Hello my faithful readers,
I fear I will have to start this blog in the way that I begin most emails: Sorry for not writing for so long, but life is really overtaking me at the moment!
Almost two weeks ago, Chris and me were confronted with an unpleasant choice. Since our visas were about to expire, we would either have to risk paying a high fine or leave Uganda for a few days and get a new visa upon re-entry. After careful consideration we agreed that a short trip to Rwanda would be the lesser evil; and shortly after boarded a bus to Kigali with two friends.
Coming into Kigali from Uganda the first thing you notice is how clean, safe, and well organized the city is. While the most common mode of transportation is still a small motorbike like in Uganda, we were amused to see that drivers in Rwanda always wear a helmet and even carry one for their passenger. Also, they don’t ever seem to exceed speed limits and are careful to let pedestrians cross the zebra crossings. Already wondering if we were really still in Africa, the “public eco-toilets” left us completely confused. Unfortunately however, Kigali seems to have not much more to offer than those small wonders of infrastructure and order, which is why we set off to explore rural Rwanda the next day.
The Rwandan countryside is, in one word, beautiful. I’m afraid my description of the landscape will sound as horribly cheesy as the Lonely Planet, but the green, lush, terraced hills and mountains that spread all over the country are simply breathtaking. If looking at the sceneries is not enough to leave you without breath, walking around in it will definitely do the job. So we spent next three days hiking around in the hills and mountains of Rwanda and southern Uganda. The trails we followed reminded us of the little hiking-paths you might find in the Alps, only that they often represented the only connection of some little village to the nearest trading center or simply a road. While this seemed like a very romantic idea to us in the beginning, we realized what this means to the people who live in such remote places when we reached a passage of the trail that was washed down the hill by the last rain. Chris and me were standing in front of the gulp where the trail used to be when two women with heavy bundles on their heads arrived at the spot. Climbing around the gap was a little adventure for Chris and me, but the two women would have had to return home or walk a long way to find an alternative route had we not been able to help them lift their bags across. I suppose they could not appreciate the beauty and thrill of the hike as much as we did.
Wednesday morning we arrived back in Uganda and did what everybody likes best after a nightly bus journey over potholed streets – work. However, our colleagues at the lab did not really notice how tired we looked since our sunburns demanded their full attention. Especially Jean, who has become a very good friend by now, was dying to know why our skin keeps on changing color (“It was white in the beginning, then it got a bit browner, and now its just pink.”). It was also Jean who first realized how amusing it must be to us that our colleagues at the lab keep on complaining about too much work. After a little discussion we agreed that the workload could be completed by two efficient, focused employees. The laboratory employs 10 scientist who constantly moan about being too busy and keep on wondering why Chris and me are so serious about work.
As for the contents of our work, we were experiencing a few problems with our bacterial babies recently. For some mysterious reason, our children were not performing well in the test at the end of every day. In particular, they did not grow or improve at all during the entire day. As caring parents, we had to resort to more drastic measures when we realized the futility of our motivational speeches. Instead of simply assessing their growth at the end of the day, we peeked into their rooms every 15 minutes to monitor their performance in terms of PH-values. Even though we had a bad conscience for this brutal invasion of privacy, the investigation clearly paid off. We found out that the reason for the poor performance was not laziness, but over-determination. At 45°C temperature, our little babies were so determined to grow as quickly as possible that they used up all their energy within the first half of the day. Consequently, they were so tired and inactive by the end of the day that we found them to be utterly inactive and disappointing at the end-of-day tests. Happy to see that it was all just a misunderstanding, we apologized to Lactobacillus Yoba and promised to reduce the daily working hours for all of them.
The problem being resolved, we are now back on track to bring Yoba on the market by the end of this year. Personally however, I think I will continue to suffer from the consequences of this investigation – Two days after finishing the experiment, I just can’t stop checking the clock every few minutes to make sure I don’t miss the next 15 minutes measurement.
Talking about long-term damages resulting from this internship, I want to use this opportunity to advertise the position of our successor(s). While we are confident about being able to bring our babies to the market before the end of February, we would be sad to leave them out there without any guidance when we leave. So if you feel that a leading a social project in a chaotic, unpredictable but peaceful and stimulating environment is exactly the right challenge for you, we will be glad to tell you more about the Yoba side of Life.
I hope to have enough electric and mental energy left after work in the upcoming days to write more frequently.
Happy and exhausted greetings from the Pearl of Africa,