August 26

Slowing down – No longer resisting it!

My morning walk to the CSU office

It’s been awhile since my last blog, but I decided it was now time to get back into the swing of things and share the latest on my Ugandan adventure!

Its is just over 7 weeks since I arrived in Uganda and paradoxically it seems a long time, but at the same time not.

Cattle close to the Office

I know that doesn’t make sense for most (logically minded) people, however I’ll do my best to explain. Moment from moment time passes very slowly here, reflecting a slower pace of life and how time is perceived; however, when I reflect over the events and experiences I have had, including now on my 2nd field trip in Northern Uganda – it feels like the last 7 weeks have whizzed past at breakneck speed. Even more as I appreciate that I am already a 1/3rd of my way into the assignment.

Since my last blog, I spent a whole month in Kampala and then travelled back to Adjumani nearly 2 weeks ago. My time in Kampala was relatively quiet workwise due to structural issues with the implementation of the project I was supposed to work on.. Instead, I helped with other pieces of work, including ways of getting the project back on track and took the opportunity to read through and better understand the background documents that had previously been shared with me.

The additional time also meant that I had time to allow recovery from my initial arrival fatigue and field trip.  In addition, it meant I could pace myself and acclimatise to Uganda and in particular the very different pace of life/concept of time.

Amazing cloud formation

Most of us in the developed world, live at a very fast pace (or is it just me 😉). We are constantly setting objectives, targets and action plans. All our goals should be SMART. We then spend an inordinate amount of time writing to-do lists and ticking them off, multi-tasking and moving from one thing to another, never much stopping to fully recover or perhaps even savouring our achievements.

Sunset

No wonder ‘stress’ has become such an epidemic in the UK and many parts of the world. Neurologically and psychologically we overload ourselves in a way that our brains have simply not (yet) evolved to deal with. That will still need a few million years of further natural selection; should it ever happen! We also know that ongoing stress has am impact upon our mental and physical well being and is then compounded by poor coping strategies such as unhealthy diets, smoking, alcohol etc. However we struggle to deal with it and I wonder if it’s mainly because of the fast pace we expose ourselves to?

In contrast in Uganda, the pace of life is much slower and far gentler than I am used to. The slower pace is embedded in everyday life. You even see it, in the way people walk. Here most saunter casually, arms swinging gently as they walk, watching the world as they go, where in the UK I am habitually walking at a certain pace, arms close to my side aiming for the ‘destination’ that I keep getting told by local colleagues that I walk far too fast and need to ‘slow down’!

The other positive aspect of having more time (and being mostly alone) is that this is one of the few times in my life where I have had the opportunity and luxury to think, reflect, mull, ponder, dawdle, saunter, peruse and then start all over again! I think I am finally understanding what many coaches refer to the ‘being’ rather than the ‘doing’. Slowing down enables a better sense of ‘mindfulness’ and allows you to pause and take in more around you. Something that most of us could better learn and embrace in our lives.

Sunrise

However, the downside of this slower pace is that everything takes much longer, even simple requests such as an order for food. As a result, there inefficiencies and a degree of inertia that I have at times found very frustrating to handle, especially at work. This is a challenging area for me, my work colleagues know well that I like efficiency in my dealings with people and tasks and expect the same from them in return. Wasting time is one of my top bugbears, time is a limited resource that we have. However, since resistance is futile, I am slowly learning to become more Zen and build my patience, which I am confident will help me greatly.

In contrast to Kampala the work in Adjumani has been busy with a lot to accomplish in 4 weeks.  The field office is small with 8 workers running a project supporting 250 women with disabilities to enter self-employment.  Outside Kampala, the waged employment opportunities are minimal, therefore the focus is on training and skills to enable the beneficiaries to enter trades so that they can earn decent livelihoods and better provide for themselves and their families.  By enabling this population, CSU help to alleviate poverty, raise the women’s self-confidence, improve their self-esteem and in turn helpsto increase inclusion into local society.  Women have been targeted as sadly gender per se remains a significant barrier to access, equality and human rights, therefore supporting women with disabilities, tackles 2 characteristics that lead to ‘double marginalisation’.

My role is to help implement better data collection, collation and management systems that can be sustained in the long term. Although the output of the work that CSU does with the beneficiaries is truly transformational, their systems in place to measure and analyse are not robust and need overhaul. Although I doubt it will all be sorted by the time I leave, I am confident that I can help start changing this by initiating better systems and implementing small changes within the Organisation, that they can build upon and embed further.  

Files being sorted

As an example, so far, we have completely overhauled the filing system, cleared the backlog of filing, alphabetised the files and started to implement better data management working practices and most importantly are now consistently using the data collection tools. It’s a start with more to come, fingers crossed!

Files alphabetised

Finally, several of you have asked for me to share some of the pics I have taken while out here. So, I have interspersed them here, so you can all enjoy!  Until next time……. 😊

To my team at GSK – please take note! 😉😄