Friday, May 8, 2009

Early Perceptions

Post by Prof Root: The class has now met multiple times during the Spring semester and we have had many discussions relating to Uganda. However it is often academic perceptions based on books and discussions differ from the "real world." Prof Bishop and I were recently discussing how you do not really understand a country and its culture until you experience it first hand. Therefore we that it would be interesting to hear the members of the class discuss the views concerning their expectations of what they will experience while in Uganda, then we will check back after and during the trip to see how those perceptions are changed. Please comment on your perception of the people, places, and culture. Questions you may want to address -- what do you expect to discover? what parts of the trip are you most looking forward to? what do you believe are the largest obstacles to achieving sustainable development in Uganda? (do you have possible solutions in mind?). Also please tell us what your views are based upon -- presentations in class, your outside research, movies, books, etc. Only two weeks until we arrive!

18 comments:

  1. I don't really expect the rich jungles people often associate with Africa. I picture more of a desert savanna environment mainly with some forest or thicker vegetation areas. As far as the types of buildings I image the more urban areas are made up of buildings built around the 1950s and 60s and under only moderate repair and in the more areas houses with tin roofs and not a whole lot else around each one. I'm basically basing my whole image on the movie "Blood Diamond" which I realize is on the opposite coast.

    I think it will still be a good time. I imagine the people being real friendly. Of course there's going to be places with folks who aren't of the good intentions and certainly not everyone can be trusted, but I imagine the students we'll be meeting with to be real welcoming and gracious. I understand there's going to be a number of cultural things we differ on, but I'll bet there'll be a surprising amount we have in common.

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  2. I have to agree and feel that you do not really understand a country and its’ culture until you visit the country and see the people first hand. I think that a lot of Americans have a romanticized view of countries in Africa. I know that I imagine wildlife and a lack of development. A lot of this perception is from what we read in the news and see in movies regarding Africa. I feel that this view is constructed and is excited to see how my perceptions that I have today are wrong and will be corrected after studying in Uganda.

    I think that the people in Uganda are going to vastly different than me in some aspects. This is what makes me most excited for the rural visits. I am really excited to experience the mundane encounters that a Ugandan has. I think that this is the best way to learn about a culture: to experience everyday encounters. I do not imagine a Ugandan driving in a car to soccer practice, then stopping at Spikes for a sandwich on his or her way to class, then walking home to an apartment to put clothes in the washing machine. But also, because of a romanticized view of Uganda and life there, I think that I underestimate the amount of technology that they use. This will be interesting for me to see while there. As for the class that we study with in Uganda, I expect them to be friendly people who are eager to learn about sustainable development. I think that they will be as excited to learn about us and our culture as we are to learn about them and their culture. I am excited for this part of the trip as well, to meet Ugandans our age and to get to know them.

    I have read a lot about conservation of rainforests for the sake of the gorillas. I have studied Dian Fossey in my spare time, am intrigued by her work with gorillas, and passion in conservation for these magnificent animals. So, I am excited to study conservation efforts in the Bwindi Imperetrable Nation Park, where many species, including gorillas, call it home. Because I am an environmental policy major, I take many classes regarding the environment and conservation is a particular topic of interest to me. Fossey focused her work in the forests of Rwanda, but I am excited to learn about conservation of the ecosystem in a developing country like Uganda. It will be interesting to see how human pressures such as development counteract means to achieve conservation. I have seen pictures of rainforests on the borders of two countries in South America, where one country has savored the biome and the other has destructed it. Most destruction of the environment comes from human encounters and profitability, so I am excited to learn how Uganda faces human pressures and I am excited to learn about the pressure conservationists have faced and what battles have been fought.

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  3. I can not fully imagine everything I will encounter, seeing as I haven't ever been outside the United States, and for that matter, much outside of Iowa. I envision lots of shacks and really rutted, terrible dirt roads. I can't imagine many buildings higher than three stories, but who knows.

    I am looking forward to the rural visit because I have heard lots of positive things from all the professors regarding it. I'm also looking forward to the firsthand interactions with the Ugandan Business School students. I think I will be able to pull away how truly blessed we are in America from their lifetime experiences.

    I feel like everything starts with a strong infrastructure, and that is something that Uganda is completely lacking. Transportation is key for trade and commerce, but the country is not set up to be successful with the current infrastructure. It would open so many doors for the Ugandan people and also make the country more attractive to interactions with many other countries who are looking to expand their target market audience. I feel like I need to physically see the infrastructure before I develop any possible solutions to the problem, though.

    I do not have any knowledge about Uganda from anywhere outside of our pre-trip sessions. All of my comments are based on discussions we have had as a group and from the presentations.

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  4. Before I plan for a trip, big or small, I love to have the itinerary mapped out completely. I will visit the websites of everywhere I plan to go, making sure the locale will be everything I hoped for...but how do you plan when most of the places you're going don't have a website? This is the first trip for which I feel unprepared, and that makes me feel a little uneasy. But I trust that the professors know what they're doing, so that gives me some reassurance.

    I hope we will be pleasantly surprised by the generosity of the people we meet in Uganda. I think they will be very friendly and helpful. One of my friends recently took a trip to Sudan, saying he was treated like a rock star, which made him feel welcome and undeserving at the same time. After all, who are we to be treated as rock stars? I think it's important that we go into the country with an attitude of humility to show that we are the learners, and the citizens of Uganda are our teachers.

    I am most looking forward to my one-on-one interactions with the students at Makerere University Business School. It sounds like these students will become our new best friends as they give us tours of the area. I can imagine learning a lot from these students just by following their everyday routine.

    I'm also expecting some substantial culture shock, as the closest I have come to a poverty-stricken area is Skid Row in Los Angeles. I can imagine that some areas of Uganda will make our "bad neighborhoods" look pretty fortunate. And I know the infrastructure will take some getting used to as well. I just pray that a building won't fall on me while I'm walking down a pothole-filled street.

    I think one of the biggest obstacles for Uganda to become a self-sustainable democracy is establishing accountability. It seems that President Museveni loves to play the blame game when it comes to the many problems Uganda faces. He recently threatened to hang engineers for the collapsing buildings in Kampala. I see this blaming as a big waste of time, and instead, Museveni should focus on moving forward with results, not threats.

    I am glad that Uganda's two main newspapers have online editions so I can at least get a sense of what's going on in the country before I leave. It may not provide me with all the visual depictions of the places I am about to visit, but it at least gives me a sense of what the country is facing on an everyday basis.

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  5. I agree with the idea that you cannot truly experience a country without first visiting it. I expect the people will be very friendly and welcoming; however I do feel that there will be a bit of culture shock when we look at the difference between the daily lives of a Ugandan compared to our daily lives. I’m not expecting grass huts with no running water but I’m also not expecting the Marriott. I really expect to see a huge difference between the city of Kampala and the more rural areas as far as development goes; however I know my views of what I expect will be drastically different once we have spent some time in Uganda.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing what the daily lives of Ugandans are like, especially during the rural visit and by spending time with the student from the university. As far as sustainability goes I would like to look at the perceptions the people of Uganda have towards it and see what their attitude towards becoming a sustainable country is. I expect to gain a lot from this trip and I can’t wait to leave. I believe this is going to be a real eye opener and can't wait for it to begin.

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  6. From talking to students that have previously participated in this experience, I expect to have a life-changing experience. Though some of the culture and customs are different from ours, I know that I will take away a number of things that I will apply to my life.

    I am looking forward to exploring my research topic on healthcare and dentistry. It is important that I am able to use my knowledge and previous research done by others to make information and resources more readily available.

    I am most excited for the primary school visit. Children have an innocence about them and I have always felt like if you want to know how they feel about something they will be completely honest with you. They can teach you a lot if you listen. I know the children from Uganda will not only teach me about their everyday lives, but they will also open my eyes to so many things.

    Sustainable Development in Uganda...I think that if there was one exact solution to solving Uganda's "problems", prayerfully they would have already been implemented. Though we have researched the economy, healthcare, etc. I do not feel like I will completely be able to understand Uganda's needs until I am immersed in the lifestyle. Agreeing with Jennifer, I am interested to see what the Ugandan's think about steps toward sustainable development.

    We are all trully blessed to be able to travel abroad to experience the people, culture and customs of Uganda. I am soooo excited, but I must admit nervous as well. I know that our hosts will show us a great hospitality.

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  7. I really do not know how to desribe the assumptions that I have on Uganda right now. I grew up in a farming community in rural Iowa and really have not left the state that much. I have taken a couple trips across the country and also spent a couple weeks in Europe. But, that has been the scope of my travel and in these travels, I have only visted developed areas. Therefore, I do not know what an impoverished area looks like in the United States and am having troubles drawing a conclusion for what to expect in Uganda.

    However, based off of in-class presentations and the research that I have done on my own, I expect the cities that we visit to be less modern than cities in the Midwest. I expect that healthcare will be an issue as the country does not have the budget to support it and that infrastructure will also be an issue. I am particularly interested in talking with healthcare individuals in Uganda and government officials to learn what the country is doing at the time to achieve sustainability.

    For the citizens in Uganda, I would bet, overall, that they lead happy and fulfilled lives. Here in America, achieving financial success is not hard. But, with that comes many problems. People become materialistic and start focusing on whats not important. As the drift occurs, relationships with family and friendships deterioate and the overall quality of life decreases. In a developed society like ours, people care primarly only about themselves and thier families. I am interested to see how this diffes in Uganda. They do not have all of the materialistic objects that we have to defer them from friends and family. They may have a richer culture and lifestyle than we do. Im guessing that they have a tighter community as they care more about one another than we do.

    Overall, I am excited to arrive in Uganda and see these differences for myself.

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  8. My Uganda expectations have transformed over the past months. When I signed up for the class, my expectations were of a highly underdeveloped country with a multitude of resources that are underused. Previous classes on sustainable development have shaped my past views. This would transform itself into rundown buildings, homes with air quality issues and water population, among other things. However, this maybe slightly true I notice now after taking the class notice the huge potential of Uganda.

    I have a hope to see cities with a massive amount of economic activity, vendors and shoppers all around. As well, tons of jobs not typically thought of in the United States but still highly productive workers making a living. This is the part I am most looking forward to, seeing how the Ugandan people survive day to day. I imagine long workdays centered on providing for their families. Furthermore, this will inspire me because I know this is where my interest will come in, microfinance. I know this maybe very stereotypical but it is what I see in my head. I have never been outside of North America and I look forward to experiencing the differences, particularly the different views and perceptions of the world. I believe they will be friendly, outgoing and amazing people. I only hope that we can reciprocate the kindness I imagine we will receive.

    As far as a solution for sustainable development, I believe that microcredit can play a huge role in helping Uganda’s cause. Motivating and creating creativity for the Uganda people is where it all should begin. This is exactly what microcredit can do.

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  9. I honestly have no idea what to expect in going to Uganda. I have traveled to Europe and Japan which are both fairly industrialized and developed areas of the world. So going to Uganda, which is a much less developed country, I expect a more simplistic way of life. I expect to discover many things that I take for granted in the United States. From what I hear from former students, Uganda is filled with very kind people and I look forward to getting to know them and learn about their lives.

    I am looking forward to many things in Uganda. I am excited to the visit at Queen Elizabeth National Park and witness these different kinds of animals in their own environment and not at a zoo. Also I am excited for the Rural Visit and to get a chance to see a different way in which people live in Uganda.

    I also am looking forward into going more in depth in my research on corruption in Uganda. My preliminary research shows that the Ugandan people perceive government as being fairly corrupt. In one of the surveys I examined 59 percent of Ugandans surveyed thought of corruption as being common with elected officials. If there is a high level of mistrust between public officials and the citizens it could severely hinder the cooperation necessary for political sustainability.

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  10. From doing some research of my own and also listening to the presentations in class my perceptions of Uganda have changed. Particularly the last presentation had the most impact on my perceptions of Uganda. The picture of Kampala’s skyline really surprised me and I am excited to see this first hand and also to see how Kampala compares to the rural areas.

    As many have mentioned I believe that the people in Uganda will be very kind and as eager to learn about us as we are them. I am particularly excited to speak with Ugandans at the University and see what their daily lives consist of. I think this might surprise me as we may have more in common than I think. I also believe that I will really appreciate the people in Uganda, as I picture them more at ease and just happier with the things life bring them. I am also looking forward to seeing the soccer culture.

    As far as sustainability goes I feel like there is a lot that needs to be addressed and I’m not quite sure what those things are, at least specifically to Uganda. I am excited to learn about what Ugandans think about the issue and what their top priorities are in their attempt achieve this. Additionally, I am really eager to study my topic further. Health care in Uganda seems a little crazy and I would like to see this firsthand. The differences between the health care in Kampala and in the more rural areas will be very interesting. Reading about the inequalities in health care is sad to me and I really would like to hear about this more from local Ugandans in the field and other locals. This may bring grounds as to why there are so many problems that occur within the health care sector.

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  11. I think that the comment about how we cannot really understand a country and its culture until we experience it first hand can be applied to so many things in addition to countries and cultures. Nonetheless, I agree with the statement entirely. Currently, I have some of my own perceptions of Uganda as well as those of other people since that was the project that my group members and I had to present to the class. However, I don’t like to hold many “perceptions” of things just incase those perceptions are incorrect. Therefore, I do not know/perceive much about Uganda at the moment, but I really can’t wait to change that.

    Here’s what I expect. I’m a rather practical person and as such I expect some practicality. During this modern day, I would think that there would be a major city, with larger buildings as well as some smaller dwellings, maybe huts. While my group was researching for our presentation we found that a few people thought that everybody still lived in huts, which we found out was not true. As far as the geography of the land goes, I expect that it will be rather diverse. It’s on the equator so there’s probably going to be some solid vegetation as well as some drier areas since Africa is pretty well known for its deserts.

    What I expect, and hope, to discover is a deeper understanding of the people of Uganda and how they function day to day. I want to understand their cultural norms and what’s goes through their minds when they make different decisions.

    What I believe is one of the largest obstacles to achieving sustainable development in Uganda is to get them to do something their not use to doing. Currently, what I believe, is that they work day-to-day doing what they know works for them because that will guarantee them, usually, food for tomorrow. Therefore, if they were to step anywhere outside of that comfort zone it would be considered a risk for them.

    Hopefully, I'll be able to sort this all out in 11 days!

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  12. My overall goal of this trip plays more as an evidence role for a belief that I already have. In America, we take so much for granted. I will never deny that I satisfy wants that are unnecessary and extravagant. However, it’s when we take these things for granted that we lose touch with what is truly important in life. These primal things that are important to being are what I expect to find in Uganda.

    While family is considered important in America, I believe I will see a different sense of family in Uganda. I believe the general population there considers family to include everyone from children to distant relatives to their friends. I imagine a sense of community where people are more equal and work to help others sustain their lives. Rather than purchasing a designer bag, I imagine a woman with a little extra money buying extra food or a practical item to share with the community.

    Going into Uganda, I believe I have such a misconception about how developed some parts are. While I imagine the 3rd world as being completely undeveloped, I find it fascinating how urbanized Kampala is. Even more interesting to me is the university, Makerere. To finally have access to computers, yet not have the electricity to support them is beyond me. Having computers/internet allows access to knowledge students could never imagine otherwise. I also hold a double standard that internet is not needed and only leads to wants that are not necessary. The contradiction of wanting them to have a ‘better’ life and wanting them to keep hold of their culture and values is hard for me. In the end, just because we (as Americans) believe a ‘better’ life means technology and tangible objects doesn’t mean that it is right.

    While I’m expecting to be treated as a guest and an American, I wish I could be completely immersed in the culture and treated equally. I do not want the special treatment. And while I know people are going to look at us and be interested in us, I believe it’s important that we transfer knowledge between each other. I will strive to make it more than a one way educational experience.

    (Sorry this is late, I was in Philadelphia with rowing when we got the e-mail and I did not have internet access or read the e-mail until right now. Once again, so much taken for granted.)
    While family is considered important in America, I believe I will see a different sense of family in Uganda. I believe the general population there considers family to include everyone from children to distant relatives to their friends. I imagine a sense of community where people are more equal and work to help others sustain their lives. Rather than purchasing a designer bag, I imagine a woman with a little extra money buying extra food or a practical item to share with the community.
    Going into Uganda, I believe I have such a misconception about how developed some parts are. While I imagine the 3rd world as being completely undeveloped, I find it fascinating how urbanized Kampala is. Even more interesting to me is the university, Makerere. To finally have access to computers, yet not have the electricity to support them is beyond me. Having computers/internet allows access to knowledge students could never imagine otherwise. I also hold a double standard that internet is not needed and only leads to wants that are not necessary. The contradiction of wanting them to have a ‘better’ life and wanting them to keep hold of their culture and values is hard for me. In the end, just because we (as Americans) believe a ‘better’ life means technology and tangible objects doesn’t mean that it is right.
    While I’m expecting to be treated as a guest and an American, I wish I could be completely immersed in the culture and treated equally. I do not want the special treatment. And while I know people are going to look at us and be interested in us, I believe it’s important that we transfer knowledge between each other. I will strive to make it more than a one way educational experience.
    (Sorry this is late, I was in Philadelphia with rowing when we got the e-mail and I did not have internet access or read the e-mail until right now. Once again, so much taken for granted.)

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  13. Right now I really don't know what to expect to find in Uganda. My guess is that the nicer parts of Kampala won't be too different then some of the smaller cities in the U.S, but as we get farther away (i.e Rural visit) I expect things to change drastically. As far as the people are concerned i'm curious to find out what they consider to be luxuries, and how they function day to day without some of the amenities we take for granted.

    What i'm most excited for on this trip is the rural visit, because I'm guessing that it will provide a better insight as to what life might have been like worldwide before some of the technological advances that have come about.

    As far as achieving sustainable development is concerned, my first thought is that providing an education to a greater percentage of the population will be the most important/most difficult factor. It can be hard for people without an education to see the benefit of getting one, and even harder to afford one.

    At this point some of my perceptions are based on my research, but mostly i'm just guessing, trying to understand a world i've never experienced.

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  14. I'm not sure what to expect on this trip. The only concrete expectation I have right now is to learn a lot and soak up all the information I can (if that is concrete). I'm excited because this will be my first time out of the United States, and I have been looking forward to going to Africa for a while now. I have a bunch of friends from all around the African continent, and I have heard a lot about it. Now I will get a chance to witness a different way of life first hand. While in Uganda I hope to discount some of the stereotypes I have been exposed to and replace them with "real life" experiences. I'm usually not the one to believe the hype--but I hope this trip will be as informative and memorable as everyone says it will be.

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  15. To be honest, I expect a lot of stares and a lot of questions. With a large amount of us being caucasian and it being fairly obvious that we are American, I know we will attract a lot of attention, specifically in more rural areas. I expect to hear many pre-conceived notions of what the U.S. is like. I expect to see poverty in an array of forms, and I expect to see people who work hard for what they have. I also expect to find people devoted to their culture.

    I am most looking forward to the rural visit. I am immensely interested in the agriculture of the country, its production, its sustainability, its transportation, and its consumption. I think that some of the largest obstacles for producers revolve around a lack of transportation for crops and the inability to grow the type or amount of crops they would like. While in India I shared a bus seat with a farmer who has needed financial help the past few years. However, he is only able to obtain a subsidy if he agrees to grow more mangos and less of other things he wishes to grow more of. I wonder if the government of Ugand or NGO's have put in place in programs like this in Uganda. Obviously NGO's can put whatever restrictions they like on the money they give and I am curious to learn what different farmers have had to battle. As to the possible solutions, it is obvious that the answer lies in being independent of foreign investors. However, with a government that has little money and takes little action, it is difficult for any farmer to become independent. It seems to me that two possible ways of improving the issue is to better pave roads to make it easier and less costly to transport crops, and to also put some sort of land grant system into place to allow farmers to increase their crop yield and possibly get ahead enough to not need a subsidy and eventually pay off the land in the future when capital has been made.

    I suppose most of my views have been formed from other travels I have taken and from growing up in the agricultural state of Iowa. I am excited to get to Uganda and see first-hand the possibilities that exist there.

    (PS- sorry this is late!! I've been on a two-day train up to hamachal pradesh and haven't had access to internet in a while.)

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  16. My perception of Uganda might be more romanticized than it really is. I envision the landscape to be colorful, vibrant and very green. I also picture lots of wildlife in rural areas. Maybe this is just because seeing a lion in the wild would completely make my trip, but I can't help but picture a big lion running through a green empty field on the side of the road. However, that's when I start to realize that I am once again fantasizing about living inside the movie, "The Lion King". I know that this fantasy-world I like to picture is exaggerated from what will really be there, however, I do think that there will be lots of beautiful and colorful wildlife, and I can't wait to see it!

    I am really excited to meet the Ugandan people. I am very curious about what their everyday lives consist of. I imagine that the people there will be far more laid back than people in America, and that life just moves at a slower, more patient pace. I hope this is the case because I find it refreshing and stress-relieving to interact in a society that isn't concerned with a constant buzz of anxiety of so many people always on the go with so much to do and so little time. I am very interested in the culture there too. I think it will be cool to learn about the kind of music they listen to and experience what people there do for fun. I am hoping that I will come home with some new African dance moves :)

    As far as sustainable development goes, I understand there to be a counterintuitive problem of poverty being an obstacle for the implementation of sustainable development policies, while sustainable development policies are supposed to provide some necessary tools for alleviating that poverty. This contradiction arises from the inability to effectively implement sustainable development policies. I think that these policies fail when they are too centralized and generalized. I argue that a lot of policymaking must go in localized governments. It is important to fully understand what the obstacles preventing the effective implementation of sustainable policies are in a given society, and then assess why these particular obstacles exist, in order to develop the unique and appropriate policies or practices necessary in order to alleviate the obstacles. In essence, I think that sustainable development must be dealt in a specialized and localized way. Giving policymaking power or influence to the lay public in Uganda may not seem plausible, however, because of the lack of education..

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  17. I've just had a look through some of the posts that people have made on their perceptions. It is interesting to read what people are thinking.

    One thing I noted was that a number of you mentioned education as in some way connected to the issue of sustainable development. Now, that blanket comment covers over a number of different observations and perceptions that people have. That said, there is a very clear connection between level of education and degree of development.

    Most of you are also aware that Uganda has a program for Universal Primary Education (I think this was mentioned in one or more of your presentations). While this has been a good faith effort on the part the government to make take steps towards development, there have been numerous problems with effective implementation. I was just reading a story in the 'Daily Monitor' today that said that abseeteeism amongst primary teachers in the UPE program is running at about 81%. This has obvious implications for an educated population.

    I raise this as one example of what I might term the difference between the ideal and the real. We have a perception about Ugandan education based on knowledge about programs like the UPE. However, while you are there, you will have the opportunity to ask about the reality of the situation. You will want to do this as you ask about education, but about all your preconceived notions as well.

    I do wish you all a great trip and I will miss having the chance to go with you.

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  18. Have a great adventure everyone. I will be reading your blog and living your awesome adventure with you. Have fun and be safe!

    Ann Anhalt
    2003 MPA Graduate

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