Eyo ngonia, Antje?

A Poem
December 8, 2009, 1:28 pm
Filed under: on my way

So Ugandan!

I am on a maiden visit to some remote township,

And round the last bend on ma way lies a construction site

It looks like a budding mall of sorts…

But is betrayed by a peculiar forecourt,

That’s when I begin to ask my guide…

It’s a Shell… he tells me, a ‘Shell’ for vehicles to do their refuelling here

It’s now that I take a close look at the spot

I can see a logo of a rival fuel company

It reads like ‘Engen’

But my guide insists it’s Shell.

Natural instinct soon comes to the fore, and the truth dawns on me…

I am welcome to the Pearl of Africa!

It’s only in Uganda that every petrol station is called Shell

And every toothpaste is called ‘Colgate’…

Change on transport fares and groceries is rather called ‘balance’

And beverage urns dubbed ‘empty’

The word ‘socks’ has no singular form

As is the case for chips

But gone are the days when every driver was called ‘pilot’,

And every president called Museveni,

Young Ugandans now know of Obama.

My village folks call him a Mukiga,

For it’s the name they give every black American,

But they are only being Ugandan!

Dan B. Atuhaire

-As found in SundayLIFE-

A 'Shell'...


Pictures and more
September 25, 2009, 1:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So, last week we were extremely busy (YES!!!) helping the UNHCR staff with their bi-annual verification of the refugees, which meant that we were interviewing, photographing and fingerprinting all the refugees in the two settlements here (Imvepi and Rhino Camp). I don’t know the total number, but it did not exceed 5000, so really most of the refugees have returned to Sudan now. It was an interesting but exhausting time and gave me the chance to get a feeling for the refugees and the different backgrounds they are coming from. Some of them arrived in cars and are studying in college, but there were also ones in rags, with diseases and of course confusing family situations.

Refugees waiting to be verified

Refugees waiting to be verified

The next task assigned to us (that’s me and the guys who stayed in Rhino Camp for the last weeks, also) was to organize and get rid of old files, an extremely disgusting work considering the state the files were in. So it was a really satisfying moment to finally see the outdated or termite-destroyed files go off in smoke at the end…

Bonfire of Files...

Bonfire of Files...

I also experienced my first African sickness and was fearing I had caught malaria, but luckily that turned out to be a harmless climate-reaction, so I was up and well again after two days to attend a school feast at a girls’ boarding school in Arua town, where Henrike, another volunteer still to arrive, will help out in the IT-sector. It was amazing to see all these girls in their school uniform and feel the excitement and life in that place.

St. Mary's Girls performing a song

St. Mary's Girls performing a song

And finally, we shifted to our new house in Arua, a place a little more out of town but in a less closed-down neighbourhood. This is where we will stay for the rest of the year and where our successors might stay, too…

Lord of the Rings-style sunset

Lord of the Rings-style sunset

I joined Lars and Richard at the Arua office during the reast of the week, but I really was not able to do anything much, so mainly I watched the monkeys outside of the logistics office…


cell number and adress
September 5, 2009, 6:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For everzone willing to send me some greetings:


Antje Ahrens

c/o ADI African Development Initiative

P.O.Box 1313

Arua, Uganda

Welcome to Uganda…
September 5, 2009, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Sunset in Kampala

Sunset in Kampala

So I finally get to update my blog, after 2 weeks of more or less being on the road. Here I am, in Rhino Camp, in my home for the next 12 months –at least during the year. It’s a beautiful little roundhouse with grass roof, wonderfully cool during midday heat. Since I am after all staying here alone (the car workshop was moved to Arua, so there is no other volunteer in Rhino Camp), I can choose between two bedrooms. I have a sofa, a shower, a cooking plate and – what is really important – no wall around my compound. In Arua, where I will spend most of my weekends with three other volunteers, Lars, Richard and Timur, I felt sort of closed in since we even had a watchman there. The whole house just feels too big, although for European standards, it certainly is not luxurious, but I feel much more comfortable in the environment here, where my co-workers live in at least similar houses as I do.

my home in Rhino Camp

my home in Rhino Camp

The first week the other volunteers (22 for Uganda) and me stayed in Kampala for our preparation and some touristic activities (e.g. we visited the tombs of the late Bugandan kings). It was really nice to spend some time together, compare expectations and experiences. It was especially nice to meet everyone’s supervisors at the end and get an idea of each others´ placements.
So, early on Saturday morning, we headed to our different corners of Uganda, namely Gulu, Mbale, Jinja, Arua, Kampala and Fort Portal.
The bus ride was certainly something different. On our way “up-country”, we drove through the changing landscape of Uganda, passed the Equator, the Nile and what can only be called the bush. Every time the bus halted, numerous street vendors tried to sell all kinds of food and souvenirs to the travellers. “Chapati, Chapati”…
The following days we spent getting to know Arua, a mid-sized town with bicycles dominating the picture in town just like motorbikes did in Kampala. “Boda, mundu?” bike taxi drivers shout everywhere to catch the attention of their white customers.

Richard, me, Lars and Michael in Arua

Richard, me, Lars and Michael in Arua

Michael, our mentor, showed us around town and around the ded/ADI offices, where Lars and Richard will work. I felt a little out of place since I still couldn’t get settled and unpacked – it took till Thursday before we had visited the local officials and got the okay to head to Rhino Camp, 70 km East of Arua.

The first weekend was quite slow here, far away from everything, or so it seems. My colleagues are really nice and welcoming, though. You can really see that Ramona and Thomas, my predecessors, have a place in their hearts. I can only hope that I will find my place here, too. The local language, Lugbara, is still a big challenge, though I hope to understand more as I go.
I am looking forward to my first working week. How it is to do logistics Ugandan-style? I am anxious to know…

Goodbye Hessen
August 9, 2009, 12:31 pm
Filed under: on my way

Tour de Lahn

Last week, Benny and I spent two days on our bikes exploring the beautiful Lahn valley…

lahn anfangWeilburg… second day

We had a wonderful time, it’s really an awesome trail if you’re into biking (and not aiming for records). 250 km of romantic river banks and not too many steep parts.

A nice way to say goodbye to my home area… and my boyfriend

Goin’, goin’, gone!
August 2, 2009, 10:23 pm
Filed under: on my way

Uganda- Preparation groupAbove, you can see a picture of our fabulous Uganda group during my preparational camp in Thuringia. 9 days we spent working intensively on our intercultural understanding and now, I really feel prepared to go!!! It was a pretty exhausting time, but at the same time extremely fascinating. I don’t think I ever met so many caring, intelligent and interesting people in one place. Altogether, we were about 50 people going to Ruanda, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and of course Uganda.

Unfortunately, not all “Ugandans” were there, so I still don’t know my colleague in Rhino (I think it’s a guy since he’s supposed to look after the cars). But I am looking forward to the weekends with Lars and Richard in Arua.

August 17th early at 8 I am leaving good old Germany (again) for a year, heading to Kampala for another preparational camp before I’ll get to my final destination in the North.

Well, there still are some things to do like packing, eating pills (malaria and calcium) and enjoying the more or less cool German summer days (and nights!) with my loved ones.

But finally we are getting started!!