New discoveries in Israel

At the end of 2014 / beginning of 2015 I visited Israel for the third time and both discovered new places with the help of my friends and re-discovered known places on my own. Please enjoy the pictures and the stories they tell.

 

Pics from Allone Yizaq Nature Reserve near Binyamina. It’s a 31-acre nature reserve which is rich in various flowers expecially in summer.

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My friend Michael enabled me to finally visit the Bahá’í gardens with the shrine where the remains of founder of the forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh in the Bahá’í Faith have been buried. I got to know the Bahá’í Faith in India when I visited the Lotus Temple, and I later also visited the Houses of Worship in Uganda and Germany. (Funnily there is also one in Panamá but the time I was there I didn’t know about it.)

The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion originating in 19th-century Persia which emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind. Its founder and its adherents have been heavily persecuted. You cannot be born as a Bahá’í but anyone can become one.

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Apart from enjoying the beautiful garden of my friends and meeting their cat again, I also went to Jerusalem to enjoy the old city again which I always love to visit. I found out that by now, the tram which was still being built the last time I visited is now finished and operating. And of course I came across temptations such as halvah. ;)

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Last, but not least, Michael took me to Rosh Hanikra, a white chalk cliff face which opens up into spectacular grottos near the Lebanese border. This time there was a storm so it was even more spectacular. ;)

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Todah rabah to Michael for taking me to these and other wonderful places!!! It was lovely to meet your family again!!

Thanks also to Lena for having me (shortly ;)) and to Gil-Ad for driving me to the airport! It was wonderful to meet little Aviv! And as every time, I have at least made the resolution not to get lost in Tel Aviv *next* time! :)

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“Liebster Award” – “Favourite Blog Award”

Sundar

 

English version below

 

Meine Freundin Carolin hat mich liebenswürdiger Weise für den “Liebsten Award” nominiert – das bedeutet, dass ich nun ihre Fragen beantworten, neue Blogs nominieren und mir Fragen für die Nominierten ausdenken “muss”.

 

Dies sind meine Antworten auf Carolins Fragen:

1. Was motiviert dich, zu bloggen?

Meine Erfahrungen zu teilen, meine Freunde auf dem Laufenden zu halten und Menschen oder Projekte bekannt zu machen, die ich unterstützen möchte

2. Wofür lohnt es sich, echte Strapazen auf sich zu nehmen?

Anderen Menschen helfen, die Welt zu einem besseren Ort zu machen

3. Warum bist du besonders?

Vielleicht weil ich nie glaube die endgültige Wahrheit gefunden zu haben?

4. Welche Blumen magst du am liebsten?

Jasmin, sie ist so klein aber riecht so gut

5. Womit belohnst du dich für eine besondere Leistung oder einen besonderen Erfolg?

Der Weg ist das Ziel ;)

6. Was hast du zuletzt gelernt?

Dass alles Māyā ist. Und dass es wichtig ist nicht darüber nachzudenken, was andere denken. Es ist schwierig genug unsere eigenen Gedanken zu erkennen.

7. Welche gescheite Frage würdest du hier gerne lesen und was ist deine Antwort darauf?

Hmm da bin ich nicht sicher. Vielleicht sind die wichtigsten Fragen die, die wir nicht beantworten können.

8. Was darf auch im minimalsten Minimalgepäck bei dir nicht fehlen?

Ha ha, so etwas wie ein “Minimalgepäck” kenne ich nicht – aber der Lippenbalsam ist immer dabei

9. Für eine bessere Welt: wofür engagierst du dich oder würdest du dich engagieren?

Für ein besseres weltweites Lebensmittelsystem und für Kleinfarmer

10. Was tust du, wie bist du, wie wirkst du, wenn du in deiner vollen Kraft strahlst?

Ich denke dann bin ich sehr friedlich und zentriert.

 

Diese Blogs möchte ich gerne nominieren:

Julia Lakämper – http://julia-lakaemper.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/

Alessandro Haas – http://alessandrohaas.de/

Christopher Bradburn – http://a-quiet-reflection.blogspot.se/

Angela Victoria Lizarralde – http://www.amothersjourney.co/

 

Das sind meine Fragen an die Nominierten:

1) Was ist das Wichtigste, was du beim Reisen gelernt hast?

2) Wie entscheidest du, ob du deinem Instinkt oder deinem Vestand folgst?

3) Was hältst du für die Grundlage menschlicher Konflikte?

4) Was ist dein Lieblingsgeruch?

5) Was hältst du für den besten Weg, ein Ziel zu erreichen?

6) Was machst du am liebsten, wenn du alleine bist?

7) Was magst du an dir selbst?

8) Was würdest du gerne an dir ändern/verbessern?

9) Was macht einen Freund / eine Freundin für dich aus?

10) Was ist die letzte Freundlichkeit, die du persönlich (mit)erlebt hast?

 

So gibst du den Award weiter:

1. Verlinke die Person, die dich nominiert hat auf deinem Blog.
2. Beantworte meine 10 Fragen.
3. Wähle Blogs aus, die du nominieren möchtest.
4. Teile den jeweiligen Bloggern mit, dass du sie nominiert hast.
5. Formuliere Fragen, die du den Nominierten stellst.

 

 

English version

 

My blog has kindly been nominated by my friend Carolin for the “Favourite Blog Award”, which means that I now have to reply to her questions, nominate new blogs and think of questions for their creators.

These are my replies to Carolin´s questions:

1) What is your motivation to blog?

Sharing my experiences and keeping in touch with my friends, sometimes also making people or projects more known which I want to support

2) What is it worth taking on strains for?

Helping other people in trying to make the world a better place

3) Why are you special?

Maybe because I never settle on any final truth?

4) Which are your favourite flowers?

Jasmine – it´s so small but has such an amazing smell

5) How do you reward yourself for a special achievement or a special success?

The journey is the reward ;)

6) What have you learnt last?

That everything is Māyā. And that it is important not to think about what others think. It is difficult enough to become aware of our own thoughts.

7) Which smart question would you like to read here and what is your reply to it?

Hmm not sure about that. Maybe the most important questions are those which we cannot answer.

8) Which item must not be missed even in the smallest minimum luggage?

Ha ha, I don´t know anything such as “minimum luggage”. But I am known to always carry lip balm with me. ;)

9) What do you commit yourself to or would you commit yourself to for a better world?

Improving the worldwide food system and the lives of small farmers

10) What do you do, what are you like, how do you appear when you radiate your full strength?

I think then I am very peaceful and centered.

 

I would like to nominate:

 

Julia Lakämper – http://julia-lakaemper.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/

Alessandro Haas – http://alessandrohaas.de/

Christopher Bradburn – http://a-quiet-reflection.blogspot.se/

Angela Victoria Lizarralde – http://www.amothersjourney.co/

 

My questions to the bloggers:

1) What are the most important things you have learnt from travelling?

2)  How do you decide whether to follow your instinct or your reason?

3) What do you think is at the basis of human conflicts?

4) What is your favourite smell?

5) What do you think is the best way to achieve a goal?

6) What do you enjoy doing when you are alone?

7) What do you like about yourself?

8) What would you like to improve about yourself?

9) What makes a friend a real friend to you?

10) Which act of kindness is the latest one you have witnessed personally?

 

 

This is how you can pass on the award:

1. Put a link of your nominator in your blog

2. Answer my 10 questions

3. Choose blogs which you´d like to nominate

4. Inform the bloggers that you nominated them

5. Formulate questions to the nominees

 

Have fun! :)

My visit to Natures Gram

Joy

It was three years ago that I met Vishal at the Navdanya Earth University near Dehradun. At that time, he had come to inform himself about organic farming as he was planning to set up an organic “from farms to homes” business in Mumbai (Thane). This time, I finally got the chance to visit his business and to learn more about it.

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The trains in Mumbai are still as crowded as I remembered them

Vishal had several experiences which made him aware of the impacts of conventional farming. When he met a farmer in a hospital who had become severely sick from the use of pesticides, this was the “final straw” for him – he quit his previous job and dedicated himself fully to his dream of helping small farmers to make a living from organic farming and at the same time ensuring that consumers will get products non-hazardous to their health as well.

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Thane in the monsoon season

So far, he has set up an office for his business, forged collaboration with three farmers groups à 15 farmers in three different regions and he is regularly delivering their products to 40 customers and occasionally to another 40 customers. He currently knows of further 40 customers who are interested and plans to start delivering to them as soon as there will be 10 customers per region. He has registered his business on “Just Dial” and has got a number of positive references and word-of-mouth recommendations. Due to his “trust-based” scheme, he has been able to offer the products at reasonable prices to consumers while still giving fair profits to the farmers. Through his work, he has been greatly supporting the usage and saving of indigenous seeds and helped farmers to become independent from external inputs. He has also regularly been attending farmers markets and set up a trial retail store, with the plan to open a real store at the office location within the next three months to come.

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A Farmers Market which Vishal had organised

Vishal is planning to expand his delivery range within his district (Thane), where he hopes to reach 2000 consumers within the next two years to come. He also plans to expand to surrounding districts, where he already has potential customers but is still waiting for their numbers to increase so as to optimize the geographical space. He is also planning to set up region-specific centres all over India in order to support the idea of local food. A long-term plan is to create his own brand so as to be able to sell his products in other people’s shops all over India. Finally, he would like to set up a Learning & Development Centre at his own farm in Ambernath within the next six months where he would like to establish a seed bank and offer workshops in organic farming.

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Some of the products which will be offered in the store

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Including honeys from different regions of India

Having followed Vishal´s work for three years by now, I have perceived him as a highly motivated, passionate person and I am sure that he has both the desire and the skills to realise his vision. Knowing a lot of Indian organisations by now, I can also say that his degree of reliability and integrity is unique by Indian standards. :) As an Agroecologist, his vision could not be more consistent with what I think our future food system should look like. Vishal’s motivation is not profit-oriented and his interest is 100 % to improve the socio-economic situation of farmers and health of both farmers and consumers. I really wish that he will get all the support needed! The most important things which are required right now are human resources and funds.

If you have questions to Vishal or would like to support him please add Naturesgram on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/naturesgram) or write to vishal@naturesgram.com. Thank you very much / Bahot Dhanyavad! :)

Gracias, Dhanyavad, Спасибо !

It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog entry. I have spent more than four months in India now and the last few weeks I have been staying in “Aurovalley Ashram”, which I had got to know during my first India visit.

I have made very good friends here, especially Valentina from Russia and Angela from Colombia. Valentina is one of the strongest ladies I know and also cheerful, honest and very helpful. Also she has the most beautiful blue eyes I have come across in a lady. Angela has got very beautiful eyes as well and she is so sincere and at peace with herself that it is just a pleasure to be in her company. I am very grateful to these friends that they have helped me a lot and at the same time provided me with examples of the kind of person I want to be and can be. I have been thinking a lot about how lucky I have been in my life so far, and how lucky I am right here and now, just to be healthy, still be young, feel no pain, have water and food.

Today I took a walk to Raiwala, the nearby town, with Angela again and this time we stopped at a fabric shop and bought some fabrics and brought them to a tailor whom I already knew. He asked me what style of dress I would like him to make and took my measures and said he can make the clothes until the 14th of July. I said unfortunately I am about to leave, can he also do it until tomorrow? “Tomorrow?” Typical Indian humble smile and headshake. Ok then, tomorrow.

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Ganga

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Rishikesh

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Youngest Ashramite

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Village surroundings

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With Diana, best yoga teacher

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Cyfarchion o Gymru!

A bit more than one year ago I was confronted with the decision between two courses of studies – one was Agro-ecology and the other one was forestry related. I had always had an interest for forestry and I had found it sad that it was not covered at all in agriculture related courses. I was specifically interested in tropical and agro-forestry though and the course would not have covered that. Besides, Agro-ecology was closer to my heart than anything, as was Sweden, so I could not have opted against it – which I have never once regretted! :)

However, when I got to know that we are free to choose any courses at any university in our last term, I remembered my interest in agro-forestry and found out that the only university in Europe which offers this subject as a master course happens to take part in the “Erasmus” exchange agreement as well – so, I applied for a scholarship and now here I am, pursuing the second course of studies which probably no-one has ever heard of. ;) What makes my “self-assembled” study path even more “unique” is the fact that there has actually been a misunderstanding, as the university normally only accepts “Erasmus mundus” students. So, I may be the first and last exchange student taking part in the agro-forestry programme. It is also lucky that as an exchange student, I can choose whichever courses I like, so I have chosen my modules with a lot of consideration and added a “Conservation Biology” module to two Agro-forestry ones, which has been extremely interesting and a lot of fun not least due to our highly motivating teacher. :) And last, but not least, I found a way to pursue two things I’d been hoping to be able to pursue here – my Hindi skills as well as my swimming ambitions. I found a girl from India who just finished the Agro-forestry programme and has been more than happy to give me Hindi lessons, and in that way, I made a great new friend too! As for swimming, I found out about a “university swimming club” (one of at least ten million university clubs I could possibly join – the choice is impressive!) which enables students to use the public swimming pool for free twice a week.

I do have to make this blog entry short (compared to what I’d wish to write, I mean ;)), but at least I wanted to finally give some impressions of Wales and post some pictures of the beautiful surroundings before it gets winter – the first thing which struck me when I came here was the amazing beauty of the landscape (the village where I’m living is very close the the Snowdonia National Park)! I also noticed many differences from Sweden – Wales is actually a rather poor country, and it also has issues with social exclusion and discrimination against minorities. Indeed, I have also noticed quite a different atmosphere at the university here, where hierarchy and formality seem to matter much more than in Sweden. (This is not as much the case in my department though.) People are generally much more individual (I am always amazed at what different types of people I come across every day on the bus) and at the same time more simple than in Sweden, which is something I like here. They are also more talkative and noisy, and much more “local”. People getting off the bus say “thank you” to the driver and many shopkeepers have called me “darling” so far, which I find pretty weird and amusing. Generally, I have experienced a lot of kindness!

Buildings are much older and things generally much more old-fashioned than in Sweden. A possibly related aspect is the love for second hand stuff – I have never seen as many second hand and charity shops in one place before. In a funny way, the British seem to share the love for nature with the Swedish, but at the same time, it happens in a very different way. Somehow people here love conservation (especially of birds ;)), but it’s more like a hobby than a general attitude. Also volunteering is very popular here, which is funny again because money is at the same time a big issue for many people.

North Wales and especially the area of Gwynedd where I am living has the largest proportion of Welsh speakers within Wales. The cultural identity is also taken very seriously and can even take on nationalistic scales (there also seems to be a traditional animosity towards England and the English). This is kind of confusing, because I can totally comprehend the delight in maintaining a culture which is a minority, but I cannot bring this together with hostility. Obviously I would not even know about this or hardly notice it if I hadn’t been told about it, which doesn’t make it less true for people who have lived here for a long time.

When it comes to food, I’ve been having difficulties to find “healthy” food in normal supermarkets – I have had to go to the “health shop” in order to find products without at least 20 different kinds of additives, and I have still not found anything which I would call “bread”. ;) (I did bake my own bread a few times but it turns out a bit weird due to the gas oven…) Another challenge is the left-hand traffic – I have lived here for several months now and still keep looking to the left before crossing the street, only to be almost run over by a car coming from the right… I did wonder why I never had this problem in India or Uganda and came to the conclusion that it must be because no-one acts accordingly to any traffic rules there anyway, so that I am much more attentive in general. (Btw, in Sweden I learnt that the changeover from left-hand traffic to right-hand traffic took place over one night in 1967.) It even makes a difference as a pedestrian – whenever someone is walking towards me, I have to think twice before I move to the left. :)

I am living in a village called “Rachub” which is about 20 minutes by bus from Bangor. I had got to know my landlady (and “flatmate” :)), Jan, through a Couchsurfing friend (who happens to be the creator of the online encyclopedia “omniglot” – people here like languages!) and could not have been more lucky – she knows everything about the area and is being extremely helpful. She is registered disabled and has been fighting for both her rights and the rights of other minorities since long (unfortunately she still experiences unfair treatment until today as well). She is also better at recycling than anyone else I know! Our third housemate is Philipp from China, who came here for the second time to pursue a master course in English. For a few days we even had the company of Simone, who came to visit me from Germany! I will leave the remaining stories to the pictures… Hwyl fawr! :)

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The village where I am living

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… and the street – have fun pronouncing :P

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British phone boxes must not be missing, even in the village :)

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And again I came to a place with lots of sheep :)

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A typical village pub

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And a typical pub sign

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There are cows here, too!

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But more sheep ;)

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One of my favourite pics from a walk

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When waiting for the bus an umbrella can come handy ;)

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Everything here is bilingual, even the markings on the roads

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Jan & me

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Philipp & me

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And the fourth flatmate :) “Pusskin”, the neighbour’s cat (her real name is “Misty”, but I prefer Jan’s version :))

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Main entrance to the Main Arts Building of the university

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The Main Arts Building

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Student accomodations in Upper Bangor

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Cute recycling boxes :)

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I like the colours of doors here!

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Upper Bangor

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The street towards Lower Bangor

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University buildings in Lower Bangor

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Too many options ;)

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The Main Arts Building seen from Lower Bangor
Below a construction site which is meant to become an arts and innovation centre

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An inner yard of the Main Arts Building

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“Police” sounds funny in Welsh :)

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The cathedral of Bangor – which allows the town to be called a “city” ;)

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Hmm, a difficult choice to make! ;)

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The cathedral – close-up

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The clock tower – one of many things which remind me of India here :)

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I have never seen a country with as many second hand / charity shops before

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Lidl find their way everywhere ;)

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Nice cartoon!

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Introduction event for new students

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View towards the sea from Upper Bangor
(by courtesy of Simone)

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The library in Upper Bangor

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This Welsh band backed an introduction event…

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… and we were taught traditional Welsh dances :)

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“Welsh cakes” are traditional here

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Less traditional, but even more popular: Ready meals, as far as the eye can reach…

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Hooray, I found my favourite ice-cream! ;)

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This was the destination of the first field trip of our department

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Students from all over the world are admiring the views here

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We walked all the way to this waterfall

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And we were always lucky with the weather!

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Another field trip took us to a permaculture farm in Snowdonia National Park (see here: http://www.konsk.co.uk/)

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Views of Snowdonia National Park

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With the “Conservation Biology” module we visited the “Treborth Botanic Garden” several times, which was having a mushroom collection workshop one time

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He knows the story behind every single plant and tree in Treborth Botanic Garden :)

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We also had a small group exercise

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One of the two bridges which connect the main land with the island “Anglesey”

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The “Menai Strait” between the mainland and Anglesey
(well, the mainland is also an island, but never mind… ;) )

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One thing I have come to realise about Welsh is that it is longer than English ;)

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British humour…

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One of our video-link lectures – the lecturer was in Kenya that time, where the World Agroforestry Centre is headquartered

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I had the opportunity to take part in a trip to Liverpool

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In this museum I learnt that Liverpool had been the home port of the Titanic

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In front of a monument in St. John’s Gardens with other students who took part in the trip

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St. George’s Hall which contains concert halls

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My favourite section in the “World Museum” was the ethnology section :)

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The purple bins seem to be iconic in Liverpool

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The Chinatown in Liverpool is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe

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Nearby you can find one of the two big cathedrals

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Even street names are written in Chinese here :)

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I kept wondering why the name “Speke” seemed to familiar, until I remembered that it was the name of the British officer who discovered Lake Victoria :)

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The Seaside

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Aaaaah, a Swedish flag! :,)

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As the hometown of the Beatles Liverpool has the only permanent Beatles exhibition in the world

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This is a view near to Conwy, a town not far from Bangor where I visited a food festival with two classmates

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Impressions from the Food Festival :)

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Different tastes of cheddar

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Here we enjoyed a free vegan lunch!

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Nathalie & me, Agroforestry classmates

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Claudia & me, Conservation classmates

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There was also an agricultural tent, here the Welsh mountain sheep

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Again a nice colour!

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Conwy castle

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Views from the castle

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Aaaah, colours! :)) (Bangor)

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This is in Caernarfon, another town which I visited with Simone

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Bengali or Welsh dragon? :)

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The medieval wall of Caernarfon

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This bird had found a good observation point :)

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Simone & me at the harbour

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The harbour of Bangor at (more or less?) high tide

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Of course we had to visit the village with the longest name in the world :)

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The train station had to spend a bit more money on its sign ;)

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English is taken seriously here, even on the toilet :)

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And last, but not least: A token of British prudishness :D

Hej då Sverige! :,)

I have noticed that whenever I came back to Sweden after being away, I had an experience of kindness on the train from Copenhagen to Malmö… It felt like I was “welcomed back” to Sweden every time!

After living here for more than a year, I feel sad about leaving… There are so many things which I have come to love about Sweden. For one thing, it has the most beautiful summers of all countries I have ever been to. Maybe the long and hard winters are a prerequisite for that – it always feels like with the first sun rays of spring, the snow and ice melt away to reveal the perfectly freshly preserved nature with its crisp, deep blue waters, pristine and peaceful forests (so silent that you would even hear an ant moving ;)) and wide, open fields which are immersed in a sunlight inciding in a very special way… The fresh air makes you want to inhale deeply and the wideness of the landscape as well as the low population density give a sense of freedom. Maybe it is also this low population density which makes many people greet each other even if they don’t know each other personally. It’s something special to meet someone else in Sweden, after all. ;)

Another thing is the language – Sweden is the only country where I have met people who so genuinely love their own language that they even miss speaking it when they go abroad. :) And I can quite relate to that  – I also love speaking Swedish, it sounds so cheerful and melodious.

Then, there is the high degree of modernity and practicability. I have to admit that I got pretty quickly used to that. Whenever I visited other countries, I was amazed at how things can be so old-fashioned and complicated. ;) It may be dangerous to get used to such comfort, even though it doesn’t really feel like a sign of inertia to me – the Swedish like it light, so they have created their environment accordingly – and that not without efforts, for sure. Just as they like it clean, and thus observe their waste separation and recycling systems very conscientiously. With the right attitude we can find that making many small efforts every day can have a big effect. People also like making things look beautiful and would rather use a curly font than gaudy colours and bold letters on their advertising posters. I even like many aspects of the food habits here – the most common pastry is cinnamon rolls, the national drink is coffee instead of beer (I don’t drink either but coffee definitely smells better! – though nothing can beat chai, of course :)) and the most common street food is falafel – very suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. :)

Last, but not least, I like the people here. The lack of formality makes contacts feel genuine – there is no need to play-act, nor to feel very intimidated by “authoritarian” personalities – how would you, when they just greet you with “hej” on the street and you can pop in their office anytime to have a chat or a cup of coffee together? :) This doesn’t mean that people behave impolitely or disrespectfully with each other – the Swedish politeness is just of a very sincere kind. Maybe part of this is a lack of sarcasm or irony, which is an important part of some other cultures. The Swedish generally say what they mean, and mean what they say – very helpful for someone like me who has difficulties to think around ten corners. ;) Sweden is also one of the most cosmopolitan and therefore both open-minded and racially tolerant countries I know. (According to a study I read, there is a surprisingly wide variation within Europe in this regard…) Furthermore, the Swedish are very patient – I have stood in many queues here and never found anyone complain…

Maybe, after this “hymn of Sweden” I should mention that there have of course been exceptions to whatever I have written. How we perceive a country depends a lot on our own background, lifestyle, preferences and expectations. Also, I would probably not have written all this after five months of winter ;) – nor if it weren’t for my imminent leave-taking. Most of all, I would not have enjoyed any second of my time here as much if it hadn’t been for my friends (both Swedish and non-Swedish :) ). I am convinced that we can enjoy any place as long as we are surrounded by kind people – and I do think that it takes a bit more time in Sweden than in other countries to get to know people. But I have been lucky to meet some of the kindest people in the places I have been to in the period of time I have been there. It is the combinations of time and locations we experience in life which make every period of life unique, as they can never be repeated.

Uganda – a Retrospect

After I had already almost finished this blog entry I got ill and then I was very busy organizing plans for after my return – about which I could write at least three more blog entries. ;) But now it is time to publish this glimpse at my thoughts about my stay in Uganda which somehow felt so multi-faceted this time that I decided to just confine myself to a few aspects rather than never publishing any of my impressions. :)

Not long ago I watched the movie “Fire” by Deepa Mehta which included an interesting scene. The family head of a Chinese family whose working-class parents had immigrated to India after the Cultural Revolution explained to his daughter’s Indian lover why he hated India. He talked about how his son was called “chinky” in school and how they were feeling treated as a minority.

I was thinking about this in the light of my own cultural confusion. Ugandans themselves rarely make a difference between Sweden and Germany (not even Sweden, Canada and Australia ;)), but what does matter is skin colour. So Indians, for example, are differentiated from “white people”. At the same time, I have noticed a strong preference of Western countries as opposed to other countries, which I had never thought about before and which again seemed interesting with regard to the movie scene I mentioned. Somehow I also got confused about which country is the most hospitable in the world – in India people claimed it was India, here people said it was Africa. I wonder, however, what extent this hospitality reaches in either country when it comes to non-Western / lower-class people. Are Indians welcome to any house in Uganda? Are Ugandans welcome to any house in India? Are people welcoming to anyone from their own country, irrespective of their status or income?

In fact, I was even surprised to find an indiophobic climate – after some time, I learnt about the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972 – the government had claimed that the Indians were hoarding wealth and goods to the detriment of indigenous Africans and “sabotaging” the Ugandan economy. (There is even a Bollywood movie which touches upon the topic, named “Mississippi Masala”.)

Completely opposite to that, Germany ranks higher than any other Western country in terms of appreciation due to the fact that many (especially church related) NGOs have brought a lot of help – and, probably even more, money – to Uganda. I could not help feeling pretty unenthusiastic about being welcomed or “liked” only due to my nationality – which has nothing to do with me as a person. Of course, this is something which exists in any country, and of course, there are exceptions to the rule everywhere as well. I feel bold enough to claim that racism starts where we differentiate between people according to their countries of origin, and thus it is often an unconscious process.

Well, back to my cultural confusion. I remember how we were asked in a lecture to make a drawing which describes our identity, and how lost I felt. I thought “oh, this is bad, I don’t know my identity”. But actually, it was more like I could not describe or let alone paint the things which I feel that constitute my identity. In the book “In Search of the Miraculous” I came across an interesting passage in this regard:

“Essence is the truth in man; personality is the false. (…) Culture creates personality and is at the same time the product and the result of personality. We do not realise that the whole of our life, all we call civilization, all we call science, philosophy, art, and politics, is created by people’s personality, that is, by what is ‘not their own’ in them.”

Travelling has made me realise how intensely culture overshadows any trace of “essence” in people. The scene from “Fire” made me realise yet another thing. When the Chinese father talked about his son being called “chinky” in school I could immediately sympathise with him, being that I was called “muzungu” at least 50 times per day wherever I went in Uganda. It is a again an act with perceives a label rather than a person. (I was elated when I was travelling with my friend and someone again threw a “muzungu!” into my face and she said to him in Luganda “How would you feel if you walked the streets of Europe and everyone called you “African?” (I should have learnt this sentence in Luganda!))

I also felt many times that wherever I went, people seemed to hope to have some benefit from me – mostly in the form of money, but also in terms of other help or a “gateway to the West”. This made it difficult to find real (new) “friends” or anyone who would have cared about my (emotional) needs. Other things which felt difficult to me were the high unreliability of people and the fact that any guesthouse I stayed at seemed to serve as a “brothel” to my neighbours. Ugandans are quite open about sex, one can say… :-O

My Ugandan friend with whom stayed for a while this time once wrote to me about exactly this problem – which I also found to be prevalent within my field of studies. Many people are not ready to help themselves, but expect help from somewhere outside. Again, this is a global phenomenon, only showing itself in many different ways. And it doesn’t make sense to blame anyone either – we understand too little of their history, their culture and their mindsets. The scene of the movie also made me realise how this Chinese father had made himself a victim of his seemingly evil circumstances. Obviously, we cannot force ourselves to like something if it is completely against our nature, but if we can’t “escape” our situation, we’d better see how we can improve it ourselves. Also, we can accept that people just behave accordingly to their culture and may not know an alternative – and maybe we are the only ones who can show them an alternative.

One thing in this regard which seemed almost impossible to me to make people understand is the Western attitude towards religion (84 % Christianity in Uganda). People in Uganda are so convinced of “being religious = good” that it is difficult to try and have a slightly more broad-minded discussion on this topic. It is almost as a strong conviction as arranged marriage is in India – rather than trying to find one’s individual path, people follow structures and traditions either imposed on them long ago or again having become part of their “culture”…

I was asked about the food many times. Well… It basically consists of 90 % carbohydrates and the variety of vegetables is restricted to a few grams of cabbage or bitter leafy “greens” (if you are lucky). And hey, I am not the only one complaining ;) – I even met people from Kenya, DRC or Ethiopia who were missing their own cuisine! I think it is not so much the food as it is a lack of variety and a strange lack of openness to trying new things. So, now I am not sure which is the real “banana republic” – Panama or Uganda? ;)

As for Ugandan English, I already knew from my last visit that people say things like “well be back” instead of “welcome back”, “you are lost” instead of “I haven’t seen you in a while” or “footing” instead of “walking”. Especially fascinating is the use of the word “sorry” – it is rarely meant as an apology, but mostly to express empathy with someone who is suffering or has experienced something bad. (I actually think I have adopted that by now.) Confusing is also the frequent use of “ever” with the meaning of “often” or “always”. Ugandan formality aside, when it comes to asking for something, a simple “You give me…” is totally normal – no “please” is required. It can furthermore be helpful to have read a guide on Ugandan culture which tells you that being told “you grow fatter and fatter every day” is actually meant to be a compliment. ;) It is exactly the same as if someone in Europe would tell you “oh, you have lost weight”. Both does not have to be true at all, but is just said to flatter the other person.

Most of all, meeting my friends again was a great experience. I had met both of them during my time with the NGO “Kulika” last time I was in Uganda. Sr. Margaret had been one of the participants of the “Community Development and Education” Programme at the farm where I stayed, and Achilles had been spending his vacation at his brother’s place which was nearby. (One day he had invited me and it had been the first time I tasted jackfruit – a memorable experience. :)) We have been in touch since then and it was only now that I visited him at the place where he is studying and working (close to Masaka where I did my fieldwork) and even got the opportunity to visit his parents, who welcomed me with an immense lunch.  The most fascinating thing was actually to see how my friend really lives his everyday life, after having just had a rough picture from a communication over many years. Furthermore, I visited Sr. Margaret’s convent and stayed there for a few days, getting to know the place (she had lived in a different place last time I was in Uganda) and the sisters. I even met the oldest sister again (“Sister Jajja”, as any oldest sister in a convent is called – “jajja” means grandmother) whom I had also met during my last visit and her joy to see me again was truly touching (she jumped with joy and hugged me and said many things in Luganda which I didn’t understand :)). Later I travelled a long way together with Sr. Margaret to visit her mother who is living on a farm close to Kamuli, where she grows abundantly many fruit trees – I felt in paradise! After that I got the opportunity to visit Jinja with her, the second-biggest city of Uganda, which I liked very much. I could even include a visit to a big Agricultural Show and an interview with one of the organisers, whom I had met on a conference in Stockholm last year.

My time in Uganda has helped me to learn many things, put many things into perspective and feel differently about many things. I am very grateful for that.  I think one of the main things I have learnt from life is that we cannot learn through anything else than experiences.  We may realise the most amazing things and write them down in a book – if we read them later, the effect will not be anywhere near to realising new things through new experiences. It never ends, and that is why we should never stop exposing ourselves to life and especially never think that we know the final truth.

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Maybe I should create a cow calendar one day :)

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One of the farmers’ groups I met

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This is how “g-nuts” (groundnuts, like peanuts) are being sold here. Normally he is carrying the basket on his head.

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The market of Masaka

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And beans again :)

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Ugandan “street food” – grilled corn cobs

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Plantains being sold on the market

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Masaka surroundings from a hill – typically some smoke is seen somewhere

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Did you know? The English word for Luganda “toilets” is “latrine” ;)

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“Boda-bodas” (motorbike taxis) are not welcome everywhere

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This seemed to be a graveyard for Muslim Indians – the leaves were being burnt which made kind of a picture like from a Dracula movie ;)

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The smallest mosque I’ve ever seen

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I also visited the office of a Swedish Agroforestry NGO

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Raising funds for education is a big issue here. Many people can only afford studying after having worked for many years.

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Ever seen a coffee seedling?

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These ones are even younger…

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Shamim, a friend I made in Masaka

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This door has two options for small and tall people :D

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This is how passionfruits are grown

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Sugarcane is prepared like this for eating. The bits are chewed and spit out after sucking out the juice. The variety for eating is a different one than that which sugar is made from. Chewing sugarcane is healthy for the teeth.

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Bananas are abundant everywhere… There are many different kinds here, I will show more further down.

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These are baby bananas, also known as apple bananas. They will ripen over time.

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cuddly cat :)

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Ordination ceremony of new priests

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This lady is wearing a traditional “Gomezi”

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March-in of the priests

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Those who did not fit into the church watched the happenings on a screen outside

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Serving lunch to a big amount of people is very common in Uganda with its many celebrations

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Beautiful tropical plant in my friend Sister Margaret’s convent in Lyantonde, which I visited

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The convent is a very simple place where four sisters are staying. They don’t even have running water. When my friend told them about my coming they asked “But where is she going to stay?” :)

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Patricia was left at the convent at night few weeks ago when she had almost starved. Now she will be raised by the sisters.

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Somehow Ugandans like Swedish colours :D

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Patricia with “Jajja” (grandmother), the name given to the oldest sister in any convent. I had met her also last time I was in Uganda and she was touchingly happy to see me again…

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My friend knows what I like for breakfast :)

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This is how plantains are cooked in Uganda – which are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner in most places

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Harvested groundnuts

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The only source of water in the area…

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The big bunch are “yellow bananas” (the ones we know), the others are “gonjas” which are eaten either cooked or roasted. They are sweeter than plantains used for “matoke”.

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Cooked gonja

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Somehow it has fascinating colours :)

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My friend Sr. Margaret helping me to carry my luggage – somehow it matched her habit :)

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My research topic :)

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You think these are peas? I made the same mistake – in fact it is a (very bitter!) eggplant variety!

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Ever tried to cook peanuts?

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View from a church window betrays the tropical location

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The “Uganda Martyrs” seem to play a very important role here – they were Christian converts who were murdered for their faith in 1887

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Graves of the two first African Roman Catholic priests, ordained by a French bishop in 1913

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Roads in Uganda are so dusty that even the vegetation at the roadside does not remain green…
(Someone once asked me whether is was true that in “our” countries people can go one year without polishing their shoes ;))

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Treating pigs does not have to be in contradiction with a sexy outfit here ;)
(In fact I have seen men putting on suits for farmwork!)

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“Humps ahead” – I should have made this the title picture ;)
Before coming to Uganda, my friend wrote to me “Do not be worried of the bumpy roads” :D
The church belongs to “Katigondo seminary”, a school for catholic priests.

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For those who have not seen a pineapple field before…

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Fish is – for obvious reasons – transported outside rather inside the car. I don’t want to know how much dust and exhaust gases they collect on the way…

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Matoke (mashed plantains) is covered with banana leaves not only while being cooked, but also while being served

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Watermelon is originally from Southern Africa…

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Cuuute! :)

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My friend Achilles, his father, me, his mother and one of his sisters

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Rocker’s girl B)

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Sr. Margaret busy preparing my breakfast again ;)
Here we were at her mother’s home close to Kamuli

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Again no power, no running water, but again a beautiful place… :)

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I have never seen as much roadwork being done as in Uganda (which makes it seem surprising that most roads are still so bad)… It made me realise that when I walk a street in Europe, I don’t consider the amount of work behind it…

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Airtel has invaded Uganda from India ;)
People here don’t mind providing their houses as advertisement walls, they are just glad if their houses get painted for free

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India and Uganda should have a yoga mat deal ;)

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Paw paw, mango and jackfruit – I was in paradise! :)

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Sr. Margaret’s mum, herself, two of her sisters and me

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View from the back seat of a “matatu” (taxi)… After a few hours sitting crammed like this I usually have to get my legs and arms used to being stretched again very slowly…

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Water melon field

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Sorghum, which is mostly grown in Eastern Uganda

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Ever seen a sesame plant? (called “simsim” in Uganda)

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Jackfruit wine and paw paw wine being sold at the Agricultural Show in Jinja which I visited with Sr. Margaret after seeing her mother

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Kulika Uganda, the NGO where I did my internship five years ago

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Seeeed! They make the heart of an agroecologist leap :)

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Somehow I felt that this indigenous cow was having space problems…

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One of the largest NGOs in the world originates from Bangladesh

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Recognise this?

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It’s the fruit of the oil palm (not very common in Uganda though)

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Somehow Bollywood pics make it everywhere in the world ;)

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Ha ha… what a daunting threat
(10.000 Ugandan Shillings is around 3 euros)

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The rest of the world is definitely rich ;)

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Me and Sr. Margaret approaching the source of the Nile… It was her first time in a boat, as you may read from her face ;)

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Uganda has over 1200 different bird species making it home to one of the largest diversity of bird species in the world

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This is the source of the Nile (or rather, one of the sources ;) ). Beyond the boat lies Lake Victoria.

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Gandhi monument :)

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Extensive explanation

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Short version :)

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Lake Victoria from a hill in Jinja, the second-largest city of Uganda

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Think about it…

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Good point!

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All these are from the convent where I stayed with Sr. Margaret in Jinja. As a sister she can stay at any convent of her congregration. And so do her friends :)

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Sometimes the door has to adapt to the limited space :D

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Second visit to the Bahai temple, this time at dusk

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Dessale took me to an Eritrean restaurant – what a delight in the Ugandan food desert ;) The flatbread is made from rice, all the stews and pastes are vegetarian as per order. :) In the middle there is a paste made from beans.

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Me with the daughter of Kulika employee Joseph who combined the “parents’ day” at her school with meeting me. He had taken me to South-West Uganda five years ago.

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Jackfruit being sold by the roadside

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Dinner with Eritrean friends. Again rice flatbread and flatbread made from teff, both sourdough.

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From left to right: A friend of Dessale, me, Dessale. He is a writer from Eritrea who is living in exile in Norway. Before he was in exile in Uganda that’s why he came back to visit his friends.

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The coffee ceremony is an important part of Eritrean culture

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After such a nice ceremony even I didn’t refuse to drink coffee ;)

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Seen in the Uganda Museum – instead of banana wine you can also make banana beer :)

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Many crops of Uganda are actually not indigenuos

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Traditional Ugandan hut

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This bird can be seen in many places in Uganda

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I like such stuff :)

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And that in a museum…

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In Uganda many Japanese cars can be seen… according to my Japanese friends this text doesn’t make sense though ;)

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Boda-bodas (“motorbike taxis”) waiting at a crossing…

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With this toothpaste you can even bite a sugarcane ;)

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In Uganda I cannot afford being a Johnny Head-in-the-Air ;)

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Central Kampala

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My Couchsurfing hosts Leonard & Afrance in Kampala with their lovely daughter Louisa

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Me with my host and his daughter

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The university campus has become extremely dry, it is amazing that some plants manage so long without water…

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I finally bought the shirt, but it didn’t help much as many people can’t read, don’t know English or just didn’t notice it ;)