The not-so-itsy-bitsy spider

Why I skipped a blog post yesterday has to do with the subject of this post, which is about being a Canadian communicator in Uganda. This mission is the communications project of a lifetime but it is a far cry from my daily job, (which I also love).

So why did I skip posting a blog yesterday? The list below should give you a clue.

Let’s compare: Canada Uganda
For starters, I keep longer hours in Uganda, yet magically I’m not tired. Must be the adrenaline and endorphins. 6 am – 11 pm 5 am – 2 am
Work Potentially anything communications-related, with a focus on storytelling and strategic planning Interviewing, blogging, photography, videotaping
Location Boardrooms Under trees, inside lobbies, on verandahs, on farms – pretty much anywhere
Agenda Display on screen and jump right in Read aloud and make constant reference to the agenda during a meeting
Style Mostly casual, generally fast Mostly formal, except for individual interviews. Featuring the occasional musical performance/dance routine.
Language English English, but often through translators, which makes for funny misunderstandings.
Applause Rare After every introduction
Prayer None Opens every meeting
Spectators Rare; sometimes guests from another department Children, other townspeople, sometimes nearly an entire village
Background noise White-noise machine, sometimes traffic and/or sirens Traffic, animals, roosters, children, sometimes sirens, music, people passing on the street, people in nearby shops
Travel One hour each way in a 2008 black Honda Accord V6 on paved roads, with free parking Several hours, several times a day, in a safari van on mostly rough roads. I love it! But I do have a few bruises.
Technology Generally excellent; sometimes we need batteries for a remote Sporadic wi-fi; near-ubiquitous cell coverage
Culture Friendly, polite, forthright Very friendly, polite, gracious, hierarchical, respectful of elders
Supplies Plentiful and readily available Scarce, even down to garbage cans, which makes one very careful not to be wasteful
Climate Climate-controlled; sealed windows Hot and hotter, except when it’s hot and raining
Clothing Business casual Long-sleeved blouses and long skirts. With Sketchers Go Walk shoes. Love the shoes; hate the clothes; feels like I’ve been carting around a hot and ugly tent for two weeks.
Team 14 smart, wonderful, skilled women Eight women and two men who are all smart, skilled and wonderful. I am already aware of how hard it will be to leave them next week.

The differences between doing my job in Canada and Africa really hit home yesterday as I was videotaping the manager of a SACCO in her back office. The room was full of motorcycles that had been reclaimed from people who’d defaulted on their loans. The loan recovery rate for this particular SACCO is 88 per cent and the organization is working on improving it to at least 95 per cent, but that’s a story for another time.

People were talking in the front room and we had to close the door. There wasn’t any light in the room so I made use of the light from the window. To get the right angle I had to place myself close to a spider that was on the wall behind my shoulder. The spider was big, nearly as large as the palm of my hand. When I finished the video, I turned around to find the spider gone – a chilling moment – but a quick check of the room showed it had skittered to the opposite wall.

I wrote this post this morning from the safari van, on a two-hour trip to our meeting at Kaboko SACCO in Kaboko, northern Uganda. Internet was unavailable so now I’m in my hotel at 9 pm, trying to go online.

Goodnight from Africa!


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