Monday, December 29, 2014

Soda and tears

Monday 29th December 2014

Angus and Eleni last day in Ndejje and Uganda. Last day of such a rich trip in  the heart of Mzuribeads. Camera memory and our own both are full of pictures and experiences.

The morning we decided to go early in town, before the traffic and heat kick in. I cannot go without buying few gifts. Very conveniently one of the known coffee shops in Kampala are right opposite the crafts market. I didn't waste my opportunity to indulge in a cup of fresh cafetier coffee! I even got to choose my preferred ugandan coffee variety out of a few! 

Back to Ndejje, most women were around Edith's to send us off and do some bead rolling.
Angus filmed the last interviews and soon heavy rain caught up. Pauline and Theopista off to collect their washing while the rest remained to work.

Days passed so quick yet time felt moving slowly. Busy bees as we were we decided to treat ourselves to a swim and a sunbathe on Sunday . And on Saturday night...what else than a night out in one of the clubs in the capital! Florence and Prossy joined the company and taught us some new moves while shaking to Ugandan tunes! 

Today Edith had a big lunch ready for us all and cheered on our last sodas. The little ones played till drop with me and Angus and goodbyes weren't easy.

There is so much to take in and reflect from my Ugandan trip that time is essential as much as a luxury back to Edinburgh life. 
But as I say my goodbyes in Ndejje, please, allow me say, you vibrant women of Mzuribeads, thank you loads for your hospitality, your positive energy & warmth, your patience and most important your hot sense of humour that made our time colourful and easy and offered us a home for these two weeks! 

See you all soon!!

Edinburgh crew is off! :)

P.s. special thanks to Flora and Prossy for the sweet and warm words they left in our diaries and for letting us in the house the late evenings with a big smile :) we'll miss you too!
Harriet thank you so much for your beautiful gift (Harriet made a handwoven straw bag for me). I feel privileged to have it!

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Friday, December 26, 2014

The Artist, The Entrepreneur, And The Business Woman

Today has been a busy busy day for your Mzuribeads volunteers in Uganda.
Boxing day and the city feels substantially calmer. Traffic is less and we're moving around relaxed and easy. 

Angus and I woke up early to make it to the workshop of Vincent's, which I have been so much looking forward to!!Vincent is no other than our exclusive cowhorn beads maker in Mzuribeads, since 2008. Even though I'd always been a fan of Vincent's work, he was so friendly and genuine that he's so won me over again. I have lots to share about our meeting and so I'll save it for a special blog edition. However, I want to say how lucky we are to be shown to his workshop today and have this unique opportunity to meet, catch up and learn more about his art. As in one of my first blogs, I was also lucky enough to get my selfie! Check us out! :)

Next stop, we met with Nahida who is a young entrepreneur in Uganda, a good friend and old partner of Mzuribeads. Nahida and her sister Nadia have established DEF.I.NI.TION, one of the leading local businesses on contemporary printed on T-shirts, jewellery and fashion items, promoting local artists and makers. 
Nahida was very generous with us, sharing some of her business experience in Uganda and helping us catch up on updates and opportunities for expanding locally our business and partnerships. 
Angus and Nahida here outside the DEF.I.NI.TION shop in Acacia Mall in Kampala. Awesome!

Last but not least, me and Angus made it to Mildred's house 10 minutes from the centre of Kampala to meet her and her daughter Ruth. Mildred has been one of the very first women who formed Mzuribeads back in 2006. Mildred now is a lot more than a partner and member of the business, she is close to family and a person who shares so much of Mzuribeads journey up-to-date. We caught up on all that we missed of each other since Angus had last been in Uganda, moments, developments, personal updates. We were hosted with such a warmth and treated to beautiful lunch, as Ugandans tend to do since we arrived last week:) 
In the photo see us three posing outside her house! Mildred, may we see each other again! (as I'd have wished in my mother tongue)

 As for us, we're finishing our short report for the day and going to enjoy a cold local beer staring at the beautiful colours of the sunset:)

See you soon


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Friday, December 19, 2014

Returning to a changed Uganda

Arriving  in Uganda, returning to the red volcanic dust, has been an experience. I last visited 5 years ago and much has changed. Kampala has risen higher and there seems to be a lot more people living or commuting to and from the city.  Large buildings have been built and some places are unrecognisable. There are still a number of bars and clubs in the town and its all harder to get to because of the human traffic. Life is a lot more expensive too. A banana was once 100 shillings is now 300. A meal is double the price to 5 years ago and accounting for inflation, the cost of living has increased. Transport from Ndejje village to Kampala is now 1000 shillings from 500. That is where I am staying, with the manager of Mzuribeads Uganda. Water is an expensive finite resource as the taps are attached to meters and bills must be paid. Work is still very hard to come by and the struggle to get by continues on a daily basis. The president Museveni who has ruled for decades is standing yet again for election in 2015. Corruption and brute force keeps the opposition at bay and as like usual, it's the people that suffer. No doubt that there is more of a middle class but the gulf between rich and poor has widened. Globalisation and monopolies make sure living and working conditions get harder.With no social health care, many suffer with out care. 

Ndejje is close to a main road linking Kampala and Entebbe. The dust from the road is enough to overwhelm your throat and lungs and with matatus and bodas using the pavements, it's hard to get around. The government has not helped the communication or power links and it hinders most people trying to run shops and businesses around.

The people however are still extremely welcoming and well humoured. It is very relaxing to sit with happy children and families going about their daily lives. Neighbours greet you and help you out if you are lost.

It is a great effort by a community to keep the area safe. Families must dispose of their own rubbish and create systems to keep their house and living area clean. 

People need to fend for themselves here and Ndejje has a strong sense of community and well being.

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Stay calm and keep beading

Wednesday 17th December 2014

Second day in Ndejje and beading materials came out! The workshop is set up for the day, team is starting on new colours and I'm getting my first beading lesson! I'll make my first Mzuribead! :)

I have also bought a dress from the local boutique as my luggage is still "treasured" by the air-carriers, unknown its whereabouts. Yesterday, I almost thought I woke up as a mythical creature: my bottom half was clothed like 'Angus'...wearing his walking trousers and boxer shorts, and my top half was still a worn off version of myself, 'Eleni' well worn into my only vest top. Two things I have learned from this experience so far;
1. I can survive on less stuff than what I travel with.
2. Men's underwear are actually comfy!

Anyway, back to the workshop, I sat next to Sarah who was my patient tutor and ready to show me the art of the recycled paper bead rolling. In the picture below you can also see Edith with her ruler, measuring and marking the coloured paper which is the material beads are made of. Harriet started cutting off stripes for the bead rolling to begin. She then proceeded to measure and mark the materials for jumbo size beads, I think. Sarah and Pauline were rolling beads. And me of course! I actually scored 26 green dodo beads and a single bicone bead...An embarrassing time comparing my efforts to the numbers of beads the rest of the team managed to roll. I'm still proud of myself, wondering who is going to get the beads rolled off my skillful hands :)

Rolling the beads feels quite an addictive and relaxing experience, sharing with the rest of the group and be on your own at the same time. However, it's quite tiring for the eyes for the inexperienced one like me. It's like you get absorbed in the rolling routine; trying to achieve a balanced and unique effect, bead by bead. 

Hold your pin, roll the base tight and neat, keep rolling and correcting the sides, then glue the tip and roll the edge to stick smooth and firm. Get the bead off the pin and start over with the next stripe. 

Curious that I am, I wanted to know the favourite type of Mzuribead of each woman in the team. Sarah likes the omos, Pauline the dodos and Edith the simbas! Harriet stated that she likes them all, and I don't blame her. It's hard to choose a Mzuribead, don't you think?
As for me, it's the jumbo beads! And the whole team burst in laughter at the sound of this. It turns out is one of the hardest to roll. And they promised I can have a shot at it!

I am now looking forward to catch a glimpse of the raw beads, such as the barkcloth and banana leaf! And also what the next stage of making the beads is going to be! Watch this space...

For now let me say...Webale Nyo
(Thank you) for reading our blog!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Welcome to Ndejje!!

Tuesday 16th December 2014

We arrived in Ndejje Tuesday midday: me, Angus and Angus' luggage. My luggage is left in airtrans limbo and never made it to Entebbe airport. I keep surprisingly calm despite the circumstances and carry on. 

We get off the matatu, the local taxi transport, on the main road from Entebbe to Kampala, just off Ndejje. it's pretty hot but thankfully not like the Mediterranean summer heat. It seems like there is million things happening around me. I notice three things. The earth. Red and dusty. Earthy! The sky is light blue. And the boda-bodas! The very popular, as it seems, mopeds which are practically everywhere.

Edith, the Mzuribeads project manager, is coming to meet us. It feels so unreal I'm here. Yet so familiar from all the stories I've heard from Angus and Kirstie over these few years I know MzuribeadsEdith took us to her home and soon four of the Mzuribeads women joined us for a very warm welcome. I had my first Ugandan meal cooked by Edith, beef in tasty sauce, rice, yummy sweet potato and cassava, an unusual one for my taste puds.
Already earlier I had the most tasty banana I ever had and mellow and juicy pineapple. And that's as to the gastronomic aspect of things.

We had sodas to cool down and presents for the women. And there between the joy of unwrapping presents and the cooling effect of passion fruit soda, Mzuribeads people got together to discuss their enterprise, where we are and were we want to be in the future. 
But let me save some for my next blog:) need to get ready for some clothes shopping and tasting of local nightlife!

See you soon


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Monday, December 8, 2014

A single week is too long!

Only one week today and that's me and Angus off to Uganda.

...While Angus is feeling super cool and confident about this trip - he's known the women for many many years after all and lived in Uganda a lot.

Angus enjoying a photoshooting session, showing off his photography skills. 

...Somewhere, in a different universe, far far away, you see the excited yet clue-less Ugandan-newbie. Me!         
Posing with one of my creations...and this is as pretty as it gets for me
So! Back-pack is out from the top wardrobe shelf  the same as my summer clothes - which I admit to love using again so soon! 
Sunblock - check! Flip flops - check! Charming camera looks - check!

How about you come closer and get a glimpse of our favourite must-go stops of this trip!

* Landing in Entebbe airport on Monday, not too far from the Ugandan capital.

* First stop, of course, Ndejje. Straight to the workshop, the Mzuribeads production hub where your beads are made from scratch to the mzuribeads standard. Will I give it a go with some bead rolling? You just have to wait and see! (anyone else nervous beading next to the pro's?)

* Kampala. Can I get to the markets where Mzuribeads materials are sourced, please? I'm informed Owino market, whether or not the biggest in Africa, will surely be a Wonderland even for the most experienced and skilful market-lover (aka Alice). I'm definitely holding a big basket for this!

* Meeting local artists and artisans! Why not re-connect with old friends and partners of Mzuribeads as well as reach out to new friendships and collaborations? In Mzuribeads we have all been sharing a passion for community enterprise and inspiration. It's important to us to feel part of an empowering community of people in business, fashion, art and social expression! 

* Okay, one word. Vincent. I cannot imagine a trip to Uganda without visiting the most mysterious of all Mzuribeads artisans, who is no other than the exclusive maker of our fabulous, unique and shiny cow horn beads collection! If I'm lucky enough, I might get a selfie too, who knows? :)

* Country travelling. Hey, what's best than road traveling in getting to know a country and its people? 
So let your imagination unravel and follow our trip to the land of Mzuribeads

Next, blogging from Uganda! Hope to see you there :)


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