Brazil I made an skype call with the AIESEC Makerere and they told me that I was realocated because the schools are going on vacations. Ok , it is AIESEC and it is not supossed to be perfect. Let’s go!

on the Road

When I was on the way to the airport I noticed that I did not have the address on AIESEC House in case my pick up not appear. And after a google I discover that Uganda did not have address on the streets.

In fact I knew very little about the country and it’s history. I knew that most of country can speak english…ok, that was it.

Cultural shock

When I arrived at Entebbe the closest airport to Kampala (Uganda capital) I felt very embarassed of did not reaserch a little about the place I was going to. It did not seem to be a smart decision. The airport did not look like an airport and I got a little lost to find out my pick up, they have to wait outside of the building and once you leave the building a lot of people try to convince you to take their taxi.

Already on the car with Martin, AIESEC alumni and founder of the NGO that I would work, my first sight of Uganda really gave me a sensation that definetly I was leaving my confort zone.

The road was very simple and not well preserved. By the side of the highway there were some village where people sell vegetable, clothes and fruits lit with candles once there is nopublic ilumination. During the journey I also could smell smoke during almost all time because they fire their trash.

Already in Kampala I had to push the car once in order to get in AIESEC House, that was really nice. Once I got there I took a shower and went to club with other traines from Kenya, Brazil , Germany and Switzerland.

Get to know the real Uganda — more cultural schock

When I arrived at the house I was introduce to some people and was told about some day to day things.

Even at Kampala people are not used to have hot shower and water is a real issue. To sleep you have to use a net around your bed to prevent mosquitos bites that can lead to malaria or other deseases.

People in Uganda are used to ride overcrowed motorcycles (boda-bodas) and vans (taxis) to go everywhere. The prices are negotiated depending on the distance and time of the day.

The next day we would go to a town called Masaka, 100km from Kampala and 3h by bus. They said that the life in masaka would be harder… No shower, no toilet bowl, no cooker and no fridge.

Life in Masaka

Masaka is a very small town in the south of Kampala. Our house was in a very rural area, about 5 minutes by boda-boda from downtown. Our house was really nice and was able to host 20 people.

After I got there other traines were arriving day by day. And soon the house was full and projects started to running.

My project Hakuna Matata was focused to child, specially in a orphanage and schools but I end up doing everything (classes, painting , building another school, cleaning) that was really nice. Martin gave us full autonomy to lead our project and our schedule.

With the house full and also meeting another exchange students in town It was easy organize trips and parties. I guess that was the most amazing thing in this exchange were able to know a lot of different people.

Despite of lack of structure we learned how to get the things done like cook with firewood, wash clothes , take shower, go to toilet , etc.

After one week there I already felt home. I had learn how to negociate with the locals in lugandan, knew the good places to eat and had an idea about fair prices of the main food we used to buy on street markets. Because Masaka was not realy big we got independent really fast.

Hey Mzumgo

In Uganda is easy to identify foreigners (Mzumgos), speacially because of the skin. So most of things you try to buy are overpriced. Deal with it! If you learn a little of the local language it is already a good start to be respect as a foreigner who knows the things. But negotiating is needed everyday!

Pearl of Africa

Uganda is known as pearl of Africa because the beauty of the natural resources in the country. In my time there I went to a safari in Murchison Falls, rafting in the Nile (twice), and sightseem at lake Bunyony and for a short camping in Sesse islands and It was all breathtaking!

It is good know where you are going and have a contact there to help you. Usually the buses dont have a schedule to follow (they leave when they are full). So it is good to save one day to go to different towns.

Good bye Muzumgo

It was the most remarkable experience of my life. Here I did not write all of it, but just the things I judge to be the “necessary”. Everyday I had a feeling that I was discovering new things and most of them I dont how exactly exaplain.

It is an entire different country and culture. Going there as soon as possible is maybe the only chance you have to see a coutry as young as Uganda before it become like SP, or any other city.

Hope this help ! :D