Saturday, February 21, 2009

Land of Opportunity

It’s a strange old thing, living the ex-patriate life in Uganda.

One of the stranger aspects is that there is opportunity every way you turn. One of the sadder aspects of this strange aspect is that this is mainly because we’re white.

It, quite literally, opens doors.

We drive up to the compound gates of a business, or a home we’ve never visited before (we did this a lot when we were tasked with delivering party invites for the 10 year anniversary party for Red Chilli) and merely a quick toot on the horn will gain us entry. The gates swing open, the guards peer out, they clock we’re white and wave us in. The owners may not be home, we may not have an appointment, but if you’re white you must be here for a reason, surely?

We’ve always joked, the day we decide to leave this town, we should take advantage of this open door policy and commit some serious theft.

On a higher level, being white and open to ideas led to R getting his slot as a DJ on a local FM station. And me as his celebrity gossip sidekick.

When R, who used to hustle and cajole motoring press and the odd newspaper to take his articles in the UK, emailed a national newspaper in Kampala asking if they wanted to consider any story ideas, they replied with the open invitation that they would “publish anything he sent them”. There was no suggestion of an editing process or quality control. The man takes pride in his work, but that’s just an invitation to be lazy…

Equally, I was approached the other day by someone I knew socially. Local guy, who knew I was something to do with Red Chilli, but didn’t really know what, told me he’d heard I used to work in advertising and would I mind having a drink with him and his friend who were launching an agency together.

I thought they just wanted to bounce some ideas around.

They offered me a job.

Just like that – as a consultant in some sort of freelance strategic planning role.

And they had no idea what sort of work I used to do in the UK, whether I was a creative or a “suit”, or if I was the post girl, how many years I’d worked in ads, how good I was, or anything important like that. Just because I had worked in ads, in the UK, and presumably because I could offer the bogus professional sanction of my whiteness for clients to feel ‘reassured’ by (a lot of the clients would be white or Indian), I fitted the bill. It beggared belief.

Of course, they also didn’t realise that I already had a full time Red Chilli.

Though it’s reassuring to know that if that if I wasn’t still very much enjoying myself with that there could be other opportunities out there. You never know, one day the novelty may wear off and I may not have the stomach for any more tourists demanded a refund for the free internet service we offer (yes, think through the logic of that one...).

If and when that day comes, at least I could hawk myself round Kampala’s burgeoning ad scene…

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