torsdag 18. februar 2010

The week of 1000 UGSHX / day

Living in Uganda is very cheap compared to Norway. 3 NOK gives you about 1000 UGSHX (ca 0,5 USD). For 3 NOK you can get one banana, if you buy the cheap ones. For 1000 UGSHX, you can get dinner for two people and be a hundred and ten percent full. Late on a Sunday night my dear partner, Marthe, and I started thinking; Hm… could it be possible for us to go a whole week spending no more than 1000 UGSHX per person per day? We decided to give it a shot. Then we figured out it would be a good idea to check what we did and did not have. We had some flour, so we could make scones in the mornings, puh! Some rice and spaghetti was also to be found. The only ting we saw as a potential problem was this; there was one and a half roll of toilet paper left, aiai… Still, we had decided to go through with it, we’d just have to eat a little less one day to have enough for the TP. We were much exited when we went to bed on Sunday, really looking forward to try out our new project!

Day 1

Our total spending today was 0,- UGSHX. We were invited to a missionary family for dinner in the evening. They live far out on the other side of town, but we walked (for one and a half hour) to get there and they drove us back.

Silje: This is going great! It’s so good not having to worry about what to buy or whether to walk or bode (take a boda boda / motorcycle taxi).

Marthe: Yep… It’s looking good. It leads to conscious choices.

Day 2

We spent 2000 today. We bought 4 eggs, onions and yoghurt.

Silje: I’m not feeling too good. Think I’m sick. I have very little energy and appetite and would have loved a Del Monte juice (at 3600) and a movie (3000).

Marthe: It’s still going ok. No problem.

Day 3

and so on and so on...

Our total spending today was 57 000. UGSHX. This was spent on bodas, consultation and tests.

Silje: turns out it’s not all that easy to limit the spending to 1000 UGSHX/day when you get sick. I have malaria.

Marthe, on the other hand, has been very good and not spent any money today!

Even though I’ve been quite bad regarding my spending, I think I deserve some credit for carrying out a night survey (walking in the town centre from midnight until two) with malaria!

Day 4

Total amount spent today was 1700 UGSHX. Wise as I am, I went to work today. Good idea! But at least I didn’t think I’d manage to walk to work. Therefore, I spent 1000 UGSHX on boda. In addition, for food, Marthe bought chapattis for 700.

Day 5

Today, we spent 800 UGSHX. I stayed home the whole day, enjoying my malaria. In the evening, Marthe and I had a lovely pineapple at 800 UGSHX.

Day 6

We spent 2700 today. (Yes, it’s ok because we’ve saved up the excess amount earlier this week) We had lunch in Namatala for 1200 (really full and marvellous lunch!) and bought Blue Band (butter) at 1000 UGSHX (to make cake for tomorrow) and two eggs for 500 UGSHX.

Day 7

Total amount spent today was 4500. We visited a Ugandan friend called Brenda today. On the way to her place, I managed to break my shoe, but a nice chap along the road fixed it for 500 UGSHX. Then, we went to the Internet, spending 1400 UGSHX. We got plenty of food at Brenda’s place, so we didn’t really need anything when we came home. However, we were left with so much money, so we bought sugar for 1200 UGSHX and a roll of toilet paper at 400 UGSHX.

If my math is correct, this means that apart from my major splurge at the hospital (bodas, consulting and tests), we spent 11 400 UGSHX (ca 35-40 NOK) between us the whole week. Meaning we even remained with 3600! Haha! We made it, sort of. If you count in the malaria-expenses, on the other hand, we blasted our budget big time, ending with 68 400 UGSHX (ca 200-210 NOK). Either way, it’s not bad. Nevertheless, it proves an important point; it’s fully possible to live on little… until something unexpected happens. The 1000 UGSHX / day-life can work out, but it takes nothing to mess it up. One little “bzzzzzzz; mosquito-bite” and you’re out. Good experience, though. Mission accomplished!

søndag 7. februar 2010

Is your flat not all that?

Finding a good place to stay when you are studying can be difficult. Even though you are using half of your income just to pay the rent, the flat may not be all that. If you are among the less fortunate ones you might wind up having to share your bedroom with another person. This means you will not be getting any real private space. The situation is not exactly as you would have wanted it to be. However, it could have been worse. It all depends on whom you compare yourself to.

My previous flat in Drammen
2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, bathroom
7000 NOK / month
4 girls (with approximately 12 000 between them from “Statens lånkasse” every month)
We had to stay two people in one bedroom and use most of our scholarships just to pay the rent. It was fair. Nevertheless, I think we all wanted a bit more space at times. In addition, the bathroom was a bit icky. It looked like the floor was starting to rot some places. From time to time, there was also some water seeping from the floorboards in the kitchen floor. Our flat was on the first floor of a house, on the ground floor there was another apartment. We were not exactly thrilled about them. They acted and looked a bit suspicious. But it was ok, we had a good lock on the door and we even got a second lock to ensure our security further. Still, I did not like sleeping alone in the apartment.

After having spent some months in Uganda, I realise that I did not really have good reasons to worry or be unhappy with anything.

The current home of my twelve-year-old friend in Namakwekwe (Mbale)
1 room (approximately 6 m2)
10 000 UGSHX / month (ca 30 NOK / month)
Mother, younger sister, younger brother, baby brother and my friend (with no steady income)

They are five people sharing one mattress. In their one room, they have a tiny table and two chairs, the mattress and all their clothes are hanging on the walls. When it rains, nothing stays dry. There are small holes all over the ceiling and some places, there are big gaps between the bølgeblikkplater. The neighbourhood is not the best. People are robbed every night; attempts of different kinds of assaults are also quite common. It is not safe to move outside after seven o’clock. Not the most secure place to live as a single mother with four small children. Moreover, they do not exactly have an alarm system or good locks. Nevertheless, they are lucky in one way; they do not have an icky bathroom. They do not have a bathroom, period. In addition, one can look at the price of the room and think; “At least they hardly pay anything to live in this place.” However, 10 000 UGSHX is not hardly anything when you do not have a steady income. If she is lucky, the mother can wash some clothes from one time to another or maybe sell some onions and such to make some small bit of money. Other than that, most of the burden is on my twelve years old friend. He fetches water for neighbours, sells sugar cane and does other petty jobs for a petty pay. All we had to do to get our 3000 NOK a month was to send two letters in a year and attend school. For my friend, attending school and getting the small income he needs can actually come in conflict.

Turns out, we did not actually have a single thing to complain about. Not if we would have compared ourselves to an average family of a CRO child. I am not saying one should feel bad about not living in lousy conditions; one should not be embarrassed or have a bad conscience about living in a nice place. One cannot go around and compare the life in Norway to the life in Uganda. The difference is too big in every way. It would be like comparing a cat and a skyscraper; ridiculously unreasonable (very good example, huh?). Nevertheless, that does not mean one should just shove it under a rug and leave it at that. Occasionally one should stop and think about the ones who are really less fortunate. Think of those whose lives are worlds apart from yours, even though we all live on the same planet. Be happy and grateful for what you have! It surely is all that!

These are some of my girls (Angella Esther, Keem Christine, Loley Joyce and Nampomba Shamilla). They’ve all finished their one year in rehab class. On Monday they got school uniforms and new bags. Now, they’ve completed their first week of formal school. If that’s not motivating, I don’t know what is. Last year they were all on the streets picking what they could find to eat or sell. Now, thanks to CRO, they’re all in school. I have an amazing job!