I Did It Again

Finally I had the chance to make a nice panorama of Kibali gold mine. The current was made by my mobile phone and did not really satisfy me.

So below is the fully panorama of Kibali gold mine in a better resolution and colors.  I still advise to open the picture and watch it in more detail.

 

Kibali Gold Mine; Watsa, DR Congo – (c) Mark Häberli 2014

_MG_5960 Panorama cut (Groß)

La Musique Congolaise

Je ne suis pas tellement dans la musique, mais je voulais quand même vous montrer la musique congolaise. Ces trois chansons de Lokua Kanza j’aime beaucoup et c’est pourquoi je tiens à rendre public aujourd’hui. Le texte est principalement en français et si vous venez d’entendre la musique que vous pourrait ne pas reconnaître que cela vient du Congo. Cependant, il est très agréable!

Ai-je besoin de dire quelque chose d’autre? Non, il suffit d’écouter et apprécier!

 

Plus vivant:

http://youtu.be/hnfT3cpg-FI

Je ne ai pas choisi (mon préféré):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Wi99SBuhn8&feature=share&list=PLBCC521D8B5106C0F&index=18

I believe in you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxzKVUe1R8o&feature=share&list=PLBCC521D8B5106C0F&index=3

 

Cette chanson est de Wenge Musica et le nom est Kin e bouger:

http://youtu.be/zAkVIENWAyI?t=2m49s

 

 

How To Get Friends For 2000 $ Or “Commission, Bribe & Co”

Today I would like to write about a topic which is usually an uncommon topic for European, as we basically only get selden in contact with things like bribe and commission. However, in Africa the world is different and corruption is unfortunately everywhere.

The corruption rate is rated with the Corruption Perception(s) Index (CPI) by Transparency International. Switzerland is ranked at Nr. 6 while Uganda is 130 and Congo (DRC) is at 160 (out of 174).

I would say bribing is a normal thing in Africa. It is part of the culture. It is something which need not be hidden or try to cover. It is just done. Some people don’t even recognize it! When I came to Uganda the first time, I thought it can not get worse with bribing! But then I reached to DRC and I realised Uganda is heaven…

In Uganda people usually bribe when they do (or assume they do) something wrong like over speeding. Police will say: “Sir, you have been caught by over speeding. You need to pay 200’000 ugs (80 $) and afterwards we have to confiscate the car”.  How to solve that issue? They will ask for 20’000 ugs and have not seen anything. That’s how it went when I was sitting in my friend’s car.

In Congo (DRC) it is quite different. You just pay everywhere, without any reason. For example: The trucks of a friend are working in the mine in Congo, but have Ugandan number plates. After working a few weeks in the mine, suddenly two trucks were arrested. Reason: they wanted “to meet” him. As the number plates are foreign, a fee has to be paid. As usual for the fee there is no official receipt nor other documents. Afterwards he paid, he did not get disturbed anymore and suddenly he has new “friends” which are greeting him very friendly on the street…

 

Unfortunately this sign makes it clear:

images

 

Social Control

An interesting effect which I have discovered in Africa is – I call it – “Social Control”. Social control is an effect which is not common for me in Europe and describes “doing favours or lending/borrow money to unknown people”.

In Europe I never would have the idea to borrow valuable things or ask for favours to unknown/not-well known people. In Africa that is quite common. Two examples:

  1. A guy in Congo who I hardly knew came to me and asked me if I could take his new smart phone for repair to Kampala. He gave me his complete phone with packaging, money for repair and address where I should bring it. I was quite surprise that people trust each other (there are so many cheaters) and he gave a valuable phone to me.
  2. The second case happened to me. In the beginning of my time in Congo, when I did not have my bank account there, it was always a challenge to get money. I m not carry a lot of money with me, while it is difficult to run a business without cash. So when I once was running out in cash, people who I hardly know borrowed me a few thousand dollars. Quite nice to get help like that!

The principle of this paradox of doing things like favours or borrow money while you always have to take care who you trust, I call it social control. Actually it is quite simply: People who you know connect you to people who can help you. Because this “middle man” knows you (good), he make the connection. While you are suddenly think you are on the dead-end, miraculously help is coming.

470895364837214099_824c5de6b84c fre

 

Another Way To Transport

When I m driving in Kampala, I like to spot the boda-boda (motor cycles) which are transporting big things. I think I have seen a lot in my time in Kampala. Some examples are:

  • Bed
  • Truck tyres
  • Glass (1×2 m)
  • Tables
  • 5 people (driver, mother, father and child and baby)

Below you see a picture of a boda guy on the “high way” to Entebbe who is transporting a table and about 6 chairs. You see, that the motor cycle takes about the width of a car! And when he is driving about 50 km/h it looks like he will make an accident any moment. The only thing you can do is overtake is quickly or keep distance.

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Fixing, Replacing & Modification

In Africa it does not make sense to bring the newest things. Cars, buses and other things are getting spoiled quickly. A new car has a scratch from a passing Boda soon or due to poor service and uneducated people machinery is suffering.

If it is the case that a part, e.g. on the bus, breaks, you have three possibilities: Fixing it, replacing it or make a modification. In a good case you just need to fix it. Let say a bold is loose. Tight it and the job is done.

Sometimes a part, like an oil seal, is broken completely, there is no chance beside replacing it. In Kampala pretty all spare parts are somehow available. New or used. If you look for it, you will find it.

However, sometimes it happens that a spare part is not (yet) available or you are too far to wait for delivery. In this case you have to make modification. Modification is the most risky part of the business. The people here do not have the possibility to make an apprenticeship or join any education. So especially mechanic do a lifelong training on the job. If it comes to modification, they have to improvise. My article about the replacement of the front screen of a bus is good example. WP_001067

Modification of the front screen: Using the edges of the broken glass and replace the broken middle part

I am often astonished when the mechanics fixed my knocked engine in middle of Congo with more or less nothing. I don’t know why but probably due to sabotage or missing knowledge two buses knocked the engine in Congo last year at the same time. In this case my mechanic ordered the spares (main and piece bearings, piston rings etc) in Kampala and dissembled the whole engine. Something which mechanics in Switzerland probably dream about it.

I am always astonished how they fixed it (and I also think I am not alone…).

WP_001045Open engine (driver hit the oil tank, broke the oil tube and thus metal parts got into the engine)

WP_001044Some of the parts. For me it always looks like a puzzle and get worried, when bolts and parts left after fixing everything and the mechanic tells me this bolt were not necessary at all…

altAjLDt87EwBantMKMHC14g5tpQdTi0dK1tga_jx0ljwcXOne-by-one: Part by part of the engine rebuilt.

WP_001041And then, when the engine runs smoothly with smooth sound – everyone is fascinated.

BUSiness Or Unbelievable Stories!

There were a few situations which I always keep in mind:

  1.  I went once to the garage and my mechanics were draining the fuel tank of a bus to prepare it for welding. I could not believe what I saw when my mechanic was filling fuel from the tank into a jerry can with a cigarette in his mouth…
  2. My mechanic is checking the battery acid of new batteries by tasting it: He puts his finger into the sulphuric acid and put a bit on his tongue. I am not sure if he can do a valuable judgment.
  3.  At another strike, when there was a lack of transport and the people were walking about 5 km from the mine to the town, they were take one of my drivers as a hostile. (The reason behind is that a bus is only allowed to carry more people than seats and when my driver refused, they got very angry). Touch wood, they threatened from time to time to stone the bus or even to turn it. So far it did not happen with (my) bus.
  4. Can you guess what you see on the picture below? WP_001163I was surprised when the guy came with this thing and was fixing my whole bus with it. Right, that tool is a “welding machine”. Please note all the open wires at the welding machine. I don’t want to imagine what happens when you touch one of the wires. However it work and the guy did a very good job.
  5. A few months ago I wanted to load some money on my mobile phone. This time it did not work and so I called the call center. They solved the problem very quickly and very good: Surprisingly they did not load the 80’000 ugs (30 $), instead they put 800’000 ugs on my mobile phone! Well, lucky me!WP_001062

Rule Of Africa: Relation First – Law Afterwards

In Europe we are in the comfortable position of being protected by law. Someone is cheating you, you are going to sue him. Easy like that. That’s why I say: The law is in Europe on top, relations coming afterwards.

In Congo it is the other way around. Relations are on top, law is coming afterwards. Actually you are pretty lucky if a law exists! I don’t know where or if there is a court in DRC… In the province where I stay you have probably no possibility to handle you matters by court. I think it is a law free zone.

Due to the fact that there it is law-free, it is even more important that you are connected. This means the police commanders and other chiefs are your friends. By being connected you are protected. In all cases that only works by money. If you have money, you live like a king in Congo.

You think that is ethically not correct? Well, it is like it is. But Darwin already said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”. Any questions?

So there is nothing else to do and adapt myself to the condition and ways of DRC. If you are corrupt, you will not survive Europe, if you are honest, you will not survive DRC. The principle goes of course the other way around! Dont even think to bribe in Switzerland, you will go to jail.

_MG_5823 Panorama smallThe panorama shows the skyline of Kampala. Download the picture and “dive” into it! It is worth. When I climbed up the roof at that day, rain was coming and the picture got a bit dark. Usually it is more sunny, but the picture shows now rather the mood of Kampala. Check out the contrast of new banks and hotels vers the old trains station/simple houses!

Meet & Greet at the Police Station

The fight of survival is a very big issue in Uganda or in Africa generally. The most people don’t have a lot of things and suffering. Families want to eat, kids have to go to school, relatives need support. These factors make pressure to have a (well paid) job and earn money. That is unfortunately in contrast to the reality.

In my business I am happy to give jobs to local people of DRC or northern Uganda. The life is really tough there and I think most of the people have not earned a lot of money in their life. I am paying my employees a good salary, so they are happy.

However still a few things I don’t understand: One thing is that my fluctuation of my employees is very high. Only one employee is with me since I started my business one year ago. I asked myself many times, why the people run away, but I m not sure if I found an answer.

I offer accommodation, food and do not cut money for tax and immigration, but still after about 6 months people start to leave or behave useless. I have discovered, that other companies have the same issue, but so far nobody could explain in detail what is behind. On of my theory is that the people are “survivors”. So after making “a lot of ” money during a few month, they can build their own house and think, that they do not need to work anymore. Surprisingly when people running away, they call me 2 months later again to ask for a job…

However, left employes are not be an issue, as I usually find a new person quickly. One thing bothers me and that is the second thing: While I made my employees clear how to work with me, people are very motivated in the beginning. When they start to leave after a half a year by choice and realise after a few weeks, that there is no income anymore the story starts: Many time I have realised that people go to police and accuse me for not paying a salary one year ago or finding stories why I still own them money. Fantasy has no boundary!

Many time I had to explain myself at police. It is just annoying and I still need to pay a few hundred dollars for a compromise or because the police officer is the accusers friend. After the first time I have put my managers in place the handle this kind of issues, which works suddenly surprisingly good.

I take this issue kind of racist action. Just because I am white, people try to eat money wherever they can. Somehow a bit pity, you give them a finger and they take you hand or rather full arm…

WP_001055I don’t have a picture of the long discussions at the police station so thus below is a picture when I have time and enjoy: View from Cassia Lodge which offers a fantastic view over the suburbs of Kampala.

Once Again A Strike

The mine had about 6000 local employes at its maximum of the construction phase. In beginning of February there were still about 1000 people working for contractor and sub-contractors. While general labour is quite cheap to get and plenty available, Congolese general labour is very tough to handle and especially stubborn.

I think it is an educational thing which leads to a rather low understanding. Small things can suddenly turn big and if the crowed is infected, nothing will stop them. Small issues can not be solved with logical argumentation and a compromise is not possible. Recently they made a strike at the mine where about 700 people (general labour) of a contractor claimed for 3000 $ (!) bonus (general labour, uneducated, monthly salary approx. 280 $).

After two days of negotiation and no progress they threatened to turn the office (container) of the manager of the contractors and will use the excavator to open the newly built dam. With the people is not to joking! The temper is very light, the understanding not there and suddenly they beat each other. Out of nothing. The people who are able to handle the crowed have my respect, as I would not know how to argument with them. They are so stubborn and have now understanding.

To handle this people it need their “own” people to talk to them in their own language. It needs a good mix of kind of shouting and talking “slowly”. Furthermore the responsible people need a good police back up. That’s why it is not a surprise that the police is always equipped with an AK 47 and is not hesitating to give warning shots (already last year experienced).

When the negotiation somehow failed and the crowed seriously started to turn an office container, the police pushed them back and sent all home to the village. On the next day they didn’t let them in the mine again and all 700 people were terminated at once. Pity, that because of a few people a lot of people lost the job, but  there is no other way to handle it. Radical people, need radical methods.

WP_001197HR manager and responsible of the labour broker office were talking to the people.

51 Weeks Business – 16 Boarder Crosses & Now The Last One

After one year in DRC, my contract is now finished. The mine is nearly fully built and general labour has been decreased to only a few hundred people. In the next few months the last bits will be built and the mine is supposed to be fully operating very soon.

I now look back of a very interesting year in DRC. I learnt so many new things and had a lot of challenges, which I m very glad now that I went through it. I think I have not learnt so much during my years when I studied at the university.

The learnt and experienced things are for life; for ever. Something which made me grow. Even though sometimes it was hard that I left the comfort zone (and all the African ask me why I left Switzerland, when everyone wants to go there), every single minute was worth it. Everything which put me out of the comfort zone, made me realize, that the magic will only happen by doing it. Only by reaching the limit and go beyond, you will discover the real strength of your mind and abilities.

WP_001210My last Congo/Uganda boarder cross and my first omitted visa stamp (Uganda side). Fortunately I discovered that Uganda immigration officer only gave me a visa for 7 days so I had to change it.)

And I Got Disturbed Again

My last blog article has been a while. This is due to my long stay in Congo. At the mine the internet is quite restricted and thus there is no Facebook during the day, blogs are not access able at all and Youtube is also blocked. I guess this might be mainly due to security reasons or to save the traffic speed.

While my buses worked in February the last month in DRC, I had the feeling of writing an article of how nice it is when the business is going on smoothly and nothing is to worry. However, just in that very moment my business got disturbed once again and I want to tell you what happend a few weeks ago.

Acutally disturbance is nothing new, because there is alway something which is disturbing the business and I think there will be never a moment in doing business in Congo, while I am not disturbed by custom, tax, police or other people.

This time it was the police and the issues was bigger than usual. From times to times my buses are arrested, when it is carrying people outside the mine. There is alway a reason found: Assurance, road toll, Ugandan number plate, etc. There is always something which seems not be alright. Most time there is no obvious reason and in a law-free part of the country, what will you do?

My favourite disturbing reason is “Ugandan number plate”, which was disturbing this time again. Congolese goverment dislike Ugandan things completely. The people say Uganda stole a lot of gold when the goverment changed the last time and Uganda seemed to support the rebels. Although the people in this part of the country would still live on threes, if not all the goods were brougth from Uganda. So it looks like a hate-love-story.

However, my bus was arrested once again by police. Usually it will take a half a day to get it back, because through my connection I can organise the right congolese people to solve the issue. This time it took three days and two high ranked police officers to solve the issue in order not to pay 1000 $. By not beeing connected, Congo can be very expensive.

After getting my bus back I found out, that there was a plan behing the story. It seems that some people payed some police people to arrest my bus in order to disturb my business. They hope was that due to the arrested bus I might loose my monthly 100’000 usd contract. This leads to a lack of buses which would bring the other guys in position to bringth there own buses. Unfortunately they missunderstood a few things: 1. the contract volume is not that high, 2. the contract was finished soon and 3. they forgot that I am well connected.

Well that was again a story from my challenging life which always puts me out of my confort zone, but makes it very exciting!

WP_001192 Panorama (Groß) (2)View over site (left: factory; middle: underground pit; right open pit)

Morocco 2013

My last blog article is a while ago and I recently asked myself: “Don’t I have anything interesting to tell?” Well, I think after one year in Uganda or lets say Africa in general, I became a bit blind regarding issues which challenge me every day. I guess for a non-africa person my life is really exciting, but with the time I just don’t see it! In future I would like to mentioned a few more “stories”, which are daily life for me, but could be interesting for someone who is not living or grown up in probably one of the most challenging countries.

However, today with my first blog article in this year I start with something relaxing. I would like to present some pictures from my Morocco 2013 trip, which was one of my nicest (and also cheapest) travel in the recent years. Furthermore I had great company who I always keep in mind.

Morocco fulfills everything: From breath-taking oases…

_MG_4847 Panorama

_MG_5144 (Individuell)

_MG_5136 (Individuell)

_MG_4989 (Individuell)

_MG_4590 (Individuell)

… to absolute dry areas, …

_MG_4965 (Individuell)

_MG_5129 (Individuell)

_MG_4560 (Individuell)

…. sand deserts, …

_MG_4714 (Individuell)

_MG_4753 (Individuell)

_MG_4903 (Individuell)

… cities with colourful markets, …

_MG_4661 (Individuell)

_MG_4495 (Individuell)

_MG_4506 (Individuell)

_MG_4456 (Individuell)

… history and culture, …

_MG_4480 (Individuell)

_MG_4226 (Individuell)

… and last but not least amazing interesting people.

_MG_4949 (Individuell)

_MG_4397 (Individuell)

_MG_4366 (Individuell)

_MG_4359 (Individuell)

_MG_4252 (Individuell)

(c) by Mark-Alexander Häberli

Nairobi Fly

Health is always an issue in the mine in Congo. Mainly people suffer from malaria or typhoid. “Touch wood” I have not gotten malaria nor typhoid and for that I am very thanks fully. A lot of people suffered from it and due to malaria a few people passed away (the ones who did not take it seriously, when they though it was only a flu…).

However, I made acquaintance with an insect which is called Nairobi Fly (Paederus eximius). This insect does not bite nor sting, but when it is squeezed it can release sits secretion (hemolymph) which contains pederin. Pederin, which is lovely name (2S)-N-[(S)-[(2S,4R,6R)-6-[(2S)-2,3-dimethoxypropyl]-4-hydroxy-5,5-dimethyl-2-tetrahydropyranyl]-methoxymethyl]-2-hydroxy-2-[(2R,5R,6R)-2-methoxy-5,6-dimethyl-4-methylene-2-tetrahydropyranyl]acetamide is potent toxin and leads to blistering of the skin. Interestingly, the amount of pederin in an insect is up to 0.025% of its weight.

200px-PederinPederin

insectThe culprit – it has only a size of 10 mm.

Unfortunately, I came in contact which the insect somehow. It did not hurt nor itched, so I recognised it only at the next day.

I recognised a few bubbles on my arm and a red line…

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… which got better after a few day, …

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… but as a souvenir I still now have a dark strip.

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Screen, Polyurethane & Co

Due to a drunken driver of a cement truck, the bus windscreen of one of my buses got badly damaged. I thought that is not a big issue, as I will “just” order a new one from Kampala and fix it. But, as usual in Africa nothing is easy and quick (even you think so!).

WP_001014

In the beginning my people react a bit slowly (or diplomatic spoken not as fast as I expected) so a week or two passed without action and while I was in Switzerland I could not do anything. After I arrived and pushed the owner of the truck, some movement started. However, it took still too long. The only thing I can do, is as always doing in this kind of situation: “Do it by yourself”.

So I went to Kampala and meet the guy and brought the windscreen to a windscreen glass dealer to ask if he has a spare one. As usual, beside the usual Toyota wind screens there were no other windscreen. So we had to modify it, which is usual process. (Modify means, the edges will be cut and the completely broken middle part of the windscreen is replaced.)

Surprisingly, the answer of my question what he is using to bond a screen was not: “No, we use silicone!”.  Indeed they used a polyurethane. I was really surprised! It is a chinese polyurethane and I would love to test this one in the lab regarding strength and other safety properties. Interestingly, the chinese polyurethane is primerless and has no Safe-Drive-Away-Time (actually safety is anyway something which you don’t find in Uganda…). The adhesive is sold for 8 $ over the counter.

WP_001060

It would be nice get some Sika Adhesive. Luckily I brought some Sikaflex-555 from Switzerland (as a Product Engineer for Hybrid I can not use something else 😉 ). However, the glass was fitted with the rubber and it only needed a bit of adhesive to seal the joint between the two glasses.

At end my bus can be used again and looked quite well. Taadddaaaa!

SavedPicture-2013121192515.jpg

Rwanda – 2

My second part of Rwanda. Mainly the national park, where we spend 3 days hiking in the jungle: It was just great to spend some time with my dad hiking peacefully trough the calm jungle.

_MG_5201 (Groß)

Park entrance and information center to book your guided tour.

_MG_5378 (Groß)

Monkey, which you can find usually many.

 

_MG_5358 (Groß)

Hiking to a waterfall (not on the picture).

 

_MG_5354 (Groß)

 

 

_MG_5337 (Groß)

Bridges made walking simple…

_MG_5330 (Groß)

… and also the paths.

 

_MG_5325 (Groß)

Some vegetation.

 

 

_MG_5308 (Groß)

 

 

 

_MG_5306 (Groß)

An earthworm. Slightly one size bigger than we are used in Europe…

_MG_5275 (Groß)

Beautiful hiking trails!

 

 

_MG_5255 (Groß)

Interesting tries! The do not touch each other as you can see.

 

_MG_5248 (Groß)

My dad and me or Indian Jones senior and junior. 😉

 

_MG_5232 (Groß)

I was very touched by the “simple” rain forest. I liked the hike and peace.

 

_MG_5221 (Groß)

Again and again.

_MG_5209 (Groß)With good view to Congo (so I am not going to miss it too much).

 

Rwanda – 1

I was travelling to Rwanda with my dad for a few days. There is not much to say, but rather to show:

 

_MG_5168 (Groß)One of the memorial centers of the genocide. A very sad place and sad part of history. I need about 1 days to recover… You can literally see where the people died. The bloody clothes are there, the bones are there, the skulls are there…

 

_MG_5171 (Groß)The people were hiding inside the building, the offenders just threw grenades inside or tortured the people to death by machetes, axes, knifes, whatever…

 

_MG_5177 (Groß)

Nice view over Kigali. In the center of the picture you see the town-center.

 

_MG_5181 (Groß)

During my time in Africa I have never ever see such a tidy city like Kigali. It looks like Switzerland!

 

 

_MG_5189 (Groß)

 

 

_MG_5191 (Groß)

I am saluting to Kigali: No traffic, no dirt. People wear even helmets on motor cycles. Unbelievable!

 

_MG_5193 (Groß)

On the following day we were heading to Nyungwe National Park. On of the biggest of Rwanda!

 

_MG_5200 (Groß)

In Love with Food

Attached some pictures what I’m eating and like:

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Traditional Ethophian food

WP_001029Fufu (brownish), mbika (white, something made by peanuts) and makayabu (cooked dry fish)

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Some of the food I eat with my Indian/Pakistan friends. unbelievable good! I love it a lot!

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Prata with salad and reita (yoghurt)

WP_000751Local food: Chicken, beans, fufu, vegetable

Because I Love Eating – Reloaded

Well the food topic is a bit an issue in Africa. Especially food in Congo is somehow special. While in Uganda mainly domestic animals are eaten, is it in Congo common to eat Makaku (monkey), Njoka (snake)  and other bush meet. So far, I had no chance to eat something like that, even my friends promised me to cook it once for me. Let us wait. As I heard, monkey seems to be bit a challenge (and I don’t bring the scene from Indian Jones “Temple of Doom” out of my head…)

However, eating in rather rural DRC looks like followed: One of my friends lives in a traditional mud hut.

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The kitchen is quite simple, which does not mean that there can be sensational food be cooked!

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The african kitchen is in general quite good. Usually a meal contains a side dish, meat and vegetable. The most common side dish is called fufu (know as ugali or posho). It is maize flour cooked with water. Attached to it often fish is eaten. It is called makayabu, which is dried fish (cold). I like the fish a lot! metembele is the vegetable (Kasava leafs) and looks like spinach.

When I was eating with my friends last time, the cooked something (for me) uncommon: Can you guess what it is?

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It ia actually cow skin, which is cooked for a few hours. Honestly the taste I did not like at att. The taste of this “leather” is a very strong meat taste, which i as an European would consider as not edible. However my local friends liked it a lot and when say we eat shoe or belt letter, we can not stop laughing.

At the end the dish looks like this:

WP_001052“Leather, fufu (white) and metembele

After Military Is Before Military

I am heading back to DRC after 3 weeks of military service in Switzerland. Actually my weeks were quite good, because I could do what most of male chemists would like to do: Making explosives.

The following pictures reduce it best to one sentence:

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Science: Do stuff in lab that would be a felony in your garage.

In the first two weeks my task was to synthesize an explosive which could be used as an alternative. It is difficult to get recipes in scientific books, because it is quite sensible to publish them. However after I did not get any recipes in known appropriate books for that specific explosives, I did some research on the net and found some recipes by hobby chemists. It was weird to see what kind of recipes are in the net, but after some modification  I found a good way to produce some small quantity in good quality. It was very nice to be in the lab again after several years and do some real chemistry.

My third week was similar like last year. Giving a lesson to mainly foreign Military Services in how to qualify explosives by thin layer chromatography.  Next year the same will start over again (like every year). I am looking forward for it! It is great to work in this professional team.

How to Get Back from the Bush Without Enough Tyres

Since I have a car in Congo, travelling and working is much more comfortable. Basically without a car nearly impossible, The 200 km from the mine to the Uganda border town Arua can be easily done in about 3 hours (gravel road).

Before you travel you have to be sure to following things are in the car: spare tyre, jack and spanner. A tyre bust or a puncher can likely happen, as the road is not really good and by 60 km/h the tyre suffer a lot. Usually nothing happens, but the last time we had bad luck. Surprisingly the road blocks and disturbing police was not an issue, but the tyres.

On the way, about half, we had a flat tyre and changed it for the first time. So far not an issue, spare tyre fixed in 10 min. However, after continuing 30 km, we had again a puncher and now we were stucked. Somewhere on the road, not town nearby and we run out of tyres. What are you going to do in this kind of situation? 2 possibilities;  Try to fix it somehow and/or wait for a car with the same spare tyre, We decided to send one driver to the bicycle mechanic in a village to try to fix it (which failed completely).

Fortunately and other Toyota Noah passed and we asked them to borrow us their spare tyre. So far so good, day seems to be saved and crossing the board not problem (even we are late). Unfortunately the god of tyres was not on our side and about 20 km before the border also the second spare tyre got flat, It was already late and there we could not do a lot. While I went to the border get a room in order to buy new tyres quickly in the morning. My drivers stayed in the car. After buying two new tyres in Uganda, crossing and travelling back, the car arrived in Uganda about 1 day later. It’s all about flexibility and patience.

My second flat tyre:

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The african break down triangle: Some branches on the road:WP_000970

During Day Time They Let You Pass, In The Night You Get Killed!

After my long break (writer’s block) it is time to write some new articles. Actually I was busy in the last few months (or I have set the priority for writing not so high).

Anyway. The mine where I stay and the buses are working is deep in the bush. I would say 200 km around the mine there is nothing beside bush. Maybe from time to times you will find some traditional villages, but thats it. There is only a small town (or rather village) which is about 30 km away from the mine.

It is quite nice to go there, because it represents the mood from the early days, when the mine frist time was built at around 1950. Actually the Belgium started the whole project, but run the mine only for a few years. During the time of Mbuto, they were chased away and had to  give up everything.

Watsa was built-in this time and has some of this classic “Belgium” houses. Solid brick house which were never renovated in the last 50 years. The red dust gives the characteristic colour and thus it gives a special mood.

The road from the mine to Watsa is quite okay (30 min for 20 km) and thus easy to reach. Recently I was invited to meet someone at his farm behind Watsa, but the road to reach there was quite challenging, because the road had too many stones and wholes. Usually nobody passes there so it is not really maintained. While we drove, we saw the old army barracks and my driver was talking something about the ancient time. However my driver tells me then casually: “Hmm, during the day they let you pass, in the night you get killed”. Suddenly he had my full attention. With that sentence he brought in on the point how it was years ago, when Mbuto had the power and all white people (mainly Belgium) were chased way. White people were not liked at all, as they where only “stealing” the gold. Even thought it was a long time ago, I did not feel very well. Especially if you see the old road blocks and barriers, I could imagine how it was 20 years ago.

Impression from Watsa:

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Some Swissness

Even I am in Congo or East Africa, from time to time a few Swiss things appear:

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A Swiss flag in a different way… It supposed to be the medical kit. The manufacturer does not seem to exchange the right colour order. Red-white or white-red?

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Have you been: UCI Championnats du Monde at Chateau d’Oex Suisse in September 1997.

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Some people like the Swiss Knife. A great invention. I never leave without it. Sometimes I fix a half  bus by using the screwdriver…

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Team Uzwil: I hope they won!

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Our (famous) products from Nestle, Vevey.

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Bollywood movies, which mostly have a Swiss scenery. Cows, mountains…

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and chalets. Sometimes you hear me shouting: “Oh my good, that looks like Bern…”

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Swiss chocolate, made in Kenya 😉

Visiting the Temple of Sikhs

Recently I was visiting the temple (Gurdwara) of Sikhs with my friends. They invited me to join them on there Sunday ritual, which is going to the temple for a ceremony. The ceremony was short. When we joined the people were already singing and listening to the prayers.

After the prayer we meet all together and ate lunch. Good chance to get in touch with new people and exchange some (business) ideas. Actually it was a very nice place to sit together and talk.

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Because I Love Eating (Or Sometimes I Do Not)

Here some pictures of food what I am eating. A must-have in my blog. Unfortunately it is not always as culinary as I am used from travelling…

WP_000794Fresh fish with lime. I love fish from the BBQ. Just great!

WP_000668Patisserie and good coffee is also available in Kampala. Great, although kind of Swiss prices…

WP_000751I got invited by my Congolese friends. A typical local dish:  Chicken in sauce with posho (posho or ugali is made out of maize flour and water), cabbage and beans.

WP_000501Millet with fresh fish. Actually very similar to the meal above. Inexpensive pretty good. Eaten of course by hand.

WP_000586Beside millet, posho and matoke (steamed green banana) rice is eaten a lot. It comes usually with goat, beef, chicken or fish in sauce.

WP_000707Rice an beans. In the mine the lunch for the “workers” from Monday to Saturday. (Wednesday is meat day).

WP_000681“Grusigs mit Fleich!” –  “Wääähh, Fleisch…” In the mine the lunch for office people (aka management). Diplomatically spoken: “Oh today, I am just not hungry…”

In Memory Abdulmalik Pankaj

Yesterday I came to know that my former operation Manager Abdulmalik Pankaj passed away after short and intense sickness. The sudden death of him was a surprise for all of us , as he always has been a person with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

When I came first to Kampala, it was nice how much care he took about me and try to protect me from anything i might be a danger. Even after bringing me to my street, he still phones me a few minutes later and asked me if I reached save at home. He was in general takeing care of people, even tought he also knew how to push them and make them work.

I appreciate that he never made a different of women or man, family member or friend. If it was about business he was straight forward with everyone. Business is business: “being my father or my mother!” He also was able to manage every threat which might could reach and protected the business from everything (Immigration, ticket refunds, noisy employees, shouting customers). Especially the possibility of delayed payment was helpful. He showed me the way of being somehow an African with the ability of finding excused for everything, which was in the challenging business situation a great help (and common to use it in Africa). He call himself for the ability of finding excuses “Michal Scofield” (-> Prison break).

He had the great ability to tell a lot of stories from his experience and I loved it to listen to him. His business in Congo, time with Idi Amin and Joseph Kony, the rough times in Kampala or South Sudan. He never regretted everything and seems to had a satisfied life. He definitely “lived” and did not miss anything in life.

Abdulmalik was for me more than just an employee. It was also a friend, brother, father, employee, consultant, advisor, Museh, teacher. We all lost a great person who found now peace. My condolences goes especially for his wife and children.

Rest in peace Abdulmalik Pankaj aka “Taklu”

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On The Way Back

I just arrived after my flight from Doha/Kampala. I’m looking forward to get some rest and simple life with work and friends. The last days were very exhausting, because my schedule was tight as usual. As often I brought another bus to Congo, which is usually quite a long procedure.

First, I brought the bus in 8 hours to Arua norther Uganda and then again in about 6 hours to Kibali in Congo. Now I did it for the about 6th time. The journey is exhausting, because there is not possibility to sleep in a normal bed. In the last 5 days I have slept only once in a bed. The other time I was sleeping in my bus, in the bus of the completion while bringing me to Arua or in an airplane. I feel now the tireness of the last few days. However, Im not sure if it is only the exhausting travel and hope it is not malaria. Sooner or later malaria gets you anyway.

Beside the lot of travelling, time was also tight. In Africa it is difficult to depend on people regarding time. Thus Im a total egoist when it is about time. For example I had to cross the boarder from Congo to Uganda at Saturday in any case. Thus i was organising a life in a truck from the mine to the border. The time was actually plenty to reach the border, but 15 km before the border the truck got in a traffic police control and his Congolese driver permit was expired for 1 day. Thus I was standing 1.5 hour in the bush without any possibility to get to the border. When the time got tight, I started to organise somehow a Boda which should have brought me to border. Fortunately one of my friends came just im time with his car and picked me up. While not bad in time (15 km or 45 min to go until the border close), he had to solve the case of the expired driving license at the police station plus helped another car with his battery problem. It drives you crazy, that you have only a few minutes to cross the border and I was fearing to miss my flight in Kampala. However, luckily I got my visa 5 min (!) before the border closed and could rush to Arua, to catch the bus to Kampala. In Kampala i packed my things and a few hours later I was on the way to the airport. Tight, but I managed to get to Switzerland.

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SGS Schweiz – Société Générale De Surveillance SA

When I was recently at the mine and I just had about 1 hour spare time, my friend brought me on the idea to visit the SGS lab. The idea was simple and great, because SGS is a Swiss company and when do you have the chance to get in touch with something Swiss in the bush of Congo? As my skin color is kind of all access card to various buildings, it was easy to enter it and pass the security control. It was like always: “Confident occur in complete ignorance”. However, after stepping in the building, it was asking for the manager and was shown him to his office. After a short introduction of myself (Swiss and chemist) he got very talkative and started to explain in detail what SGS and his lab is doing. It was interesting to listen to him and after a half an hour he offered me to get a tour trough the lab. I could not refuse…

SGS (www.sgs.ch) is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. The company has 1500 labs and about 75’000 employees. SGS says about hisself: “Wherever you are in the world, in whatever industry, you can rely on our international teams of experts to provide you with specialized business solutions to make your business faster, simpler and more efficient. We partner with you to offer independent services that will help you reduce risk, streamline your processes and operate in a more sustainable manner.”

In Kibali Mine, SGS is responsible for testing the samples out of the ground on the gold and silver content by F-AAS (flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry). The process is quite simple and is shown below. By the wa, all the gold which is mined in Kibali goes directly to Switzerland. Interesting…

The to be tested stone and sand sample has to be crushed to a very fine powder (80-90%<75 μm). For that the grey machines are used to crush the stones in rough sand of a few millimeters.

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Afterwards the sand has then to be further crashed in a very fine power by the yellow machine.

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The sample with litharge (“lead”) and glass fluxes was …WP_000619

… charged at 850°C (in a crucible) in a muffle furnace and maintained well above 1000°C for 30-40 min until a complete fusion occurred. The lead circulates through the molten mass and collects the precious metal forming Au-Ag-Pb alloy, ….

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… which is recovered as a button after cooling and separation from the glassy slag containing base metal and other impurities.

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Bone ash and marborite cupel (?) heated to 1000°C are charged with the lead button. This process results in a precious metal bead, …

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… which is parted by dissolving in nitric acid. After dissolving in nitric acid, everything except the gold is dissolved. In order to get rid of the “disturbing” silver, the hydrochloric acid is added, which now dissolves the gold (aqua regia), but precipitate the silver as insoluble AgCl. The reagent can then be easily measured by F-AAS for the gold content in a ppb-ppb range.

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Bus vs. Rollercoaster

What is the different between a Bus trip and a roller coaster? Basically nothing, both are exciting only the bus trip isn’t 🙂
Actually that is true for bus trip in Uganda and other countries, but not for bus trips which are made in Congo. Recently I just had to do a bus trip from the border of Congo to the mine. The bus company with the reliable name “La vie est un combat” was the only company which had free places (I should open a bus company on Congo as well…). During the trip I just found it has the following things with a roller coaster in common:

  • sitting shoulder on should
  • the vehical is shaking and loud
  • you don’t know what is coming next
  • it is vibrating so much, you do not even need to think about relaxing
  • some people throw up
  • Sometimes you think: “Oh my god, I’m going to die”
  • Sitting in the first row is usually very thrilling
  • in the beginning you are excited
  • names of roller coaster and bus companies are similar
  • adrenalin is guaranteed

Accidents

Accidents are quite common. Mostly it is due to reckless driving and tiredness of drivers. The condition of the road is also a thing which has a quite big impact. In the picture below you see why:

1. You drive behind another lorry (60 km/h) on a dusty/sandy road. It is likely that you are not able to break early enough. As they are rushing through little villages, it is likely that people or animals are crossing. Thus a sudden break quite common.

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2.Quite commen that a fuel tank is coming on the other side (also with about 60 km/h) and streets are narrow…

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3. So it is likely happened that something happens like on the picture below. I guess driver was tired, fell asleep, went of the road then the trailer tilt over.

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On the way to the mine, I think there was no time, when I have not seen an accident (tyre bursts are not counted!).

Time pressure, long journeys and missing education might be the main reasons.

Ride Back

As you can imagine, it is also not easy to get transport to Kibali. So when I want to go back to Uganda I have two possibilities: First I ask the people who are responsible for escort if they take me to the border by car or I just jump on a lorry which was off loaded and is heading back. Mostly I have the ability to get on a car which is bringing me back in comfortable way and quickly.

Another time there was no car so I jumped on the next best lorry. The ride was pretty fun, interesting talk and quite comfortable. As we drove back during day time, I could first time see all the traditional house and villages which are located on the road. Interesting how the people live in this traditional way.

See some impression below:

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Taxi Please!

With time I built up some good relations with a local guy. He is Ugandan, but works as a tipper driver at the mine. With him I have a good time and I m happy if he is able to drive me around the mine and has time to pick me up. I guess it is not the cheapest taxi, but it is a lot of fun to driver with a tipper trough the mine.

One of the tippers. Compared the the tipper which I have seen before. The size is like a toys…

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Some Random Pictures…

… made with a high professional handy camera HTC 5 mega pixel 2010. (Sorry 5d, when I have cheated on you).

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I loved the upcoming rain. Ok, i loved to see it, the rain was awful.

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The people who know me, know that this picture is a must. My office shoes (aka Disco-schlieefer) might not be the right equipment…

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Colorful grashopper. (This time not for eat. A chicken will die by eating it, so might not be good for me as well 😉 )

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I just can not get enough of clouds. Love it!

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The mood at the time of the picture was great. Get in the car or get some shelter. If not now, Wan-Tan?

Exclusive Tour Trough The Mine

I stayed a few days in the mine, but actually I have never been close where there are actually mining. I only saw it from far and never had the chance to see the digging area. Today I got the possibility to make an exclusive tour trough the mine, because the Transport Manager of one of the contractors had to show me the location of the buses and could show parts of the mine where only a few people can go.

Amazing to see how big the trucks are. I always thought my buses are quite high, but here only a tyre can nearly have the same high like my bus. It just seems there is everything a bit bigger than usual.

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The child is the same, only the toys are getting bigger 😉

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By comparing the size of the guy and vehice, you can imagine that is quite a big one.

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How To Survive In A Gold Mine

The life for me in the gold mine as a subcontractor is pretty challenging. As subcontractor I don’t get any coupon for food (which is the only way to eat…) and I don’t get a bed to sleep (which is the only way to sleep). Everything is in a tight budget, that there is no way to get easily what I need. To be in mine means that you fight for survival has started. However, I have a big advantages, that I’m a Muzungu like all the managers in the mine and to get in contact with the these South Africans is pretty easy. It took me quite a time to find the right guy in the supply chain management who was able (and willing) to give me some coupons. Also to find the person of my contractor who is responsible for the rooms was not easy. Nevertheless the people are all so friendly and helpful, which is amazing. Everyone has the same problem and is glad to help. Organisation things are the main issue and if don’t have your spare part, you will wait ages for it…

This is the container where the staff of the contractors sleep. There are quite lot of them. Basically a whole village. In one container there are two rooms with a shared bath room. Quite comfortable, even the only reason is to go there for sleep. Note the lovingly planted tree in the middle of the place.WP_000514

My room or simply my bed. Everything is quite narrow. The spot where I took the picture is not insige my room…

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The Mine

Mining is quite an interesting industry. There are so many things to see and the site looks every day different. One fabric is built there, the crusher is lifted, the mountain is getting smaller and smaller… The whole mine just built now an it is amazing how 1000 people step by step built it.

Some pictures of the mine. It is good visible, where the mountain once will probably be missing…

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On the Road

180 km sounds for European standards not that much. You will do it easily in 1.5 hours. It is like Bern-Zuerich. Here in Congo the things are slightly different, but even the road in Congo is gravel road, the condition is actually not that bad. I mean, it could be worse. The pot holes are fair and also the road does not have any major problems.

With a car the trip takes about 2.5 hours, by lorry about 3.5 hours and with my bus about 6 hours. The condition of the road does not allow it to go too fast, when I want that my air damper, springs and tyres survive. The trip is quite exhausting, as we should be at the border at the closing hours (strategic) and then drive during the evening and night (less pribe for police).

In total I made the trip so far 3 times. When you reach the “60 km bridge”, you just dont want to think about the remaining 120 kilometers.

One time, when we were also bringing 5 tonnes of water there, I had quite queasy feeling, because the wood bridge does not gave me the feeling of being strong enough. But, “if you never try, you never know” and he bridge survived our 7 tonnes of weigth.

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Picture of the full loaded bus. Trunk was completely full, so we had to pack the things on the seats. I brought some matress for my staff. Luckely I brought them this time, so I could sleep on the water with the matress. Usually I sleep on the back seats, but there was water… (When we are arriving at the mine at night, we are not able to sleep somewhere, so the only possebility is the bus, which is usually quite ok.)WP_000441

Kibali Gold Mine or Where to Meet Me for a Beer

As I might mentioned before, the Kibali Gold Mine is in the middle of nowhere in Northeast Congo. There is basically nothing beside the bush. No towns, no infrastructure and only local villages from time to time.  The mine is 180 km located West from Uganda city Arua and can be reached by gravel road.

So if you  are around and plan to visit me, please bring the beer, as I is difficult to get there. Google does not know where the mine is. So just when you reached Aru in Congo, go straight and then turn right. After about 150 km you will find the mine. 😉

Unbenannt

Some impressions of the ride there:

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The bush

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Gravel road with some locals.

Congo the Second

Dear follower, now I got time to write some lines. It was quite a long time ago when I was writing my last article, but at least I have a lot of interesting things to tell.

When I arrived in Kampala after 3 weeks of Switzerland, I was immediately back to business. There was no time to even arrive, relax or sleep. Tired, after the flight, I arrived during the day and had to leave Kampala at the same day to Arua (8 hours bus drive during the night). So I just jumped on the night bus and left Kampala, as this contract with the Mine was really urgent and I had to deliver the bus. I m happy that all the files where already prepared, assurance papers ready and a plan how to bring the bus quickly to Congo was available. I got in connection with a local Ugandan-Congolese, so it should not be a problem and only expensive.

View out of my friend’s house on the town in the morning before I left Arua to Congo:

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On the Way Back in Town

Im on the way back to Kampala.Interessting time is waiting for me. Challenges as usual, contracts, shifting, congo…
Fun fact: In todays globalisation Im not meeting my family at home,Im meet them in lounge. I wish you a good flight, Mom!;-)

Funny, the World is so Small…

Ha, amazing, today I got a facebook message of a friend, who told me that his friend is not in Uganda! What a coincidence! The world is just too small. Beside he is Uganda, he also has a blog. Just great. It is a pleasure to meet you Jan and hope to see you soon in Uganda by eating Nsenene… 😉

Last Week and a Promising Deal

My last week in Uganda, before I had back for a few weeks to Switzerland, started pretty hectic. I was waiting for the “Go” Decision of my land lord/agent/colleague who want to introduce me to a few interesting muzungus: Managers of one of the Kibali Gold Mine (www.randgoldresources.com) in Congo. The Kibali gold mine, which is owned by Randgold resources, Anglo Gold Ashanti and Sokimo is expected to be the largest gold mine in Africa when completed. As they  are currently lacking in buses and transport, they asked us if buses are for rent. This would be a good chance to improve the business and rent buses for a long term.

Thus I took the chance to go Congo in beginning of the week in order to visit the mine and people. The schedule is tight, but possible. However after a 8 hour bus drive (in my own bus) to Arua, I planed to go to Congo on the following day. Pretty tired and after only 3 hours sleep we went in direction to border of Congo on the following morning. The street was a dusty road where we passed a lot of small village with the traditional mud houses (also called “huts”).

The leaving-Uganda-Procedere was pretty easy. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere was a house with the immigration officer, who stamped passport. A few kilometers later and by passing other villages, we arrived on the border of Congo. The entry procedure to Congo supposed to be pretty easy, as I only have to pay 50 USD for Visa. Unfortunately the price remained not at 50 USD as several people told me, the price was about 200 USD and there it is: “To less money (USD) for Visa.” Basically not so bad, as I just go back to get some money, not so good, as I’m stucked between two countries in the middle of nowhere (left Uganda, but not entered in Congo) and passport is locked in immigration officer’s office and no ATM far and wide.

After 5 hours of waiting for getting my passport from the officer who left for a “meeting” (or lunch), I finally could proceed from the immigration officer to the security office who asked me a lot question why im don’t have a visa… Finally, when it was late in the afternoon, I got my passport somehow back and where able to leave.

After getting back to Uganda, I decided not to go back to Congo on the next day, as it spoils my planing completely. My partner is coming on the following day and flight was too soon and I did not want to risk anything. However, I failed to get to the promising customers, but the deal is still ongoing. I will send my local Station Manager to finalize the things and maybe next time it is even more worth to go again…

Could it Be More Interesting? (3/3)

Next part of my daily drive is more of a industrial area with lots vehicles. Most of them are vehicle for the construction businss like canes, digger and cranes for break downs. However, so far so good.

Shortly afterwards the Boda heads into the city, which is pretty congested. Depends on the way the driver takes (there are about 4 different possiblities), mostly we are on the main road and passing the Sika Dealer or go through the old town. The last part of the drive is the most challenging one for a motor bicycle, as there are so many people, taxis and cars. And on this party Im so happy that I took the Boda, because it just would takes ages to pass with a car…

Could it Be More Interesting? (2/3) or Drive-trough-IKEA

After leaving Kansanga I drive though Kabalagala. The people say, in Kabalagala is “nothing” (only party the whole night). It is kind of the party place for local people. In the evening hours (from 5 pm to 3 am) always sound, light and entertainment. Usually there is not much to see during the day, only in the night it is getting crowed…

After the party town, the way passed by “le petit village”, which is kind of a small village which is made for tourist. It seems to be nice and lot of tourists are there. I want to check out this place sooner or later, as there seems to be a bakery (!) and other small shops. Oh my god, to eat some piece of ordinary bread or cake would be unbelievable…

Directly after passing the tourist place, America Embassy follows. To be honest I was a bit surprise about the size of the building. It is just huge and as always that building is protected like they would store a tons of gold. Funny as paranoid the americans are, the huge fences, police and military guard, check point and so on (compared to the Swiss Embassy, which is a small villa without any security). I guess if they would not threat others, they would not be threatened…

After no stopping, no photographing and no parking another interesting part of Kampala is following: I call it “Drive trough IKEA”. On the left and right side of the road furnishings are manufactured and exhibited. Bed, Sofas cupboard, just everything. It is amazing how the people manufacture all the goods with limited tools. Everything is handcrafts and unique! No plywood, no veneer, just wonderful!

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Could it Be More Interesting? (1/3) or Not for Vegetarians…

As I mentioned before, the main (public) transport system in Kampala are Boda-Boda’s (motorcycle). It is convenient and fast and basically a lot of people travel with it. So what do you need more?

My daily Boda-Boda ride to the office takes usually 30 min and passes many interesting places. When I leave my home and step to the street it takes in the best case about 1 second and in the worst case (rain) on minute or even more until I have spotted or I have been spotted by a Boda.

My drive starts in Kansanga, where a lot of Muzungus (term for a person of foreign descent) lives. I don’t know why I like to spot them, but it is kind of a game to try to find out what the are doing in this part of the town. Are they tourists (-> impossible and unlikely) or are they business people (-> possible, but not likely) or are they working for a (charity) organisation (-> possible and likely).

However, while I’m spotting for some Muzungus I drive through a small market where vegetable, fruits, fish, meet and animals are sold. Pretty interesting what is going on there. Quite busy and nice to see what fruit just arrived and which is the “fish of the day”. Markets in Uganda work somehow different then I am used in Europe. Basically it is also all about trading, but the presentation of products is different: Fruits and vegetable are always stapled like a pyramid for a nice appearance, while meat and fish is presented on a bare table (without cooling). After discussion with locals, it is no problem to present fish and meat during one day at 25 °C. Interesting to see as I put my meat in Switzerland always as soon as possible in the fridge, fearing I could get a food poison by keep it at room temperature for a single minute…

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Market at the street

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Butcher with the presentation of goat meat.

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Fresh fish, vegetables and …

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“fresh” chicken is also available… (Chicken can not be bought “ready-for-cooking”. You choose the chicken and it will be prepared for you. One alive chicken is sold for about 7 CHF).

That Makes Me Addicted!

Actually I am strong minded and not influenced by other people or things, but sometimes I just can not resist. How can I deny the things what comes out of the soil in this area? I just fancy it so much:

Sugar cane: Sweet & unbelievable juicy and better than every Soda!

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Fruit juice: Freshly made with only ripen fruits, everyday slightly different and of course served in a used Gin bottle. Wow!

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And last but not least, as mentioned before:

Nsenene: Fried grasshopper with a mild dressing and a whiff of lemon juice. It is fireworks of tastes on your tongue!

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Is Kampala Secure?

In all countries were I have lived or travelled before I sooner or later ask myself the question: “How secure is it here right now?” The question arises especially in countries were the gab between a monthly salary in Switzerland is still bigger compared to an annual salary of a local. So there could be a reason to feel insecure.

Often I ask local people how the country was before today and what has changed in the recent years. It is quite frightening how Kampala was a few decades ago or even a few years. As I heard there was quite a rough time in the 80’s where a human life was not more worth that a kilogram of tomatoes. People took what belongs to them (or at least what they thought belongs to them). The habitants could not sleep when there was not gun fire during the nights… It just seemed to be wild west.

Fortunately time changed, war between Tanzania and Idi Amin are over and some law & order came over Uganda. Police office was built in front of my office, thieves are catched and no major criminal issues were observed. When I walk trough the city nowadays I feel secure (at least during day time). The people are all friendly, busy and no one is really aware that a Muzungu walks trough the town. In front of buildings like banks, currency exchange offices or bigger stores are security and thus the whole city is kind of under surveillance. I am sometimes not so sure how good security are, but at least people feel safe. (It is interesting, that everyone carries an assault rifle instead of a gun and I hope they never need to shoot so much that they afterwards need to use the bayonet…)

At night I am more cautious. People are drunk, streets are dark and empty and I am happy if I am not so much exposed. Usually when we go home after our night bus, we leave the office to get one of our (known & trusted) boda guy who know where to drive us home safely.

 

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Strongest People Alive

For me it is still unbelievable, how everything is going with nearly no technical utilities. In the building where our office is, are a lot people who are trading with goods like flour, wheat or sugar. It is a perfect example! As I mentioned in a an article before, many good are traded from Kampala to the northern region of Uganda or to South Sudan. So a lot of people are buying one kind of product and keep it in a store like in the picture below. Now the amazing thing is how they put all the bags in the room? One bag is 50 kg and thus on the picture below you see good of more than 12 tones. Amazingly, these bags were all brought by people without any technical equipment.
Often these loader carry two bags (100 kg!) on the shoulder or on the head from the outside lorry up stairs to these rooms, where they are stored for a few days and then sold again.
The loaders do an amazingly hard job. Respect!

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It is Uganda, …

  • … when fruits are sweet like candy.
  • … when the weather is always between 20 °C and 30 °C and sunny with occasional short showers.
  • … when the bus leaves 6 hours late and passengers are tolerating.
  • … when it is common that the bus leaves 5 min before official departure, even a passenger is missing.
  • … when employees get captured by police and accused to be part of a 300 Million bank robbery.
  • … when time and money solves everything.
  • … when it is raining in the morning and employees coming up to 4 hour late for work.
  • … when it is raining in the morning and thus no customers are booking.
  • … when it is usual that people work 6 to 7 days a week (up to 12 hours a day).
  • … when the first monthly salary belongs to the person who gave/organised the job.
  • … when people immediately get up and offers the chair to the boss who just enters the room.
  • … when a plate of chicken with rice costs 1-2 CHF and a bottle of coke (33 cl) 0.4 CHF.
  • … when I see differences to Switzerland and think how complicated Switzerland can be…
  • … when I miss chocolate, Fondue, bread, friends and family.
  • … when locals wear winter jackets when the temperature drops below 20 °C.
  • … when people bit the hand which is feeding them.
  • … when people are always smiling, friendly and never lose hope!