Friday, April 25, 2008

A Moment's Peace

So, after another hectic week in Kampala, where we're getting quicker at tackling the daily tasks of running this place, but therefore more confident at taking on longer term projects (and it's only week three!) I finally get a moment to post on here....

Apologies for the drought of blogging of late, but as we settle into a routine here it is hard to find that necessary downtime. It's not that we don't get time to relax - we do. It's just my only internet connection is in the office and when sat there I get permanently interrupted.

Change for the bar, requests for stock from the food store, handymen needing payment, cleaners wanting room keys, even guests have the temerity to say hello occasionally - the stream of people popping their head round the door is non stop. I welcome the bustle, honestly - we are both loving the job - but it makes it hard to find a moment to write up some of the stories I'm longing to tell.

Random stuff that hits you day to day:

Like staring out the window of the minibus on the way to Makarere to see a sign on a lamp-post that said 'Hips Gain' with a local mobile number under it. I mused for a second thinking, what could that mean? HIPs? Home Improvement Packs? What?

The reverse of the lamppost had a similar sign with the same mobile number. This time it became clear and the chasm between perceptions of beauty in affluent European cultures versus perceptions of beauty in East Africa suddenly opened up.



The signs were similar to ones you say dotted around English towns on lamp-posts and traffic light poles. Except back there they say "Lose weight fast" and "Drop a Dress Size". Here, they urge the opposite. Big is beautiful, big is bootylicious.

And here I am, hoping the new 'run around' job will help me drop pounds. I aim to be the ugliest girl in town...

To end, another road side sign. This time a stark reminder of the divide between rich and poor. From what I've seen of other parts of Africa, and because we are on the outskirts of a big old city here, Kampala seems to support a comparatively large middle class. But you can still turn down one street to find massive mansions behind security gates and high, barbed fencing, only to turn another corner and find altogether a different type of ghetto.

So this then, a sign which says something about a country, when there is such a market for companies that make security fencing that they promote themselves with lines you'd actually expect to find in some washing powder commercial.



Uganda's most trusted fencing? Mmmmmmm.

Talking of washing powder, I saw a massive global branding faux pax earlier this week. Driving through a hardware district of town, sadly without the camera, each building is painted with the colours and logos and slogans of some of the bigger brands out here. Omo, the washing powder we know better back in Blighty as Persil, is the subject of one of these hand-painted ad hoardings. Only they have made the strange decision to pursue an ad line they recently launched in the UK.

In the UK, everyone washes clothes, and if you have a major market share already, what's your best strategy? Persuade people to wash more frequently of course, by adopting a campaign celebrating getting dirty. The Persil "Dirt is Good" campaign featured happy, but filthy children, making mud pies and rolling around in the garden.

It might work in the UK, but plastering "Omo - Dirt is Good" all over a shack in Africa, where diseases spread by unhygienic conditions are still a problem in some areas, surely is a bit of an oversight by some dim media type in London, Brussels, or New York?

4 comments:

Dr Jude said...

The danger of globalization is that people begin to assume the world is the same everywhere. As my mom would say: "Everyone should be forced to live 3 months in India". It would certainly put those nitwits in their cubicles in their place. But I wonder if I'm willing to share the deliciousness of the world with them ...

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

You're right. They don't deserve it. After a late lunch at our boss's house this afternoon we drove down a dirt track to Port Bell on Lake Victoria, past real life, in all it's glory. And it was noisy and smelly and dirty and just plain great.

We live here, and we're loving it.

Steve said...

the weird thing is that I talked with the Planner on Dirt Is Good when it was still being developed...

"It's not good in India" I said "It kills your kids there"

I was told to belt up and clear off (or words to that effect)

dk said...

Hilarious - I missed this entry before. Can't wait for the 'Malaria's a buzz' or 'AIDS is exciting' campaign. Crazy crazy.
Mind you, if we start sending them the BT broadband campaign too, then we really should be done for neo-imperialistic cruelty...