Ins and Outs of Hannah's past year in East Africa

Neither here nor there...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A little bit of inspiration goes a long way. Today, I'll use the Ugandan sun as that inspiration to write. There has been quite a bit of rain here lately. After a long night of torrential downpours I trekked this morning from my new house in Kampala, to meet up with my coworkers to get a lift from my Kampala suburb to work. And there was mud. Lots of mud. By the time I finished my 12 minute walk I had slipped and almost fallen 3 times and had about a dozen Boda-Boda drivers laughing at me, as they pointed out my mud-painted legs. Needless to say, I had to take a leg shower at my colleagues house before hopping in their car and heading to The Face Studio for work.
These days my mind has been spinning more than ever. In response to a lengthy email in which I told my dear friend how lost I felt, she responded "I hardly think of you as being lost, or not knowing what you want, I think you're just either not sure of how to get it, or rather you feel a bit torn between several worlds and lifestyles."
I couldn't have said it better myself. It seems I am at a crossroads where 100 roads meet at once. Its not so much being lost, as it is not knowing which of these countless roads to take. In all honesty, this is not a problem in any way, in fact it just proves how truly lucky I am to have so many of these choices. Instead I will say that I must find a way to juggle everything that is so important to me in my life. Somehow this rich, deep red Ugandan soil has spread its way into every corner of my mind. But to pursue my true career goals here, I think I need further my education.
Does this mean graduate school? or should I follow the Ugandan way and use my many connections, network and even slip a bribe if I must, to follow my dreams. Leaving here means leaving too much...even a part of my heart. On the other hand, my family and friends abroad are an integral part of me, so I absolutely must find a way to juggle these two worlds and make them one.
I am meeting so many people here, who like myself, have left the predictable, comfortable, routine of their home country to live in a place where they can never physically "fit in." But lets ignore skin color for now. It should be meaningless in this interconnected world, and never a deciding factor. These days I am not alone with my tornado of thoughts as I have a few individuals I've been venting to daily, however I am not sure I am truly understood in this mental tug-of-war.
In the meantime, I am here in Kampala, Uganda working my variety of jobs. The Musana Volunteers are slowly trickling in from the far corners of Canada and the U.S.
One is here, another arrives in 1 week, and a few more are coming throughout the months. This is very exciting for them to experience a new country and culture, and even more-so for me as a small business starter ;-) I am also still styling hair and applying make-up to the beautiful ebony ladies of this green and dusty city.
The cows blocking traffic, the unpredictable rains, and the stunning view of Lake Victoria on my way to work are all part of everyday life. I am slowly adjusting to the little frustrations here, such as the lack of time-keeping, the crazy drivers, having to bargain extra hard to get an equal price as locals, missing some of my favorite foods, and the overload of useless NGO's that claim to be doing good but are instead making false promises, no positive investments and then leaving behind half finished projects (sorry for that short rant). However, I am learning to take the good with the bad. No place is perfect. Now...all I must do is decide where that place is that I want to make home and I will make it as perfect as possible.

The sun has broken through the clouds so let me get back outside.

Will hear from me soon. Cheers!

One last bit of random knowledge: I was once told that 'Boda-Boda' (the name for the motorbikes here)is translated to mean "From here to there." However, I have recently learned that it also came from people who said the wanted to go from "border to border" by motorbike. Boda-Boda = Border-Border.

Nice day!

Pure Musana

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It has been ages since I have last written. It is hard to know where to start and what to tell. I have made myself quite at home in Kampala, Uganda, which is never hard for me to do. While juggling a variety of jobs, I have found that I have talents I never knew I had. I am spending 6 days a week, 12 hours a day working as a Make-Up Artist and Hair stylist at a Photography/Make-Over Studio in a suburb of Kampala. The Face Studio, is a family owned business started by my man, Isaac, and his sister...and its a great way to spend my days. Earning a Ugandan wage is a different story though. I'm jumping through hoops in order to make ends meet. Seems that no one in Uganda works just one job. Literally, every person I have met in this country has their main job, plus at least 3 other small deals and businesses on the side. True Hustlers. Now I'm a hustler the legal sense :-)
I will now consider myself a Jack-of-all-trades. Humanitarian, Make-up artist, Social Worker, NGO founder, International Volunteer Coordinator...what else should I add to this list?
The Musana Volunteers Program, the organization I recently started up, is really taking off. I have one volunteer arriving in April, one in May, and even more lined up for the summer months. I will have matched each volunteer up with a local organization or company, including a Architecture firm, a local school, an Ex-Street Children group, a village building project, or a Woman's Micro-finance group. I will then organize housing and transport for the volunteers.
I have so much experience as a Volunteer Coordinator so I am looking forward to this entrepreneurial experience. The highlight will be introducing these international people of all ages to Kampala life. The city has so much to offer in terms of nightlife, restaurants, interesting events, and people. It is my top priority to show each person all sides of Kampala...Not just the slums and poverty that most people imagine when they think of sub-Saharan Africa. I will crumble any and all pre-conceived notions. One of my life goals.
I am also working to promote a local Travel Agency which coordinates all types of Safaris and Uganda adventures. Not sure how I made all these connections but for some reason I have adopted the Ugandan way and I'm finding jobs left right and center...however, I am still waiting for them to pay off. Who says that Patience is golden?
I haven't had too much of a chance (or a financial break) to visit the gorgeous country-side recently. However, I am hoping that over Easter weekend I will have 2 days off from work to relax by Lake Victoria with Isaac. All else is well here. I am enjoying the near constant sunshine, sporadic tropical showers, random goat and cow highway crossings, wonderful co-workers at The Studio, and all my other business partners. If only people here would keep the time, not show up hours late for their appointments, not stare at me relentlessly every time I walk anywhere, and double and triple their prices when I show my face. But this is all a small price to pay...I am very happy.
Thats all for today. I do not know where my mind or my self will be tomorrow. So tune in.

Hannah Banana

If you are interested in volunteering, safari-ing, or just coming to visit me in Uganda you are most welcome! Email me:

Dream of going on an African Safari? Want to Volunteer in Africa?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hello Friends, Family and Everyone else,

Life in the Pearl of Africa, UGANDA, is wonderful! I am keeping myself very busy working for the Wild-Path African Safari company:

I am also implementing a Volunteer-in-Africa organization, Musana Volunteers Program:!/group.php?gid=212694698130&ref=ts

I want to organize YOUR SAFARI and/or VOLUNTEER experience in UGANDA!
Please check out the Wild-Path Safari website above. And check out the Musana Volunteer Program Facebook group if you wish to make your trip to Africa both meaningful and life-changing. Email me at

Wild-Path Safari Company can arrange an authentic safari and other adventure trips to fit your budget in the most phenomenal country in the world. Guaranteed to see Elephants, Giraffes, Hippos, Crocodiles, Gazelles, Bucks, hundreds of bird species, and even Zebras!

I understand that traveling from North America/Europe to Africa is a BIG trip both financially and in terms of distance. However, visiting EAST AFRICA is something that YOU ALL MUST DO in your lifetime. Uganda is the most beautiful, welcoming, and environmentally diverse country in the world...
...yes, I realize I am very bias but rightfully so ;-) It is time for you to explore and/or volunteer in Uganda!

Ignore whatever you read in the newspaper. Turn off your MSNBC, CNN, & FOX News. Change the Radio news show...
...and Come Home to Africa...the cradle of humankind. As you will soon learn, there is so much more to this continent than the immense poverty you see and hear about in the news. Come and see for yourself!

Uganda has the Source of the Nile River. Countless animals on land, lake and sky. Staggering Mountains, vast Savannah's, Crater lakes, lush Monkey jungles, rolling green Hills, and massive Waterfalls. The sweetest fruits. Temperate, sunny weather. The kindest people. Hundreds of diverse cultures and languages all within a small radius.

Want to Volunteer in Africa?
Want to go on Safari?
Want to do both? .... Well, you're lucky you know me!
What are you waiting for?
Email me today and start to plan for the most amazing experience of your life, guaranteed.

Please pass this email along to anyone and everyone you know.
Thank you! I hope to hear from you soon.

live from the Pearl of Africa,
+256 7850 24775 (Uganda)

Balancing like a Boda-Boda

Monday, December 7, 2009

I haven't had the inspiration to write since I moved back to Kampala...until now.
My life here over the past three weeks has been full of great ups as well as a few dips below sea level. However, I am finally settling in day by day. After weeks of being somewhat homeless, jobless, and overwhelmed, I have finally moved into a cute house in an area of Kampala called Kansanga. Kansanga is a few miles/km out of the central Kampala area, and only about a 10 minute drive to the beautiful Lake Victoria beaches. (This is where I happily spent my Sunday).
I am living with nice German woman, just a bit older than me, who is completing some research, and her puppy. Our guard, Mark, and our housekeeper, Grace, are both lovely and keep our compound very safe and clean.
Finding a home was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders though I'm still feeling the financial strain that most 20-somethings are feeling ...all over the world. Seems that jobs are not easy to find right now...anyone agree? :-)
Since coming to the conclusion that I should find an area of work to specialize in, such as teaching or counseling, I focused my sights on International Education. More specifically, Montessori Teaching methods (or something along these lines). If you don't know about the Montessori Teaching Method I highly recommend Google-ing it.
I found a local Montessori School not far from where I live here in Kampala and decided to check it out. This is an Integrated School which educates 28 students between the ages of 4 and 9, half of which have learning disabilities. Within an hour of talking to the Head Teacher I was offered a position as a Teachers Assistant at the school. This should be great experience in case I decide to pursue a career in International Teaching and go back to school for it next year. The children are presently out-of-class due to the holiday season but I will be helping with some odd jobs in the classroom during this month and officially starting my teaching internship come January. I am really excited about this new career choice!
As for a job with a salary....This is in the works.
Along with assisting with Mr.Tayeebwa's PhD research, I have a few leads on other jobs in Kampala such as working for a TV station, and collaborating on the creation of a Documentary film. We'll see what pans out...
Thanks to all my friends here who have been an enormous help with my house/job/life search.
A small anecdote:
Today, I walked up and down the lengthy Ggaba Road, where they make and sell any kind of furniture, wood carving, house decoration you could imagine. In search of shelves for my new bedroom, I bargained for what seemed like hours in the sweltering sun, to save what is the equivalent of $1.15. Now I am laughing at myself, but at the time, I was in so deep in the bargaining game that I truly lost track of how little money was really at stake. Eventually I picked out wooden shelf unit (something like what you would find at Ikea..except with an African twist) and a giant woven basket to put clothes in, paid the final "last" price and now had to figure out a way to get back to my house with all this. Solution: Boda-Boda.
The Boda-Boda, motorbike, driver strapped the shelves horizontally to the back of the bike with twine and rubber strings. Then behind that he somehow connects my gigantic basket. He jumps on his bike, then I sit squished between him, and my new shelves. I tell him to go slow (that was for you mom) of course every car, truck, lory, bicycle, goat/person walking, baby crawling passes us. As we are driving (balancing) the 4 km to my house he decides to strike up a conversation on the politics of Uganda vs. the rest of the world. I only caught every other word he said since the wind carried the rest, but lets just say he has issues with Museveni but loves Obama. I told him to join the club.
That's all for today. I will try to take some more pictures soon so you can all picture what I have described above.
Its funny how quickly you get used to seeing certain things while living in a new environment. I no longer think its strange to wait in traffic while a herd of cows walk down the center of the road, or see goats nursing on the sidewalk, or a bicycle carrying 15+ mattresses riding alongside a massive big-mac truck. This Is Africa.

Time to go eat the beautiful pineapple that sits in my kitchen...its calling my name.

Love to each and every one,

p.s. Happy Birthday L.A.S.!

The Big Move

Friday, November 13, 2009

So, after many sleepless nights and days of my wheels turning, I finally decided that Nairobi, Kenya was not the right fit for me. The city and the University of Nairobi had much to offer, but despite the effort I put in, I did not feel settled nor comfortable in my surroundings. A combination of the need to be immersed in intense security in Nairobi due to a high crime rate, and time spent re-evaluating my future education focus** led me to make a big decision... 'I will move back to Kampala, Uganda.'

Making this big change was something I had to decide on my own, which was not easy. The thought of 'giving up' on a place I had only lived for 2 months bothered me, however I truly feel that life is too short to settle for something that just is not clicking. Impulsive or not, I am very happy with my decision.

I am now re-settling into a life in Kampala. I have only been back here a few days, yet I already feel at home in this vibrant, warm, bustling, little city. My friends here have welcomed me like family and I have so many helping me with the apartment/job search.

Starting in January I will be working as a Research Assistant for the brilliant William Tayeebwa, a great friend I met at Concordia University in Montreal. William's PhD Research focuses on land conflict in different areas of East Africa. This experience will allow me to work in the field and gain knowledge on a topic that is presently feeding the refugee crisis in East Africa.

My blog will be updated more regularly now that I have finally rooted myself. I put up some pictures of the 15 hour road trip that I took with 2 friends from Nairobi to Kampala. It was quite an adventure to drive that long and winding road, including real zebra crossings, giant craters, passing through the equator, and many monkeys!

I miss you all who are not here with me now, but thanks to skype, g-chat, facebook, email, etc I don't feel too disconnected. So please, keep the emails coming! ( I love hearing from you all.

Hannah banana

p.s. Happy almost Thanksgiving to all my lovely Americans.

**I have recently come to the conclusion that it is important to have some sort of tangible skill in order to find work in the future. I am now considering different options such as becoming a Teacher or a Counselor...a skill I can combine with my passion for international development in order to truly make a positive impact in this world.
More to come on this topic...

Just another Nairobi night hosted by Akon and Wyclef <3

Monday, October 12, 2009

I had the most amazing Saturday night at the MTV Africa Music Awards (aka: MAMA) with my friends Jameel and Steve.

The entire night I was right up against the stage, only a few feet away from Akon and Wyclef...two of my favorite musicians, both of which were hosting the awards.
At one point I was up on my friend Steve's shoulders, close to where Akon was sitting. Finally, after the 3 of us went crazy shouting Akons name and me, waving my arms like a madwoman in the air, I finally got his attention and a huge smile. *Sigh.* Later on Akon was right on the edge of the stage close enough that I had no choice but to grab his leg… (I know I sound like a groupie but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do...especially when faced with supersexy superstar). I may even be on MTV Base on Oct 17th when the awards are televised.

All in all the show was incredible...and it didn't hurt that Wyclef, Akon, and a dozen other African artists & performers were practically next to me for the majority of the Awards.

On the flipside, after the MTV Africa Awards Show, we went to a local bar where I had another phone stolen... 2 down so far. I thought I was being "so smart" by not bringing anything valuable with me...except the phone...I checked my bag late in the night and it was gone before I could even think twice. I guess I learned my lesson...again.
Here is my new phone number:+254 718 650 283

On a way side note…my classes still haven't begun yet....I have orientation to the Institute of Development Studies program on Thursday. More updates on school at a later date.

Cherry on the sundae: I saw a huge baboon climbing the tree next to my apartment complex a few hours ago!

TIA = This Is Africa.

Nairobi, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda and Everything In Between

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I spent last weekend visiting the Maasai Mara, a few hours southwest of Nairobi.

Myself and two Canadian friends travelled by matatu, taxi, back of an open-air truck, and foot to get to our final destination, which was a small Maasai village, extremely removed from any sort of town or city. The landscape from Nairobi to Maasai Mara was so arid, I had expected more hills, trees, and wildlife. But instead my eyes travelled across the flat terrain dotted with shrubs, Acacia trees, wild ostridges, and gazelles which were meandering through the plains.

We spent the night sleeping with Maasai families in their dung huts. Despite what you are thinking, and any preconceived notions, this is the very first time I have ever slept in a hut in Africa. I stayed overnight with our guide named Sane and his family. Sane was the only one in the family who spoke english so he explained all of their traditions and daily rituals as his mother (his fathers first wife, out of three), heated masala tea, and cooked greens and ugali grain over an open fire in the huts "kitchen" area. As I stepped out of the hut at midnight to take a "short call" in the bush, I was overwhelmed by the night sky which glowed from the rays of a billion stars.

The entire night I barely slept, considering the rock hard logs I slept on, and the close company of an extended Maasai family by my side, but I wouldnt have traded that sleepless night for any other.

On Friday I arrived in Kampala, Uganda after being wide awake for a sweltering 13 hour bus ride. I left Nairobi at 6am on Friday morning and arrived sweaty and tired Friday night at 9pm. The smooth road, the wild monkeys, baboons, beautiful landscape and roadside markets from Nairobi to Kampala made the trip much easier. Upon arriving in Kampala I was greeted by so many old friends, and some new ones, then headed to an outdoor club to dance and reconnect with my Ugandan roots...hehe. I feel as though I have never even left, but its been over 2 years since I was last here.

On a random funny note, yesterday I was at a small cafe, and this Ugandan man invited himself to join me for coffee. After chatting for a bit he told me he would make me some calls and help me get a Ugandan passport. He said the good thing about a corrupt government is that you can get anything you want as long as you have the right connections.

I`ll keep you posted ;-)
Okay, you will hear from me again soon. Much Love,


Hannah has landed in Nairobi. Hakuna Matata.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I arrived smoothly at 9pm Monday night after 18 hours of transit, was quickly swept away by taxi to my friends apartment, and then slept for upwards of 17 hours. Finally awake, I went off to experience my first few hours of daylight in Nairobi.

I spent a few hours on Tuesday evening, walking in circles. I left the apartment complex, where I will be staying with my friend Siena until I find my own place, and wandered towards the University of Nairobi, which is only a few minutes walk from the apartment. The street smells, the red earth and the hazy skies brought back a flood of memories from my multiple stays in Uganda.

As I entered the front gates to the University of Nairobi, I first noted that there were many students around all of whom were wearing suits of some kind. I hope that I am not arriving too late for classes…and that the many pounds of clothes I brought are not too casual for these smartly dressed kenyans.

I walked circles around the campus orienting myself, and then in search of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). Considering my horrible sense of direction I asked a passing woman to help me find my way. She was more than helpful and directed me to the exact building and floor where I could find the IDS department. I will be doing my courses in the Gandhi building…appropriate namesake, don't you think?

Day 2

Today I again explored the university campus and met a woman working in the IDS office. She informed me that the official acceptance letters are not ready yet. I am not surprised in the least...after all, this is Africa...TIA. She was quite surprised that I had chosen the University of Nairobi to do my Masters since most students are from East Africa...after chatting for a bit she offered to help me in finding housing near the campus...the search begins. After leaving campus I found my way towards the Central Business District of Nairobi and met Siena for lunch. This city is non-stop action, skyscrapers, matatus rushing all over, and people on the far the vibes are good.

It's so great to be back in east Africa…

I am so lucky that I have homes all over the world and can not even begin to express how amazing my friends and family have been over the passed few months. You have all helped me prepare for this adventure and more than that, proved that our friendships will last throughout distance and time. My family has been the rock that I needed throughout my decision making with such a variety of advice, concern, love and words of wisdom. You have all supported me, despite the tears and angst of the unknown.

Thank you. I love you all.