onsdag 30. september 2009

Two steps forward, one back..?

We have now come to the point where we actually have both a site and an overall program for our building project. And until yesterday we also had a plan on using ISSB, buying or renting the machine, hiring a trainer, and getting money from Norwegian sponsors. But then Amritha posed some of her always very good questions and we came in doubt. Is the ISSB really so excellent? It is not as cheap as we thought it would be. First of all, there’s the absolute necessity of a machine costing 2,8 mill shilling. Secondly, one needs trainers or workers that already know how to make the bricks. Both of the options creating expenses. Thirdly, one needs cement and cement is expensive.

The people in Bugoye are poor and used to being able to building a house with what they can find in their close surroundings. After all, they live surrounded by murram, stones, trees, mud – even limestone. So why make it more difficult than it already is?

The ISSB represents a sustainable future. It is a cheaper alternative for middle class housing and industrial buildings. The training of ISSB-making and – building is a possible new livelihood for young people in the district. A beautiful and well built example in Bugoye would set a standard and also inspire for further use of the method.

On the other hand, if most people in Bugoye can’t afford building with ISSB then why do they need to learn about it? Would it not be better if they came to learn better ways of building with mud? If we found a way to make the bricks more solid and more even, they would need less mortar. If they could build without mortar, with only mud and wood, it would be even cheaper. The question here is whether or not they would find the basic building methods too primitive and old fashioned. Or strange.

Maybe we should go ask them?

lørdag 26. september 2009

Here we are:

Click for larger version

We are currently living in Bugoye in Kasese District situated in a great valley called Mubuku Valley in the westernmost parts of Uganda.

Bugoye is a small rural village surrounded by many other small villages. People here life mostly of agriculture, growing beans, bananas, pineapple, coffee and tea.


The closest citylike structure is Kasese, where we are living at the moment. This is a small cluster of stores and houses which resembles the cities from old Western-movies. Fronts are nicely painted and the back is horribly cluttered and poorly maintained. It seems as the mobile operators are taking over the world, as whole houses are painted in brand colours, logos and slogans all over town.

The area is famous for the beautiful nature and wildlife in Queen Elisabeth and Rwenzori National Park. On the way here we saw black zebras from the bus. We didn´t actually get a really clear picture, but one can distinguish something that looks like stripes on the hindlegs of the blobs.

fredag 25. september 2009

In the Making:

We are here! We are moving!

Shown above is the view of the Bugoye area where we are going to develop our diploma project in architecture at NTNU.

We are mapping the different sites, stakeholders and issues we are going to work on in the following five months. We will present our findings, ideas and progress in this blog. This way we can share information with people that could be interested in this kind of projects.

Stay tuned..!

fredag 18. september 2009

Second run

We have officially given up on Mr. David Carry. Call me conventional, but isn’t it normal courtesy to let people know if you suddenly change your mind and decide not to work with them despite several phone calls and e-mailing? Anyway, the church of Uganda isn’t much better they either, so we are taking matters in to our own hands. Yeah.

Today has been a good day. Despite the 100% pressure of all the water storage in heaven (lots of rain) and the 0% pressure of water in the shower, sink and toilet this morning, we have started producing stuff and that always feels good. We are making a folder presenting our thoughts and ideas for the compressed soil brick in combination with community development, hoping that it will give us the opportunity to pursue our ideas – and bring in some money…

The planning people had presentations of their findings and progress over the week, and it was quite interesting to listen to their stories of horrible destinies and difficult working conditions. It is not easy to work your way through the slum when you are so enormously white and rich and the inhabitants see you as either a moneybag or just one more of the ‘good people’ spending their time on silly questions. It will be exciting to follow their work.

I went out on a new run today. Only this time in the afternoon with more people out than last time. I wish I could have recorded what I saw on a tape. It is SO weird to run down a street being noticed, stared at, pointed at, shouted after and even run after by the locals. At one point there was a matatu (a minibus taxi) that had driven out of the road into a water channel. These things always get surrounded by people and there were maybe 80-100 men looking at it being pulled up. Running past this scenery, becoming the very unwilling centre of attention for all these men, shouting and calling, actually made me somewhat uncomfortable and a tad nervous. But it was all ok of course. Just… not so fun.

A better part of the run came later. After being followed by a young mechanic for about 200 meters, I reached a big marked place. I turned the corner and it was all so beautiful! To close out all the calling I had the music on quite loudly, so I had Kasabian (again) with a background of cars, horns, shouting and talking in my ears, a smell of dirt, pollution, sweat, animals, food – a kind of an African mix that is difficult to describe, and the setting sun shining so delicately through the grey, dusty air. It was a big, open space with a lot of sky over it, as alive as in the liveliest pile of ants with people and cars and boda-bodas going everywhere. The running through all of this while dodging the crazy boda-bodas, bicycles overloaded with goods, and busy, hurrying people - was a run to remember.

onsdag 16. september 2009

Dr. Musaazi:

In our search of projects we stumbled upon the work of dr. Moses Musaazi. He works at Makarere University in Kampala, and is doing great efforts for the poor peoples of Uganda. Our link was his work on the ISSB-building techniques (See link to the right). Initially we talked about using these blocks to start a small business in relation to our diploma, and using the blocks produced to build th structure we´ll design during our time here.

It became clear that dr. Musaazi is quite a hero. And he is one of those guys we want to meet and talk to in order to not loose all our faith in this country. He and his employees are constantly working against the current for the poor.

In addition to the ISSB, he has designed sanitary pads for girls that is affordable even for the poorest. Many young girls actually quit school when they reach puberty, because menstruation isn´t something they talk about publicly.

He is also involved in water treatment, solid-waste management and affordable low-energy LED-lighting.

We are inspired by this man and his initiatives, and feel motivated by his work!

tirsdag 15. september 2009

The Trønders:

After a week of too much white bread and chicken & chips, I decided to go running in the morning. To be quite honest; it was a run of misery. Just around the first corner I met two of the huge, long legged, long beaked, not so nice marabou storks feasting in a pile of garbage. They were as tall as me and I was not at all sure it was safe to pass them.

The miserable part of this image was, on the other hand, that behind these to big vulture-like birds, in a smaller garbage pile, was an old lady bent over looking for something to eat or sell. I nearly turned around and went home. Despite the bad start I continued, put the iPod on "Kasabian" and ran faster than normal along filthy water ways, next to slums, jumping over pot holes the size of my self, navigating between people people people, boda-bodas, taxis and huge cars, through dirty commercial streets with buildings looking like they are about to fall down, passing police with shotguns left over from the French revolution, all the time navigating after the minaret of the big mosque on the hill and being the only white person around.

When exercising for the fun of it in these surroundings, I felt kind of stupid, very rich, privileged and kind of superficial. I’m running to keep my body and mind in order, but I have to. The people I passed are working so hard just to make a living. It puts things in perspective.

So, after a refreshing, but not so uplifting morning run, Andreas and I once again went out to find someone to work with. Hans had talked about Newplan, a branch of the Norwegian company Norplan, that might have some architecture or planning projects on the run. A call from the Norwegian professor Cato Lund (who works here at Makerere) made them agree to have a meeting with us. One thing let to an other, their man Lawrence was very helpful, and suddenly we were offered to come to study a resettlement project they had going in Bugoye (in the west of Uganda). We even found out they did this in collaboration with Newplan and Trønder Power(!). It was surreal to meet mr. Gunnar in an african office in the ugandan capital. Even more surreal was the fact that he knew my father. It's a small world...

They were very positive towards student like us, and we even got offered to have a working space at their facilities (which are equipped with internet through satellite connection!)

mandag 14. september 2009

"Oh, It´s you Bishop":

After waiting and waiting for response from our contact person mr. David Carry (This makes sense to those of you who knows of our plans before departing to Uganda), we decided to finally take matters in our one hands, and try to find him our selves. So, knowing that the children village project was to be done in cooperation with the Church of Uganda, we went to their office asking for help. “Hello. We are looking for a man…”

After a bit of commotion, they told us to go see to a lady called Alison Barfoot who works in the archbishop’s place/house. And incredibly enough she not only knew about the project, but was the manager of it! And had never heard of neither us nor mr. Carry… But she was very nice and eager to have us as a part of the project, so we’re crossing fingers for her American efficiency being more productive than what we’ve seen of speedy operations in Uganda so far. She actually seemed like a really cool and intelligent lady we hope to be able to see more of.

This incident was a bit incredible in it self, but it actually got better. While we were sitting in this lady’s couch (disturbing her in cooking her lunch), it knocked on the door. She went out and we heard; “Oh, is it you, BISHOP!” So, all of a sudden we found our selves discussing Ugandan politics with one of the bishops from Church of Uganda!

We’re very curious and excited to see the continuation of this…

søndag 13. september 2009

Sunday Tranquility and Family Party:

Kampala’s peace and normal state of mind is about to be restored and as the temperature of the city is going down, the diploma students' calm is fading. So while our friends the UEPs went sightseeing in town, we stayed home reading. Good times. To sit on a front porch of a hotel reading, sleeping, looking at the staff strolling past you – it’s not so bad actually. Almost halfway through Dambisa Moyo’s DEAD AID, there are many new thoughts running through my mind. “Why are we here?” was there already. Now this has been followed by the more interesting “Should we be here?” Reading is good. Moyo is a really smart lady. Go Moyo.

One of our local coordinators, Andrew (who has spent two years doing his master in planning in Trondheim), invited all of us to his birthday dinner at his sister’s house in a somewhat fancier part of Kampala. She’s actually the neighbour of Idi Amin’s son! But anyway, it was truly an evening to remember. There were his sisters, his mother, his aunt, his cousins, his nieces and nephews, his friends – and all of us. Old and young, white and black, from three different continents ate the most delicious home made food, drank, talked and danced African style.

fredag 11. september 2009


Just behind our hotel there is a slum called Kivulu. It is actually so close that the hotel is built on grounds that used to be a part of this slum area. This is an informal settlement of a more urban kind than the one we saw yesterday in Acholi. Here, there were garbage everywhere and much more crowded and dense, but most of all; you could feel a sort of hopelessness over it all. The women and children were working, cooking, selling goods – the men drank or watched videos. And whether it is because of the unrest in the city or because of us being unwanted, we still felt a sort of aggression from some of the men. We didn’t feel safe.

(...this is why we don´t have images from this place. Hopefully we´ll come back to it...)

Kivulu lies in an area very close to Kampala center and the university campus. It could therefore be very attractive for investors. They would like to build either private apartment blocks or student housing. And this will probably happen within few years. The main problem of a large part of Kampala’s poor inhabitants is namely that they do not own the land they are living on. They are squatters. They are merely renting the land from the owner, and this land owner can at any time come and say they have to leave. Yes, they do get a small amount of money for lost investments – or get paid off, but they normally don’t have a choice whether or not they want to leave. So, in Kivulu there are now three plots that have been cleaned of shacks and are ready to be built on. These empty, unused spaces ruins the street structure, the public spaces and thereby probably also the street life. The area will soon find itself in the bizarre situation of having new, 3-floor apartment housing in the middle of a mess of shacks and garbage. Until then, the plots serve as garbage dumps, playgrounds and a place for keeping goats and chickens.

On our tour through the settlement you feel an unknown, quite strong smell, you carefully pass by narrow passages with 60 cm deep ditches, you go through someone’s kitchen, you try not to fall in the somewhere steep streets (this must be so must more difficult and muddy during the rainy seasons) while at the same time avoiding the look of drinking men sitting in groups anywhere there’s shadow. Still, in a situation that seemed so stuck in shit, there were glimpses of hope. Well, a kind of hope. They had quite many brand new toilets spread around the settlement, keeping excrements out of the streets. What they will do when these toilet’s shitholes get full, is a problem for later…

The most positive thing we saw in Kivulu, as we saw it, was the marked place. It was a square with shops and restaurants around it, and with a big roof in the middle under which they sold vegetables, doors and other stuff. This was a nice place to be and is probably the heart of the community. Though we must add: it is not a warm, beating heart. This was a messy collection of shacks and shelters – not homes. They are temporary places to stay while waiting for something better. There is no solid waste management. No sewage. No streets. But people don’t care. According to themselves, their main problem is that they don’t have jobs. If they just get a job, they also get out of there.

onsdag 9. september 2009


After a day...no several days of preparation, good byes and lectures on how to behave in strange places, we finally were on our way. While sitting with my Africa-backpack waiting for the bus at 4:15 in the morning, Trondheim showed herself from one of her best sides; Yellow traffic light blinking unsynchronized, clear and clean air, dark sky, warmish, and almost empty. Though was the only person I met so drunk that we almost walked into each other… Anyway, all was quiet. A very nice goodbye.

As Hans so delicately put it; the plain from Amsterdam to Entebbe was full of very nice people. One can almost not begin to grasp the amount of organizations and people working for making Africa a better place to live in. …so on and so on