Sunday, September 14, 2008


The hotel we had our retreat at was beyond nice. I don’t mean nice by African standards, I just mean nice. The rooms were huge, with big king sized beds and canopies with mosquito nets. The bathrooms were gianormous and had very modern, pressurized showers with glass doors. At the back of the room was a balcony overlooking lake Victoria and the surrounding hills. To top it all off they had installed flat screen tvs with satellite stations (8 instead of the usual 2). As nice as it all was we didn’t really have time to enjoy it.

By 9am we had started our retreat meetings. My country director has more than doubled our staff since being here so it was a really great chance to get all 10 people on the same page about our organization’s mission, our method for work, and the state of Ugandan politics today. We started off by listing out what democracy means to us. This elicited very general responses about the broader context: “freedom of expression without fear of retribution, informed populations, equality…” Our country director then began digging deeper, asking what does informed mean in reality. Informed who? Citizens? Leaders? Who is or isn’t informed? Who needs to be informed? Whose burden is the informing? Why does that matter to democracy? We discussed that one for about 1 hour and then moved onto freedom, and the reset of the terms. When we were done with that we moved on to identify the gaps in democracy in Uganda and tried to match those up with our programming. It was an incredibly tiring way of thinking but ended up being so worthwhile in more clearly defining our reason for being in Uganda and a picture of what we could accomplish in 4 years. On a personal level it was a really great chance to put the work I do into a more realistic and vital context.

The following day my country director left at 6am to head out of town with her family, leaving me in charge of the office and her Kampala house. I spent the first part of my day in the office trying to coordinate for an upcoming trip to the western districts of Kasese and Busheyni to conduct our final local organization selection interviews. If one of the staff members ends up having to attend to a family matter then I will be going in her place. To prepare for that possibility I had to read up on the local organizations’ application papers and get briefed on our selection process. We didn’t end up leaving the office until around 7:45pm at which point it started raining. It kept going so I decided to stay in, read and watch a movie. I finally got in some much needed sleep and woke up without an alarm…so nice.

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