Big Bums Quick!

Wilsons_2013 Posted by Rory Wilson on Tue, 17 Jun 2008 | 3 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

Advertising posters can catch one’s eye while sitting in a Kampala traffic jam staring into space. “Big bums quick” certainly did the job for me – complete with a phone number for getting the appropriate food supplement to allow the desired rapid expansion of such regions. What struck me most however was the juxtaposition of the poster 2 feet further along the same wall for “weight loss while you eat” with the same phone number. Rather than phoning the advertising standards agency I was struck afresh by the heterogeneity of culture in Uganda.

Many people talk about cultural sensitivity in mission and development work, and rightly so, but it is important to remember that culture is alive and organic. In some traditional areas, particularly with some of the tribes originating in the West of the country who keep cattle, ladies with large stores of fat around their middle and behind are considered particularly attractive. Yet in Kampala, the more ‘Western’ concept of skinny ladies with heels and tight trousers is viewed as the goal.

I was also struck by how Uganda is changing – or to be more precise, how some of Uganda is changing. Kampala is developing – and slowly resembling the traffic jams and multicultural milieu that is seen in so many cities across the globe today. Meanwhile in the rural areas there are large areas with very little development and very little change demonstrable for many years. Whether one’s goal is large padding to sit on, or suitability for tight leggings is not particularly critical. However the development of Kampala in a manner out of kilter with the rest of the country certainly does produce difficulties. With some people in Kampala driving large shiny German automobiles and sporting Italian suits, it is understandable that some from the rural areas move to town to make their fortune – and often end up much worse off than if they had stayed subsisting on their farm surrounded by friends and family.

The sirens from the city are also an ever present lure to the unwary health professional tempted by large income and less work. The value of working up country is indisputable to all, but the personal lifestyle and family opportunity costs are very real, and are too much for some. Thus 80% of the countries health professionals continue to reside in cities where 20% of the population live.

Do I have a solution if our presidents in waiting Obama or McCain are reading….well no. But sadly a lot of the ‘development’ in Kampala is driven by aid dollars (indeed often AIDS dollars.) Clearly I think that mission/development/aid are good things – when well done. Sadly when not well done they can be deeply unhelpful.

So what is well done mission development? For that you’ll need to take me out for a drink when you next see me and we can talk about it properly.

Cheers for now



Steve Jones said Thu, 10 Jul 2008 07:06PM
Magnificent. Right up there with the best of "Engrish" - I love it when cultural ideals just don't translate, or when plain bad English just rules the day... a friend sent a transcript of a major charity ad running in New Zealand right now: "We rely on your donations to continue to support hurting children." I'm not giving them any dosh, then! OK - so I believe McMurray and large Reid are out there right now - hope you enjoy some Bangorian company. Warmest of Regards you great man! Steve J
SAM CAMPBELL said Thu, 10 Jul 2008 08:27PM
Hi Rory, glad you've settled in Uganda. I don't think we have the same issues of traffic in Bangor, but perhaps there are a few big bums that need exercise. Ashley medical is not the same without you, but our loss is Uganda's gain and I wouldn't have it any other way. You are a great doctor and a all time good guy. You missed the annual rain at Summer Madness this year. God bless Sam Campbell
MUJUNI JULIUS said Sat, 13 Sep 2008 12:47PM
Hello Roy, Great for you to have eperienced some cultures and lifestyles of Ugandans, dressing codes and make up deffers from region to regions of Uganda. Iagree with you in western Uganda where i hail from some ladies with big bums can be considered as queens but when comes to beauty pageant, slimmy and skinny ladies take the lead. But i think the culture is dying, they are copying the western world culture.Beauty has nothing to do with slimming and putting on tight jeans. On the other side of the coin, these beauty competition are based mainly, though not always entirely, on the physical beauty of its contestants, and often incorporating personality, talent demonstration, and question responses as judged criteria. On cultural sensitivity, i would rather say, "loosing a cultural sense is like loosing a moment" Best, Julius

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