fredag 30. oktober 2009

Moving forward

After a week of many events, we are now taking an internet day to maintain our connections with the outside world.

After the recommendation of Ibanda's future major, madam Teddy, we went to see Alex, the physical planner at the District Head Quarters. Accidentally we met the wrong planner-Alex, but this one was very helpful and provided us with everything he had of statistics from the area. A lucky accident. When we later met the Alex we were supposed to meet, he turned out to be quite a disappointment. Not going into details, we finally got a soft copy of his report when Andreas helped him look on the computer - after at least half an hour of waiting. It is sadly becoming more and more clear to us that many jobs are filled with employers unfit for the tasks sat before them. And that they are still doing a good job keeping their job by pretending to work and having lots to do...

Pasi left us on Wednesday and is going to continue his studies in Gulu in northern Uganda. He is travelling with the planning group in Kampala, joining them in their work in an IDP-camp (Internally Displaced People). We very much enjoyed Pasi's visit, it is always good to get a third opinion on things, and we recommend everybody to follow his blog on

The workshops are still running and we see the group becoming closer and more enthusiastic in the work. Tuesday we had a very long discussion on the placement of different functions. Divided into three groups, each making a plan proposal, we got several ideas on both sizes and placements, but in the end we all agreed on a single plan. It is encouraging to see their enthusiasm, even though they need some time to arrive with good solutions.

Thursday we met at the field, using sticks and rope to measure and mark the plan we had decided on two days earlier. This time the group actually took control and organized the work them selves; dividing areas and tasks to different groups. This was great! but time demanding. Even after six weeks in the country, we are still not used to "the time difference." Things take time. But the group got started and we guided them as best we could. It was fun to talk about spaces, imagining activities, problems, rooms, where will people walk, where would they want to find water, snacks, shadow, where are the special guests and so on and so on.

We had some trouble convincing them that a netball field actually is supposed to be 33x18 meters - even though the fields in the valley are not. In the end, the convincing argument was that we had found the measurements in a book of standards. If they want the field to be of international standard, it needs to have these measures...

The core now seems to believe in the project and are getting eager. They have realized that we are leaving in a short while, and that we should do something visual to show the community what we are working on. So, tomorrow we are starting digging! We have been offered a pipe from Noremco and students from Rwenzori High has carried stones from the river. This makes a very good drainage which will fix a muddy hole on the road leading in to the stadium. Next week we hope to get both sand, murram, gravel, bricks and maybe even some wood, and we will begin building foundation and structures.

We also got the good news of getting more visitors! Thursday we are expecting Astrid and Olav to come help us with the building. They are exchange students at Makerere University in Kampala, both from the Architecture School in Oslo. They are very welcome!

fredag 23. oktober 2009

Session 3: Program Discussions and Sketch Modelling

Friday we held a new workshop with the core group. The task was to identify main functions and parts of the physical design of the stadium. Our friend and fellow student Pasi and our professor Hans Skotte are visiting, giving us a great opportunity to get objective feedback to our methods and process.

We started by splitting into groups of 4-5 people. We asked for ideas and suggestions to what would be natural to have at the stadium. Each group had at least one footballer, one boy and one girl student from Rwenzori High.This way we ensured a wider perspective and exchange of values and ideas from different standpoints.

After some time we gathered around a big sheet of paper, and asked everyone to state one important feature they wanted at the field. This was noted in a thought-chart, not in list-form to prevent the usual rigid and “result oriented” answers.

This was more difficult that imagined. We came quite fast into a line of “stating-personal-items” for the visitors coming to the field. More focus was given to footballboots, referee whistles and scoreboards than the physical structures we were aiming for.

As an attempt to stop this we tried to change the strategy to focus on what the needs of the different kinds of visitors could be and what the differences between them are. What do players need that visitors don´t? What are the similarities between the referee´s and the manager´s needs? The change of strategy didn´t seem to help, and we felt somewhat frustrated and demoralized.

The solution was a ten minute break and to proceed to the next task: Sketch-modelling!

We brought cardboard, tape and knives and introduced the idea of building small scale examples of the structures identified earlier. It was slow in the start, mostly because it is a extremely foreign way of working and thinking, but also because the participants were afraid to do something wrong or that they weren´t able to do it good enough.

We had to do some explanation and showing examples of how cardboard can be folded and cut to make shapes, but when they picked up the general idea it all came to life. The groups all worked enthusiasticly and concentrated for a long time. Even the arrival of food from Mama Juliet couldn´t brake the trance of model-building. “We just need 15 more mintues”. It was a great comfort to see the workshop evolving on its own, and we feel motivated by their efforts.

The models were put onto three maps we had prepared, based on the measurements from the last workshop, and the groups presented their ideas and discussions to the rest. To promote more discussions, we asked some questions on the differences between the three group´s suggestions. As an example there were two different entrances on opposite sides of the field. When asked about this the groups had to think and argue to promote their own choices.

The best thing for us was that they started discussing amongst themselves, not only defending their design to us. We identified the fact that two solutions can have equally valid arguments, and that one can “find” information hidden in the models and inside the heads of each other.

Some of the arguments even led to the important discussion on how can we make sure the structures are usable to other activities and other users as well. Because the resources are so limited, we need to make sure our project is benefitting more people in the communty. If the canteen is placed close to the school it can be used for all the students in the daytime and for bystanders during games in the evening and the weekends. This issue was pushed on by prof. Skotte, and we will try to bring it further in the upcoming workshops.


torsdag 22. oktober 2009

Blending in

Finally achieving to arrange workshops, meetings and brick testing sessions has lifted the spirit and motivation for the two of us. In addition to working on the project, we are doing our best to integrate and getting to know the community. A good start has been to learn some useful words in the local language, Lukonzo. After greeting “good morning, madam” the lukonzo way everybody looses their sceptic frowns, starts smiling and stops for a chat. Making the effort of trying to learn their language is highly appreciated and strongly encouraged by many locals.

Some basic Lukonzo:

Good morning - Wabuchire
Good afternoon - Wessibire
How are you? - Woneyo?
I’m fine - Ganeyo
Thank you - Wasingya
Bye - Wichire
Brown person (swahili) - Mzungu
Good (swahili) - Saua

There are many ways to trip or fall into cultural potholes, but mostly they are fully aware of the fact that mzungos come from far away and accept all kind of silly and impolite behaviour. Only yesterday we were told that it is considered rude to greet someone who’s eating. The same man also told us that it is not good to talk while eating. Probably why it is always very quiet at our restaurant… When it comes to eating, it is also considered arrogant to eat with knife and fork. If you really like the food, you eat with your hand and make a big mess. This was a bit difficult to get used to, but we’re getting there, improving day by day. We eat at Sharon´s place almost every night, were we get very nice, local food. Variation is not her speciality, but it’s tasty and cheap. And we get a fork each.

Sharon’s menu:
Matoke - mashed green banana
Pocho - mash of maïs flour
Bean stu
Rice with some spices
Meat - goat, swine or beef

Sometimes she also has:
Tapioka - mash of cassava flour and millet
Tilapia - fish

An advantage of the politeness in making a mess is obvious when one realizes the amounts of bone fragments and sand in the food. We think they crush the bones and boil everything together. This makes everything very tasty, but we keep wondering were they put the fillets??

To get back to the blending-in part, Tuesday I went to join the boys for football training. I went there a bit early, and was suddenly invited to join in a game of 10-13 year old girls. I must admit that with most of them in school uniforms (dresses!) and a strategy resembling the one of bees, I could not tell my team from the others. But it was great fun and inspiring to see how much fun the girls had in playing. They seem bonded across ages and proud of the attraction from their peers from school and neighbourhood around the field.

Later on I got to play with the oldest boys in a game of (a bit to) organized football. Very different from the first game, but just as fun. Stephen said afterwards that he was surprised they didn’t “kill me,” and that I had gained respect by not being a sissy or a push over. Puh! Looking forward to next time!

Another attempt to integrate came in the longing for Italian food. We had bought some spaghetti in Kasese and decided to cook for the first time in 5 weeks. I found the lodge kitchen, which turned out to be a small brick house with dirt floor and 3 stones as a fireplace, and asked if Agnes (the only staff that is nice and actually does something useful) would help us. So we went out to buy tomatoes, onions and oil, made fire and sat outside in the dark outside the kitchen, cutting and cooking spaghetti and tomato sauce. It is incredible how little tools and equipment they have to help in the everyday life. Agnes ran around fetching water, looking for knives, buying kerosene and cleaning sauce pans. But we had a nice time and got the best spaghetti we’ve eaten in weeks!

Sorry about the lack of photos, but some occasions are best illustrated in the head...


onsdag 21. oktober 2009

Session 2: Measuring the Field

Wednesday we gathered the core group to make measurements of the field. We provided pens and paper, and asked four groups to measure each side of the main pitch and noting all important features. The task was quite simple, but we had to press for more detailed measurements before we finished.

When the groups finished their task, we collected all the numbers and information on one big sheet of paper. Each group added their findings, and irregualrities between the different groups were discussed and clarified. Some of the group felt it would have been better to have one person in charge of collecting the numbers, but we think it´s good that all participants were active in the process of making a map together.

While the last lines were added to the map, Ragnhild took some of the group to discuss and measure sizes of the body and how this relates to heights of roofs, benches and other structures needed for the stadium. This was also collected, and when all the work was done, we gathered everybody to sum up the measuring and inform everyone on the different issues discussed.

Food was brought by Mama Juliet which was a nice break in the work. She makes the best food in Ibanda, rivaling the cooking of our favourite cook, mr. Ken down in Bugoye.


tirsdag 20. oktober 2009

Aiming for the Top:

After a succesful meeting with the community hot shots in the morning and a fruitful brick testing session at Shaban's in the afternoon, we decided to spend the last hours of daylight exploring the hillsides of Ibanda. From our lodge, we can see hills on all sides and the great Rwenzori mountains in the background. We went up a hill looking more doable in just a few hours.

It was steep!! We spent about two hours walking straight up a clay pathway, by every step realizing that we maybe had underestimated the hight of our goal. But after a short while, we got a great overview of first Ibanda and later the entire valley, the savannas in the rift valley, the mountains on the other side and finally the mountains on the other side of the hill.

On the way up, and down, we passed several small farms and fields reminding us of the Norwegian television show "Der ingen skulle tru at nokon kunne bu" (Where nobody would believe anyone could live). Many of the farms were actually very idyllic with a number of small houses forming courtyards and outdoor spaces. We also passed fields of potatoes, beans, banana and coffee, amazed by the fertility on the completely natural soil.

Almost at the top I, Ragnhild, began worrying about the leaving daylight, the increasingly high, sharp grass and absence of pathway. But Andreas, on the other hand, who had been thirsty and tired for some time already, got an enormous second wind and was unstoppable in his exploration and quest towards the top! And good was that! The view was great!

On the top we got company from some curious kids. They were very polite and smiling, and showed us the fastest (and steepest) way down. Feeling that giving away money every time we are grateful is wrong, we gave them a bottle of coke to share. As a comparison, how many children in Norway drinks champagne at a value of 700 NOKs?

Meeting with representatives from the local authority:

To ensure that our project has essential support from the people in charge, we invited representatives from different levels of authority in Bugoye Sub-County. Irene from Newplan helped us by calling in the right people to the meeting.

In addition to us, Irene and Stephen, we recieved the Rwenzori High-School Headmaster, the Sports Manager of Rwenzori High, and Chairpersons from the local councils - even the LC 3, who is the head representative in the whole area.

We presented our project and intentions to them as best we could. This time we left out the winter-images, and added some technical drawings and aerials of Ibanda. As always, the only preliminary sketch of the stadium facilities got extra attention, even though we tried to leave out as much "design" as possible. After some explanation we could leave the solutions-discussion and talk about challenges and resources in the project.

The whole group seemed eager to support the project, and positive to our efforts. This was our most important goal for the meeting. They seem optimistic for a better future, and have big ideas for the development of the local communities.

We were hoping for some level of planning or future structure of the villages in the valley. It became obvious that the little we hoped for still was too much. There is high inflation in land-price because of foreign investors prior deals in the area. This affects the possibility for the Local Counsil to buy land to ensure public space for the future. All of today's Ibanda centre is privatized, and the mish-mash of ownerships and borders makes it hard to come to agreements.

The village of Ibanda is growing, to our surprise. There is influx from the mountain areas and even investors coming from bigger cities like Kasese to profit from the fertile soils around Ibanda. Over the latest 5 years the population has risen from 15.000 to about 20.000. The centre is now growing in two directions along the main road, and when introduced to the idea of thinking ahead, buying land before it´s valued as "central", the brains started working on an even higher level. We got the motion we were hoping for.

The news of a topo-survey being held in November was great news for us. The District Physical Planner is coming to do the first ever mapping of the area. This is a big step for the community, and if the survey is done in a good way, it will become an important tool for planning for the future. We are setting up a meeting with this individual as soon as possible, and bring with us all warnings of his "greatness" (real or self-proclaimed).

A demand for lists of needed materials and resources was put forward to us. This is to make the jobs of the Chairpersons easier when speaking to the people in the communities and local contractors. We have been asking for all available spear materials, scrap and left-overs to use in the building of our project, but amounts seems to be crucial in these areas.

After this meeting we conclude with a "Go" from the "important" people in the area, which gives nutrition to a belief in our selves and our ability to realize a sustainable and positive project.

mandag 19. oktober 2009

Session 1: The Core Group:

This Sunday we finally had our first workshop with people from the community! Stephen (CDTS), Irene (Newplan) and we (Ragnhild and Andreas) agreed it could be good to make a reliable core of youth from the area. We invited five guys from CDTS and eight students from the Rwenzory High School. Some of Stephens staff were supporting us with interpretation and organizing. All in all we were 18 people in the workshop.

The 15 youth will follow the whole process, discussing, designing and building the structures they find appropriate for the Noremco Stadium. At the end of our project they will be presented a certificate for participating in community development work for the Bugoye Sub-County.

After presenting ourselves, we showed some pictures from Norway to let them know a bit of our background and lives back home. Not unexpected, the winter-images got a lot of responses.

We followed up with a presentation of everyones names and backgrounds, since all of the people in the group come from different villages. This was done by one inteviewing the other and presenting to the rest of the group. This way we introduced the idea of asking questions. We asked them to make a descriptive drawing of the other person to start the process of "talking through drawing". As architects, we are used to this idea, but for most of the people in the group, this was strange and to us surprisingly difficult.

The final part was group-discussions on pro´s and con´s in the area regarding the development of the community. This is a topic which is discussed regularly, and even though it was a bit slow in the start, many of the conversations and key issues were interesting for the following sessions.

We picked up a lot from the group, even from the things they don´t tell us directly. For every day we spend in Uganda, we learn a bit more and our understanding of how different their backgrounds and ways are is constantly increasing.

Our main challenge will be to prevent their answers to be what they think we want to hear. The education-system in Uganda is based on "correct answers" and is highly competitive. This makes it hard for them to suggest radical ideas and raise "stupid questions".

Next time we are planning on-site measuring and getting to know the field itself. Hopefully the more physical aproach will tap into the reservoir of free spirited discussions and playfulness.

fredag 16. oktober 2009

Friends or beggars?

After living in Ibanda for five days, we are getting more comfortable and used to our situation. We wake up at 6am from cars honking when passing the road outside. Then, someone comes to drive out all the cars parked in our yard, making sure to honk some too. At 7am all the neighbours are up and at 8 the children greets their teacher good morning in the school next door and breakfast is ready – hopefully.

Today we started the day with a stroll around the village, getting to know it and its functions better. When we did the same stroll in Bugoye we met a very eager, enlightened and smiling photographer called Kato. He told us about history, language, culture and tendencies in the area and showed us around introducing us to everyone. He also explained to people that we were students doing fieldwork, that we had no money and that our work was important. His presence, despite a somewhat high level of interference, made the process of registering much easier. We have yet to meet the Kato of Ibanda…

Here in Ibanda we feel perfectly safe, but like outsiders. People stare without restrains. The kids keep calling to us; “Mzungu! Mzungu! Give me money!” We are getting to know some people though. The young guys outside the gate selling chapati (pancakes), the lady who’s restaurant we eat every night, the staff at our lodge, the grocer who’s always asleep on his bench, the guy who sells sodas warmer than the outdoor temperature and of course Stephen and his staff and players. They make us feel welcome and more at home in a situation that often leads to frustration and a sense of hopelessness.

Today the CDTS main team won the Kings Cup final. It was an incredibly boring game with lousy play from both teams. But in addition to spending time watching bad football, both of us were approached by all sorts of people from the crowd asking us to be their friend. Asking for our contacts. Asking for money. For marriage. When you are standing on an overly crowded truck and a young and tiny man with obvious eye problems is asking for a job so that he can complete his education – how do you give a good answer?

It is difficult, maybe impossible to become fully integrated in a society so different from your own. When it in addition thinks of all white people as filthy rich money machines, it is sometimes tempting to stop caring, give up and go home.

onsdag 14. oktober 2009

Official Opening of the Power Plant:

A big group of officials attended the opening of Bugoye Hydro Power Plant. Even the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni was there with several of his ministers, and visitors from Norway included the norwegian minister of development, Erik Solheim and the board of TrønderEnergi.

Erik Solheim wrote an article on the opening published here: - "Fornybar energi er Afrikas fremtid"

For more info read an article in the norwegian magazine "Bistandsaktuelt"

mandag 12. oktober 2009

From the Sickbed:

The power of draft is unmistakable. Whether you are in the northernmost, coldest areas of the world or in equatorial Africa, be aware of the dreaded draft. To get to the point; I’ve fallen sick. Quite tiring, boring and annoying, but it will surely pass. So I thought I would use the opportunity to write some words about where we are.

Imagine you sitting in the back of a car in the middle of Africa. The car is a wreck of a Toyota ’90-model held together with ropes, making sounds you don’t want to know where are coming from. You are driving on a road best fit for tractors and 4-wheelers, sharing the back seats with 4-5 locals wondering what kind of business a white person has in their taxi, normally with one of them eager to chat, bumping up, down and sideways with a pointy thing coming in from the side – all the time passing banana plantations, small mud houses and courtyards, boda-bodas with more load than one would fit in a car in Norway, women dressed in colourful dresses carrying food, wood and water on their heads, children running, smiling, waving, a pink mosque, and more banana plantations.

All this shown with a backdrop of hills covered with squares of fields and plantations in different shades of green, and the 5000m high Rwenzori mountains ruling in the background. This is the road up the Mubuku valley. Our home for the next four weeks.

Mubuku valley is divided into two sub-counties by the river Mubuku. On the west side you find Bugoye sub-county, Maliba on the east side. Until now we have spent most of our time exploring the villages of Bugoye and Ibanda – Bugoye being the village where the new hydro power plant is located, conveniently enough with both an excellent lunch and satellite internet.

We have found a place to stay in Ibanda, so we are now leaving the comforts of hot showers and sitting toilets in our hotel in Kasese, to be more conveniently situated close to the site.

At first glance, Bugoye looks like a settlement of only 15-20 tiny shops along the road and with a small marked under a tree. But behind the facades towards the road, there is a patchwork of houses, shops, people and services in all shapes and sizes. There are for instance a hotel, several restaurants and even a cinema. The standard is somewhat lower than what we know of from Norway, but the food is very good and people are happy. Almost every spot over a certain size is used to dry coffee beans. They are spread out on the ground, patiently taken in and out every night and on every rainfall. They look like colourful carpets of red, yellow and brown on the red soil.

In groups along the road you’ll find many men sitting on their motorcycles asking if you need a ride. They are called boda-bodas and are a very common site all over Uganda. We’ve been told that many young men drop out of school to drive on of these, hoping for easy money. Unfortunately, the market is overloaded and finally they go back to agriculture – if they didn’t already sell their land to get the boda-boda that is. There is also a small market in Bugoye. This is where you’ll find mostly women. They come from farms in the area, selling all kinds of vegetables like potatoes, matoke (a kind of a banana that is one of the most important foods in the country), coffee, rice, flour, etc.

Surrounding the market, there are as much as 6 butchers, tailors, grocery shops, drug stores, a shoe vender, and many bars. Unfortunately there is a culture of many men drinking. While the women are at home doing hard work trying to make a living for her family, the husbands have a rumour of spoiling everything away on drinking and such. The women have no power here and men can often have many wives. This inevitably leads to very big families, often poor and without means to send the children to school.

Ibanda is a bigger village further up the valley from Bugoye. This is where both the Rwenzori primary, secondary and high school is situated. The community council has their office here, and more importantly, this is where you’ll find the brand new Noremco stadium. This is our site. We have met a Scotsman called Stephen Pritchard who started an NGO called CDTS (Community Development Through Sports) two years ago. He lives in Ibanda and he and his staff are organizing football and netball trainings all over the valley, bringing youth and children together to play. Their new stadium is the flattest one in the entire district (they are normally veeery bumpy), and the pride of the valley.

We are going to work with the kids from CDTS and together construct changing rooms and tribunes for the stadium. We are very excited and eager to start!