Six months have gone by since I set foot on Ugandan soil for the first time. It is not easy to put these six months into words; do justice to everything and everyone that has been important to me and the project; and not sound too cheesy or cliché when saying that I will miss Uganda and my friends here.
On the 23rd of March I will be meeting with the Founders of the Yoba for Life Foundation in Amsterdam to report on what I have done during my assignment to Uganda. Regrettably, I won’t be able to tell them that Yoba has already become one of the most popular dairy products in Uganda. What I will be able to tell them, is that we have managed to develop a product (I just had to chase the goat out of my room) that does not only improve health, but is also evaluated as tastier than other yoghurt by Ugandan consumers. Realizing this vast potential, the Ugandan Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) has now agreed to continue the production of Yoba on its own, meaning that we have our first big scale producer of Yoba. In addition, the Ugandan Dairy Development Authority is so enthusiastic about Yoba, they want to launch a governmental health awareness campaign outlining the benefits of Yoba yoghurt. In short, all the obstacles in the way to the big scale launch of Yoba have been removed, and it is Ugandan institutes and businesses that will make it happen.
Besides trying to get Yoba on the ground in Uganda, the most interesting part of this internship was certainly to solve the puzzles and mysteries of Ugandan culture. While I felt like it would be easy to adapt to the culture in the beginning, I now realize that there are many ideas, ways of thinking, ways of living and ways of talking that I still can’t get my head around. The most obvious example is probably the use of the English language in Uganda, where words are not only pronounced differently, they often acquire a completely different meaning. In my second month I was shocked when a girl told me nonchalantly that she was “abused” by her ex-boyfriend the other night. I was relieved to find out that “to abuse” in Ugandan English commonly refers to “insult”. Similarly, I remember wondering how my student friends had so much time to read in their exam period, until I found out that Ugandans use the word reading for studying. There are what feels like a million other examples of curiosities in the Ugandan culture, and I am still a long way from understanding all of them. Nevertheless, I have come to feel at home here, to the degree that I sometimes find myself using “Ugandan English” even when talking to someone from Europe.
After all, I think it is time for the cheesy part: The mysteries of the microbiology lab and Ugandan culture would have been impossible to solve without the help of my colleagues and friends. Also, it simply would not have been as great a time as it was without the company of so many nice people. I want to say special thanks to Remco and Wilbert, for this great opportunity; to Tiziana, for getting Yoba started; to the UIRI microbiology team, for making work and life easier and more enjoyable (in particular to Jean, for being Jean); to Seba, for being so incredibly selfless, a perfect party companion and simply a great friend; to Jenthe, for her determination to do stupid things; to Ahu, for welcoming me into his family, his poetry group, and most importantly for all the sincere talks and sharing “the curse of Trudy”; to Rosemary, for the cheerfulness she radiates and her charming, blatant honesty; to my family and my friends at home, for having let me go, many skype talks, and for looking forward to my return; and finally, to Chris, for being the definition of a good person and a true friend.
There are many more people that deserve being mentioned, but I have to find a balance between boring the reader and upsetting the “non-mentioned”. And I’m running out of creative compliments. So thanks to everyone for making my stay a success for Yoba and an unforgettable experience for myself.
On that note I want to say Good Bye to Uganda. I am confident to have left my bacterial Yoba children in good care, and I hope to return one day to see my friends and buy a Yoba yoghurt in every shop I go to.
Thanks for reading,
Ps: I’m a bit scared of the cold. The temperature has dropped to 25°C today and I’m freezing.